Archive for category Papers
Second most requested download on the university’s Open Research Online system for the last year.
Buckingham Shum, Simon and Ferguson, Rebecca (2012). Social learning analytics. Journal of Educational Technology and Society, 15(3)
Yesterday I was at ALT-C in Manchester, as one of a group from The Open University and JISC, running the symposium, Big Data & Learning Analytics: Confronting Reality with Big Data & Learning Analytics. Sheila MacNeill has blogged about the event and responses to it.
We are experiencing an explosion in the quantity of data available online from archives and live streams. Learning Analytics is concerned with how educational research, and learning platform design, can make more effective use of such data (Long & Siemens, 2011). Improving outcomes through the analysis of data is of interest to researchers, administrators, systems architects, social media developers, educators and learners. Analytics are being held up by some as a way to confront, and tackle, the tough new realities of less money, less attention, and higher accountability for quality of learning.
Researchers and vendors are building reporting capabilities into tools that provide unprecedented levels of data on learners. This symposium will show what is possible, and what’s coming soon. What objections could possibly be raised to such progress?
However, information infrastructure embodies and shapes worldviews: classification schemes are not only systematic ways to capture and preserve, but also to forget, by virtue of what remains invisible (Bowker & Star, 1999). Learning analytics and recommendation engines are designed with a particular conception of ‘success’, driving the patterns deemed to be evidence of progress, the interventions that are deemed appropriate, the data captured and the rules that fire in software.
This symposium will air some of the critical arguments around the limits of decontextualised data and automated analytics, which often appear reductionist in nature, failing to illuminate higher order learning. There are complex ethical issues around data fusion, and it is not clear to what extent learners are empowered, in contrast to being merely the objects of tracking technology. Educators may also find themselves at the receiving end of a new battery of institutional ‘performance indicators’ that do not reflect what they consider to be authentic learning and teaching.
This Symposium will provide the opportunity to hear a series of brief presentations introducing contrasting perspectives, before the debate is opened to all. Speakers from a cross-section of The Open University will describe how we are connecting datasets, analysing student data and prototyping next generation analytics. Complementing this, JISC will present a national capability perspective, with an update on the JISC CETIS ‘landscape analysis’ of the field, which will clarify potential benefits, issues to consider, and help institutions to assess their current capability and possible next steps.
Participants will catch up with developments in this fast moving field, through exposure to the possibilities of analytics, as well as issues to be alert to.
In September 2011, I presented at ReLive 2011 together with Julia Gillen, one of my co-authors. We won third prize for Best Conference Paper.
FERGUSON, R., GILLEN, J., PEACHEY, A. & TWINING, P. The strength of cohesive ties: discursive construction of an online community. ReLIVE11: Creative Solutions for New Futures, 2011 (21-22 September) Milton Keynes, UK.
Learning takes place in a social context and this context can offer many resources, including structure, continuity and motivation. Online, two primary learning types of context have been identified, networks and communities. While networks may offer a wealth of people and resources, communities appear to offer richer learning possibilities. It is therefore important to investigate how online learning communities can be formed from online networks, and whether such a shift benefits learners. The study reported here focuses on two groups of teenagers, one a formal learning group from the USA and the other an informal learning group from the UK. The groups were originally only weakly tied in a network, but aimed to create a single learning community through activity in an online forum, wiki and virtual world. Thematic analysis of their forum posts shows the importance of cohesive ties – grammatical devices used to construct coherent narratives – to the development of key elements of community: spirit, authority, trade and art.
In August 2011, Dorothy Faulkner travelled to the EARLI conference in Exeter to present a paper co-authored with me, Denise Whitelock and Kieron Sheehy.
Ferguson, R., Faulkner, D., Whitelock, D., & Sheehy, K. (2011). Knowing how to collaborate: Collaborating to know with Web 2.0 tools. Paper presented at the EARLI 2011 conference, Exeter, UK.
This paper reports an exploratory study that draws on sociocultural accounts of learning to frame an investigation of 10 – 11 year-olds’ experience of using of Web 2.0 tools to support informal, self-directed learning activities at home and out-of school contexts. Focus group interviews and visual elicitation methods were used to support informed dialogues with 10-11 year-olds about their use the Internet and Web 2.0 applications. Fourteen children from a UK primary school’s robotics and with computer clubs participated in the study. Children were interviewed in small groups of three or four and were also invited to produce visual representations of the ICT hardware, software and Internet applications they used at home. Preliminary analyses of the drawings and interview transcripts revealed that these participants routinely engage in both face-to-face and on-line learning activities with friends and that they use a variety of instant messaging and mobile technologies to share and exchange knowledge and expertise about gaming and the Internet, the usefulness of different search engines and information and retail sites. The data also reveal that although these children enjoy an extended, global network of family and friends, the learning potential afforded by Web 2.0 tools is hampered by inefficient information search and knowledge-sharing strategies. The paper will draw on the theoretical and analytical framework of activity theory to explain these findings.