Thanks, and two Open University e-learning initiatives

Thank you, Jai, for telling some good lies about me in your blog on September 21. My work with BDRA is a second life for me and I am happy to be living it. However, I never repeat gossip, so listen carefully to what I’m going to tell you. That medal was not really for work with the BBC at the Open University: the inscription still mystifies me. From US motion picture engineers? Let me mention instead two interesting new OU initiatives.

Because I still have a (little-used) desk and a (much-used) email account at the OU, I do get details of seminars and workshops there, and on October 6 Simon Buckingham-Shum of the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute will be talking from 10-11.30 about SocialLearn, which Martin Bean the new VC mentioned in his talk at ALT-C and which I understand is very close to launch. Here is Simon’s blurb:

“The SocialLearn Project is a strategic university initiative, investigating the intersection of social networking, collective intelligence, adaptive platforms and web business models. We want to connect people with each other, and resources for learning (covering informalformal) and sensemaking in epistemic communities (covering amateurspros). The design rationale for the system is still very much being shaped.” Public beta signup/blog/twitter: http://www.open.ac.uk/sociallearn

Martin Weller will follow from 11.45-12.30, and he will speak about Digital Scholarship:

“Digital scholarship is aimed at both recognising and encouraging the use of new technology in all aspects of scholarship, including research, dissemination, knowledge production, teaching and collaborating. The Open University is promoting digital scholarship as a means of engaging with new technology and creating a digital identity for the OU. We will explore the concept of digital scholarship, the possible barriers and enablers, and broader issues. We will also launch the digital scholarship internal (to the OU) website, which aims to provoke discussion, interaction and engagement.”

As we have a BDRA Team Day on October 6, I won’t be able to hear what these two have to say, but I hope to keep you informed.

David Hawkridge

Social Notworking

Before you all jump in with comments about my spelling, don’t worry I have not misspelt the title of this posting, it is simply a play on words, for today trusted readers, I’m talking about a new phenomena known as ‘Social Notworking’ which is a term I suspect will be included in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary!

It appears that students at Bournemouth University have been complaining that access to computers has been reduced because fellow students are hogging the machines to check their Facebook and Twitter accounts. There is a call for certain computers at Bournemouth to be specifically marked for academic use only. Interestingly the debate has rumbled on with some university sources defending social networks as they are also being used for legitimate academic reasons.

I find this scenario particularly interesting with the growing support for Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and Cloud Computing – is this another ‘greying’ of the boundaries which technologies always appear to cause? Or is it that the growth of technology adoption is out-pacing our understanding of it potential and therefore is easily frowned upon?

I personally find Facebook and LinkedIn excellent ways of keeping in touch with large numbers and various cohorts of people from all aspects of my live; I also enjoy reading people’s statuses and the kind of things that are happening in others lives, where they are in the world and the issues they are reflecting on.

Perhaps you can share your experience of social networking and we can discuss the positive and negative aspects to help us clarify the situation for the future?

Matthew Wheeler
Keeper of the Media Zoo

“Give up texting for Lent”

recent BBC News item reported that, the archbishop of the Italian city of Modena wants young Catholics to give up text messaging, social networking websites and computer games for Lent. Monsignor Benito Cocchi is reported to have said that foregoing the activity would help young people “cleanse themselves from the virtual world and get back in touch with themselves”. Other Italian bishops are reported to have given their backing to the appeal. If one discounts the religious context within which the above remarks were made, one cannot ignore the profound implications for learning with technology amongst student with some religious persuasion.

  • Is there such a thing as technological addiction e.g. iphone-itous? (apologies Matt Wheeler)
  • To what extent do individual or collective beliefs, be they religious or secular, shape use or non-use of technological tools either for socialising and/or for learning?

Recently, a participant in a project I was involved with insisted that learning without technology is much better because it frees the mind to focus on the learning. For this individual, technologically mediated learning is “disruptive” to her learning lifestyle. Sadly, she may not be alone in holding such view; the notion that technology is disruptive to daily lives has been the subject of much academic writing.  (See for example Conole et al., (2008) on “disruptive technologies” in Computers and Education vol 50/2).

The call for “virtual cleansing” from mobile technological use raises a challenge for shaping the attitudes and beliefs of members of our society who may still trapped in the Dickensian age.

The role of “Learning Technology Evangelist” as coined by our Media Zoo Keeper remains a realistic option for changing such attitudes.

Sahm Nikoi (18 March 2008).

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