Learning Design Landscape

I produced this ‘Learning Design Landscape’ cube some time ago, when trying to pull together various aspects around learning design in the second decade of the 21st century, and my own work in this area.

LD cubeFor now I have decided to publish just the cube. A commentary will follow.

Workflows to save and organise the to-read-later content

What are the best workflows to save and organise content that one finds online, but doesn’t immediately have time to read?

First a few questions:

  • How do you find online content on a daily basis, how does content find you?
  • What is your current workflow? How/where do you save content that you find online but want to read later?
  • What services do you use? What works well? What doesn’t?
  • If you could ‘fix’ one thing in the current workflow, what would it be?
  • What would your “dream” tool do for you?

This is what I think:

Whatever service I choose, I want it to allow me to save articles, videos, websites, and blog posts I come across throughout a day:

  • with one click
  • to one single place
  • a place that is easy to view, aesthetic, easy to stay organised (so that it’s a pleasure to come back to it)
  • a place that I can easily access
  • from any device
  • online or offline

If you access the Internet from multiple devices throughout the day you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I use my laptop at work, my smartphone on the move (e.g. reading tweets while waiting for a bus), my iPad when travelling for meetings and conferences (and on the sofa in the early mornings and evenings).

I stumble across things that I’d like to read or watch later constantly in my work. Sometimes curated content is distributed via e-mail and I know this will be something good, but it’s not relevant to my task at hand and I don’t want to get distracted. I need a place to ‘shift it’ to for later…

When reading tweets on my iPhone, I come across and filter different kinds of content. I can read short articles on a small screen but not the longer, more demanding ones – I will do it later…

My iPad is for me a wonderful ‘consumption’ device, allowing for paperless reading of articles, news, blog posts, watching of short videos.

It’s usually from my iPad that I access ‘Pocket’, my favourite service for managing read-it-later content. It’s an app for web, desktop and mobile use.

This is why I like it:

  • First of all (for the non-initiated): there are excellent tutorials available in the help section on how to manage your reading list across devices and media
  • It caters a lot of different styles how to collect stuff
  • In your browser, you can use a bookmarklet: click on the special ‘pocket’ bookmark to add the current web page to the stream
  • You can email a link to add@getpocket.com, which will automatically sort it in
  • You can add stuff from your favourite apps, including twitter and flipboard
  • It will automatically syndicate your various devices.

And last but not least: it’s private :). I can collect whatever I want, without spamming anyone in my circles, groups, or neighbourhood. I can filter first, then share either in Diigo or Mendeley.

Stairways and ladders as metaphors for OER engagement

Last Thursday I co-facilitated a workshop ‘Climbing the stairway to OER nirvana’ at the ALT 2012 Conference. The workshop was led by Chris Pegler and the remaining contributors were Suzanne Hardy and Alannah Fitzgerald (well done everybody!). In the workshop we used images of stairways and a set of stakeholder cards which served to explore where different stakeholders stand in a stairway and what kind of a stairway it is (Is it a stairway at all? Is it helpful to think of it in terms of a stairway?). But there were not only stairways involved, there were also ladders….

Why stairways and ladders?

Chris, Suzanne and Alannah came up with their model of a stairway to OER nirvana during a symposium organised by SCORE in October last year. The outcome of their brainstorming session at that time is summarised in Chris’s introduction to the workshop here, if you want to find out more.

At the same time, in September last year, I started my 9 month research project to investigate the ways in which higher education institutions, individual faculties and support staff foster reuse of OER among their academics. As part of my research methodology I used a sketch of a ladder and a set of colour coded cards to help my 19 interviewees (promoters of OER, lecturers who took part in ‘OER training’ and faculty OER champions) articulate what engagement with OER reuse means to them, how it can manifest itself and how it can be fostered. I used ladder as a metaphor as it conveys well a message of direction and progression from an established practice of sharing and reuse of materials in general, through emerging awareness of OER to full uptake and commitment to the concept of OER and OEP. This is what I have collected in the end:

You can imagine how challenging it was to analyse data!! It took me almost a week to figure out the best approach to do it…. and it wasn’t techie!

The final output – the OER Engagement Ladder – represents three major levels of engagement with OER reuse: Piecemeal, Strategic and Embedded (i.e. optimal) and three ‘realisation’ steps: Understanding, Need and Reflection:

BTW the image is licensed CC BY so feel free to take it, adapt it, reuse it as long as you attribute the original.

In the full research report I describe in detail how engagement with OER manifests itself at each level, what makes people disengage from using OER, and what are the enabling factors that reinforce engagement and support lecturers in moving up the ladder. You can also see a brief overview of the findings in my presentation here

If you have a role as staff developer you might also be interested in the appendixes of the report which provide a summary of tactics used by OER promoters to convince lecturers that using OER can be beneficial, as well as examples of how to deal with discoverability issues.

Back to the ALT-C workshop

Together with Suzanne Hardy I was co-facilitating one of the two groups. It was really exciting to listen to the conversations and see how often they reflected what I have found out in the study! Both groups felt that the journey to ‘OER nirvana’ was a mix of plateaux (i.e. you get to a certain level and then you stay there for a while) and obstacles/steps/elevators (I can’t recall the exact names they used) that either keep you from moving up (e.g. if you experience a certain barrier) or help you move up really quickly (e.g. if you directly experienced the benefits, or if you received a bespoke support that helped remove the barrier).

Looking for the best metaphor for people’s engagement with OER our group came up with a board game that very much resembled something that any one in the UK knows really well – snakes & ladders. Chris Follows is planning to take this idea forward so keep an eye on process.arts if you like both board games and OER.

Stairways and ladders might not be the most adequate metaphors for people’s engagement with OER, but they definitely trigger fascinating, useful and insightful discussions!

my panel at the OER12 conference in Cambridge

I am currently attending OER12 conference in Cambrigde. Today I will be moderating a panel: “Embed, don’t bold on. Promoting OER use in UK universities
I will have 5 experts on my panel.

Why this topic?
We all know that academic buy-in is crucial for sustaining the OER movement.
We also know that academic staff need support in using OER, not only to start-off but also to take take their OER engagement forward.
In the UK a major funding for OER-related projects came from the HEA/JISC OER programme. The first two strands of JISC funded OER projects were focused mainly on releasing materials and creating institutional workflows. This has shifted, however, and, what is now in the foreground is the use-side of OER and institutional support for taking the engagement with OER forward. There is a nice blogpost describing this shift written by Amber Thomas at the JISC digital infrastructure team blog.

So against this background, the question we are going to address in this panel is:
−how to take OER engagement forward?
−what works and what doesn’t when it comes to raising engagement with OER use amongst academics?

Why I am moderating?
Mainly because these happen to be also the questions I am trying to answer within my SCORE fellowship.

What all the panelists have in common?
All panelists are SCORE fellows as I am, they are all interested in the use-side of OER and they are all involved in the initiatives that are aimed at promoting OER use among academics in their institutions. What differs is the approaches they take.

And this is what brought us together today:
−We want to share the approaches
−See how they are different, what do they have in common.
−How can we build on each others knowledge, experience and insights into what works and what doesn’t to improve our institutional support services and to give some recommendation to those who are just starting with their efforts to get academic buy-in.

OER reuse landscape

A mindmap with the OER reuse landscape which I created last year as part of the JISC-funded OER impact study needs updating! It was supposed to be a living document. Well, it was. For a little while. It even got attention and contribution from overseas! But now it looks oudated and… dead. It’s been only a year and the discourse about OER has changed so much. I’m still in this field. Still looking and reuse side of things. As part of my SCORE fellowship with the OU I am investigating the ways in which Higher Education Institutions in the UK are trying to raise engagement with OER use amongst their academics. As a buy-product of my research I am collecting links to webistes, guides, handbooks, toolkits and tools that can support academics in their OER (re)use practice. Maybe this should become a part of the exsiting mindmap?



I am currently in Nottingham, participating at the ALT Conference. Tomorrow morning I am going to be one of the facilitators of the workshop “Innovating in teaching with an intelligent design environment” organised by the LDSE project team that I have joined very recently. In the workshop the participants will try out the very early prototype of the LDSE tool designed to support the teachers in the process of creating, sharing and reusing learning designs.

Shortening attention span

I took part in this year’s JTEL Summer School as one of the students. The venue was organised in a beautiful city of Ohrid in Macedonia with the hotel situated directly on the deep-blue Ohrid lake. To me the place was a perfect choice for the event like this. The beautiful landscape and fresh air gave us the opportunity to relax and refresh our minds between the subsequent sessions. One of the PhD students, Ramon Ovelar, provided a nice report of the event. I’m not going to repeat that. I truly recommend Ramon’s blogpost to anyone interested in the JTEL Summer School 2010 topics, presentations and discussions.

What I want to tell you about is something that came up during the very last session of this year’s event. This was a student-led session dedicated to the engineering of the next Summer School. One of the suggestions coming from the audience and supported by many other participants was to ban laptops from some of the next year’s Summer School sessions and workshops.

Does that mean that we tend to experience social media rather as a disturbance than an enhancement of our learning during the events such as summer schools, conferences or workshops?

The common practice in the TEL community is to set up a Twitter communication channel for any conference or other events being organized. We also had one during the Summer School 2010. We also shared a Flickr channel to upload all the photos related to the event, and a collaboration space on TELeurope platform for all the activities to be accomplished prior, during and after the event. Of course, in addition to this set of media, every participant had her own set of tools, applications and services under the label of social media, which required her constant attention. As a result, and this applies not only to the JTEL Summer School 2010 but generally to the events such as conferences, workshops or even project meetings organised in the TEL area, the attention of the most of the participants was constantly split between being here and now and there and now.

I had a very interesting conversation about this issue with Ambjörn Naeve – one of the Summer School lecturers and organisers. Ambjörn said that we are living in an interrupt-driven society and what we are experiencing as a result of being a part of this society is a phenomenon of shortening attention span. He pointed out that our cognitive capacity is limited: we can either concentrate on a couple of selected issues giving them some in-depth thought and going to the core of the problem, or we can stay on the surface and know little something about everything.

We still lack successful strategies to deal with all the attention spam we are being exposed to on an everyday basis. Finding such strategies is probably going to be one of our major endeavours in the years to come.

Will we start banning laptops from the project meetings and conferences to get the full attention of the participants on the issues at the table? I don’t think so. But the simple fact that such solutions are already being suggested (what’s even more interesting, they are being suggested by the technology-savvy members of the TEL research community itself!) means that we definitely should give this issue some closer attention.

Paradigm 2.0

Paradygmat 2.0 is the name of a brand new blog that Ilona Buchem and I lunched last week. We will be writing about issues related to Personal Learning Environments – at least for now. Pontydysgu hosts the blog and Graham Attwell wrote some nice introductory words to welcome us and make us visible to as many Polish-speaking researchers as possible. Yes, this blog will be entirely in Polish. We hope to connect with Polish-speaking research community.

REVIVE workshop at the EDEN 2010 conference

This year’s EDEN conference takes place in Valencia in Spain, the city that I truly fell in love with last summer.  It is a fascinating city full of life, cultural heritage, beautiful beaches and green parks, tasty olives and sardines, and awe-inspiring Santiagio Calatrava’s architecture.

But telling you about the city is not the reason I am writing this post. If you are planning to participate in the EDEN 2010 conference I would like to draw your attention to a workshop which is going to be organised by the REVIVE project consortium.

If you are interested in social software and how it can be used in vocational education & training and higher education institutions, if you are looking into Personal Learning Environments and how they can help you and/or your students to put some structure into the unstructured world of social networks, learning tools, and educational resources, than you really shouldn’t miss our workshop. The workshop will address the following issues:

  • How have learning and teaching strategies at vocational education & training (VET) and higher education (HE) institutions changed since the advent of new learning tools and Personal Learning Environments (PLE)? How can success stories be identified?
  • What challenges do teachers and trainers, as well as curriculum authors face in relation to this shift in learning and teaching tools?
  • What key competences teachers and learners require and develop when learning with social software, new learning tools and Personal Learning Environments?

You will listen to some short introductory presentations, you will work in groups, express your ideas, listen to the ideas of others, discuss, comment, present the results… and first of all, you will meet researches, teachers, students, and course designers from different institutions all over the world who are interested in the same things that you are. I hope to see you there!

me or a person like me?

Yesterday I finally got to watch the 3rd episode of the OU/BBC co-produced series Virtual Revolution. The 3rd part was titled: The cost of the free. I highly recommend it to each single user of the World Wide Web – both to those who embraced Internet as just another tool for work, information search, shopping, leisure, networking etc., and to those who look behind the scenes and do the research in this area. I recommend it, because it is informative, educational and fun to watch. And most of all, it makes you reflect on things that you might think you already know, but as the World Wide Web has been changing continuously with an ever-growing number of new exciting services and possibilities all free to use and asking no more in return but just a bit of your personal data, it is of utmost importance to stop for a while and re-think our practice over and over again.

The episode is based on a series of Interviews – Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, Chris Anderson, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Terry Winogard and Douglas Rushkoff are among the interviewees. I especially liked the part where Douglas Rushkoff was talking about the influence of recommendation engines on a user:

“Recommendation engines are very good at figuring out what people like me would do and telling me what that is. So, I can then find out what people like me do. I can become much more like a person like me.  By telling me what people like me do and encouraging me to be like a person like me, they help me become more prototypically one of my kind of person. And the more like one of my kind of person I become, the less me I am, and the more I am the demographic type.”

So here is the paradox: on the one hand we have Internet as a tool supporting adventure and discovery, exploration and aha effect. It allows us to visit unknown and to meet and talk to people we would probably never get a chance to meet otherwise. On the other hand, the offer seems to be much too big for us to handle and we become indecisive. This is where the recommendation engines and rating systems come into play. But the question is, again, at what cost?

The question prompted me to think about rating systems, especially the one I use quite often – The Internet Movie Database. I started to use the database and its ranking system some 2-3 years ago to support the choice of the movie I was going to watch at the cinema. As the last two years were very busy for me and I rarely had time to go to the cinema, when I did, I desperately wanted to watch something good. The database proved to be very helpful. I set the threshold on 7 out of 10 and never went to watch a film which didn’t make it over the threshold. Some films were really good, some where ok, but still fun and worth seeing. Actually, my first negative experience came last Sunday when I went to watch Sherlock Holmes. The film was rated 7,6 so I naturally assumed that I was going to like it. I forgot just one minor thing – I have never really liked Sherlock Holmes…

This is how I was trapped by the rating system and the positive experience I had using it. I simply started to rely on it too much and got into a comfortable but experience-limiting routine. So, I am really thankful to Sherlock Holmes for this:  it showed me how easy it is to fall into one pattern and stick to it because it is comfortable, saves time, and the experience is more likely to be positive. For the last two years, I have only watched mainstream movies. Now, I am ready to explore and discover again.