Monday, September 28, 2009

Commentary on 'blogging as a tool for reflection and learning'

Thanks to @amcunningham for RT -
great! RT @jilltxt: A video lecture I recorded for HiB about using blogging in learning is up at
I really believe in the power or writing for 'an' audience, I see that Dr Jill (Walker Rettberg) has been able to marshal a lot of factors that make her students more likely to engage and 'get' the personal benefits of blogging:
  1. The course is about digital culture (4:52). It used to be that all the 'success' stories about learning technology came out of those who taught Ed Tech MSc's. These days it's the cultural anthropologists... But the point is that the activity in question must be directly in line with the students' view of their short and long term learning trajectory. I really doubt if my nurses see themselves as bloggers, as much as I know they'd benefit from it.
  2. Jill has regular and easy access to class with computers.
  3. While the students are under Jill's pedagogic control, she gets them writing.
  4. The students have well defined well designed learning activities (write down one thing you learned today, google a term and post a link to it) giving them a meaningful reason to engage
  5. She integrates blogging tightly with her teaching (online out of class and in lectures)
  6. 'The most important thing' was when she modelled 'good' networked learning activity.
  7. A critical mass of students engage with the concept and each other.
  8. 'Experts' outwith the confines of the programme comment on student's posts which accentuates the awareness of audience, further authenticating the activity: "there, I told you Stephen Downes was real" - Do you have a ready pool of bloggers in your discipline?
The implicit theory here is cognitive apprenticeship, which I'm a big fan of. These students are being given a clear trajectory in to a learning community - small wonder if it 'works'. Beware trying this at home unless you too can tick most of the above boxes. 'Good luck'? Not really, just good alignment.
One good video link deserves another: check out Neil Selwyn at - also in Norway ;-) (ah... the land of my fathers...)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do lecture capture systems promote connections?

Just returning from a presentation about a pilot in lecture capture using Echo360. In a traditional University setting, my hang-ups were:
  • if the best this is is a revision aid, that's an expensive revision aid.
  • if this would be useful for students who missed the lecture for some reason, cant they do what anyone else has ever done, get the summary or notes from a peer and do some reading around.
  • £ for £ there is an almost infinitely greater value for lifelong learning in a simple reference list at the back of an appropriate journal article than there is in a recorded lecture. This also goes for other suggested uses, like recording a summary instead of the whole lecture or recording a 'pre-reading'
  • if we are aiming at students' epistemic fluency, this only encourages them to rote learn - evidence the statistics that say the traffic sky-rockets at exam time.
  • how does a recorded lecture encourage them along the cognitive apprenticeship road to mastery in the given discipline?
  • if we want to keep ephemeral lecture speech lively, how much will knowing your every word is reified prevent you from doing things 'on the fly' that may afterwards seem unprofessional?
  • limiting the potential audience to just our students (who login to blackboard - assuming they can!) is naff and old hat.
  • what is a lecture good for anyway? If your lecture is the same every time then you probably shouldnt be giving it as a lecture. The students in a lecture have given ceded some level of pedagogic control over to you, they're giving their attention to what you have to show and say - will they do that at any other time (in competition with, for example, their chores or family/social time). I would not think anyone would want to review my lectures because they do not contain much raw 'content' - the objective is to stimulate them to think - for that limited time that they have volunteered their attention to what I have got to say...
If it was possible for students to interact by starting discussion threads at particular points in the lecture, that might have some promise in terms of promoting connections... but it isn't.
There is a clearer case for providing canned lectures to disparate distance students, but, even there, I would be feeling towards only making them available for a limited time.
Rant over.