Monday, 9 November 2009

Professional classes bring world to collapse?

Perkins views-

Art first sight the point of view expressed by Perkin makes some sense and I suppose that there has been a rise in ‘professionalism’ over the last 100 years. However professional classes are not new, something vaguely acknowledged in the piece, Egyptian society had a powerful and effective professional class for example. That we live in a time of unprecedented wealth seems strong (though many are still in poverty) that there are great advances in the distribution of basic good is also a real factor. However it seems the argument rests on the idea that there is ‘a cause’ for change when in fact it might have been a more robust (bit less interesting) argument if it was a regarded as ‘a factor’. The application of science to the way we live has gone through a complete revolution too, and it is the applied sciences that give us both the unprecedented style of life that we have and leave the possibility of mass destruction hanging over our head, wither as the result of nuclear holocaust or through the throttling of our spaceship earth through the over use of resources. We could also take an educational view where the change has come about because vast swates of the population now have an education that was previous denied them and that this leads toa different way of life in its wake.

The chapter is a child of its times though in a way it cannily almost expects the banking crash of last year. This though is surely an example of personal greed over professionalism as much as professionalism destroying itself. There is a crux here about what we mean by profession, but in banking terms it might include the words ‘prudent’ and ‘honest’ characteristics that were absent within the sector, and the struggles now going on might be seen as a debate about how best to reintroduce professional standards.

The article itself does not really deal with the possible effects of continuous growth and the possibility of 0% growth or even contraction in our attempts to achieve this the professional classes are at the moment unable to provide more than a debate and action is lacking. I would have said offhand this is more the effects of free market forces and the ‘shortermism’ that they produce that are in effect acting as manacles on the professional classes who might be able to resolve the situation.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

professional, e-learnign professional

E-learning professional a part of 1.2
RObin Mason gives a picture of someone who has grown with the profession, professionalism here happens almost by default and imperceptibly. This has almost happened to me. I am always somewhat surprised when I find I have been asked along (and paid) for something because people want my 'opinion'. Somehow I feel I am just a teacher with an angle on things but over the years those 'angles' have become more noticeable.
In this I am rather like Gill who got to be an e-learning professional by ' by drift and default'. I think this is open to challenge, I suspect that if we looked at this 'drift and default' in more depth then we would see that there was often a great deal of deliberation. Like a sailor sailing a lifeboat the eventual destination might not be in sight but the day to day course is clearly decided upon. SHe cites the HEA 5 porfessioanl values
Respect for individual learners.
Commitment to incorporating the process and outcomes of relevant research, scholarship and/or professional practice.
Commitment to the development of learning communities.
Commitment to encouraging participation in Higher Education, acknowledging diversity and promoting equality of opportunity.
Commitment to continuing professional development and the evaluation of practice.

These principles do not , as far as I can determine, constitute the mechanism for making a professional but do support the understanding of a philosophical underpinning.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Reflection on reflection

Moon suggests that:

'Reflection is a form of mental processing that we use to fulfill a purpose or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to gain a better understanding of relatively complicated or unstructured ideas and is largely based on the reprocessing of knowledge, understanding and possibly emotions that we already possess.'

Perhaps there is also a an element of possibility (I would call it future) thinking...'What might happen if...' and suggest that this engagement with possibility is central to the process of reflection. SO reflection may well be the 'reprocessing of knowledge' but it is a reprocessing with some possibility, or more likely possibilities, in mind. One might suggest here then the reflection is a reprocessing and re-purposing of knowledge. In addition to this the engagement of possibility brings with it 'serendipity'. Since possibility is not a known but conjecture there are other alternative possibilities some unexpected, unintended and therefore at times 'serendipitous'.

Moon goes on to look at the role of reflection in learning. Here we are presented with a model that is redolent of a constructivist view of learning. The need to relate what is learned to what is known. One might add that if we use the metaphor of scaffolding then what we are constructing takes account of what lies underneath, but also attempts takes account of what it is thought possible or likely to be further added. Here reflection/learning is something that takes place within a plan. This might be formal, explicit and codified (this course for example) or it may be informal, implicit and fluid. Again the construction of reflection is as dependant on what might come after as it is on what went on before.

More to follow...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Reflectiong on the future

A Tweet this morning hijacked my mind and led to this bauble of a reflection.

T @al2615: Can you reflect on something in the future?

My gut feeling is yes and no. When saying ‘reflection’ in a sense we are making use of metaphor, here comparing a way of thinking with the way images appear (to a greater or lesser degree distorted) in for example water or a mirror. It is important to remember this metaphorical root since it implies with it a limitation and we can find ourselves shackled by the metaphor.

Reflection before action

Reflection for me is a kind of critical review of things done, with the intention of making changes to what I do next. This is like the Denning cycle of plan-do-review. The review feeds the next plan, and is very much part of it and review/plan is what constitutes my reflection. SO when making a professional reflection ‘on action’ it is inextricably linked with future action. If I am to use my reflection for future action (and thereby presumably achieving some goal, aim or objective) then in some way I must be reflecting upon that which does not yet exist. If we have ‘reflection in action’, and ‘reflection on action’, then we can, and I think must, have ‘reflection before action’. SO as a good citizen concerned about the environment I have reflected upon the carbon footprint I leave when flying around the place. I have reflected on the impact this has, I have thought carefully about the harm I have caused. Now I reflect on a possible trip to Prague for a weekend, or a shopping trip to New York. I reflect upon the harm that I will probably cause by doing this and what the ultimate consequences might be. I reflect upon the sort of world I would like my children and your children to live in. I consider what the possible alternatives will be and then make a decision.

Future History-what if reflection

A further version of this is to ‘reflect’ on what might be. 1984, Animal Farm, I robot and the laws of Robotics, Fahrenheit 451 all portray attempts to f=reflect on what might be: often with a cautionary quality to them. This I would call ‘visionary reflection’. It is rather more than mere speculation (though that has its place) and has at it best a striking reflective quality to it since it ‘looks for interrelations beyond the superficial’. They try to take account of historical and current influences and directions and use these to build a critical picture of what might be.

Saturday, 26 September 2009


Still very much trying to get my head around this. Looking at some of the details suggested on the QAA website and then thinking further about possible content highlights one particular question I need to answer viz. Who is going to read the E-Portfolio? I suspect there are several potential audiences...the subject of the portfolio obviously, the institution responsible probably (but is this a continuing contact?) ; current employers maybe; future employers possibly. Given the potential audiences I wonder what the implications are for transparency compared to confidentiality. It seems that there is a fairly obvious tension here. I am not sure I would want my employer, even less a possible future employer, to see a transcript of all my marks for different assignments...this is the sort of information the QAA website has as part of the samples at the end. If I make reflections how much control do I have over who sees those reflections?
I have just made a Wordle from the definitions of e-portfolio. It bears out what I say about PLE but there is a valid distinction between PLE and Personalised Learning.
Wordle: E portfolio definitions

E-portfolio drivers for change

The University of Minnesota Experience

Acker, S. (2005) ‘Overcoming obstacles to authentic e-portfolio assessment’ (online), Campus Technology. Available from: (accessed 27th September).

Drivers:3 R’s

Reflection, Representation and Revision, so student can demonstrate learning has occurred

Reflects constructivist approach students have multiple starting points

Possible use as course E-portfolio

Article addresses issues of confidentiality- who does or who should ‘own’ an e-portfolio this seems to be a minefield…no wonder it is not really taking off.

From the UK The Centre for Recoding Achievement on this page

you need to open the link for further information.

E-portfolios to enable:

Students found it helpful in developing ‘thinking’ (no evidence to support this)

Schools reported it developed independent thinking and provided structure (a rather interesting combination, again no evidence).

In another study at

E-portfolio used to develop PDP

Student participation had to be ensured by embedding marks for completion: so students essentially forced to complete e-portfolio!!

QAA Guidelines for HE progress files.


· To help make the outcomes or results of learning in higher education more explicit

· To improve the quality of learning so that the basis for academic standards will be clearer

· To support the idea that learning is a lifetime activity

· To strengthen the capacity of individuals to reflect upon their own learning and achievement and to plan for their own personal, educational and career development

The QAA is in the position of having an overview of the way HE institutions are functioning in the UK. However each university is responsible for its own academic standards. I am not sure how ‘powerful’ the QAA is as a player in driving change in the HE sector. I do not hear it talked about much in the corridors where I work (unlike the TDA and Ofsted). This is the place from whence that useful chart in the course resources that appeared attached below.

The concept of the HE progress file.

Drivers for E portfolios in Teacher Training: this is from Vuorikari, R. (2006) ‘National policies and case studies on the use of portfolios in teacher training’ (online). Europortfolio 2005, Cambridge, UK. Available from:

In all four cases there is a strong policy drive to integrate use of portfolios. This seems such a top down process. It may be that this is because it needs national level co-ordination or it may be because without the downward push e-portfolio would not be used. If they were not used the companies that make them would no t be able to sell their it conspiracy theiry to suggest there might be a link.

If we try to place e-portfolio into a framework of Personalised Learning Environments (PLE) this downward push seems even more far fetched, though the initiative does get dressed up in PLE language. I would argue that PLE are about choice and choice that is freely made.


Reform and renewal: increase digital literacy, national imperative linked to digital competency p. 3


Reform and renewal: to promote ‘good overall and pedagogical skills…and refresh teaching methods.’ P.2


Europen lang. learning initiative To provide a transparent Europen record of language competancies.


Reform- by ministerial decree, part of school reform

H808 off we go

Right the first OVERT topic is about E Portfolios...this is something about which I know little, which makes me rather cross. I have often wondered what the point is, it seems like I will be asking students to do quite a lot without much benefit to them, and if the do run an e portfolio what will they not do to create the time. Much the same would go for any time required from the University. It seems like this a project with national drivers, national direction and little discernible movement. The project was meant to be well under way now, in fact on the redrafted plan I think it was to be in place by 2010...well it is difficult to see how this is going to happen. I wonder why so little has been done?? Any ideas greatly appreciated.

The first covert topic is to work as a group, work out who will lead, and come up with some sort of collective wisdom. Well so far three people have contributed to the group, and I think that includes me limping in late after my latest ECA. So I presume something is missing here in terms of creating a community of practice.
1. We do have a shared domain of interest, on the same course doing the same topic etc.
2. The community- well some of us are just not meeting together yet so there is no community as such, or at least only a very small one.
3. The Practice this takes time
In the virtual learning world how do we establish the initial connections that link people in...I wonder if the missing participants even know they are being missed? No one emailed me to see if I was going to join in or not; which might be just as well since the ECA writing makes me a little irascible, but I might have tried to turn up if only to apologise for my distraction.

Oh well enough ramblings off to do some reading. I shall start with the core text nobody had put thier name against. After reading this I shall post.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A few collected comment about why Twitter is found useful be some students on H800 (Open University Masters in Distance and Online Learning Course).

Phil GreaneyPhilGreaney@kevhickeyuk yes, me too - I like to see the group members within the wider context of Twitter, and the various ed-tech experts who use itabout 3 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to kevhickeyuk

kev hickeykevhickeyuk@PhilGreaney e.g. on twitter we can choose our network and are not limited to our assigned tutor groups. (although I enjoyed my group)about 4 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to PhilGreaney

kev hickeykevhickeyuk@PhilGreaney Yep, I think there are lots of reasons why twitter is working better that the forums, for some of us.about 4 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to PhilGreaney

@kevhickeyuk I have to agree about Twitter and my network. I could have done more on the forums, but never got into them away being awayabout 5 hours ago from TweetDeck in reply to kevhickeyuk

kev hickeykevhickeyukBTW, I feel that through Twitter I have developed a better support/ friend network than I did on my Face to Face PGCE evening course #H800about 5 hours ago from TweetDeck

carolshergoldcarolshergold@leshere @rosemary20 @paulc_h800 i'm in twitter because other people are here and i'm liking the #h800 eca support.3:47 PM Sep 14th from web

Phil GreaneyPhilGreaney@leshere always feels much broader than my tutor group; useful for sharing links, ideas and support; replaces forums for me3:43 PM Sep 14th from TweetDeck in reply to leshere

Sunday, 6 September 2009

FIrst Reflection H808

I suppose the most striking thing about H808 so far is the use of an apparently cut down Moodle for forums. After First Class I feel very clumsy here, I like the email notifications but find it difficult to get an overview of the eifferent forums. I am aghast at the lack of scope for personalisation. It seems to me that part of the task in the first instance is to establish an online personality. Of course we can do this with text alone, or perhaps text with a photograph or two. However it seems a shame that it is not possible to change the font or the colour of the font, nor even the size of the font. If my memory serves me right I was able to do this on JANET in 1985 so we are not talking new technologies here. In terms of design of the Moodle interface we see I was wondering who was consulted in terms of potential users since this seems fundamental to good design, providing we might hope some sort of starting point for the process.

I suppose what I am looking for here is an interface that fosters the creation of Personalised Learning Environments and gives a clear space where these can be shared. SO I could log on and see the other members of the course and then enter their personalised environment...almost a la Second life. The Wiki for blogs provides some of this but it is almost completely devoid of personality: compare entries to those on Twitter tor Facebook, where the simple addition of a small picture makes an impact...or am I alone in seeing this.

All in all it is not the course that has impressed and depressed but the Moodle environment. 'E learning' can and should be more interesting than this. Ho hum...the course fotunately seems to be covering ground well outside the OU environment which makes it seem interesting and I anticipate having some fun and games.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

This post is about part of my H800 course with the OU. We are asked:

1. What is your experience of being a learner? The question implies a separate state that I do not accept. My learning is now inextricably linked to the rest of me and is not separable. Technology has for me cut the restraints of time and place that used to confine learning: this is about emancipation perhaps.

2. What tools and resources do you use? Click on the link that is above and you will see my crude attempt. Again we seem to be asked to separate learning form other activities, but I do not do this in life. I sit here at my laptop watching preparations for YMG and completing course materials and playing a game in the background, and just checking on the weather for a trip later today…multitasking merges our worlds and our landscapes

3. What are your views on different technologies?

I found them difficult to group and was surprised by home many tools I used. No wonder that I have so little time…no wonder that this course is in a perpetual state of catching up.

I think that we have an increasing choice of tools that are easier and friendlier to access, can anyone remember using JANET?

4. Can you think of examples where technology has made a significant difference to the way you learn?

My learning is more diffuse, merged in with other aspects of my life and moving seemingly without much effort from the formal to the informal. I am freed to learn whenever and wherever I wish. I am bereft if cut from the net and go to some length to reconnect. I would find it hard to afford the cost and time involved in studying for my Masters if it involved going to Milton Keynes. I would have to spend time in the library stacks locating, reading and note taking. Technology has set me free. What about you?

We are then asked to go on and explore bad experiences, but I am not sure I can think of any apart from my frustratingly slow and old desktop in my seminar room. I resort to prayer, brute force and lots of restarts. I would be interested to hear about anyone who finds technology impedes learning.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Change in Higher Education

Foucault tells us that power is "a complex strategic situation in a given society [social setting]". In terms of Higher education it is worth thinking about this.

I find it helpful to think of power as ‘authority’ which in simple terms seems to be power that is in some way legitimate. The question really is whether there is a change in the authority relations within Higher Education and to what extent these are driven by technological changes in the way that Education might be delivered or contrastingly the way that the authority relations drive the choice of technology; in essence what is promoted within a given institution. In order to examine this further though we would need to look at the way that there might be change that is not directly the effect of technology but about a change in the ‘social setting’.

Higher education has, I think, undergone just such a change. Higher education used to be the preserve of the few; I can distinctly remember my first lecture as an undergraduate, from the Vice Chancellor, which started with, ‘You are the few, the happy, select, chosen few, in the top 5%...’ In 1939 about 2% of the age cohort (mostly drawn from the male side) might have gone on to Higher Education…the figure is now nearer 40%? That is in the context of the UK, the contrast in India or China is even greater. This forms part of an historical trend in recent centuries to ever greater levels of formal education. The question is what causes this change.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

This is part of the work for my H800 course. We are asked to read Read Web 2.0 for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education by Tom Franklin and Mark van Harmelen on behalf of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, and then answer as below. Reflecting on this it is a traditional top down task dressed up in web technology in itself. But then maybe it is that for which we pay.

1. What proportion of people in different age groupings are doing more than reading the Web? (See the table on page 6.) I thought this rather interesting, see below for my interpretation of the data. I had previously supposed that the older fifth of the population (placed in one group here??) would have been more active. I also wondered if within any given group of contributors what the relative size and frequency of contributions were. There is other evidence which suggests that this might be quite disproportionate with some very frequent contributors and others who ‘pop something in’ from time to time.

2. What does this suggest about the experience of Web 2.0 that the majority of users have? Does it embody the claimed characteristics of Web 2.0 or is it closer to those of Web 1.0? (See section 2.5 of the report.) The suggestion is clearly that many users of Web 2 actually function at a web 1 level, there ‘contribution’ to the common weal is not readily apparent. It would be interesting to explore in greater depth the barriers to becoming a contributor. On one level some do not wish to develop an online persona due to personal preference, constraints of time and so on. However there is also evidence to suggest that users feel constrained form participating, worried that they might cause offence or upset some higher level debate of which they are unaware. Some, certainly amongst my students, are still finding their academic voice. It might also be that participation is not encouraged; one might suspect that this is all to do with the power relations in Higher Education. For example Wikipedia is widely held to be not to authoritative…and yet at times speaks with greater authority than many peer reviewed articles so one might wonder if what we see here is a power shift, with those losing power making loud complaint.

3. Do the reports of projects using ICT at the universities of Warwick, Leeds, Brighton, Edinburgh and Klagenfurt provide evidence in support of Martin Weller’s view that universities are creating a centralised and top-down version of technology in current applications to teaching and learning? In as much as several examples are ‘walled gardens’ yes: this keeps all knowledge and information inside the Universities control. This is something that I have discussed before, on courses that I tutor there was a migration of students from Monitored forums in First Class to a free forum using Facebook: the origins of the original break were because posts were being censored by the moderators (for containing critical comments about tutors, and this was quite clearly their expected role so does not reflect on them personally). Some tutors were actively engaged in discussing ways of preventing the formation of breakaway groups and there were clear issues about power and ownership involved. Institutions have a prime objective of self preservation: to let go too much might prejudice this.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

We are under control!

As part of our H800 course we use First Class (FC). This can be used as an agent of control over students and tutors alike. Consider these functions (much loved by many tutors)
1. It is easy to collect posts by any individual together so working out how much we have done is made simple.
2. There is the power to delete messages by anyone with the right priviledges (not sure htis has been used on H800 but it is quite defitely used elsewhere).
3. Even if the student does not write they leave clear and easily observed footprints. WHo has opened a post and whether they have downloaded anything is easy to see.
4. Outside of First Class it is easy to see who has signed in and when they last did so.

The fact that the new Moodle Platform may not replicate some of these functions is casuing distress to some tutors. SO we might choose to assume the current VLE is used as an agent of hierarchical control, at least to some extent. Here is a question: does the INteractive WHiteboaard fulfil the same function in school. Is the IWB an agent of control, sucking in the minds and eyes of the pupils like some sort of sick hypnosis?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

SO now I am trying to think about Web2 and power. We have a very current example unfolding in front of our eyes in Tehran. the BBC amongst others is reporting the role played by Web 2 technologies in spreading 'knoweledge' . Twitter delayed its upgrade apparently after a request not to dirupt its role in acting a chanel of communication speaks of this. This is knowledge creation taken out of the halls of academia and into the world. Knowledge truth and falsehood all revealed to our gaze. WHat is suprising me is that the purportedly powerful, the ruling elite, appear to be unable to effectively silence this event. Restrictions on journalists, closing down of services and feeds and the young in Tehran still manage to carry on twittering. There must be despots the world over who are looking on with interest and not a little concern. In my H800 course I am menat to be citing form previous activities, here I am citing from the current: but I think it fundamentally supports the notion that Web2 is shifting the way we learn and the way 'knowledge' is created.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Thinking about the history of Higher education it is possible to see a tension between encouraging what we might loosely call ‘free thought’ and enforcing academic conformity. I suspect but cannot easily demonstrate that this tension is not new, but is probably as old as Higher Education itself.

I think it is possible to argue that Web 2 (using the term broadly) tips the balance of academic power towards ‘free thought’. On H800 we have encountered a variety of tools and articles which support this, from this I am selecting two. My first is Wikipedia and Baker’s article in the Guardian. ( . Obviously we now have access to information which was perhaps available before, but was certainly not so easy to access. However Wikipedia is not just opening up access to knowledge, it is passing control of ‘knowledge’ from the many to the few. Web 2 is changing the way knowledge is stored and safeguarded. Wikipedia offers the chance for each and every one of us to add our bit to the commonwealth of what we know. More to come…

Saturday, 6 June 2009

H800 Week 17 Activity 1a

Week 17 1a video

We look at this video

This is a video with which I am very familiar, I used it as a student on E891 (educational research) to challenge the consensus view on what research was.

The suggestion is that you try listening to the video without the sound:

It had never occurred to me to mess with the medium: though as someone who believes there is a useful message in ‘The medium in the MassAge’ it should have occurred to me. It would have been interesting to start with just the sound track and see what response that evoked (but then that is the musician in me).

The messages for me in this video are:

1. The ‘traditional distributive’ approach to HE (and by implication economics) in particular is something less than perfect

2. That these students are in a time of change (but they are ethnographers I think a interesting group of people who think carefully about evidence and behaviour)

3. That technology does have an impact, some students study times seem very short compared to the hours I put in a just computerised era. (I was not a ‘hardworking’ student)

4. Technologies might be used to address some of the real world problems but we have seen other technologies as being the saving of the world before.

With the sound off the message for me is about anachronistic approaches to learning. The hall is empty, stripped of any feeling, sad lonely isolated damp like the main hall in a great old castle (see above). Imagine if you can what this space would have been like packed with a mass of smelly, raucous humanity with all the injustices and glories, the victories and defeats, joys and pathos that comprised Medieval Society. SO different to the Heritage sanitised, empty soulless space neatly presented on for you to view.

I can remember the first time I got to university the thrill of sitting in a large lecture hall and listening to some very distant (quite eminent) professor…profess. Then as now I can fall asleep almost anywhere and did so at about 40 minutes, 2/3 of the way through the opening remarks. SO even full of life the lecture hall (now replaced by the podcast?) was dead in the water.

When we come to the student messages to whom do they think they are speaking…’the establishment’? If so who are the people who make up this group (some sort of special tribe?) or is the group created by the on looking students themselves, their own social construction. Or is this addressed to the world…if so it means the connected world since this video demands an internet connection.

The messages seem to say this is my life and I do not like it much, but it is better than the lives of many (many of whom will not see the message). That this is how I live and it is not always so good.

Then in the final ‘chapter’ technology shows how the rescue of the students and the world (by implication) can be made, but this is irritatingly contrasted with a 19th century quote from Josiah Bumstead. Of course all the students were doing was writing on their own ‘chalkboards’ and then using video to display to a worldwide audience.

I assume lots of us will find this mirror of the first video

All this casts my mind back to the 'disestablishment' of my youth. It might be worth thinking about what is said in Illich's introduction to 'De schooling Society'

It may also be interesting to compare the sensible and careful ethographic research in the given video with 'another brick in the wall': this is of course not 'research'.

I hope this will evolve and plan to post to my blog I have already made this post 3 times and it is getting boring constantly deleting and adding to it. There will also be the notes I was supposed to write.