Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Byron Report

Interesting comments about the Byron Report on social networking and gaming among children. Not sure that the headlines extend what we already take as obvious approaches to privacy and identity, but maybe they needed to be reiterated - especially to those who do not "get" on-line cultures and children being raised on-line.

Democracy 2.0

Great comment in the Guardian today from Anthony Barnett about Democracy 2.0. In particular, I enjoyed the relationships drawn between new technologies and "new forms of political decision-making". We run shy of this type of conversation in higher education and yet the politics of Web 2.0 is one of its most powerful affordances and one that we should eagerly grasp. It helps to reinforce the arguments of Ronald Barnett that the HE project is about a student's coming to know their subject, their world and themselves, and make contextualised decisions.

Monday, 24 March 2008

for the love of pod

Driving home from the wild West Midlands after an abject 1-1 draw I stumbled across 5Live's podcast special "for the love of pod". What a bonus that was, as the programme demonstrated some of the thinking around audio in the 21st century that is driving traditional media outlets, like the Guardian and the BBC, comedians like Mitch Benn and Ricky Gervais, and small businesses like Wiggly Wigglers, towards podcasting.

In particular I was taken by:
  • Mitch Benn's use of podcasts to release "extra" material to his fans, that wasn't used on the BBC's Now Show. [They only used 2 of the 3 songs he wrote each week, so why not release the B-side?] It strikes me that academics could do the same with extra bits of information/comment - some students might listen some might not, in the same way that I might listen to Mitch Benn's extras whilst 'er indoors just listens to The Now Show. We're both still fans...
  • The use of podcasts to refresh a relationship with an existing audience, or to extend a personal relationship to a new following. In this, the role of "value added" content is critical - it made me realise the importance of the material that we have to say to our listeners/students.
  • The personal, unscripted, one-to-one relationship that a podcast can portray to listeners is often very powerful.

Friday, 21 March 2008

is it really that wrong to use social networking sites for independent study?

well it would seem so in some parts of Canada according to this Reuters report about "Canadian university faces off with digital generation".

A simple search of student groups for Ryerson University reveals 269 groups - are their owners/admin all to be punished? Staff as well?

I like the following quote from from a Uni of Toronto Media Studies professor:

In an interview, University of Toronto philosophy and media studies professor Megan Boler said that all universities encourage collegiality and discussion and that meeting online is actually very transparent because there are traces and records of everything discussed.

"Of course we want to ensure academic integrity, but I think academic freedom and civil right are equally important, unless we expect students to study in total isolation," she said.

Maybe the real issue is progressive pedagogy and rethinking assessment to chime with post-Fordist working practices.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

MMU CAMEL meeting: no lunch, 5 pints and a video

Malcolm, Jon and I all headed off to Manchester Met on Monday for our lovely CAMEL meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and storyboard our media briefing paper on building collaborative, co-operative networks to support e-learning. So, what did we learn?
  1. Don't go to MMU and expect lunch or afternoon tea. [:>0]
  2. Brainstorming can be problematic when there is no chairperson.
  3. The Lass O'Gowrie is a lovely pub with very forgiving clientele.
  4. Terry Mayes is an excellent, hands-off, yet focused critical friend.
  5. We think there are the following barriers to the development of a collaborative co-operative culture: poor internal communication; individual staff, technical fears; the lack of local champions, or champions, who aimed to high; a poor vision or strategy or a lack of leadership; the intractability of middle management; silo-working (not invented here); a lack of inspiration; appropriate support and institutional structures, in terms of timetabling, workloads, available finance etc.
  6. These are complex barriers, but we thought that there were several enablers, which emerged: more flexible models of staff development; more flexible models of communication; the development of cross-institutional teams and new human networks; institutional leadership at a variety of levels, including the huge importance of inspirational champions.
We left, having decided to post a series of institutional podcasts/animations/videos that encapsulate how our pathfinder project has built a new collaborative, cooperative partnerships. In particular, we will focus upon the themes of flexible models of staff development and building new networks of cross-institutional teams. We intend to present these on-line and then work out how to thread our short multimedia snippets into a five-minute briefing paper - and all this before our next meeting here at DMU on 20 May.

DMU e-Learning Symposium

We are running our second DMU e-Learning Symposium at Highpoint conference centre (on Glenfield Road, Leicester) on Friday 16 May. This event will be a celebration of the achievements of our project. We have 100 academic, academic-related and external staff involved, and we are pretty pleased about that.

The following evidence has been taken from our draft flyer...

Over the past year, the e-Learning Co-ordinators have been working with key people across the university on the Higher Education Academy/JISC Pathfinder Project. This nationwide project involved 28 institutions with completion by May 2008. We have been exploring the potential for using Web 2.0 technologies in the curriculum. The programme for the day includes a keynote speech from Lawrie Phipps of JISC on “Learner-expectations, technology and formal/informal learning”, together with the following choice of workshops, that have been borne out of our own and others work in the field of Web 2.0 and education.


9.30 – 10.00 Registration and refreshments

10.00 - 10.30 Welcome: Professor Steve Baskerville, Richard Hall, where next for DMU?

10.30 – 11.15 Keynote 1: Lawrie Phillips [JISC]: learner expectations of technology

11.15 – 11.45 Thinking time and refreshments

11.45 – 12.45 Morning Workshops 1 [details below]

12.45 – 13.45 Lunch

13.45 – 14.45 Afternoon Workshops 2 [details below]

14.45 – 15.15 Thinking time and refreshments

15.15 – 16.00 Keynote 2: Dr Nicky Whitton [MMU]: Games, Technology and learning


1. Introducing podcasts into the curriculum and their reception by students

Malcolm Andrew (HLS) will be showcasing how he developed and integrated video podcasts within Blackboard to support Year 2 Pharmacy students and will show student feedback from this exercise. He will give an overview of the technology and will provide recommendations for other practitioners who are thinking of using it.

2. Social networking and educational bookmarking

Heather Conboy (Humanities) and Steve Mackenzie (HLS) will demonstrate and discuss models for extending student engagement through social networking and educational bookmarking tools, like, and Facebook

3. Using wikis to enhance group tasks

Mike Leigh and Lucy Mathers(CSE) will highlight the impact of using wikis in Blackboard on student group work, whilst Jon Philpott (Registry) will offer insights into how wikis can be used by staff teams to build shared knowledge bases

4. Building and engaging with personal learning environments

Derek Harding (Teeside University) will lead a discussion about the use of tools like iGoogle to build Personal Learning Environments with students and to enhance personalisation of their learning.

5. Embedding mobile technologies in the classroom

Tim Linsey (Kingston University) has been involved with the Rapid Reaction project at Kingston University. He will lead a session on developing your use of mobile and handheld technologies to support student learning.

6. Multi-media in the curriculum

Jon Tyler and Richard Chipps (AAD) will demonstrate the development and embedding of streaming video and make recommendations for other practitioners

7. Student engagement and motivation with Web 2.0 tools

Harish Ravat (BAL) will lead a discussion about the need for a change in our e-learning practice in HE, in light of student expectations and the rise of web-based tools like Facebook, and YouTube.

8. How would a weblog blog on a weblog blog if a weblog could blog blogs?

What do you mean that the title doesn’t make sense! Mohammed Kassam (HR), and Alan Brine and Phil Adams (Library) will give tips on common-sense blogging for readers and writers in order to enhance the student experience.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Why We're Powerless To Resist Grazing On Endless Web Data

What is it about a Web site that might make it literally irresistible?

While there is a certain grand mystery to some aspects of human behavior, others can be easily explained. Just find yourself a garden-variety house cat, along with a $10 laser pointer.

Many cat owners know that the lasers are the easiest way to keep the pet amused. The cats will ceaselessly, maniacally chase it as it's beamed about the room, literally climbing the walls to capture what they surely regard as some form of ultimate prey.

We Think - Charles Leadbetter

Here is a link to a recent edition of the Radio 4 programme "Thinking Allowed" in which Laurie Taylor talks to Charles Leadbetter about his recent book "We Think" - about the rise in social networking and in particular wikipedia. Worth a listen, takes about 10 mins I think.


Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Bob, weave and procrastinate, but you can't hide

from the fact that - Web 2.0 is the future of education

It's always good when you find someone respected in the field (Steve Hargadon) who tells it how it is (will be)!!

The beauty of Web 2.0 tools is that they are simple for staff and students. All it means for Staff is a tiny little bit of up front effort in thinking about how web 2.0 tools can be applied effectively to their teaching situation. Miracle results will not happen overnight, but immediate benefits can be seen.

Web 2.0 tools do not replace current methods of teaching, they enhance existing teaching and learning methods. Variety can be added to learning tasks increasing the enjoyment for both students and Staff.

The best way to learn about web 2.o tools is to use them as a student, as a lifelong learner. Institutions can help teachers to speed up the process of integrating web 2.0 tools effectively into there armoury of teaching and learning tools by offering short courses firstly on technicalities and secondly on good pedagogic practices.

Vote for Web 2.0 and be on the winning side!! (and you'll enjoy it). If you are not sure of web 2.0 - I'd say you need to give it a chance, look out for workshops run by Richard Hall and your e-learning faculty co-ordinators. Check out the DMU blackboard e-learning staff support site for other good background information.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Social: Learn

Thanks to Alastair Clark at NIACE for this:

'I came across this on "Social:Learn"'. The author notes that "higher education in general) needs to find ways of embracing the whole web 2.0, social networking world, and that the only way to understand this stuff is to do it."

The Ed Techie blog of which the posting was born is sweet - I might even subscribe...

Understanding the experiences of learners in a digital age: ELESIG start-up

I think I struggle with the whole learners' experiences thing, and I think that's because I feel like a grandma who has just been handed a basketful of free range, extra large, shelled, hard-boiled eggs by her smiling, fresh-faced grandson who has just discovered the best way to eat them... I'm not saying that we don't need to identify where our learners come from, their motivations and aspirations, the types of tools that they use and why, and how technologies impact upon their learning and achievement, and more importantly, their sense of who they are and how they can act in the world. However, I wonder whether that which is being presented as shiny and new hasn't already got a long track record. Perhaps sector-wide maturity in e-learning, and pedagogic evaluation, has reached the point where we can discuss the normalisation of this process.

So what were the lessons learned from last week's ELESIG event?
  1. Upskilling staff to be both reactive and proactive in their use of technologies is central to connecting students' uses of technologies to the development of their critical literacies.
  2. Higher education needs to stop chasing "cool". There are core academic values that we want to develop, and it may be that some institutions build a digital reputation that connects into those core academic values and provides a framework within which students can define themselves and succeed. However, institutions are unlikely to stay ahead of the technological game, given that students are so fleet of foot and universities are so unwieldy.
  3. Helen Beetham made the point that evidence from learners defined some clear challenges for institutional values and cultures. She posited that a crunch point may be coming, where academic issues, for instance, around the centrality of subject knowledge or plagiarism clashed with 21st century learning that is predicated upon building social capital, by way of mashing, reusing and re-presenting the work of others.
  4. There is a growing theme around the creation of on demand, personal learning environments, in which the individual learners experiences (rather than institutional e-Learning drivers) enable the aggregation of relevant tools. Connected to this, Oxford Brookes University, highlighted that they are embedding the notion of the digitally literate learner in their new institutional e-Learning Strategy and also within validations. Through our e-Learning Champions and programme development checklists at validation and periodic review, we engage with these issues. However, I wonder whether DMU needs to have a more overtly didactic, Brookesian approach that forces the issue of engaging with digitally literate learners, rather than expecting that staff will engage with the issue.
  5. As ever, there was only tentative engagement with the learner's role in society and the institutional contribution to that. The central theme seemed to be what the learner values in higher education, and whether we can help learners achieve some resilience in managing their learning. However, Mel from South Bank argued against the "destructive effect of transmission learning" and highlighted that we still see so much of that through the use of our institutional VLEs. It was also interesting to pick up the throwaway remark from one of the presenters about adding value to "the technologies that are provided for them (students)". For me, there are several untapped areas.
  • I am with those who argue that higher education is a democratic project, and that (it into the work of Ronald Barnett) it can be made socially empowering through a learner's coming to understand their subject area, themselves and their world, and coming to act in it. This social empowerment, and the cultural and social capital which follows, needs more understanding.
  • I am less interested in community, and more in participation and association. How do individuals associate or disassociate, become enfranchised or disenfranchised, participate or step away, and why? What therefore is the impact of PLEs on learner engagement, motivation and achievement, both in higher education and society?
  • In terms of transition, progression and retention, how do technologies and the ways in which academics engaged with them, connect into student's emotional development? What is the impact upon digital natives, digital immigrants, employer engagement, mature students, etc?

Friday, 7 March 2008

E-mail is ruining my life!

Two million e-mails are sent every second in the UK. That is almost three billion each day. But what is the real cost of this information overload?

Silver surfers ahead of young in online security

The older generation can teach the iPod generation a thing or two when it comes to protecting themselves from online card fraud, according to a new study.

Despite being into the latest gadgets and gizmos, young people aren't as savvy as their elders when it comes to looking after themselves online, according to research published today.


Thursday, 6 March 2008

the technology of teaching

a BBC article about the way technology is shaping the way schools will work in the future:

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


I had the opportunity to attend the seminar event ‘Using eportfolios and blogs as transition 'spaces' into and out of the University’ presented by Julie Hughes & Emma Purnell (03/03/08) from the University of Wolverhampton. I enjoyed the session and there a couple of things that stood out for which I thought are worthwhile pursuing or piloting. Just to give you some background they have their own portfolio system namely PEBBLEPAD which you may have heard of. If you access their site, there is loads of information about the system and how it works. What struck me was the investment that they gave to the project, and its success to date is purely to do with this. The critical stage for me to ensure that the momentum and continuing participation from the students in using this system (in this example in the School of Art and Design) was introducing the ‘e-portfolio system’ pre course teaching, welcomes and introductions for participants in the course were required and this gave the students a basis, by establishing their online identities at this early stage they continued to develop and participate in this community course setting. I’m wondering if the introductions of such a system at level 2 or 3 where students may be already established digitally ‘elsewhere’ have an impact as to how they engage with their home grown e-portfolio system. I would have also liked to know what the impact if any in their engagement with their VLE (WOLF) for these students (should have asked that! but hey I’m reflecting). One thing is for sure, the e-portfolio system – gave the students the social and study support space (using blogs) as witnessed at the seminar. The type of learner here can affect the students usage of the system, for adult education, distance learners and associate colleges this setting can be pivotal in developing a sense of support as it has the informal tones which ‘social spaces’ ooze and allows for personalisation of your own ‘e-portfolio space’. I also think there may be some scope for pre-HE students on learning required academic skills required at a HE level. With all that said, there needs to be dedicated resources and clear expectations on both the student/tutor views. As with any online discussion space, the tutor has to state clearly how and when they will contribute, as the presenter commented ‘one of the main reasons that they (students) keep coming back is the feedback that they receive’. I know I have focused on the study support aspects of this e-portfolio system (which is I believe is one of its strengths) it does allow students to upload their work and make available content in the format that they choose, say for a prospective employer. I still have lots of questions, for me tying this system into the VLE so that they marry well, could work well and hopefully post course beyond their exported e-portfolio.