Sunday, 24 January 2016

Reading Networked Learning as Experiential Learning

The last few days have been busy with trying (unsuccessfully) to keep up with general work, meet my plans for reading for the unit assignment, and planning a training day for a school in Hull around coding in the national curriculum.

In particular, in planning how to break the computing requirements and teaching ideas into small units that can then be built up for the training day has been tricky as I find it difficult to simplify something so inter-related into a simple ladder of progression. Still, at least at this stage of the course I can muse that I'm trying to use an Associative model and that is probably the problem...

This blog post from Educause Review is one I enjoyed and I think picked up ideas from.

The author, Gardner Campbell discusses a monograph by Kuh published in 2008 that describes high impact educational practices. Campbell argues that there should be an eleventh such practice - online networked learning (I suppose a situative approach). The discussion is really interesting and one I'd commend to anyone else on the Technology Enhanced Learning course, but for me the key quotation is:
"With networks replacing ladders and trees as a primary metaphor to describe the structures of knowledge, digitally networked learning becomes marvelously recursive as a site of integration: the very experience deepens learners' understanding of the condition of learning itself within a strongly social context that can mobilize communities of practice quickly and effectively."
Three things ring true for me in that segment:

  • The idea that learning can be (for me this is true) a process by which you work from a global understanding that recursively gets deeper and richer as you work through it, and possibly the reason why I'm struggling so much with my training day plan. I have never enjoyed learning as a sequence of discrete blocks that build up - I like to race ahead, see the big picture and then fill in the gaps according to need, interest or opportunity.
  • The notion that the interaction and discussion of the content and the way we're interacting with it is essential to getting a real understanding is one I'm trying to express in my current assignment about e-Pedagogy and staff development. I think the lack of that within my current course is one reason I'm now at a point where I'm finding it heavy going.
  • Mobilising a community of practice is an area I've been thinking about a lot on the context of teacher professional development. With almost every experience of online courses or communities I've had, a good platform and good resources does not lead to a thriving community interacting with it, indeed making the resources and the platform to deliver it is the easy part. I think in the reading I have planned there isn't enough around that question - we can all agree that communities of practice are "a good thing," but how to develop them?

Kuh's paper is "High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access to Them, and Why They Matter (Kuh): Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2008"

Kuh identified ten high impact practices from Higher Education, a useful summary is here:

  1. First-Year Seminars and Experiences - rich small group seminars that engage new members of the course community with leading practitioners.
  2. Common Intellectual Experiences - a strong core of broad themes shared by all learners.
  3. Learning Communities 
  4. Writing-Intensive Courses 
  5. Collaborative Assignments and Projects 
  6. Undergraduate Research
  7. Diversity/Global Learning
  8. Service Learning, Community-Based Learning 
  9. Internships
  10. Capstone Courses and Projects
For my current writing assignment for the Technology Enhanced Learning, I'm looking to see what research tells us to be the most effective practice when organising e-Learning for professional development of staff (teachers and support staff). Much of what I've been reading is around e-Pedagogy, MOOCs and mobile learning, but I think the opportunity to draw parallels between Kuh's work on what makes for the greatest impact in undergraduate study and ongoing professional development will be an interesting one.... if only I wasn't limited to 4500 words.

Thursday, 7 January 2016


Describe three game elements that appear in any of the top 20 UK web sites (they can be in the same of different sites). Describe the activity these elements support and the intended real-world behaviour they are intended to promote.
Use of Avatars (and most others in the higher end of the chart) seek frequent visits and identification with the product and brand - so although the only real purpose served by allowing the user to place an avatar photo on the homepage is to let me know I have logged in (which is already done via a text label) I have the ability to add an avatar.


Also, seeking to add an element of chance, and even actual game play, Google change the design of a key element of the home page with a Doodle, allowing them to commemorate events, but also to associate themselves with positive features associated with that thing or person.


As a user completes the various online training elements for the different Google services (like Gmail) they can earn certificates and badges when they score above a particular score in an online test (the tests are very simple to do so success is virtually assured). This again builds loyalty and commitment to there particular offering.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

What are your experiences of using mobile devices and how has this changed over time? What barriers have you encountered? 
Much of my experience of using mobile devices matches well with the slides by Teresa Bird in the course materials, very little resonates with the commentary in the video by John Traxler.

I would say my experiences of working with mobile devices and technology breaks down into two broad areas - where the mobile devices are used informally, with or without institutional blessing, and where they are used in a formal approach, replacing or augmenting alternative technologies in a school.


A few years ago I was running a "Lego Mindstorms Olympics" event with Bill How in Northampton. Our normal practice at the time was to laboriously video the student's work with camcorders, take the footage to an iMac, and then to publish it to the various schools via our learning platform. At the time this was quite cutting edge, but behind the scenes it was very labour intensive and definitely "for the enthusiast." On this occasion, neither Bill nor I had the time or energy to video and edit footage so we'd decided to focus pretty much on entirely on the day itself and were both I think enjoying it far more for that. The day went well with various teams from across the town competing to build and program their robots to deal with progressively harder problems.

Bill had somehow managed to blag some of the new 3G mobile phones being used by Three in their uk launch. This wasn't unusual, Bill's power as a hunter-gatherer of gadgets were pretty legendary. None of us were particularly blown away by the phones - they had all the usual tools our Nokias had but seemed to be just bigger and heavier - but there were the first phones in the UK to have proper 3G connectivity. Ever the optimist Bill had given the handsets to a couple of groups of students for them to "try" - shorthand I suppose for "well we've got them, we might as well see if they are any good"

Near the end a student who had worked with us before and was very good at his Mindstorms programming, wandered over just after their robot had successfully found its way through our maze in record time, and asked why we hadn't filmed their robot. Slightly embarrassed I explained that we didn't expect to have time to edit any footage so we hadn't recorded it.

So he asked me for my email address and told me "don't worry, I've recorded it, I'll send you a copy for the site.

The video was grainy, the sound was awful but it clearly captured the moment and within 5 minutes we had it uploaded for everyone - and the impact the video had was almost identical to the carefully constructed sequences we'd worked on in iMovie.

But the combination of simple to use + good enough quality + connectivity + portability (pocket ability= ubiquity) is unbeatable.

I haven't used iMovie since.

The problem with informal use of mobile tech in the school sector is it is largely banned. Teachers may well use their own phone or iPad, in many schools students do too, but it has not had the broad acceptance seen in HE (yet).

Some examples:
  • When I taught Science for Year 9 (13 year olds) I frequently asked students to photograph or record experiments because as a department we didn't have a reliable digital camera. Being able to put those photos up on the projector at the start of a lesson (to connect to prior learning) or at the end became a simple routine of classes.
  • Our academy group make use Google Apps a great deal and of course a student can access their account on their own devices just as easily as on the schools. One day whilst visiting an academy a supply teacher called me into a classroom (he assumed I think I was a senior manager at the academy rather than a visitor). The IT suite was having problems and the class were getting impatient, but his focus was on the girl who has insisted on getting out her phone - the supply teacher wanted me to reinforce his instruction to either put the phone away of be disciplined. As I sat next to the student she rolled her eyes and showed me her screen - it was the English essay the class where supposed to be working on - rather than waste time she was starting work using her own connectivity and her own device.
  • Many of our teachers use very simple blogs as tools in the classroom for sharing work, for setting up plenaries or for engaging parents. The method is simple - the blog has an email address for new items and only the teacher can approve new content. Mobile devices become incredibly powerful in those situations (no matter who they belong to) to record video, audio or take images to share with the group.


Increasingly mobile devices are replacing traditional PCs in schools. Although in many ways inferior they are 'good enough' (a little bit like the video example above) and their immediacy and convenience is more than enough  to make them worthwhile - providing the key systems across the school for storing and sharing work are properly thought through (for example making Google Apps available regardless of the device used).

Where they excel is in situations where the device can have an owner. An iPad within the classroom is a superb tool for the teacher, potentially replacing the interactive whiteboard and visualiser as well as providing a camera, internet browser and selection of apps.

Where they are a struggle is where there is an expectation that pupils or students will share the device but somehow need to keep their work on them - they simply are not designed for multi-user situations.

So they excel for example in the Early Years or KS1 classroom where any device can have all the apps required for pupils to dip into as needed, where they can be owned by a particular member of staff and given to students for specific tasks or activities or where resources allow 1 device per student.


This may well be a good moment to refer back to previous blog posts about Salmon's work on an IT Strategy Framework.

She puts forward a four quadrant model where the two axes are core tools vs new tools and core business vs new business.

Getting the core services for IT right to work well with mobile (whoever it belongs to) is very much a core-core quadrant issue. Online storage, access, identity, filtering, access control.

Developing new practice with mobile technology (whoever owns it) has primarily been in the second quadrant up until now (core business, new tools) - but progressively more and more schools are making one kind of mobile device or another a core tool, replacing the traditional PC.

Much of John Traxler's video was concerned with areas that are I suppose in quadrant four (new tools for new business).