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Surfing the Visitor-Resident Continuum January 29, 2013

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Mapping your digital footprint

Mapping your digital footprint

I never could see the sense in Prensky’s Digital Native : Digital Immigrant proposition; it seemed clear to me that many young people have very shallow digital skills while many older people – well, heck, they invented the internet and all its technologies. Conversely, other young people thrive in the digital world while many otherwise competent professionals seem terrified by IT. Its all a bit more complicated than Presnky makes out. Then I came across a well-written and researched paper from 2011 which critiques the whole idea of Digital Naives and Digital Immigrants and provides all the references and critical analysis to justify my doubts.

Koutropoulos, A. (2011) Digital Natives: Ten Years After. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 7(4). Accessed online May 2012: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no4/koutropoulos_1211.htm

I’d heard a bit about an alternative view – Digital Visitors : Digital Residents – which seemed to offer a more grounded approach, and have just come across an excellent video by David White (Oxford University) which provides a good overview of this. The blog post also has a link to a paper if you prefer reading about it.

The part that really struck a chord with me was the diagram above, where David described how he is a Resident in his professional life (as a learning technologist), using blog posts and tweets to build and maintain his digital identity, while in his personal/private life he is very much a Visitor who prefers not to leave much of a digital footprint. He also talked about the need to ‘feed the machine’ – that digital personas need constant activity and erode if they are neglected. I’m very aware that I’m basically a half-hearted Resident, posting the occasional blog post, irregular Facebook status update and random tweet – so my online persona is sketchy and insubstantial. I joke about ‘anti-social networking’! He also described these personas as ‘micro-celebrities’ and this is perhaps why I don’t put more effort into maintaining mine – it seems to smack of the ‘me-me-me’ generation, at odds with my quaint British reserve. Also, if you are busy living some of your life online, what is it that you are not doing instead? This is where I strongly identify with the Visitor status, using the web as a means to an end – a way of finding what I need and enabling activities… That said, it’s time to go and watch some TV… episode 3 of Utopia.

E-Learning and Digital Cultures January 29, 2013

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As one door closes, another opens… and today is the start of the E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC, created by the University of Edinburgh and running on the Coursera platform. And I have to say it looks great: clearly structured with weekly activities that not only look achievable, but really interesting. The contrast with the MOOC I just bailed out of could hardly be stronger, and my motivation levels are sky high again. Apparently there are around 40,000 participants, which should make for lively discussion forums.

The first two weeks are looking at utopian and dystopian visions of digital culture, with special reference to education. The first activity is to watch four short films that explore this issue, and my initial thoughts on the first of these follows.

Bendito Machine III is an animation that shows a ‘primitive culture’ worshipping technologies – and when a new one arrives the old one is unceremoniously dumped on the scrap-heap. We see radio replaced by TV – and the vintage video it displays quickly veers from the naive consumerism of the 1950s to graphic footage of the Vietnam war and the violent repression of anti-war protests… all mixed in with cheerful cartoons and advertising messages of course. Turn on your state-of-the-art 50-inch flat-screen home entertainment system and has so much changed in the intervening 35 years?

The TV becomes a sinister presence, uncontrollable and damaging to the culture, but soon enough it is replaced by a new device (the computer?) which almost immediately malfunctions and is itself replaced by a huge device with tentacles (the internet?). And so technology marches on, faster and faster, taking us to an unknowable future.

There are ecological aspects to this allegory: the scrap-heap of discarded technologies finds its real-world mirror in the WEEE waste directives and the burning electronic trash fields of places like Agbogbloshie in Lagos. And also right now in my cellar, where a vast 28″ Sony Wega CRT TV (once the best that money could buy) lies discarded in favour of a brand-new Samsung 1080p HD LED flat-screen.  But it is not all minuses: the new device uses a fraction of the raw materials and half the energy and delivers a vastly superior picture quality.

What of the social implications of a fixation on technology? There is a sense that we are rushing into a digital future, pushed by the need for manufacturers to sell us new products: “Just look at all the things our shiny new phone does that the one you bought last year can’t!” So suddenly we all become faux-experts in megahertz and megapixels, gigabytes and broadband speeds. But what we don’t pay any attention to is the social impact of these new devices – except suddenly we have sexting, cyber-bullying, spam texts, phishing emails, botnets and twitter scandals. Plus pub quizzes are no fun now everyone has wikipedia in their pocket, and HMV and Blockbuster went bust because CDs and DVDs will soon be as quaint as 3.5″ floppy disks or Super-8 film.

I read a lot of SF (which I always think stands for ‘speculative fiction’) and one very relevant novel is ‘Super Sad Love Story‘ by Gary Shteyngart [Washington Post review]. In his dystopian near-future everyone can video-blog their life, turning it into an over-acted reality show, post mindless updates about their purchases to their GlobalTeens account and use the RateMePlus technology on their äppärät to check out the sexual hotness and credit-worthiness of everyone in the room. Its not so far away, that world, and companies like FaceBook, Foursquare and MindTheGap are bringing it closer by the day.

Snowed under… January 19, 2013

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I’ve really tried to keep up, but its all been too much, too fast, with no time to digest and think. I find it ironic that although the tutors profess a strong belief in learner-centred learning design they have created a relentless timetable of defined activities that seek to regulate when and how I interact with the course. Providing guidance and scaffolding for learning is great, but I’m feeling overwhelmed and micro-managed. I also think that the estimates they provide for the time required for the activities are wildly optimistic. For example, this weekend they want me to apply contextual approaches to my learning design using either personas and force maps or an Ecology of Resources approach.

Personas? Yesterday I was pointed at a list of ten academic papers about the subject I could read (which one or two should I choose?) On Friday evening, at the end of a long week? No thanks… I’m motivated, but not that motivated.

Force Maps? All I could find about them is on this page, which has three scrappy diagrams and a paragraph of explanation. What’s the point of them? How are they used? How do they influence our learning design?

Ecology of Resources? The page on these suggests ‘skimming through the presentations below’ – the first has 78 slides, the second has 63, the third 28 and the last a measly 15. Have none of the tutors discovered that students can’t learn anything from slides intended to support a talk? Have they forgotten the basics of good educational resource design in their enthusiasm for the ‘open’ part of OERs?

So just to recap, I have a pile of academic papers, three scrappy diagrams and some bloated PowerPoints which I’m supposed to read, understand and digest in one day so that I can apply them to my barely-formed project this weekend? Suggested total time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Maybe if if I’d spent the whole weekend reading and thinking about this I might have made some progress, but I’m afraid I just lost the will to keep going.

So, I’m still really interested in learning design, but have decided that this is not the way for me to learn about it. I’m a reasonably self-motivated active learner, so I’ll just do it at my own pace in my own time. Which brings me to a fundamental problem that seems to be a core ‘feature’ of all moocs: that they only work for students who are already independent and highly motivated learners. If they are going to be the solution to the challenge of affordable mass education, they are going to have to use learning designs that work for less motivated learners by providing the carefully scaffolded learning activities, feedback and sense of progress that they require. They will also need to be sufficiently flexible that the study activities can be fitted into busy lives.

So, farewell OLDS-MOOC; thanks for the hard work you’ve undoubtedly put into setting this up but I’m afraid it didn’t work for me.

So, how’s this new mook going? January 15, 2013

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So, how’s this new mook going?

it’s mooc, not mook, and to be honest it’s been a bit of a wild ride so far…


well, it didn’t get off to a great start, y’know – the usual technical problems –

oh yeah, what is it they say – never work with animals or computers – ha!

Mmm – but I was one of the lucky ones who did get a link that worked, and to be honest it wasn’t that great. There was the usual vertigo-inducing Prezi that either skated past too fast or the guy read the words off the screen

so a big step forward from PowerPoint then? They need to get their heads around slideology and zen presentation…

exactly. Anyhow, the embedded videos had no sound, so it looked like they hadn’t tested it, which wasn’t too inspiring

ok, I get the picture – but what about the mook itself?

mooc. Well, the technical learning curve was kinda steep if you weren’t up to speed with all that web2 caboodle. Their Cloudworks space is a strange mix of cool and clunky, and I’m not sure I’ve really got to grips with it yet – and the embedded Google pages are a nightmare – two sets of scrollbars, can you believe it?

yeah, I bet that would get steam from Nielsen’s ears! and the accessibility crowd won’t be too thrilled either.

yup – although a rather lame accessibility statement appeared on the homepage a day or so back – seems like its a work in progress

well, we’ve all been there (laughs)

anyhow, Yishay, who’s kinda the main man, has really been putting in 110% to get this thing off the ground. I hope he’s not trying to do a day job at the same time like the rest of us! I thought the instructions were pretty clear, but lots of peeps just don’t seem to get it, which must be really frustrating for them – and him. There’s this awesome schedule of daily tasks, but it turns out now that these are only guidelines and we can take it a bit more at our own speed. There was a lot of stressing online like “it’s day 2 and I’m already behind (sob)” but, hey, this a free cmooc and you just need to chill.

cmooc? I thought it was called a..

the c stands for connectivist, or constructivist or something like that – means that this is more about what we bring to the party – not like one of those xmoocs from..

xmoocs? now I’m really getting confused –

well, the x stands for – er – er – the main point is they are all about the Content (with a capital C) and usually have some big-gun academic telling it like it is. Did I tell you about that one I took last year with the crazy guy?

yeah, completely bonkers!

pirate hat and all (laughs) But this one is completely different and is trying to get us to form teams and actually make something – learning by doing – and discussing, of course. In fact, given there were nearly 1000 people signed up for this, the open forum is actually pretty quiet.

anything interesting yet?

not sure – haven’t had time to read it all, of course – lots of people trying to define learning design. It’s a bit like the blind men describing an elephant. I guess I need to just listen for a bit and see if I can figure out the whole thing.I’m reading this neat paper by Falconer, Finlay and Fincher titled ‘Representing practice: practice models, patterns, bundles‘ which compares various methods for representing learning designs so they can be shared. And Yishay sent me a link to some examples – I took a quick look and there are all these perfect diagrams plus a narrative description – here’s my reply to him:

“I’ll spend some time comparing the various representations of the same activity (a session for school children on ‘healthy eating’). From a first browse through I was struck by the contrast between the neatness of the diagrams (“this is how it works”) and the messy reality of the Design Narrative (“this is how it really worked the first time we used it in a challenging school situation”). There is a military saying that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy and perhaps the same is true of learning designs and learners! I suspect that as we approach the end of the first week here that you understand this all too well 🙂 Still, adapt, improvise and press on…”

and will you? I have to say you don’t seem overenthusiastic so far…

I hope so – they’re really jumping into the unknown with this mooc, so expecting it to be perfect – well, it ain’t gonna happen. Like I said, the trick is to chill and enjoy the ride. Besides, I’ve signed up for this project with a guy called Oli – it sounds really cool and is all about collaborative gamified simulations using WordPress Networks

yeah, I read about that in your last post – what the hell was that about? You’ve got to stop eating those Rarebits, y’know…

no-one said we had to take this seriously. Besides, all the serious talking has been in our study group –


just a bunch of us at work, sharing our thoughts. We’d planned on doing the mooc together, but real life has thrown a spanner for a few of us – the usual stuff; illness and pressure of work – did I tell you my daughter was rushed to hospital last week?

no! she ok?

yeah, back at uni now but it was a real worry for a couple of days – I got this midnight call like “I’m in an ambulance”. Major panic, as you can imagine. Thank god for the NHS – but as you can guess, that nearly derailed my mooc start…

no kidding – glad it wasn’t anything too serious. Good grief, is that the time? Listen, it’s been great yakking, but I’ve gotta go – catch up same time next week?

Sure – bye for now – going to catch that new Utopia on TV…

Little Nemo’s adventures in the Bazaar of Dreams January 13, 2013

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There was a note pinned to the door which read “Free dreams – come buy, come buy!”. ‘Curiouser and curiouser’ I thought, turned the brass knob and opened the door. Inside it was silent – I had been expecting a clamour of voices, with exotically-garbed dream merchants hawking their wares. Instead, there was a long table with a neat row of white paper bags along it. Each had a small label writtenwith blue ink. Coming closer, I looked at the first: “Ann’s Learning design for the whole institutional curriculum”. That seemed like a very big dream, and a bit scary, so I moved on, wandering down the table, looking at the labels as I went. Many seemed very vague; just a name and “my dream” or “my dream project proposal”. There was not much time before I had to wake up, so I didn’t peer inside these and just carried on along the row of paper bags, looking for a title that appealed. It felt like browsing through boxes of books at a jumble sale; I just knew that the right book/dream would make itself visible without too much determined searching. And there it was, nearly at the end of the table: “Oli Haslam: My dream: Learning design for a collaborative ‘gamified simulation’ environment in WordPress Multisite”. That sounded like a dream I might enjoy, so I picked it up.

“A good and wise choice, sir, if I may say so” said a unctuous voice at my shoulder. I turned, and there was a Dream Merchant, resplendent in his richly-embroidered robe and ornate snood. “How much is this dream?” I asked and he smiled like a crocodile. “They are all free, these dreams, kind sir. No fee, bill, charge or payment required, apart from the time taken to dream them, of course. However…” (and here he smiled even wider, if that was possible) “…turning that dream into reality may be a little more costly.” Suddenly I realised that the bag, which had seemed as light as a cloud, was getting heavier and heavier, pulling me down, tipping me forward until

I landed with a bump on the floor beside my bed. “No more Welsh rarebit for me just before bedtime” I groaned. Only then did I notice the paper bag with its neatly-written label in blue ink, resting on my bedside table…

Another year, another MOOC… January 11, 2013

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I’ve just started the Open Learning Design Studio MOOC (OLDS-MOOC) run by the OU and have decided to resurrect this blog to act as my reflective journal. I tried using their Cloudworks system but found it unsuitable for use as a journal; no tags, no categories, no comments, messages listed from oldest to newest.

So to start with, here are my initial posts copied from Cloudworks:

I am senior learning designer in the Centre for Innovation in Technologies and education (CITE) at the University of Southampton, UK. I’ve been working in the field of ‘computer assisted learning’ (how old-fashioned that CAL acronym sounds now, compared to technology-enhanced learning TEL) for over 20 years, so I have a good historical perspective on all this. This is my fourth MOOC; I bounced off the second-ever one run by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, but completed ones by Curtis Bonk (Coursesites) and Jonathan Tomkin (Coursera) last year.

At the moment, my concern is over the apparently complex design of this MOOC and the demanding (daily!) schedule of activities. Will real life enable me to cope and engage with this as I might wish? That said, I really like the idea of a project-based MOOC and look forward to working with my CITE colleagues on designing and developing a learning activity/resource.

Personal objectives for the week:

  • Get my head around Cloudscapes
  • Liaise with work colleagues to form team (maybe)
  • Dream up a possible project
  • Join a study circle

Word of the day: textrovert September 19, 2009

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Thanks to Kae Novak in a forum post for her word ‘textrovert’ to describe the enthusiastic early adopters of web2.0 communication technologies – for example Twitter. A quick Google revealed an Urban Dictionary definition that doesn’t really have the same meaning; I think Kae means people who are gregariously social in online social network spaces – such as most teenagers.

Week 1 – why it is difficult to define connectivism September 18, 2009

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I’ve just listened to the first discussion between Stephen and George, recorded using Elluminate. I was disappointed that they didn’t make the most of the medium; I am a visual learner and really missed having any images or diagrams to help me understand.

After all that discussion I’m still not sure what connectivism is – and from some posts it seems some people managed to get all the way through CCK08 and still can’t articulate what it means. This of course may be one of the features of connective knowledge; that your understanding is  formed of this mass of connected ideas which are impossible to explain succinctly or precisely. This might be contrasted with the view that specific pieces of knowledge are clearly delineated and can be neatly transmitted via a lecture, web page or printed article.

I was intrigued by the suggestion that learning involves immersion in an ecology that enables connections to form. The key words here are ‘immersion’ meaning sustained participation and engagement, and ‘ecology’ which consists of the environment (information resources) and inhabitants (the people you engage with). This makes sense to me – I learn from the books, journals and websites that I read and I also learn from the interactions I have with others.

I would argue that interactions do not have to be two-way; I can learn vicariously by lurking in discussion forums or following a blog, for example. But two-way interaction enables feedback to take place, so that understanding can be checked and validated.

There is lots more to say about the discussion, but, hey, there are a hell of a lot of blogs to read so lets call it a night. Bye for now

First words September 16, 2009

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I’ve set up this blog so I can participate in the radical online course ‘Connectivism and Connected Knowledge‘ hosted by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. I work as a learning technologist at the University of Southampton in the UK, and have followed Stephen’s blog posts about connectivism for a couple of years now. So if you’re on the course and you are reading this, hi!