Category Archives: learning

weeknotes [25082014]

Over the last couple of weeks, my time has been spent on:

A picture of various draft word processed documentssupervising Masters students on the dissertations with most submitting last week

working with three part-time students as they start their dissertations

developing a couple of ideas on a new course involving what is, I think, an innovative structure. More to follow on both of these

piloting discourse analysis for my PhD studies which is both interesting and slightly overwhelming – I mean, how much data can I really use?

writing a couple of papers for (hopeful) publication

preparing for teaching starting in a couple of weeks on two online courses: Digital Environments for Learning; and Course Design for Digital Environments

planning a Course for a different programme on Managing Organisational Learning & Knowledge (MOLK) that will be a blended Course starting in January 2015.

attended an interesting workshop on employability for postgraduate students as part of the Making Most of Masters project. The emphasis on employability is being partly driven by changes in the PGT market as student recruitment is counter-cyclical to the economy. Hence the market for PGT students is expected to become more competitive and requiring HEIs to develop key added-value offers to students which often revolve around issues of employability, employment outcomes and employer engagement.
The Making Most of Masters project started with mapping what work-based learning was already taking place, then defining a model for work-based dissertations and delivering and refining the model to finally generate a self-sustaining model. This is essentially a toolkit for running work-based dissertation projects.

The focus for the next couple of weeks will be on finalising the draft papers and preparing for the teaching…. and, of course, marking dissertations….

Learning techniques – for education and life

An interesting and useful read from Harold Jarche on learning techniques framed in terms of PKM and sense-making. As with many areas of knowledge and learning, the post (and the research article cited – and summarised here) highlight the tendency towards shallow learning techniques and the avoidance of the more valuable, but harder, techniques of sense-making and critical thinking. The two key techniques here of elaborative interrogation and self-explanation seem to me to be two crucial steps in situated knowing and being able to think through the nitty-gritty pragmatic aspects of applying knowledge/ information in actual problem-solving situations. It is these approaches that should provide the situational links between education and professional practices.

Personal learning environments

Network ALL2_BC
I’m currently writing up some ideas on open online professional learning that includes considering  personal learning networks. I came across this interesting post from Martin Weller on the apparent decline in interest or discussion of personal learning networks. The reasons suggested include the mainstreaming of the practices associated with PLEs, a consolidation of the tools used in to a fairly generic set of software used but also that the (research) agenda has shifted from personal learning to institutionally provided personalised learning partly driven by learning analytics.


MOOCs automation, artificial intelligence and educational agents

Geoge Veletsianos is speaking at a seminar hosted by DiCE research group at University of Edinburgh. The hastag for the event is #edindice and the subject is MOOCs, automation and artificial intelligence.

[These notes were taken live and I’ve retained the typos, poor syntax and grammer etc… some may call that ‘authentic’!]
George began by stating that this is an opportune time for the discussion as MOOCs in the media, the developments on the Turing Test and MIT media lab story telling bots used for second language skills in early years or google’s self-driving cars. Bringing together notion of AI, intelligent being ets.
Three main topics: (1) MOOCs as sociocultural phenomenon; (2) autonomation of teaching and (3) pedagogical agents and the automation of teaching.

MOOCs: first experienced these in 2011 and Change11 as a facilitator and uses them as object of study for his PG teaching and in research. Mainly participated as observor/ drop out.

MOOCs may be a understood as courses of learning but also sociocultural phenomena in response to the perceived failure of higher education. In particular, MOOCs can be seen as a response to the rising costs of higher education in North America and as a symptom of the vocationalisation of higher education. Worplace training drives much of the discussion on MOOCs as illustrated by Udacity changing from higher ed to training provider and introducing the notion of the nano-degree linked to employability. Also changes in the political landscape and cuts to state funding of HEIs in the USA and the discourse of public sector ineffieciencies and solutions based on competition and diversity of provision being prefered. MOOCs also represent the idea of technology as a solution to issues in education such as cost, student engagaement  and MOOCs as indicative of scholarly failure. Disciplines and knowledge of education such as learning sciences not available many as knowledge locked-in to costly journals, couched in obscure language. MOOCs also represent the idea that education can be packaged and automated at scale. Technologies seen as solutions ot providing education at scale, including TV, radio and recording lectures etc. so education is seen as content delivery. 
Also highlighted that xMOOCs came out of comp sci rather than education schools and driven by rubics of efficiency and autonomation. 
Pressey 1933 called for an industrial revoluation of education through the use of teaching machines that provide information, allow the learner to respond and provide feedback on that learner response. B.F. Skinner also created a teaching machine in 1935 based on stimulous/ response of lights indicating whether a response is correct or not. 
Similarly MOOCs adopt similar discourses on machine learning around liberating teachers from administration and grading to be able to spend more time teaching. So these arguments are part of a developed narrative of efficiency in education.But others have warned against the trend towards commodification of education (Noble 1988) but this commodification can be seen in the adoption of LMS and “shovelware” (information masquarading as a course).
Automation is increasing encrouching in to academia via eg, reference management software, Google scholar alerts, TOC alerts from journals, social media automation, RSS feeds, content aggregators (Feedly, Netvibes) and programming of the web through, for example, If This Then That (IFTTT). 
As a case, looks at the Mechanical MOOC that are based on assumptions that high quality open learning resources can be assembled, that learners can automatically come together to learn and can be assessed without human involvement and so the MOOC can be automated. An email schedular coordinates the learning, OpenStudy is used for peer support and interactive coding is automatically assessed through CodeAcademy. So attracts strongly and self-directed and capable learners. But research incates the place and visibility of teachers remains important (Ross & Bayne 2014). 
Moving on to educational agents as avatars that present and possibly respond to learners. These tend to be similar to virtual assistants. Such agents assist in learning, motivation, engagement, play and fun but the evidence to support these claims is ambiguous and often “strange”. In the research, gender, race, design and functions all interact and learners respond often based on the stereotypes used in human interactions. The most appealing agent tending to have a more positive effect on learning. Also context mediates perceptions and so how pedagogical agents are perceived and understood. 
The relationship between the agents and learners and their interactions is the subject of a number of studies on topics of discussion and social practices. Found that students and agents engage in small-talk and playfulness even though they are aware they are interacting with an arteficial agent. Also saw aggressive interactions from the learners, especially if the expert-agent is unable to answer a query. Students also shared personal information with the agents. Agents were positioned in to different roles as a learner companion, as a mediator between academic staff and learner, as a partner.
So social and psychological issues are as important as technology design issues. So do we need a Turing test for MOOC instruction? How we design technologies reflect as well as shape our cultures. 
//Ends with Q&A discussion

UFHRD 2014: 4 June, parallel session on Theory & Foundations of HRD

We’re in to the next parallel sessions and again I’ll be taking short notes on these.

Discourses in HRD: Complexity, Continuity and Contradictions, Jean Kellie, Brian Milsom (University of Hull). The research was framed by the integrationist agenda of HRD with HRM and a functionalist approach around effectiveness and unitarist approach the deproblematises the ‘fit’ between the individual and organisation. The alternative is a critical perspective (Garavan 2007; Valentin 2006) drawing attention to the different meanings attached to HRD by different stakeholders. Researching HRD professionals and the discursive devices used in the promotion of HRD in organisations and how this is influenced by dominant discourses within organisations and this may result in competing and complementing discourses and how public and private discourses on HRD may be reconciled.
The research used 20 semi-structured interviews. Found evidence of competing discourses including tensions between organisational and individual discourses. In particular, linking identity troubles centred on the discursive practices of the HRD practitioners.

A Question of Identity: The Meanings of Identity and the Significance of Identity as a Theoretical Foundation for HRD, Russell Warhurst (University of Chester and Aalto University Finland). The study focuses on Management Development (MD) which is a major area of HRD activity as an empirical study on identity work. Brown 2014 meta-analysis of identities in organisations and much research in identities is on identity as an outcome of HRD interventions.

There are massive problems in issues of definitions of professional identity. This research adopts a constructivist perspective with identity as a project of becoming and identity work and hence identity shift. Identity is formed through discourse “it is through narrative that we define ourselves”.

Through the analysis of interview data, a sub-group of “higher than average” learners demonstrated considerable personal learning and team and organisational learning. These managers displayed certain distinct characteristics: strong sense of managerial sense – a differentiated sense of self; secure sense of managerial self – claimed selves to be creative change agents; evidence of self-doubt questioning their capabilities; and strong commitment to future managerial self – strong commitment to their managerial careers. These four facets can be understood as a precursor to an unusual appetite for learning and as new resources for identity work.

Gold and Holman (2001) management education should concentrate on the significance of identity for readiness to learn.

Q on whether found evidence of earlier identities that echoed forward to their managerial identities. Non-higher learners tended to maintain their earlier professional/ specialist identities.

Open innovators

There’s an interesting series of blogs from Nesta and 100%Open on a joint project on supporting open innovation in charities which can be found here. The main common points emerging for charities to further develop, although these could be applicable for any organisation, are:

Breaking down internal siloes

Focusing innovation investment on core business concerns such as increasing giving

Taking well managed risks and not being afraid to be seen to ‘fail’

Developing a culture that embraces testing of ‘imperfect’ ideas as a way of developing ones that will work 

Again, the emphasis is placed on organisational learning through testing, iteration and “failing fast”.

Opening Scotland – funding, if

See on Scoop.itNetwork learning

1. I get ‘open’, I really do…but why should I share anything when the enemy down the road gives fuck all? 2. I would, but that would mean asking other members of staff for their packs,… and the…


Peter Evans‘s insight:

An interesting post on the challenges of implementing openness in education in terms of the networks and discourses mobilised as barriers to ‘spontaneous sharing’. The post is focused on open learning resources rather than open scholarship including research. A radical and spontaneous openness may generate a radical reform of education, a ‘de-schooling’ of tertiary ‘education’. But the implications for existing institutions are not really addressed. If resources are open and available, are tertiary education institutions really the best places and spaces to use these resources? Could a plethora of alternative learning providers and alternative delivery models emerge (no bad thing) and if so, what might the purpose of educational institutions be in such an ecosystem?

See on

21st Century Technology Skills Are a Core Competency for Today’s Graduates

See on Scoop.itNetwork learning

Our students need to be comfortable with the information technologies that are inextricably linked to the 21st century skills the work place requires, and teachers need to help pave the way.


Peter Evans‘s insight:

I’d suggest a lot of the more innovative university programmes are already doing much of what is suggested here. One thing to emphasise is supporting students to use digital tools specifically for learning as they generally already know how to use these tools. In otherwords, while students may often be digitally competent, they are often less digitally literate in terms of learning processes. Also, what refer to PDAs – surely old tech?

See on

Professional learning, informal learning and ‘wicked’ problems [2]

Following up on my previous post on learning and wicked problems here, the following diagram summarises a learning process in non-routines knowledge work. Again, this comes from Peter Sloep’s Chapter on Networked Professional Learning in Littlejohn, A. and Margaryan, A. (2014) Technology Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, Practices and Tools. London: Routledge.

What I like about the process described is its iterative nature and that, ultimately, the ‘vague problem’ doesn’t really disappear through a simple solution. Rather, my reading of the process is that ‘solutions’ and their implementation generate further understanding of the vague problem, hopefully making it less vague and so initiating a new round of evaluation and analysis. But also, any intervention also generates new unexpected and vague ‘problem’s to be learned about and addressed.

Wicked problem solving


LinkPool [20140318]

Open Education Trends Report provides a useful set of insights on current trends in MOOCs in particular and open education in general. This is clearly a rapidly emergent area and so the report provides a useful summary of ‘where things are at’ put prediction is necessarily less clear. This is a useful report with lots to consider including:

1. MOOCs and professional learning with a focus on the views of learners and employers is interesting a points to the need for further research in this area

2. the growth of apps, with the open CME (continuing medical education) app looking particularly good. As the report states:

However, the ideal ‘my (open) education app’ will require far more extensive functionality. An ideal app should offer access to both open and closed education, be independent of any particular MOOC platform or brand, allow the user to search for open educational resources and OpenCourseWare, issue alerts when a suitable product has been found, update the user’s portfolio, feature social education network tools, accommodate both formal and informal learning and administer examinations on the basis of identity verification. Although this may seem like an extensive wish list, such solutions are not far off.

3. a clear summary of the challenges of integrating open education and the qualification based education value network

4. a useful list of MOOC research sites and portals for those interested in an evidence-based approach

5. the brief discussion of learning analytics.

Heutagogy, self-directed learning and complex work is a useful commentary on learning and working in contexts of complexity (which relates to my earlier post on informal learning and  ‘wicked problems’ . I’m not familar with heutagogy but the quote given in the post suggests heutagogy is well adapted to working in emergent contexts of complexity (or wickedness!):

“Heutagogy applies a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “the major agent in their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences” (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112).

As the post suggests, heutagogy is closely aligned with capability as:

“Capable people are those who: know how to learn; are creative; have a high degree of self-efficacy; can apply competencies in novel as well as familiar situations; and can work well with others. In comparison with competencies which consist of knowledge and skills, capability is a holistic attribute.”
This points back to the importance of ‘learning to learn’ as a perhaps the only truly transferable competence.For me, this is a key challenge for education and the discourses on employability.