Tuesday, July 19, 2011

OeRBITAL thoughts

OER OeRBITAL Off to Leeds to talk about OeRBITAL this week, so I'm trying to get my OER head on again. A few days ago I came across this list - Four layers that need to be considered to make most effective repurposing of an OER (in Conole, G., McAndrew, P. and Dimitriadis, Y. 2011. The role of CSCL pedagogical patterns as mediating artefacts for repurposing Open Educational Resources, in F. Pozzi and D. Persico (Eds), Techniques for Fostering Collaboration in Online Learning Communities: Theoretical and Practical):
  1. Visual representation of the design – how can the implicit OER design be made more explicit and hence shareable?
  2. Opinion of goodness – how appropriate is the OER for different contexts?
  3. Transferability through pedagogical patterns – how can generic patterns be applied to specific contexts?
  4. Layer of discussion, critique and contextualisation – how can social and participatory media act as a supporting structure to foster debate between those using the same OER?
I find it rather difficult to relate all four of these points to my own practice, in particular the first one, but thinking about this has been a useful exercise in crystallizing my feeling of unease about the OER industry. Who are the OER industry? The big players who have attempted to distort higher education by financial intervention, playing along with the anti-intellectual cost-cutting agenda, rather than investing in individual development for future growth.

On one level, I am happy to make any learning materials I produce freely available in microchunked formats to be consumed by learners (Martin Weller's "little OER"). I am unhappy about packaging such materials up into larger, static units which appear to offer the potential of supplanting teachers - death by repository - not because I'm worried about doing other people out of a job, but because this oversimplification of the process of acquiring wisdom (i.e. education), tends to overplay the acquisition of knowledge (i.e. training) and the importance of forming personal learning networks.

The industrialization of education pressurizes students and teachers alike to feel that education is a passive process, something that is done to them or they do to others - as long as both parties turn up, wisdom will happen. This externalization of knowledge acquisition masks the true outcome of education, acquisition of wisdom rather than of knowledge. Knowledge can be acquired via an Internet connection, wisdom cannot. That is why Illich was both right and wrong. Externalization of the acquisition of wisdom is as absurd as the idea that you can "teach" someone to be an entrepreneur, or beat it into them.

So why am I laying the blame for the crisis in higher education at the door of the OER industry? I'm not, but the OER industry is both a symptom of the malise (industrialization/externalization) and a partial cause (externalization/industrialization) of the crisis. That is what I am uneasy about. OERs are pretty much an unmitigated good, but only in small doses. The OER industry is bad. There, I said it. Again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where am I blogging?

No blog post here again today but I'm posting lots of content and having great discussions over on Twitter and Google Plus. Over the weekend I have been informed by several people that they won't be using Google Plus because it is run by Google. They informed me of this fact via Twitter and/or Facebook. Snigger.

Anyhow, using Google Plus does not mean I am abandoning this (or any other) blog. Tune in tomorrow for the next exciting installment!

Oh, all right then, since you insist. This is pretty much what I have been doing with Blackboard for the last three years (we don't have Google Apps). Google Plus helps me with this:

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I'm still making my mind up about Ed. I feel a little clearer after reading John Gray's review of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader by Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre in The Guardian:

Labour will be fortunate if its young prince proves to be as skilful in responding to radical shifts in events as he has been in inching his way to power.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Exploring this "microblogging" concept

Science Online London #solo11

Solo11 The Science Online London conference has been the highlight of my conference year ever since I "attended" the first one online three years ago.

This year's meeting is booking now (and filling up fast - so get in quick) (programme here).

Although Solo11 is very reasonably priced (thanks to the sponsors), with that and finalizing my ALT-C booking, I'm a thousand quid lighter than I was this time yesterday :-|

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

#ukolneim reflection

Dashboard Yesterday I went to the web metrics meeting at the OU. Having had chance to think about it overnight, here is my reflection on the day.

Brian Kelly set the tone in his introduction - in a time of financial stringency, numbers matter. Reluctantly, I do buy into this never mind the quality feel the width argument. My response will be pragmatic - collect all the numbers I can and use them mercilessly.

While I had some issues with Ranjit Sidhu's talk, I was very impressed with his product and his advice on dashboard design:
<=9 major facts, <= 3 concepts

Of course, the best part was spending the day talking to very smart people. Whatever reservations I may have towards the seemingly unstoppable trend towards bullshit infographics, I have come back today feeling fired up, and that's all you can ask from any meeting.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Trying not to

write any more about Google Plus here, even though invitations seem to be open now. Fortunately, I don't have to, because I've collected some interesting reflections from others over the past few days:

Peter Kaminski (via David Weinberger):
The purpose of Google+ is to keep you within the Google web (as opposed to having you outside anybody’s web, or in someone else’s web). Where “web” used to mean the spidered collection of documents and files available via HTTP, but has grown to mean your Digital Life.
Google’s business is to mediate as much of your Digital Life as it can — similar to the way Microsoft’s business in the old days was to mediate as much of your Digital Office as it could (back in the day when Digital Life and Digital Office were nearly equivalent). The monetization model is completely different, of course; but the more of your Digital Life Google can mediate, the more they can monetize, and the more sticky the whole suite is. Google wants to be as ubiquitous as Microsoft used to feel.

Martin Weller:
I chatted to George Siemens about this and he concluded he didn't have friends, just colleagues (or colleagues who are also friends). I'm in a similar position, or at least my online self is. I do have some friends (some of whom are not imaginary), but they tend not to be the sort of people who'll be in Google+. And there are plenty of people I work with who I would also count as friends (such as George). And then there are people who I've never even met who I think of as friends (Jim Groom and Alan Levine for example). But friends is a very laden term, so do I want to recreate the Facebook definition, or reclaim it for 'special' people?

And if you're struggling:
The Google+ Help Manual (or how 120 + people wrote a book at the same time)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Writing Boot Camp: the final chapter I didn't realize quite how long ago it was I wrote about trying my own solo version of Sarah Stewart's Publication Boot Camp Wiki. It's well past time for an update, and indeed, the outcome.

I didn't manage to stick to anything like the six week schedule of the wiki. There are a number of reasons for this. First, what I was aiming to do - redraft an existing manuscript - is rather different from the structure of the programme, which is really aimed at writing from scratch. Second, the last few weeks have been an incredibly busy time for me, not really the ideal time of year to try to do this sort of thing (but when is?). Third, and most important of all, I missed out on the social/peer-pressure element of the group exercise which is crucial in my opinion.

So the outcome is?
I have a manuscript which I am just about to submit. I doubt that would have happened without reading about this on Sarah's blog. Although I didn't stick to the schedule, it gave me the kick up the arse I needed to get started again. But doing this in isolation is a poor substitute for any sort of support group. That's the most important lesson I take away from this.

Monday, July 04, 2011

First thoughts on Google Plus

Circle Last week Google launched it's latest social network, Google Plus. Invitations are limited at present, sorry, but new people are getting in all the time. It's new, there are bugs (particularly on iPads) but after a few days, here are my first thoughts.

A feature of G+ is Circles, a way of grouping contacts. This may seem trivial, but in fact poses complex practical problems. More than that, the Circles idea is vital to the success of G+. I've been thinking about this for three days now. The more I think, the more complex the problem becomes. One thing is certain - more is not better! Circles are G+'s USP, an anti-Facebook concept designed to give the illusion of privacy. In reality, they have just served to illustrate how complex online privacy is. The only workable practical policy is if you put something online, assume it is public. The other concern is that circles to not inherently provide noise filtering. G+ does not seem to offer much advance here.

I started with lots of Circles, but with experience pruned the number drastically, now to just three, plus one for my own institution only. You can't see other people's circles or the circles they've put you in. I'm actually just one step away from "Friends" (need to find a better name) and "Everyone else". (Maybe "Inner" and "Outer"; alternatively, we already have a working model for circles)

Big question: What is G+ for?
It's too early to answer that yet. I remember clearly the lightbulb moment when I "got" how friendfeed fitted into my life. With Twitter, it was less clear, more of a process. One thing is sure, I don't have room for another social network in my life, so what, if anything, is G+ likely to replace? It's too early to say, but it won't be Facebook (family and friends unlikely to move) and is unlikely to be Twitter, so probably my already moribund friendfeed account.


RRW: Google Plus' Circles System May Not be Sustainable

TechCrunch: When Google Circles Collide:
"Given the level of control that Google+ is offering, I should be thrilled with this great new tool. But I’m not. It solves the wrong problem, particularly with Google Circles, the Google+ feature that lets you share different things with different groups of people. And it doesn’t do anything to solve the biggest problem with social networks today: increasing the signal to noise ratio."