Terry Wassall’s Eduspace

Notes from the digital chalk face

Terry Wassall’s Eduspace

Test post for Eduspaces aggregator

January 10, 2008 · No Comments · eduspace

We shall see!


Communities or Forums?

October 10, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

The new version of Eduspaces looks great and the forthcoming developments sound really exciting.

Some Forums and Forum view observations/queries:

http://eduspaces.net/mod/forum/forum.php?weblog=impelgg?displays the ‘Implementing Elgg in HE’ community blog in forum view. However the forum view seems to be the default for community blogs and there is no link to switch to blog view, i.e. http://eduspaces.net/impelgg/weblog/? which has to be entered manually. Once in blog view there is the option to go to forums view but not back again, as there was before the upgrade.

Also there is a new Forums tab in the main menu that looks like a more traditional message board area?that and is independent of the community blog functionality. (http://eduspaces.net/mod/vanillaforum/vanilla/). There may be the possibility here for some terminological confusion between the new forums area?and the forum view of community blogs.


Reflections on ALT-C 2007

September 6, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

My intention to blog regularly at the conference didn’t really happen. This was the most exhausting conference I’ve been to, so much to see and not wanting to miss anything, so many people to talk to, so many social events. Something had to give and I’m afraid it was the blogging. As I said in an earlier post, I will do it differently next time – little and often – rather than trying to sit down at the end of each (very long and exciting) day and trying to make sense of my notes and get going before falling to sleep. This will mean taking my laptop everywhere with me which I decided not to do for some reason that now escapes me.

All the key notes are on line?on ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control Home Page? and I shall watch these again as well as try to track down the papers and slides for the presentations that I found most useful and provocative as well as the ones I would have liked to go to but clashed. Some of these have been blogged on by others which is great. This also helps to identify the presentations that are worth seeking out the abstracts, papers and slides. It is particularly useful when the post includes the full title of the session and links to the on-line information and slides as Helen Keegan did in a comment on a post in Graham Attwell’s blog Facebook questions. I also went to this presentation about using Facebook to support students and link with VLE activities. I found this particularly interesting as I have also, to my surprise and entirely on the invitation of the students, got involved with supporting learning within FB, something?I will probably post on in due course.?An aggregation of RSS feeds from ALT-C 2007 is listed at http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=0DXClBNS3BGKXshsxQnzeQ with 413 items so far. I expect this will continue to grow for a few days at least.

This post will summarise the main things I have brought away with me and which I think will make a difference to what I am currently doing. I won’t always remember exactly where a particular note comes from but I will be very happy if someone reminds me! Much of this will be a bit of a ramble.


Therdigital natives, social networking, informatl learning (but how msuch learning) but schools not in the main exploiting this and many students are in teh same pedagogivally impoverished mind set as teachers with same expectaions and comfort zones. Need to suppprt studetns as much as staff. Who ar eth expert learners amongst our colleagues – who is most explicity engaged in knowledge construction – resrach active staff be that discovery reserach or schalrship reserach (most teachers do some of the later). Who are those that change with the times, reinvent themselves, steer carrere and development cnscioulsy and autonomously – us lot in eduspaces! But academnics who are expert learners are not necessarily expert at passing on these skills to students – the importanc ef pedagici design that draws on the apprenticeship model. Also teach to learn by example.

Link to students don’t want to shae resources (mine for competetive advantag) use of wikis don’t like to change others text, don’t like anyone changing theirs, may work elsewher and past nto wiki at end see it as a presentaion toll not a collaborataive work tool

VLE as panoptican. Social networking as another my space and not subject to surveilance ans censure.

Learning by doing, not be wrote – activities that specify, find, evaluates and builds knowledge with tutors on the side. “Without community individual knowledge discovery is slight” p N. Apprenticieship model. Links to my notiosn that we are expert leaners and it is passing these skill sonto studetns that is more important than emptying the knowledg contnet out of our brains into theirs.

Links to froamtive assesemtn and feedback via planned activities as produces biggest increase in performance, but how measured? Podcating didn’t increase perfotmance etc but as measured traditionally – outcomes rather than process, enthusiasm, motivation, etc

look for list of what employers want Wilian?

Imortance of pedagogy. Getting this right crucail. Pedagoccal design under pinng teh scafflding and activities to induct and support students in their use of blogs and wikis and networking/collaboration.

Arm folding exercise. Outside comfort zone of usual behaviour and activity. Just beyond this is good, not too far beyond. Become more reflective, more self conscious and in teh process learn a little about the process not just the end product.

For me not VLE or web 2.0 and social networking. Exploit some of this in the VLE but encourage and help students use their own apps adn resources – issues to do with privacy, reputaion, quality etc. apply to all tools. Make explcit to teh students the nature of their informal learning so they can exploit this explicitly and consciously in formal education and beyond.

Demise predicted end of the age of the monolithic institution vle and more an age of Student information systems and interoperability of many differnet tools OS, prorriety (genuinely interoperable or won’t do well in teh market). Don’t see this reflected in teh purchasing aroudn me – stil lall buying big vles. But perhaps these will begin to diagregat ethe tools and allow integration with plug ins and modules form other providers, OS etc.

Message – make the specification of your exit stratey a central componemtn of the ovreall spec. If there is no relativley easy way out we won’t be coming in.


Tired, confused and emotional at ALT-C2007

September 5, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

I am sitting in my room totally knackered and badly in need of stimulants and a shower. Got to get up for the big dinner tonight and not fall to sleep in the consome.

Another great keynote today – all teachers are rubbish when they start and get to be moderately good after about 20 years; marginal improvements in learning outcomes with smaller class sizes and increased teacher subject knowledge but by far the biggest impact is produced by expert teachers employing formative?assessment, aggregating the information/evidence from students and designing?linked activities based on the assessement. Assessment for learning rather than ‘of’ learning outcomes. Focus on measuring outcomes a disaster in terms of ecouraging learning, etc. etc. More, much more. And I am supposed to be blogging!! Trying to isolate different learning styles and individualising teaching is all rubbish. Wrong in principle, unachievable and simply not necessary. Here is a man that knows his mind – Prof Dylan Wilian.

Some great stuff at other sessions today on social networking and use of wikis. Must get it down here soon. Also a very useful and entertaining workshop on implementing web 2.0 for e-portfolios. This used role play. My heart sunk, as usual, but it worked really well, thanks to Susannah Diamond and?Andrew Middleton – a class act.?All these worth several sides of A4 each.

I am hoping to be able to re-view the keynotes and the presentations and papers I went to via research extracts and slides to benefit from them and report in more detail.

Noticed someone using twitter in Facebook during keynote presentation. Short 1 or 2 sentence notes, each a separate post. I think this, or something like it, is the way to go for immediacy and to get close to real-time posting. Is this what they mean by microblogging? Then the consolidated reflective posts later. Or perhaps that is how I should have been using this blog? I’ve still got lots to learn.


Blogging ALT-C 2007

September 5, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

It is 1.00am Wednesday morning and I have just got back to my room from the Wimba sponsored event at Jongleurs, the comedy club. Me and my 5 guests had a great time and the acts were great – tailored I suspect for the ‘corporate’ audience. There were some slightly uncomfortable moments when the compere took the mickey out of intellectuals, new universities and the last act edged into gender issues areas, but pretty funny and pretty harmless I think.

I have had a most interesting day and feel both motivated and a little frustrated at how far we have to go and some of the great stuff being done elswhere and the progressive, enlightened and can-do attitudes on display. I will spend a little time deciding what I will go to tomorrow (actually later today) before turning in rather than blog on today’s sessions but I will list what I went to at least and write more later when I get a chance. First was the opening keynote presentation by Michelle Selinger of Cisco. There was some really interesting stuff here that I want to follow up on. Then:

  • Podcasting exercise physiology – enhancing the student experience
  • Using informal podcasts to enhance students’ collaborative learning
  • Measures of learning style in the evaluation of blogs as reflective learning
  • Blogs and e-mails: an effective means to understanding the student learning
  • Blogs, reflective practice and autonomous learning in graphic design
  • Whose e-learning is it anyway? A case study exploring the boundaries
    between social networks and VLE courses.
  • Building bridges: how e-learning can encourage social constructivist
    approaches to teaching
  • Social conferencing: moving learning beyond lectures and learning
    management systems

Tomorrow at 9.00am I am torn between “Web 2.0 applications as student-centred tools for portfolio construction: evaluating the fit between the technology and the stakeholders” and “Web 2.0 Slam – ‘Performing’ innovative practice”.

I’m afraid I have wimped out a bit�on this post�but hopefully I�will still be able to read my notes tomorrow and try to summarise what I found particularly stimulating and useful today.


Student e-learning experiences

August 3, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

We have been using a ‘scenarios’ approach to thinking our way through implementing e-learning at Leeds for quite a while. JISC has adopted a similar approach in one of its research projects Learner Experiences of e-Learning (LEX). In this study it has recorded a number of videos of student’s experience which will be used as the basis of a publication, ‘The Learner’s Voice’, later this year. The final report of the project came out last year. JISC have made available four of the video recordings with transcriptions that provide interesting e-learning scenarios.�

Two of the videos feature simulations. One is an impressive�’virtual ward’ environment in a hospital and looks very professional aand has clearly taken a lot of thought, time and money. The other, which looks a bit more practical from my point of view, is where law students are divided into a number of virtual law firms within a virtual community called ‘Ardcalloch’. This transactional learning environment simulates real-life legal scenarios, and they have to deal with a number of clients and cases using on-line discussion, resourses and stimulous materials.

The other two videos are probably�closer to the general experience of the majority of my students. In one, Laura is a first year international business student at Glasgow Caledonian University living at home in Falkirk. She logs into Blackboard from home and on campus regularly for module information, lectures she has missed and handbooks she has lost. She uses the�discussion boards set up by her tutors. These are particularly helpful coming up to exams.� She uses MySpace for socialising with fellow students and it is also here they support and help one one another with their studies. She is given�a lot of group work to do and she finds Blackboard makes this very easy for where group members live far apart. She is particulary enthusiastic about the Saltire centre – a high-tech learning centre designed as a single point-of-access for all student services. The Saltire centre is at the social heart of the campus, a place where students meet and converse as well as study. Much better than a traditional library she says. Incidently the�video shows her using Wikipedia for information on the World Trade Organisation.

The other video of particular interest is that of Jenny and Emma. This focuses mainly on their use of an e-portfolio. They clearly found this to be extremely useful and rewarding. It is significant that their e-portfoios where not just logs or journals of achievment but had a social networking and discussion elements. The really valuable part of the exercise was the sharing of experience and ideas and the critical reflection that develops through discussion.

In the videos there are a couple of instances where IMS is used to discuss things and support one another. In one instance a group of students are sat at work stations doing their own thing in the ‘virtual ward’ where it seems they can only interact with the virtual staff and patients the system provides. However, these students are using IMS to discuss and help one another even though they are in the same computer cluster.


Feeding my blog

August 3, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

I was hoping to get a bit more active here over the summer but with one thing or another it has been even busier since the students left. However, I had a bright idea – just add a feed to my work blog here in my Resources and then publish it to this blog. But it doesn’t work. I get an error “Feed subscription failed: SSL feed reading is not enabled”. This is because, I assume, our installation of Elgg at the Leeds uni is now on a secure server with an https: url. It seems everything we do has some sort of unintended consequence, another problem, another fix, and then another problem. Such is life I guess! Still, it keeps some people in work.


‘In class, I have to power down’

May 9, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

There have been a number of interesting and related articles in the education pages of the Independent and Guardian in the last week. Both relate to the C&IT sophistication and skills of many children and students that a) we are not exploiting in the learning experiences we offer and b) make many schools and HE insitutions look comparatively backward and unimaginative.

It’s time to adapt – and quickly – if we’re to survive in the user-generated world by Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor of The Open University (1 May 2007) discusses one of the key feature of Web 2.0 applications – user generated content.

The Economist has called peer production one of the most powerful industrial forces of our time and we will have to ask ourselves tough questions about our courses, how up-to-date they might be, and how relevant in a world where the exchange and access to information is so swift that it is entirely possible that a diligent student could get to know more about parts of the syllabus than his or her teacher. Not only that, but in this world the use of technology is expected – and expected at a high level. Why would a student forgive a lecturer a pedestrian lecture and coverage of content when that student can get a much better service on the internet?

Yes, perhaps. But this presupposes that the students have highly developed information literacy skills. They have to be able to identify their information needs, to locate and critically evaluate relevant and appropriate information, to synthesise that information within theoretically informed explanatory frameworks. And at the end of the process produce output that passes muster in terms of the assessement criteria applied by their programmes, modules and academic teachers. The proliferation of content – user generated and otherwise – has important implications for what and how we teach and support the development of these absolutely essential advanced information literacy skills.

‘In class, I have to power down’ by David Putnam, the Guardian May 8th. “Children have been quick to grasp the joys of new technology. Why are schools lagging so far behind?”.

“At school, you do all this boring stuff, really basic stuff, PowerPoint and spreadsheets and things. It only gets interesting and exciting when you come home and really use your computer. You’re free, you’re in control, it’s your own world.”

Most kids probably cannot tell you whether they are actually learning anything from that freedom and control, from the hours spent playing computer games, joining in chat forums and (for the more adventurous) setting up websites. But isn’t that where the education system should take over and work out what the golden nuggets of learning might be?

Might there not be something important here in terms of being creative and confident, of communicating and collaborating with others, of solving puzzles – those same soft skills so much in demand for the promised “knowledge economy”, but not particularly well covered in the formal curriculum?

What is being alluded to here, I think, is the new opportunities for informal learning the Web 2.0 collaborative and social networking applications make possible and how we can exploit these within the structures and objectives of formal education.

Both the articles highlight aspects of the rapidly changing world of information and learning that present a particular challenge to HE institutions. How well this fits in though with the life long learning and citizenship agendas.


The Ning thing

April 2, 2007 · No Comments · eduspace

There has been a lot of publicity for the free social networking platform Ning. I�vaguely remember it starting a couple of years ago but it has really taken off recently. One of the big success stories has been the Library 2.0 community that only started at the beginning of March this year I think and has over 900 members now including many of the library 2.0 illumminaries including Helene Blowers and Meredith Farkas. I joined yesterday and almost immediately was ‘befriended’ by half a dozen members some of whom had been at a Library 2.0 brain-storming session I presented at�last thursday.

Inevitably comparisons will be made with Elgg and Elgg Spaces. What I have seen of Ning so far I don’t think�it is directly comparable with Elgg. On a superficial examination the immediate differences are the Elgg’s community (within the social network) function, the presentations function, the fine-grained access control tools, the file sharing, and the ubiquitous use of RSS throughout. A Ning social network seems to be more like a Facebook group and is undoubtedly graphically wizzier but this will not be to everyone’s taste. It looks like an ideal tool if you want to create a fenced-off version of Facebook for a particular interest group but is rather limited compared to Elgg. I think you can make�a Ning network�private and invitation only but the best way to find out is to start your own Ning and experiment. For my money, for the moment at least, I would go for Elgg Spaces.

For a more jaundiced (realistic?) take on these sorts of social networks see David Warlick’s post and the 33 comments (when I last looked) on his 2 cents worth blog I just don’t get it – social networks. He is a member of the Library 2.0 network – no doubt for anthropological purposes – �and seems to be warming to the idea of these sorts of networks a little bit if a subsequent post maybe it doesn’t matter is anything to go by.�

I have a lot of sympathy with David’s ambivelance. I already have a number of dead and dying blogs. I am gradually becoming a ghostly absence�in a number of social networks now too.

PS Just spotted Anne’s post on Ning http://eduspaces.net/annef/weblog/162383.html


e-Portfolios: What institutions really need to know

March 30, 2007 · No Comments · Uncategorized


The JISC e-portfolio event I attended earlier this week and ran an Elgg workshophelped clarify for me a number of issues about e-portfolios, particularly what they are (process and/or product), what they are for (several options here) and how we could implement them for our staff and students. A useful JISC publication on this is the briefing paper e-Portfolios: What institutions really need to know March 2006. The paper foresees:

" ...an important shift in the ownershipof e-portfolios from individual institutions to the learners themselves. It anticipates a new generation of technology where an e-portfolio for lifelong learning will no longer be an institution-provided package or system. It will be a learner owned application, independent of any individual institution, interacting with services accessed over the web".

The paper also distinguishes process from product.

Image taken from page 1 of the JISC briefing paper - table of different approaches to e-portfolios

The distinction between e-portfolios as a learning development tool and as a presentation tool came through pretty clearly in the discussions at the event. Less apparent was the notion that an e-portfolio could be a set of interacting web services, or perhaps partly an aggregator of such services, or the wider range of possible 'audiences' for different compiled presentations. There was general recognition that whatever an e-portfolio is ideally it should be adaptable to transitions in career and personal development and should be transportable. This could mean the ability to export and import to other systems (or instances of the same system) or it being located outside any particular insitutional setting.

The latest version of Elgg with its enhanced social networking and personalisation capabilities and thePresentations tool would seem to make it an ideal platform for exploring the potential of e-portfolios as defined above. It adds the social networking/community elements that are missing fromthe dedicatede-portfolio products I have seen so far. It would be interesting to set up a project with staff and students from a variety of different subject areas in the my University (perhaps across a number of institutions) using the latest Elgg to develop this approach to e-portfolios and explore its reception by staff and students and various possible 'target audiences'. I'm sure there is tremendouspotential.

It emerged at the event that none of the participants had e-portfolios themselves! It will be hard to convince colleagues and students that this is a good idea if we don't feel that it is useful for us too. I consoled myself with the thought that at least I potentially have an e-portfolio of sorts if I exploit my bloghere with the new presentation tool. I would have to be much more disciplined in how I used it though.