Monday, December 12, 2011


WebPA was on the boil a few years ago and seemed to fade from sight like too many good projects.
Now it has been updated and could well be coming to a University near me soon.
I got to test-drive it today. I was trying to replicate a peer assessment I use Bristol Online Surveys for normally.
I opted out of using the VLE as the survey tool there can't handle the types of questions I need to use to do peer assessment.
Here are some observations from my quick trial which included the full cycle of uploading data through to viewing reports.
  1. Uploading data was a bit tricky using CSV files... I think it required me to include the headers.... 
  2. There was only one 'Template' for uploading staff/student data and it does not include the 'group' header... so needed to be added in. If you vary from the prescribed syntax it fails to upload... or at least it seemed that way... I say 'seemed to' because one of the uploads I thought had failed and that did not appear straight away, re-appeared later on... 
  3. The first time I met the form it requires a student to score themselves (self assessment) by default but this can be changed in 'Assessments' so that you can do peer not self AND peer assessment. 
  4. Nice to be able to email those who have responded or those who have not. 
  5. Setting the group marks was intuitive. 
  6. As a student fills in the form it highlights clearly where the student missed a score after having tried to submit a form. 
  7. You can also penalise students in the scoring if they do not respond. Perhaps this should be the same as the maximum percentage of marks they could have potentially obtained from the peer assessment? Need to see that one coming and make a policy decision.
A working group working on the case study
I think WebPA is a lot nicer to administer than my current approach, where I am clearly using a generic survey tool, rather than something especially designed for the task. WebPA also offers an alternative scoring system whereby students are required to share a certain amount of 'score' between the group members. That way they cannot all simply award each other top marks. Again, this would require some thought and expectations management before launching the assessment.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Evaluations and other articles in JIHE

Just reading a bit this morning in the Journal of the Internet and Higher Education for this month - quite a few papers in the alert caught my eye. The article on peer-assessment is similar to what we do in Year 2 with students although they undertake a group presentation. I note that they stop short, as we do, of getting students to mark each other's work, as a tutor would. This is an understandably conservative route, but I was a little disappointed... I also noted from Owsten et al's lecture capture paper that it seemed to be most used by lower performing students, but in a way that I would decry. These students are viewing the entire lecture, whereas the higher performers were locating the chunks they wanted to access again. The paper does not really help us to know which way to read this relationship and it continues to bemuse me. Would the low-achievers become high-acheiver if only they could take a better approach to their studies..?

In the conclusion to Dziuban and Moskal's paper I found this:
The class for many contemporary students is an increasingly complex network of interactions. Recently in discussing generational difference a student said to the authors, “You will learn by reading a book or the manual. We will learn through interaction with each other and the Internet.” (Hartman, Dziuban, & Brophy-Ellison, 2007). If this is true, then end-of-course evaluations offer very little opportunity for interaction. Perhaps one should consider new instructional evaluation protocols that are not summative and after the fact, but instead those that are more reflective and interactive. The opportunity cost involved would require a much greater investment of time and resources, but good news is that such an approach would increase the student voice in their learning and support a more collaborative educational environment.
I had not read this kind of philosophical rationale for moving to a more formative style of evaluation, which is greatly underused IMHO. Our evaluation forms have recently been under review in the light of the National Student Survey questionnaire. But it begs the question whether we can really account for the kinds of learning experience students are experiencing at an individual level when so much of it happens almost as a co-incidence of their ability to make connections (of all kinds). It must be our role as designers of education to do what we can to assure the potential for students to do that... embracing formative evaluation must be part of that...

Dziuban, C., & Moskal, P. (2011). A course is a course is a course: Factor invariance in student evaluation of online, blended and face-to-face learning environments. The Internet and Higher Education, 14(4), 236-241. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.05.003

Thursday, October 13, 2011

TILT blog

It was a pleasure to meet the Accelerated Graduate Programme students this morning. This programme is designed for students who already have a degree and want to become a nurse. We had a chat about the role of IT in nursing and then went on to classic induction stuff. Just before the session I suggested the following to the programme manager and got a warm reception. I set up a CampusPack blog and called it 'Things I Learned Today'. I told the students that they would be writing a single entry per month, and they were all given a number (there are less than 30 students). I explained how that a key engine for learning was writing, or framing discourse, and that assessments were often just a way of getting students to do that. Here we have a different audience completely but still the learning process potential with blogging that could benefit the individual and the cohort.
The introductory post went like this:
Please post an entry on your allotted date. Write something that you learned today, even if you do not think it was very significant. Something that struck you on the radio, in a session, and why. You can write about anything you think you and your group of students might be interested in. You can be controversial, but please stay within the bounds of 'polite'. Keep the language conversational and succinct. Don't feel you have to write more than 75 words.  Make sure you add some tags to help us all find what you wrote. Feel free to add a (helpful) comment to an existing post. The list of 'dates' and names is below - best to stick to that for the first time around. That way everyone gets the same opportunity. I'm not going to be holding people to their date although I reserve the right to listen in occasionally: I've clicked 'Subscribe' to get an email notification of new posts (you should too). 
I hope you make a go of this because it has great potential for your own learning and that of your peers. If I can be of any assistance, including moving to a different blogging platform, please get in touch.
I then asked for volunteers to go first, listing the first few.... But then I noticed a few looking uneasy so I carefully asked if everyone was ok with this. I was able to address their concerns about whether staff could read what they wrote, for example. The answer to that question was 'yes'. So I offered that, if they wanted to, I'd help them set up a blogger/wordpress blog and shut us out. In the event, they were more than happy to start out using our University platform. My role here was clearly to facilitate the process.
I've also posted an example post as follows:

I don't want to steal Amy's [not real name] limelight (yes, this is your day ;) but I did say I'd share that link to the report this morning on Radio 4 about the NHS failing the elderly. The radio broadcast can be heard again over at the BBC 'listen again' site. If you want to add a link to a post just get the URL, highlight the text to hyperlink and then click the 'chain' button on the far left of the bottom toolbar.
This report attracted my attention for a number of reasons, firstly because I know someone who suffered quite a lot of neglect and negative culture, which the NHS seemed unable to deal with. The second reason is because the key to this in the report is 'leadership'. How will you go about unpicking the tightly knit cliques that exist and resist positive change? (hmmm... that was 145 words)
Nothing really new here... but it does emphasise the role of the teacher in terms of designing and facilitating networked learning. Someone has to be in there 'promoting connections'. That reminds me, I probably should give Amy a reminder that today's her day... or should I?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chapter from Social IT

Here's a PDF of a book chapter I wrote, published in 2008. Sorry that the figures are still at the end - blame APA 5th.

Johnson, M. R. (2008). Investigating & encouraging student nurses’ ICT engagement. In T. T. Kidd & I. Chen (Eds.), Social Information Technology: Connecting Society and Cultural Issues (pp. 313-335). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Edge effect

Probably this is another area with a massive literature I know nothing about (although it was evading me in scopus and scirus :(
But it struck me the other day and today the penny finally dropped. I was in a class of students who were learning about the role of a clinical teacher, one of whom, a Mental Health nurse, stated that they were enjoying the 'edge effects' of a clinical and education-based role. I asked for some clarification and apparently this idea was from ecology, permaculture in particular - wikipedia is worth quoting here actually:

The edge effect in ecology is the effect of the juxtaposition or placing side by side of contrasting environments on an ecosystem. Permaculturists maintain that, where vastly differing systems meet, there is an intense area of productivity and useful connections
I'm not sure I can live up to the 'intense productivity' side of things, but I do think I enjoy the 'edge effect' of useful connections through working in a School of Nursing and Midwifery but also within Higher Education and being into learning technology, or IT in some form or another. I have observed that if you spend all your time in learning technology circles, it can have a very detrimental effect upon your vision for learning technology, in terms of making assumptions about how well or not people are likely to engage with your 'grand designs'.
I like the term 'edge effect' so much that I think I'll use it for tweeting from conferences and learning technology stuff when I think it's going to get particularly busy over on my original account. So, if that is a version of me you'd like to follow, I'm at!/edgeeffect
There are probably 'not so beneficial' edge effects though... one of those is the difficulty of being spread too thinly to get anywhere near a credible research profile. Ah well... just got to keep plugging away at the nlc2012 paper.
What are the implications for networked learning about the whole concept of the 'edge effect'?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Literacies vs. Digital Scholarship

I've read a few authors recently who seem to be arguing that the new literacies that children (are assumed to) have are to be embraced and encouraged. Teachers everywhere must adapt their practice so as to avoid alienating these young people and value their huge new skill-sets. This is familiar enough line to take but to me it must impact on time and attention given to traditional foundational literacies and does not account for the harsh realities of the digital literacies that students need to run with on entering Higher Education. I think there is a difference: social networking and mash-ups contribute to a growing trade in memes and pop-culturally informed media on the internet, but what role do they play in building useful theory (including within one's own brain), what role can they really play in the individual gaining expertise in participating in the ‘unpopular culture’ that also subsists on the Internet (i.e. the world of research, digital scholarship, knowledge work)? In particular, how do 'new literacies' contribute to learning to be a good nurse/midwife?
There is a significant missmatch between being able to type in a few words into a generic search engine and performing a literature review. A significant amount of unlearning old 'new literacy' ways needs to happen before students can really progress and gain a good grounding in their subject. Perhaps this accounts for why students were confident that they were 'effective online researchers' while they still request training in 'how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources' (NUS 2010 report for HEFCE cited in JISC infoNet Digital Literacies page).

Friday, September 9, 2011

What constitutes Networked Learning activity?

Having previously asked, 'What does it mean to be network learned?', I am now thinking about what networked learning looks like from the outside. I wouldnt presume to be able to measure or define what happens inside the brain, but the results of neurological synapses can surface in various kinds of networked learning activity. Since we are not able (yet) to use telepathy, and since many non-face2face interactions are possible, if not actually carried out, via the Internet, it must be possible to recognise and come up with a reasonably complete list of these networked learning activities.
As a start, there is:
  1. writing something in a shared space 
  2. reading something someone else wrote
  3. replying to something
  4. rating something (selecting a score from a list of options to express your opinion of value)
  5. building and maintaining a network (and all that goes with it - i.e. needs unpacking),
  6. sharing a link via social bookmarking
If you know of more, please comment or get in touch.
Of course, implicit in this some of the items in this list is an ethic that values sharing and an in-built commitment to and awareness of the network(s) in chosing what move to make while engaging in learning activity. If we are to see students becoming networked learners, they will not only have to perform the items in the list with sufficient elan, they will also have to become 'network aware'. Is this too much to hope for? Or is it possible to so design curricula and constituent activities that require networked learning activity for long enough for students to become wired to 'think the network'?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mindset 1 and Mindset 2

How much does it matter if you're a Mindset 1 person being asked to do things a Mindset 2 person does? This is admitted as a gross over-simplification, but, as you may have realised, I'm after the extreme end of the cohort: anything from the "I'm rubbish at computers (although I book holidays online, have a zillion friends on Facebook, etc. etc.)" downwards.
So while there may be a much more complicated picture out there, this one will do for now. I was reading Chris Jones recently (in J CAL 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00370.x ) again on the Digital Native thing and want to steer well away from deterministic concepts. But here's the table from Lankshear and Nobel's New Literacies Sampler 2006 (you can get the whole book as a PDF ):
Do you really need a 'Mindset transplant' to embrace learning with technology?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Collaboration tools and securing engagement

So the latest wheeze for getting students to engage with information technology with a view to networked learning concluded the other day.
The assignment for this module is a group presentation and so I give a talk about online collaboration tools. The audience has 'mixed' ability when it comes to information technology skills or any desire to use computers at all. Re. IT, this works well because the groups usually have at least one person who knows what they're doing and the others are in a good position to learn a lot from their peers.
The NMC requires undergraduate nurses to accumulate 4,600 programme hours (divided into 2,300 hours of practice and 2,300 hours of theory). Students sign a register in lectures and this, at least, gives them a reason to come. However, in an attempt to provide flexibility, I tell students that they need not attend the IT-lab workshop as long as they participate online. More importantly, no register is taken in the workshop, their register hour is logged by dint of their participation online, whether they attend the workshop or not. This usually means that I get to see the people who really want to come, and the rest can 'learn by doing', or merely demonstrate their ability at a time/place of their choosing.
Following my lecture, as the students were working in groups, I asked for one member of the group to reply to a discussion board I had set up, explaining what collaboration tools they had chosen to use and why. I asked them to return at the end of the module to reply individually to their group's original thread. It was this latter post that got them the 'workshop theory hour'. Specifically, I asked them to reflect back on their experiences with their group's chosen tool-set. About half the group did this, some of the comments being slightly perfunctory. But there was a good smattering of important lessons learned...
Some students had tried to use Dropbox for collaborative authoring of a presentation but this had caused problems because you can't really share the same file at the same time and someone needed to take charge with organising the shared space. One or two groups had tried to use Zotero on its own, uploading files to the shared library etc. but, unsurprisingly, they found this clumsy. Another group had shunned the perceived complexity of Dropbox and set up a dedicated Hotmail account, then shared the username and password with the group. They had found this to be rather messy, with multiple copies and versions of the same presentation going around and around. Facebook was popular for communication but was found to have very limited support sharing files.
So the overall message in this for the students was that they needed a range of tools to collaborate effectively. I hope the number of them will have learned how to complement the various component parts of a given activity with an appropriate tool. This is  foundational 'working knowledge' for accomplishing anything with IT and something my colleague Joe Nicholls has been banging on about for some time...
Here's a prezi I'm building to guide students:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Addictive learning

A quick Scholar search of this term gives a few references to game-based learning. One useful article that appeared was Eynon & Helsper's paper

Goodyear, P. 2002. Psychological foundations for networked learning. In: Steeples, C. and Jones, C. eds. Networked learning: perspectives and issues. London: Springer.)


Friday, January 21, 2011

Epistemic what?

This is the response you'll likely get if you voice 'epistemic fluency' as an aspirational outcome for students in higher education... unless you've looked at Peter Goodyear's work on it. Maria Zenios recently published a paper in J-CAL which extended...
Ohlsson's (1995) list of epistemic tasks to include activities such as reasoning, negotiating, comparing, exploring, clarifying meanings, and offering new perspectives. (p9)
Back at the office, we were discussing how a proposed workload metric could account for 'corridor conversations', having been chatting over some key/current issues.
We're looking at developing a new curriculum and I waved a copy of Maria's paper around in the hope of getting a chance to advertise epistemic fluency. Another issue was a complaint about the behaviour of a group of students in a session where they would learn a practical clinical skill. I wasnt that familiar with it so youtubed to locate a few examples. The tutor immediately started to critique the video I'd found. I suggested that this was exactly the activity that we would want students engaging in. One nice thing about video is that they include cultural settings and artifacts, like uniforms, experienced/expert staff: exactly the conditions that students face and have to challenge when they enter the clinical area. I challenged my colleague to come up with an 'epistemic activity' that framed the way that students would search for, find, evaluate and share those videos, supporting their learning of the clinical skill. It's the first time I'd really seen clinical skills as something wider than merely teaching a person to perform a physical task, and the first time I'd made such a concrete connection between epistemic fluency and learning a primarily physical skill.

Zenios, M. (2011). Epistemic activities and collaborative learning: towards an analytical model for studying knowledge construction in networked learning settings. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00394.x