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October 11th, 2010OpenEd2010 and Drumbeat

Simon Buckingham Shum from the SL team will be in Barcelona next month for the co-located Open Education Conference and Mozilla Drumbeat Festival.

Here’s a preview of the article on SocialLearn that we’ll present at OpenEd, reviewing some of the design rationale for SocialLearn, currently in internal testing here at Open U:

Buckingham Shum, S. and Ferguson, R. (2010). Towards a social learning space for open educational resources. OpenEd 2010: Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 Nov 2010, Barcelona. Eprint:

Look forward to seeing you there, and look out at Drumbeat for the related demos of Cohere (opening night Science Fair), a social web annotation and knowledge mapping tool tuned for inquiry, sensemaking and learning. This forms part of our thinking on what a Collective Intelligence infrastructure might be not only for social learners, but also as a resilience platform for stakeholders in the open educational resources movement:

Buckingham Shum, S. and De Liddo, A. (2010). Collective intelligence for OER sustainability. OpenEd 2010: Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 Nov 2010, Barcelona. Eprint:

YouTube replay

October 13th, 2009It’s not about failure

‘A quarter unable to read properly’, ‘150,000 children unable to read and write at 11’ – these were some of this year’s education headlines in the UK. These were simplified summaries – these school children are not necessarily unable to read; they are ‘functionally illiterate’. In other words, they can read, but they are not judged to do so well enough to deal with the everyday requirements of life.

My children bring comprehension passages home from school: extracts from tv guides, bus timetables and the like. And, yes, like many adults, they find it difficult to make sense of these. But these aren’t part of their world. They can text for bus information, and find anything they want to watch on BBC iplayer or YouTube.

Why not test yourself on their terms? Here’s an extract from the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card game official rulebook:

“Continuous Effect
“You use this type of effect just by declaring its activation during
your Main Phase. (See Turn Structure, page 26) There are some
Ignition Effects that have a cost to activate, like discarding
cards from your hand, Tributing a monster, or paying Life
Points. Because you can choose when to activate this type of
effect, it’s easy to create combos with them.”

Did you understand that? Now that you have read it: could you use continuous effect within a game? What would be the advantages of using it? Could you explain why anyone would tribute a monster, given that there is a cost to this? Or do you find that you are functionally illiterate when you try to operate in a ten-year-old’s world?

At this year’s Handheld Learning conference, John Paul Gee argued that children in the UK and the US who have been graded functionally illiterate can and do read high-level texts comparable to those read by doctoral students. They can do this if they are passionate about the subject – and if the reading relates to their experience. Give a child a manual in isolation and they will ignore it. Give a child a set of Yu-gi-oh! cards and they’ll play the game. Later they may choose to find the manual and make sense of it. No one fails Yu-gi-oh!

And the relevance for social learn? This is how social learning can – and should – be. It starts with, and is driven by, a passion, an interest, an experience. It is informed and guided by others, it takes place in a social setting, and it is a process of growth and development – not a scramble away from failure.

April 21st, 2009Shhh… we're back.

SocialLearn has become fondly known as ShhhocialLearn at The Open University as we went into a quiet corner to frankly think about what we’d done. We realised we’d thought quite a lot, as is the won’t of us academic types, but we hadn’t done much. This was followed by passionate declarations of “Just Do It” but we had a little more thinking to do. We hadn’t quite got to the crux of what would make SocialLearn more than just a “Facebook for Learning”. But after a few more months of thinking, aided this time by flipcharts and coloured pens, we have it. We think.

You’ll be able to judge for yourself later in 2009 when we launch the beta site. For now you’ll have to remain satisfied with the musings of the team as we get these thoughts into code.


You are invited to attend a workshop to hear about the OU’s SocialLearn project, and to contribute your views on social learning and teaching in a Web 2.0 world.

We are bringing together participants from educational institutions and business from across the country to discuss the potential and the pitfalls of learning, mentoring, and doing business on the Open, Social, Free and For-Fee Web.

  • What are the characteristics of web-native learners, and what tools do they want/need?
  • What new learning/business opportunities – and risks – are opened up by social networking and media sharing tools?
  • What do you think of the prototype tools that we will preview?
  • Do we need to reframe our ideas of learning and teaching?
  • What is a university, if many of its current services were disaggregated to specialist providers on the Web?

If interested, please email SociaLearn with a brief statement of your background, and what you would hope to add to these discussions.

On confirmation of your place, you will be invited to join the social network that provides our 24/7 space before, during and after the event. All accommodation, food and reasonable travel costs are covered. The workshop is a 24 hour event from noon 1-2 July, at Horwood House, near Milton Keynes.

Places have filled very quickly, so book fast. You are very welcome to contact the workshop coordinator if you have any enquiries:
Simon Buckingham Shum


Yesterday we finished the first SocialLearn workshop, with about 25 OU students, associate lecturers (OU learning mentors) and alumni. It’s been a busy 24 hours since yesterday when we gathered at lunchtime in the beautiful grounds of Horwood House in the Bucks countryside.

It’s always great to meet up with new people in the OU community, and this was a particularly energetic, passionate bunch with strong views on our topic, the “OU+Web 2.0”. It’s fair to say that there was a lot of excitement about what we’re doing in SL, as well as some pointed but friendly critique!

The Ning social network worked well as a place to introduce ourselves in advance and seed a few discussions, and then ran as a parallel virtual space alongside the face-face discussions and activities. Discussion and feedback continues even as I write. We now have a multimedia archive of the event (sorry, this one’s private at present) which we’re analysing, and using to tune the workshop in a few weeks’ time for the many non-OU people who wanted to join us!

Quite a few participants have blogged this now: I’ll use Liam Green-Hughes‘ post as a nice launchpad into the others…

Jo Badge asked if this is a new OU philosophy, Nigel Gibson reflected that the event was a chance to “an opportunity to share space with some really imaginative, smart, intelligent, bright, awesomely clever and switched-on people” […] Martin Weller reflected on the use of Twitter and how it added an extra dimension to the workshop.

And Gráinne Conole has posted some photos to show that even though there was a heck of a lot going on in Ning and Twitter, people did also talk to each other f-f occasionally…

Many, many thanks to you all for your engagement 🙂 Next up: Workshop 2.0 — inviting in the rest of the world.


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