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eLearning 2.0 – a conference at Brunel, 6-7 July 2009

with 2 comments

There was a huge amount of interest to see and hear at this convivial, well-organised, and generous conference. Below I (in this order)

  • list some specific things (stuff I highlighted in my notes at the time)
  • dump the typed notes I took (can’t guarantee that they are complete or accurate, although I tried) and the mostly-unasked questions which occurred to me. Perhaps this will encourage the odd reader to visit the conference web site and download the audio and/or slides from the presentations.
  • summarise some general thoughts the conference threw up on the implications for teachers, learners and institutions, and some issues with identity management. Mostly issues and questions, but I will try to post some ideas at a later date.

The conference web site, incidentally, is an online community using the free service Ning; at time of writing participants are on there talking to each other and feeding back.

Specific and unrelated things

Next comes the small practical I excerpted from my notes to do or to pass on to various people where I work. The notes are below that.

  • There is a discrepancy between what staff think students do with feedback (i.e. little or nothing) and what students say they do with feedback (i.e. pore over it and incorporate it into their work).
  • What to call things. Students prefer the word ‘learning journal’ to blog. They also prefer ‘collaborative workspace’ or ‘project space’ or ‘research community’ rather than ‘wiki’. Not only is this a preference – using these terms reduces requests for technical support. Students were much more likely to attend ‘review sessions’ than ‘office hours’
  • US Educational Opportunity Act 2008 requires demonstration that the student taking the distance assessment is actually the student getting the credit. Every student must be validated.
  • A politely tech-skeptical artist-in-residence at the V&A Museum became a reluctant blogger (at their request), excited enormous interest in her work, and managed to get herself on the A Level syllabus and attract 600 uploads to her Global Beach (or is it ‘Wild Beach’) project.
  • In early 2008 blog usage declined, but Twitter came and people began blogging again.
  • Careerbuilder.com
  • Look out for Andrew Middleton’s A Word in your Ear’ conference on audio feedback – how is the digital voice used to support students particularly in terms of feedback.
  • Read David H Jonassen’s book Meaningful Learning With Technology
  • Web conferencing – dimdim.com – free vid conferencing, you can record, and there is also the opportunity to dial in. Brought into Moodle and everything else with dimdim’s widgets. Posted everywhere to remind students that the meeting was imminent or ongoing. Can download recording and transcript from chat.
  • Reminding me why we work with enthusiasts: Everett Rogers’ theory of innovation and dissemination – you work with the enthusiasts, the innovators, first because they are resilient about wrinkles and pitfalls. The early adopters can recognise a good thing once it has been refined and honed – once they have seen proof of concept.
  • Paul and Elder’s (2008) work on cultivating thinking – “much of our thinking is biased, distorted, uninformed or down-right prejudiced when left to itself.“ You have to systematically cultivate your thinking.
  • Sound decision-making – the Exploratree at future lab. Wow – a repository of thinking guides.
  • Www.gapminder.org – “Unveiling the beauty of statistics for a fact based world view.”
  • The Teaching and Learning Strategy at Manchester mentions inspiring both learner and teacher. Goals are for highly employable students and students who are prized in research.
  • On Web 2.0, read Ullrich 2008 and revisit Franklin and Van Harmelen, 2007.
  • Read Michael Eraut on informal learning.
  • FlightPaths, the collaboratively-authored novel
  • Andrew Middleton on choosing a digital audio recorder – Creative Zen £40. M-audio can sample noises for music. You can put it in your pockets. Costs £200.
  • Go and mine John Connell’s presentation for theorists to read

My notes

Keynote – Good eLearning and Bad eLearning – John Connell

Blogged the question solicited responses. Pretending ‘e’ doesn’t exist – to reassure. Joe Nutt (cynic, Shakespearian) drop the ‘e’, learning not as a participle, not as a process, but as a goal. Martin Weller @ OU: drop the ‘e’ and the ‘learning’ and the question is still the same (telling good from bad); draw up an archetype.

So, back to first principles, identify an archetype.

Bad e-learning – creepy treehouse syndrome – Chris Lott’s definition, followed by Jared Stein. A mimicking, luring, but actually repressive and repulsive environment; infringement on the sanctity of their peer groups. Objections to influence of the institution. You can’t build a community, you can only grow one.


GLOW – SSDN – a broadband netwk to link schools in Scotland. Browser-based national intranet. Boundary-busting. At first, teachers wanted content. So they got a VLE, as a sop to pull them in. Nobody said they wanted to collaborate, but they got collaborative tools anyway, and they have proved most useful. GLOW groups; esp video conferencing.

First principles – the purpose of learning. Ivan Illich’s (‘De-Schooling Society’ and ‘Tools for Conviviality’) vision on empowering, peer, lifelong, challenging learning; learning webs (then with cassettes, now come of age). James Ralph Darling’s ‘The Education of a Civilized Man’, education which avoids the production of ‘instructed barbarians’.

First principles – intelligence. Gilbert Harcrow. Intelligence as literacy, imagination, creativity.

First principles – conviviality. Illich’s notion of autonomous and creative intercourse; individ freedom realised in personal interdependence. The transformation of learning to education – having your learning planned by others – paralyses ability to endow world with personal meaning.

First principles – pedagogy. Jerome Bruner’s necessity of being self-consciously cultural, ideological and political. Freire’s desire for a critical focus.

Pundits’ principles. George Siemens. Diversity of opinions. The capacity to know more in more critical than what is currently known (learning as a process or a skill, or ability). Nurturing (aha! Is this a role for a teacher?). Polsani’s displacement of learning outside the institution and onto the network; education as preparedness for change.

The non-neutrality of technological instruments. Educ and tech has often been about maintaining status quo, render people passive, rather than to affirm transformation.

Web 2.0 is a shifting context. Individual production, epic amounts of data; crowd power ; complex participation; network effects; openness (Paul Anderson’s JISC report what is Web 2.0)

Great segmented oval – present to workshop participants blank.

Jay Cross’ learnscape. New network values. Unlearning of secrecy, control, role clarity, specialisation, hoarding, walling off. Speed.

Stuart Brown video. Serious criminals missed play in their early lives. Derek Robertson’s Scottish Centre for Games and Learning – Consolarium. Nintendogs as a great motivator for learning arithmetic – young kids who should be counted up to 20 understanding hundreds of thousands.

Institutional v. networked learning. Students are the biggest competition to institutions; doing it for themselves. “This will be the last generation in which education is the practice of authority”. A gradual, reluctant decline.

My questions

This is post-colonial, broadly. The teacher has disappeared. But this is a very empowering presentation for anybody in a learning role. It also has ambitions for society.

He missed out the cognitive psychology – how easy is it for us to learn to unlearn? What about Susan Greenfield’s worries?

Why the resistance and suspicion?

How would he have changed the paradigm of his keynote speech today.

Being illiterate in any medium leaves one at the mercy of those who control it (Joe Nutt?)

Questions –

Q – access to inforamtion was limited today there is no need to go to the library for information teacher no longer the fount of all knowledge. The job of a teacher should be harder today than it was back then. (Didn’t answer the question – clearly there is a difference between the rhetoric and the reality – he attributes this to the conservative impulses of our institutions and the slowness of change).

Q – the cynic’s problem with learning as process rather than goals – false dichotomy. There is no end to knowledge; you need a sense of where you are going. Process of maturation, depends on prior knowledge, judgement.

Q – desire to learn: how can this be developed?

Q – isn’t there something very different we can do now with the tools we have which requires new pedagogies. We must no drop the ‘e’ or we will drop the challenge. JC: it can be a form of cowardice (I’d love to see the response of academics in my institution to a comment like that).

Q – how can training prepare people for surprises and pitfalls?

Verity Aitkin (Keele) – blogging

Need for a faculty provision to become more visible

The blog grew and the bloggers emerged after early writers block; humsslearningspace.blogger

A blog is like a house, because it can home an entire provision; ability to brand. It sits outside the VLE.

Feedback – Google analytics account. Felt it important to take it out of Google search. Student feedback has been positive.

New features eg Digital Study Tool of the Month.


Q – did the institutions have concerns about security, PR etc?

My questions


What are the stats like?

How much time do you spend? Do you confer with colleagues? Is it acknowledged as part of your working day?

How have you surfaced it?

Did anybody from e.g. IT Services query the use of blogger?

How did they manage the folksonomy of blogging together?

What was positive about the positive feedback?

Making assessment count – integrating Web 2.0 to support student assessment and reflection

Not Gunter Saunders, Uni of Westminster

JISC project with origins in bio-sciences Year 1 level 4.

Easy to get lost in gadgetry. Need to return to first principles.

The degree is compartmentalised. The ideal is that all tutors know what each other is doing and can integrate. Silo behaviour.

What holds a degree together? Motivation to learn. Supportive staff. Feedback, supposed to hold degree together, but actually equally compartmentalised. Personal tutoring.

Personal tutoring depends on reflection on assessment and feedback.

Discrepancies between what staff think students do with feedback and what students say they do with feedback.

E-reflect project – JISC.

Theory: Feedback to strategy to action to reflection.

Model: tripartite subject, operational and strategic model of feedback. Submit work. Complete a v simple questionnaire (Google). When students get their subject-specific grade they are asked to write a short reflective blog post, for their personal tutor. No extra effort for staff, but a record of feedback and reflection.

Students prefer the word ‘learning journal’ to blog.

Mobile technologies.

Q – examples of strategies for learning

Personal tutor now has a record of student performance.

Q – is it mandatory?

Stick and carrot thing. Pilot achieved 50% response rate.

Q – have the exam marks improved? e.g. FASST project which measured changes in performance. Being able to plot performance in relation to engagement.

My questions

Anticipate any barriers to rolling it out into say the humanities and arts?

Blended approach is where technology is most valued.

How will knowing yourself help you to choose a good course or a good institution when institutions are trying to get as many enrolments as possible?

Isn’t part of learning learning to fit in with the styles, personalities and intelligences of others?

Keep it simple – Milena Bobeva, Bournemouth

Towards i-learning and we-learning.

Including audio-feedback and podcasting.

Blogging – depended on carrots – optional blogging didn’t work.

Howard Gardner’s dominant intelligences. Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles. Myers’ Briggs Personality Tests

Hole in the wall project demonstrated that motivation is a powerful factor in un-taught learning.

Savin Baden’s framework of 3 learning stances: personal; pedagogical; interactional.

E-learning stakeholders

Again, replace wiki with ‘project space or research community or project portfolio and blog with reflective diary or project diary – then requests for support go down drastically.

Politics around facebook and the institutional VLE.

Q How much do your undergrads exhibiting the Gen Y characteristics. A: they’re always connected – MB spent 12 hours with them in the labs.

Q re Gen Y and employment. The answer acquiesces to a very technologically-driven future.

Q – maybe a museum should be more like a website.

My questions

May have switched off, but not sure how Milena used the Web 2.0 tools.

Why not Google for university resources?

If students are leaving blogging late, then is it feasible to ask for drafts. Just like asking for drafts helps prevent last-minute panic plagiarism

MB puts her finger on it at the end. How do we move from I learning to We Learning? Well, particularly if you are caught up in your own learning styles, own intelligences, own personality. This is the old question about valuing and nurturing individuals within learning or practice communities. It is also a question of valuing and revisioning the concept of accommodation in highly individualistic times.

Afshin Mansour (Brunel) on impact of blogs on student learning

Project as part of PG Cert.

15 Operations Managements Pgs.

Examining effectiveness of blog as additional contact hour in place of face-to-face seminars.

AM’s blogs as more of a notebook.

Learning styles – AM chose Fleming’s 2001 VARK model. Classifies visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinaesthetic learners

One hour slot a week for AM to interact with students (i.e. Not anytime, but the opportunity for instant feedback from everybody). Interesting notion of blogging at the same time and commenting in a given time slot.

Then he interviewed and conducted a VARK questionnaire.

First blogs were poorly received but activity and commenting grew.

The more participants, the greater the perceived advantage of participating.

Barriers – time, typing, language, technical hitches.

Mild aural learning prefence (radar diagram) for students who participated in sessions. They wanted to interact a lot. (?) But no patterns among the rest. He induced the hypothesis that the strong presence of kinaesthetic element in the non-participants compared to the weak in the participants suggested that the participants hoped to learn what they needed to learn from blogs.

My questions

Another contradiction emerging in the day. To what extent should institutions – as places which encourage unlearning, and learning how to change – be accommodating of individual learning approaches? Isn’t this quite conservative?

Were there any media in the blogs?

How much activity took place outside the hour?

Yair Levy – effectiveness 2.0 or security breach 2.0

User satisfaction measures don’t measure what is valuable for the learner.

Satisfaction post-experience does not equal effectiveness.

Efficiency trying to do things with less v. effectiveness trying to do things right.

Missing a theoretical piece called ‘value’ – level of importances users attribute to a given aspect of the experience, or to the ‘system’. (This is, unsurprisingly, a very systems-oriented event.

Effectiveness as a multiplication of value * satisfaction.

Quadrant – what if there’s high satisfaction but low value? Useful to see what is unimportant AND unsatisfactory – then an institution can stop investing in it. You learn a lot about where you can improve.

Learners’ Value Index of Satisfaction.

Moving onto Learning 2.0.

Security worries with Facebook and other Web 2.0.

US Educational Opportunity Act 2008 requires demonstration that the student taking the distance assessment is actually the student getting the credit. Every student must be validated.

Http://CeLSR.nova.edu Centre for e-Learning Security Research.

Some other US institutions are doing biometric validation for all assessments.

Lastly, we are comparing e-learning to an existing benchmark – trad learning, where any student can take an exam, and we don’t place such high demands on accuracy and efficiency.

Q – but don’t you know your student?

Not really – one time somebody’s cousin took the exam. The video is one-way.

Q – what about the valuing of the social interaction aspect?

Q – what about difference in perception of value?

My questions

What about time?

What about controversial areas – differences in perceived importance.

How did he arrive at the curves?

How does one frame a question about value?

Trevor Barker Group Working in 3D worlds

Second Life campus of >500 students. £500k investment from university.

Usability issues; different disadvantages.

More help students received to perform tasks, the less they remembered things about the world. More usability equals more constraints.

Set up a project, threw everything at setting up a course in second life, for computing students. Even so, it took a lot of students.

Attendance in Second Life isn’t great.

Built something in Second Life allowing the tutor to analyse the attention, action and interaction of the virtual students.

Names in Second Life are a problem.

Student evaluation: nobody liked the virtual lectures – preferred Trevor in real life. Also hard on the lecturer. Group meetings were well received cf phone or Skype, but f2f preferred. Some were still using it socially after the course.

Tutor evaluation – robustness; usability; question marks about pedagogical benefit (some evidence of benefit in small group work); training necessary; freedom.

Second Life is not accessible.

Natalie Ticheler (London Met) Using a VLE for Blended Learning

Open Language Programme; Japanese students; how are they using a VLE and what do they think?

Divided cohort by sex. Low uptake. Higher uptake of flashcards.

Simon Tindall – Desire To Learn – VLE replacement, complement or shouldn’t be used at all?

VLE supplier’s thoughts on the Web 2.0 turn.

A scale from No Web 2.0 to Only Web 2.0 (i.e. No VLE).

Security, data protection of record of achievement, respect, longevity.

With which tools should a VLE choose to integrate? This is the same question as an institution has.

My questions

Open ID?

Gail Durbin V&A – Web 2 as task not technology

A politely tech-skeptical artist-in-residence reluctant blogger managed to get herself on the A Level syllabus and attract 600 uploads to her Global Beach (or is it ‘Wild Beach’) project (Drupal).

You have to phrase the instructions carefully.

People want to be part of the site.

V&A’s knitting collection, with work and patterns. Using technorati they found out who was using the patterns.

Invited people to submit non-garment knitting.

Anxiety about “dumbing down” and poor quality at the museum.

Another project on body art with the arrival of 1500 to be photographed by photographers who are more used to static art. Tattoo is a very common search term.

Christine Keeler’s chair, and visitors sitting in the replica.

Extending the museum experience.

1960s fashion show.

Sometimes set projects on Flickr.

1 million objects online in Sep when the collections information system goes live.

Twitter.com/gail_durbin. g.durbin@vam.ac.uk

Reynol Junco – Translating social media research into academically relevant practicies


will post references and slides.

Student use stats; adoption by faculty; digital divide; positive fx; academically-relevant usage of technology based on research (there isn’t much)

Student tech uses

Pew phone survey

Students use things more than people in other generations. Focus on Twitter and Facebook.

When you categorise, you miss a lot – there is more diversity within groups – but:

Silent generation -1925-42 – events wars, New Deal, Depression

Baby boomers – 43-60 – competitive, individualistic. Reagan recession, Vietnam, Watergate

Gen X – 61 – 81 – latchkey kids, working parents – skeptical, nihilistic – grunge

Millenials, Gen Y 2000-now– special, sheltered, confident, optimistic – Oklohoma and 9/11, and Obama election

Same Pew patterns of social networking use in general and Twitter specifically.

Typically older generations are not as likely to take up newer technologies.

Nielsen March 09 report

Global reach of social networking sites is bigger than email.

Facebook audience becoming older since 2007.

Digital divide

Not all students are fantastic with technology.

Reynol’s reseearch.

Less likely to own mob phone: African American poorer men. More likely to talk on cell phones: African American men and Latino/Hispanic men. African American wealthier men spent more time texting.

Multitasking (IM and study at same time) and women and Latinos more likely to report that multitasking had a negative effect on academic work.

Facebook penetration on college campuses – 99% of U of Michigan students in 2008. Twitter’s change is over 1200% in a year, although use is relatively low.

Blogs and microblogs

In early 2008 blog usage declined, but Twitter came and people began blogging again.

Blog use in classroom.

Engagement and retention: Aston’s (?) work on student engagement – the more involved, the more successful. What are the variables? National Survey of Student Engagement (quasi commercial survey) in and outside class. Research on Facebook and student engagement. Higher Ed Research Institution (2007) and Heiberger (2008) correlation studies, survey based, looking at undifferentiated Fb use, high and low users. High users were more engaged on campus on some engagement variables – eg connections to the institution, friends, extracurricular organisations.

Attitudes – social networking is private, but low awareness of privacy statements.

Somebody called people stupid for not creating a second profile. It’s not stupid, it’s unaware and trusting, and normal.

Careerbuilder.com (2008)

22% of hiring managers used social netowrking websites to search. 33% reported finding information to disqualify an employee.

Research-based strategies.

Pre-enrolment orientation efforts; learning about faculties and staff. Values of the institution. Connections with graduates. Mazer, Murphy and Simonds (2007) research on Facebook – yes students do like to learn about a professor’s personality. But will faculty spy on them?

Facebook apps

Courses 2.0 – students can connect to course you post without having to be your friend. You can post assignments, a book, syllabus, schedule, in advance. You can share notes, connect with other students.

Twitter and student engagement

Good for connecting outliers to the campus. No research on the effects of Twitter but Reynol is going to start experimental research in the autumn to see if Twitter has an effect on grades.

My questions

Addiction to social networking?

Does this kind of engagement translate to academic success, or has the soft skills agenda eclipsed this.

Identity management is hugely important.

Maureen Kendal, London Met, Feed forward, feedback, going global (podcasting and second life)

The aim of Maureen’s course is to acquaint students with technical and complex vocabulary.

Podcasting for feedback. Making assessment formative i.e. Feeding forward; staff able to capture video files with capture software, compress and upload for students. Timely, in-depth, private. Simple, no editing – or no time to edit, post-production – needs to be timely.

The question is how to make these unedited sessions work.

Two tutors and four students, captured, discussing the needs.

London Met pod generator. Considerations included firewalls (security and privacy) and integration with the VLE (here, Blackboard) e.g. Vanderbilt and iTunes U.

Hidden costs: equipment – is mobile phone video good enough? (Maybe)

RADSE framework is used for the teaching of design and development. Creative, technical, business and production issues (CTBP).

Findings (findings from what – I must have missed it):

  • screen caputre is best with other forms of feedback
  • humour, wit and spontaneity is valued
  • logic, reasoning and imaginative thinking comes through

Business strategy

Weighing up iTunes U with institutional software. Fears about enabling an unstable capitalist system, but London Met probably will use it – it is free and there are good protections.

Student engagement

Critique of podcast education. Are they disposable or dispensable?

Maureen has developed a scaffolding model.

Andrew Middleton (Sheffield Hallam) educational podcasting, a learner-centred, collaborative opportunity

Snr Lecturer in Creative Development – teaches disruptive technology in Journalism; interested in using digital audio. Book: Creative Voices. Organising ‘A Word in your Ear’ conference on audio feedback – how is the digital voice used to support students particularly in terms of feedback.

Yes, emphatically, we should drop the ‘e’. The ‘e’ is useful to an extent but our focus is how we can innovate with new and emerging tech,

McLuhan and Fiore 67, when faced with a totally new sit we tend to always attach ourselves to the flavor of the most recent past.

What can we usefully do now that we couldn’t before.

Jonassen et al 03. intentional, authentic, collaborative: effective tech-enhanced apps. i.e. Meaningful.

Historically, audio has been very much about transmission. A-learning (audio learning) is more active than passive. Some comparisons between Web 2.0 and a-learning 2.0.

We don’t need hi-tech and expert intervention. Welcome and celebrate the lo-fi with a simple red button. Rich user experience – meaningful, diverse, social and wide-reaching.

Read the Jonassen book.

With his large cohort of 230 broadcast journalism students, they made conversational summaries, captured seminar discussion groups, expert voices, feedback, cognitive challenges.

Activity – we each asked the person on our left a question from a sheet, passing round the m-audio microtrack recordings.

Distance learning – MyChingo, embedded in the VLE. VoiceThread too.

My Questions

Reckon I missed something, but if the aims of the course was just vocabulary, couldn’t assessment and feedback have been automated?

You couldn’t use iTunes U for individual feedback (could you)? Can you fine grain the access settings to an individual level like that?

Podcasts do not “offer a superficial understanding”. Like lectures they demand that you listen with questions. Unlike lectures, they give their audience time to develop these questions.

Begona Perez Mira Sychronous and asynchronous tools for online course delivery (business stats course, Louisiana state)

Video lectures – 3 parts

Recorded teacher in the classroom – real classrooms

Get her slides and annotated on tablet.

So, audio, slides and video, integrated with Camtasia studio recorder.

If you have good technical people, Moodle is highly customisable.

Aplia for external homework – pool of assignments, ungraded or graded,

Web conferencing – dimdim.com – free vid conferencing, you can record, and there is also the opportunity to dial in. Brought into Moodle and everything else with dimdim’s widgets. Posted everywhere to remind students that the meeting was imminent or ongoing. Can download recording and transcript from chat.

Called ‘office hours’ ‘review sessions’ and students were much more likely to attend.

Instructors used audio+video, remote students used just audio feed. (ie one-way audio).

Louisiana offered multiple ways of learning – a wide range for them to select from. Begona was not very interested in who was using the video, who the audio.

Lessons learnt: get a smart-phone – you can be available for your distance learning students anywhere.

My Questions

Begona is fortunate her institution did not oblige her to produce stats that the video was valued by students. I asked this – turns out the students used to be campused based, and the institution is delighted that Begona has managed to cut costs – no electricity used on campus. The only cost is Begona’s salary.

Is it sustainable? (I am not sure it is).

What happens if the start-up company providing the free service fails? Begona is confident that there will be a replacement. This is interesting, and in some ways true to the principle that it is not the technology that matters, but the teacher’s commitment to the process

Heather Serdar – University of East London – audio podcasting as a supplement to lectures

Heather teaches a double credit core module, the UG dissertation module.

Rationale – non-trad students. Expectations of students. Students don’t like to read.

My Questions

Tangential, but shouldn’t an institution with students who object to reading, foster that kind of literacy? Reading is so important for avoid disempowerment and exclusion.

Roger Boston, Houston, M-Learning

They give away iPhone 3G but the students didn’t know in advance. They were extremely happy, and they received them during the session and got to know each other well through exploring them.

Then the next generation iPod Touch.

Chancellors innovation grant.

Smart phones – no point thinking of them as disruptive presence. Harness them.

Asked students to gather anecdotal data of feasibility of building the smartphones into institutional provision.

Pilot picked up a further $100k for extension. Roger had to provide server and delivery platform. His team had a lot of technical work for converting media, doing password protection schemes.

They ended up preloading devices.

They have created a platform which accommodates over 100 different phones. Software figures out the device and automatically resizes the pages, panels etc.

My Questions

What about contextualised annotation? You still need pencil and paper because data entry in iPod Touch is so poor. Doesn’t this interfere with students interacting with their materials? Roger says you can type 40 wpm. I guess you still have a laptop? And this is mostly about learning objective facts in the physical and biological sciences.

Keynote – Marylin Leask, Education Faculty @ Brunel – Knowledge Management for the public sector

Staff expected to demonstrate that they were managing the knowledge of the organisation.

So, tools are needed and created. Cochrane. Best Evidence Medical Education. Map of Medicine subscription service – funnels doctors to the level of information they need via a flow chart approach.

Web 2 environments are not secure. It would not be appropriate for professionals to contribute to a local government site (why?)

Local government – 700+ services: streetlights, roadkill, refuse, community cohesion, care, gypsy and traveller issues. They all have communities.

14% staff turnover (retention issue = knowledge retention issue). Sharing and repurposing saves time by avoiding wheel reinvention.

CoPs – as well as the obvious they wanted to address recruitment and retention. People-finding. Boundary-busting connections. New and cheap forms of consultation.

The CoP web 2 site communities.idea.gov.uk – you can’t just barge in. It would be “like going into somebody’s house without knocking” (c.f. John Connell’s vision of transparency). Communities have gatekeepers. But they are immensely useful to researchers, and any of us can apply to go in. Policy and Performance community are open to all.

Everett Rogers’ theory of innovation and dissemination – you work with the enthusiasts, the innovators, first because they are resilient about wrinkles and pitfalls. The early adopters can recognise a good thing once it has been refined and honed – once they have seen proof of concept.

Some people don’t like sharing. We are not all the same.

Linking tools with staff jobs and priorities. Behaviours. Concerns.

Second presenter – Roberta

Roberta tells of brutal cuts in her institution. Faculty were asked to teach a class with no pay.

Paul and Elder’s (2008) work on cultivating thinking – “much of our thinking is biased, distorted, uninformed or down-right prejudiced when left to itself.“ You have to systematically cultivate your thinking.

Third presenter, the bloke.

Web 2.0 coined in 99 by Darcy DiNucci. Tim Berners Lee called it jargon.

The jargon omits that everything is speeding up exponentially, and that there is mitotic splitting up and reconstitution. Autopoiesis – self-creation – joining and leaving groups until a fit is found. Synergistic components – whole bigger than sum of parts.

Across the board needs: ubiquitous support i.e. With a social component.

Sound decision-making – the exploratree at future lab. He uses it with his undergrads.

VUCA world – volatile, complex, uncertain and ambiguous.

Simple tools for tame problems – well-defined, classifiable, stable, you know when the solution is reached, a right or wrong solution

Wicked problem. Not the above. Non-linear.


My Questions

This is one for Matt.

Rare and welcome values-based second presentation despite the slightly bizarre Elluminate setup with slides operated from the US. Then a connection was formed, but the bloke was basically blind and deaf to us. He did very well. The pace was good, but almost no examples; just disembodied theory.

Susan Brown – perceptions of Web 2.0 among academics at the university of Mcr

U of Mcr is good on research but poor on satisfaction with the learning process.

The Teaching and Learning Strategy at Manchester mentions inspiring both learner and teacher. Goals are for highly employable students and students who are prized in research.

The strategy implies a big role for Web 2.0. But nobody uses the Confluence embedded in Blackboard (we have similar issues with Confluence).

Research study to explore perceptions of the potential of Web 2 among staff.

Questionnaire to identify familiarity and extent of use of web 2 across faculties. In retrospect it might have been better to use Web 2 tools themselves to canvas opinion, but then again, it wasn’t clear whether staff would or could engage this way.

There is individual use, but little discussion. Most of the intiatives relate to Blackboard.

No real sense among academics that students are or will or should influence the way they work.

Interviews of those with negative and positive perceptions of web 2

Read Ullrich 2008 on Web 2 and revisit Franklin and Van Harmelen, 2007.

Susan’s research – interview responses often boiled down to Not Appropriate and No Added Value. e.g. No connection made between apprehension of facts as unegotiable objective facts and then what one does with the facts, the creative thinking, the cognitive breakthroughs, the possibilities, the understanding. Where there is an idea of learning as “one answer” then it was sometimes difficult to see the point of discursive, participative environments of Web 2.

Users of Web 2 in research eg the ‘splat technology’ of wikis did not necessarily take these practices to their students.

The positive attitudes to Web 2 were consonant with a view of learning as active student engagement. Inquiry as kernel to what they are doing.

Different ideas of student agency beyond simple posting stuff to fora. What about creating playlists or aggregating feeds.

Questions – Juncol – resistance to the democratisation of knowledge e.g. Wikipedia. Trad encyclopaedias have somebody who is motivated to write it for money. Wikipedia has authors who are motivated for intrinsic reasons. Susan: critical literacies.

My questions

Whose space is being colonised by whom? If we’re going to divide institutional roles up this way then maybe it is also legitimate to ask questions about academic spaces being colonised by student values?

If Web 2 necessitates profound changes, how can we dump the ‘e’, or be unselfconscious about the ‘e’.

Get Susan’s slides and notes.

Bruce Nightingale, Nottingham Trent. Trainee teacher professional voice and identity: social networks in initial teacher training

QTA standards – attributes, kg and understanding, skills. Trainees tend to interpret standards in the context of their school placement. Will your skillset transfer to inner-city Manchester?

Bruce wanted to back off from being thought of as the authority voice. More like the host of a party.

Schools are like a walled garden preventing students from doing the things they do online outside schools. At home it’s like the wild west “anything can happen”, “threat perceptions”. Want to make it “a little bit more of a tamed society”.

The research of Rebecca Einon and others at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Going into class can be emotional, and student teachers often want to comment on their experiences.

He moved from Elgg (read benve(e)rt’s blog) to Ning for sustaining his peer community of practice.

Martin Rich, Cass Business School Blending Web 1 and Web 2

The fictitious town of Millcaster – some attributes. A brewery. Large number of dysfunctional charities. It exists to help develop the people who work in the voluntary and community sector.

Education through dialogue, through stories, through fiction (if your case studies are fictional you can work in the different things you want to illustrate).

e.g. “A laptop goes missing. What systems should be in place and how can you avoid allocating blame?” “Low-level bullying – is a manager being unnecessarily aggressive in attempting to motivate her team?”

3 year project with funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

Website developed by Centre for Charity Effectiveness (at CASS) and Text Matters – a full time team.

Michael Eraut (Sussex?) – work on informal learning.


Web 1 – professionallyauthored instructional material. Comments boxes (classified as Web 1 because no new knowledge is being created. They aid building a critical mass.

Web 2 – site functioning as a sharing and creating community.

Content Management System – wanted something they could rapidly prototype in, adapt and experiment with. So, open source – but not to save money. Chose PLONE, but concerns about scalability. Went for agile development. Important to put constraints on reactive changes which can drive out more measured developments or distract from the main purpose.

Stages of involvement in the system: browser to informal learner to activist.

Influences included FlightPaths the novel and The Archers which was originally conceived as an educational service for farmers.

An element of fun can be very valuable.

It was very hard to get these people involved in communities of practice; working together.

My questions

Comments boxes as Web 1? Very surprised. I bookmark comments threads in their own right. The response to this question when I asked it made perfect sense: there wasn’t enough controversy in the comments; they were very assertive (he referred to Action Statement theory? Searle?) and didn’t pick up sufficiently on each other’s contribution to create anything new. It was not really dialogue. Susan Brown commented that it was the difference between “Web 1 and Web 2 discourse”.

General thoughts

Academic teachers have been very concerned that technology can and will replace them. There will certainly be battles about protecting contact time, already whittled away to almost nothing in some disciplines. However, this conference would reassure academics on that count.

Everything I heard over the two days of the conference implies the professionalisation of academic teachers, rather than their extinction. Over the course of the conference I had academic teachers in mind, and what the future was likely to look like for them. Here are some of the academic teaching skills and attributes (and I ignore skills with technology here, because I think these are the most straightforward to acquire) implied by the presentations. They can roughly be summarised as Vygotsky and Bruner’s notion of ‘scaffolding’:

  • Excellent subject knowledge, as a requirement to excellent, incisive facilitation. This includes factual knowledge, awareness of and sensitivity to areas of controversy. If visions for learning go beyond student-centred to student-led, tutors will need to identify and highlight gaps, inaccuracies and misapprehensions leading to false premises and errors of reasoning.
  • Speed and depth of processing (is that a computing metaphor I catch myself using?) to integrate student submissions and student contributions into an overall impression of a student e.g. Forum posts, twitter contributions – this is a requirement of individualising the feedback to each students. It is also a constraint – how many minutes per student in an academic’s day?
  • Excellent knowledge of individual learner needs – how to support a student’s progress from their current performance to achieve the improvements they need to be to succeed or, ideally, surpass themselves. The University of Westminster presentation on its £200k project to individualise feedback to students was the most specific in addressing this.
  • A repertoire of teaching approaches beyond the didactic, in larger and smaller group settings. Ability to facilitate students’ identification of their own learning needs, and the discovery of the best questions, problems or tasks to stimulate learning.
  • Excellent communication skills. Articulacy, succinctness, diplomacy, tact, sensitivity, faciliation, encouragement. And, wherever there is a presentation, performance skills.
  • Quick-wittedness and judgement – new forms of student involvement implies contingent teaching and the ability of the tutor to depart from his or her planned script. Inexperienced tutors will require excellent support.
  • Lastly, and not a scaffolding thing – time. If academic teachers are supposed to be formatively assessing progress in different ways – mostly, in this conference, by looking at students’ work online – then tutors need to critically evaluate new amounts of resources students are working with and creating. How will this be possible, given the current time/£ constraints?
  • An openness to endemic change while maintaining a sense of identity (their own, their discipline’s) and integrity (values).

In reality, I know a lot of people with these skills and attributes.

At the same time, I found it difficult to balance the pragmatism and the vision in this conference. It is important not to treat a conference as if it were a message, but often I felt there was an over-accommodation of market forces and assumed student characteristics, at the expense (pun intended, I guess) of considering what academic institutions are for – what is the difference between businesses with degree awarding powers and universities? What is the difference between a student and a customer? A university student, and a learner? What is the difference – apart from the degree awarding powers and other forms of accreditation – between what universities do and open courseware initiatives? These considerations were largely absent from the presentations I went to. Totally absent was any consideration about what it means, in times of realisation about the role of consumerism in the environmental, waste and energy crises on the one hand and concerns about consumerism impinging on learning on the other, when we use Web 2.0 tools which are almost exclusively funded by advertising (I went to a presentation by Ed Mayo last night).

The devolution of costs from the institution to students at a US university, by making a formerly face-to-face or blended course into a distance course, was particularly dispiriting – notwithstanding the obvious commitment and resourcefulness of the tutor involved. I found it pretty grim that cash-strapped institutions should suddenly overcome their reservations and not only permit but encourage the uptake of free software from Web 2.0 start-up companies which could become the next casualty of the financial crisis, and devolving responsibility for “the show must go on” onto individual academic course convenors.

If the aim of the university is to be a force for good in society (the critical pedagogies of Freire and – more polemical – Giroux) it was difficult to see this coming out of these mostly pragmatic presentations. John Connell, interspersing a host of Marxist theorists with examples of practice with technologies in the here and now, was one exception. How well the examples live up to the theory is a question for the audience to ask. Another exception was the third speaker of last keynote, a disembodied, nameless academic from the states (interestingly rendered spontaneously blind and deaf to us by the technology and obliged to rely on the assistance of his colleague in the room; accessibility and exclusion insights elude me although I bet there are some).

I have no criticisms about putting forward a vision in the absence of a roadmap but the gap between rhetoric and reality seemed to widen, if anything. And, given the uncontested vision of participation, the irony of sitting there in a large group facing the front, listening to a single speaker standing in front of their visuals, was hard to ignore.

I was also worried about accommodation of students, as if they were customers. There is nothing an academic or an institution can sell a student except perhaps juice and gym membership. Andrew Middleton reminded me about BECTA’s and DEMOS’s work raising big questions about learning styles and learning approaches as valid constructs on which to base pedagogical decisions. I like the University of Leicester’s message: Nobody Said It Was Going To Be Easy. Isn’t one important ‘soft skill’ / life skills agenda the ability of students with – of course – different learning approaches, styles, different personalities to, in turn, cope with different constraints not to mention intellectual discomfort? I also found it hard to fit in what I was hearing about learning styles with other factors such as peer learning (are learners supposed to accommodate each others’ learning styles?), teaching (what about the teacher’s individual style – do we also respect this or do they forfeit it as employees rather than customers?).

This is not to espouse neglect or gratuitous placement of obstacles to learning, but isn’t it a responsibility which lies somewhere within an HE institution to challenge a student? Don’t students agree – isn’t this why they come? At the moment (and I write this as somebody who is supposed to be some kind of herald or envoy of change) it seems as if it’s only tutors who we talk about wreaking change upon – it’s almost as if the students are a force of nature.

Lastly, my heart rolled over at the conversation about online social networking, which was consonant with everything else I’ve been hearing on the subject. I blog and I read an immense amount of ‘user-generated content’ – ideas, entire online arguments, artworks – but must I Facebook under my actual name to be a viable bet for my next employer?  Do we have to wear our lives on our sleeves online, or risk seeming one-dimensional? Is there any room for individuals to be friendly, civil, responsible, cooperative, without demonstrating it in a social network? Can we keep ourselves to ourselves if we want to, or will we discover that we have excluded ourselves because the rules have changed? Disturbed by the idea that I might have to come out behind all my social software aliases, and perform some career-oriented identities. This is not my idea of authentic. I don’t want to use my friends and colleagues as my foil. And what about the personal and professional parts of my digital identity – should I give in to the forces which are pushing them into each other? It reminds me of a commission by the Soviet constructivist artist Rodchenko, a worker’s recreation centre. You could busy yourself in a vast variety of pursuits as long as you weren’t doing them alone. On that slightly melodramatic note I will stop.

Thanks again to Chris Evans and Ray Hackey at Brunel for provoking all these thoughts.

PS My word the vegan food was good. The best I have ever been served at a conference – I nearly wept. Little cocktail sausages impaled between an olive and a sun-dried tomatoes. Home-made mushroom pate in the sandwiches. So many flavours. Things can get very bad for vegans, and my morale tends to dip after lunch at conferences. But Executive Catering kept me buoyant.


Written by Mira Vogel

July 8, 2009 at 16:49

Posted in event, social networking, web 2.0

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