Ding ding! Web 2.0 versus the LMS: are we opening the cage or shrink wrapping knowledge?

This post has been created as part of an assignment for the Education and Digital cultures course from the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Digital Education. I’ve shared it in order to make it publicly accessible and allow discussion around the topic of web 2.0 and Learning Management systems as social learning tools.  I have chosen to publicly post this in direct opposition to another copy which is hosted on the university learning management system to show the differences afforded by the internet versus a closed system for learning. To make the comparison about openness and access rather than one being more visually stimulating than the other, both are simple, text based, digital, pieces.

I will monitor and join in with the discussion on this page until May 14th 2017 as part of this assignment representation.

Please feel free to post comments to join in the discussion although the discussion.



Ding ding! Web 2.0 versus the LMS: are we opening the cage or shrink wrapping knowledge?


  “Today’s students, are mobile, can commonly find access to learning resources on their own and place limited value on physical presence and face-to-face communication.” (Daniel et al., 2009, p. 34).

All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

The internet is a valuable resource for learning today (Downes 2005, Brown and Adler 2008), heavily used by the current and coming student population who were raised in a world of accessible, digital technology but who are experiencing digital dissonance in educational institutions (Chattie and Jarke, 2007).

Studies suggest that some students have difficulty setting boundaries between formal or informal learning and that web 2.0 applications are a necessary part of the 21st-century student toolkit (Clark et al., 2009).

This digital essay will examine the affordances of web 2.0 as a tool to create social learning, by looking at its value as an open technology, the amount of control afforded to the creator of content and at the potential outcomes of using the tool. Then turn this focus onto the learning management system to ask if the homogeneity of education technology is helpful or hindering.

This will be carried out in two stages;

  • First, this essay will be presented using freely available web 2.0 technology to express the creativity, collaboration, and informality available before being published on the web to encourage conversation and discussion amongst the internet community.
  • Second, it will then be reproduced on the Blackboard Learn LMS as a representation of the more formal institutional delivery using common institution design settings seen in higher education and importantly in a closed classroom environment where there are social learning tools available, but they are contained within that class cohort.

The outcome of these two representations will allow the viewer to experience the information in both formats for a more rounded experience incorporating both the openness, personalisation, and potential for connection on the web and the restriction and closed classroom style of learning management systems in higher education.

 Openness of technologies

All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

For the purpose of this essay, I define open or openness of technology as its ability to allow a student to work unhindered by choice of environment, an ability to share or exchange and lastly its cost to the user. I will not be assessing either web 2.0 or learning management platforms as open education resources which have a defined status set by the Open Education Movement which is not part of this analysis.

Why web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is defined broadly as the more communicative, personal and participatory form of the world-wide web, emphasising active participation, collaboration and connectivity to share knowledge and ideas and to actively contribute content. It is also sometimes referred to as the “Read-Write Web” (Price 2006; Richardson 2006) as it offers more than the read-only, passivity of the original web. Web 2.0 applications, have received growing interest from the educational sector over the last ten years (Alexander 2006) as they are seen to hold potential for addressing the needs of today’s millennial student population, enhancing the learning experiences through networking, collaboration and community (Bryant 2006).  This then reinforces constructivist pedagogies popular in teaching (Gillani 2000; Jonassen 1995; Jonassen & Land 2000; Relan & Gillani 1996).

Web 2.0 contains software or applications which support social learning through community and group interaction, although we could argue that the previous form of the web supported social interaction through email, chatrooms and discussion boards, the tools available through web 2.0 not only offer social interaction, feedback and networking, but are more flexible and collaborative allowing media to be shared, combined and built on to create new ideas, concepts, and mashups. Social networking applications like facebook and twitter now also offer users the possibility to interact in real time using webcams and microphones.  Web 2.0 is not radically different from the previous version of the web; rather it is the affordances offered by the applications available which have changed.

It is these affordances which offer the opportunity to use web 2.0 as an open tool for education. Blogs, wikis, social networking, and video sharing applications all have potential as a pedagogical tool to offer the opportunity to increase communication, interaction and co-creation, supporting learning which occurs in a social, collaborative form when students use these tools to create collective activity.

Being web based and created with communication in mind, there are little boundaries for the opportunity to communicate and share globally with other users.

Usage examples:

  • Connectivity and Social Networking: Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn support and collate networks and facilitate connections between them. Gee (2004) refers to this as affinity spaces, where students can acquire both social and communication skills as they are becoming engaged in participation through web 2.0.  Through these applications, there is an opportunity to engage in informal learning, creative and expressive behaviours and identity seeking while developing digital literacies.
  • Collaborative discovery and sharing: Blogs or social bookmarking tools like dig and del.icio.us allow students to create collections of information such as links to readings and ideas which can be organised and tagged before being shared.  Communities of learning can be formed as users with similar interests can share and actively contribute to the growth and evolution of “folksonomy” creating both content and knowledge on the web.
  • Content creation: Web 2.0 highlights content creation over content consumption allowing anyone to create, remix and share content for their own needs and those of others and groups. Open educational content, creative commons, and wikis support user generated content enabling teams and individuals to work together to create new knowledge.

 The LMS

These collaborative tools and their benefits are widely recognised within our higher education institutions, and the implementation of single point of access technology platforms incorporating these tools are now widespread and known as learning management systems. These systems are mostly propriety in nature created specifically for the purpose of managing learners, teaching materials and student work in an educational setting.

Accessibility to education, control of overheads and quality control are the three most commonly given reasons for the shift in delivery modes to that of technology-driven delivery (Daniel 2003). It’s ability to meet these needs means the adoption of “learning management systems (LMS)” has been swift (Oblinger and Kidwell, 2000), with ninety-five percent of UK universities now using them (Lonn and Teasley, 2009) with these platforms combine a range of course management and pedagogical tools to provide a method of designing, building and delivering teaching.

The greatest potential of the LMS to the university is that they are scalable systems able to support a class cohort of hundreds as easily as ten thereby offering the opportunity to enroll and teach a larger volume of students offering an economy of scale. They can also be used to provide administrative support to an entire university’s teaching programmes or to house the entire catalogue of teaching materials but are creating a battle over control of teaching and pedagogy (Chattie and Jarke 2007). The key to the use of these technologies by the University, however, is the enrollment of students. These systems are locked down only allowing access to the materials and tools within to those who are enrolled as users, meaning the university dictates the community within.

Web 2.0 technologies in general, are seen to reinforce constructivist pedagogies (Gillani 2000; Jonassen 1995; Relan & Gillani 1996). Theorists claim that the internet can improve learning by giving learners access to an infinite library of resources. Arguing that internet technologies can be used to make course contents more cognitively accessible ( Coates et al., 2005) to the individual by encouraging interaction with a richer, more diverse knowledge network.

Some LMS do offer tools for course administration and pedagogical functions including; synchronous and asynchronous communication like email, instant messaging, announcement pages, and discussion forums content development and delivery by hosting learning resources in repositories, offering links to resources and text-based information areas choice tests and group work and feedback tools, as well as course or student management from enrollment to managing student activities, But the network connections of these are restricted within the “safe” confines of the institution’s systems, reducing the potential for the creation of communities of learning or collaboration outwith that student’s class cohort. LMS, therefore, suggest a closed classroom approach to learning at a time when some scholars are calling for the increased use of open, community technologies to be brought into effective learning and teaching for the twenty-first century (Brown and Adler 2008).


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

LMS offer “universities a hitherto undreamt-of capacity to control and regulate teaching” (Coates et al., 2005, p.p. 25). The built in functionality within each system allows for easy customisation of the look and feel of the student experience, within limits, without the need for web development skills. Many institutions provide a ready to use standardised template or guides for such customisation to ensure quality control and to help reduce the administrative workload placed on staff. This allows course owners to make use of customised headers and graphics to identify their course from others but limits the ability to alter structure or tool performance, Essentially forcing conformity. LMS can also be seen to conform to a classroom metaphor, encouraging didactic teaching (Sheely, 2006) rather than creativity and by “locking down” the system elements, transfer the control of teaching material design from the academic and onto the institution itself reducing the influence of the academic over the teaching of her class.

In contrast to the restriction of community and locking of design, web 2.0 applications like blogs allow infinite customisation options to users through both editable “skins” and access to the underlying code for those who are more skilled. The content users generate on these can also then be shared publicly through the platform used to create the content or by sharing with other platforms and application.

The term itself, Learning Management System, “suggests disempowerment – an attempt to manage and control activities… by the University” (Sclater,2008, p. 2) rather than the freedom of informal and community learning offered by the web 2.0 pedagogy.


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

The hyperbole of technology being an educational remedy often stalls critical discussion of educational technology as a tool for teaching and learning (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008a). Therefore research tends to focus on implementation rather than pedagogy with regard to an LMS (Lonn and Teasley 2009) meaning more investigation is needed into pedagogy and learning to allow implementation decisions to focus on these rather than administrative wins.

“LMS are not pedagogically neutral technologies” (Coates et al., 2005, 27),  instead through their design, they can and do influence teaching. As the LMS and other learning technologies become part of everyday academic practices, they will invisibly influence and may even define teachers’ creativity, expectations, and behaviours. This may be particularly the case for newer academics with less experience (Frand 2000). The inclusion of LMS into universities makes it likely that new academics will gain a great deal of their experience in design and delivery of teaching through these systems (Coates et al., 2005). These are important considerations given the possibility that, increasingly, LMS will play the major role in how academics learn to teach.  Currently, there has been a lack, if any studies on the pedagogical effects of LMS and this must be corrected.

Although web 2.0 applications can offer increased community of learning opportunities and control over the student’s own work, it must be remembered that these too come with potential outcomes for the student and teaching. Access to a great library of content to use and share must be respected, and web 2.0 and its sharing abilities for learning and teaching should go hand in hand with teaching about responsibilities and rights regarding the work of others. Because the ability to share everything is available, means students must be taught about when it is and isn’t appropriate to shared.


All photography is the author’s own Eli Appleby-Donald 2017

Web 2.0 applications allow users choice and control as well as learning opportunities through rich, global, communities of knowledge rather than passive and solitary learning. However by restricting the ability of the student to access these tools or for the teacher to design to incorporate these tools, or by simple restricting the community students can access, we are offering no more than the didactic or cartesian classrooms of the industrial era. Learning management systems offer much in the way of cost reduction and quality assurance for institutions, but aside from being a single point of entry, offer little to improve student learning and shackle the creativity of the teacher.

Educational technology can only raise the levels of learning and teaching if we allow it to be fully part of the process of both rather than merely an administrative tool clothed as pedagogy.


Alexander, B., 2006. A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? Educause Review, 42(2), pp.32–44. Available at: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf

Brown, J. S. & Adler, R. P. 2008. Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0. Educause Review, 43(1), pp.16–32. Available at: http://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/article-downloads/erm0811.pdf

Bryant, T. 2006. Social software in academia, Educause Quarterly, 29(2), 61-64.http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EQM0627.pdf

Chatti, M.A., Jarke, M. & Frosch-Wilke, D. 2007. The future of e-learning: a shift to knowledge networking and social software. International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, 3(4-5), pp.404–420. Available at: http://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJKL.2007.016702

Clark, W. et al., 2009. Beyond Web 2.0: mapping the technology landscapes of young learners. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(1), pp.56–69. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2008.00305.x

Coates, H., James, R. & Baldwin, G., 2005. A critical examination of the effects of learning management systems on university teaching and learning. Tertiary Education and Management, 11(1), pp.19–36. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13583883.2005.9967137

Daniel, J., Kanwar, A. & Uvalić-Trumbić, S. 2009. Breaking Higher Education’s Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 41(2), pp.30–35. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3200/CHNG.41.2.30-35

Downes, S. 2005. E-learning 2.0. eLearn Magazine, an ACM Publication. Available at: http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=1104968

Frand, J.L. 2000. The Information Age Mindset:Changes in Students and Implications for Higher Education. Educause Review 35(5),14-24. Available at: https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0051.pdf

Gillani, B.B. 2000. Using the Web to Create Student Centred Curriculum. In R.A.Cole(ed.), Issues in Web Based Pedagogy. London:Greenwood Press.

Jonassen,D.H.1995.Constructivism: Implications for Designs and Delivery of Instruction. New York:Scholastics.

Lonn, S. & Teasley, S.D. 2009, “Saving time or innovating practice: investigating perceptions and uses of learning management systems”, Computers and Education, Vol. 53 No. 3, pp. 686-94. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131509001006

McLoughlin, C. and Lee, M.J.W. 2008. The three P’s of pedagogy for the networked society: personalization,participation,and productivity, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 10-27. Available at: http://www.isetl.org/ijtlhe/past2.cfm?v=20&i=1

Oblinger, D. & Kidwell, J. 2000.Distance Learning:Are we being Realistic? Educause Review 35(3), 30-39. Available at: https://er.educause.edu/~/media/files/articles/2000/5/erm0032.pdf?la=en

Price, K. 2006. Web 2.0 and education: What it means for us all. Paper presented at the 2006 Australian Computers in Education Conference, 2-4 October, Cairns, Australia.

Relan, A. & Gillani, B.B. 1996. Web Based Instruction and the Traditional Classroom:Similarities and Differences.In B.H.Khan(ed.),Web Based Instruction. Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications.

Richardson, W. 2006. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other powerful tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage.

Sheely, S. 2006. Persistent technologies: Why can’t we stop lecturing online? In L. Markauskaite, P.Goodyear & P. Reimann (Eds), Who’s learning? Whose technology? Proceedings of the 23rd ASCILITE Conference (pp. 769-774). Sydney, NSW: CoCo, University of Sydney.http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney06/proceeding/pdf_papers/p167.pdf

Sclater, N. 2008. Web 2.0, Personal Learning Environments, and the Future of Learning Management Systems. Available at: https://library.educause.edu/resources/2008/6/web-20-personal-learning-environments-and-the-future-of-learning-management-systems


Taking cyberpunks out of the dystopia

umwdtlt – Jim Groom as Edupunk
CC BY 2.0 Created: 28 May 2008

Block 1 concentrated on the big picture of digital culture through the lens of the sci-fi film and fiction genre and introduced us, through our together tube sessions to the concept of the cyberpunk, although we never referenced them directly, only saw them in action.

So what is cyberpunk? Well, cyberpunks are the underground rebellion against the big capitalist corporations controlling the technology in the not too distant dystopian future of the sci-fi genre. They scavenge technology, much like Hector in Memory 2.0, as the megacorporations control access to and use of clean, safe and costly “official versions” of the same technology.

In Memory 2.0, Henry begins by visiting the business selling the virtual memory experience but ends up visiting the seedy world of the cyberpunk and specifically Hector, when the corporation can’t or won’t meet his needs.  Due to the unregulated and amateur set up of the cyberpunk provider, this has consequences. A moral tale to the viewer that we shouldn’t be involved in the underground and disreputable world of the rebellion perhaps.

Cole (2005, pp. 259) describes the power struggle between the cyberpunk and the megacorporations where “power is imposed by a system of social domination”,  the rebellion against this power and authority being the source of the moniker of punk for this community relating to the punk subculture of the 1970s where common punk community goals included anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity and direct action (Wikipedia 2017). The cyberpunks DIY ethis being in their technology use.

Fast forward to 2008 and the punk subculture influence is seen again in a movement which was to be named “EDUPUNK”, a movement defined by Tom Kultz (2008) as “an approach to teaching that avoids mainstream tools like PowerPoint and Blackboard, and instead aims to bring the rebellious attitude and DIY ethos of ’70s bands like The Clash to the classroom. EDUPUNK sees teachers react against the rapid implementation of course-management systems, which provide “cookie-cutter” tools that promote uniformity at the expense of pedagogy.  Jim Groom, an instructional-technology specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, is credited for coining the term and declared himself a poster boy for the movement and “ds106” was the course which launched Jim Groom into the public consciousness as an EDUPUNK. He took all the essential elements of teaching for his course and put made them open and online, choosing to use an array of available web tools instead of relying on the institutionally provided VLE, which he claims waters down the elements of web 2.0 and dilutes the social aspect of learning.  Again we see the anti-authoritarian approach matched with the DIY ethic. The moniker this time focussing on the educational focus of the punk attitude rather than focusing on the technology element, which is also strong.

Listen to Jim Groom talk about ds106: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U


Cole, D.R., 2005. Education and the Politics of Cyberpunk. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 27(2), pp.159–170.

Escapist Movies, 2014. Memory 2.0 – Dugan O’Neal/Wilson Bethel (Prototype), Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd2ka3-hvKA 

Kultz, T., 2008. The Buzz for “EDUPUNK.” The New York Times. Available at: https://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/the-buzz-for-edupunk/

TEDx Talks, 2012. TEDxNYED – April 28, 2012 – Jim Groom, Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U

Wikipedia contributors, 2017. Punk subculture. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Punk_subculture&oldid=767545516

Wikipedia contributors, 2017.EDUPUNK. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edupunk&oldid=771717086 

Revisiting culture in week 11

What is the definition of culture?

Having a bit of breathing space over the next week to go back and look over my blog is a good thing. Mostly, I have forgotten the blog posts I published and I get a chance to review them with fresh eyes, but there is also regret in the ones which I deleted without ever publishing as I have now lost those chains of thought.

One post which caught my attention was my early definition of culture.

My thoughts then were very much with the sci-fi movie genre of digital culture and computing, the dark dystopian tales of the computer geek subculture trying to take down the corporations in control of the “big” computers or of the experimentation of technology enhanced humans going too far, Miller (2011) describing unexpected and ramshackle results which I associate with the subculture underdogs trying to make do with a lot of knowledge but not a lot of access to the high-grade technology of the corporations, much like the edupunk. The opposite is true of the access to technology of the big corporations in this dystopia, where the opposite effect has occurred, one where the results are much more cyborg, where this technology human hybrid becomes almost unrecognisable as human.  This I associate with films such as terminator, depictions of the cyborg which we fear. It is perhaps this view, the cyborg, almost human, but not quite and somehow more, which leads me to a new thought on culture, not culture as in a group who share similar goals, practices and outlooks as I had originally defined culture, but now I can relate these cyborgs to another possible definition of culture and that is from biology, where to culture is to grow and harvest organic cells.


Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.



Linked from Pocket: Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI





SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal.

from Pocket http://ift.tt/2nb2bBp

First thought on reading this is how sci-fi and how well this matched to some of the film clips we watched in our together tube sessions. However as the article highlights, we are already implanting devices in the brain, the most successful being a device that can stop tremors in Parkinson’s sufferers. Perhaps because this is not more widespread, it still seems like science fiction, but Musk’s area of interest goes that little further and it’s about writing and saving information to and from the brain. It’s all about cognition, about improving ourselves through a technology link.

In reading this article and reminding myself of the current extent of research in this field, it’s taking me back (in thought) to the beginning of our EDC journey, to the first few weeks where I battled to understand the concept of cyborg, not as in the sci-fi movie sense but from some of our readings like Miller(2011) and Hayles (1999) where I grappled with the concept of cyborg being much closer to home,  where Miller (2011) explains cyborg as “the growing number of ways that technological apparatuses have been used to fix and alter the human body”, which still sounds “out there”  but is actually talking about such mundane things as eyeglasses and prosthetic limbs, body modification and gym membership.

Hayles (1999) however is probably much more relevant to the intention of Musk in this article, in her paper she talked about her amazement that any scientist could genuinely consider the idea that the human consciousness could be separated fro the body. Even in reading this article and hearing that this is indeed the subject of research in 2017, I still find myself agreeing with Hayles on this one and thinking, come on get real!



Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine,  How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

A read for later – comparing learning analytics with fitness tech


Tags: #mscedc
March 24, 2017 at 07:57PM
Open in Evernote

Further findings show that 80% of FE students would be happy to have their learning data collected if it improved their grades, and more than half would be happy to have their learning data collected if it stopped them from dropping out.

This block started with my concerns for students receiving “bad news” via learning analytics and how they might react. I was concerned about how stats may be delivered to students and the potential impact of this information.  I saw this reaction on a small scale this week when the tweetorial analytics were released where some of my classmates described shock, annoyance and even anger when seeing a top ten league table that they weren’t in. This, however, was a minor exercise which didn’t feed into any final assignment grades or directly affect the possible pass or fail of the course.

It was during this period that I came across this article about the work being done between 50 education institutions to create an app for learning analytics which could be an aid to both students and teachers. The subheader grabbed my attention as it quoted that 80% of student wanted learning analytics to be carried out and wanted to have this information available to them, this seemed to go against my initial concerns, however on closer inspection, the student seem to want the analytics in all the positive ways, if it improved their grades, if it prevented them fro dropping out. However, there is no thought in that sub header to the students who wouldn’t be receiving good news via the analytics app, so I am afraid I am still on the lower rungs of the cautious ladder when it comes to analytics and information we provide to students and its purpose.


Tweet! Sometimes marketing is about too much bling

It’s always interesting how some TEL initiatives are pitched, sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong.

Lecture capture is one of those oops moments.  It’s not new, it’s not something we are suddenly going to be doing, but because it’s just a part of teaching which has worked away quietly in the background for those who have chosen to use it, it feels like such a big deal now because so many parts of the institution staff have never been involved with or aware of the work that has been going on. The marketing pitch that has been used to “sell” things hasn’t helped, making it out to be so much more than it is.  The big deal is more about the technical aspect of how we will make this available for those who chose to use it on such a large scale, how we will teach our students to make the best use of this as a learning tool and how as educators we will make the best use of it.

If all we do is record lectures and make them available, we are wasting a valuable opportunity to create new learning opportunities and work on new methods.

If we want to control how a technology is being used (pushed on us), we have to take ownership of it, we have to test it, tweak it, find areas where it is a benefit and show areas where it doesn’t work as hoped.


Tweet! Just a random thought as I took photos

I try to spend my lunch break practicing my photography skills I am learning on my MOOC course, today I was taking photos of a lecture theatre at work which was empty (it was lunch time after all) and it made me consider the impact of digital education and the question of…

Is digital education an enhancement to current practices or is it the realisation of the MOOC hyperbole of 2012?

This came to mind as I know that there is an imbalance between some of the student body and some of the faculty of UoE, where students are asking that lectures are recorded to be used as study aids, and some faculty are reluctant to do this, with one reason being a fear that it would lead to a drop in numbers in the actual lecture.

I understand these worries, after all, if your lecture is consistently half empty, it could be mistakenly thought that your class is not popular.  However is this not a similar chain of thought to the one saying that students aren’t attending the lecture if they are not in the lecture hall as deliver the lecture?  Instead, could we say that recorded lectures, in fact  extend that lecture period, that the learning can now be happening way past the close of the live lecture and into time perods where the student can be more productive? That maybe students may actually be more present in a lecture and making better use of it if they can participate at times when they know they will take the most on board?

Digital education is such a varied and huge topic, but I also believe it’s more than an enhancement of current methods, I believe it’s a philosophy of encompassing the whole.  A chance to experiment and learn, to change for the better or discard that which doesn’t work, a chance to make use of new tools and technologies where appropriate and more importantly an opportunity to raise the bar rather than follow a path.

Pinned to #MSCDE A level student finds a flaw in NASA data

Just Pinned to #MSCDE: The A-level student noticed something odd in radiation levels from the International Space Station. http://ift.tt/2npMjxS
This was a really fascinating story of an A level student who whilst analysing some data from NASA, found an error and reported it to Nasa.
It was a fluff piece, a feel-good story, but it struck me in a couple of ways. Obviously, it ties in nicely with my focus this week on analysing data and the potential for inaccuracy caused by humans, but also the fact that the school had encouraged this sort of participation to the level where the teenager had the confidence to stand by his work instead of assuming he must be wrong because NASA couldn’t possibly have made a mistake.
Well done that lad!

Tweetstorm: interpertation

After the fun and games of our tweetstorm, how has the redcorded data of the event stood up to our memories of what happened and what cnan it tell us about what took place?

Analysing the success of the event

Volume refers to the number of tweets in total and shows clearly that the average number of tweets rose dramatically from less than 50 a day to 187 on Friday.  So from this data we can see that the tutorial had an influence in the frequency of tweeting on these days, we could even say that the tweetorial was a success.  Or can we? 

My interpretation of the statement found on the course website was that the tweet data we are analysing would be from the tweetorial. However, closer inspection shows that it is actually from a much longer period and was recording both before and after the tweetorial. This is key, I interpreted the instructions we were given in a specific way and the data I have been given access to does not quite fit the purpose I thought I had.  This then also brings into question my findings that the tweetorial influenced the frequency of tweets. I can only say that the amount of tweets on Friday was different to other days in this period because I have been given data in a date range which included days on the outside of the tweetorial dates. So for the data I received, yes the data implies that there was indeed influence. However, I cannot see the  same volume data for other days so it is therefore impossible for me to say if the tweetorial days showed higher tweet numbers than the rest of the course,  if we had that data, we may indeed discover that the tweetorial days actually had a lower number of tweets than on other days and therefore don’t hold as much of an influence as we first thought. Therefore, from the data we have, we can only state that there were a certain amount of tweets recorded on a certain day. Not that the tweetorial did indeed have any kind of influence on tweet behaviours of the class nor that it was successful in creating meaningful discussion around certain topics.

Who was present and engaged?

Over the course of the recorded data, Phlip was the most prolific tweeter. This information is displayed as a league table which created a bit of competitiveness amongst the class about who was on the top ten and who wasn’t. One of my classmates mentioned a paper this week which discusses exactly this and says that displaying data in this fashion does indeed cause competitiveness (Cherry, T.L. & Ellis, L.V., 2005), I apologise I can’t remember who introduced me to this paper now. An interesting point to consider, however, is that there was no such competitiveness about who’s tweets showed the best understanding of the topic or the most learning, just about who was on the league of most prolific tweeters.

We could interpret this league table to say that Philip was engaged, or even the most engaged or that he was present and in learning analytics, this might be the way that this data would be used.  We cannot say however that his tweets were of substance. He could have been retweeting the same message over and over in an attempt to influence the data rather than engaging with the debate or the tweets he was publishing may not have been engaging with the topics, they may just have been tweets which had the #mscedc hashtag and therefore were counted. Think roller skates and cheese.

Social learning

This leads me nicely to social learning, as Siemens (2013) points out “The learning process is essentially social and cannot be completely reduced to algorithms”,  although we may interpret the high volume of tweets to say that discussions were taking place amongst peers on the topics given by Jeremy and James, the data doesn’t record the content of these tweets. It has however recorded a heat map of words used and as we would expect data and algorithm feature highly. However I’m drawn to the presence of other words, I’m, I’ve and perhaps. Does the use of these personal statements of I’ve or I’m show conversation and interpersonal discussion? Does it show students taking the learning and evaluating it in personal terms for their understanding?  Does the high ranking of the word perhaps show uncertainty and lack of confidence in the topic? We can and do assume that the use of a social media platform encourages conversation and indeed social learning, but whow would we quantify this experience with data?

Accuracy of data

Although I am pretty sure, from my personal experience, that almost all of the tweets in this timeframe were in English, the data says otherwise. Therefore I must be wrong, I obviously don’t remember the events as well as I had assumed.

Not necessarily.

I know the 1 Swedish record was, in fact English,  I know this because it was one of my tweets which twitter then offered to translate from Swedish when in fact it was in English. I also know that Colin and I both send tweets in Scottish Gaelic (Gah-lick not to be mistaken for Irish Gay-lick), after we saw this mistake, however as you can see from the chart, there is no record of Scottish Gaelic appearing, even though the key to languages says Twitter would recognise if there had been.

This emphasises nicely that we cannot guarantee the accuracy of data we are being given, which we then interpret to make judgements. There has clearly been an influence at work which has told the twitter archive algorithm that it should record languages a certain way and this hasn’t fit with what was going on.  If my memory was infallible, I could say that there were only those 2 tweets which were not in English, therefore the data given by twitter is completely wrong. I cannot say that, however, but what I can say is that the data is definitely not accurate as I have detected at least one flaw, therefore we must question the data set as a whole. We do not know how the algorithm recorded this data to account for the flaws we have seen.

In conclusion. the problem is that we are being asked to analyse the data we have been given, meaning we should study it methodically to interpret its meaning and that’s the flash bulb, “interpret”. I have deliberately and repeatedly spoke of my interpretation of the data and the task. One person will interpret the information they have in one way and the next person may interpret it differently. External influences play a part on how we interpret data, the meaning or importance we place on things. What’s the phrase? Like looking at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, well mine are purple, so I’ll see it differently from you, but interpreting the data is only part of the story, once it has been interpreted, what is then to be done with those finding. For the sake of this example, if this information was being used as learning analytics, we could expect Philip’s tweet count to be associated with attendance or participation and in the same light if someone didn’t rank highly in the volume graph, would they then be marked lower for participation? As mentioned earlier, these stats don’t show the quality of the tweets, only their quantity, it is, therefore impossible to say that Philip was more engaged or participated in the discussion more than any other. We also cannot say who was present and participating but not actively tweeting.

I’m going to end this thought with repeating the word interpret. I have deliberately used this instead of analyse as there are associations based on these words, analyse, we associate with computing and therefore with accuracy. Interpret we see more as an art than a science and therefore holds the potential for human error, but as these few examples have shown, the computer can make mistakes and at the end of the day, it is a human who interprets/analysises the data and they can only work with the data they have been given to try to ascertain the information they need. Before acting on any analytical data, we should ask ourselves,  how has this information been gained, why was it recorded and how was it recorded, before then interpreting the data for your purpose, all the while remembering what you have is interpretation, as Jeremy has said often over the last week, a proxy to help you interpret learning.



Cherry, T.L. & Ellis, L.V., 2005. Does Rank-Order Grading Improve Student Performance? International Review of Economics Education, 4(1), pp.9–19. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1477388015301407.

Siemens, G. (2013) Learning Analytics: the emergence of a discipline. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(10): 1380-1400


Tweet! My photography learning for my chosen MOOC and #MSCEDC are coming together

#MSCEDC is represented by some of the books I have read over my studies.

I enjoyed the MOOC from block 2 so much that I carried on learning from it in the little bit of spare time I have (aside from work, masters study, family life, my blog, my youtube channel and sleep). This week I had an assignment of taking a self-portrait BUT I couldn’t be in the picture.

It was a really fun assignment which meant I had to do a lot of thought about what would represent me in a photograph. My usual gardening, cooking and cycling were evident, as was my brewing, but right up there was also my studies in MSCDE. The study, Moray House and now the University have all become so much an important part of who I am that I couldn’t possibly leave them out. A very big change from the very first blog post I wrote as part of IDEL where I spoke about how I didn’t feel like I was part of the university. now I find myself thinking about, using and talking about my studies as part of my job, I feel like I have a much better understanding of what I do as a learning technologist, and more importantly what I could do.

MSCDE has changed me, for the better.