Personal learning environments

Dominant design is the idea that, once a design has risen to prominence, all innovation will aim at improving it, rather than competing alternatives, regardless of whether the dominant design is better than the alternatives. The most commonly used example seems to be the QWERTY keyboard layout, which was implemented when typists would type fast enough to jam the keys of old typewriters. The QWERTY layout was designed to slow down typists in order to prevent jamming the keyboard. So, even though it’s not the optimal layout for typing, and we no longer have the problem of jamming keys, we still see all innovation aimed at improving the current, dominant design, even though it’s not the best.

Another commonly used example is the institutional learning management system (LMS). It would be hard to argue that this represents an optimal design for driving learning, yet this is the design that has risen to dominance in the higher education sector. All efforts to enhance online learning are therefore aimed at improving the LMS, rather than investigating the merits of competing alternatives.

One alternative that continues to be ignored is the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). Many others have written about this and I’m not going to try and summarise their work but I did want to capture some of the ideas that I find most appealing about the concept.

We say we want students to be lifelong learners but we encourage them to use a system – the LMS – that cuts off access to their learning artifacts when they graduate. In most cases they are cut off from all of their activities at the end of each year. There is absolutely no incentive for students to invest any time and effort developing a learning space that they will lose at the end of the year. All of their interactions, content, grades, etc. are all deleted – or at best, archived – and are lost to the student. The data that they created is mined and used by the institution to make choices about future cohorts but even that data is lost to the student.

Now consider the PLE, the primary advantage of which is the fact that control of the learning environment reverts back to the student. When the student enters the university they are given hosted space on the institutional servers and taught how to manage that space. Some universities are already moving forward with this innovative system, called A Domain of Ones’ Own. In this system the student controls their data and gives permission to the institution – or any other 3rd party – to use it.

Another thing that really stands out for me is the fact that learning consists – in large part – of creating networks. The networks may be biological in the connections you make with people, digital in the connections you make with devices and content, and cognitive in the neural connections you make over time. Learning is fundamentally about networks; Think web, not website. The LMS deletes your network when you graduate, while the PLE enables you to take your network with you.

The PLE enables us to connect with people as well as with systems. People have a central online space that they control and then choose how to best to use that space and it’s connected services to learn. They choose the tools they’re most comfortable with, pull in data from other services (e.g. Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) and are able to publish their work into any of those services too. A PLE doesn’t preclude the possibility of students being connected to their institutional LMS, it just gives them other options for connection and developing networks.

There are no single platforms that constitute a PLE and no set frameworks that describe how they work; they are personal to you. However, there are some design principles to take into account that make sense for networked learning. The collection of services in a PLE should allow for:

  • Diversity: Did the process involve the widest possible spectrum of points of view? Did people who interpret the matter one way, and from one set of background assumptions, interact with people who approach the matter from a different perspective?
  • Autonomy: Were the individual knowers contributing to the interaction of their own accord, according to their own knowledge, values and decisions, or were they acting at the behest of some external agency seeking to magnify a certain point of view through quantity rather than reason and reflection?
  • Interactivity: Is the knowledge being produced the product of an interaction between the members, or is it a (mere) aggregation of the members’ perspectives?
  • Openness: Is there a mechanism that allows a given perspective to be entered into the system, to be heard and interacted with by others?

In terms of the practical features of the PLE, it should enable the following activities:

  • The aggregation of personally meaningful information, resources and ideas in a variety of formats e.g. text, images, video, links, tags, etc., from a variety of sources.
  • The student should be able to remix those resources into different formats by reinterpreting, combining and editing them using their own personal insights.
  • It should be possible to repurpose the resources so that the student can use them for a different objective than what they were created for.
  • The student should be able to publish the newly created artifiact in a feed forward mechanism that adds new ideas to the world.

If we want students to take advantage of the enormous possibilities enabled by digital and online learning environments, we will have to challenge the dominant design of learning management systems in higher education. We need to think about systems that not only provide the support that students’ needs for their learning, but also create space for them to move in ways that suit them rather than the institution. The adoption of personal learning environments will not only require significant changes to institutional systems and how these platforms are provided to students, but will also challenge educators to think differently about the kinds of learning activities and assessment tasks that they use in their teaching practices.

Additional reading

altPhysio | Technology as infrastructure

This is the fourth post in my altPhysio series, where I’m exploring alternative ways of thinking about a physiotherapy curriculum by imagining what a future school might look like. This post is a bit longer than other because this is an area I’m really interested in and spend a lot of time thinking about. I’ve also added more links to external sources because some of this stuff sounds like science fiction. The irony is that everything in this post describes technology that currently exists, and as long as we’re thinking about whether or not to share PowerPoint slide we’re not paying attention to what’s important. This post was a ton of fun to write.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the history of technology integration in health professions education? Maybe over the last decade or so.

In the early part of the 21st century we saw more institutions starting to take the integration of technology seriously. Unfortunately the primary use of digital services at the time was about moving content around more efficiently. Even though the research was saying that the content component was less important for learning than the communication component, we still saw universities using the LMS primarily to share notes and presentations with students.

The other thing is that we were always about 5-10 years behind the curve when it came to the adoption of technology. For examples, wikis started showing up in the medical education literature almost 10 years after they were invented. The same with MOOCs. I understand the need to wait and see how technologies stabilise and then choosing something that’s robust and reliable. But the challenge is that you lose out on the early mover advantages of using the technology early. That’s why we tend to adopt a startup mentality to how we use technology at altPhysio.

Q: What do you mean by that? How is altPhysio like a startup?

We pay attention to what’s on the horizon, especially the emerging technologies that have the potential to make an impact on learning in 1, 2 and 5 year time frames. We decided that we weren’t going to wait and see what technologies stabilised and would rather integrate the most advanced technologies available at the time. We designed our programme to be flexible and to adapt to change based on what’s happening around us. When the future is unknowable because technological advances are happening faster than you can anticipate, you need a system that can adapt to the situations that emerge. We can’t design a rigid curriculum that attempts to guess what the future holds. So we implement and evaluate rapidly, constantly trying out small experiments with small groups of students.

Once we decided that we’d be proactive instead of reactive in how we use and think about technology, we realised that we’d need a small team in the school who are on the lookout for technologies that have the potential to enhance the curriculum. The team consists of students and staff who identify emerging technologies before they become mainstream, prepare short reports for the rest of the school, recruit beta testers and plan small scale research projects that highlight the potential benefits and challenges of implementing the technology at scale.

We’ve found that this is a great way for students to invest themselves in their own learning, drive research in areas they are interested in, take leadership roles and manage small projects. Staff on the team act as supervisors and mentors, but in fact are often students themselves, as both groups push each other further in terms of developing insights that would not be possible working in isolation.

Q: But why the emphasis on technology in health professions education? Isn’t this programme about developing physiotherapists?

The WHO report on the use of elearning for undergraduate health professional education called for the integration of technology into the curriculum, as did the Lancet Commission report. And it wasn’t just about moving content more efficiently in the system but rather to use technology intentionally to change how we think about the curriculum and student learning. The ability to learn is increasingly mediated by digital and information literacy and we want our students’ learning potential to be maximised.

Low levels of digital literacy in the 21st century is akin to a limited ability to read and write in the past. Imagine trying to learn in the 20th century without being able to read and write? Well, that’s what it’s like trying to learn today if you don’t have a grasp of how digital technologies mediate your construction of knowledge. Integrating technology is not about adding new gadgets or figuring out how to use Facebook groups more effectively.

Technology is an infrastructure that can be used to open up and enhance student’s learning, or to limit it. Freire said that there’s no such thing as a neutral education process, and we take seriously the fact that the technologies we use have a powerful influence on students’ learning.

Q: How do you develop digital and information literacy alongside the competencies that are important for physiotherapists? Doesn’t an emphasis on technology distract students from the core curriculum?

We don’t offer “Technology” as something separate to the physiotherapy curriculum, just as you don’t offer “Pen and paper” as something that is separate. The ability to use a pen and paper used to be an integral and inseparable aspect of learning, and we’ve just moved that paradigm to now include digital and information literacy. Technology isn’t separate to learning, it’s a part of learning just like pen and paper used to be.

Digital and information literacy is integrated into everything that happens at the school. For example, when a new student registers they immediately get allocated a domain on the school servers, along with a personal URL. A digital domain of their own where they get to build out their personal learning environment. This is where they make notes, pull in additional resources like books and video, and work on their projects. It’s a complete online workspace that allows individual and collaborative work and serves as a record of their progress through the programme. It’s really important to us that students learn how to control the digital spaces that they use for learning, and that they’re able to keep control over those spaces after they graduate.

When students graduate, their personal curriculum goes with them, containing the entire curriculum (every resource we shared with them) as well as every artefact of their learning they created, and every resource that they pulled in themselves. Our students never lose the content that they aggregated over the duration of the programme, but more importantly, they never lose the network they built over that time. The learning network is by far the most important part of the programme, and includes not only the content relationships they’ve formed during the process but includes all interactions with their teachers, supervisors, clinicians and tutors.

Q: Why is it important for students to work in digital space, as well as physical space? And how do your choices about online spaces impact on students’ learning?

Think about how the configuration of physical space in a 20th century classroom dictated the nature of interactions that were possible in that space. How did the walls, desks and chairs, and the position of the lecturer determine who spoke, for example? Who moved? Who was allowed to move? How was work done in that space? Think about how concepts of “front” and “back” (in a classroom) have connotations for how we think about who sits where.

Now, how does the configuration of digital space change the nature of the interactions that are possible in that space? How we design the learning environment (digital or physical) not only enables or disables certain kinds of interactions, but it says something about how we think about learning. Choosing one kind of configuration over another articulates a set of values. For example, we value openness in the curriculum, from the licensing of our course materials, to the software we build on. This commitment to openness says something about who we are and what is important to us.

The fact that our students begin here with their own digital space – a personal learning environment – that they can configure in meaningful ways to enhance their potential for learning, sends a powerful message. Just like the physical classroom configuration changes how power is manifested, so can the digital space. Our use of technology tells students that they have power in terms of making choices with respect to their learning.

To go back to your question about the potential for technology to distract students from learning physiotherapy; did you ever think about how classrooms – the physical configuration of space – distracted students from learning? Probably not. Why not?

Q: You mentioned that openness is an important concept in the curriculum. Can you go into a bit more detail about that?

Maybe it would be best to use a specific example because there are many ways that openness can be defined. Our curriculum is an open source project that gives us the ability to be as flexible and adaptable as a 21st century curriculum needs to be. It would be impossible for us to design a curriculum that was configured for every student’s unique learning needs and that was responsive to a changing social context, so we started with a baseline structure that could be modified over time by students.

We use a GitHub repository to host and collaborate on the curriculum. Think of a unique instance of the curriculum that is the baseline version – the core – that is hosted on our servers. When a student registers, we fork that curriculum to create another, unique instance on the students personal digital domain. At this moment, the curriculum on the student’s server is an exact copy of the one we have but almost immediately, the students’ version is modified based on their personal context. For example, the entire curriculum – including all of the content associated with the programme – is translated into the student’s home language if they choose so. Now that it’s on their server, they can modify it to better suit them, using annotation and editing tools, and allowing them to integrate external resources into their learning environment.

One of the most powerful features of the system is that it allows for students to push ideas back into our core curriculum. They make changes on their own versions and if they’d like to see that change implemented across the programme, they send us a “Pull” request, which is basically a message that shows the suggested change along with a comment for why the student wants it. It’s a feedback mechanism for them to send us signals on what works well and what can be improved. It enables us to constantly refine and improve the curriculum based on real time input from students.

On top of this, every time we partner with other institutions, they can fork the curriculum and modify it to suit their context, and then push the changes back upstream. This means that the next time someone wants to partner with us, the core curriculum they can choose from is bigger and more comprehensive. For example, our curriculum is now the largest database of case studies in the world because most institutions that fork the curriculum and make their own changes also send those changes back to the core.

Q: You have a very different approach to a tutorial system. Tell us about how tutors are implemented in your school.

The tutors at altPhysio are weak AI agents – relatively simple artificial general intelligence algorithms that perform within very narrow constraints that are linked to basic tasks associated with student learning. Students “connect” with their AI tutors in the first week of the programme, which for the most part involves downloading an app onto their phones. This is then sync’d across all of their other devices and digital spaces, including laptops, wearables and cloud services, so that the AI is “present” in whatever context the student is learning.

As AI has become increasingly commoditised in the last decade, AI as a service has allowed us to take advantage of features that enhance learning. For example, a student’s tutor will help her with establishing a learning context, finding content related to that context, and reasoning through the problems that arise in the context. In addition, the AIs help students manage time on task, remind them about upcoming tasks and the associated preparation for those tasks, and generally keep them focused on their learning.

Over time the algorithms evolve with students, becoming increasingly tied to them and their own personal learning patterns. While all AI tutors begin with the same structure and function they gradually become more tightly integrated with the student. Some of the more adventurous students have had the AIs integrated with neural lace implants, which has obviously significantly accelerated their ability to function at much higher levels and at much greater speeds than the rest of us. These progressions have obviously made us think very differently about assessment, obviously.

Q: What about technology used during lectures? Is there anything different to what you’ve already mentioned?

Lectures have a different meaning here than at other institutions, and I suspect we’ll talk about that later. Anyway, during lectures the AI tutors act as interpreters for the students, performing real time translation for our international speakers, as well as doing speech-to-text transcription in real time. This means that our deaf students get all speech converted to Braille in real time, which is pretty cool. All the audio, video and text that is generated during lectures is saved, edited and sync’d to the students personal domains where they’re available for recall later.

Our students use augmented reality a lot in the classroom and clinical context, where students overlay digital information on their visual fields in order to get more context in the lecture. For example, while I’m talking about movement happening at the elbow, the student might choose to display the relevant bones, joints and muscles responsible for the movement. As the information is presented to them, they can choose to save that additional detail into the point in the lecture that I discussed it, so that when they’re watching the video of the lecture later, the additional information is included. We use this system a lot for anatomy and other movement- and structure-type classes.


Q: That sounds like a pretty comprehensive overview of how technology has some important uses beyond making content easier to access. Any final thoughts?

Technology is not something that we “do”, it’s something that we “do things with”. It enables more powerful forms of communication and interaction, both in online and physical spaces, and to think of it in terms of another “platform” or “service” is to miss the point. It amplifies our ability to do things in the world and just because it’s not cheap or widely distributed today doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

In 2007 the iPhone didn’t exist. Now every student in the university carries in their pocket a computer more powerful than the ones we used to put men on the moon. We should be more intentional about how we use that power, and forget about whatever app happens to be trending today.


Posted to Diigo 08/17/2011

I did a lot of reading and highlighting the other night, which is why this is so long. I’ve been bookmarking a lot of articles (about 400 at the last count) over the past 6 months or so, and will be trying to get through them over the next few months. There might be more long posts like this one (aggregationsof Diigo highlights) as a consequence.

    • I truly believe that a combination of actively influencing a story line in combination with a reaction upon the decisions taken would make learners feel more appreciated or valued if you will and encourage them to continue learning with that program instead of only getting negative feedback in from of a summary assessment when a chapter or course is finished
    • According to Rita Kop PLE is a UK term and PLN an American term. Dave Cormier questions whether the term personal should be used at all. Stephen Downes points out that personal is an OK term if you think about [Personal Learning] Network as opposed to [Personal] Learning Network – and similarly for PLE
    • the words are not as important as the process
    • a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is more concerned with tools and technology and that Personal Learning Networks (PLN) are more concerned with connections to people
    • The PLE takes me to my PLN through various gates and paths
    • they’re the ticket and ride, not the destination
    • The PLN is then more akin to a community, but with much looser connections, described in the literature as “weak ties”
    • possible roles involved in networked learning that the teacher may be classified as (Expert: Someone with sustained contribution to a field, Teacher: experts with authority, Curator: play the role of interpreting, organizing, and presenting content, Facilitator: able to guide, direct, lead, and assist learners, not necessarily being a subject matter expert
    • why focus on PLEs? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out how to make PLN work better?
    • Development of your PLE is about working with technology, refining your use of tools to give you more keys or more efficient access to your network of people and resources
    • “Pundits may be asking if the Internet is bad for our children’s mental development, but the better question is whether the form of learning and knowledge-making we are instilling in our children is useful to their future.”
    • we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist
    • The contemporary American classroom, with its grades and deference to the clock, is an inheritance from the late 19th century. During that period of titanic change, machines suddenly needed to run on time. Individual workers needed to willingly perform discrete operations as opposed to whole jobs. The industrial-era classroom, as a training ground for future factory workers, was retooled to teach tasks, obedience, hierarchy and schedules.
    • Teachers and professors regularly ask students to write papers. Semester after semester, year after year, “papers” are styled as the highest form of writing.
      • And yet they will probably never have to communicate anything in that format ever again…unless they also become academics
    • question the whole form of the research paper
    • “What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?”
    • A classroom suited to today’s students should de-emphasize solitary piecework
    • That classroom needs new ways of measuring progress, tailored to digital times — rather than to the industrial age or to some artsy utopia where everyone gets an Awesome for effort.
    • Blended learning lets designers split off prerequisite material from the rest  of a course
    • Blended learning lets instructional designers separate rote content focusing  on lower-order thinking skills, which can be easily taught online, from critical  thinking skills, which many instructors feel more comfortable addressing  in the classroom
    • Learners can have more meaningful conversations about these  topics because they have developed a familiarity with basic management  policies and procedures and have had time to integrate what they know into  their thinking
    • We cannot have it both ways: quality of thinking and speed are anathema to each other.
    • Covering content is daunting enough, but providing the time necessary to indulge in the quality conversations that make learning truly engaging is almost impossible
    • the challenge of articulating thoughts quickly
    • post two dynamic questions online each night. These questions have many possible answers, require analysis of content and the creation of unique ideas
    • when we revisit these discussions in the classroom, students have a plethora of ideas to share. They are no longer scared to speak out because they have a confidence born from their online discussions and the validation of their peers
    • weave those online conversations back into the classroom
      • “Some students have great ideas, but they experience difficulty expressing those ideas clearly.
    • Good practice in undergraduate education:
    • We address the teacher’s how, not the subject-matter what, of good  practice in undergraduate education. We recognize that content and pedagogy interact in  complex ways.
    • An undergraduate education should prepare students to  understand and deal intelligently with modern life.
    • 1. Encourages Contact Between Students and Faculty  Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most   important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty   concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working.   Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual   commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and   future plans.
    • 2. Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students  Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a   solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social,   not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases   involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to   others’ reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.
    • 3. Encourages Active Learning  Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just   by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged   assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they   are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply   it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of   themselves.
    • 4. Gives Prompt Feedback  Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses learning. Students   need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses.   When getting started, students need help in assessing existing   knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent   opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At   various points during college, and at the end, students need chances   to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know,   and how to assess themselves.
    • 5. Emphasizes Time on Task  Time plus energy equals learning. There is no substitute for time   on task. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and   professionals alike. Students need help in learning effective time   management. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective   learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. How an   institution defines time expectations for students, faculty,   administrators, and other professional staff can establish the basis   of high performance for all.
    • 6. Communicates High Expectations  Expect more and you will get more. High expectations are important   for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert   themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students   to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when teachers and   institutions hold high expectations for themselves and make extra  efforts.
    • 7. Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning  There are many roads to learning. People bring different talents   and styles of learning to college. Brilliant students in the seminar   room may be all thumbs in the lab or art studio. Students rich in   hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need the   opportunity to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them.   Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily.
    • tell real stories from your own life in a way that is relevant and engaging to your audience. If more people could just remember that great speeches or presentations leverage the power of the speaker’s own stories
    • we must not talk ourselves out of being who we really are
    • People do not care about your excuses, they care only about seeing your authentic self
    • People crave authenticity just about more than anything else, and one way to be your authentic self and connect with an audience is by using examples and stories from your own life that illuminate your message in an engaging, memorable way

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-06-06

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-23

  • Just upgraded my HTC Hero to Cyanogen 6.1 (Android 2.1). Its faster, prettier, less buggy & altogether a better experience #
  • @PMintkenDPT: @mpascoe @timothywflynn what we say and what patients hear are not always the same (I think the same thing about students) #
  • @PhThCentral: @timothywflynn Physical Therapists, quit using words that scare your patients…or have no real meaning eg “pinched nerve” #
  • @RonaldArendse Depends on your needs. I’m waiting for the new galaxy tab #
  • 7 Simple Tips To Deal With Negative People | zen habits #
  • News Flash: Twitter Doesn’t Make You Smart or Stupid: Tech News and Analysis « #
  • APA Style Blog: Properly Using “While” #
  • Access Springpad When You’re Offline Android app always had it, but this is what I was missing from the web app #
  • @rachaellowe I tell all my students about @physiopedia. I really do think it’s a great resource for physiotherapists and students alike #
  • The Daily Papert “You learn in the deepest way when…you fall in love with a particular piece of knowledge” #
  • The Daily Papert “School has an inherent tendency to infantilize children [because they have] to do as they’re told” #
  • The Daily Papert “A lot of school math was useful once upon a time, but we now have calculators so we don’t need it” #
  • RT @helenzille: To find out whether and where you are registered sms your ID number to 32810. Useful for SA voters #
  • Challenges of Designing and Evaluating Usability and User Experience for PLEs Maybe interesting 4 those at #checit #
  • RT @grahamattwell: PLE User Experience Workshop at PLE2011 Conference – call for contributions – #PLE SOU #
  • YouTube – SAIE class of 2010 Sad story of SA education with a (kind of) happy ending. Great video #
  • @ronaldarendse Thanks man. Just tweeted JP’s slideshare, which I assume he’s presenting now? #
  • To ple or not to ple – that is not the question From @jpbosman #
  • @GigliolaRusso I’ll see what I can do. I aim to please 🙂 #

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-07

Research plan for 2011

I’ve just been asked by one of my supervisors for my research goals for 2011. This will include my own work, as well as planning how our undergraduate and Masters students’ work might feed into some of the bigger projects. The first goal I have for 2011 is to submit 2 articles based on my first PhD objective. I’d planned on sending these off at the end of 2010, but never managed to finish them in time. They’re almost done now, and I’m hoping to submit them before lectures begin in a few weeks.

In order to plan my research activities for 2010, I created a chart to help me visualise the different activities I’d be involved in (see below). I completed most of the tasks, although not necessarily exactly as I’d initially planned them. Looking back at the process I went through in 2010, it’s clear that things don’t always work out the way you planned them and that that isn’t always a bad thing. I ran out of time at the end of the year, and didn’t get to complete everything I’d wanted to. Now I have the dilemma of trying to decide if I still want to do them, and run the risk of biasing the results e.g. realising that students may not have great recall of certain events.

First PhD objective

I’ve created a similar chart for my 2011 progress, and tried to incorporate the results of the 2010 research I conducted, showing how they feed into my second PhD objective. This includes a review of the undergraduate curriculum using document analysis, and a Delphi study of physiotherapy educators to plan a blended learning intervention for one (or several) undergraduate modules. The original plan was to identify one module and then develop it using a blended learning approach but now we’re considering the possibility of working with a few, although this isn’t reflected in the diagram below.

I still need to figure out how I’m going to incorporate input from my 4th year research group, as well as the 3 Masters students I’m supervising this year. I can’t really see how they’ll fit in, so I might need to start a few additional projects (Edit 13/01/11: I changed the diagram above to show the 4th year project and one MSc contribution to my study). I find preparing charts like this useful to organise my thoughts around the process. I often struggle to see details but am OK with picturing the overall structure. When I create a flowchart like this, it forces me to think about the specific steps I’m going to need to take to move forward, as well as how all the pieces fit together.

In addition to the research, I also hope to present at 4 international, and 2 local conferences:

  • International Association for Medical Education
  • Education in a Changing Environment
  • Personal Learning Environments
  • World Physical Therapy Congress
  • South African Association for Health Educators
  • Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa

I’ve committed to convert each conference presentation into a publication, so hopefully that’ll grease the wheels for funding from the university. It seems like quite a full programme, but since my teaching load has been reduced for this year, I think it’s doable.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-12-13

  • Web 2.0: Reflective and Critical Practices Its not a crusade, its about raising awareness #
  • Research Examines What Motivates People to Comment Online Emotion & negative opinion cause thread deterioration #
  • College Students Admit To “Shocking” Text Messaging Habits in Class Ban phones, or integrate them? #
  • Thought Leader » Why are South Africans so violent? Interesting post, comments also worth a read #
  • @carinavr Thanks. It’s nice to know someone might actually be reading this stuff every now and again 🙂 #
  • @ronaldarendse Congrats to you too 🙂 You’ve been keeping a low profile lately, what department are you in now? #
  • @amcunningham thank you 🙂 #
  • Just found out that my contract post in the physio department has been made permanent. I’m finally official. Yay me! #
  • @dean_jenkins XWiki looks like it has nice integrated features. Would love to hear about your experiences with it #
  • Bridge to Learning – Educational Research: Vygotsky and PLEs. Short essay by 18 year old student #
  • @Realmdigital I feel special 🙂 #
  • @realmdigital Can I come too? #
  • Neuro Myths: Separating Fact and Fiction in Brain-Based Learning | Edutopia #
  • RT @oldaily It’s time to transform undergraduate education ~ Stephen’s Web #
  • The Role of the Educator ~ Stephen’s Web #
  • A top-down approach to social and collaborative learning/working isn’t going to work #
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Posted to Diigo 09/20/2010

    • I see learning as a social activity. I don’t care if you’re engaging with dead white men in a book, it’s still a conversation. (albeit one sided in that case)
    • We don’t learn much alone. We need to keep the focus of the discussion on the disaggregation of power, not the disaggregation of people
    • This kind of plurality, the kind of engagement with the network of knowledge on your own terms is about choice. The traditions of education are not so much about the student having choice but about the institution of education having choice (the LMS). This, in my mind, is the central distinction between PLE and LMS
    • When we disaggregate the power in education, we empower individual learners
    • try really hard to get presenters to be more effective, they produce excellent guides, tips and advice
    • the idea of a short paper presentation is to either inspire people to read the short paper in more detail or to undertake further reading
    • The presentation is not there to provide your audience with lots of bullet points, explanatory notes on methodology
    • ALT-C is not about the future it’s about the past
    • one of the problems with running a non-traditional conference is that it is then challenging for people to get the funding to attend
    • a new paradigm for learning that acknowledges that formal learning might need to be a preparation for informal learning rather than the other way around
    • educators should ask the questions, he said, and let the learners find the answers
    • despite being populated with over 400 of the best practitioners of learning technology around today, what did we actually achieve in concrete terms, what artefact, statement, decision, conclusion or prediction did we build?
    • This lack of what we might call ‘organised informality’ is a key failure of so many conferences, and fails to exploit what we might call the ‘cognitive surplus’ of such events
    • Collectively there was something in the order of 1000 work days at the conference
    • Even if  just a fraction of that had been harnessed in a more focused way, we could have done something amazing together
    • So here are some suggestions for future conferences.

      One: aggregate all of the content of the conference in real time to make a live, digital publication

    • Take a team of volunteers – student journalists perhaps- and produce a publication that takes the twitter feeds, blog posts, conference abstracts, live interviews with flip cams
    • Two: Instead of a ‘pub quiz social’ make one night of the conference more like a barcamp event, except with a theme – a bit like a pub lock in – you are not leaving here until you have done something useful – really dig down and debate an issue and come up with a document or something
    • Three: organise the lunch sessions more into themed discussions, and make them longer – say 2 hours – birds of a feather tables for example, or get the keynotes/invited speakers/presenters to each sit at a table and lead off a discussion, more of a knowledge cafe format
    • how the academic conference might be re-imagined
    • The idea is that the conference will last for 6 weeks, with a long initial period of online interaction culminating in the actual f2f event. Presenters will be asked to upload their papers and presentations well in advance of the conference, and the participants will be able to interact with them, post comments, read and absorb them etc well ahead of time. At the conference itself, the presenters will give just a short outline of their work and then lead an in-depth discussion of the issues it raises. This promises to really engage the audience, and should lead to a much deeper debate than usual.
    • if it was presented as a real opportunity for the presenters to get peer feedback on their work it could be sold to the management who might otherwise question the challenge to the traditional format
    • could help to bridge the gap between the ‘unconference’ style event and the more formal one

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-09-20