Saturday, 22 September 2012


BA LTR will help you develop creative technology skills, the process of making many kinds of media has become a lot less complex over the last decade and digital photography has become the norm where it once was a rarity. Making a poster using a photograph, and overlaying a text message on it, is something you can do even in the most basic graphics software. At the start of this semester  our new year 1 LTR students will create a poster at the start of their journey.

The first image below might not go so well on touch screen devices as it is a Flash .swf file but the same effect could be done using animated gifs or a slide show file. The aim was to identify and add an appropriate image to go with the text message. This is a skill that is often very useful when working in PowerPoint. It is not unusual to see PowerPoint presentations where clip art or even a seemingly random set of images has been used. This activity is the start of the journey towards developing good media design skills, BA LTR students will study this theme over the three years of the degree by working in a wide range of digital literacies. We always get very positive comments from the external examiners about the standard of digital literacies achieved by our students.   Throughout this post if you click on any image it will open in a larger size. This first is a set of related images that might take a few moments to start rolling through.

This next one was to promote a new course, the course director wanted a simple message along with an image that projected the sense of starting a journey. I have taken the contact details off it as they have changed since it was made.
In each example the images and text relate to each other to reinforce the message. The link between boats setting out at sunrise on a voyage obviously parallels the idea of students setting out on their journey of discovery. The course also had a strong technology theme, the other perhaps less obvious link is to the technology of the boats. When this design of boats was first used  they were a cutting edge technology ideal for purpose and local conditions. To achieve this, innovative solutions were developed to refine technologies that have been around for thousands of years. Every student has access to a range of modern technologies, they are the vehicles that enables the fully online learning journey. Every student finds their own collection of technologies that work for them, they develop creative and sometimes very innovative ways of building their own boat to steer their own course towards the future. It took a fair few words to describe all of that, I could have written many more, maybe even a thousand, far too many to put on a poster. The imagery of a poster is important, it may not always replace a thousand words, but it can be the thing that embeds in memory and provides a hook for retention of the wider message. 

In this one I have tried to link between tangible reality and the reflective world, I though about post processing the holiday snap to bring out the texture and colour of the corner of the pier but I sort of like the reference to black and white against the colourful depths and my shadow down there in reflection world. Are you seeing the world as black and white; immerse yourself in reflection. 

The next snapshot is from a meeting of the TEL MAP cluster in Manchester this September. The aim was mapping the future direction of Technology Enhanced Learning. Vana Kamtsiou is explaining concepts put together by Debbie Holley using sticky notes and Richard Millwood is adding them to the Cmap map. Aesthetically it is not a prime poster image but the content has relevance to the Technology for Dissemination module (T4D) where students will make preparations for a dissemination event that is held in the following semester. The findings from their Work Based Major Project will be shared via a presentation in their workplace.

The image shows two presentation technologies used in parallel, neither is PowerPoint :-)
The students will explore a range of potential technologies and decide on which one or combination will best suit; their competence level; the material they need to show and the needs of their audience.

There are some good examples of using images with text amongst Hamish Scott Brown's introduction sequence on his web site. Hamish worked at the Ultralab and had a lot of input into the Ultraversity learning design as well as being a key part of the facilitation team for many years. He has won prestigious awards as a result of his MA work and in his current work as a professional photographer. The web, TV the outdoor world are good sources of using image and text to convey or promote a message. Look around you for influences, pause and look deeply into the images, think about the elements that have been brought together on posters, banners, on the packaging of products, adorning vehicles, buildings, in shop windows, magazines etc.

This one was for our Wallwisher (now Padlet) wall, the photo was taken from the little ferry that takes people over to St Michael's Mount at Penzance. Hopefully the notion of a journey and of creating solid foundations/building something wonderful are conveyed:

What message will you put on your poster? The process of designing a poster can also be a valuable one for the designer. Immersion in the task helps to deepen engagement with the subject and that can lead to new insights. When you are in the final semester of year 3 and heading towards graduation you will look back at your learning and reflect on the journey. It might be useful to have an initial poster that conveys your future aspirations, you could also reflect on your current skills or any aspect of who you are. Another approach would be to promote a local service or an event in your workplace. Choose a theme and see if you can find a photograph you have taken, or go out and take one, that relates to your message.  If, like Julian, Toby and many other of our students, you decide to try a blog as a learning journal, you could add your poster and share it with others. If you do post it somewhere public please post a comment on the bottom of this post with a link to the location. You might want to keep it less visible in which case it would be a good opening image for a more private reflective learning journal in a Word document.

If you enjoy the activity or can't decide on one theme to focus on your could always do a set of posters, there are many questions you could ask - here is one group:

How am I feeling...
What skills do I have…
What are my choices…
Where do I want to go…

Friday, 21 September 2012

Learning Plans

Individual learning plans, independent learning plans, personalised learning plans I really don't mind what our students call them I do encourage them all to use one and when they do it is usually a  good decision.

As described in earlier posts we do work based online learning where students can study asynchronously without the restriction of timetabled lectures, live streamed workshops, summer schools and all that stuff that can be great in its own right but just doesn't fit with everyone's life / work patterns.

We do provide a recommended study schedule that maps activities in a suggested time-frame. There are many variations and this is a very simplified example but it may well go something like:

Week Patch / learning outcome Suggested activity Assessment product.
1 All Read through the resources, raise any uncertainties in the community discussion. In your reflective learning journal create your own personal learning plan. No assessment product - preparing for study.
2-3 Patch 1 LO 1. This may be a literature review or a knowledge consolidation activity. Analytical report on theory.
4-5 Patch 2 LO 2+3 Planning and preparing for research activity. Present a proposal.
6-8 Patch 3 LO 3 Implementing theory through real world research - often reflection or inquiry based. Initial research report.
9-10 Patch 4 LO 4 Reviewing research activity - analysis and findings. Evidence based presentation of analysis and findings.
11 Stitching All LOs Retrospective commentary identifying meta-learning, may include re-evaluation of theory from Patch 1 in the light of the experience of applying the theory. Reflective account - may be first person, alternative genre.
12 Preparing for hand-in Time for a meticulous proof read for meaning and grammar. Honed and refined e-portfolio.
Uploaded by 5 pm on hand-in day.

Blimey that was very simplified but will serve a need in this post.

So what does a student need to do to turn that into an ILP? Not easy to answer as all students have different contexts, cultures and personal lives, these all exert forces that push and pull at the time available for study. Again simplification is going to have to suffice.

Generally the detail of life happens in hours, days and weeks, not so much in chunks of weeks. So the first step is developing a usable framework. Gantt charts, spreadsheets, flow charts (hand drawn or digital like Cmap), tables, pages in a paper book, sections in a Word document, slides in a PowerPoint, Etherpad - there are many ways to approach planning. 

So its time to think things through.

The planning:
Week 1 - Tuesday is busy at work + evening meeting, Wed-Thurs evenings free, Friday doctor + shopping. Weekend is free. =>3 hours per night Wed-Thurs read module resources and monitor discussions. Saturday is family time. Sunday pm 2-4 work on ILP, 7-9 read everything again - do I know what I am doing?
Week 2 - Residential outdoor activity trip with year 5. Mon - Thursday. => Can't guarantee good connection so need to download literature to iPad on Sunday before I go so I have a chance to read it if I get some free time during residential. Friday evening + Saturday am is family time but I need to pop into the online community as well. Study Saturday pm + most of Sunday - read and make notes in Learning journal/share ideas in online community.
Week 3. Staff meeting Wed evening, otherwise fairly OK week. => 2 hours each Monday + Tuesday evenings write up notes into critical review.  Thursday 3 hours to look for / review additional literature and add to notes. Friday  - Sunday evenings complete literature review - turn notes into proper text. 30 mins each day in VLE discussions.

And so on, transfer the thinking onto a clear framework that is editable. Do not just plan then hide the plans away - they are dynamic and need annotation if they are to be of high value.

Using the plan:
Week 1 went OK I even think I think I know what I am doing.
Week 2 very little free time at residential. Children do not sleep it seems. Need to add a late night on Saturday to get through the literature on time.
Week 3. Oh Blow, news on Monday am that OfSTEDare coming in week 5 so week 3 Thursday is also an after school meeting, I need to negotiate less family time on Saturday and block out Monday -Wednesday of week 5 as non study days. 
And so on.

If a plan is created then stuck on a wall and forgotten it is not much use at all.

If a plan is created then stuck on the wall and not annotated to show what was achieved, and not adapted to cater for unexpected circumstances, it shows how much was not done and makes you feel less than happy - that is not conducive to good learning.

If a plan is created, referred to on a daily basis, annotated and adapted to cater for unexpected events, including barriers and opportunities, then it is a useful device that tracks successful learning and engenders a feel-good feeling - that is conducive to good learning.

Friday, 14 September 2012

TEL MAP meeting

Two day meeting with the Technology Enhanced Learning Mapping group making progress towards developing a road map for the future. I think I need to indulge in some introspection to make sense of what happened. I had a very productive 6 hour journey up from Liskeard to Manchester still somewhat baffled as to why a first class ticket was cheaper than a standard one and why a first class ticket was not available had I started at Bodmin Parkway 7 miles down the track from Liskeard - there were only two others in the carriage for the first hour or so and it never got filled. I made progress towards mapping the Ultraversity online community model and reflected on what it might look like in the future. 

It is always refreshing to meet colleagues from The Ultralab and review foundations I have met with Stephen Powell and Richard Millwood a few times and published with them since we went our separate ways but this was the first reunion with Pete Bradshaw since 2006 many days had passed but it felt seamless.  We grabbed the essence of The Ultralab, rekindled the flame in a few bytes of intense discussion. It was great meeting Li Yuan after so many emails, Li was who I expected Li to be - are we getting more adept at knowing who people are from text I wonder.

We spent the first afternoon with the cluster getting to know each other and Bill Olivier and Richard facilitating a review of TEL MAP aspirations and what was done in the previous meeting as many of us were new to the cluster. Over coffee, and later over the evening meal, new collaborations were developed and ideas for projects emerged tangential to the main focus. 

The previous meeting had lead to a set of Axes to try and define what is. In attempting to define what might be, we sketched them and placed our selves and institutions in the diagram and then tried to vector towards the future. We got slightly distracted into semantics and discussed the linguistic problems of commonly used labels. ‘Face-to-Face’ placed as the other end of the spectrum to ‘Online’ was not a comfortable axis. As a fully online course facilitator I spend a fair bit of time Face to Face with colleagues and students in real conversations via online digital interfaces even though we are often hundreds of miles apart. Situated, located, dislocated, remote, nothing quite fitted.  

We considered how the weight of institutional needs such as economics exerted a gravitational pull and whether axes would converge towards a singularity. Debbie Holley's paper cone was pulling this kind of convergence into the concept:
It became fairly clear that there were several places on the diagram where the future would draw in, to differing extents, a range of elements to develop new models appropriate to clusters in the heterogeneous mass of individuals (students and staff) with different needs. Fully online is fine for some learning contexts, it works very well for the Ultraversity process driven work focused context for example, however; Students such as aspiring sculptors would have call for real world resources -  an online furnace for smelting bronze is beyond current technology so is an online mass spectrometer.  Do those needs require students to spend significant proportions of their study time at institutions or might they work largely from home and draw on the physical resources that are geographically nearest their home? Some horse trading swapping students and resources in the short  term between institutions might be possible and would save travel and accommodation impact.

Defining our personal visions via a google Drive Spreadsheet and pulling together the commonality was quite a task but there was not a lot of disagreement the difficulty was getting the terminology right. Richard used to build the common map - a great piece of software. Vana Kamtsiou suggested stickies and Debbie and I went with that route. I was totally impressed with how much Debbie fitted onto one sticky. It was lovely watching two levels of technology working together glued by dialogue.

So where did we end up? The Cmap is a good starting point defining some elements of a possible future landscape but is still a haiku compared to the complexity of the full landscape. it became clear that roadmapping the potential futures is not a case of building one autovia, HE institutions sit in a culturally and aspirationally diverse landscape, the future holds some certainties but a vast amount of uncertainties. Stephen Heppell coined this well with his 'certainty of uncertainty' concept and Steve Wheeler also has some good thoughts on digital futures.  

So we have a partial future landscape and some thoughts on a network of roads that we might travel through that landscape. As the train flows along the Cornish coast I wonder whether we need these roads - there is something wonderful about the open potential of the sea as long as we avoid the head in the sand feet in the clouds and eyes looking at the past inversion I am sure we can find many ways of letting technology enable 'happy and engaged students' to journey alongside 'happy and engaged tutors' as co-learners heading towards a fulfilling and empowered future.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


A page to aggregate publications about the Ultraversity approach to learning and prior publications that lead to the development of the model.
 Title  Abstract
Millwood, R., Powell, S. and Tindal, I. 2009. The Undergraduate Student as Action Researcher. UVAC.  This paper describes and evaluates an approach to online supported, work-focused learning where undergraduate students operate as action-researchers; planning and implementing action for improvement in their work-place as a basis for award-bearing credit in higher education.  A model is proposed for a meaningful, ongoing tripartite relationship between Higher Education Institution, learner and small and medium enterprises that is viable. The way the design enables the learner to develop their "higher level skills that embody the essence of higher education" (Willis, 2008) is an important issue if the ideas and approach are to be widely adopted. The paper outlines the curriculum design and the nature of the students work-focused inquiries. Data from final year research reports was analysed to identify the characteristics of the projects undertaken by students uncovering 'who they have become'. Challenges and issues of the approach are discussed.
Millwood, R., Powell, S. and Tindal, I. 2008. Developing technology-enhanced work-focussed learning - a Pattern Language approach Proceedings of Special Track on Technology Support for Self-Organised Learners 2008 This paper identifies issues in developing a three-year duration, work-focussed undergraduate degree programme with a model of inquiry-based learning supported through online communities of inquiry. On the course, students examine their current work-practice to identify issues and then plan, implement and evaluate an improvement strategy. Negotiated learning activities and facilitated networking environmentsare key to providing students with a highly personalised and relevant learning experience.  Students were surveyed and interviewed through questionnaire, telephone and face-to-face meeting. Staff were asked to produce accounts identifying major issues within their particular role, describing and evaluating steps taken to mitigate them. In both cases, transcripts were examined using interpretive phenomenological analysis and this grounded approach was used to identify key issues.
The findings show that challenges for the improvement of the learning experience included a range of issues unified by concerns regarding diversity of approach and complexity. It is proposed that this was partly
due to knowledge held tacitly but unarticulated. To improve practice, a Pattern Language approach is proposed. In order to articulate values and ideas, a Pattern Language category of Online Community of Inquiry is outlined.
These patterns are framed as instructions to inform an approach to new working practices, technologies and systems local to the context in which they were found. It is suggested that this approach helps teaching staff, developers, administrators, and students working together to understand and overcome problems in their own contexts, by adapting these and other patterns. 
Millwood, R., Powell, S. and Tindal, I. 2008. Personalised Learning and the Ultraversity Experience. Interactive Learning Environments, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 63 - 81. Routledge. This paper describes a model of personalized work-integrated learning that is collaborative in nature, uses emerging Internet technologies and is accessed fully online. The Ultraversity project was set up by Ultralab at Anglia Ruskin University to develop a fully online, 3-year duration, undergraduate degree programme with an emphasis on action inquiry in the workplace. The course design aimed to provide a highly personalized and collaborative experience. Students engage in the processes of inquiry together as a cohort, making it possible to collaborate and support each other in the online communities. The focus of this paper is on three aspects of personalization: students' use of technological infrastructure to develop online communities; integration of study in the workplace; and the work-study-life balance. Students were surveyed and interviewed after completion through questionnaire, telephone and face-to-face meeting. Transcripts were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. This grounded approach provided evidence of impact of the design on personalized learning. The course design made the assumption that blended learning was not necessary to ensure a rich learning experience and would be a barrier to those who could not attend, and this decision is vindicated by the accounts of participants. It was also confirmed that facilitated online communities can be used to support deep learning that is focussed on action inquiry in diverse and individual workplaces. The course was designed to impact on both the work practices of the individual and the wider institution. Participants reported this as a strength. Overall, the evidence presented shows that a course design that emphasizes a high degree of trust in students' ability to self-manage learning can lead to a challenging, personalized and rewarding online student experience. Students demonstrated high levels of competence in managing work, study and life. This assertion is further borne out by the high degree of success achieved in terms of outcomes, judged by the degree results obtained by the cohort studied.
Arnold, L., O'Dunne, V. and Pickford, S. 2007 Real world research: Inquiry led undergraduate work-based learning in the virtual paradigm

This paper seeks to explore how a combination of work-based learning and inquiry-based learning can be blended together with social technologies and balanced facilitation to create a highly personalised fully online undergraduate experience. Whilst the literature base is established for each element separately, less is known of the combinational possibilities of these approaches to learning. Based around the experience of the highly successful BA Learning Technology Research degree based at Anglia Ruskin University, Essex, the paper shows how elements of the blend can act to enable participation in higher education from previously excluded groups. The case study establishes the benefits and challenges of this real world approach to learning for the students as individuals and with respect to the emerging calls for particular skill sets in the super-complex age, where learners have multiple frameworks of understanding, of action, and of self-identity. The paper goes on to explore how learner defined inquiry based learning is both scalable and replicable and suggests lessons for other courses and institutions. Within the case study the paper also identifies challenges posed by the blend combinations and makes tentative suggestions on how they may be addressed.
Millwood, R., Powell, S. and Tindal, I. 2007 Undergraduate Student Researchers – the Ultraversity Model for Work-Based Learning. Proceedings of the 2nd TENCompetence Open Workshop - Service Oriented Approaches and Lifelong Competence Development Infrastructures, pp. 157-166. Manchester UK: The Institute for Educational Cybernetics, University  Technology is creating a global learning landscape for the 21st century; if Higher Education Institutions are to continue to meet the needs of today’s learners they must explore approaches where the role of technology is central to new models for learning. The four year long Ultraversity project was set up by Ultralab at Anglia Ruskin University to explore the development of a wholly online, three year duration, undergraduate, work-based degree with students using action research
methodology. The experience is designed to be highly personalised and collaborative in nature, rather than individualised and isolated. Students engage in the processes of inquiry together, making it possible to collaborate and support without plagiarising because they are studying in their own work context. This paper describes this model of personalised work-based learning and the Internet technologies used to connect the distributed student body and teaching team. Issues are identified relating to the model and the tools used to support it.
McGuire, L,, Tindal, I., Revill, G., Roberts, G. and Arnold, L. (2006) Patchwork media online: Achieving high levels of personal and professional reflection through Ultralab's BA Hons (Learning, Technology and Research) degree. Paper presented at BERA Conference, Warwick. Ultraversity, a research project conceived by Ultralab, Anglia Ruskin University’s learning research and technology laboratory in Chelmsford, attempts to provide social learning opportunities for reflective practitioners to gain graduate accreditation. The qualification is a BA Hons (Learning, Technology and Research); the context is the researcher’s own workplace; the medium is online discussion communities, resources and e-portfolio; the accrediting University is Anglia Ruskin.
‘Patchwork Text’ is a concept conceived by Richard Winter while Professor of Education at Anglia Ruskin. His concerns at the absence of the creative imagination in formal assessment in universities, and the dominance of the traditional, text only essay, led him to introduce story-writing and reflective writing into professional inquiry courses. His patchwork text approach allows different forms of writing to be shaped, fashioned and assembled in order to explore the relationships between various perspectives. The resulting pieces of work are then shared among learners, discussed and interpreted in different ways, then stitched together, accompanied by a reflective commentary to form the final assessment product.
When developing the new Ultraversity model, the patchwork approach appeared ideally suited for socially constructed learning in collaborative online community environments, where sharing pieces of work in learning sets, or communities could provide a valuable context for students to explore peer review and critique. It was felt that Winter’s approach could be re-contextualised for the online environment and extended beyond text to encompass different media as well, enabling students to embrace the creative potential of online technologies, and transforming the patchwork text approach into one of ‘patchwork media’.
In this paper, Ultralab facilitators attempt to review the ‘patchwork media’ experience by producing their own patchwork piece reflecting on a chosen aspect or perspective of the patchwork approach. Each piece was then presented to a specific online community of students for their feedback and reflections. Students were asked if they valued the approach and found it professionally enlightening; if they had experimented with different media and genre; and if they had experienced any conflict between the requirements of the approach and those of the examiner. Their responses provided the data for the case studies.
Roberts, C. M. and Tindal, I. (2002) An internet based postgraduate respiratory medicine learning resource and its potential application in the communication of regionally generated training resources across regional and international boundaries.

Presented to British Thoracic Society meeting 2002. 
 Current Information Communications Technology provides us with the opportunity to present, assess and consolidate innovative new constructions in learning methodology and practice. The Chestnet project utilises this potential to provide training material, resource based on an open intranet web site. This consists of tutorials and quizzes with self-assessments aimed at the specialist registrar (SpR) grade but useful for all interested in respiratory medicine.The project aims to achieve a paradigm shift in SpR learning methodology encouraging users to view information and communications technologies as valuable and enjoyable "cognitive tools" (Jonassen 1994) with which they can access contribute to, and interact with, high quality learning resources at their convenience. Training traditionally delivered, in the form of instructional lectures and workshops, to a located, regional audience can now be captured and communicated to a global audience via the internet. Multimedia offers the possibility of incorporating greater interactivity than is possible in the traditional one to many face to face delivery. The annotated content generated by the project will be of value to an audience beyond UK respiratory trainees and in a global context. This paper reviews current provision and discusses intended developments.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Remote working - getting some air

I have been a remote worker since 1999, I started working for Chelmsford based Ultralab when I lived close to Land's End, then moved to working for Anglia Ruskin Faculty of Education from the same location. I spent almost 4 years working for Anglia from Galicia - NW Spain, then moved to Sussex and now back in Cornwall on the edge of Bodmin moor near Liskeard. We do not have any mobile signal in the little village we are in - it nestles deep in a valley and access stops at where our road starts. BT needed 5 weeks from my application to them actually being able to supply a router and activate phone / internet - as Telefonica managed the same in 5 days in very rural Galicia I have no idea why BT are so inefficient, however; I still have 9 days before the line is active so have been working via a borrowed USB mobile internet thing from the moors above the village. Last time I used one it gave me around 3-5 kbps and was barely functioning, fortunately the only thing that did work reliably was Centrinity's FirstClass Client -the software we used to host our online communities in. I did a speed test today and am getting 4.9MBPS that was more than enough to participate in a departmental meeting via Adobe Connect video/text interface. 2 hours into the meeting my MacBook batteries started to run low so I had to start the car and idle it for 20 mins to charge the laptop via my inverter - no car should be without an inverter. 

On the other side of the road some new friends reminded me it was time for a drink - glad I brought my flask today.

A few meters down from where I park is a standard country gate leading into a designated footpath, there is no fence, no visible remains of a fence or signs of an about to arrive fence; just a gate. It has been a constant reminder of how easy it is to become fenced into being in buildings when freedom is just a few steps away. 

After several days of sitting in the car I headed out and used the gate - it should have been no different to not using the gate but it was different. Stepping through the gate rather than going round it reminded me that I had fenced myself into my car, so for a little while I had a totally unfenced office experience. 

I really would recommend getting out in the sunshine every now and then, I will be buying my own USB connector and working outdoors more often - there is not much in the online world that requires sitting indoors at a desk these days.