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.