A Year Into The E-book Reader…

DUCKLING started researching the impact of e-book readers on distance work-based learners about a year ago.  I did a presentation at ALT-C 2009 about DUCKLING’s experience of using new technologies , including the e-book readers.  At the beginning of my presentation, I asked the audience a question about how many of them owned or used an e-book reader. Very few people in the room responded to my question.  At ALT-C 2010 this year, I did another presentation specifically about e-book readers, and I asked the audience the same question. To my surprise, half of the audience raised their hands!

The e-reader is one of the fast-growing and changing technologies in the past year. Changes and movements in this technology are on news every day. For example, Leeds University gives textbooks on iPhones to its medical students (but students have to give back the iPhone when they graduate).  Free e-reader software has been recently released and is set to ‘revolutionise the e-book reading experience’. You can see a screenshot of what the Blio[TM] free e-reading software looks like below.

It is amazing to see how e-books and e-readers have shaped our life, changed our relationship with traditional books and the library, and the way we learn.

Ming Nie              05 October 2010

From ALT-C 2009 with new dreams of the future

ALT-C has come and gone, but the issues and challenges addressed at the conference will remain with us for some time to come i.e. how we harness technology to inform our educational futures. So what did I learn from this august conference? A lot, which I cannot recount in this short blog. However there was a few which struck me as pertinent if we are to dream new dreams and change the future of higher education for the better.

Michael Wesch spoke about the crisis of significance and pointed out that we need to move beyond incremental dreams focused on past trends, to radical dreams based on new and innovative ideas. Indeed I cannot but agree with him that we need to advance from making people “knowledgeable” to making people “knowledge-able”.

Martin Bean spoke about innovative skepticism and the crisis of relevance in Higher Education and called for moving Higher Education into the place where people want to acquire their learning experience by breaking down the barriers between the formal and the informal. To him this calls for agile, efficient and connected learning systems; making change possible through people, process and technology; moving away from content-centric to people-centric education. Martin noted that people are sick and tired of education “done to me” and rather want education “for me”.

Terry Anderson made a strong case for the “Open Scholar”. Being a recent convert to Open Educational Resources (OER), the notion of the “Open Scholar” struck a strong cord with me. Terry made the point that education for the elite is no longer sufficient for planetary survival. He contended that ideas don’t gain value unless exposed to the world. Networks of practice as opposed to communities of practice have the potential to bring about the change we want in our educational futures. To him personal and social relevance should be the basis for motivating new learners.

So where do we in BDRA stand in relation to these different dreams regarding the future of education. How does our research address questions around the crisis of significance and resolve the challenges faced by Higher Education? How do we envision a future of “Open scholarship”, “Open learning”, “Open Pedagogy”, and an “Open society”? The answer may lie not just in changing academic and technical skills but rather in how we change world views on education and institutional cultures that are receptive to new dreams and therefore new learning futures.

Samuel Nikoi (25 September 2009)

Standing on the shoulders of a giant

Prof David Hawkridge

Prof David Hawkridge

Our team, and the work we do, has recently been recognised by our peers in the form of a prize and a small amount of prize money.

A more profound success for us though, is the recent acknowledgment of the career of Professor David Hawkridge, Visiting Professor (University of Leicester) and Emeritus Professor of Applied Educational Sciences (The Open University), who was recently honoured by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) at its annual conference in Manchester (8-10 September 2009) with an honorary life membership.

Since 2007, he has been Visiting Professor at Leicester, working closely with research teams at Beyond Distance and other academics at the University.

David brings to bear a lifetime of experience to challenge us in our research and he steers the diverse flotilla of our projects with a benign, guiding hand.  Readers of this blog would be familiar with some of David’s recent thinking via his posts, which bear his hallmark of wit and brevity, as well as being  thought-provoking.

David is a graduate of the University of Cape Town (BA 1952, MA 1953, BEd and STD 1954) and subsequently read for his PhD (1963) at the University of London.

Among several prestigious academic appointments, David served as the Director of the Institute of Educational Technology – an academic group chiefly charged with educational research, design, development and evaluation work for the OU (1970-88).

He was also associated with the development of the OU’s television programming for the BBC throughout the 1970s and 1980s, in recognition of which he was awarded the Eastman Kodak Gold Medal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in 1994. The citation for which noted his pioneering work, which provided the research foundation and model for the integration of television and other learning technologies in Great Britain’s Open University.

David contributed extensively to educational policy development, in the UK and abroad, through his work with governments in several Asian, African nations and the EU, the British Council, the World Bank and UNESCO. He takes keen interest in multimedia education initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa, through his work with the University of Cape Town.

His recent research and mentoring of researchers at Leicester has focussed on podcasting for pedagogic purposes, using 3D Multi-User Virtual Environments, learning design and e-book readers.

Among senior academics he has mentored are Professors Diana Laurillard (Institute of Education) and Gilly Salmon (University of Leicester). Prof Salmon was later instrumental in his joining the Beyond Distance team at Leicester, and they recently co-edited a special issue of the British Journal for Educational Technology.

Several generations of David’s doctoral students now hold key positions in higher education, for whom he remains a mentor, an inspiration and an obliging, but eagle-eyed, editor of ‘drafts’.

An aficionado of all things Apple, David usually sports a sharp line in corduroy jackets and, for those in the know, is the voice behind some of the most charming answer-phone messages ever. He resides in the South Bedfordshire village of Heath and Reach, and keenly follows the fluctuating fortunes of England’s cricket teams.

–        Jai Mukherjee / 21 September 2009

ALT-C 2009: a great conference, a winning team and open-source laptops

Winning the ALT Learning Technologist team award of the year wasn’t the only reason why the ALT conference in Manchester was truly enjoyable. Inspiring keynotes, highly interactive seminars, effective networking and loads of fresh ideas made this event a success.

Martin Bean‘s keynote address was excellent. There was one point, however, that I would like to challenge. Martin said that he’s had many discussions with high-profile politicians such as Education ministers. Martin referred to them as “idiots” for even contemplating the idea of giving laptops to schoolchildren on a large scale. He cited some of the issues associated with programmes such as One Laptop per Child – challenges we have known for years and that are unlikely to go away, especially in the developing world. These include pedagogy, technical support, training for staff, logistics and designing for online environments. But more to the point, wearing his previous hat, maybe he didn’t like it that those devices do not contain Microsoft software?

We know that many politicians’ agendas may have little to do with benefiting children or enhancing education through appropriate uses of technology. We also know that with a few additional elements in place, the impact of projects like OLPC can be significantly amplified. David Cavallo’s keynote address in ALT-C 2008 may provide a few answers to Martin’s concerns.  

I was born and bred in Uruguay, where a version of OLPC is running and will be extended to other aspects of learning technology and connectivity. Despite my own initial doubts (in line with Martin’s), I can now see that the project has changed the lives of many children and families – forever. How the change has taken place and how it continues to take place has been extensively documented and is a matter for another blog post – suffice it to say that 4 years ago you never saw children sitting with their laptops outside their schools on a Saturday afternoon. Now there is something in the air that attracts them there: a wireless signal… and a range of skills that most of those kids will need in future but didn’t have before.

Sorry, Martin, much as I enjoyed your presentation, I cannot agree with you on this one. Giving a $100 laptop to each child does not make someone an idiot. In fact, it could be money very wisely spent.

A. Armellini
15 September 2009

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