Thursday, 31 January 2008

WP1: PG Cert HE session - part 2

Okay, it's day two and we are really focused upon wikis and blogs, and the key issues raised in-class follow...
  • How can we use wikis for formative assessment. Simon got his students to answer issues in Health Care Management in week 15 - he took them through how to use them, and over the next week in groups, in-class they engaged with the questions more deeply, and provided feedback to each other. Some embraced the task by creating new pages, others by posting comments on a single page. Time in-class and (student) self-management (setting up rules) were critical.
  • How do we separate out group and individual elements in the assessment process?
  • How do we validate "perfectly scripted" answers? Here the technology/presentation vehicle is irrelevant.
  • How do we ensure a good conceptual grasp at levels 1, 2, 3?
  • Blogs are great for reflective logs, with shared/peer/mentor critique.
  • Can we use assessment in these tools to engage students in the learning process, through self-management/peer assessment?
  • How do we build tasks that stimulate critical literacy?

    Developing rubrics for peer-assessment is critical.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008


Steve Mac and Heather are currently running a session with 10 students about e-assessment. Some interesting issues from the students about:
  1. why should their students work with e-tools? Are we having to cajole too much;
  2. what rules of engagement do we have for on-line work?
  3. ensure a mix of technologies - face-to-face, mobile and on-line, to engage all learners;
  4. how do we engage learners as a group to own tasks?
  5. what are the differences between group and individual feedback/assessment?
  6. can we use wikis or blogs as a record of achievement?
  7. can we use wikis or blogs to engage nervous learners?

Pam T rightly noted that e-assessment is part of a holistic approach to curriculum design, focused around a rationale.

The students should be action-planning after the session about...

  • In what ways, if any, do you use online assessment methods with your students? These might be diagnostic, formative or summative, and may include approaches to plagiarism management, feedback or assessment of learning. What are the pros and cons here?
  • Have you received any comments/other feedback from students (or team members) on assessment methods on a particular module or programme? If so, what form did this take and how might it help you plan for the future? If not, how might you best get some feedback to inform future planning?
  • In what ways do you plan to use online assessment methods in the future? What would be facilitators/barriers to doing this?
  • What one online assessment development would you be willing to share with others in the group? Or ideas for a development?
  • Develop a brief on-line assessment rationale for one of your modules. Think about the specific tasks that you ask your students to do and the on-line assessment methods that might support them.
  • Post your rationale on the Programme wiki on Blackboard, and critique that which has been posted by your partner for this task.

Learning Technologies Conference 2008

Jon Tyler and I have just been handed our delegate badge and were sipping coffee and water awaiting the opening session for "Europe's Leading Learning Technology Conference". I had promised that I'll be live blogging from each session using my wireless laptop to keep people up-to-date periodically, however the wireless internet connection is dismal; taking up to a minute to load a single page, and so I'm left typing this on a steel cased workstation kiosk, with a matching STEEL keyboard! Folks, it has taken me 15 minutes to write up until here and my hands hurt pressing these keys. How the organisers missed out decent Internet connection in this day and age beats me. I'll stay optimistic and hope that the connection improves.

For now it's time we head off to the first session.

BTW Jon says Hi!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

WP6: Web 2.0 and staff development

So far, our main developments have been in the use of synchronous classrooms (WebEx), to deliver staff development on Web 2.0 technologies. Six, 2-hour sessions have focused upon blogs and wikis, social networking and social bookmarking. an evaluation report will follow, alongside a recipe paper on engaging users through synchronous tasks. This also links to a conversation I was having earlier with Derek Harding, at the University of Teesside about producing shopping lists for users. His argument is for microlearning:

"Learning that doesn't take long to do - maybe a few minutes.
For example a small tutorial that covers how to do something in photoshop such as crop. People doing stuff in the community want to get on and do it rather than mess about doing courses so it is just a question of facilitating that.microlearning needs in communities. What I really need I suppose is a process for responding to Explaining this has just given me an idea. What we need is a shopping list page that people can write in to say 'I don't know how to x' and the list can be visible to all like an faq list but newcomers can endorse things on the list by voting for them if they are already there. This would allow the community to set priorities."

We also have a space in Second Life, which a student is scripting. This level 3 Computing Sciences student will be producing guidelines for staff development in virtual worlds.

WP2: Leaders and Managers

The main areas of work under leaders and managers focus upon 3 areas.
  1. Mapping the fit between interventions that involve a mix of technologies (namely blogs and multimedia) and personal engagements, in particular focus upon institutional coaching for team leaders. This is run by Vincent Cornelius at DMU. We intend to interview both Vincent and some coachees, in order to understand the impact of these interventions on team leaders.
  2. Development sessions with Senior Managers in each faculty, bring them up to speed with the contextualised, local implementation of Web 2.0 technologies. So far, five sessions have been held, and an evaluation paper is to follow. This will connect to a paper on reward and recognition for academic leadership in e-learning.
  3. Development sessions with Teacher Fellows, in order to assess the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on the growth of pedagogic research. So far, two sessions have being held and another will follow on February 14, and an evaluation paper is to follow.

Fashion websites creep up on Amazon

{Comment: Are some of us still in misconceptions like these fashion retailers were in that education is not heading online?}

Fashion retailers have long played down the significance of the internet, saying that no-one would chance buying a dress, let alone a pair of shoes, that they hadn't tried on first.

Now it seems the same convenience that helped Amazon garner a enormous chunk of the book market is threatening to change the way we buy clothes - even though there are no virtual cubicles just yet.


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Monday, 28 January 2008

Wikis in plain English

I went over to the session last week by Lucy Mathers and Mike Leigh (CSE), and Steve McKenzie (HLS) who outlined the ways in which they have embedded wikis into their curricula, to support group-work for on-campus undergraduates, and postgraduate distance learning students. They went on further to demonstrate how wikis can be used to share resources in a collaborative manner, and the concomitant impact upon the assessment process.

Early on in the presentation they showed a video which I though was a great way of introducing a complex idea. And so for those of you who were not able to make it, take a look:

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Friday, 25 January 2008


For Your information Professor Michael Wesch says "Yes, you can (& should) use YouTube videos in the classroom". Read more....

Presentation: YouTube in/on/of/for the Classroom

Update on Work-package 1

The team for Workpackage 1 met on 25th January 2008 to reflect on current developments and to reinforce ideas for future planning.

To recap, the aim for this is to work with staff on the PGCertHE programme with a view to buile enhanced knowledge of both Web 2.0 technologies and development strategies that support and enhance engagement in and with teaching and learning.

What has been done so far?

• Involvement of 2 PGCertHE participants online synchronous discussions
on use of Web 2.0.
• Some take up of individual Web 2.0 development sessions
• Pulling together of key themes from Action Plans on PGCertHE wikis
in relation to wider pedagogical implications.
• Online evaluation questionnaire was sent to PGCert participants
re use of Web 2.0 in teaching and learning and taking up
staff-development on such (17 respondents)
• Group wiki has been set up for use by Learning Sets for the Assessment
and Evaluation module

Outputs and outcomes

• Blog and wikis set up and in use to reflect ongoing planning discussions
• Data for further evaluation has arisen from interim questionnaire (see
above); earlier survey on participants’ baseline regarding Web 2.0
knowledge and use; comments on blog and wiki regarding perceptions about Web
2.0 and action-planning for future practice; directed PGCertHE
sessions with focus on Web 2.0 and the curriculum (e.g for assessment
purposes) . Video and written data from these

Future planning

• Compilation of data from above sources and evaluation of such for
final report.
• Possible use of focus groups in final evaluation.
• Presentation of findings at E-Learning Symposium in May.
• Using findings as basis for other conference papers.


Our initial impressions from the information gained from the questionnaires and our perceptions generally from our involvement with this group of staff is that there has been for many, a considerable shifting from their base-line positions in both knowledge and understanding of Web 2.0 technologies and in their willingness to undergo further development and to engage with these for pedagogical purposes with their learners. We feel that this has been a small-scale but significant study about some of the barriers/facilitators for academic staff using new technologies in their teaching and what might further help or hinder them in doing so.


I've recently been to an interesting e-learning conference at the University of Ulster. I will be posting something here and a fuller report on the Blackboard Pathfinder site.

No Wii?! I'd die

I played my first game on the Nintendo Wii last night. Okay, I got thrashed by an eight-year-old at tennis, and I've woken up this morning with an ache in my shoulder, but the way in which I holed-out on the ninth to snatch victory in a game of golf was magisterial. That said Jude (a very mature eight-year-old) was also playing Ben 10 on his PS2, whilst attempting to give me the runaround. Now whether this was because he was bored of my company, simply multitasking, or just living his life is another story. I also happened to be texting a few mates and taking photos of the avatar created for me on the Wii by Jude's Mom.

His mum's take on why he focused on both the kinesthetic and cognitive outcomes from both games was put in terms of "socially interactive" and "emotionally engaging". Watching Jude in action, the games were not just about achievement, but competition, and in gathering new resources. In Ben 10 these included new moves for the game and also movie clips, which could be watched outside the game and saved. This developed into a more holistic experience, perhaps focused around the brand of the game, but also in an environment where these resources can be shared with friends. Jude's engagement is central to his lifestyle, which is underpinned by words like "cool" and "wicked".

So when I asked him about what he would do if he didn't live an interconnected life, one in which the Web had never existed and he didn't have access to a PS2 or Wii, it is said that "I'd die". When I pushed the issue, he said that he "would play marbles", or "I'd invent them".

What I thought was interesting, was the dynamic of the space in which we were engaging, and how engaged we all were. The mix between technology and physical space is taken for granted.That becomes more so when WiFi and mobiles become dominant factors. This enabled us to sit quite happily in the front room, using mobile phones and two types of game console, one of which was hooked up to a TV, whilst we discussed how best to return serve, access a particular game level, whether Merlot was a better grape than Shiraz (Jude had some good things to say on this point), and the impact of continual performance testing on schoolkids.
Rather than distancing us, in this context, it was really interesting to see how technologies enhanced social bonds.


I've had the following email reply from Jared Allgood of ClassTop in reponse to the issues posed at: Note that I also posted at: and these are still the key questions for me.

Jared agreed to my posting his response so here goes...

"I’ve been reading your blog posts about CourseFeed and I’d like to address some of the concerns you bring up. Firstly, I appreciate your passionate support in e-learning and learning in general. Any discussion about the direction of learning is beneficial to learners and to companies like mine that attempt to add valuable tools to the learning experience. Please allow me to address your listed issues from your most recent post -

  1. Yes, these are big claims. Introducing a social element to existing e-learning platforms has to happen. Social learning is a term that is too broad to be defined by an application like CourseFeed. CourseFeed is the first application that leverages both the power of e-learning platforms (i.e. Blackboard) and online social networks (i.e. Facebook) to create an enhanced social/learning experience online. While we make no claim to have invented social learning (this has gone on since the first classrooms and before) CourseFeed comes closer to mirroring the classroom experience online primarily because of its wide adoption among students. CourseFeed’s integration with both Blackboard and Facebook make online learning social, which is quite different than requiring students to comment on a discussion board in exchange for a grade. In fact, that’s what’s great (and powerful) about CourseFeed – students choose to access learning content and interact with each other when they use CourseFeed.
  2. We are very concerned about privacy and security and are willing to alter our privacy policy if the need exists. The email you receive was an announcement that CourseFeed is now available in a flavor that does not require students to enter their login credentials; delivering the same functionality with higher security. This development was in direct response to requests from institutions like your own. If you have specific questions/concerns regarding the type of data CourseFeed accesses on behalf of the student I’d be happy to address those.
  3. In short, yes, students want this. At beta-sites between 15% and 20% of all students started using CourseFeed within 2 weeks. I don’t know of any other e-learning tool that is that widely and quickly adopted by students. The best part about CourseFeed is that students choose to use it – it’s not like a new enterprise system, purchased by the school, and adopted by no one.
  4. Every time a school installs an extension to their enterprise learning management system questions should be asked about the impact on network performance. CourseFeed was designed in such a way that it reduces load on the server. Updates are made to courses and feeds are sent to Facebook users on a one-to-many basis. When one student’s course is updated that update goes to all students enrolled in the course. The burden is much lower than if all students were to login to Blackboard and click through the course looking for new content.

You pose great questions. I hope I’ve been able to put some of your concerns at ease and I’d like to make myself available if you have any other questions, concerns, or feedback about CourseFeed."

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Conference presentations

I thought I would give a brief update of accepted conference presentations, relating to our Pathfinder project.
  1. Malcolm Andrew will be presenting "Podcasts to augment the teaching of Pharmaceutical Microbiology" at the Mobile Learning 2008 conference, in April.
  2. Richard Hall will be presenting "The impact of the read/right web on learner agency", at the The London SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) 7th International Conference, in May.
  3. Richard Hall will be presenting "The impact of the read/right web on learner agency", at the Northampton Creating Contemporary Student Learning Environments, in May.
  4. Richard Hall will be leading a mini-track on Web 2.0 tools and assessment, at the 7th European Conference on e-Learning, in October.

Web 2.0 resources

I was searching for contact details for a friend, with whom I used to work on the Chic Project at Teesside University [check out the really dodgy photos], when I came across a few really nice resources on Web 2.0. So I thought I'd place/tag them here.

Personal learning environments [a useful look at the practice/theory of personal learning or work environments, focusing upon iGoogle]

Web 2.0 social services for teaching and learning [with a useful case study on wikis]

Comm.unities.of.prac.tice 2.0: how social media support learning in practice [a nice thesis on the use of these tools, especially wikis blogs and social bookmarking, to support learning communities]

Currys stops selling analogue TVs

OK so this particular post (below) is not entirely about the pathfinder or e-learning but it interests me how technologies that existed for decades are being 'pushed-aside', and how this digital revolution which we're all going through at the moment is changing almost everything that our parents may have done. I think there will be at a point in the future where I'll be having a conversation with my new-born (who's only 4 weeks at the moment) that there were such things as Televisions which occupied a whole area in our living room. I bet he'll chuckle the way we do when we are told the computers as powerful as modern mobile phones used to take entire rooms! Where are we headed!!!! - [musings from a very humbled Mohamed]


Parent company DSG International suffered poor sales at Christmas Currys, Dixons and PC World are to stop stocking analogue televisions and will instead promote "integrated" sets with built-in digital Freeview tuners.


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Research Blogging

Following on from Steve Mac's post about educational not social networking I received this from Philip A in the Library...

"The Research Blogging site is live now; you can find it at Research Blogging helps you locate and share academic blog posts about peer-reviewed research. Bloggers use the Research Blogging icon to identify their thoughtful posts about serious research, and those posts are collected for easy reference.

"The site aggregates blog posts that discuss and cite peer-reviewed research. There are some basic subject headings, so you can find recent psychology related posts, for example. It is interesting to see what research is attracting attention and who is doing the commenting. Since the posts all have correctly formatted links to the research under discussion, the site is a good example of the value of things like citations.

"If you are interested and want to join in, you can find out more at

"I have been following the development of this site to make sure it would fit in with the way we handle electronic journals at DMU. The citations include a DOI number as a link to the full text of the article under discussion."


A DOI is ‘a digital identifier for any object of intellectual property’ . It is a unique number for an article in an electronic journal, for example. ‘10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.w84’ is a DOI, but it is often part of a link to the DOI website, such as If you click on a link like this you will be passed on to the publisher’s web site where you may or may not have access to that article.


The Library has its ’Find it @ DMU’ service which can locate the copies to which we do have access and offers services, like an inter-library loan form, where we do not have access. You can set a cookie on your browser that will bring the resolver into play. Visit and try the above links again. You should be taken to the ‘Find it @ DMU’ menu for these articles. The cookie lasts for 3 days, so you will need to come back to reset it from time to time.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Cool CatTeacher Blog

Follow on from the Economist Education Debate on social networking and recent posts related to Facebook, Vicky Davies, author of the cool cat teacher blog hits the nail squarely and firmly on the head in making the point that for educators it is about educational not 'social' networking.
Educational Networking not Social Networking

Economist Education Debates

Just picked this up off the TK-newswire {man alive, TK is a fount of Web2.0 knowledge and is in the wrong job...}: The Economist Debate Series: Education

The third debate is running now on: "Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?" There are bits of the propositions that I like, in particular on the Pro side, I like the propositions about Bebo-boomers and what they will think of their kids' educational experiences:
  • "It's more about helping learners become more world-aware, more communicative, learning from each other, understanding first hand what makes the world go around"
  • "ubiquitous social technologies help us connect to those who can help us learn when we're outside the domain of formal education"
  • "The web turned sixteen last year, just as another generation of sixteen year olds left school with more knowledge of the web from outside formal education than from within it... Educational methods could continue on their merry, Victorian way, but that's unlikely to engage today's learners, and it's impossible to envisage tomorrow’s parents, the Bebo Boomers, accepting the 9am-4pm, timetabled, do the exams you're told to when you're told to, inflexibility of the 20th Century school"
On the Con, side there is an interesting line taken that "Technology has made us compliant."
  • "Facebook or MySpace are programmed for revenue generation, especially the vending of marketing data and the advertising base that can be established because of that data. To do so, those networks rely on technology developed by military (to surveil) and industry (to sell)"
  • "technology altered education in every conceivable facet. I have seen it used as delivery system, then as content in the classroom and finally as classroom, building and campus itself, and in every case, pedagogy changed to accommodate the interface. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Unless we impose that logic on social networks, they will align educational methods with corporate motive"
  • "What is the motive programmed in the interface, template or application involving use of social networks, and how can we adjust for that in the classroom, online or in-world? What are the risks—privacy invasion, online harassment, restrictive service terms, etc.—that might trigger controversy or code violations within the academic system?"
This debate, on the whole, drags us, kicking and screaming to face the educational realities of social networking tools and cultures. How do we align the possible (the affordances of connectivity) and the pragmatic (the uptake curve), with the clear, non-educational design and motive?

Critically, as the Cons would have it "How are technologies and pedagogies to be aligned?"

Friday, 18 January 2008

WP3: Podcasting - Progress Report January 2008

All 9 podcasts in Pharmaceutical Microbiology have now been published for use by 2nd Year MPharm and the accompanying lecture course has finished. Despite predictions, attendance at the live lectures did not suffer as a result of the existence of the podcasts; indeed it was better than in the previous academic year.
A final online, anonymous student feedback questionnaire has been completed by 107/111 students in the cohort who have given their evaluation of the podcasts and the ways in which they have watched them. In addition, a second focus group meeting of 9 student volunteers has been held to elicit more feedback.
Only one of the 107 respondents claimed not to have watched any podcasts and all the feedback from the remaining 106 respondents has been very positive. Most students watched the podcasts or PCs/laptops directly within Blackboard, rather than subscribing or using a mobile device.
The findings of this project are being disseminated through a series of DMU workshops and international conference presentations.

Get the popcorn out!

Lots of articles in the 'news' about social networking sites, and yes I am bored of hearing about Facebook again. Lets not get carried away by the wave and have knee-jerk reactions - some will, some won't and its not there fault, their not experts on this stuff, - but seriously these are real issues and some of these (yes personal data) I think have always been there but not obvious to all, all the time! So as side-liners with our education swim hats on, lets stand at the shore (notepad and all or surfboard!) watch the wave and the manoeuvres that these 'surfers' and 'shakers' make - take stock, reflect, discuss, outline some guidance and above all be 'real' and clear about where we lead with some of this stuff. As a lecturer (well I lecture at home!) I'm not going to wipe anything from my wipeboard - the bottom line , I want to know what my 'options' are and what works for me and my students. These articles are coming left, right and centre - and we can't turn a blind eye to them, the problem for us is, we would like to advise once things 'settle' and may be a bit clearer - but with the current weather conditions we are in with these social networking sites, the tide is constantly changing and won't really settle at this stage. We may just have to get used to it as we are at a time where its peaking in popularity since their launch and now 'they' are worming out all sorts of, find your seats and munch!

Power of Facebook affects law

Power of Facebook affects law
Internet law professor Michael Geist looks at how Facebook has the power to affect legislation.


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It Pays to Listen to the Radio

The Performing Rights Society (PRS) has once again extended the arm of copyright law to warn users listening to radio at work. The warning was issued to staff at a company in Norfolk where a member of staff listened to the music played over the radio at work. The company was asked to purchase a licence for their radio even though only one person listened to it. More on this news story which would interest copyright and other staff at institutions can be accessed at

[Jisc Legal newsletter 12/07]

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Predictions for Social Network Sites

While 2007 was a year where millions of people signed up to use social network sites, 2008 will be a year when these sites will be subject to cybercrime, predicts security professionals and firms. The news article describes the amount of personal information that is made available on these sites and security problems associated with the websites. More on this news story that would interest data protection and IT staff at institutions can be accessed at

[Jisc Legal Newsletter 12/07]

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Hands-up who's bored of hearing about Facebook?

Well, another day another Facebook dollar. I arrive into work, make myself a cup of tea, chew the fat with Gervase about whether Walsall's game at Bristol Rovers will be on tomorrow, logon and I find a message from Coursefeed about Facebook/Blackboard mash-up. [ Well, okay, it is a Blackboard plug-in, but it's effectively mash-up.]

Before we get to the message, I would just like to reiterate that the privacy concerns raised on this blog in October and November 2007, have not gone away, despite the fact that we are looking at a wider rollout now.

My e-mail told me:

"ClassTop, Inc. announces a free social learning application called CourseFeed. CourseFeed is a Facebook® application that shows students what's new in Blackboard®* (like a news feed) while providing a place for class comments and note sharing.

"Social learning is the next major phase of e-learning and CourseFeed is the first social learning application that enhances the learning experience for students. At schools where CourseFeed is available close to 20% of students start using the application within 2 weeks.

"We're excited about social learning and look forward to working together to enrich the student experience."

So I guess I have got a couple of issues.

1. There are big claims being made about social learning. The next phase, apparently!? "CourseFeed is the first social learning application that enhances the learning experience to students", apparently?! This statement was made despite all the work done on communities of enquiry, and group work, using mash-ups of face-to-face and/or e-Learning tools, which have been going on for decades.

2. Privacy, privacy, privacy, privacy, privacy, oh and data. Read their privacy statement at:

Those issues that we raised last year, have not gone away.

3. Do students/staff actually want this? We discussed this with some students, who were concerned about that there was now, increasingly, no separation between their academic and social lives. They are using social networking for sure, and are using it for informal learning, but they are also concerned about being monitored.

4. There are institutional issues here. For instance, if Coursefeed is acting as a Blackboard RSS feed, what are the network issues?

Man alive, I sound negative. But you've got to ask the questions...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Google's Answer to Wikipedia

[Did you here lately that Jimmy Wales founder of Wikipedia has entered the search engine market by creating a search engine to compete against the likes of Google. I thought Google would be well peeved by this, however my suspicions were further confirmed when I heard that Google have decided to demote Wikipedia articles in their search engine results, and now this. I wonder if this is the start of another 'virtual' cold war similar to the notorious Microsoft and Apple decades-long scrap :- Mohamed]

Google's Knol project aims to make online information easier to find and more authoritative. Google recently announced Knol, a new experimental website that puts information online in a way that encourages authorial attribution.


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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Why is Google showing us the way forward in digitisation?

Podcast: Why is Google showing us the way forward in digitisation? asks senior UK librarian : JISC
Podcast: Why is Google showing us the way forward in digitisation? asks senior UK librarian

Publication Date: 13 December 2007

A recent European digitisation conference explored some important challenges facing national and university libraries across the continent as they attempt to join together to deliver a 'European Digital Library'. In this podcast interview Paul Ayris, librarian at University College London and a senior figure in these European developments, asks a number of challenging questions of the library community.

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Press release - ‘Google Generation’ is a myth, says new research

New report reveals the information needs of the researchers and learners of the future.

16th January, 2008. A new report, commissioned by JISC and the British Library, counters the common assumption that the ‘Google Generation’ – young people born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most adept at using the web. The report by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an ease and familiarity with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web.

The report ‘Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future’ also shows that research-behaviour traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.

The study calls for libraries to respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users and to understand the new means of searching and navigating information. Learning what researchers want and need is crucial if libraries are not to become obsolete, the report warns.

The findings also send a stark message to government - that young people are dangerously lacking information skills. Well-funded information literacy programmes are needed, it continues, if the UK is to remain as a leading knowledge economy with a strongly-skilled next generation of researchers.

Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, Chief Executive of the British Library, said of the report findings: “Libraries have to accept that the future is now. At the British Library we have adopted the ‘Wiki’ view and the ‘Beta’ mindset. We have seized many of the opportunities new technology offers to inspire our users to learn, discover and innovate. However, we must do more and welcome the report findings, particularly the need to equip users of all age-groups with wider information and digital literacy skills.”

Dr Malcolm Read, Executive Secretary of JISC, welcomed the publication of the report, saying: “These findings add to our growing understanding of subjects that should concern all who work in further and higher education – the changing needs of our students and researchers and how libraries can meet their needs. We hope that this report will encourage debate around these important questions. We hope it will also serve to remind us all that students and researchers will continue to need the appropriate skills and training to help navigate an increasingly diverse and complex information landscape.”

For further information, please go to:

The politics of Web 2.0

In my book, everything is political. No ifs, no buts: the choices that we make; the purchases that we make; the individuals with whom we associate; all have ramifications for people's relationships with each other and indirectly confirm or assure the behaviours, values and cultures of third parties (individuals, corporations, institutions etc.). Like it or not, our choices impact upon social inclusion and social justice.

That's why, whether we agree with him or not, we need to engage withTom Hodgkinson's Guardian article of Monday 14 January, 2008, entitled "With friends like these ..."

Not only does Hodgkinson engage with the politics and values of those who own and manage Facebook, but he also raises issues to do with online privacy. This is a thought-provoking piece, and I was particularly struck by the following:

"Futhermore, have you Facebook users ever actually read the privacy policy? It tells you that you don't have much privacy. Facebook pretends to be about freedom, but isn't it really more like an ideologically motivated virtual totalitarian regime with a population that will very soon exceed the UK's? Thiel and the rest have created their own country, a country of consumers."

With universities beginning to engage in conversations around learning, teaching and assessment using Web 2.0 technologies, perhaps it's time to discuss and analyse issues around privacy a little more seriously.

Monday, 14 January 2008

100th post: what do our students think of Web 2.0 in the curriculum?

Ha! I've bagged the hundredth post on this blog! What is more, it is about our students' views of Web 2.0 in the curriculum, based upon a series of 116 interviews and focus groups conducted between 2005 and 2007.

So this follows on from Suki's posting about maintaining the differences between informal and formal learning spaces. The key themes that arose from our interviews were:
  • The importance for students of controlling the technologies that they use to learn, and of engaging in learning conversations with tutors about the types of spaces and environments that are created;
  • The critical nature of access to, and participation within, specific spaces and technologies;
  • the value that students placed upon external, non-institutional learning communities/associations (for instance, the friendship networks that exist on MySpace or Facebook); and
  • Concerns about the ways in which critical literacy can be enhanced, and captured through assessment for learning, in non-institutional spaces.
The Deputy-President of our Student's Union highlighted the need to extend and enhance traditional learning environments through web-based technologies, whilst being mindful of the need to separate social and academic spaces. This issue was brought out more forcefully during the discussion that followed. One Head of Department forcefully argued that where Web 2.0 technologies are central to informal learning, then they are owned by students and should not be "captured" by academics.

The discussion also highlighted issues around copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property, as well as staff confidence in engaging with newer, web-based technologies. However, the single most important point that was raised by staff, focused upon how to build learning tasks that framed the development of critical, academic literacies.

We have five further practitioner-led sessions coming up, focused upon: blogging and the end of the essay; social bookmarking; social networking; podcasting; and wikis. We hope that the examples of practice demonstrated by these practitioners will enable other staff to reconsider their learning tasks, focused around their learners' aspirations for and approaches to, developing critical literacy.

Your 'space' or mine?

I attended the first session of our e-learning dissemination event last Friday (11/01/08) on 'Session 1: what do our students think about the use of Web 2.0 tools in the curriculum?' - presented by Richard Hall- it was a good session and raised a number of lines of thought to be further explored.

One thing that stood out for me when we came onto 'peer online evaluation and support' - that as part of student learning we need to respect the fact that students need to have their 'own' online space where we (tutor) do not need to engage - this could be seen as part of the changing study habit/style of students. Before online supported learning we would reference our materials in various means, talk to a few friends including the tutor if need be and and write up our assignments - today we can do this process online, in a far much wider forum (of course this raises the stakes higher on issues of plagiarism, copyright etc) which we are aware of and have mechanisms in place. I don't think we should feel that we (the tutor) should always be the part of the process when informal learning is taking place just because students choose to 'work' and 'collaborate' online. Students need their 'space' and may choose to use other online spaces 'outside' of DMU so as not to feel that they are being monitored all the time. What we may want to consider is what kind of learning activities using web 2.0 would we (tutor) want to know and should be a part of (aside from the collaboration tools we already have) and this decision can be made by the tutor or with his/her students! There is a danger that if we attempt to 'engage' with 'students' in online spaces where they don't want 'us' it can pull them away and they will move onto another system where 'we' aren't there. On the other hand one could argue that this reflects on our current system - as from the presentation students did express that they wanted more informal feedback from the tutor. Could our current structure and nature of our main platform (Blackboard) be less inviting for students? Other online SNS have a more relaxed look and feel - and link with more of the social aspects in their lives, thus making this more an informal environment. Depending on the student (part-time, distance learner, international and your typical undergraduate) online 'spaces' may be accessed differently and for a number of reasons - some groups (distance learners) may want more online tutor input than others - Lots of interesting branches to follow up - for me the point of my post was to raise awareness that study habits of students online is their 'space' which we should not necessarily feel that we have to be engaged with.