Here is a list of the 12 most viewed posts over the last 6 months. [Last updated 23 August 2014.]
2,610 - If ever you need a really comprehensive "title" drop-down
887 - Mathematics summer school closed in Turkey because it involved "education without permission"
249 - Both episodes of Dylan Wiliam's "The Classroom Experiment" now available
209 - My report from half way through Keith Devlin's Coursera "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" course
181 - Using TrueCrypt instead of EFS to encrypt data on a laptop
163 - New research on how MOOC video production affects student engagement
150 - Elegant word or tag-cloud creator
147 - 16 bits per second - the bandwidth of consciousness
108 - My end-of-course report from Keith Devlin's Coursera "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" course
79 - Palestine - surely it is Israel that must yield?
Reda Sadki reminded me about an interview I did by email for Epic (now Leo) in July 2005 in which I'd banged on about wanting to ban the term blended learning.
The interview was long gone from the Epic/Leo site. But the Internet Archive's trusty Wayback Machine had it, and all but two of the links still worked, at least after a fashion.
I re-read it, initially with trepidation, then with quite a bit of relief. Here it is. (I've fixed the dud links and added one to a review I subsequently did of The user illusion, cutting consciousness down to size by Tor Nørretranders.)
Q What's your INTEREST in learning/online learning?
I spent 25 years working in Further Education, teaching and developing TUC courses for trade union representatives. Through the TUC I got involved in pre-internet online distance learning courses, using a Swedish conferencing system called PortaCOM. I applied what I’d learned in the creation of LeTTOL, a web-based online course for teachers wanting to learn how to teach on-line – http://www.lettol.ac.uk/, which, several thousand learners later, won a National Training Award in 2003. My interests now center, through ALT, on establishing learning technology as a discipline, and learning technologist as a profession, and in the other half of the week mainly on helping organisations implement sustainable e-learning.
Q What interactive technology do you use and have at HOME?
Several radios and a telly. All four people in my household have networked computers, one of which is a Mac, and one of which is used for making music. My sons use iPODs. No Digital TV. No games machines. No self-filling fridge. I have and use a lot of books, which you could class as an interactive technology.
Q What stands out as your MOST EFFECTIVE learning experience?
A week training to be a trade union studies tutor. Extremely challenging. Plenty of feedback. Combining learning about a curriculum with learning how to tutor it. Reading “Inside the Black Box – Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment” by Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam. An in-a-nutshell summary of why giving learners timely and motivating formative feedback is the most important determinant of how fast and well they learn. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/education/publications/blackbox.html [Now available here: http://www.webcitation.org/6VELZxcop - SS 28/6/2015.]
Q What stands out as your LEAST EFFECTIVE learning experience?
A year training to be a further education teacher. Diffuse. Lacking in practicality. Thin on (useful) theory.
Q Any really NEW AND INNOVATIVE IDEAS out there?
When I see the word “innovative” my heart sinks, even more so when I see the words “really new and innovative”. This is because I believe in honing and improving ideas and methods which work, rather than moving to the next fad, and in e-learning there are a lot of fads. Of course the danger with this approach is that you can be blind to necessary or beneficial innovations. So, if pushed I would say that applications like http://www.jot.com/ which enable users to build Wikis without any special syntax are worth keeping an eye on, as are tools like http://search.yahoo.com/cc which finds content across the Web that has a Creative Commons license.
Q What do you want that DOESN'T YET EXIST in learning/online learning?
Machine translation! But this interesting piece about “The Google Translator” - http://blog.outer-court.com/archive/2005-05-22-n83.html - perhaps shows that something sitting in the background which enables people to converse with each other online when using different languages is not that far off.
Q Any views on the phrase and concept 'BLENDED LEARNING'?
The term provided a bolt hole for traditionalists wanting to defend face-to-face teaching against the encroachment of online learning.
Q Any views on GAMES in learning/online learning?
I trust my sons’ judgement that the value of games in learning is exaggerated. But I think I am probably missing something.
Q Any views on INTERACTIVE TV in learning/online learning?
In a previous role I helped develop “Keep IT In The Family”. This was a simple quiz – a game, even – to test a user’s IT knowledge, at three levels of difficulty, and to recommend suitable IT courses depending on the user’s knowledge. It was served from The Sheffield College and was freely available over the Internet, or to Telewest DiTV subscribers. At one point, judged by the number of users, Keep IT In The Family was one of Telewest’s most popular interactive services. That said, I feel that learning is a category of activity which normally requires learners to be able to concentrate, free from interruption, with a means of making complex inputs (currently using a keyboard). TVs typically neither have the necessary input devices, nor is a living room a conducive environment for learning.
Q Any views on MOBILE DEVICES in learning/online learning?
I’ve not yet read “JISC Landscape Study on the use of Mobile and Wireless Technologies for Learning and Teaching in the Post-16 Sector”. Certainly the pressure is now on content developers to make sure that content will run adequately on a wider range of access devices than just a PC or a Mac. And users of mobile devices are paying for data by volume rather than at a flat rate. So they may not thank you for media-rich content, even if it is educationally effective.
Q Any views on OPEN SOURCE in learning/online learning?
Open Source. I use Firefox and Thunderbird as my main browser and email client. Moodle, for example, is certainly presenting an interesting challenge to LMS vendors. But in 5 years time I think there will continue to be a “mixed economy” of software products in the provision of e-learning.
Open Content. Initiatives like MIT’s Open CourseWare - http://ocw.mit.edu/ - and the stunning W3 Schools web site - http://www.w3schools.com/ - show the power and significance of freely available e-learning content.
Q What's your favourite PHRASE/QUOTE/EPIGRAM in learning/online learning?
Because Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man” was so influential, and because so many of his quotes make you think, I was disappointed to find that I’d been wrongly attributing “A word is worth a thousand pictures” to him, including the accent. It is still my favourite phrase in learning/online learning, mind.
Q Could you recommend a PIECE OF RESEARCH in learning/online learning?
Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: a systematic and critical review. This report, by Frank Coffield, David Moseley, Elaine Hall, and Kathryn Ecclestone, is freely available for download from the Learning and Skills Development Agency. It critically reviews the literature on learning styles, and it calls into question the way in which learning styles inventories are in widespread use, often with next to no evidence as to their validity. http://www.lsda.org.uk/pubs/dbaseout/download.asp?code=1543 [Now available here: http://www.webcitation.org/66qgBO959 - SS 28/6/2015.]
Q Could you recommend a BOOK in learning/online learning?
The user illusion, cutting consciousness down to size by Tor Nørretranders (ISBN: 0140230122). [Review here http://fm.schmoller.net/2007/03/16_bits_per_sec.html - SS 28/5/2015.] More about the nature of consciousness than about learning, but provides convincing evidence that the conscious mind is only able to deal with a tiny proportion of the data it receives - perhaps as little as 30 bits per second. The mind then creates a “media-rich” consciousness from this thin data-stream. We’ve evolved to interpret the sensually complex real world in an effective way; but that does not mean that our brains are good at effectively interpreting media-rich learning materials, which should hence be used (if used) with great care.
Q Could you recommend a WEBSITE in learning/online learning?
W3 Schools - http://www.w3schools.com/.
Q If you were to pick one CONFERENCE to attend in learning/online learning, what would it be?
ALT-C. Why? I work for the organisation which runs it. ALT-C has enough depth and breadth for an astute delegate to be able to plot a varied, interesting, and rewarding course through it. The booking deadline is 12/8/2005.
Q Any words/phrases/ideas you'd like to BAN from learning/online learning?
Phrase. Compelling content.
Idea. Digital natives and immigrants (which is not to say that Mark Prensky’s Digital Game-based Learning (ISBN: 0071363440) has nothing useful to say – both it and he have!).
Q Anything in learning/online learning that you strongly believed in, on which you have now CHANGED YOUR MIND?
I used strongly to believe that learning without some face-to-face contact between learners is unavoidably and badly second best. Thus online distance courses just had to start and preferably finish with a face-to-face session, and if possible have face-to-face activity in the middle. I now know that if the course design is right, and if the learners are suitably experienced – both big ifs - this is not the case.
Q Anything else you'd like to add?
The impact of “always on” wireless connectivity on learning/online learning will be bigger than many people realise. Partly because of how access devices will change (getting smaller, more multipurpose, and in some respects less usable), and partly because of how different kinds of data will be available to be integrated into the content (for example positional, location-specific, or “friends-close-by” data).
Hope you found the questions stimulating. Thanks for your answers.
A terrific article by Anna Hansch, Lisa Hillers, Katherine McConachie, Christopher Newman, Thomas Schildhauer, and Philipp Schmidt.
Well, I think it is terrific, because if chimes with so much of my experience working on the design and development of Citizen Maths and FutureLearn's Assessment for Learning in STEM Teaching, and as a committed MOOC learner.
Here's the abstract:
Video is an essential component of most Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other forms of online learning. This exploratory study examines video as an instructional medium and investigates the following research questions:
- How is video designed, produced, and used in online learning contexts, specifically with regard to pedagogy and cost?
- What are the benefits and limitations of standardizing the video production process?
This report presents an overview of current video practice: the widespread use of video and its costs, the relevance of production value for learning, the pedagogical considerations of teaching online, and the challenges of standardizing production. Findings are based on a literature review, our observation of online courses, and the results of 12 semi-structured interviews with practitioners in the field of educational video production. Based on these findings, we have developed a set of recommendations designed to raise awareness and stimulate critical reflection on video’s role in online learning. Additionally, we discuss some need for further research on the effectiveness of video as a pedagogical tool and highlight under-explored uses of the medium, such as live video.
Work-shy dole scroungers is another of the informative, data-rich, "integrating" posts that dominate Flip Chart Fairy Tales (Business Bullshit, Corporate Crap and other stuff from the World of Work). The post's comparison of UK and US data is particularly interesting.
"In 2012, the number of working families in poverty overtook the number without work. (See previous post.) Among those households below the official poverty line, the working poor now outnumber the unemployed, retired and sick put together. Not only do the in-work poor outnumber the workless, nearly half of them are in families where all the adults have jobs.
Here is an eye-catching section from Ricardo Hausmann's "The Education Myth":
And there is more bad news for the “education, education, education” crowd: Most of the skills that a labor force possesses were acquired on the job. What a society knows how to do is known mainly in its firms, not in its schools. At most modern firms, fewer than 15% of the positions are open for entry-level workers, meaning that employers demand something that the education system cannot – and is not expected – to provide.
When presented with these facts, education enthusiasts often argue that education is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for growth. But in that case, investment in education is unlikely to deliver much if the other conditions are missing. After all, though the typical country with ten years of schooling had a per capita income of $30,000 in 2010, per capita income in Albania, Armenia, and Sri Lanka, which have achieved that level of schooling, was less than $5,000. Whatever is preventing these countries from becoming richer, it is not lack of education.
A country’s income is the sum of the output produced by each worker. To increase income, we need to increase worker productivity. Evidently, “something in the water,” other than education, makes people much more productive in some places than in others. A successful growth strategy needs to figure out what this is.
Make no mistake: education presumably does raise productivity. But to say that education is your growth strategy means that you are giving up on everyone that has already gone through the school system – most people over 18, and almost all over 25. It is a strategy that ignores the potential that is in 100% of today’s labor force, 98% of next year’s, and a huge number of people who will be around for the next half-century. An education-only strategy is bound to make all of them regret having been born too soon.
Edited image of crash site from BBC News
In August 2006 my nephew Toby was killed by a truck whose driver, Colin Wrighton, an obstructive sleep apnoea sufferer, had "blacked out" (Wrighton's phrase) at the wheel. The crash-scene is above.
I wrote in Fortnightly Mailing about the issue in the years following the CPS decision not to prosecute Wrighton. Examples:
Last week we launched the Four-week wait campaign for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome [22p PDF], an attempt to get renewed attention in the UK on the dangers of untreated obstructive sleep apnoea, and, in particular, to guarantee that vocational drivers can be treated for the condition within four weeks, thereby limiting or entirely eliminating the need for them to surrender their license and their livelihood following a diagnosis.
Today, Radio 4's iPM programme broadcast a 15 minute piece about OSA, featuring interviews from 2008 with my sister and brother in law (Toby's parents), and with Colin Wrighton; and a new, long and informative interview with Professor John Stradling, a sleep specialist who is closely involved in the four week wait campaign. Here is a recording of the interview [20MB MP3 file - you may need to "right click" and save the file locally in order to play it]. Or you should be able to stream it from the BBC's web site. I've also uploaded a five-page text transcript of the programme [23kB PDF].
If you want to help us achieve our objectives, write to your MP urging him or her to press the Department of Health, NICE, DVLA, and HSE to work together to ensure that vocational drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnoea are given a cast iron guarantee to be treated within less than 4 weeks. Take particular note of the BBC's interview with John Stradling, when he talks about:
Here are some links to a couple of past posts about the Internet Archive, which is playing a crucial role in archiving the Web and digital artefacts such as films, games and software:
Two recent pieces give added emphasis to the importance of Kahle's work, from different angles:
Clayton Wright - source
The 32nd Educational Technology & Education Conferences Listing [90 pages, 1.15 MB DOC] has been published by Clayton Wright.
Here are the first two paragraphs of Clayton's covering note to the list.
The 32nd edition of the conference list covers selected events that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. Only listings until June 2015 are complete as dates, locations, or Internet addresses (URLs) were not available for a number of events held from July 2015 onward. In order to protect the privacy of individuals, only URLs are used in the listing as this enables readers of the list to obtain event information without submitting their e-mail addresses to anyone. A significant challenge during the assembly of this list is incomplete or conflicting information on websites and the lack of a link between conference websites from one year to the next.
An explanation for the content and format of the list can be found at http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/2011/08/why-distribute-documents-in-ms-word-or-openoffice-for-an-international-audience/. A Word or an OpenOffice format is used to enable people with limited or high-cost Internet access to find a conference that is congruent with their interests or obtain conference abstracts or proceedings. Consider using the “Find” tool under Microsoft Word’s “Edit” tab or similar tab in OpenOffice to locate the name of a particular conference, association, city, or country. If you enter the country “Singapore” in the “Find” tool, all conferences that occur in Singapore will be highlighted. Or, enter the word “research” or “assessment”. (Note that key words such as “research”, “assessment” or “MOOCs” may not be present in the conference title, yet these topics could be discussed during a particular conference.) Then, “cut and paste” a list of suitable events for your colleagues.
But in case you cannot access the interview, here is a professionally created transcript [12 page 40kB PDF - not sure what is any IPR issues pertain to this.....].
Taken in the round, Hattie provides a calm and witty counter to many of the ideas used by what Pasi Sahlberg memorably describes as the Global Educational Reform Movement. [See also this 2012 interview with Pasi Sahlberg by John Hattie.]
Over the last 18 months, more-or-less since getting stretchered off a mountain in Norway, I've been leading work funded by the Ufi Charitable Trust to create Citizen Maths which is an open online maths course for adults.
In contrast to many (most?) open online courses the course is at what in England is known as "Level 2", which is the level that 16-year olds are expected to achieve.
The Citizen Maths web site went live on Wednesday, since when people have been signing up on the course, which is built in/on the cloud-based Google Course Builder. If adult education, the learning or teaching of mathematics, or online learning interest you, have a look at Citizen Maths, which tries to put into practice some of the things I've learned about open online courses since doing Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun's AI MOOC three years ago.
You may also be interested in some of the supporting material on the Citizen Maths "Information Hub", for example this piece written with Dave Pratt [also this BBC report] about the thinking behind Citizen Maths, or these informal reflections by me and Dick Moore from an excellent 2-day workshop organised in June by Google in Zurich.
As an aside, my involvement in Citizen Maths, and in the creation of another and very different open online course, seem to have interfered with my ability to write Fortnightly (sic) Mailing. I don't fully understand why this is, and it is only partly explained by the "easy-way-out-that-is-Twitter" - see @sebschmoller and, latterly, @citizenmaths.
I think the probable reason is that if you are responsible for building something when the stakes are quite high, and when you are working with partners (true in both projects), it does not feel quite right to be public about how things are going or about what you are learning from the work. Or, perhaps it's the case that the additional care needed in how you frame things, decide what would and what would not be prudent or fair to say etc., makes writing "too complicated".
And the connection with being stretchered off? There is one. But it's complicated.
Clayton Wright - source
The 31st Educational Technology & Education Conferences Listing [93 pages, 1.3 MB DOC] has been published by Clayton Wright.
Here is Clayton's covering note to the list.
The 31st edition of the conference list covers selected events that primarily focus on the use of technology in educational settings and on teaching, learning, and educational administration. Only listings until December 2014 are complete as dates, locations, or Internet addresses (URLs) were not available for a number of events held from January 2015 onward. In order to protect the privacy of individuals, only URLs are used in the listing as this enables readers of the list to obtain event information without submitting their e-mail addresses to anyone. A significant challenge during the assembly of this list is incomplete or conflicting information on websites and the lack of a link between conference websites from one year to the next.
An explanation for the content and format of the list can be found at http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/2011/08/why-distribute-documents-in-ms-word-or-openoffice-for-an-international-audience/. A Word or an OpenOffice format is used to enable people with limited or high-cost Internet access to find a conference that is congruent with their interests or obtain conference abstracts or proceedings.
Just at the point where we are "going firm" on video production for the first phase of Citizen Maths, [25/8/2014 - Citizen Maths is now live and open for registrations], I come across this 10 page research report [PDF] which substantially develops some earlier findings, and which reinforces nearly all my mainly experience-based knowledge of what kinds of instructional video are most effective. (The report is oddly silent on whether there is a relationship between audio quality and learner engagement, which has always struck me as being also of crucial importance.)
The list of seven main findings:
and seven main recommendations:
are not a substitute for the report itself. Hats off to Philip J. Guo (developer of the particularly impressive pythontutor.com), Juho Kim, and Rob Rubin for doing the research, and to edX for publicising it through this short summary.
Kyle, whom I used to work with at The Sheffield College, reminded me today of an email she'd sent me in August 2005, with her assessment of "The Facebook". If you've got anything similar in your email archives, feel free to paste it in as a comment to Kyle's piece.
From: Kyle McGrath
Sent: 11 August 2005 00:51
Subject: the facebook
Hope all is well with you...
I don't think you've mentioned *the facebook* yet in your fortnightly mailing? *the facebook* was brought to my attention a couple of months back by my niece, Sara, a high school Senior in N.Y. - headed towards SUNY Purchase as a freshman in September. Through *the facebook*, she has, over the past couple of months, already met the students that she will be living with and studying with in September, and they've formed a social community, and she is also in a developing learning community (of nerds)...
Not only do they know who is bringing the iron and who is bringing the ironing board - Sara tells me that they know a lot more interesting stuff that she's not prepared to divulge even to her favourite aunty.
FYI, the facebook concept is a development of the American high school Yearbook concept. The Yearbook is about who you are saying good-bye to (High School), whereas the Facebook has, over the past few years, been produced by some colleges to introduce (College/Uni) freshmen to each other.
I gather that *the facebook* serves both functions - Sara is in a community of people she is saying goobye to as well as in a community of people she is saying hello to.
*the facebook* doesn't translate particularly well to the U.K. - in America, kids normally have a firm College/Uni offer by April of their Senior year, so there is a six-month window for community building. Here, they dont' know until August (which, of course, sucks - what is going to happen to them between April and August, that is going to impact on their ability or aptitude?).
Nonetheless, from what I've seen *the facebook*, it is a shining example of how social networks can develop to support learning.
These days it takes a lot to impress me - and I'm impressed. http://www.thefacebook.com/
[Used with the permission of the author]
(Washington US-based Jim Farmer [biography, email jfx "AT" immagic "DOT" com] has contributed occasionally to Fortnightly Mailing over the years. This is the second of four Guest Contributions by Jim. The first is here.)
NSA and the Surveillance State have created an atmosphere of fear in the US for Washington politicians. If there is a single terrorist incident, having voted against budget increases or having failed to support NSA’s work could end a career. If there is a major revelation—such as the tapping of telephone lines of White House staff and of journalists that occurred in the 1970s—then having failed to vote for limiting the scope of NSA activities would make re-election difficult. And both are predicted.
Two public rallies in Washington in October and November – the Stop Watching Us Rally , and the subsequent Anonymous Washington Rally – can be viewed as proxy indicators of the political forces. Both were very small. But size is not everything, and the kinds of people involved in both – tech-savvy, highly educated individuals – are probably representative of a very significant and potentially very influential section of American opinion, as this article explains.
Dean Ashenden's Inside Story piece about the technology in learning - Coming, ready or not - is worth reading in full. This quote from the piece is particularly striking:
"A combine harvester will not make medieval strip-field agriculture more productive, yet an assumption of just that kind can be found in many ways of using (and researching) technology in schooling. When computers are added to classrooms and nothing changes the conclusion is that technology doesn’t work. In fact, it is schooling’s strip-field system that is not working."
(The agricultural comparison is probably worth extending when considering how innovation in education spreads.)
1. From the Forward by Brahima Sanou, Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunication Union:
"Over 250 million people came online over the last year, and almost 40 per cent of the world’s population will be using the Internet by end 2013. Mobile technology and services continue to be the key driver of the information society, and the number of mobilebroadband subscriptions is close to 2 billion. Mobile-broadband networks are allowing more people to connect to highspeed networks and benefit from a growing number of applications and services.