Reflecting on the difference between the discourse in the Ultraversity First Class conferences and the Hotseat tool, I am struck again by the ‘tangible’ difference in the learning experience that different online tools can provide. The fragmented nature of FC conversations is in stark contrast to the rich flow of ideas possible where contributions are displayed sequentially on the same page. Take a look at an screenshot of the Hotseat Tool and FC to get an idea about what I mean. It is also worth pointing out that there are a range of bulletin board systems that fall somewhere on a continuum between the two.
The advantages are the ability to quickly scan up and down as one might when trying to understand a complex section in a book. This helps not just with reading and understanding, but also with the composing of contributions and replies. Indeed, this seems to be such an obvious difference that I wonder why anyone would through choice build software that didnít have this facility!
So in terms of Ultralab mantras, it would seem to support the view of the importance of discourse presentation – simple and obvious but overlooked by many online communication software developers. Work at Ultralab on online community tools such as Think.com and subsequent use in online communities have demonstrated this point clearly. The ability to display contributions in a wide range of ways that offer some of the opportunities enjoyed in f2f settings is important. For example, small group work, presentations, debating ideas and issues, brainstorming ideas, etc. are all strategies that teachers employ on a daily basis as a means of facilitating learning amongst students. Indeed, the asynchronisity offered by online environments offers yet another dimension in that it can be used to promote considered reflection of a depth that is perhaps less easy to encourage in f2f conversations.
It is here that issues of framing discourse become intertwined with issues of presentation. How can online discourses be set up in such a way as to give the maximum potential for success using the tools that are available. The more limiting the tools, the less rich the experience available for designers of learning experiences.
Another take on this is from the angle of learning protocols. This document has a list of some of the ones that I have used before. They were developed with a colleague Rita Walker for a specific purpose, but you may find them useful as a starting point.
A small project I am running up in NZ is to try to link practitioners to keynote speakers at the http://NAVCON2K4 conference. Again, this draws on UV experience and I post the dreaft letter to entice participants……..
Dear Colleagues. As a part of the NAVCON2K4 conference we are seeing to recruit 30 teachers to take part in a pilot project to look at how we can support classroom practitioner through undertaking small scale action research projects linked to keynote presenters at the conference.
The project will start in the beginning of August and will finish in November when a research paper on the success of the project will be shred with the Ministry of Education and published online along with the individual action research projects. The project is a an action research project in its own right and as such everyone involved is a co-researcher and contributor to the research paper.
To support this, we will use Blog technology to help researchers in developing ideas, planning, and undertaking their action research. The project will be facilitated by Stephen Powell and Anne Trewern who have experience in supporting students through the action research process in online environments.
In addition to the online support, we will invite participants to meet conference keynote presenters at a reception at NAVCON where they will have a further opportunity to explore ideas and share experiences.
Each ‘researcher’ who completes a piece of action research will be entered into a draw to win one of 3 digital cameras. And, because they are much cheaper than digital cameras, everyone will at least get a T-shirt!
If you like the sound of this, then contact Stephen at email@example.com (021336954)
Part of my time working in New Zealand has been taken up working for the Te Wananga o Aotearoa (University of new Zealand). This is a Maori focused University and my role has been as a consultant to support the development of a new online degree programme – ï¿½Bachelor of Teaching in Early Childhood Educationï¿½.
There is a large commitment by the Ministry of Education in NZ to the development of better early childhood education by developing the expertise of teachers working in this sector. As well as this, there is an ongoing ï¿½campaignï¿½ to protect and develop the Maori culture and early childhood experiences are see of central importance to this. As a result, Te Wananga o Aotearoa University took the decision to develop a degree programme and enlisted Rita Walker (Curriculum Writer), who is an expert in early childhood education rooted in the Maori culture. Ultralab and my role in this was to offer the lessons we have learned in working in online environments and in particular our experience of developing the Ultraversity degree project.
Offering our Ultraversity experiences, and by this I mean the Ultraversity researchers and Learning facilitators has been a tremendously rewarding experience as it means that Ultraversity is making a change in Higher Education not just in England but in other countries also. The stories and examples of the types of work that Ultraversity student (akonga) researchers undertake and the impact that they have in their workplace (including the struggles!) make a huge impression and indeed enthuse those who I talk to and make them want to take some of the good ideas that we are developing and apply them to their own particular culture and context.
From my perspective, many of the ideas we are developing in Ultraversity map easily into the underpinning Maori cultures philosophy, beliefs, and values. For example, the importance of learning together in communities, the principle of everyoneï¿½s voice and thoughts being of value, the importance of learning through play, and the power of stories as a means of communication and learning.
Care needs to be taken however in making assumptions as the cultures are very different. One example being the practice of having a totally online degree would not be acceptable as meeting face-to-face (the hui) is a significant and important aspect of the Maori culture which values a more communal way of life.
Clearly in the UK, the industrial revolution changed things irrevocably. And more recently polititions like Margaret Thatcher, who once said ï¿½There is no such thing as society:there are individual men and women, and there are familiesï¿½, have also contributed to fragmentation and ‘individualisation’ of society. Personally I disagree with her statement and believe it is a view that has caused much harm. I subscribe to the view that society is important and hope that we can develop our communities in a way that values more than just the individual and their immediate family.