Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Today's Blogging Workshop

Here's my presentation for today's workshop on blogging:

Eduspaces is an HE-oriented social networkign site with a useful blog (e.g. mine).

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Articles on blogging

Got a package of course info for MSc in e-learning today (quite exciting being a student again).

Thought I'd do a bit of reading on the blogging side of things (even though I think I'm fairly up to speed on this).

Here's some of the preliminary reading:

McClellan, J. (2004) 'Inside the ivory tower'. The Guardian. September 23, 2004. Retrieved, August 29 2007, from: http://education.guardian.co.uk/elearning/comment/0,,1311177,00.html

The article starts small: a postgrad using a blog to record ongoing research, reflections, resources etc. before moving out to a bigger picture of blog uses in HE: individual and group blogs for sharing ideas with a wider community, or as a course noticeboard.

A couple of particular strengths stick out:
  1. the blog as a form that encourages peer review and obliges authors to refine ideas (Esther MacCallum-Stewart calls the blog a "mind gym")

  2. the blog as a form that breaks down the boundaries of HE to engage with a greatly expanded readership.
The article ends on a warning note that HEIs are increasingly locking down content behind password-protected systems. My view is that this may be so but nothing prevents academics setting up their own externally hosted blogs on third-party sites.

Siemens, G. (2002) The Art of Blogging - Part 1: Overview, Definitions, Uses, and Implications.
Retrieved, August 29 2007, from:
A very early article, predating the Web 2.0 hype. A useful collection of definitions of blogging from the pioneers. The Andrew Sullivan line that blogging is somewhere "between writing a column and talk radio" captures nicely the blog's dual structure of primary and secondary content. The focus isn't really on HE and the game has moved on a little since 2002.

One link doesn't work (http://www.edtechpost.ca/gems/matrix.gif

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

What is Web 2.0 workshop

My PowerPoint presentation for the What is Web 2.0 and what can it do for me? workshop uploaded to SlideShare, and converted to a Flash file and embedded in this blog post for demo purposes:

Monday, 13 August 2007

Pedagogic PowerPoint 2

I've been looking at some of the recommended reading for an MSC I've just enrolled on.

One of the books, Brabazon, T. (2002) Digital hemlock: internet education and the poisoning of teaching, looks like a provocative read (i.e. something to disagree with).

I found another article by the author on the ipodification of space (iPod consistently written as i-Pod!) with a truly toe-curling opening paragraph which doesn't bode well:
Our popular cultural clocks stop at the point of our greatest immersion, passion and excess. For me, 1987 was the musical zenith. I never quite recovered from acid house, chalk-stiff styling mousse, black eyeliner and pixie boots. I remember Rick Astley with fondness ...
Enough already!

I've reluctantly ordered a copy but a review I came across would seem to indicate that the book articulates some familiar (remember David Noble's Digital Diploma Mills?) criticisms of technology. PowerPoint is one tool that comes in for a particular bashing.

However, it looks like another case of an author citing the poorest possible uses of technology in order to discredit its use (it's Edward Tufte again) just like some awful old right-winger citing Stalin in order to dismiss communism.

I wouldn't defend for a second a tedious lecture supported by PowerPoint, but "mental absenteeism" in the lecture theatre (see pic below) and students bunking off lectures existed well before that Microsoft product so many love to hate.

I'm with Kinchin on PowerPoint:
…what PowerPoint is actually doing is to make explicit the taken-for-granted assumptions and implicit epistemological leanings of lecturers who are using it. The stereotypic teacher-centred, noninteractive mode of lecturing … is simply clarified and amplified by the use of PowerPoint. (Kinchin, 2006 p.647 - see my PP presentation for full reference)

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Linking from a blog to a discussion forum

In theory it's simple to link from a blog to a discussion forum like this one on blogging.

Thursday, 12 July 2007


There's been a lot of debate about PLEs that I'm only just catching up with now.

Crudely defined, a PLE seems to be about moving away from the big cumbersome VLEs (yes, we're talking about you, Blackboard) and opting instead for smaller bits of technology (e.g. a blog, a Flickr account, RSS feeds, favourited web sites etc.) held together by, for example, a start/portal page like Pageflakes or Netvibes (My Yahoo!, iGoogle, and Microsoft Live are other types).

Is a PLE just a nice idea (see this post from the elearnspace blog) or a bit of Blackboard-bashing software (PLE Project - Bolton University) that's under development?

I'm not sure. Talk of PLEs feels like the (utopian) expression of a desire for a future beyond monolithic systems: something small, customisable, decentralised/user-centred, open-source, open to the hundred of new developments happening, eclectic, supportive of sharing, collaboration etc..

Here are some links to blogs on PLEs:

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Embedding video into a blog post

This is a test to see how easy it is to embed video into a blog post:

It's of Prince Buster singing Judge Dread on Jools Holland's music show.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

More on what blogs can do

Here are some more thoughts - from Anne Davies - on what blogs can do.

I'm not sure about the research that supports these assertions but it's an interesting argument.

Monday, 2 July 2007

One of the advantages of blogs is the ease with which one can deep link to other individual entries (the techie term seems to be the `discreet addressability of information objects').

Here's an entry on Future learning environments (the talk I never gave) from Martin Weller's blog that chimes with discussions I've been having with colleagues.

Friday, 15 June 2007


Found this on the web and it struck a cord. Not entirely convinced that subscription is really making life easier ...

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Cult of the amateur -v- the tyranny of the guilds

There was a provocative article in last week's Observer on Web 2.0 and blogs (Enough! The Briton who is challenging the web's endless cacophony, David Smith, technology correspondent
Sunday April 29, 2007 The Observer).

It gave (unnecessary) publicity to Andrew Keen's forthcoming book on "digital narcissism" (laughably entitled The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy).

However, it did provoke an interesting response the following week from an academic who sees blogging, social networking etc. as continuations of an earlier radical tradition of published dissent from formerly marginalised voices (e.g. The Black Dwarf). Here's the response in full:

Don't bash bloggers

In his rush to dismiss bloggers, Andrew Keen ('Enough!', News, last week) seems to be unaware of the very history of journalism. We need only to consider the English radical press of the 19th century to find powerful examples of writing that can be thought of as the precursor to social networking on the web. The 'pauper correspondents' of political newspapers such as Black Dwarf were not professional journalists, but members of communities who found their rights threatened. In similar fashion, the citizen journalism of the present day offers those who find their voices marginalised or misrepresented by the mass media the opportunity to speak in their own voices from within their communities (think of South Korea's successful OhmyNEWS).

Keen's desire to separate the author from the audience also flies in the face of the practice of journalism. I first read the work of music journalist Paul Morley in his self-published fanzine, Out There. It is as a fan that Morley, like so many amateur and professional journalists, remains a member of an audience, of a community. It is when we lose touch with our communities that we begin to lose our humanity, and our writing loses its relevance.
Dr Chris Atton
reader in journalism
Napier University, Edinburgh

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

I've just created a Slide Show!

I've just created this slide show using Slide.com.

It was easy and instant.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Pedagogic PowerPoint 1

I've been doing some work recently on using PowerPoint for teaching and learning.

I'm going to be adding more resources here but to start here's a PowerPoint presentation (Pedagogic PowerPoint) I've added to Slide Share. It's a great site that converts your presentations to a simple slide show.

It's potentially a much better way of making your PowerPoint presentations available to students than uploading it straight to the Blackboard.

Here's a nice blog post from Clive Shephard (Don't blame PowerPoint). Usefully, it summarises some of the research done into dual code theory. It doesn't mention Tufte though who does actually blame the software and its "cognitive style".

Friday, 2 March 2007

Learning about feeds

Here's an extract from a blog post by Bill French (E-mail is where knowledge goes to die, April 22, 2003):

On a daily basis almost every knowledge-worker reads news and other sources of business content and then creates comments and observations that other business associates, colleagues, customers, and vendors consume. The usual and customary method for creating annotations and observations is by e-mail. (…) However, the place where e-mail content comes to rest is problematic - e-mail is where knowledge goes to die.

He makes a good case for blogs, arguing that they allow knowledge to be more easily shared and accessed. The context is business but it could easily be Higher Education.

In the spirit of enabling more convenient access to my blog, I've been having a go at setting up a feed so that users can subscribe to my blog (via email or a feed reader).

Let's hope it works ...

Coming back to feedback

Here's that quote I was looking for on feedback:

The indispensible conditions of improvement are that the student comes to hold a concept of quality roughly similar to that held by the teacher, is able to monitor continuously the quality of what is being produced during the act of production itself, and has a repetoire of alternative moves or strategies from which to draw at any given point.
(Sadler, 1989 p.121) [his italics]

I think what I like about it is the bit about understanding what's quality whilst doing the assessment, perhaps stressing the need for formative feedback whilst a work in progress.

Is this maybe why blogs and wikis have potential in HE?


Sadler, D.R. (1989). ‘Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems’. Instructional Science, 18, pp. 119-144

Beyond e-moderating

I've just finished doing a course called Beyond e-moderating and need to get together with two other colleagues who've also done it to see if it's worth running at our university.

There's an ambiguity to the title: beyond e-moderating in the sense of 1) more advanced/developed e-moderating or 2) there's more than just discussion boards now.

The course seems to want to keep both possibilities available in tension: more of the same (albeit extended and developed) for some people, other things (inc. blogs and wikis) for others.

On the recent course I was on, some participants expressed a scepticism of blogs and wikis (why though if they're already signed up to the value of online interaction through discussion boards?). Others, however, enjoyed engaging with other tools for online publication and collaboration.

I think it would be interesting to run the course internally but I think I'd like to see more on the use of blogs and wikis (possibly even something on synchronous working - virtual classroom or IM) in the context of the bigger picture of getting students to reflect, publish, give, receive and act on feedback, work together, generate and share ideas collaboratively etc..

I don't think that there's one right tool for all of these kinds of different but overlapping activities.

Not much progress on the kitchen

... so here's a picture of the skip outside our house instead.

Perhaps there's a danger that blogs could become skips for the dumping of all kinds of things?

I think I'm definitely carrying this blog/home improvement thing too far.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

New technologies and moral panics

I think there's a media fixation with the negatives of technology that's not always helpful.

Sometimes this anxiety is justified - mobile phones and the phenomenon of 'happy slapping'.

Sometimes it seems to be an expression of incomprehension and fear at changes that are taking place that are leaving many people behind.

Here's the front page of a free newspaper last week reporting on how some south London gangs have posted videos of themselves on YouTube (see 7 Things You Should Know About YouTube) brandishing guns and punishing rival gang members.

The start of a new moral panic about Web 2.0 technologies?

Capturing the "now"

Here's one thing I forgot to add in my earlier post on blog affordances:

... blogs seem to be really good at allowing you to capture the 'now' of your thoughts or project development.

Here's my kitchen this morning ... (better than yesterday)

Here's a picture I took on my way to work (Surbiton to Kingston along the Thames):

Here's what I'm thinking now: should trees have blossom this early? is it another example of the effects of global warming?

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Progress on the kitchen

Still a degree of domestic chaos: no sink or appliances; lots of paper plates, plastic cutlery and microwave meals.

However, progress is being made (just look at kitchen a couple of weeks ago).

If I had time I'd draw an analogy between my developing kitchen and my developing e-learning knowledge. On second thought, I won't bother ...

Monday, 26 February 2007

E-tivity 5.1: Course Report

I'm going to start working on E-tivity 5.1: Course Report here. I'll make a start then re-edit ...

E-tivity 5.1: Course Report
to reflect on the value of the course.
Task: Prepare a report, of no more than 500 words, that identifies the key e-moderating skills that you need to develop that will make significant differences to the development of your own participants as online learners. Post your report in the Forum below.
Respond: to the reports of others by identifying helpful perspectives that the participant may have missed.

Areas for further development/reflection:

1) So many virtual spaces: discussion forums, the blogosphere, chat rooms and wikiworld. Affordances. What are their relative merits? What can they each do that the others cannot? My initial thoughts are:

  • Blogs: good for getting one to articulate arguments to an imaginary interlocutor (does it matter if a blog has a readership? is presenting ideas to an imagined readership suffucient discipline?); good for linking to relevant sources - repository of references for self as well as sharing; good for day-to-day unfinished reflections that you can return to (either edit or new post); a source document for an essay, report or longer piece of writing. Question: should you assess a blog? Potential for designing out plagiarism quite high? Ownership model: individual.

  • Wikis: great for finished products (e.g. e-tivity, group presentation). Spoke to colleague in nursing about her midwifery students: small groups working presentation of physiological changes to women's bodies during pregnancy, each group looking at different trimester. Wikis would be perfect here. More thought needed on discussion that needs to take place around the wiki. Synchronous and/or asynchronous? Ownership model: group/democratic.
    Some research into the use of wikis in education

  • Discussion boards: good for brainstorming, socialisation, development of cohort identity and sense of purpose. Great at idea generation but not so good at creating a finished article. Ownership model: group/democratic.

2) Assessing online: guidelines for academic colleagues. A colleague today asked me how could we encourage staff to use discussion forums without first doing the e-moderating course or similar. Many colleagues are assessing online participation in online forums. I wonder how sophisticated their assessment criteria are. I'll try to track the quote down later, but I remember reading an article that argued that students' learning improves when they come to hold the same understanding of quality as that held by their tutors. One way of doing this is by being more specific about the criteria by which we assess online participation. I'm glad I had the chance to thrash some ideas out about this. However, Rachel's experience makes me think I'm at a really early stage of my reflection on the practicalities.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Reflecting on feedback

I thought these quotations might be useful for our group e-tivity:

"The feedback may be vague and in a language students find difficult to understand. The balance of positive and negative feedback may overwhelm the students and make it difficult for her to take in what is being said. What students really want is dialogue about their work [emphasis mine]."
Brockbank and McGill,
Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education (The Society for Research in Higher Education. Open University Press, 1998 p.205

"Feedback is of limited use unless students can understand it and act on it."
Ron Dearing et al. (1997).
Higher Education in the Learning Society: Report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (aka ‘The Dearing

"Students should be trained in how to interpret feedback, how to make connections between the feedback and the characteristics of the work they produce, and how they can improve their work in the future. It cannot simply be assumed that when students are ‘given feedback’ they will know what to do with it."
Sadler, D.R. (1998). ‘Formative assessment: revisiting the territory’. Assessment in Education, 5.1, p.78)

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Last thoughts on txtspk

Gilly Salmon made an useful contribution to one of out discussions and quoted her colleague Sylvia Jones:

The aim of communicating in a discussion forum is to make points that communicate your ideas to other contributors. In an educational conference at graduate level, it might be assumed that the ideas being communicated are quite complex. This is because messages to conference are intended to make points or proposals about the topic of the conferences, plus take issue with other peoples' points of view. However, the aim of the conference is that students do contribute, so, as well as making your points clearly, contributors have to write in a friendly and courteous way to encourage others to respond. Thus, not only will txtsk not be able to communicate more complex ideas, but it will not be able to meet the requirements of inclusivity and courtesy. Thus, the twin functions of language in an educational conference, to engage in discussion and maintaining a friendly tone cannot be met by txtsk. These functions demand quite a lot in terms of language and I do not think a simple checklist would be a lot of help. However, a resource illustrating friendly and inclusive communication, identifying good and bad practice might help."

I wonder though if it is really the case that txtspk is incapable of articulating complex ideas?

Txtspk appears to work through the omission of vowels (e.g. txtspk) and the replacement of certain sounds with a single character (e.g. gr8 for great) in order to significantly reduce the number of chracters used in a message.

There's surely no reason for txtspk to be incapable of complexity. However, it was never developed for this purpose.

Maybe the problem with txtpsk is that it is an inefficient use of language for anything other than short functional messages such as CUB L8R - Call you back later?

Anything longer, and the reader is forced to translate and infer meaning in a way that actually slows down the processes of communication.

Ez really.

Monday, 19 February 2007

More thoughts on txtspk

In a post in week 1 or 2 I wrote about the use of txtspk in online forums (reproduced in last blog entry).

I think my view was that students (school to undergraduate) need to understand more about varieties of language and develop an ability to "toggle" between them, understanding when and where a particular variety of language was appropriate.

I’m not going to take part in the small-group activity with Hannah, Jim and Stephen but they might find the the link useful (it takes the view that "[t]xtspk appears to be the current threat to our students’ fluency in standard English"):

My first thoughts in txtspk

This is a really interesting topic and one I think that spans pre- and post-16 education as well as HE.

Stephen writes of the use of "text language" rather than more formal written English and Hannah has described it as a problem. This issue has also got a national profile in the UK (see Examiner's warning over exams culture).

Part of me really likes text language or txtspk (but aka SMS language) as it’s a variety of language that is totally fit for purpose (i.e. writing quickly and comprehensibly, often on a small keyboard, whilst standing up etc.) as well as being quite creative.

So txtspk is gr8 for instant messaging and SMS on mobiles but should it be used for discussion forums (fora?) where participants have more time to reflect and to produce a more controlled form of written English?

I’m not sure.

What I do think is a problem though is an inability to differentiate between different linguistic registers and to appreciate why some are more appropriate to certain situations than others.


"Hi m8 ru goin pub 2nyt" is fine as an SMS to a friend


"When a number is divided by another number that is gr8er than its square root …" is inappropriate if used in an answer to a formal examination paper.

The Information-Age Mindset and Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

A blog is maybe a good place to stick all those useful articles you've found and make use of in a place that others can see and make use of.

Articles of interest to colleagues who've posted on generational differences are:

Perhaps you have other articles on similar themes ...?

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Thinking about assessing online interaction

I've been thinking about this intermittently today.

The PowerPoint presentation Adele attached today made reference to one set of assessment criteria that used Paul Grice's four cooperative principles.

I wonder how this can be adapted and, indeed, if it's the best place to start?

Welcome to my e-moddie blog

Welcome to my e-moddie blog.

This is where I'll be posting my reflections on doing the Beyond e-Moderating course.

I'm starting this blog towards the end of the third week of the course. I'm feeling a bit guilty about my participation level this week as I've been a bit busy with meetings and development workshops as well as a slightly coping with a slightly chaotic home life (building work and new kitchen - see embedded picture below).

That's all for now.