Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mixed bag

A very mixed bag so far. Slow start, perhaps conferences always are. Not helped by the first presenter not showing up. And two more that I wanted to hear didn't show up in the course of the day. There's been some comment on the conference twitter stream.

Mansour Aldojan from the University of Jordan talked about getting faculty to integrate technology into their teaching. He described various issues which all sounded familiar. Many faculty say they use internet fully, but searching questions show they are not using it in teaching. Faculty are used to being in control of the subject matter - I liked his way of putting that. The less innovative faculty demanded more user friendly levels of support. And then after all these and others, he said one faculty member identified biggest problem as lack of good internet access for staff and students. Which kind of leaves the other reasons behind - if the tool you have isn't up to the job, you're not going to be very in favour of it. We forget too easily the simple issue of how capable the internet connection is. Clearly an issue in Jordan; also an issue in the developed world. I was talking to a woman who lives on a farm in Quebec and says her university will not use Second Life because not enough students have enough bandwidth to support it. She herself, like many of her students' families, over a very large area, is on satellite broadband with low bandwidth.

Kaarina Pirilä on how much students' personal differences make to their learning online.
She said her research showed that epistemic styles made a difference; but teachers do not know what learning styles they have with them when they are teaching. I've always been sceptical about learning styles, far too prescriptive, but she says she has research finding that it makes a difference. Maybe I need to take more notice. She lectures groups of 100-150 students; difficult; but we should know them better, she says.

Wei-Ying Hsiao - WIMBA (video interactive classroom) used for online learning and interaction for trainee teachers. She made them do group presentations. The presentations enhanced group interaction - (thinks, of course it did), more so than a discussion board. But not everybody liked it; they found the group meetings intrusive on their own plans.

Robyn Hill on patterns of participation. Two types of participation - educational or cognitive, and social. This reinforces idea of learning as a collective endeavour. Greater participation is associated with better grades. (Tutor participation made no difference except at extremes of too little and too much.) these findings are very similar to my own, which suggests I'm on the right track. Or we're both on the wrong track.

Kari Liukkunen - from material distribution to VLEs. A splendidly laconic presentation of the move into digital learning, recounted mostly as a series of steps provoked by the availability of funding. First they had to distribute computers; then they discovered they needed to learn how to use them. Then they didn't know what to do with them. The advantages and disadvantages of progression by grant - you do what's wanted as long as they pay, but then they stop paying and expect you to continue. There's always another problem. He thinks companies and universities can learn from each other, but I didn't hear any cogent examples. Everything was going fine till mobile came along. (Why did it go that way? Finland has always been at the forefront of mobile phone usage.) Trial reporting was students thought it great; but in reality students did not have good enough phones and didn't want to pay for better phones to use them. Thus good ideas and good products don't substitute for knowing the market (my interpretation).

Then a key issue. He discovered that teachers did not listen to production staff e.g. on advice to use videos. So production staff stopped giving advice. The key is the relationship between academic staff and production team. A production worker in audience advocated having instructional designer as go between.


Meanwhile Spurs beat Everton 2-0 in the Carling Cup; it seemed a bit strange to be celebrating that in the middle of the afternoon.

Ye-Lim Su of South Korea
ICT literacy as essential. Ministry goals how to create, process, analyse and utilise information - interesting as a governmental goal.

She shouts into the microphone. It's quite painful. But she has to to drown out the sound of the guy next door who is also shouting into his microphone. Luckily she's just reading out what's written on the powerpoints so I can read what's on the screen while shutting out the noise.

The next guy is a much more practised presenter. He doesn't use the mike, walks about among the audience, gets reactions. But he keeps walking in front of the data projector, and actually stopping there when he makes a point. He draws too sharp a distinction between digital native and digital immigrant. His son tells him that learning has changed. "You were just in case learner, I'm a just in time learner." He says the question is not how smart are you but how are you smart? Digital natives work in 10-15 minute sprints, so do you and I (he omits to say that we always have). It's interesting how a presentation can have a fundamental flaw but still stimulate thinking. He presents as if he has found the rainbow pot, he's so excited he just has to tell people about it. But his content is about five years old I reckon. Not the sage on the stage but the guide on the side, that is so last year.

Intan Azura Mokhtar from Abu Dhabi - weblogs for non native English speakers. This electrified me. It didn't have a huge amount of substance - it was a case study of a group of seven female students. But its potential was huge. There are many more women in ME universities than men. (Why?)

It was about using blogs to learn English for students who were going to be English teachers themselves. Post course survey - positive response. Interesting reasons - able to type instead of handwriting, which was the norm in other classes. (How much of what they are saying is due to using computers and networking; not specific to blogs.) Female students tend not to open up in class, and found blogging liberating from this point of view. But good grief - everything was on blogger, and public. The women were aware of this and up for it.

One of those really provocative talks, mind's buzzing with ideas and issues - I want to know so much more - how much is it to do with gender; do women value their university education more; do men not bother because they know they'll get a job if they want one
do women see blogs as great because they're developing a subversive social network outside male control - if so what impact does the fact of the blogs being public have. how does this relate to patriarchy in the Middle East. Etc etc.

Reluctant learners - Patricia Shaw
Daloz effective teaching and mentoring - teaching about trust; looks interesting.
Mostly about AR students or those with specific difficulties.
Now they're getting excited about Learning Management Systems - yawn.
One woman in the audience hijacked the Q&A time by asking about D2L (Desire to learn) which the speaker is now rabbiting on about. Meanwhile the woman who asked the question has left.

I wonder how much you can tell about the orientation of universities by whether they call their systems Virtual Learning Environments or Learning Management Systems.

Another speaker fails to turn up; could be because he couldn't find the room. Not the easiest in the world to find by any means.

Kinney et al - web2 literature review
O'Reilly web2 as harnessing the power of collective intelligence. They restricted their search to conference proceedings 2007-08 higher education. Ruled out lower stages and business training.

blogs do nicely
wikis OK
students like podcasts, largely for controllability. Textbooks vs podcasts mixed results. Like mp3s but don't listen to lectures.
Second Life: 11 studies, inconclusive. Very different from other web2 stuff - kinaesthetic learning. does support standard content, but other tools do it better.

One audience member said in his experience of doing research, there is deeper learning online than ftf because of thinking time.

But the general conclusion from this session was that research into web2 tools is in its infancy, still at the describing and getting excited stage. There are more exacting and more useful stages to come.

1 comment:

Intan said...

Hi Rob!
We met at the E-Learn Conference in Vancouver. Stumbled on your blog while searching on weblogs (and my name...heh heh).
Glad to know that you're interested in the little case study I did (despite its really limited research contribution), especially from the aspect of gender and culture.
Personally, I would love to pursue that further but as it turned out, my time in the middle east was up and I had to go back home.
Hope to be able to go back to this in the very near future. Keep in touch!!