Jun 222008

Definitely an international feel at the University of Hertfordshire with plenty of food for thought, including interesting keynote from Peter Goodyear in Australia, focusing on current research in learning designs. As already mentioned by Richard, Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication are using wikis for personalised student profiles and cvs that can be used beyond university life. I would think this very useful for placement students, who could potentially create vlogs and podcasts linked to their experience in the workplace. Another interesting contribution from Andrew Middleton focused on digital media for providing student feedback. Malcolm Andrew (DMU) presented on his podcasts in Pharmaceutical Microbiology. The four students who participated in the Q&As, provided a realistic and candid view of attitudes and use of the podcasts.

Reflecting on our own paper, The impact of read/write web approaches on the curriculum priorities of PG Cert HE students (Richard, Pam, Heather), there was a good deal of interest and some helpful comments. Julie Hughes (Wolverhampton), for example, suggested giving participants the time to fully formulate their action plans on paper first, recognising that people may be reticent to post publicly for critique (initially at least). Also a query about our constructivist approach – perhaps we could incorporate more scaffolding? One thing we thought we might have explained better was how this all fits in with our particular institutional context (elearning focuses more on embedded co-ordinators and ‘champions’, rather than a team of learning technologists as in some institutions).

Jun 182008

I’m currently at the Blended Learning Unit conference in Hatfield, with Heather and Malcolm from DMU. We are presenting on the impact of new tools on our PGCertHE and M-level Pharmacists. I’ve discussed formal and informal education, participation and association with some great guys from Ravensbourne, who have a lovely model for understanding the connections between tools, users and spaces. I’ll be following that one up.

However, I also attended a session on vlogging by Myles Dyer, a second-year Psychologist at Herts who uses YouTube to “have the chance to inspire”. The man is a real inspiration and the kind of student and social leader who should be cherished. He made me realise how fortunate I am to be involved in a business where we get to engage with the energy and drive of young people.

Myles uses YouTube to speak to the world and to connect with, and crucially to understand, networks of others on a range of issues that are personal to him. His channel focuses upon acceptance, investigation, discussion and adaptation of concepts, views, knowledge and values. Myles highlighted two important, political statements for me:

  • “this type of work helps us to develop as people”;
  • “[I work and collaborate] in the hope that people will be true to themselves”.

In this view Myles is opening up spaces for people [him] to becomes themselves [himself] and relate to others and take meaningful action. This is powerful stuff, beyond the banalities of “me and my learning environment”, towards a progressive, hopeful pedagogy, to which Friere, Barnett, Illich and Sachs could all sign up.

Both Myles and Ruth/Roger from Ravensbourne made me think that we desperately need to rethink our curriculum, in order to move away from a nineteenth century factory model towards an engagement with those Web2.0 mindsets and approaches that are afforded by a raft of personal as social tools, notably:

  • an extended, critical user-focus;
  • meaningful, active participation;
  • democratisation;
  • networking; and
  • hope.

Myles highlighted how his creation of videos had made him thoughtful about his relationship with others, and how he presented himself, and how he evaluated academic and non-academic knowledge. It had enabled him to make better decisions and take meaningful actions. Myles’ talk reinforced to me the powerful impact of Web 2.0, or the read/write web, on learner agency in educational environments that are at once connected and networked and informal and formal. Grasping these affordances is a crucial part of education as a democratic, political project, and in empowering our students’ through facilitating their development of personal literacies.

Jun 182008
Video game production is booming globally, however due to the shortage of the ‘right’ graduates in the UK, our industry-leading country could see her share dwindle if the supply to demand is not met. The British video-game production industry currently makes more money than our movie production, so what is going on? Can students from De Montfort University help fill the vacuum?

Watch Video…

Jun 172008
Just stumbled across this article and was quite simply shocked by it. To draw a comparison I thought to myself of the Pathfinder project with around half of the team being women; and without their great contribution, the Pathfinder project wouldn’t have simply been anywhere. It is a sad state of affairs that women still feel discrmination and are eventually forced out of the industry due to mainly persistent subtle discrimination by men whom dominate the industry… Read the article below for more…


What if half the men in science, engineering and technology roles dropped out at midcareer? That would surely be perceived as a national crisis. Yet more than half the women in those fields leave — most of them during their mid- to late 30s.

Read More…

Jun 122008
A supply teacher was caught on video stripping off and parading semi-clothed in front of his teenage students.

The film of the English teacher dancing topless in front of a class of 13 and 14-year-olds was then posted on the YouTube website.

Read More…

Jun 122008
[Exracted from Jisc Legal Newsletter]

The Ofcom report highlights the high percentage of children under 14 and other users in general, who join the social networking sites with little awareness of the need to protect their privacy. The report makes some best practice recommendations to the social networking firms in order to tackle the issue of security and privacy. The full report is available on the Ofcom website at


Jun 122008

News just in from Andrew Clay in Media Production…

TECH2002 Studies in Digital Technology 2007-2008

‘Studies in Digital Technology’ is a contextual studies module for media students in the Division of Technology in the Faculty of Computing Sciences and Engineering. The module aims to apply critical concepts to the study of digital media texts, services and products. In recent years, this has meant an increasing focus on the technologies associated with the concept of ‘Web 2.0’.

Students took part in a group project that was assessed through an individual coursework portfolio. The project involved making and/or using media technologies combined with the insight of critical reflection. The groups had to choose one of six technological areas (identified by the 2007 Horizon Report) associated with network media such as the web and mobile phones identified as a focus:

  1. user-generated content
  2. social networking
  3. mobile phones
  4. virtual worlds
  5. new modes of electronic publishing
  6. massively multiplayer online gaming.

The most popular topics were social networking, mobile phones and virtual worlds.

Students used a number of Web 2.0 tools. A group blog and wiki in Blackboard was used to plan and prepare group assessments, and to analyse current developments in digital technology. Individual notebooks were also kept using Tiddlywiki to log and reflect upon their personal progress through the project. I used my own blog and wiki in Blackboard to feed ideas and good practice to the students.

It was suggested that the student blogs could be used as communication tools to think aloud and write about their research, sharing it with others, but the blogs tended to be used more like email than reflective journals. The wikis were set up to be information storehouses for publishing the group’s research. The wikis were very slow in developing and the students had to be prompted to work on the presentation, content and navigation of the wikis to make them more effective in time for assessment, and this got a good response.

Students were encouraged to think about two critical frameworks – Critical Technical Practice (CTP), the hands-on analysis of the values that are designed into technologies and how they might be altered, and Experience Centred Design (XcD), or a concern for user experience in technology with an emphasis on felt experience. However, most groups found it difficult to apply these methodologies with any confidence. But there was some good reflection on experience and primary research. One group compared living with and without mobile phones and social networks, another group held a party in Second Life. Overall, traditional weaknesses were exposed. Poor organizational, critical and writing skills were in evidence. Some were empowered by the use of social technologies, but others were as challenged as they would have been by more traditional forms of learning and assessment. Just as with traditional reading and writing, we cannot assume that students will be comfortable with the literacy of read/write web tools, especially where use is prescribed. It will be interesting to see how students will respond to a greater freedom to choose appropriate tools as a framework of assessment as the module develops next year. Is it going to be possible to foster critical literacies and informed decision making about the use of appropriate social tools in response to providing evidence for assessment purposes?

Jun 102008

The Guardian education blog is carrying an article entitled: Web2.0: boon or bane for universities?

Whilst the article highlights the opportunities for networking and user engagement with these tools, it also goes on to highlight some perceived dangers for HE. Let’s have a look at these.

  1. “One institution reported three examples of serious problems in one year involving students’ use of the new technology including the victim of a student scuffle using Facebook to identify the address of his attacker, and getting his revenge.” I can see that this is an issue, but aren’t we in the business of trying to support our students’ critical thinking, at university and in the world? In any case, I am not sure why this is a problem for higher education rather than society, and most institutions will have regulations covering social relationships on-campus, or where they are directly linked the university.
  2. “it tends to be individual academics who are driving innovative use of the technology in learning, which can present problems when those academics move on, or when they want support from their institution’s centralised IT systems.” It tends to be individual academics who are driving innovative use of learning and teaching. The technology is secondary, and in any case Web 2.0 tools tend to flatten hierarchies, so that learners are more in control of their learning. Moreover, these tools also have a low entry level, so that they are easy to engage with. It is the academic implications that need addressing, whether you are using a VLE or external software. One way to get around this is, of course, to ensure that programme teams are fully engaged rather than leaving it to one interested individual. HEIs need to find ways to devolve, to reward and to disseminate innovative practice.
  3. “Assessment also becomes more difficult when academics are not merely having to assign marks to a heap of scripts but to wade through student podcasts and video clips or Second Life presentations.” I would love to see the evidence for this nonsense. A meaningful assessment strategy, perhaps allied to a patchwork text approach,would not be heaping Web2.0 production techniques and artifacts, on top of traditional techniques and artifacts. It would be providing the students with the scope to demonstrate, perhaps through a patchwork assignment or portfolio or personal learning environment, their achievement of learning outcomes. The critical issues here are less workload, and more copyright, security, plagiarism and IPR.
  4. “There is also the fear that, if students have access to podcasts and YouTube videos of lectures, they may not bother turning up to the real thing. And who owns the copyright to these podcasts – the lecturer? The institution that employs him or her to lecture? No one?”Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Hasn’t this been said about e-learning and technologies since time began? There is plenty of evidence highlighting that where videos and podcasts enhanced the curriculum, rather than replacing elements of it, student attendance is not damaged, but is engaged. As to the issue of copyright, UCU certainly suggest ways for managing this issue, and we have a collective agreement on the issue.
  5. “Meanwhile, there are issues over who should be responsible if students or lecturers say something online that results in litigation against the university.” Agreed – and we don’t really want this to go to case law do we?
  6. “Then there is the issue of control. A lecturer involved in a discussion on a public social networking site is operating in a forum that belongs not to his or her institution but to the students, and, ultimately to the private company that runs the site. This company may at some point decide to make commercial use of the information on the site, or to withdraw its services.” That is a real risk, and it is one of the roles of e-Learning managers to appraise programme teams of these risks, in order that they can make smart decisions about technologies. It is also part of their role to ensure that those programme teams and their students are able to bring evidence forward of assessment for learning and assessment of learning, into institutional learning environments. This will enable guarantees to be made about security and backups. The terms of use of technologies like Twitter and SecondLife highlight their right to use your content in perpetuity, but state that it is yours to exploit. Again, individuals need to make savvy decisions. Equally, who is to say that that our VLE isn’t going to be sold/merge/die?

The more interesting control issue, is the democratic power of these tools, where a progressive pedagogy is implemented. One that is participative and empowering of students as actors, able to collate and critique examples of how they have met learning outcomes and make learning decisions.