Archive for March, 2009

The next EATING talk

Friday, March 27th, 2009

The next talk of the EATING group will be on Thursday 30th April in the David Gorham Library (Venables N1015) at 2.30 p.m

(Note the change of date from EATING’s normal third Thursday in the month slot.)

Liam Green-Hughes and Rebecca Ferguson

Serious games: engaging, inspiring and motivating learners

‘If they’re learning with Nintendogs at infant school, Endless Ocean at junior school and Guitar Hero at secondary school – what will they expect from us?’ Liam and Rebecca consider the implications of the recent Game Based Learning conference in London.

The conference brought together educators, game designers, researchers and gamers to consider the impact that video games and social media are having on the quality of learning and teaching practice. It highlighted the changing profile of computer gamers and the growth in sales of games consoles. It also focused on broader shifts in technology use, with many moving away from television and towards social networks.

Keynote speaker Nolan Bushnell visualised a future in which students would learn in isolated pods, fed information via screens and headphones, and monitored by webcams. This nightmarish vision united other delegates in a torrent of comment in the Twitter stream. Others – particularly Scottish educators such as Derek Robertson – had a more positive message, demonstrating the use of games to engage, motivate and inspire learners.

Details of all EATING talks can be found on the EATING website

CAL ’09 conference

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Jon and Wendy are both presenting papers at the CAL 2009 conference in Brighton this week.

Jon’s paper is:

Equitability and Dominance in Online Forums: An Ecological Approach

Wendy’s paper (co-authored with Hilary Cunningham-Atkins) is:

Using tablet technologies in marking paperless assessment
H.A Cunningham-Atkins, W.A Fisher

Feedack from Wendy Fisher on CAL ’09 ‘Learning in Digital Worlds’ March 23-25th 2009

Brighton, UK
This conference covers the crucial debates on relevant issues being reflected on by researchers and practitioners in all areas and levels of: Educational Research, Evaluation, Learning Technologies, Teaching, Technology Enhanced Learning, Social Networking, Education Policy, examples of Practitioner work in Technology in Education and Learning. The main characteristic of this three day conference is its sheer breadth.  From educational theorists through to practitioners in education there was incredible inventiveness and innovation in the use/application of technologies in educational contexts.   

Dave Cliff, Bristol University was the first speaker, with his fast moving keynote entitled ‘Beyond current horizons: Eight socio-technical trends for the future’ – I went away with some understanding of the sheer magnitude of information storage in data sheds, blade servers, that will occur over the next ten year accompanied with angst as the ICT Systems of Systems (SoS) systems reach a complexity that will not be matched with current management capability.  Dave stated that we will need ‘systems thinkers’ an area of management, that is crucial for future handling of ICT SoS systems. He gave the following example of sharing of blade servers. It was impressive to hear of the three day growth of a company called Animoto. With just five employees, they developed software to allow, up-load of music to photos. At its peak the numbers of posts were 3750, at the end of the three day period.  For Animoto to handle that number of posts, in that time frame and not go under only happened as a result of, Amazon allowing them access to their data sheds and blade servers.    Josie Taylor, Open University gave the second presentation keynote Tuesday morning. Technology challenges us still, Technology is always changing, and Technology is not being used to its full capability.  Presentation, ended with how there is room for cross-over between the ‘Computing Scientist Community’ and the ‘Educationalist Community’ and synergies. Josie gave us the following reference from (Dewey, 1916 p88). It is incredible to believe that this was written just under 100 years ago and still resonates today.  ‘A society which is mobile, which is full of channels of the distribution of a change occurring anywhere, must see to it that its members are educated to personal initiative and adaptability. Otherwise they will be overwhelmed by the changes in which they are caught and whose significance or connections they do not perceive.’ 

Conference Presentations: I am always interested in reusable learning objects and I got a lot out of the Symposium: Design of learning objects for wider adoption: A combined CETL symposium.Chaired by Steve Swithenby, Open University, UK. Useful future events 6-7th July 2009 there is a WRP program RLO workshop available, contact There was significant use of what I call ‘rich pictures’ used in generation of RLO’s in D.Leeder’s presentation although terminology may differ, between me and this presenter..Also an RLO/GLO –Generative Leaning Object, authoring tool available free at the end of July, this new version available at  I liked the intuitive feel of this authoring tool and the pedagogy behind it. After flitting between presentations after Josie’s keynote and not finding some presentations terribly relevant to HE, I finally settled on the second day to a presentation on Pedagogic theory and pedagogic planning in digital worlds. L. Masterman, M.Manton,University of Oxford, UK. As this presentation was part of a strand of three other related presentations, these are my brief notes of the concluding discussion. There are theories and frameworks, frameworks better to relate to practice, help make decisions but are underpinned by theory.  Frameworks can be deeply embedded in theory but they are a way of articulating the practice and talking to practitioners and helping them take control and able to apply in their own learning.  The work of Gibbs and Simpson mentioned as example of framework well grounded in theory but with applicability. See the FAST project just Google -  Gibbs and Simpson for further reference. Not sure, what made me write the following but this is my last note ‘What a theory is, what is a framework, education is about how we frame formal learning experiences….educational theory’.  Tuesday afternoon I caught up with Jon Rosewell (Open University, UK) and listened avidly to his presentation entitled ‘ Equitability and Dominance in Online Forums: An Ecological Approach’. Taking indices of ecological diversity was a useful characterisation of an online community that gave unique indices. The analysis of the forums that Jon used in the study made me reflect, what are the characteristics of the most active participants in a forum? There may be links to work done by Hilary Cunningham-Atkins into participation in T171 forums. Further presentations in the themed strand that Jon’s presentation was in, dealt with themes around student participation and ended with a presentation from T.Savage, B. Tangney, Trinity College, Dublin University, Ireland, entitled ‘The formation and nature of voluntary blended community in post graduate education- a grounded theory study’ Whole strand of on-line activity had contributions from researchers working in University of St Thomas, USA, National University Tainan, Taiwan, Kent State University, USA, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan and National Research Council, Italy.Last presentation for me on the

Tuesday was a talk by M.Jara, H.Mellar. Institute of Education, and University of London, UK entitled ‘Quality Enhancement for e-learning courses: The role of student feedback’. Her final conclusions in her abstract ‘e-learning courses require stronger definition of co-ordination, communication, and planning strategies, as well as more clearly defined leadership roles than face-to-face course in order to enable student feedback and representation procedures to be effective for the quality enhancement for e-learning courses’Main issue appeared to be that e-learning needs to have the same level of quality assurance as face to face, as clearly this may have gone adrift in HE.

Final day started with a keynote delivered by Roger Saljo, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.  I always love such presentations; my main note is ‘Artefacts are important for retaining social memory’ and that ‘humans used their hands before language’. This was a nice affirmation for me, as my work centres on hand-writing and I suppose the artefact I work with is a tablet PC. One of his examples was a ruler, – ‘this is how we do measurement’.   His talk started with the start of humans recording their activity and went onto describe cave paintings as iconic and stone tablets with marks as symbolic.  He ended with ‘interpretations of learning in the digital age’ — Meta-communicative and meta-cognitive skills modelling, Learning becomes increasingly conceptual and procedural but in co-ordination with material cultural tools and Learning is the ability to transform and recontextulaise in ???….  but are relevant to local needs ‘i.e, learning is in the performance. I had a lot of time for this keynote, he talked of transformations of learning, giving the use of a GPS system as an example of not needing to know or understand the sequential steps, i.e, we do not need to know what is inside the ‘black box’ to become a skilled user of the technology, but we have to trust the ‘black box’.We understand as part of practices that we do. We do not necessarily understand as part of a hierarchy of knowledge, such as in the disciplines.

Staying to end of the final keynote led to my flight up six floors to give my own presentation, which thankfully I had up-loaded to the laptop provided by CAL’09, at 8.00 am that morning, along with making sure that the microphone worked.Just before my presentation, was the first presentation on the theme I was included in, which was about embedment of virtual communication, text, voice, etc. First presentation called, Getting our heads out of the clouds: Using tag clouds to reflect on the emphasis of materials presented in power-point slides. Presenter,  Damian Gordon at damian.gordon@comp.dit.isDublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. Great presentation on use of tag clouds throughout a course.    Fifteen people attended my presentation, quite respectable and very engaged with my twenty minute presentation and ensuing hot debate has left me with further ideas about how this research does interest other HEI’s,  not just those institutions involved in distance learning.  I think this is because the traditional HEI’s do have a serious interest in the delivery of distance learning and this includes international communities as well.

Wendy Fisher – 29 March 2009  

New ‘core’ member

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Helen Donelan is now a core member of the group. Helen was an associate member before (because she also has interests relevant to other research groups). But now she’s decided to ‘fave’ us (!) - which is great news.

Helen will initially be working with Judith and Karen on the use of wikis and synchronous conferencing (using Elluminate) for learning. She’ll also be pursuing her prior work on social networking for women’s career development.

Co-related Research Group in Cisco Academic Community

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Whilst a little more subject and discipline specific the Cisco Learning Institute the educational research charity, autonomous from Cisco Systems and the Cisco Academy programme has been working with the Cisco Networking Course Team at the Open University amongst many others to develop end deploy the Networking Education Research Collaborative which can be found at

This research community is still in its infancy, work has already begun to share thoughts, ideas and research, with the site supporting an independent repository for papers as well as work spaces for projects.

As a member of TERG and an academic within MCT at the Open University you are more than welcome to sign up, submit papers and create potential links to international academics with a similar mindset and background.

With over 37000 educators in the international programme, many who work in research as well as teaching we are in the the unique position of being able to support the development of this initiative.

Journal paper on feedback published

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Mirabelle’s journal paper is in print – many congratulations to her!

Walker, M. (2009) ‘An investigation into written comments on assignments: do students find them usable?’, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 67-78.

This paper reports on Mirabelle’s investigation of the value to students of different kinds of feedback by tutors. This is work that she carried out for her COLMSCT fellowship

Journal paper published

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Helen, Clem and Karen, together with Gill Kirkup from IET, have just had a journal paper published:

Donelan, H., Herman, C., Kear, K. and Kirkup, G. (2009). ‘Patterns of online networking for women’s career development’. Gender in Management, Vol. 24, Issue 2, pp. 92-111.

The paper reports on a study of how women in science, engineering and technology make use of online networking (e.g. email, forums, social network sites) to help develop their careers.

Writing a book

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Karen has had a proposal accepted for a book about online and social networking communities in education.

The book will be aimed at educators in HE and FE, and will be focused on good practice advice, but also grounded in research.

It will include work on ‘web 2.0′ communication tools such as wikis and various kinds of social network sites. 

The book will be published by Routledge in 2010

New conference submissions

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

We’ve recently made several submissions to conferences …

John and Karen have a paper accepted for the EISTA conference in Florida in July. The paper is about an evaluation of wikis in T175. It is part of a themed session on Online Communities by several members of COLMSCT. John and Jill Shaw (COLMSCT Associate Fellow and OU Associate Lecturer) also have a paper about fOUndIt in this session.  

Helen, Judith and Karen have submitted a paper to the ALT-C conference in Manchester in September. The paper is about students using wikis for group projects in T209

Roger, Paul Herring and Kieron Sheehy (FELS) have also submitted to ALT-C. Paul is a part-time PhD student supervised by Roger, Kieron and Karen. The paper will present Paul’s work-in-progress research related to using a ‘virtual tutor’ and RFID system to help improve the communication skills of children with autism.