Tag Archives: H809

Amazing Free Web Things Part 127: Wordle


Originally uploaded by Enda P

Wordle allows you to create a very gorgeous word cloud from pasted text, blogs, feeds or del.ici.ous users’ stuff.

To hail Wordle, and to mark the submission of the H809 ECA, I fed my 4,000 word opus (minus bibliography) into Wordle and this very groovy cloud came out.

Nice (if unsurprising) to see that ‘students’, ‘technology’ and ‘learning’ were the most prominent words.

Now, what’s next….?

Wheeling in Second Life

A fellow student sent me this clip on youtube this morning. It shows a person with cerebral palsy explaining how she uses Second Life as a way of socialising. In the clip. She goes to a nightclub in SL called Wheelies and meets Simon, the man who started the club.

At the moment in H809, we are looking at the developing research on Second Life. As fledgling researchers, we are to look critically at the material published. Is it from a peer-reviewed publication? Is it adding anything new? What methodologies are being used? What are the theoretical frameworks? And so on.

Much of the little I’ve found so far comes from Computer Science or other technical fields, but a trend is emerging for papers concerning libraries in Second Life. Quite a few libraries have been ‘built’ there and looking at the clip above, it’s not hard to see why. Cheap, ubiquitous technology is facilitating access to resources previously restricted by geography and time.

In Ireland, we have seen a 50% increase in the number of students with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia attending university. Many of these learners are tech savvy and quickly take to the tools that we are embedding in the university environment. In fact, at NUIM we expect not to have much dealings with students with milder forms of dyslexia in the future as, through technology and good practice, the environment becomes less hostile.

So, great work has been done to get this far. Persuasion, legislation, reason (and some manipulation and cajoling!) have been used to get educational institutions to take accessibility seriously and to take teaching and learning seriously. The traditional chalk ‘n talk model has its dogged adherents. Maybe they could be persuaded to spend an hour in Wheelies to talk about that?

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. Head over to Diary of a Goldfish for a round up of posts to mark the day.

‘Push that rock, Sisyphus!’ or ‘The Futility of the MAODE’?


Sisyphus pushing a rock up a hillThe potential of the technology to serve a different kind of learning cannot be exploited by an academic community that clings only to what it knows. The academy, with respect to the professional practice of teaching, is not a reflective practicum. There is no progress, therefore, in how we teach, despite what might be possible with the new technology. Laurillard, 2002

Research, not teaching, is rewarded in universities. Therefore, little energy is invested by academics in their teaching as there is little incentive to do so. This remains the true today despite various efforts to promote Teaching & Learning. The implication for the implementation then of ‘elearning’ technologies is somewhat bleak.

Translation: Laurillard reckons that we are wasting our time with technology or whatever in terms of T&L, but those of us in H809 might be spared!

(I found this article a very good way to put some context on Laurillard’s Conversational Framework, which until tonight, was a very abstract thing lost in a sea of many other abstract things.)

Reflection on H809 progress

Erik Estrada & Larry Wilcox from ChiPsAfter the frantic rush to complete TMA01, I swore I would never fall behind again. Of course a two week holiday put paid to all of that despite my diligence in packing some work to do by the pool (some hope!). I now find myself pretty much three weeks behind target. 

The anxiety about this state of affairs has been building steadily and has combined with H809 subject matter that holds little instant appeal for me: conceptual frameworks and their applications. That said, one of the reasons I’m taking this course was to engage with this very material and ill the gaps in my thus-far practitioner-only career.

So, I find myself looking at some of the few discussions in the forums and struggling to make sense of what is being said. I’ve finally worked out what this ‘CoP’ thing is (nothing to do with Erik Estrada, it seems. Damn.) but I’m bewildered and feeling rather challenged.

Despite this, I have the consolations of knowing that:

a) I’m certainly not alone – a quick glance at the three tutorial groups suggests that things have quietened down substantially (Rhona‘s group is very actively attempting to make sense of TMA02 though and it makes for engaging (read: terrifying) reading). A few lurkers have made themselves known, perhaps as a cry for help!

b) We’ve been here before. And we make effective use of terror and adrenaline to cut through the digital mountain and get things done. And in getting things done, it generally means having epiphanies. (And then swearing never to fall behind again, and so the cycle begins anew – is there a conceptual framework for this sequence? “Yes, it’s called Cramming”).

Flippancy aside, I had hoped to make far more use of the blogs. I really wanted them to work, but found that, while I like using them as a reflective tool, as perhaps I”m doing now, I’m not really using them to comment on other learners’ contributions. Same with the wiki. I advocate the adoption of these tools at work, and yet I’m not making use of them properly in a course on Online Learning. This is somewhat disheartening, but a healthy dose of realism in the sense that these tools are not inherently amazing, but our experience here will better prepare us for advocating their effective use elsewhere.

What worked very well, I thought, in H808, was when we were put into smaller groups of three or four and given tasks. Perhaps future incarnations of H809 could consider multi-author blogs. It might help foster a team/community spirit which spills over then into other areas. Entries get comments at least from the other authors, helping to keep the blog dynamic; my perception of the many of the current H809 blogs (including mine) is a reluctance of participants to ‘risk’ making assertions which can be publicly scrutinised – multi-author blogs could help alleviate this.

Ok, I may be getting m OU mojo back now, so I’ll surrender myself to the CoPs again.

3.2 Examining impact – Mason reviews OECD

[I’m engaging in a risky gambit at the moment of trying to compress 30 hours of study into about half the time. Basically, I don’t wish to continue playing catch up as the course progresses and the TMA appears rapidly on my horizon. I toyed briefly with dropping out and getting a refund, but hey, we’re built of sterner stuff round here. Or we just have unrealistic expectations. You choose.]OECD logoA few points in Mason’s review struck me. It seems that based on the data, or rather this data [Mason’s italics], ‘e-learning has failed to emerge as a significant activity or market, although there is evidence that online learning is growing’ (287). Also, elearning has not had the predicted ‘revolutionary’ effect many had predicted. Being familiar with Mason from H808 and indeed the findings of the OECD report is very pertinent to that course, I was surprised to find myself reading her review with a H809 hat on. Essentially, I wasn’t so interested in the findings, I was more interested in her critique of the methodology, that italicised ‘this‘.Learning about questioning and learning to question research is core to the course thus far. From this review, we learn that Mason has doubts about the efficacy of the questionnaire approach to gathering data employed by the OECD because this method ‘would probably never capture the subtleties of slow, personal changes in the processes of teaching and learning’ (287). That does raise the question if these slow, personal changes can be captured and if so can anything meaningful be extracted to be applied in a general way (back to the quandry Wegerif and Mercer hoped to overcome).Mason also makes a point of telling us that the survey has produced findings that she also found: 15 years ago.  So, she reminds us that elearning is best suited to motivated postgraduates who need flexible delivery, and certain courses (Business Studies, Management, IT and Education) use elearning more. Does this indicate that certain characteristics of elearning remain regardless of the changes and developments over the years?We also learn that while elearning is broadly viewed as positive, little ‘substantive internal research evidence’ (288) was presented to support this belief. One could (as I did) see this as a potential weakness were one to attempt to promote elearning, but Mason correctly asks if similar evidence be presented for the efficacy of lecturing?Ultimately, she chimes in with the assertion that governments should cultivate patience and resist the urge to micro-manage change. Given her earlier comment about the difficulty of quantifying the slow nature of change in education, perhaps it suits her to urge patience? Given that the report proffers 15 year old findings, perhaps things should speed up a little? But those comments are more suited to H808, so I’ll move along…   [Edited 7 March 08  on learning that Robin Mason is a woman]

H809 Activity 2.4


1. Why is transcript data to be preferred to the video data for such a visual task?

They did use video, so the question I presume is why did they not present video as evidence in their findings?

  • Practicality
    • Academic research is distributed through text (especially in 1997)
  • Ethics
    • Anonymity and the protection of these children can be better maintained with textual descriptions. Non-verbal, facial methods of communication can be shown on video, but this raises difficult questions technically and ethically.
  • Software analysis text
    • Their chosen software analyses text, which is based on quick searching. To date, a reliable method of searching video has yet to be developed.

2. Is it possible to avoid the use of preconceived categories when analysing this data?

This is a question of linguistics and epistemology. The research is investigating the significance or not of certain linguistic utterances. All language is made of signifiers (as opposed to the signified), and is, therefore, always at some remove from the original thing (emotion, idea, physical thing). Others must attempt to interpret linguistic utterances based on context and knowledge of systems such as languages.

Whenever any form of interpretation in executed, there is a risk of misinterpretation. It is unlikely that this ‘ambiguity’ can ever be fully removed, so it seems a little pointless to do too much second guessing. We could say that these researchers are rational, educated people and as such we can trust their interpretations of the children’s utterances in the contexts in which they were made.
3. What evidence might support this claim?: “In the context of John’s vocal objections to previous assertions made by his two partners his silence at this point implies a tacit agreement with their decision.”

The fact that these are educated, rational academics who are unlikely to wish to mislead or deceive is the strongest point for me.

  • If they have observed that in the previous instances, John objected, and that in this third situation – with all other variables being equal – he remained silent, then their claim is reasonable.
  • However, if they neglected to mention that John was chewing a lollipop, distracted by something else or some other difference, then we could challenge their interpretation.

4. Did you ask yourself if this was true of the control group?

No, because I didn’t think of that. And this is not just because I’m new to this area, but also because one assumes that in a peer-reviewed report/article, such fundamental parts of a piece of research would need to be present in order to be credible.

5. Lack of unambiguous word – how can this be dealt with?

  • Analyse the contextual data
    • Can we identify from intonation, facial expression, physical gestures?
  • Analyse the participant’s linguistic style in similar contexts.
    • Does he frequently leave out these words even though it is clear that he means them?

6. Are you convinced that the study effectively demonstrates the authors’ case that the software gets over the qualitative/quantitative distinction?

I don’t feel confident that I actually understand the way the technology works here. I can see how it could be effective with quantitative data (which needs to be identified by someone), but I’m not entirely certain how it works with qualitative data. OK, one can switch rapidly from, say, a mention of the number of occurrences of a keyword to the specific usage of that word in the context of the transcript, but to my mind this is not qualitative data; it’s raw data. Could one say that this transcript needs some degree of evaluation/processing before it is qualitative?

7. What does the computer add to the analysis?

A way to quantify and categorise data. In this case, as I understand it, the authors identify phrases/linguistic occurrences and these are sorted by the software. The software can count occurrences, place them in context (concordance) and allow fast switching between ‘levels of abstraction’.

Apart from efficiency, one assumes that the computer adds some degree of objectivity to the quantitative data.

8. Computer-based analysis 10 years on?

With the relative ubiquity of electronic texts, the term ‘computer-based’ has become redundant. Similarly, just mining a document for text is not as meaningful as searching for ‘content’, so the name has changed a little.

  • It is used to evaluate documents, especially for presentation by a search engine such as Google Scholar.
  • The commercial potential appears to have been harnessed, with the technique seemingly widely used in Public Relations.

9. How does this paper compare with Reading 1?

Reading 1 was concerned with the effectiveness of technology in learning, particularly the methods of interaction made possible by technology. Reading 2 is more concerned with the use of a technology to enhance the quality of research. So, reading 1 is investigating the effectiveness of a tool while reading 2 is investigating a hypothesis using a tool.

H809 begins

Back to the grindstone with the OU. With H808 put to bed, I had hoped for a less frantic run of things. Alas NUIM got in the way and I had to write up a presentation I gave in Greece a couple of years ago at the European Access Network‘s Annual Conference in gorgeous Thessaloniki.

H809 has, of course, been busily getting about its business for the last three weeks and I’ve not been able to engage as I had wanted to. The first week was OK as it was largely making ourselves familiar with the technology as well as one reading. Happily all the struggle with H808 was at least worth it as one was already au fait with FirstClass, wikis, blogs and podcasts etc.

H809 seems to based around a weekly reading, each illustrating some important aspect of research that us budding research professionals should know. The first reading, by Hiltz and Meinke, dates back to 1989 and tests the merits of using a ‘virtual classroom’ to teach Sociology. I was struck less by the outcomes of the research (both virtual and physical are pretty much the same with some benefits to one over the other here and there) than by the fact that these discussions are still taking place twenty years on. “Is elearning as effective as face-to-face learning?” is the contemporary language, but the song remains the same (especially in my institution).

Anyway, I’m on a major catch up these next few days, so expect a glut of blog entries! Another feature of this module is the expectation that we keep a blog and interact with those of others before bringing our observations back to FirstClass. H809 is a first run module, so it will be interesting if this system works. In H808, when faced with the pressures of the TMAs and the ECA, learners abandoned any optional activities very quickly, so we’ll see how this module copes!