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Month: October 2004

Blogging, and the new generation

I’ve heard of various instances of people using blogs as a notepad for their studies, which they then realised could be opened up to the world at large for comment, collaboration, and just plain information harvesting. By and large the blogs are produced by masters/phd students, but there’s then the others: BBC reported on Hangleton Community Junior Schoo, whose pupils (7-8 year olds) have been blogging for a good while now and learning to share/express themselves to a much wider audience.

This mixes in with online chat/forums and the increased diversity of experience/knowledge that can be gathered by young children, the effects, positive or negative, of which haven’t yet been seen. Perhaps when this happens, we’ll really see the true wave of e-learning; rather than hybrid approach which aims to fit as broad a range of learning/teaching styles as possible.

Generations of distance learning

An expansion of comments made in the (VLE) forum:

The generations approach is really only useful for someone who is documenting the evolution of non-traditional environments as a historical project, not as something with any semantic/pedagogic meaning. Different courses, tutors, and students will make use of the available resources in different ways.

Clearly a degree in internet studies is necessarily going to make far greater specific use of the internet and learning environments, than one in, for example, physical education. That isn’t to say that teaching physical education is possible without technologies – it’s nowhere near as effective without them (video particularly) – but rather than the adoption of technologies is dependent on the willingness and suitability of both sets of participants. This seems somewhat similar to ‘The black hole’ story – all aspects of distance/e-learning require commitment and comprehension from tutor and student before they can start to be explored and used effectively.

In this respect, the evolution of distance learning stages that Garrison describes is structured on a historical basis, rather than a take-up/subject-based approach. The latter would be more helpful in identifying the effects that each “generation” of technologies has on the course providers/recipients, rather than the developments from generation to generation.

There is also the question of how to assess the effectiveness and necessity of each approach; with traditional learning, many different teaching formats and learning strategies have emerged, many of which have been left by the wayside. The same will need to happen with distance learning techniques, and many of these will be brand new, bleeding-edge technologies that will require further refinement before they can properly be used. A prime example of this is the fact that web is not quite ready as an accessible medium for all (both technically, and socially), specifically for users with disabilities, but also those with different language requirements and backgrounds. It’s certainly a great step forward compared to some learning systems, but not necessarily all.

It seems wrong then, to treat them as generations which succeed each other; rather they should co-exist and come to the fore where the course locus demands it, so that alternatives can emerge for students who prefer, or need, to be ‘old school’.

Trying to find focus…

The academic / teaching focus of the course is fazing me slightly; I have found I don’t have a specific application for a digital environment to be used for, since I’m a member of support staff. I don’t consider this to be a flaw of the course, since it’s part of School of Education, rather a slight stumbling block while I figure out a pseudo-application which my thoughts can focus around.


Hamish kindly passed on details of a journal article on ‘The New Literacy’ today. The experience has left me somewhat shaken.

  1. it’s been 4 years since I’ve had cause, or time, to read/request a journal.
  2. I didn’t comprehend what the zetoc Alert actually was at first.
  3. I clicked on the link expecting to be able to read the article in full; I just got shelfmark/Dewey info.
  4. I then clicked on the ‘Request a copy from your Institution’s library’ link, expecting Zetoc to be able to send me through EASE into Athens and to the journal I was after, or even to hit the reserve button for me. It didn’t. It just gave me more info on how to order it.

This is nothing radical or at all surprising for those in more academic circles, but I began to question the likelihood of me actually reading the article within different timescales, all of which came up with “none”. I was born into the digital age and expect things on demand. To my detriment, I’ve never properly used the University library, and as a result of that, am likely not to in this instance. I simply can’t be bothered to trudge over there, unearth my staff card, locate the book on a particular floor, locate the book, find that someone else has got it stored in the pile of 40-50 other books they’re somehow expecting to get through in the next 6 hours, and then face the prospect of fines of an inordinant magnitude when it gets lost at home or work.

So am I losing out? A fellow colleague has the kindness to pass on something of interest and I just snub it?

Nah. I’ve got Google. A quick flit with the article title and author name, and there it is, in full, and I can sit here getting progressively less-healthy, fineless. Splendid.

Of course, I didn’t read it yet – I just bookmarked it, like the hundreds of other interesting-but-I’m-busy pages that linger in that folder, never to be touched again. But that’s e-learning for you.

(article available at –

At the last minute…

It’s been some time since my last confession. This is partly due to work commitments, both at University and outside, turning the days into nights and round again, but partly I think to do with the distinction between the reactiveness of the discussion forums, and the proactive need on a blog; pop over to the forums and it’s easy to be re-inspired by ideas and thoughts that have occurred before, so participating is just a click away. Sculpting a weblog is a very different process, and I can see it being something which begins in dribs and drabs, and ends in torrents, as the course material introduces more and more suggestions.

As a form of continuous assessment, I’ve found the same problem as with traditional assessment – the subconscious desire to keep putting it off, and off, until the deadline. With an effective deadline every couple of days, I could already believe myself to be falling behind; on the other hand, if there is nothing significant to say, perhaps nothing should be said at all!

On the other hand, the ability to do course reading, and respond to course reading, “whenever”, when compared to a traditional tutorial group at a prescribed time (usually 9am), allows for a much richer expression of character and involvement, both for those who simply don’t like mornings, and those who actually can’t do mornings, or other times, and who can only participate at certain times and in certain ways/places. I noted Hamish’s concern that there is no revolution here, but there is certainly evolution.