Our institutional research database, Open Research Online (ORO), has just released figures on the downloads for individual researchers.
The image shows my figures to date.
It is interesting to see how these compare with the citation figures that appear in Google Scholar.
For example, my thesis – The Construction of Shared Knowledge through Asynchronous Dialogue – has been cited twelve times to date, according to Google Scholar. Yet it has been downloaded 680 times from ORO, meaning that its reach is greater than the citations might indicate.
That figure also shows that uploading theses hugely increases their accessibility. I have ordered paper versions of theses and have found that they have only been signed out on two or three occasions – now they are much more easily discoverable, citable and applicable.
From 20-22 January, I was in Brussels for the kick-off meeting of the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE).
The LACE project brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics and educational data mining (EDM), who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice in order to make progress towards four objectives:
1. Promote knowledge creation and exchange
2. Increase the evidence base
3. Contribute to the definition of future directions
4. Build consensus on interoperability and data sharing
This will involve organising a range of activities designed to integrate people carrying out or making use of learning analytics and ED research and development. LACE will also develop an ‘evidence hub’ that will bring together a knowledge base of evidence in the field. Members will also explore plausible futures for the field.
Open Universiteit Nederland, Netherlands
Cetis, the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards at the University of Bolton, UK
The Open University, UK
Infinity Technology Solutions, Italy
Skolverket, the Swedish National Agency for Education, Sweden
Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus, Norway
ATiT, Audiovisual Technologies, Informatics and Telecommunications, Belgium
EDEN, the European Distance Education Network, Hungary
Finally published online in Technology, Pedagogy and Education is our article on informal learning at primary school level. The research study focused on two groups of self-motivated learners, including one set who had set up their own Scratch programming club, and another group who belonged to a lunchtime robot-building club run by a parent.
The creative approaches to informal learning that these pre-teens used when working with new technology at home, contrasted with the approaches that they were able to use within school. Their strategies of using different devices, collaborating with others both face-to-face and electronically, and consulting a range of websites were all constrained in school settings. Other constraints were associated with their age – for example, their lack of access to credit cards made online purchases a complicated procedure, and many of their decisions about use of technology were related to a lack of money to spend. They were also limited by parental constraints and legal constraints to a much greater extent than children only a few years older.
While other studies have focused on differences in use of technology for learning at age 11, when children move from primary to secondary school, this study suggests that a more significant shift in use of technology for learning takes place at age 13.
Ferguson, Rebecca; Faulkner, Dorothy; Whitelock, Denise and Sheehy, Kieron (2014). Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0. Technology, Pedagogy and Education http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1475939X.2013.870596#.UtWYzmTuKjE
ICT and Web 2.0 have the potential to impact on learning by supporting enquiry, new literacies, collaboration and publication. Restrictions on the use of these tools within schools, primarily due to concerns about discipline and child safety, make it difficult to make full use of this potential in formal educational settings. Studies of children at different stages of schooling have highlighted a wider range of ICT use outside school, where it can be used to support informal learning. The study reported here looks beyond the broad categories of primary and secondary education and investigates the distinctive elements of pre-teens’ use of ICT to support informal learning. Nineteen children aged 10 and 11 participated in focus groups and produced visual representations of ICT and Web 2.0 resources they used to support their informal learning. Thematic analysis of this data showed that pre-teens respond to a range of age-related constraints on their use of ICT. Inside formal education, these constraints appear similar at primary and secondary levels. Out of school, regulation is more age specific, contributing to the development of tensions around use of ICT as children approach their teenage years. These tensions and constraints shape the ways in which children aged 10 to 11 engage in formal and informal learning, particularly their methods of communication and their pressing need to develop evaluation skills.
January 8-10, I was in Boston, where I represented The Open University and FutureLearn at a ‘design charette’ on motivation in online learning networks. This event was hosted by the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with PERTS at Stanford University and the Raikes Foundation.
I haven’t attended a design charette before – these events are intensive, hands-on workshops that bring people from different disciplines and backgrounds together to explore the design of something (in this case online learning networks and, more specifically, MOOCs). The aim is to identify the visions, values, and ideas of the relevant community, allowing community members to collaborate to create innovative solutions.
I enjoyed my first experience of speedgeeking – individuals sit in different areas of the room, and talk to three or four people for a few minutes. On the signal, each group moves on to the next presenter. In 45 minutes, it’s therefore possible to hear a brief presentation from, and ask questions of, around ten presenters. This is a fairly intense experience for the presenters, cramming everything they want to say in a kind of extended elevator pitch, and repeating ten times. A downside is that the presenters don’t get to hear each other – but overall the format allows for a lot of introductions to be made, and gives you the chance to cover a lot of ground very quickly
I co-authored the Beyond Prototypes report, which provides an in-depth examination of the processes of innovation in technology-enhanced learning (TEL). The report sets out what can be done to improve the process of moving from academic research and innovative prototypes to effective and sustainable products and practices. In doing so, it shows that technological development is only a small part of the picture. Significant and lasting TEL innovation requires long-term shifts in practice. These shifts are not confined to the classroom or training environment; they require alterations to many different elements of the education system. In order to make these shifts, different communities and groups need to work creatively together over time, so policymakers and funders should plan for engagement with teams able to initiate, implement, scale and sustain long-term innovation.
Referencing the report: Scanlon, E., Sharples, M., Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Fleck, J., Cooban, C., Ferguson, R., Cross, S. and Waterhouse, P. Beyond Prototypes: Enabling Innovation in Technology-Enhanced Learning. Technology-Enhanced Learning Research Programme, London, http://beyondprototypes.com/ 2013.
Key insights summarised:
TEL involves a complex system of technologies and practices. In order to embed significant TEL innovation successfully, it is necessary to look beyond product development and pay close attention to the entire process of implementation.
Significant innovations are developed and embedded over periods of years rather than months. Sustainable change is not a simple matter of product development, testing and roll-out.
TEL innovation is a process of bricolage. This process includes informed and directed exploration of the technologies and practices required to achieve an educational goal. It involves experimentation to generate fresh insights, and a creative use of available resources. It also requires engagement with a range of communities and practices.
Successful implementation of TEL innovation requires evidence that the projected educational goal has been achieved. Reliable evaluations must be carried out; their findings must be disseminated and acted on. Methods of evaluation are required that can be applied to processes of innovation and to institutional change, as well as those that can be applied to shifts in technology usage.
I have a new, co-authored, book chapter out, which draws on data from the Schome Park Programme. This is the published version of a paper that Julia Gillen and I presented at the Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds (ReLIVE) conference in 2011.
It was an interesting chapter to write, because it draws on the same dataset as another chapter by the four of us – Seeking Planning Permission to Build a Gothic Cathedral on a Virtual Island – but takes a different approach, focusing on community as much as on language.
Ferguson, R., Gillen, J., Peachey, A., & Twining, P. (2013). The strength of cohesive ties: discursive construction of an online learning community. In M. Childs, & A. Peachey (Eds.), Understanding Learning in Virtual Worlds (pp. 83-100). London, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht: Springer.
Learning takes place in a social context, shaping and shaped by discourses. In online projects such as the Schome Park Programme, these discourses are material semiotic practices that make use of writing and other manifestations of digital literacies. Discourses include traceable patterns with linguistic features of distinctive forms and functions. Employing a sociocultural perspective of discourse as mediated interaction, we identify use of register and cohesive ties as salient to the practices of learning communities. The study reported here focuses on two groups of teenagers, one a formal learning community based in the USA, the other a larger, online, informal learning community based in the UK. The groups were originally only weakly tied within a network, but aimed to work together within the virtual world environment, despite some different aims. Working with McMillan’s concept of community as characterised by spirit, authority, trade and art, we illustrate how misalignments in register and problems with cohesive ties can be associated with difficulties in the cooperative learning enterprise and we also make recommendations for future practice.
Wednesday 18 September saw the course catalogue launched for FutureLearn, a project I have been working on since the beginning of the year.
The go-live event included a speech by Martin Bean (vice chancellor of The Open University); a demonstration of the website by Simon Nelson (chief executive officer of FutureLearn), and a speech by David Willetts (Minister for Universities and Science), who said: “This is a high quality educational offering online and it’s right that we should be celebrating it today.”
Simon Nelson pointed to the opportunities that FutureLearn will provide for people to learn for free with experts and with each other. The social learning platform harnesses the power of social experience, delight and effective learning design to allow people to learn anytime, anywhere.
David Willetts made a connection with the recent launch of Europe’s largest telecommunications satellite. The satellite opens the possibility for universal broadband access across Africa. Put this together with a social learning platform that is designed for use on mobile devices, and opportunities for access to good quality higher education begin to open up to millions of people across the world.
The FutureLearn initiative brings together universities from across Britain, as well as Ireland and Australia, and is led by The Open University. Vice chancellor, Martin Bean, commented that
“if there was an Ivy League of distance universities in the world, The Open University would be Number One.’