Saturday, 29 December 2007

Google Calendar

Among the many useful products that Google now offer i have just found the Google Calendar.

Colleagues may find this useful on a personal level. But also it would seem to have many benefits for use with students, staff in your department, external contacts, research teams etc etc.

With email, screen pop-up and SMS mobile notifications you can ensure you are constantly prompted of important events throughout the working and non-working day.

Friday, 21 December 2007

The most influential blog of the year - Edublog Awards 2007

Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?

An excerpt from the blog:

If a teacher today is not technologically literate - and is unwilling to make the effort to learn more - it's equivalent to a teacher 30 years ago who didn't know how to read and write.

Extreme? Maybe. Your thoughts?

Thursday, 20 December 2007

social bookmarking: how to exercise quality control?

Last week one of our library staff emailed me the following message about "Bloggers for Peer-Reviewed Research Reporting strives to identify serious academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research by offering an icon and an aggregation site where others can look to find the best academic blogging on the Net.

Thinking that this might be something pathfinder colleagues would be interested in, I emailed the rest of the team. An interesting discussion followed, focusing upon issues of student credulity, evaluation of resources and quality control.

On the one hand, there was a view that:

"This would appear to come under the heading of 'elite social bookmarking' which to those of us who get frustrated by students' acceptance of all things internet as being of equal worth sounds like a really good idea.The site however is specifically about research. Has anyone done anything/does anyone know of anything in any subject area which attempts to use social bookmarking with some kind of gatekeeping/quality control?"

On the other, it was noted that :

"Have you considered getting the students to review each others bookmarks. If guidelines were issued as to what constitutes ‘good sources’ and each student was given a particular area to review, perhaps this would foster deeper consideration and a ‘finalised’ quality set of bookmarks. Discussion about the categorisation, the quality of source and the subject could ensue."

"The Web2.0 approach that accepts the wisdom of crowds would suggest that the key mechanism for quality control is the value placed on a bookmark by the students, in order to do/achieve something. This in turn is a function of the criteria that students are applying based upon tasks that are set or the use of bookmarks from trusted bookmarkers, or staff creating the bookmarks."

This led to the riposte that:

"Unfortunately the crowds put Galileo in a prison (or at least under house arrest).
I guess I am an old fashioned elitist and have the added disadvantage of coming from a subject background where there are right and wrong answers."

To which, our resident pragmatist noted:

"I have sympathy with both sides of this debate! I’m thinking of getting students to use social bookmarking to identify, categorise and critique online resources that relate to my module. So the idea is to get them to think critically about the info they find, its usefulness as evidence to support an argument, whether it’s likely to be biased in some way, whether any conclusions are based squarely on the data, etc…etc… So I hope to find a middle ground where I can harness the usefulness of the tool while retaining my right to say ‘That is unscientific nonsense’ ;-) (Although the hope is that the students might point that out themselves where it applies!)"

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

90 days free use of online Survey Software

I use surveyshare to quickly create online questionnaires and surveys. I find it very easy to quickly create and administer. If you would like a free 90 day Trial then all you need to do is take this survey.

YouTube and iPhone Survey

I have not brought this to your attention for this reason, but if you enter my email address in the first question i might get a free 90 days use of surveyshare ( As i am already an annual subscriber and will continue to be i don't know whether it will apply for me.

cheers Steve

DIY Education

Nick spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought we should see it...

The shape of things to come: Around the world, an elite band of trend-spotters spend their days providing businesses with glimpses of the future. So what do these 'futurologists' predict for 2008? By James Harkin, Tuesday December 18 2007, The Guardian.

I was especially taken by the section on DIY education, and the "burgeoning demand among people to learn new skills, not from professional educators but from their peers." For me this is the true power of the read-write web - its ability to mix things up - to transform social frameworks and structures by giving people space for praxis and informal learning (c.f. Paolo Friere), that is not necessarily controlled by professionals (c.f. Ivan Illich) and where the democratising nature of education can be brought forward (c.f. John Dewey).

I think the point made by Sue T below also connects here, especially in that quote about "a constellation of functions and roles" in education. Such a constellation can be seen more generally across the boundaries of formal and informal learning, where the spaces and technologies that are demarcated for the "purpose" of education are no longer clear and separate.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The power of Facebook

The BBC News website carried this report on the power of Facebook to change events ( and in this case legislation - in Canada. Not only is this an interesting short case study but it resonates with our own situation - Richard may yet save The Pump and Tap!

Reasons to use Ning

A useful article, that outlines some advantages to using a Ning network for teaching and learning. similar advantages are available for organizations who wish to create a 'learning' network.

social-network-instead-of a VLE

Friday, 14 December 2007

Putting it simply...

An introduction to E-learning and web 2.0 - see articulate presentation link below
I have to admit I love the way they have created it, it's engaging, funny and simple to understand. The creator's site says it all they "..use simple format and real world stories to make sense of complex ideas". By relating to the 'real world' - their representation of concepts make it more meaningful and hence understood.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Future forces affecting jobs in education

A while ago Richard invited me to guest blog here and I apologise that it’s taken me some time to decide what to do. I hope the following is of interest.

In November I was invited to the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto to talk about transliteracy, which they see as a 'disruptive innovation' coming out of DMU. The IFTF is an independent thinktank which reports on future trends (they work very closely with Howard Rheingold, which is how I got to know them) and in 2006 they did some very interesting research for the KnowledgeWorks Foundation on the forces likely to affect education in the future. The IFTF gave me a print copy of the map they produced and I was especially interested in the section on Educators and Learning, particularly the kinds of jobs people like ourselves might be doing in the future.

Interestingly for me in relation to transliteracy, they say that mobile geocoded technologies mean that learning will get increasingly physical, and this digital-physical fusion will enable the community to truly become the classroom, very much echoing my own belief that the separation of learning from life that happened in the late 19th century can now be remedied via technology.

They anticipate that learning will change massively. Urban communities will be become VUCA focal points (VUCA = Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) and that in VUCA communities young people will become the mentors for older members in new methods of urban survival such as urban computing, urban agriculture, and new literacies for building cooperative strategies (this last is their work with Rheingold). Public places will become personal spaces, which of course we are already seeing, and educational content will become context-specific, aligning personal learning needs with physical spaces. We can expect new forms of networks supporting the aggregation and remixing of knowledge and they are quite insistent, rightly I think, that brain research will soon be very instrumental in designing learning experiences based on individual needs.

And who will facilitate all of this in the education environment? Where will the e-learning jobs be?

IFTF say that the new approaches derived from these changes will challenge many teachers because they require ‘unlearning’. This process will cause disruption at all levels including trade unions, who will have to decide whether or not to support the diversification of educational roles. They write:

“As education is unbundled into a constellation of functions and roles to meet the needs of the emerging learning economy, the teaching profession will experience a creative breakout. New administrative, classroom and community roles will differentiate educational careers (providing new jobs) such as content experts, learning coaches, network navigators, cognitive specialists, resource managers and community liaisons”.

I’m curious to know how much of this is already recognizable at DMU, and whether the new roles described above are already happening here or in other HE institutions. Everyone reading this is involved in e-learning, a role that didn’t exist 10 years ago, but what kinds of ‘e-learning’ jobs do you expect to see at DMU in 10 years time, or even in 5?

Something to ponder on as you transit through the winter solstice this year.

Season's Greetings!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ruth Page on Transliteracy

Yesterday, Dr Ruth Page, (School of English, Birmingham City University) gave a presentation in the Faculty of Humanities, in which she discussed her research and practice into the exploration of transliteracy in the classroom. The title of her talk was “Transliterate discussions: Using wikis to support small group work within English studies”. Transliteracy is “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” (PART 2007).

The growing importance of integrating new media literacies is now recognised in many areas of educational strategy and vision (see Ruth’s presentation). From a pedagogical perspective, transliteracy is less focused on technology as a way to disseminate information and more on innovative combinations of tools and methods of peer interaction. As Ruth pointed out, the notion of ‘transliteracy’ brings together the experience of crossing many boundaries, types of environment, tools and ways of interacting. Her aim is to incorporate a range of literacies and to build pedagogic bridges into the learning experience. She discussed her use of wikis in English Studies. I particularly liked the way in which mind-maps and other written artefacts developed in class were later 'transposed' to the online environment; these are so often lost at the end of an interactive session. The students were asked to follow up by converting mind maps to coherent sentences and paragraphs, bound together with hyperlinks identified by the students. The students were able to become part of both the process and the ‘transformation’ of products through their interaction with the wiki and with peers and their teacher. Unlike many sessions where we hear of the near-perfect combination of technology and pedagogy, Ruth discussed how, after reflection, she was considering modifications and enhancements for future implementation. Although the case was in linguistics, it is highly relevant to our teaching in all disciplines, allowing students to be active participants, and as Ruth pointed out – deeper learners.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Social Bookmarking - Are you doing it, if not why not?

Some views on the benefits of social bookmarking that may be of interest. Specifically of interest may be reasons why teachers and students should join a social bookmarking site and a discussion of strategies for managing Social Bookmarking learning activities

Social Bookmarking - Reasons and Strategies for use

Let us know what you think!