Learning Technology jottings at Goldsmiths

Thoughts and deeds

This blog is moving

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This blog is moving, broadening focus to include contributions from all of us in Goldsmiths Learning Enhancement Unit, and hopefully becoming the group blog it was intended to be.

I’ve exported everything from here to http://goldsmithsleu.wordpress.com.

See you there.


Written by Mira Vogel

July 27, 2011 at 11:53

Posted in GLEU

Abstract for eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University

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My keynote abstract for the eLearning 2.0 Conference, Brunel University, 6th-7th July 2011

Higher education is about to lurch into liberalisation. Institutions are now required to ask “What is my unique selling point?” In arts, humanities and social sciences learning, there is particular emphasis on ideas and communication, and often trenchant opposition to acquisitive or behavioural models of education. This presentation will compare established norms of higher learning with some nascent, reincarnated or ‘Big Society’ alternatives, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), online tuition-free universities, and those which elevate learning above accreditation. It will consider some principles of university learning and teaching, including original thinking, critical thinking, creative friction, commitment to a community of inquiry, the concept of scaffolding, and focus particularly on the constraints of assessment and accreditation. Returning university teachers to the centre of the institution, it will ask what university teachers contribute to learning that nobody else can and, with focus on wikis and blogs, under what circumstances might teachers use these technologies to support this vision of learning.

I’m looking forward to the conference – hope I can live up to the luminary presentations of previous years. Looking forward to catching up with some people I haven’t seen for ages.

Written by Mira Vogel

June 30, 2011 at 16:59

Posted in assessment, cck11, event

JISC round-table debate on open access to scholarly communications

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Publishers, researchers and librarians met this week to debate the global and UK position for scholarly communications including the transition from traditional journal publishing models to open access for academic research.

Recordings of the discussions are available on YouTube.

See too:

Written by Mira Vogel

May 31, 2011 at 15:54

Posted in open

500 words for Purpos/ed

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Purpose/edPurpose/ed aims to kickstart a debate about education, in 500 words. Although the scheduled posts ended last month, here’s a contribution from me.


As distinct from learning, education is more institutionally inclined, and so these 500 words are about learning institutions, and specifically higher education ones. The first #500words pieces I read were concerned with bringing about change or confronting the inevitability of change. As well as the transformation learners undergo, #500words contributors are also thinking about changing teaching and changing institutions. Undeniably, change is upon us. If you work in higher education, funding cuts and a consumer revolution confront you with two choices: change or watch things change around you. But that said, I’d like to give some attention here to durability.

As well as being places of innovation, universities are places of continuity. Ideas which shape societies are passed from one person to others, over generations. To maintain a principled, rather than expedient, sense of what it is in these changing times that’s important enough to be preserved, requires a vantage point, and the ideas which are dwelt upon in universities are such a vantage point. When academics in the arts, humanities and social sciences design a curriculum, that curriculum is designed around persistent stories, theories, practices and processes, not ephemeral ones. VLEs are famously inert and full of stuff – scanning the particular Moodle installation I administrate at Goldsmiths, it’s brimming with links to landmark writings, performances and artworks – by Freire, Benjamin, Kant, Weber, Kuhn, Behn, Kristeva, Piaget, Foucault, Arendt, Fanon, Walcott, Hobbes, Freud, Riefenstahl, Zizek, Abramovic, Popper, Pankhurst, the list goes on. And that’s to say nothing of the oral, or even unspoken, traditions passed down on some courses (pun intended, I’m not privy to those) nor the ongoing work in marginalised fields animated by small, committed groups of academics and their students, fueled by passion and an unshakable conviction of its human worth.

Academics are custodians of these ideas, texts, practices; by giving them consideration and bringing about their connection and reconnection to the contemporary world, education helps to constitute ethical humans with the integrity to imagine their way beyond change. One metaphor is a pivot, the permanent thing in relation to which you move if pushed; another is an orbit, the gravitational force exerted by something with enough mass to keep you in its field and prevent you from ricocheting into a collision path. Through studying humans and their ideas, society renews its knowledge of how to be humane. Education where I work is often like this, and implicitly or explicitly for this.

Held between this impulse towards conservation on the one hand, and the revolutionary goad of the Comprehensive Spending Review and coming White Paper  on the other, I’m drawn to examine where and how these persistent practices and ideas in higher learning might be threatened, and also where and how they might shade into small-‘c’-conservativism – the kinds of cynicism-inducing institutionalisation of power and attendant seizing-up and narrowing of aspiration, that others have mentioned. Somewhere in between is an educational/institutional sweet spot.

[490 words.]

I’ll be sorry not to be at the invigoratingly-titled Purpos/ed Summit For Instigators on 30th in Sheffield, and will be following the tweets and anything else that’s webcast.

Other 500words I enjoyed (and I haven’t read them all yet): Jenny Luca on encouragement and opporuntity; Christina Costa on character; Fred Garnett on education as soma, countered by the participatory affordances of technology; Leon Cych on a self-building, self-sustaining communities; Rab on dangerous liberation; Mark Berthelemy beyond the competitive sausage machine; Frances Bell‘s four pillars of learning; and particularly thought provoking, Graham Attwell on the contradictions in the debate about the purpose of education that rule out “simple compromise or reform minded tinkering”.

Later, as the mind-chains began to rattle, I got the urge to search the Purpos/ed site for the term ‘economy’. Only this was returned, with the bracing message:

“Whingers are happy with the status quo. Fact.”

Written by Mira Vogel

April 25, 2011 at 00:05

Posted in change

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Keri Facer on purpose/ed – what is education for?

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Purpose/ed is an online and in-person gathering together of people with an interest in rethinking about the purpose of education.

It arose from Prof Keri Facer‘s keynote presentation at JISC’s 2010 Innovating E-Learning Conference, ‘Learning to live in interesting times – what are educational institutions for?’, which is available on the conference archives for viewing or download.

On Purpose/ed Keri Facer writes a short piece ending with some questions which promise good things from this group.

  1. What is your vision for the good society?
  2. What is the part that education can play in achieving that and what is the part that others need to play? Who are these others? What is/what should be their relationship to education?
  3. What are the building blocks we have in our schools and universities already that could move them towards that role?
  4. What are the building blocks outside formal education?
  5. What are the impediments to change and what causes them? And are there good reasons for these?
  6. What can I see of merit in the ideas of those who disagree with me?
  7. Do the ideas I suggest draw on the expertise and insight of others?
  8. Do the ideas I suggest offer enough benefit to outweight the disruption that they would cause in their realisation? how would we get there?

Written by Mira Vogel

April 8, 2011 at 10:30

Posted in Uncategorized

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A blog post for Moodle 2 (testing)

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In Moodle 2.0 I can blog out here and if I follow the rules I have set up (in this case, using the tag ‘moodle2’, it should be picked up in my Moodle 2.0 account.

Written by Mira Vogel

April 4, 2011 at 11:13

Posted in moodle, upgrade

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JISC Learning & Teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting – 23 March 2011

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Notes from the 22nd JISC Learning & teaching Practice Experts Group Meeting, 23 March 2011, Maple House, Birmingham.

See also

Session 1

SLiDA project – how are institutions creating and enabling opportunities that promote the development of effective learning in a digital age?

Rhona Sharpe and Greg Benfield (Oxford Brookes)

SLiDA stands for ‘supporting learners in a digital age’ – a project which explored which ways of supporting learners need or benefit from an institutional approach. Maintains awareness of the tensions emerging from previous studies – for example the skills gap between staff and students.

Output was web-based case studies co-created by 9 institutions (eg Edinburgh, London Met, Wolverhampton – institutions committed into developing digital literacies) with the project team.

The synthesis report expands on five key initiatives across institutions

  • preparing students for learning in a digital age (e.g. CoLab at Uni of Surrey)
  • enabling learners to use their own devices (Birkenhead)
  • Reconfiguring spaces for social learning
  • Listening to learners (e.g. University of Surrey; Student Voice representatives at Uni of Glamorgan)
  • strategic emphasis on course design for ‘blended’ learning

The project inadvertently found out how institutions were implementing their strategies including: student-led policy-making – students as researchers and scopers; seed funding for many different projects.

Sticker activity followed- place stickers on several activities undertaken by some of the institutions with JISC funding, described on posters around the meeting room: green=already doing it and evaluating it; yellow=planning it; red=not doing it – then brief presentations from project teams on the colour spread.

  • Greg on learning spaces – half are green, and the rest are more yellow than red.
  • Megan (Wolverhampton) – Strategic emphasis on course design (digital literacy) more reds; course redesigns mostly yellow.
  • London Met – listening to learner voices – engaging students and supporting digital literacy – a quarter green, quarter red, half yellow
  • Abingdon – digital literacies. Universal introduction and embedding development – yellow, then red, then green.

Break-out – I sat with the reconfiguring spaces for social learning group

  • Edinburgh’s huge investment in space – recognition of advanced digital technologies and simple ones e.g. tables as whiteboard surfaces.
  • IT suites hide students behind monitors – fixed learning spaces are a problem for social activity; but when flexible spaces are open, they become individual rather than social, because one group’s activity can disturb others.
  • power
  • eventedness: the coming together at the same time is special
  • will there be a new effort to use technologies to replace rather than enrich?
  • James Clay – for every lap top trolley (charging point) they have, they need three; flip-up laptop desks (showed picture); tried a star approach (all facing in). Changing rooms involves an internal charge there – no institution-wide bookable pool
  • Little territories within institutions designed in isolation. For example, if you go to your Scolarest coffee shop, you need to be drinking coffee if you want to use it as a learning space.
  • Front presentation spaces; experience;
  • The idea of contact time constrains the idea of ‘flexibility’ (but to what extent is a social learning space also a flexible learning space?)

Feedback plenary

  • Working out what digital literacy means in a given handout.
  • How do you involve large numbers of stakeholders?
  • SMT needs to buy in to produce a college-wide digital literacy induction; makes a big impact on retention; should not be optional.
  • Ownership
  • (Is it that ‘stakeholders’ need some prior knowledge before they can make apposite contributions? Or is it down to the interpretative skills of the planners and policy-makers.)

See also

  • New Feb 11 briefing paper on transforming curriculum design
  • Watch out for a new JISC-wide call for projects on digital literacy in staff and students
  • There’s a London digital literacy workshop on 26th May – open to all

Ruth Drysdale & Paul Bailey – how is technology supporting life long learning and workforce development?

13 projects on the Life Long Learning & Workforce Development Programme.

Technology is supporting credit framewrks and AP(E)L, mentoring, eportfolios, and engaging with employers.

Negotiated frameworks for validation and accreditation – Uni Glouc co-creating curricula with employers – piloted with 6 institutions.

Uni Westminster example of using institutional systems v. 3rd party tools to move from placement visits to online mentoring.

ePortfolio-based pedagogies. University of Hull student showcases. But institutional systems are still not fitting so well with students’ lifelong learning continuum.

Employer interaction – Uni of Nottingham incorporating open standard data feeds from learning systems into an employer portal (ACT – mention to Computing, Social Work, Ed Studies).


Breakout looking at the LLL&WD projects.

CCLIP – Liverpool – portal to disseminate cultural learning opportunities

Courses, events, etc. Partners: Tate and Philharmonic theatres; small and medium arts bodies.

Wanted a simple system; no duplicate data entry – used XCRI common standard (UCAS for example has a statement of intent to become XCRI compatible) to capture as much as possible from the partners’ existing information systems. A lot of diversity. Tate Liverpool’s IT is controlled by Tate London, making it hard to roll in new standards. Other organisations were smaller and more nimble, or could enter the data manually.

Each institution needs structures in place to use the portal – what goes in it, what doesn’t.

Searchable by organisation or by field (e.g. Chinese music, exhibitions). Links to host organisation’s booking system; always branded with host org’s branding; always renders a google map. Possible to set up alerts. Possible to use search data as business intelligence.

Questions – does activity convert to bookings? Early days – they need to know that because they are going to have to start charging.

Q – where does Liverpool end? Are online opportunities advertised there? They are currently discussing just that.

ePPSME – ePortfolio based pedagogies with Small to Medium Enterprises

Students did a ten week course exclusively on a portfolio tool. 20 credits.

Patchwork text methodology(?).

First units very much structured activities and content – templated as scaffolding. Units two and three began to use more of the ePortfolio function eg web conferencing (very much valued).

Managing access after the end of the course. Accounts are closed, so the end process for students is to export the ePortfolio.

Exporting was a bit tricky – collaborative work gets fragmented into individual contributions. Is the conversation of lasting importance, or is it ephemeral?

UWIC – workplace learning for Welsh students

Web conferencing, video conferencing and ePortfolios.

Adobe Connect web meeting has helped dental students because it affords close camera work (couldn’t this be achieved in a lecture setting?).

Experience Through Work module – reflective report and log. Challenges – thinking reflectively and evidencing that. ePortfolio deployed, with frequent formative feedback from tutors.

Virtual classroom online – open mic approach so students could interact – question and answer sessions, and discussions. Technology enables students to meet one-another – helped socially and professionally. (Q how was this managed?).

Q Ground rules – open mic worked. (I am surprised that it did – there was no moderator, only the single tutor – not sure how large the group was – must have been very committed to each other.)

Q What is an ePortolio – immersive learning experience and/or presentation tool

Middlesex University – MUSkET – Skills and Education Planning Tool

Diversity – experiential learning, short courses, degrees.

Challenge of inconsistent terms – course, module, programme. XCRI standard was the chosen solution, with a front-end to generate standardised course description from the headings of a given faculty. Word document can become standardised information model.

Algorithm can perform semantic comparisons between programmes. Bus Info Sys, Bus Info Tech, Bus Inf Mgmt – are they similar or different? Can help students to transfer, can help with business intelligence, can help employer-institution collaboration through shared terms – help to identify pathways. Helps fit courses with other courses through AP(E)L. Get an AP(E)L claim and compare to course requirements.

Looking for institutions to try these outs. They are setting up events to demonstrate the tools. Apr 7th at Middlesex – presentations from MU Institute of Workbased Learning.

Bradford – work-based learning project – benefits realisation project

Reflecting on national e-learning benchmarking pathfinder programme, took similar approach, applied to workbased learning, came up with a WBL maturity toolkit based on self-assessment, but possibility to work in CAMEL cohorts.

7 areas of focus, with criteria to gather evidence to self-assess maturity of each (see website):

  • institutional readiness
  • faculty/school/dept readiness
  • Programme design
  • Programme delivery and assessment
  • Partnership engagement
  • Learner experience
  • Effective use of techs

To use the toolkit, go through the following steps

  1. Plan – identify priority areas
  2. Hold a methodology workshop
  3. Identify evidence
  4. Collect evidence
  5. Levelling workshop – dialogue about evidence
  6. Analysis and reporting – generate ideas for change
  7. Change/actions workshop – develop action plans

Will help institutions which have a strategy for workbased learning but need to go about implementing it in an evidence-based, structured way. Helps to benchmark existing workbased learning, with wider sector engagement, and with change management. Westminster, UWIC, and a Scottish institution

Pineapple APEL Open University of Plymouth

Nobody recording any information about students entering courses based on an APEL claim. Lack of coherence about APEL approaches across institutions, and about evidencing APEL.

Pineapple as a result. Institutions do not have a single APEL process – there is a policy but there are many exemptions. Students cannot produce APEL six months before enrolment, because only when they have begun a course might they realise that they have already covered that particular aspect of their programme.

Pineapple is designed for students, admission staff and others with a responsibility for APEL. Flexibility is a requirement (N.b. it is ages since I have heard anybody say that flexibility isn’t a requirement.)

Pineapple is a simple form to evidence APEL has taken place, who has carried it out, comply with regs and keep external examiners happy.

There’s a demo version on that link.

ePortfolion implementation study (ePI) – large-scale involvement

Gordon Joyes and Angela Smallwood – Uni of Nottingham


Technologies for eportfolios now are interoperable – allow looking outwards as well as reflectively inwards.

Politics and economics today make powerful case for eportfolio processes and products: planning capturing storing reflecting synthesising sharing discussing giving receiving responding to feedback. Economic situation pushes us into a retrograde direction of monolithic technologies and environments which we can afford to maintain, as opposed to a multitude of interoperable web services.

Nobody uses the whole of a system at once; everybody starts somewhere with their own purpose. There is a multiplicity of purpose.

In eportfolio work there’s a lot of talk about top-down v. bottom up – evangelical concept v. real need.

Noticed that everybody seemed to reinvent the wheel, no matter how much reusable stuff they had access to. This prompted an investigation into threshold concepts. Threshold concepts – passing through a conceptial gateway which opens up previously inaccessible ways of thinking about something (Meyer and Land 2003).

Activity: what are the threshold concepts with regards to ePortfolio implementation? You need to grasp the threshold concepts in order to grasp the guidance provided – implementation shouldn’t be a game of chance. ePI arose from the need to investigate how the successful implementations (e.g. Birmingham City) had come about.

Some misconceptions:

  • misconception that there is a shared understanding of an eportfolio. There is no shared definition.
  • misconception one eportfolio is a solution all can share
  • misconception a single induction is all that is needed
  • technical support offered without pedagogic support
  • misconception that students are ‘digital natives’
  • misconception that students understand educational terminology like ‘feedback’
  • misconception that institutional provision is enough (without consideration of what students are doing before or after)
  • misconception that eportfolio is not disruptive

Many more on the slides.

Several institutions. No large-scale evaluation activity. 2004-6 first wave of implementation found that VLEs were poor portfolio tools – hence Pebblepad developed at Wolv; hardly anybody using VLE tools any more. 2007-11 second wave – carrying forward; 2009-11 – integration of portfolio tool with VLE e.g. Mahara and Moodle – looking for extra-curricular, intra-institutional use.

Developing a narrative around the key milestones. Birmingham City implemented Mahara using the successful model they had used with Moodle. Invested 20k in developing Mahara. In two years it gained nearly full use across faculties.


From peach sheet choose one concept and discuss

Concept – purpose is aligned to context to maximise benefits

PG orthodontic students. One team – three different programmes – all around assessing and supervising clinical cases – so used for external examiners as well as supervision and assessment. Entirely work-based learners.

Multiple purposes – formative and summative assessment. Students have been asked for feedback, but the design is very much the course teams. Students had asked for a way to exchange out of email. But the purpose is clear – students need to use the portfolio to be assessed and gain their qualification


What is revealed about the processes? Historicity – decisions depend on previous decisions. Designed earning activities? Culture – key roles of individuals. Communities – advocates and champions. Subject and ownership. Tensions – diversity of purposes and stakeholders.

A course perspective. Stakeholders can be internal and external (e.g. employers). Stakeholders are sometimes only connected by eportfolio use – they don’t always communicate. OR they can all agree to view eportfolios from the learner’s POV – make that the common view

Qu – a proportion of institutional teaching and learning processes have drifted into Web 2.0.

April 5th/6th cloudworks event.

C-Link – information search tool AI Unit at Uni Bradford, National Media Museum in Bradford – Peter Hartley, Peter Cowling, Stephen Remde


Students don’t make the most of their information searches. Google, Wikipedia – don’t cultivate skills and critical analysis. How do you interrogate Google search results?

C-Link maps relationships between 2 concepts. Maps get dumped into C-Map and then you can play with it.

Wikipedia is not yet respectable – BBC – “Academics to ’embrace Wikipedia’ – Imperial.

Advantages – discovers unknown links. Visualisation helps with conceptualisation.

Trialled it – students found it easier to use than conventional search. You can search A against A (search for concepts around A) and A against B.

“Michael Porter” and Dubai to discover why some management ideas crop up in the Middle East.

(You need to refine your questions before you search.)

Searches an archived version of Wikipedia; links concepts on the map to their wikipedia entry.

The visualisation is absolutely gorgeous.

Conformity and conformity – you get some of the surrounding concepts like Asch and Groupthink.

If you search from social constructionism to social constructivism you can see that the former comes from sociology and the latter from learning theory.

See also

Written by Mira Vogel

March 24, 2011 at 23:52

Posted in event, pedagogy

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