Learn Appeal – The Learning Capsule

At the end of 2015 I met up with Lesley Price, just a catch up to chat about retirement (unfortunately not mine), keeping busy, moving house, and The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Lesley also had something else to show me.

Whilst waiting for food to arrive Lesley plopped (only word for it) a blue lunchbox on the table and said … “try this out”. Um, OK?

Connecting to the Capsule Wi-Fi, then typing an IP address to my phone’s browser, I was suddenly connected to a learning management system complete with a choice of courses / content, interactions, videos, etc. This box had it all and, if we’d told people on tables around us, we could have all accessed and learned something new together. Right there and then! 

OK, it’s not new, per se, learning ‘online’. What is new is this approach. Inside the box are a Wi-Fi router, battery, a Raspberry Pi, and a kick-ass piece of software developed by the wonderful bods at Appitierre.

Those that can connect to the Internet are now able to access a wealth of learning opportunities literally at the touch of a button or a screen … but what about communities in remote locations where there is no mains electricity, never mind Internet access? Is the growth of the Internet, which is enabling learning for those that are connected, actually widening the educational divide with those that are not?  The McKinsey report: Offline and Falling Behind, Barriers to Internet Adoption quite clearly identifies some of the key problems.

What is Learn Appeal? This charity “offers a chance for all those who work in e-learning to combine our resources and give something back. It’s our opportunity to harvest all those creative juices to deliver a learning revolution.” Bringing together the very best people involved in learning and learning development Learn Appeal works with projects around the world to connect individuals and communities, who already have the devices to learn on/with, but not the data connectivity. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t providing the Internet where there is none; it’s providing a localisedWi-Fi network (from this little box, yes) with interactive learning management system.

Learning Capsule. Rural communities, who don’t have or can’t afford reliable Internet, could run this themselves. With pre-loaded learning materials or ‘courses’ they could learn together about solar power, clean water, farming and cultivation, soil management, etc. In towns or cities a safe and closed network for children to learn online (safe from the distractions and dangers of online predators). it only needs one person to have an Internet connection at least every now and again to connect the Capsule online and download new / updated materials or courses to keep it fresh, and the battery can be charged so easily from a solar power pack or other such renewable source (mains power if you have it).

Possibilities. The possibilities are endless for the Capsule – anywhere you want safe or reliable access to learning resources, whether full-on Internet is available or not, is possible. Just because you or your intended learners can access the wider, fuller Internet isn’t what’s important; the Capsule could be deployed for users where you don’t want them to have this (at-risk children, prisons, etc.).

Partners. Learn Appeal is already working with the likes of Barnardo’s in the UK, Complitkenya in Kenya, and is tackling illiteracy in  South Africa with M-Ubuntu, among many more projects in development.

I am happy and proud to say that the board at Learn Appeal invited me to join as a Trustee to the charity, and I am looking forward to working with them on projects and content.

Watch the Learn Appeal promotional video below, shown at the 2015 eLearning Awards and 2016 Learning Technologies event. We are looking for a whole range or donations, not only financial, but donations such as content, time, resources, networks, etc. Please check out the Learn Appeal website for more details.

Learn Appeal – eLearning Awards Video

Here are just a few examples of the excitement surrounding the Capsule:

Stephen Heppell / Learn Appeal Capsule

Asi DeGani / Learn Appeal

Debra Beck / Learn Appeal

Tanya Randall / Learn Appeal

Learn Appeal Capsule

One year on: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It’s been an eventful year in the life of The Really Useful #EdTechBook. I wanted to just look back and collect my thoughts, and give you an insight into what it means to me, and to others.

The idea
My original idea was to write about my thoughts on the use of learning / educational technology. I then realised that, for me, the world of learning technology or technology enhanced learning (or just ‘learning’, as some prefer now) is about the people I connect with and learn from. Plus, you’ve probably read enough from me these days!

So, my original idea morphed into a collaborative project where contributors brought their own experiences, knowledge, and unique perspectives to the fore, for you to learn from.

From initial conversations, tweets, emails, etc. came the idea and concept for The Really Useful #EdTechBook. Each chapter was set aside for each invited contributor to have for themselves, no real limits were imposed, but ideally between 2,000-5,000 words. I wasn’t asking for anything in particular, I didn’t want to direct or control the flow of ideas or perspectives, other then each author’s own words on their own interpretation of the book title. I was hoping that, once the chapters came in, I could apply a narrative to their order – thinking of (1) the background / history to the use of technology, (2) the current field and areas we work, and finally (3) looking forward to what we can expect or hope for in the future. As is turned out the stories and experiences were echoing and supporting each other that it became obvious there is an underlying thread of our work; that technology has not only enabled us but also constricted us in our outlook – from repeating mistakes to growing concepts and inclusion of stakeholders in all aspects of our work. 

The book is logical, insightful and provides the reader with a rich array of both personal experience and “tools” for use in education. The book will appeal to anyone who is interested in the use of technology in teaching and learning, highly recommended!” Neil WIthnell

In the year since I finalised the copy, edited the layout, read the proof editions, and sorted the cover art I have been proud, and quite humbled, at the way in which the book has been received. I wanted to say another huge thank you to each of the chapter authors and to each of you for reading, commenting, sharing, etc. all details on the book and it’s contents.

To date (early January, 2016) there have been 2,340 downloads of the PDF edition. It is really hard to work out definitive numbers for the Kindle and paper edition, due to the number of different systems it’s available through, and the very complex reporting method each of them has, but I think the numbers of purchased editions are in the region of 80 paper copies and 250 Kindle editions. I didn’t start this project, this journey for the sales, but it’s gratifying to know the chapters and book concept has resonated with you, the reader, in some small way.

Some other links / information for you:

Earlier this year I was contacted by Vicki Davies, from the Every Classroom Matters podcast. Vicki asked me to talk to her and her avid listeners about the process, and reasoning, behind being a self-published author, which was itself published earlier this month – Every Classroom Matters Podcast).

So, what next then?
I have considered a second edition or The Extended / Next Really Useful #EdTechBook, if you like. I’ve been contacted over the past year with people interested in both writing for it as well as other who’d love to read it, but I figure the concept doesn’t lend itself to a sequel – tell me if you think I’m wrong?

I am considering other forms and concepts for a second collaborative project. If you’re interested in either reading or writing it with me then please get in touch and we’ll continue to develop it together!! You know where I am!

"A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings." Chrissi Nerantzi

“A very insightful and extensive collection of authentic accounts by practitioners who identify themselves as Learning Technologists in a variety of educational settings.  This reminds us of the fast pace of change in this relatively new profession, the variety of roles and responsibilities as well as the passion of these individuals for supporting change, innovation and transformation in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities linked to professional identity, engagement and positioning are discussed.” Chrissi Nerantzi

"The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology." Steve Wheeler

“The Really Useful #EdTechBook does exactly what it promises on its cover. It draws together a useful, diverse, eclectic set of visions and commentaries that together provide the reader with a lucid and comprehensive vista of educational technology.” Steve Wheeler

Every Classroom Matters: How Teachers Can Self-Publish Books #edtechchat

Earlier this year I was invited to share my experiences of self publishing my work as eBooks with Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) on the Every Classroom Matters podcast, broadcast through the BAM Radio Network.

David Hopkins is a leading and respected Learning Technologist from the UK. He earned the award of Highly Commended Learning Technologist of the Year from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) in 2014, and is the author of several books on and around learning technology and understanding the roles of Learning Technologists. His most recently self-published work is ‘The Really Useful #EdTechBook’, which is described as a ’mix of academic, practical and theoretical offerings is a useful recipe book for any Learning Technologist’ by Steve Wheeler, Associate Professor of Learning Technology, University of Plymouth.

In the recording we discuss the process and purpose of writing a book, the details of getting from Word to MOBI or EPUB files, the value and difficulties of different publishing platforms, etc. Here are some links to support it:

I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you have – leave a comment below, or contact me on Google+ or Twitter.

“Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea!” #blideo

So, Steve Wheeler has updated the #blimage challenge to video now (a natural progression), and challenged a few people to reflect and write on what it means to them.

You can read my #bliamge and #blideo posts here, and find out more about the challenge and how to get involved (hint: find an image, write about it as part of a learning journey or story or experience).

Here’s Steve’s challenge:

Apart from the shear volume of the herd (makes me think about “following the herd’ mentality) it’s the poor lost/stuck calf at the end of the video. Whilst struggling with confidence on jumping the fence, like he’s seen all his family do, he finally tries it, succeeds, and runs to catch up with the herd. 

Here’s the bit I focussed on, the bit right at the end … the herd, or three of them at any rate, waited for him.  Or that’s my interpretation. For me that’s the beauty of a working herd, a community, or a group focussed on a shared goal (see BYOD4L or LTHEchat or FOS4L). When one is in trouble the community comes to his or her aid. Whilst elk obviously can’t encourage or instruct the calf on how to get over the fence, they are still around once he’s jumped it, and rally around when he’s close.

That’s what I believe a community (of practice) is and should be.

Now for my challenge. Using this clip from the 1969 classic Italian Job, say what it makes you think of, professionally or personally. For this I challenge everyone, but would like to hear from James Clay, Julian Stodd, and Terese Bird (quite a mix of backgrounds and perspectives from these EdTechBook authors).

“Hang on a minute lads, I’ve got a great idea!”

Image source: Stairs (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Maybe digital isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

So much of what I do these days, and what I produce, is digital. Tweets, status updates, audio & video files, documents, reports, etc. Less than 1% gets to where it needs to get to in any other way than by electronic transfer – money to friends (bank transfer), documents to colleagues (emails, networks, Dropbox), sharing (tweets, blog posts, status updates, etc.). Hell, even a message home to say I’ll be late will be a Facebook message instead of a phone call!

For my 40th birthday my brother bought my a USB turntable (Denon DP-200USB), something I (we) could use to rip our extensive collection of 70’s, 80’s and 90’s vinyl collection of rock, metal, and various dubious listening pleasures. So, the past few winter’s I’ve been holed up in the spare room with 300+ vinyl records (I’m sure we had more) and the turntable, ripping them, adding to iTunes, loading cover art and track listings, transferring to my iPod and listening to my childhood and teenage years in the car during the daily commute.

Even my two boys (ages 4 and 5) are getting in on it, asking for certain tracks or bands in the car with me, looking over the vinyl covers, reading the lyrics, laughing at the band photos (it’s the hair!), and not quite understanding just ‘how’ the sound works!It’s been quite an emotional experience, reliving parts of my youth I’d forgotten, just by hearing the opening riff or vocal to a song I’d not heard for decades.The feelings of a teenager trying to find his way in life, as lived (as many of us did) through our taste in music. Some of this music I’d not heard since I sold my last turntable – I’ve been slowly getting MP3 versions of the best stuff I could from the vinyl collection, but it’s still not the same as the crackles and hiss from the vinyl.

Last week, for the first time in 20 years, I bought a vinyl LP. Yes, it wasn’t the same experience as buying it from the local independent record store I used to spend hours browsing in (I bought this one online and waited for Mr Postie to deliver). But it came today, and I felt like a kid again – touching, smelling, handling, the LP, excited that’s a gatefold limited edition (those in the know know why this is special!) … and what’s more, it’s a new album. Yes, new music on an old format, and it made me feel so good! It made me think that all my MP3 tracks (some 10,000 of them) mean nothing, I’ve nothing to hold or ‘feel’. It may be the same music, but it lacks a connection and emotion when it’s just a track listed among so many others.

Next, for me, is to go and buy/make the hi-fi system I always wanted as a teenager – quality amp and speakers. I may not have the room or ability/willingness to blast it out like I used to (sorry Mum & Dad, I totally understand why you tried so hard to get me to use headphones now!) but I do value the quality of the audio experience, so I will be searching out decent equipment.

But what does this mean? For me it’s realisation that not everything that is digital is good. I realise that I now miss the old analogue, non-digital things like opening a CD or DVD case and reading the insert, opening a gatefold LP and reading the lyrics and seeing the band photos, holding the vinyl on the edges so as not to scratch the surface.

The connection is missing with digital artefacts, which is bizarre as I feel more connected with the world than I did back in 1992 (when I bought my first CD player).

I have also, of late, started buying more printed books. Yes, I still like my Kindle and eBooks, but I have realised that sometimes there is just no substitute for the real ‘hold-it-in-your-hands’ thing. For me I remember that it didn’t start with the predictable mid-life crisis or trying to relive a youth lost, it started with a power cut – no power = no Internet or TV or charged phones. I was stuck with candles (not too bad) and a book. But I didn’t have any new books to hand, it was all electronic. OK, so the power cut didn’t last more than an hour or two, but what if it had … I had nothing to do as everything needed power either to work or to charge up for reuse.

I wonder if our approach to technology and the environments we build for our students could benefit from this too?  Are we giving them so much in digital form (eBooks, scanned chapters of books or journals, PDF of presentation slides, links to news online, skype calls with experts and specialist, Apps and responsive website to make online collaboration and connection easier, etc.) that perhaps a paper copy would help?

I have been lucky enough to sit in on a few lectures recently, and the most animated and engaged students I saw was in one lecture where the PowerPoint slides didn’t explain a theory well enough so the academic switched on the visualizer and wrote it out long-hand, highlighting and updating the text as she went. The students could see something being built, in real-time, in front of them. They could see the learning ‘process’, not just the learning ‘outcome’. They could see that their academic not only knew the answer, but how to get there and how to explain it too.

So, is there room for non-digital analogue in our classrooms and learning journeys? Are we able to see the need or benefit of it if it’s there, or are we so fixed on the digital and the technology that that is all we can ‘fix’ into the equation?

With articles and tweets about teachers being replaced by computers, from the BBC and Huffington Post, I see a trend emerging that more and more people are turning away from the blind adoption of iPads and tablets for classrooms and actually looking at ‘why’ an iPad (or alternative device) would be good, and at ‘what’ it would be good at? Is there an alternative, not just to the device but to the intended use?

Here’s a good idea .. instead of using the iPad to get school children to play a game like Monopoly to learn about management, game-play, finances, control, turn-taking, etc. why not get the board-game out of the cupboard and play the ‘real’ version? Oh, I forgot, the contents of the games cupboard were binned in favour of a charging station for the iPads!

See, maybe going completely online or digital isn’t such a good idea? It isn’t about a ‘blended’ approach either, its just about using what works, where it works?!

Image source: David Hopkins (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Project: The Really Useful #EdTechBook

You know how it is … you have an idea that just won’t go away. About a year ago (January 2014) I had an idea for a third book: a follow-up to my ‘what is a Learning Technologist?‘ eBook. I wanted to continue my exploration of my role and the community of learning professionals I find myself interacting with online and in person.

But, let’s face it, you’ve probably heard enough about me. So I toyed with the idea of seeing if anyone would write it with me. After a while I figured there wasn’t one person I’d want to write it with, but a whole series of active, engaging, and trusted people who have something to add and share to the conversation. Then came the difficult (and it was very difficult) choice of who, out of this much much wider range of people to approach.

So, how did I plan and execute this massive project then? Well, firstly I had no idea how big or tiring or wonderful the experience would be. I used a multitude of tools and approaches to inviting, collection, collating, writing, designing, marketing, and generally getting this project to market and completed.

  • I won’t write about the physical process of editing and publishing and the various trials and tribulations involved, as I’ve written about it before. Please head on over to my old post written after my first two book: ‘Writing an eBook: Lessons learned on how, where, and why’. I will say one thing though, it is very much more complicated when you’re producing the same content for two different platforms (electronic and paper) as the Word file do (despite what anyone may tell you) need to be completely different formatting. It’s fine, so long as you don’t need to make any more edits … if you do, you have to do it twice!

Openness
The key to the project, as I mention in the final chapter / post-script was that the finished product, the book, was formed by the process of writing itself. I knew who I wanted involved, and I knew what I ‘hoped’ the book would be about, but I did not direct any authors on content or writing style. I am so hugely impressed that there are themes that have formed that can be read through the whole book, through each chapter … all credit to the authors who managed to do this without even realising!

Google Docs
I set up a folder in  Google Docs and invited everyone to it. I created a document for each author that they could use to write their chapter (although most chose to do the writing in private and coy-and-paste- the final version here later).

Also in the Google Docs folder were a series of files that I used to plan and inform the team – all about communication and planning the project. I wanted everyone involved to have an input, if they wanted, to help steer the final product – yes, I could have used my ‘editor’ and ‘publisher’ position to do this, but that wouldn’t necessarily have produced a worthy product that my peers and colleagues would want to either read or be involved in.

Google Docs - The Really Useful #EdTechBook

It was through this process of openness that many important decisions were made, ranging from the actual name of the book (I deliberately didn’t force a name on this, but instead asked for suggestions) as well as timing for publication and pricing. The name of The Really Useful #EdtechBook was proposed at the start, more of a ‘holding’ name than anything else, but it stuck and soon became the call-to-arms of the writing styles and approaches to the individual authors.

Three factors helped me decide to include the hashtag in the title:

  1. We are all connected: in some case I’ve only connected ‘virtually’ with some of the authors, with others it was an online connection that we’ve made ‘real’ at various events. The hashtag represents this connected world we learning-technology-people reside in.
  2. A title like The Really Useful Educational Technology Book was to long and, well, naff.
  3. The title has it’s own marketing department already in build. If anyone posts or tweets and uses the full title, on any of their networks, it’s quite easy to find, read, and RT! It also demonstrates a shift in marketing and publishing, where much of it is now online where hashtags and trends and communities grow and prosper. Including the hashtag enables and embraces this shift.

Dropbox
Actually working on the editing and publishing side of the book needed us to be able to to share files. Using shared folders in Dropbox  I shared images, Word files, PDFs, ePUB, MOBI, etc. among other things. I also used this to ensure that I had access to my files on which machine I ended up working on, and to be sure I didn’t loose anything if USBs got lost or other such mishaps.

Dropbox used with The Really Useful #EdTechBook

Cover
I had an idea for the cover, based on a few styles of artwork I’d seen. Through work the name of a colleagues wife came up in conversation so we had an email exchange and the cover was sent across, pretty much as you see it now! Either Claire Riley is really good at interpreting my garbled notes or she is truly a gifted artist (definitely gifted).

Note: There’s much much more on the back cover .. which you’ll only see if you get the printed copy (hint hint)!

The Really Useful #EdTechBook

Interviews
I wanted to try and build a community around the project, as well as build a sense of anticipation and marketing for the eventual launch (January 28, 2015). I invited the authors to participate in a series of ‘interviews’, conducted for the most part through the Google Docs again. I started each interview with the same question – “How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life? ” – we we took it from there. Each interview takes very different directions to the others, based on the individual and their response to this first question.

Read the interviews here:

Book Reviews
The book was also sent to a few interested and key people for advance review (and comments). Thanks to Steve Wheeler, Maren Deepwell, Chris Rowell, Chrissi Nerantzi, Helen Blunden, and Neil Withnell.

Commerce
The links below are where you can currently purchase the eBook or paper copy from:

The individual chapters have come about from a simple, and short invitation to the book. The request/instruction … write about your experiences in, and with, technology for learning:

  • Wayne Barry: “…and what do you do?”: Can we explain the unexplainable?
  • Zak Mensah: “Why do we do what we do?”
  • Peter Reed: “The structure and roles of Learning Technologists within Higher Education Institutions”
  • Rachel Challen: “Learning Technologists as agents of change? Blending policy and creativity”
  • Julie Wedgwood: “Developing the skills and knowledge of a Learning Technologist”
  • Dr David Walker and Sheila MacNeill: “Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue”
  • Lesley Price: “Times they are a changing …or not?”
  • Sue Beckingham: “The Blended Professional: Jack of all Trades and Master of Some?”
  • Julian Stodd: “How gadgets help us learn”
  • Terese Bird: “Students Leading the Way in Mobile Learning Innovation”
  • Inge de Waard: “Tech Dandy, or the Art of Leisure Learning”
  • Sharon Flynn: “Learning Technologists: changing the culture or preaching to the converted?”
  • Mike McSharry: “This is your five-minute warning!”

Marketing
So, how can you see more of the world that surrounds the book? Try these links below:


The Really Useful #EdTechBook

I’m sure there is so much I’ve left out of the whole process, but it’s the stuff I’ve been doing daily for 8+ months that it’s all part and parcel of my daily routine.

Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the book. I finished the book with a short ‘post-script’ chapter …

“Without this book perhaps some of these stories may never have seen the light of day? I am certain there are many more stories out there that not only highlight what we’re missing or doing wrong or don’t understand properly, just as there are numerous examples of what we are doing right, where we have made a difference in just one child or one class or one school.

“Please share your stories. With me. With each other. With anyone who’ll listen.

“Use the #EdTechBook hashtag on social networks, with your Personal Learning Network (PLN), on your blog, or even on someone else’s blog. This book isn’t the start of anything new … but it could be a further catalyst to improve the use of technology for learning (all aspects of learning, in all possible locations), to highlight ‘bad’ practices and to investigate new ones.”

Please also leave a comment or review on the page where you bought or downloaded this book from. This is one small step that will bring the #EdTechBook community to the attention of your PLN and your peers. The next is, as I’ve already said, to share your story. Do it!”

Reflecting on 2015

Yes, it seems strange to ‘reflect’ on 2015 already, but here I go.

I am not going to join many other and write about my predictions for learning technology in 2015, or wax lyrical about developments over the past few years and where we’re heading. I’m just going to use my experiences as a Learning Technologist and my insider knowledge [wink wink] from collating and editing The Really Useful #EdTechBook – I’ll outline some of these ‘observations’.

There is plenty being written about developments in both technology and how we use it. Whether it’s wearable devices or looking at the increasing power and miniaturisation of our tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices (although I acknowledge that smartphones are getting bigger. Yeah, go figure).

No, what I see happening in discussions I have, tweets I read, posts I comment on, etc. is that there is a growing unease in what we ‘want’ to see. While some of us want to investigate and develop learning resources around shiny new devices in wonderful new ways, many of us are becoming increasingly exasperated at these developments while underlying issues, approaches, or techniques are standing still. Have we actually answered the question(s) yet about how to use a VLE effectively and efficiently for learning? Are we ever going to address that within our own institution, and move forward?

In her chapter for The Really Useful #EdTechBook, Lesley Price writes about her experiences of more than 30 years with technology that has been used in learning environments. It is unfortunate, says Lesley, that we are still asking the same questions today that we’ve ben asking for years already:

“Why are we not making more effective use of technology to support both formal and informal learning in education and in the workplace?” (Price, 2015)

What I see happening is precisely what Lesley asks about … some of us are going back to our roots and looking at ‘what’ we do, ‘why’ we do it, ‘how’ we do it, and ‘who’ we do it for. I see a growing community growing on Twitter who talk about the reason we have the tools we do (as well as inclusion of new tools or new systems), and how we can maximise them for well-defined roles or activities. I see many more people asking deeper questions about the technology and what it can offer the mobile student, and what that mobile student can then offer the institution. I hear more about  the issues of getting staff buy-in to new approaches than ever before; it’s less about ‘lead and they will follow’ and more about ‘engage and they will engage’.

Sharon Flynn, who chapter “Learning Technologists: Changing the culture or preaching to the converted?” is in The Really Useful #EdTechBook, notes that there is a “shift in culture happening‘ and that “empowering more reluctant academics” has a greater long-term effect on both staff and student engagement of a technological solution than a training-first approach.

“There is evidence that good practice in the use of technology is being embedded in teaching and learning activities.” (Flynn, 2015)

David Walker and Sheila MacNeill write about the Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue in the book too: their investigation looks at the development of the role and the people in those roles and that

“there have been significant advances and recognition of the central role that the Learning Technologist plays particularly in relation to collaborative curriculum development, networking, scholarly activities and increasingly recognised influence in the development and implementation of institutional, and indeed sectoral, strategic goals relating to learning and teaching. ” (Walker and MacNeill, 2015)

We, as a community and professional entity, are becoming more aligned to the ‘reason’ for the technological implementation and not just the ‘point-and-click’ training tasks we often undertake or have been known for in the past.

What do you think? Are we going ‘retro’ and leaving the shiny new developments behind in favour of consolidation of existing practices and the understanding of basic pedagogic needs? Are there aspects of a Learning Technologists role that ought to be more reflective than they are, to better understand the historical and cultural impact on future developments?

References

Flynn, S. (2015). Learning Technologists: Changing the culture or preaching to the converted?. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.199-217.

Price, L. (2015). Times they are a changing .. or not?. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.107-128.

Walker, D. and MacNeill, S (2015). Learning Technologist as Digital Pedagogue. In: Hopkins, D., ed., The Really Useful #EdTechBook, 1st ed. David Hopkins, pp.91-105.

Image source: Philip Howard (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mud

Books vs eBooks: it’s about WHY as well as WHERE?

So, I buy books and eBooks. It’s not a massive revelation, but if all you read is websites like Mashable or The Verge it might seem unusual to do both.

What I see discussed about the difference between physical books and eBooks is about where we choose to read them. Plenty is written about where we read each type (and why) or how you buy or read them … but for me it’s also about why I buy and read them on the different formats.

I’ll own up to to it now and say that, yes, I do use a large online retailer for the majority of my books … I don’t have much spare money for this activity and I need to be careful about how much and how often I spend my money.

I am quite particular about the way I buy my books. I tend to buy fiction books to read on either my Kindle or using the Kindle App on my iPad. The Kindle is so much more flexible in its ease for carrying and holding than both the physical copy and iPad Kindle App (although I may have the iPad on me more often than the Kindle). I have all my Kindle books on my Kindle (I’ve still a long way to go before I start to find the limit on space), so it’s easy to choose my next book.

I’ve downloaded and enjoyed the whole series (12 so far) of The Frontier’s Saga (self-published, eBook-only science fiction), the Ben Hope series (again, self-published, eBook-only). I have enjoyed many other eBook-only independent author works that are either a series or very good one-offs. What attracted me to these eBooks were favourable reviews or I just took a punt and thought that £0.69 or £1.99 was easy money that I wouldn’t easily  miss if the book turned out to be a bit, well, naff. As it happened, they were really good so I went back for more. I would not have done that with a paperback book which would’ve easily been £5.99 or more, certainly not for a book that was part of a series.

Kindle books are so much more appealing when they are appropriately priced compared to the physical copy. I do not like, nor will buy, an eBook that is aggressively priced. In fact, eBooks that are only £1.00 cheaper than the paper copy is just plain rude in my book (pardon the pun) .. these are typically the type of non-fiction books I like.

But when it comes to non-fiction books, like reference books, textbooks, autobiographies, or other interesting fact-based novels … I like to have the physical version to hold, read, annotate, and put on my shelf (and yes, show-off). I’ve Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds sitting alongside Julian Stodd’s The Social Leadership Handbook, Brian Chen’s Always On, and Oliver Quinlan’s Thinking Teacher. I’ve used those mini coloured post-it highlight things to tag pages or phrases I find important, or for sections I’ve annotated and want to reference again at some point.

I like having the physical copy for these kinds of books. Yes, I can do the same things in the Kindle version, but I still like the physical book. I also like the way they look on a bookshelf. It’s not a large collection, but it is growing, and I like to be able to see easily (and quickly) the way my reading habits change, grow, and are influenced by friends, colleagues, and my peers.

eBooks

What I wish, however, is that the publishing world would wake up to the opportunity to have their materials, their books, more widely read and shared. I would love to have the eBook edition of all my physical books so I have a choice of how, as well as where, to read them!

Last year, for my birthday, I was bought the complete (so far) set of 7 Game of Thrones books (paperbacks). Each one is a mammoth effort to hold as they’re so large. When I want to read in bed I prefer the ease and lightness of the Kindle. If I’m outside or in the conservatory I prefer the paperback. But unless I buy the eBook edition I don’t have this choice. I’ve read the first two books and now don’t want to read the rest as, well, the books are too damned heavy! If I had the Kindle versions as well though … ?

The year before I was given the complete set of Gone books by Michael Grant (soon to be a TV series I hope). I enjoyed the experience of reading these in paper form, but now I want to re-read them and just can’t be bothered to get the books out. I want to read them on my Kindle – there were some parts of the stories that I now know are not key to the plot (sorry, it’s true) so want to skip.

The other advantage of having paper and eBook editions, for me, is that I can swap between them based on where I am, or what mood I’m in. More importantly, I have the ability to make that choice.

For my 40th birthday my brother bought a USB turntable, so I can digitise my 80’s and 90’s music vinyl collection. This meant I didn’t have to buy (again) those albums that made my childhood and teenage years so wonderful. I have the vinyl LP or 12″ single to listen to in it’s original form (crackles and all), or the MP3 version on my iPod. I have that choice!

Yes, Amazon now have the Matchbook feature where selected titles have the eBook edition available at considerably lower (if not free) price. This is controlled by the very publishers that are causing the problem in eBook prices in the first place!

Those of you who invest in the paper copy of The Really Useful #EdTechBook will also have the ability (if purchased from Amazon) to have the eBook edition for free through Matchbook, this is how strongly I feel about the crossover between howwhere, and why we read what we read!

image source: Francesco Minciotti (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Interview with Julie Wedgwood, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, David Hopkins, January 2015As part of a series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this eighth post I talk to Julie Wedgwood, a specialist in technology supported learning and experienced eLearning practitioner.

In the video below we talk about eLearning, what has changed since we judged the 2011 eLearning Awards, and Julie’s innovative skills audit / assessment which forms the basis for her #EdTechBook chapter: 

Interview with Julie Wedgwood for The Really Useful #EdTechBook

More news about The Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here and other social media platforms, using the #EdTechBook hashtag. Please follow and join in for news on the book’s development as well as each individual author’s own interpretation of the process and their own chapters.

Image source: Misako Kuniya (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Interview with Terese Bird, #EdTechBook chapter author

The Really Useful #EdTechBook, edited by David HopkinsAs part of a new series of posts, I will be talking to authors of The Really Useful #EdTechBook about their work, experiences, and contribution to the book. In this seventh post I talk to Terese Bird, Learning Technologist and SCORE research fellow, University of Leicester.

DH – Hi Terese. How does the use of technology, in all its various forms, affect your day-to-day working life?

TB – Really, I do my job on the strength of first social media, and second mobile devices. I remember when I was being interviewed for my job at Leicester back in 2009, I was asked how I stay on top of developments in the field, and I said, “Twitter.” Even before I had any smart handheld devices, I was regularly using Twitter to learn from others in the field of learning technology and tech innovation generally. Even on extremely busy days, I can take a quick skim through Twitter, retweet a couple of things or put a couple of things on Scoop.it. Not only have I learnt from the blog post or news item, I have shared it, and often get some response on it — so in 20 minutes or so, I have done valuable horizon-scanning, learning, and networking in my field. I find other social media sites valuable as well: Pinterest, Academia.edu, YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Recently, Mendeley has figured in hugely for me — I love that I can get references and papers just right within the app, share references, write my own notes and annotations, and add material into my bibliography from the browser. As for mobile devices, the funny thing is I do not own a smartphone. When the iPad came out, I just felt that was what I needed in terms of both portability and screen real estate. I didn’t want to compromise with the small phone screen, and also I found it was cheaper to have a PAYG dumb phone that costs £10 just for calls and texts, and my iPad for everything else. I’m still not really tempted to get a smartphone. I am a bit tempted by the Apple Watch, though.

For other aspects of my job, I use my iPad for most meetings, note-taking, and email while on the job. Because my iPad is usually at hand, I can make very quick replies to most emails. I use my MacBook Pro and a 27” iMac at work for iMovie, iPhoto, Audacity and Quicktime especially to put together materials for our university’s iTunes U site. For everything else, for most documents and some research software, I use the university PC which is very handy in the way it’s set up, I must say. I appreciate the Windows environment; I’m not a total Mac addict. I appreciate Android as well, especially when I was trying to get Google Glass set up at the Medical School. Google Glass — impressive, but I can’t envision trying to use it personally, only for professional use I think.

Your question is about technology in all its various forms. I think I will bore everyone to death if I mention all the forms — lecture capture software and hardware, webinars and the paraphernalia to get them working, Skype, voting systems in lectures, Google drive and all the Google tools, don’t get me started on all the apps. I listen to the radio on my iPad and read books, I have a Bible app, iBooks, I listen to podcasts, I use the Blackboard app as both an instructor and as a student — I’m studying International Education as a distance student with the University of Leicester and Phil Wood the instructor gives us iBooks of all the learning material. I’d better stop there!

DH – It’s quite obvious that all these different technologies, and not just the hardware, have made you more flexible and more dynamic in your working practices. All you have to do, if you want to see how important technology is to students, is wait in line at the coffee shop or watch them when they’re together to see how prevalent their use of mobile devices are. For me the biggest question is are we doing enough to engage them on these devices, do we stop them from being distracted from push notifications from different sources and networks when they’re in lectures? If we are somehow able to utilise their attention and their devices, are we being unrealistic with the level of engagement that academic staff (as well as students) will need in order to keep up with them?

TB – I like these questions — they’re not simple. ‘Are we doing enough to engage students on these devices’ is related to the question ‘are we being unrealistic with the level of engagement that academic staff will need in order to keep up with the students’ To answer this, I’ll begin by saying that I’m increasingly seeing social media as mainstream media. As television was to my generation in my youth, so is social media to young people today — quite pervasive, potentially addictive and therefore laden with cautions, but ultimately it is a significant means of communication and networking and it is not going away anytime soon. So it is both silly and futile for educators to ignore social media. But I think students need someone to discuss with them or teach them ways of using social media for their learning. This doesn’t have to be the academic who teaches them content of their subject — it might make more sense for this to be taught as a learning skill like academic writing and study skills. So, alongside your writing session you would have a session on ‘social media for independent learning’ or something like that. Some students won’t really need guidance on this, but some students really will.

As I’ve been helping our Medical School to embed iPads into undergraduate student training, I’ve been amazed at the students’ ability to figure out ways to learn better, more efficiently, more socially, and in ways that are frankly more fun using the iPads than they did without the iPads. Maybe they figured these things out themselves because they are highly-motivated students. But I think everyone is different, and some students really will benefit from some guidance in these areas.

Now for the more vocational, you would have ‘social media for business’ and ‘social media for marketing.’  These could be covered by the careers services of a college or university. And why should we do this? So that students can cultivate good habits of using social media for personal lifelong learning, and networking to serve their professional purposes. This includes the skill of determining good versus bad online sources and also curation and knowledge of which medium is good to communicate which kind of message online. I suppose these are aspects of ‘digital literacy.’ And alongside this, we need to somehow discuss or at least flag up with students the social media troublespots — things like addiction to the notification, addiction to the ‘like’ (this is more of an issue with young pupils), and admitting that in fact we cannot multi-task so that when it’s time to focus on an assignment, it is best to shut off the electronics. Similarly if the lecturer is not encouraging tweeting during her lecture, then maybe it’s best to ask students to switch things off during the lecture or for part of it. Nothing wrong with that! Perhaps we should also be discussing things like online radicalisation, porn addiction, trolling, and other things which adults need to consider in their own behaviour. Again these would not be things covered by the academics but more by the ‘study skills people’ and these could be the learning technologists.

Interview with Terese Bird, #EdTechBook chapter author

DH – Your chapter is about the student-led innovation in mobile learning; do you consider enough is being done to include the student body in the different aspects of their education? By this I mean more than just the individual classroom activity or learning resource, but the wider progress along the route to the qualification, and the design of the qualification itself. If the inclusion of ‘students a co-producers’ works in the classroom or lecture theatre, what about in the meetings that determined the structure, requirements, and technology they will need to work with?

TB – In my work at the Medical School, we are listening to the student voice by means of surveys and other online feedback, informal meetings and class observations. This is unofficial, and it is so valuable: I could not do my job without it. In the university generally, most if not all of the main committees include students. It was because of a student petition that lecture capture technology was adopted. There are other changes the university is considering for which the student voice is actively being sought. Even still, I think students’ input should be sought more. At these meetings, sometimes the student’s role is a bit observational and maybe rubber-stamp-y, as opposed to really integrated into the decision-making process. Maybe that is down to the individual committee or student; at any rate, I would like to see more healthy and constructive rabble-rousing on the part of students.

DH – I’ve read in a few places recently that children/students, who have been classed as Generation Z (born after 1995), are starting to push back against the technology that previous generations have adopted and embraced (Bloomberg Review: ‘Will Generation Z Disconnect?’). Do you think we’re doing the right thing, in Higher Education, in advancing our understanding and use of mobile technology if the students of the future (2-5 years hence) are going to shun the devices and online networks? Do we need to be more considerate and more understanding of the role technology takes in the process of learning?

TB – A Learning Technologist must always be a horizon-scanner. We need to keep up on consumer trends (because consumer devices will find their way into HE classrooms in students’ backpacks) and societal trends, how is communication evolving and where is it going. Academic communication should happen in the media and methods of the present world, and should not insist on happening in the media and methods of the past world. At the same time, we should evaluate what we do, and put it to research in some form, so we can see what students are thinking, whether any interventions help them or hinder them.

The Bloomberg article is interesting because as I look carefully at the survey findings, I am not sure we can conclude that Generation Z is turning away from tech or internet commerce/communication; indeed, the article refers to this generation as ‘overconnected.’ Yet they would prefer to get together with friends in person rather than online, and would prefer to ask someone for a date in person than online. This is very welcome news, by the way! The article doesn’t give similar findings from teenager surveys of the past, or of other demographic people in the present, so I’m not sure how this can be said to be a trend of revolution against technology. And also, as students, these teens would need to consider the professional and academic need to communicate with someone whom there’s no way of meeting in person. Regardless, though, learning technologists and all academics need to be continually sensitive to the student voice, and again that’s why we need to keep dialogue with students about how they’re learning. And there comes a time when we don’t need to be using a certain system or method anymore; it’s important to be able to recognise that. At the same time, we need to stay on top of tech developments which might really solve problems we have in HE, in ways we might not even be able to imagine at present.

DH – Considering the time and effort taken to get new technologies adopted and implemented in HE, do you think we have the flexibility and imagination (not individually, but institutionally) to say “we don’t need that anymore”? Are we individually brave enough to say to the powers-that-be that something we fought hard for is no longer needed or relevant (I’m pretty sure most HEIs still have an overhead projector for acetates, somewhere)?

TB – I don’t think I have yet been in a situation where I have fought for an innovation and it has run its course and it’s become clear that it’s time to retire it. I think that when that happens, it happens sort of naturally. For example with the overhead projectors, even tho they were easy-to-use and almost never failed, they gradually got replaced by something that just looked better: PowerPoint on a better projector. So making that decision should not have been that difficult because it was happening naturally, gradually. Now there is another case: the case of something innovative being purchased but never really used very much. That would be the infamous case of the interactive whiteboards purchased in many UK schools in the past decade. They didn’t really get used because they were not easy to use and the people making the purchasing decision didn’t take this into tconsideration. To avoid putting all eggs into a basket that doesn’t work so well, I recommend the following remedy: try one as a pilot, evaluate, and work with the learning technologist throughout the process. Is it now time to close the door on interactive whiteboards? Perhaps. Aside from them being difficult to use, if one cannot throw an iPad image onto the whiteboards, then they’re kind of obsolete.

DH – Thanks for your time Terese. Terese’s chapter for the #EdTechBook is called ‘Students Leading the Way in Mobile Learning Innovation’ and looks at what, and how, the student’s are using their own personal devices, and what (if anything) we can be doing to utlise and maximise their interest and passion for being networked and mobile.

More news about The Really Useful #EdTechBook will be posted here and other social media platforms, using the #EdTechBook hashtag. Please follow and join in for news on the book’s development as well as each individual author’s own interpretation of the process and their own chapters.

Image source: Dave Stone (CC BY-SA 2.0)