reading journey inspired by a tweet

A good friend of mine tweeted a list today and it inspired me to respond… only I couldn’t fit it into a tweet. This doesn’t have much to do with edtech, except to say how powerful 140 characters can be, especially when accompanied by an image.

So here is my reading journey, inspired by the wonderful Ro.

Enid Blyton – the famous five, the secret seven, malory towers and st clare’s – all while helping at local library on Saturday morning

A series of bible fables for children – a new one would arrive each birthday and christmas from my godmother, who took her role very seriously indeed and also happened to be a publisher. It didn’t work! But I have never forgotten the stories.

A big yellow book of fairy tales, a gift from the same source. These did work! Bluebeard was my favourite – no comment – but this is the one book I wish hadn’t been given away to Oxfam.

Jean Plaidy – embedded a love of imagining history.

Charlotte Bronte all – followed by Emily, some,  – tried, but didn’t enjoy Anne much!

Agatha Christie – all.

At this point I don’t remember reading anything by any men. Other than Shakespeare, Hardy and Dickens of course. But those were required, rather than consumed under the sheets by torchlight.

The Hobbit but it made no real impression, and though I remember wanting to like the Lord of the Rings, it wasn’t meant to be.

All of Checkov. Then Dostoevsky. The link was tenuous.

And then there were the Women again, this time all black. Angela Davis. Maya Angelou,  Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.


An evaluation of the use of screencasting and video for assessment feedback in online higher education

1st Draft Video Feedback Paper

This is the first draft re-write of a paper I wrote last year. My intention is to present this within the context an evaluation of specific software and applications that teachers can use for making screencasts and videos of feedback for their students.


Assessment design for learner responsibility by David Nicol

Ten Principles of Good Assessment and Feedback Practice Good assessment and feedback practices should:
  1. Help clarify what good performance is (goals, criteria, standards). To what extent do students in your course have opportunities to engage actively with goals, criteria and standards, before, during and after an assessment task?
  2. Encourage ‘time and effort’ on challenging learning tasks. To what extent do your assessment tasks encourage regular study in and out of class and deep rather than surface learning?
  3. Deliver high quality feedback information that helps learners self-correct. What kind of teacher feedback do you provide – in what ways does it help students self-assess and self-correct?
  4. Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem. To what extent do your assessments and feedback pro cesses activate your students’ motivation to learn and be successful?
  5. Encourage interaction and dialogue around learning (peer and teacher- student. What opportunities are there for feedback dialogue (peer and/or tutor-student) around assessment tasks in your course?
  6.  Facilitate the development of self-assessment and reflection in learning. To what extent are there formal opportunities for reflection, self-assessment or peer assessment in your course?
  7. Give learners choice in assessment – content and processes To what extent do students have choice in the topic s, methods, criteria, weighting and/or timing of learning and assessment tasks in your course?
  8.  Involve students in decision-making about assessment policy and practice. To what extent are your students in your course kept informed or engaged in consultations regarding assessment decisions?
  9. Support the development of learning communities To what extent do your assessments and feedback pro cesses help support the development of learning communities?
  10.  Help teachers adapt teaching to student needs To what extent do your assessment and feedback processes help inform and shape your teaching? 

Nicol, D. (2007). Principles of good assessment and feedback: Theory and practice. From the
REAP International Online Conference on Assessment Design for Learner Responsibility, 29th-31st May, 2007 . Available at

Comparing MOOCs

A cMOOC v. an xMOOC

(cMOOCs and xMOOCs are defined here by Stephen Downes)

This is DS106 v. an iversity course also called digital storytelling.

This blog was supposed to be comparing one of the original xMOOC platforms with DS106, but instead I decided to compare an equivalent platform offering a similar subject. I was more interested in the treatment of the subject and pedagogy being the main focus of the comparison rather than the technology, but nevertheless….

the technology, just to get this out of the way:

DS106 is built using a WordPress (WP) content management system (CMS). Highly modular with lots of addons available, WP allows anyone with a modicum of web development experience to build as complicated a network of websites as they want. And DS106 has become a pretty deep website, with many offshoots and choices for visitors (including a link for teachers who want to use the resources as an OER source for their own courses).

iversity is a MOOC platform built specifically for this purpose and generally mirrors others like Udacity, FutureLearn and Coursera. The major difference is that this one was built in, and operates from, Germany, though it still uses English as its language.

Another major difference is that iversity offers academic credit in the form of European credit transfer (ECTS) where as DS106 does not, in the traditional sense of the word.

iversity courses appear to be led by Professors, only, though there are seven people in the storyMOOC team and twelve visiting guest lecturers. This even differs from many of the other xMOOCs. But now at least we are getting closer to looking at the teaching.

DS106 is designed as a way to enable students to learn about digital storytelling by reading/watching/listening to background material and then telling stories digitally. They set their own assignments, they choose their own methods and there doesn’t appear to be anyone in charge, in fact one of the original pathways is even called “headless DS106”. The only thing that we know for certain is that the idea originated at the University of Mary Washington and was created by Jim Groom, after that it appears to have taken on a life of its own. An ongoing environment that continues to grow within a structure without dates and times “The Open DS106“. This course has become the standard bearer for a connectivist approach to teaching online. This is because it relies on the connections between and experience of the people undertaking the course itself in order to progress the students.

Both courses have a curriculum: DS106 has 12 Units (open ended), iversity has 8 chapters (based on weeks of study).



1: Bootcamp storytelling basics
2: Getting Through Bootcamp / Personal Cyber Infrastructure – serial formats (on the TV, web and beyond)
3: What Mean Ye Digital Storytelling? – storytelling in role-playing games
4: Listening to Audio – interactive storytelling in video games
5: Telling Stories in Photos – transmedia storytelling
6: It’s All By Design – alternate-reality gaming
7: Advanced Audio And Radio Show Production – augmented reality and location-based storytelling
8: Telling Stories Within the Web – the role of tools, interfaces and information architectures in current storytelling.
9: Reading Movies
10: Making Movies
11: ximeR and M@$#up
12: Final Projech

The major superficial difference between these two curricula are that one appears to be more embedded in an academic framework, in particular it is using academic language to convey what might arguably, be pretty similar material. But there is little doubt that ds106 is all about doing, producing, experimenting and learning that way. iversity requires listening and watching the experts telling the students about the subject. iversity also broadcasts via Facebook and also had a twitter feed which attracted 323 followers. DS106 seems to have completely avoided Facebook but has several hashtag feeds, each focussing on a different aspect of the module (making a numerical comparison a little more difficult). Perhaps this is because it is not person centric so therefore there is no one leader to follow. @dsradio has over 500 followers, @ds106 a couple of hundred and @ds106dc nearly 700.

The general approach and philosophy of ds106 seems to really have a life of its own, it is revelling in creativity and that creativity is exemplified by its own approach to teaching, assessment (peer) and openness. There is little doubt that iversity’s storyMOOC is also celebrating creativity, but its approach is steeped in its own appraisal of that creativity, this contrasts strongly with the overwhelming sense of joy that participants in ds106 appear to be experiencing. This surely is what learning should be about?

Background to MOOCs

Thoughts from interview 

in which George Siemens and Dave Cormier are interviewed by Martin Weller, about a range of issues concerning MOOCs.

  • The basis of thinking about MOOCs are not necessarily to criticise the idea of MOOCs from a personal, or first world, perspective, as it seems many do, but instead to take the approach that if Universities around the world really are willing to publish courses open to students from everywhere then just this should be celebrated.
  • One of the major issues is the perception that a business model has to be attached to the MOOC. It seems, to the speakers, that as soon as this happens the MOOC loses its focus and purpose.
  • The technology and presentational methods of MOOCS need to continue to be innovated; it is not enough to throw another MOOC onto Coursera (or anywhere else) and consider the job done. (They all pointed to DS106 as an example of where this didn’t occur).
  • Burn out of staff delivering the course. Interesting idea that as staff energy flags, so does student participation and this can be mapped! They talk about around twenty people being an optimum number for a massive course. My experience certainly is that the Moodle MOOC I attended which had at least 10 people working solidly during the MOOCs window, was more successful than those where there was only one or two visible “leaders”.

Thoughts from Maturing the MOOC

Conflicting perspectives on MOOCs divide education communities

Split between “elite” universities (in the US) who are keen to explore the potential of MOOCs (and are able to do so financially) and smaller universities who don’t have the same kind of resources. 

But perhaps the criticisms that MOOCs are unable (currently) to help students with complex learning needs, though less visible, are more important.

Learning Practitioners disagree about the value of MOOCs

Though MOOCs could be innovative, they also can be seen as packaging over content. The format itself has many issues that are yet to be resolved.

Formal comprehensive analyses of MOOCs mostly concur that they are disruptive and possibly threatening to current HE models 

Dramatic change is imminent :), so say various government think tanks.

Reporting of MOOC learner experiences is positive

Even though many don’t complete the courses on offer this doesn’t mean that they are not positive about their experiences. Nevertheless there is little data to support this.

The MOOC is maturing – and engaging with its business and accreditation issues

Two biggies, sustainability and accreditation are both high on universities priority list for MOOCs and therefore these issues will be solved one way or another.

Could MOOCs be used in “my area”

One of my colleagues is very keen to produce a Computer Science MOOC for young people (K12). I think this would be a great idea. Now just to find someone to pay us to create it, run it, market it, host it……

Exploring OER issues

Activity 7: Exploring OER issues

From OER InfoKit  YouTube channel

The JISC report on OER discusses several issues in OER:

  • embedding sustainable practice
  • funding and resourcing
  • time involved in repurposing materials
  • widening engagement
  • licensing and locating license holders for permission
  • multiple OER models
  • institutional policies, practices and coherent strategies
  • technical infrastructures
  • staff skills, understanding and raising individuals’ digital literacies
  • “quality, institutional branding and marketisation” (p9), quality and trust of the materials
  • lack of awareness of OER and their benefits

But perhaps more importantly identifies that progress has been made in significant areas:

“Increased awareness, knowledge and expertise around issues to do with technical, quality, accessibility, and legal aspects have led to the development of systems, policies and procedures to support ongoing OER activities.” (Jisc, 2013, p11)

I have been exploring the OER Research Hub’s impact map and based on the results (though there are not many participants yet) explored the issue of widening participation more deeply. The impact map for Access is representing evidence gathered about the hypothesis that OER will widen participation in education. Without any evidence presented from K12 and most of the evidence originating from the USA, it would appear that there is more evidence to support the idea that access is not widened nevertheless there is a slight skew towards more broad access in higher education and at colleges but less in informal. In the HEFCE survey 55% of people who work with OERs found increased access for learners to be of most significance. As Emma Blake (2014) points out there is also a dearth of evidence from other regions than the first world. However, the Open Educational Resources Survey from Unesco (2012) shows promising responses from developing regions and also shows that OER activity is spread across the different educational sectors.

This same Unesco report also highlights the need for policies and funding to help support the establishment of OER. And here the impact map demonstrates clearly that once an OER policy is adopted then this bring financial benefits to institutions and student, particularly the open textbook movement. Where countries report that they do not have a policy, this is not necessarily the end of the story because many are in the process of creating one.

The third issue I want to address is that concerned with digital literacies, it seems from the review that although digital skills are improving amongst staff, when combined with the need for students to cooperate in the production of OER things get a little trickier. So perhaps although students are engaged with OER they are not necessarily getting the best out of them.

It seems as though sometimes we forget that in the fast paced technological era there are some things that always do take time. The impact map is a little disappointing in terms of the results that it displays, but this is due to the voluntary nature of how evidence is included but also that it depends on individuals proposing the evidence. This could certainly skew the perception of the information that it delivers. It is my experience in K12 that making a change and assessing its impact takes many years, for example, were I to propose a digital reading list to year 7’s the interesting result (their English GCSE results) would take five years to come through.

Identifying priorities for research

Identifying priorities for research

Advising a fundraising organisation on priorities for research in open education, choosing three from the following list:
  • Sustainability – many OER projects have received initial funding from organisations such as the Hewlett Foundation. How sustainable are they after the funding stops?
  • Pedagogy – are different ways of teaching required to make effective use of open education?
  • Barriers to uptake – what prevents individuals or institutions from either using or engaging with open education?
  • Learner support – how can learners best be supported in these open models?
  • Technology – what technologies are best suited to open approaches?
  • Quality – how can we assure the quality of open educational content?
  • Rights – how do we protect the intellectual property of individuals while encouraging wide distribution?
Instinctively I would recommend focussing on the following for research priorities, I would also suggest that a target type of student would also help to clarify some of these issues:
Learner support, primarily because although many people start open education courses, particularly MOOCs, far fewer finish. The make-up of the student body, i.e. people in the field of education and already well-educated, is also indicative that these initiatives are not reaching their intended audience. 
New Republic 
Pedagogy, it is only logical that in order to enable a system of open education, the method of teaching will have to change significantly. Is it enough to simply provide materials, some resources, a few computer quizzes and the occasional forum? Plainly not. But if not then what?
Barriers to uptake, this would go well with my first choice, partly because these are two sides of the same coin. 
Clow, D., (2013). MOOCs and the funnel of participation. Third Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK 2013) [online]. Available at (Accessed 21 March 2014)

Jordan, K., (nd) MOOC Completion Rates: The Data [online]. Available at (Accessed 21 March 2014)