Saturday, 21 August 2010

Bloom's taxonomy and Moodle

This is useful when designing a programme of learning.

Learning to love Moodle

Here is a great example of a Moodle site at

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Not everything in the garden is Rosicrucian

Do you know what the Rosicrucian cipher looks like?  If you don't, I guess that you would Google it. 

The Wiki definition is and defines it as "The pigpen cipher (sometimes referred to as the masonic cipher, Freemason's cipher, or Rosicrucian cipher) is a geometric simple substitution cipher which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid"

I have been surprised this week by how many people in the UK (13.9 million) have never used a computer, nor been Online.  This was brought into focus as my company ran an experiential team event for 20 people, the vast majority of whom almost ran away screaming when we brought out laptops to assist the learning process.  Only one person was brave enough to use the internet to search for the Rosicrucian Cipher, which would crack the code to give the all important "key to the bar".  The team comprised "Comfortable Off Liners"

Other examples of "Off Liners" this week are:
  1. A close colleague, "Gill" who still has her secretary print off his emails as she is unable/unwilling to learn how to use email.
  2. A friend who has to go to the library to read her emails as she cannot get the broadband to work at home
  3. Attempting to run training sessions at three local venues which had to be abandoned because the WiFi connection was not working
It strikes me that we are trying to decipher the Online code, which comprises a mix of a lack of competence and confidence along with the ability to get the technology working. As designers of blended learning we need to develop practical ways to encourage and support the "Off Liners" to be comfortable "On Liners".

This week my company begins its quest to encourage 1000 people to become "On Liners using the easy and enjoyable e-learning modules on

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

How to handle complexity and how to prepare for the unexpected - A checklist approach

We have four light switches in our hallway.  Every morning, I try at least two before I switch on the right light.  Should I mark the switches?

Yesterday, I gave my partner the alarm code to my office, so that he could (very kindly) finish off some decorating work.  My only way to remember the code is visual.  I look at the keypad and punch in the numbers unconsciously.  So, he is surprised when I cannot remember the numbers and in what sequence.  Well, he rang from his mobile with the sound of the alarm (which was blasting VERY LOUDLY) and desperately punching in the numbers I had given him.  Unfortunately, only a call to my colleague confirmed that I had given him the right numbers, but in the wrong order!  Should I have the code along with all my usernames and passwords tattooed on my arm?

We all make mistakes and some key questions in designing blended learning are:
  • How do we handle complexity?
  • How do you prepare yourself for the unexpected?
  • How do you do it well and not just a tick box exercise?

A checklist can help. 
According to a report in the Telegraph recently, 82 patients underwent operations on wrong part of body.  The World Health Organisation has devised a surgical checklist, similar to pre-flight checks between pilots, designed to eliminate errors through miscommunication.
Many NHS trusts have adopted the WHO checklist as a routine safety measure.

What checklists would help you in everyday life and what would a checklist for designing and delivering blended learning look like?  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Accounting for myself!

Payment on account
Today I received a letter from my accountant, which had the opposite effect to what I normally experience... sheer joy and relief.  I am owed a rebate because of the odd and unexplainable notion of "Payment on account".
Apparently I had paid way too much last year "On account" - I didn't plan to, nor wanted to - but the net effect is positive - the tax man owes me a lot of money.

Also today, I had to account for my actions in my action research project and have come to the conclusion that I may be in "research deficit" by a LONG way!  Have I squandered my time over the last three months - or has it been one of the best investments of my life???

Scarman House at Warwick University has been the claustrophobic and fattening food rich backdrop to my research ramblings, with 17  IFL/LSIS fellowship holders.  I currently feel a bit like my accountant must feel as she tries to gather all of the information ahe needs to make an assessment of my liability.  The information is available but not necessarily in the shape or form they need.

Key learning points are:
  • Make the question explicit
  • Define the "creative ways"
  • Define the context
  • Be clear about the methodology
  • Identify the implications for practice
The challenge with research is to ensure that it delivers a return on investment.

Social Learning - Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 - John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler 2008

Social Learning

Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0 - John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler 2008 EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 43, no. 1 (January/February 2008)

"The most profound impact of the Internet, an impact that has yet to be fully realized, is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning. What do we mean by “social learning”? Perhaps the simplest way to explain this concept is to note that social learning is based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions, especially with others, around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we are learning but on how we are learning.5 Compelling evidence for the importance of social interaction to learning comes from the landmark study by Richard J. Light, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, of students’ college/university experience. Light discovered that one of the strongest determinants of students’ success in higher education— more important than the details of their instructors’ teaching styles—was their ability to form or participate in small study groups. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.

The emphasis on social learning stands in sharp contrast to the traditional Cartesian view of knowledge and learning—a view that has largely dominated the way education has been structured for over one hundred years. The Cartesian perspective assumes that knowledge is a kind of substance and that pedagogy concerns the best way to transfer this substance from teachers to students. By contrast, instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of “I think, therefore I am,” and from the assumption that knowledge is something that is transferred to the student via various pedagogical strategies, the social view of learning says, “We participate, therefore we are.”

Khan’s Octagonal Framework 2007

Khan’s Octagonal Framework 2007
Program Evaluation in E-Learning

"A variety of factors are required to be addressed to create a meaningful learning environment. Each dimension in the framework represents a category of issues that need to be addressed. These issues help organize thinking, and ensure that the resulting learning program creates a meaningful learning experience."

Thriving in the 21st century: Learning Literacies for the Digital Age (LLiDA project)

Learning Literacies for the Digital Age

"The texture of social life is changing, with more and more people conducting and sustaining relationships via digital media. Many social practices, from purchasing to voting to registering for healthcare, can now be conducted online. In its recent statement on Digital Britain‘, the Government expresses an active intention to enhance this trend, and lists media literacies and IT skills‘ second only after access to the internet as a requirement for building a society of empowered and informed consumers and citizens".

Trends shaping technology and community, from Wenger et al (2005), are:

  • Fabric of connectivity – always on, virtual presence
  • Modes of engagement – generalised self-expression, mass collaboration, creative re-appropriation
  • Active medium – social computing, semantic web, digital footprint
  • Reconfigured geographies – homesteading of the web, individualisation of orientation
  • Modulating polarities – togetherness and separation, interacting and publishing, individual and group
  • Dealing with multiplicity – competing services, multi-membership, thin connections
  • New communities – multi-space, multi-scale, dynamic boundaries, social learning spaces.

Community of Inquiry Garrison and Vaughan 2008

Community of Inquiry
Blended learning, in the eyes of Garrison and Vaughan is not simply embedding educational technology into face-to-face instruction. Rather than suggesting “what and how” type of questions as Salmon did, they precisely introduce a holistic, reflective and self-sustainable Community of Inquiry Framework grounding on a strong educational theory.
It acts as a conceptual tool that helps the academics and blended learning practitioners who wish to evaluate and position the value of blended learning. If there is one point of criticism, it is that assessment - an important element of learning and teaching is not depicted in the framework.

The Blended Learning Continuum - Norah Jones, 2008

The Blended Learning Continuum

“It is challenging to find a widely accepted definition of blended learning, and even more difficult to find a core set of literature on blended learning mythologies or framework.”

With the consideration for all arguments against no standard models for blended learning, Professor Norah Jones at the University of Glamorgan suggests that the continuum of blended learning is a better guideline instead of a stage-like model for institutional wide adoption.

A Critical Review of the Blended Learning Models - Chew, Jones, Turner 2008

What shall we have for dinner?
This is the most complex question to answer when there are so many choices available, with so many fresh ingredients, ready made meals, options to eat out etc, etc.  Also, because there are so many choices, we often waste food and end up wishing we had made a different decision.  Trying to make decisions about how to design and deliver blended learning is as complex as deciding what to have for dinner.

There are many frameworks available from the current literature and my next few blog posts will illustrate those that I will be putting in my "kitchen" for use later on.  I also feel at this stage that the framework I need does not yet exist.  So I will be "collecting ideas" and then inventing my own "blender for blended learning".  Although, that is not necessarily a good idea as I gave my own Blender to the charity shop when we moved two years ago, after it sat in the cupboard for 20 years unused!!  I feel that a new metaphor will be needed...

Anyway here is one useful review:

Critical Review of the Blended Learning Models based on Maslow’s and Vygotsky’s Educational Theory,
Esyin Chew, Norah Jones, David Turner


An Ecology Framework
Wenger and Ferguson MS Wenger, C Ferguson - The Handbook of Blended Learning, 2005 - Pfeiffer & Co, describe how Sun Microsystem corporate adopted an ecology framework as a guide to their blended learning model.
They suggest five important backgrounds as
(1) Quality of Learning experience;
(2) Control over Learning Experience;
(3) Formal versus informal learning;
(4) Social nature of learning;
(5) Cost effectiveness.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Writing for research - tips and techniques

On the day that Cadbury is taken over by Kraft, I have given up eating chocolate, and may have replaced it with something even more addictive - WRITING!

Am I breaking any rules today by writing what I have just learnt about - which is writing for research - on my blog?

I feel as though I have eaten twenty Cadbury's selection boxes and have a bizarre buzz, a headache and feel sick at the same time.

Like a yummy selection box, there are so many ideas to choose from, the difficulty is selecting what words what will satisfy and how many words are just enough.

Having just taken part in a very useful discussion at Warwick University with 20 IFL research fellows, I now summarise my learning. These are tips that I will apply as I write up my action research about Blended Learning.

As George Orwell said, " Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations"

The other night my desk lamp would not switch on, so I changed the bulb but it didn't do the trick. I couldn't find a screwdriver to open the plug and change the fuse, so I broke it open with a knife. I feel that this is my approach to writing! I don't know the problem and I don't have the right tools or know how to use them - and so I stay in the semi-dark! Some wise words that illuminate my thinking are below:

Some rules about writing from George Orwell (written in 1946) are:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word where a short word will do
  3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent

Other valuable tips that I will apply, from Frank Coffield are:

"You give away your values with your adjectives and adverbs"

"Answer the following questions,

What has surprised me?

How do I feel about that and what does that do?

What is the black swan in this situation?"

A final thought about what is bad writing "The staleness of the imagery, the lack of precision"