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.