Friday, 28 December 2012

The Friday Reflection

Cat thinking it's in Charge!  You
probably realise it's an old photo!

Last thoughts for 2012?

Well we all survived the Mayan End of the world, didn't we?  I hope the festive period lived up to all expectations.  Now we are in that period of reflection for most who are not returning to work until at least the 2nd of January 2013. The end of the year review not quite ready for today but then we still have 3 days left of this one to go! 

The week has certainly been busy.  I have taken the view that if I am to grow the Haverhill Online Learning Community I would need to try and interest people in the time that they might be bored with festive TV.   The time on their hands might be pushing them towards career or lifestyle choices for 2013.  Their New Years Resolution list of good intentions is being written. With this in mind I have been avoiding the pub and the once a year drinkers and committing as much to possible to the websites, blogs and Google Plus communities.

I have picked up a few members before Christmas for the Learning Community whom I am very pleased to have on board.  I have set out a calendar of events to give a bit of focus to HOLC (Haverhill Online Learning Community).  The use of Google+ Hangouts, SlideSpeech (many thanks to +John Graves for this resource) and Google + Communities within the context of the interactions between the community I hope will prove enlightening.  The Circles feature is also being used (I will have to review some of them for relevance) to not so much as fine targeting tool but a  broadcast medium.  I have noticed there are many Google Plussers in the same circles.  It would be interesting to find out how many active Google Plussers there are actually out there!

The first resources for HOLC projects have been uploaded, a "100 Grid" for Keys stage 1 and 2 Maths for parents to download for their children to use or use with them.  A SlideSpeech presentation is needed to illustrate it's use but that should be be a mere trifle, hopefully.  This fits in with the first project on the Calendar Maths for Parents Week and the Number Square page.  Later topics range from Lifestyle and Leisure topics such as Local History, Hactivate Nursey Rhymes.  The work-life balance topic focussing on a degree of cross over in wellbeing is the Introduction to Telework Week Project.  This is one of my interests as a former director of the Telework Association. I will be building up a bank of materials and using the Google+ Hangouts and Communities Group to explore this topic in the context of Haverhill, a rural area.  A follow up week is planned to coincide with one of the local trade exhibitions.

Revisiting the Online Learning Collective is a priority.  I have not yet in the busy time of the last few weeks written the Python code for the Google Course Builder Project:  Project Scratch.  I have invested in a Kindle Textbook Core Python Programmng  and am busily ploughing my way through this, along with a few diversions into Sicily with Inspector Montalbano.  After all it is supposed to be the holidays! 


Thursday, 27 December 2012

2013 the Year of the Teleworker!

The "office" at Dejavu Cafe,
Queen Street, Haverhill

Any time, any place, anywhere

Scenario: Imagine if you walked into local cafe for an espresso.  Your phablet rings, your boss is on the phone.  He/She is looking for the updated work file.  You open your docs on your phone and click the share file button and your work from earlier in the day reaches his desktop.  A few minutes later the file arrives back with comments and updates.  The proposal is approved.  You digitally sign the document and forward it to the clients.  A few moments later you have confirmation it has been received.  At that point your espresso arrives.  A few minutes later and your phablet informs you have a signed document from your client returned.  You then are able to finish your coffee.  An email to the suppliers and another day's work has been done.      

Walking back to the supermarket you spot the newly opened greengrocer.  If you had been driving you would not have had the time to stop and browse.  In your browsing of the shop, the local seasonal produce is explained and examined.  The freshness is checked.  A neighbour walks in you, discuss the parking problem associated with the commuters who park their cars in your road as they catch the bus to Cambridge.  Suitably satisfied that you both find it an imposition, especially on the rare occasions you have to have a hire car for work and cannot park it outside your house, you smile and part company.  Assuring each other that you will monitor the situation you have discussed.  You prepare to walk home. On the way you pick up the youngster from the playgroup.  They spend some minutes tiring themselves out in the local playground.  You spend your time watching, assured in the knowledge that as usual it is a safe place.  Safe because you live in your own community, as opposed to sleep there at night before you travel to another town over an hour away.

A modern fable?  Hopefully, a reality as 2013 progresses.  The cost effectiveness and effect on work-life balance of travelling to a central location to work with colleagues will be one of the major dilemmas most individuals and businesses will contemplate in 2013.  It is already happening!

The Olympics probably produced the biggest Telework story of the year, with a contribution from the Telework Association.  The UK government aware that the infrastructure of London may not be able to cope with both workers and visitors suggested people work from home.  A necessity not a choice.  The success of the advice has yet to be officially quantified but the retail industry did complain of  down turn during the Olympics which suggests people either took holidays or worked from home. Either way there were suggestions of a reduced footfall in London.

Councils have already started to look at  BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solutions  Soon they may be advocating workers also Telework for part of the week.  

Will be adding more to the Telework Resources page on Haverhill Online Learning Community .  May your work life balance be suitably adjusted in 2013! 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

New Year, New Challenges!

The IT Assistant asleep on the job

Jobs for today's learner have not been thought of … yet!

Christmas over and done with, New Year fast approaching!  What will be new year resolutions?  Hopefully, somewhere in this seeming unattainable wish list will be something to do with career development,  Life Long Learning and work-life balance.  End of year holiday always  a good time to review and revisit career or income aspirations in this austerity governed period of history!

This year has seen a lot of changes in Technology.  This in my opinion will go down as the year of the phablet and tablet.  Increasingly work and learning is moving to the flexible media of the digital economy.  The cost of joining this rapidly expanding knowledge economy is becoming so cheap that it is starting to become commonplace in all walks of life.  Large businesses are no longer building the must have technology on an empty playing field.  There is legitimate competition.  The promise of the  Silicon Age has definitiely arrived in the developed economies.  The catch up needs to place with developing world.  

The developing world will I believe have a greater input as they do have to contend with pre-existing infrastructure such as copper telephone networks.  The temptation to use pre-exiting technologies rather than starting from new because of the need to recoup previous investment has probably slowed the roll out of Superfast Broadband in the UK.  Only now are we seeing places like Suffolk in England obtaining the services they deserve for growth to happen or rather the contracts being signed.  Businesses and individuals in rural Suffolk still have a wait as the scheme will not be fully completed until 2015.

New years resolutions written with digital economy in mind how might you go about in a rural area to join the  change (yet to say revolution) in work-life balance choices.  I say rural area because this equally applies to   The training choice is between traditional classroom based approaches, a blended approach (combining one to one or group tutoring with online teaching) or a fully online experience.  There are many colleges and universities offering courses that come along with certification.  FutureLearn   the UK offering comparable to edX  and Coursera has been agreed and will happen in 2013.    

Non-formal free learning is a one of my personal likes.  A model for which can be found at Haverhill Online Learning Community .  Get in contact with +Philip Spalding and help expand the network of local Online Learning Communities (  

While I have a bit of time from the "day job" I will also be adding articles linked to my other interest of Teleworking!  Hope this gives at least one person the interest explore the digital economy!  


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

12 Online Learning Experiences

21st Century Education

Christmas morning up and awake a bit of time before the house erupts with bouncy spaniels and excited children (some in their first childhood others in their second).  A good time to start to list some of the educational tools and VLEs I have used or become aware of over the years.  These are the most prominent, the ones that immediately spring to mind and are in no particular order.  If I miss one that is your favourite please add a comment or Google+ article or +Philip Spalding.   This links in with the ukonlinelearningcommunities project (medium term plan).  So twelve applications for Christmas!  I make no apologies for including so many Google offerings!

1. Google Plus Hangouts

Really like this application for allowing online real time collaboration.  A normal Google Plus account allows 10 users to interact.  A Google Apps for Education or a Google Apps for Business Account allows up to 15 people to interact.  That interaction can be then be streamed to a greater audience using your YouTube Channel where they can watch and listen but not join in!  Also allows the recording of the experience for future reference! 

2. SlideSpeech

A great way of converting your presentation to a learning experience that narrates the presentation.  An example I have constructed can be found at (  More information on applications of SlideSpeech can be found by contacting +John Graves.  

3. StudyRoom

This is the study room facility used by Coursera and edX.  Our own Online Learning Community (Haverhill Online Learning Community) has secured a study room which we will be using extensively in the year as we grow our learning community.  Thanks to +Amadeus Malca for making this happen.

4. Blackboard

This is the traditional "biggy" in Virtual Learning Environments.  I have recently become an online tutor for Apricot Learning Online  who use this platform and after the training I have to say impressed with the scope of Blackboard.  Real advantages are the ability to structure personalised learning through Session Planner, speed of use and it's flexibilty.  The underlying technology is also very suitable for Safe Guarding vulnerable individuals!      

5. Moodle

This could be billed as the alternative Blackboard.  It is an opensource platform used by a few in the UK such as Oxford University for some of it's online CPD courses but has a greater following in the US.  Is best set up as a server based application, requiring downloads such as MySQL and PHP.  Personally have tried to load this to a single machine but had difficulties setting up the database first time.  Runs best on Linnux based systems, and as OpenSource is free.  Can see a lot of mileage in this one but will need to set up database properly if I am to use it in some of my commercial based activities (ie the not profit exceptions) through , the site is currently under construction and revision.

6. Hot Potatoes

A real old favourite of mine.  I have been using using this as long as it has been available, which must be at least 7 years.  Great for making small exercises quickly and saving as a HTML file that can either be added to a website or loaded from a machine locally.  First real application that allowed quick solutions to making child friendly exercises to support individual pupils in the classroom.  

7. Google Plus communities

What can I say? This is a staggering simple concept of the village green or local pub or coffee shop.  Really like the fact that technology behind the social interaction retreats into the background!  I have waxed a little lyrically  in the Blog post .

8. Scratch

The new methodology that is going to save British Computer Programming in schools?  Remains to be seen  but great programming interface.  Even features as the introduction to edX's CS50x Introduction to Computer Science 1, which I am currently working my way through.

I have also run successfully an online summer school based on Scratch.  However, that was before I discovered all the cool tools of Google Plus (but then a lot of them were not available then).

9. Google Course Builder

The potential to be the Rolls Royce solution in a moderately tech literate teacher's hands.  Have dabbled a bit in the mechanics while particpating in +Jeannie Crowley OFLC at the Bank Street College of Education in  New York's, which has now become the Online Learning Collective.  Have great ambitions to be using Google Course Builder regularly throughout 2013.

10.  Blogger

Probably my most used and useful social media platform to track my transition from traditional teaching to entering the realms of 21st Century Learning practitioner.  Have been blogging now for 2 years.  Very surprising how things have changed even in that short space of time!

11. Google Docs

The key technology for collaborative learning and sharing.  So much of a cornerstone easy to forget how important it is the development of the Google experience when other innovations such as Google Plus have come appeared. 

12. Google Apps for Business/Education

The nemesis of the web developer who has thrived on £100+ per page fees for designing static websites? Maybe! Hopefully!  The same applies for Education (Google Apps for Education).  Great tools for reducing the hammer from a platinum plated tool an insignificant pound shop (99 cent shop) variety.  This is where the threshold to true digital working and learning starts as the entrance costs have become minimal.  Looking forward to a more educated world in the next two decades!  One where everybody has access to free basic education!

Most of the above tools are free.  The time to master them is also becoming less and a lot of the operations of the tools within the applications are similar across learning platforms.

So here's to the next two decades of freely available education! Merry Christmas! 

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Friday Reflection

At the turning of the Year

Winter solstice today.  The turning point of the year when the days get longer and the new age mystics visit Stonehenge (  The promise of more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere is always an invigorating time.

I taught my last school day for the year on Wednesday and resume again on the 7th January 2013. So  17 days to catch up with all the professional development courses (edX and ALISON), development of Haverhill Online Learning Community  and  UK Online Learning Communities and become proficient with the  tools for my new role as an Online Tutor for a company in Gloucestershire   A busy festive time coming up. A lot of good activity to look forward to in 2013!

A short reflection this week as will be probably blogging and Google plussing a lot over the next 17 days.  The tasks for last week are ongoing with community expansion and development the goal. Finding an efficient way to manage all the threads is the trick that will need to be pulled off!   

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Establishing a Learning Community!

The Potential of Online Learning Communities

Online communities have arrived.  We can say that because there is book now out Online Community Management for Dummies.  When the Dummies book series produces a tome on a subject we can usually guarantee it has reached reached a large enough critical mass to perpetuate sales.  If not the activity!  It is a long way from buying a Dummies series book and creating the dream.  I have a long standing book on my shelf  Hobby Farming for Dummies, it will be awhile before it ever becomes a reality!

So there is a critical mass, of potential participants in Online Communities.  Online Communities have been adopted by many large corporations.  One blog that I have been  following recently is  Richard Millington the author has produced a number of posts that I have read with interest.  I am primarily an agricultural research scientist by training, who teaches Science and ICT in school for an income. I am not a professionally trained marketeer.  Insights such as Segmenting And Contacting Members Of Your Community  which seeks to explain how to invite, integrate and establish members of community a useful.  The application of psychology to create the community engagement rather than the Kevin Costnerism "build the field and they will come!" is a better use of time and resources.  As I have commented before in A Google plus post and blog the edX and Coursera brands have been reported as having approximately 20% retention of students to the end of the course.

The social engagement aspect of the community is the difficult step.  In a community of like minded people who are already converts to online communities building a lasting community is relatively easy as there is participation that is based upon mutual gain.  The "evangelical" phase of building a community is what Haverhill Online Learning Community and UK Online Learning Communities  have entered   There are a lot of visitors and expressions of interest.  "Converting" the interests expressed into adopters of the users of  community is the next hurdle.  Conversion rates of interest to join to fully fledged users using the Coursera and Edx example  may be between 3 and 20%.  This does pose an interesting question of how good a conversion rate do we get and what are the key factors in establishment.   Essentially what makes the people want to join to the "gang"?

A few points to ponder there as I go off to consider my "rap" lyrics to make the community go past the "evangelical" phase and into the "consolidation" phase!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Friday Reflection

Cold Wind of Change

Online unis and courses have finally hit the headlines in the UK.   This is obviously a reaction to the "success" of Coursera and edX going by comments made in the article about brand presence.  Success was put in quotation marks because apparently retention of students is at most 20% , have seen the quote somewhere on a site will need to find the link.  Is it a case of the shiny new toy that everybody has to have to be cool but then puts it away after a few plays?  Is it the Furby syndrome? This is the Friday reflection!

As I look further into the technologies behind the Klondike experience happening now, I am starting to think of classifying the gadgets mainly on ease of use.  High powered programming can sometimes obscure the actual time spent in preparation compared to actual learner engagement.  If it takes longer to produce than the collective time spent viewing by a learning community is it a worthwhile activity for the instructor?  Can whiteboard and marker be just as effective?

One new development that I am really pleased about is Google+ Communities.   This as I blogged about last week could end up being the major game changer for removing technology into the background and allowing the participants to take the centre stage.  I look forward to developing the experience.

Generally a week of career development and direction review.  I have worked all week in Ely about 35 miles 50 minute drive.  At the same time I have been trying to maintain the momentum of growth for Haverhill Online Learning Community and   Having been offered the opportunity to teach Science in a school in Harlow I had to make a decision of whether to pursue the guaranteed money and not carry on with online teaching interests for 3 months.  Harlow vs new Horizons?  New Horizons won since UK schooling terms of work and conditions are not worth the relatively meagre rewards for the 50+ hour weeks that  teaching has become in the UK.  Easier to use my experience for odd day here and there, be the online teacher from home, write those learning activities that inspire that a National Curriculum does not allow.   Having run a Science and ICT department in a school in Suffolk for a number of years through special measures (entered 3 months after I joined and experienced this for two years) it is easier to say have the T-shirt but don't particularly want to wear it!   The length of time in special measures was exceptional  even though Science went from 42% of pupils reaching level 4 (expected achievement ) prior to tenure to 74% within 18 months.  Pity maths was hitting 29% and English equally disappointing compared to national expectations.  This is without consultant input or massive resources.  English and Maths had the cake but the pupils didn't particularly want it!

A slight diversion into the vagaries of UK improvement there! So Blue Sky Horizons are there! However, with any learning familiarity can breed complacency.  The adoption of technology does not mean that we use the same experience all the time.  Selecting the right tool for the job is paramount especially when considering the intended outcome.

Looking back at last weeks blog  the main task was to maintain momentum for Online Learning Communities.  It has been a testing week finding the enthusiasm to go forward.  But we have got there!

Schools break up in the UK next week. Have not much booked which allows me do the training for my new role as an Online Tutor for Apricot Online Learning , a relatively new concept in UK education.  Also a time to review the yearly goals.  See how how much progress we have made in the work-life balance stakes, nda assess the Wellbeing or "happiness index".  Christmas break in the UK gives people a lot of spare time on their hands to become curious.  This curiosity I hope to hitch to the plough horse (we are famous in Suffolk for our breed of heavy horse the Suffolk Punch) and create a new furrow to plant the seeds of innovative teaching.   Will continue to develop a link with my old school where I was educated and which is now the Academy of the Year.  Look forward to a productive time before the end of the year change! 

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Friday Refletion

Is it Friday already?

Very busy week! Have been to Cottenham, Chatteris and Ely doing the "day" job.  So have seen a lot of the Cambridgehire Fens, water and Newmarket on the way to the above.  Newmarket was the only significant traffic jam while waiting for the racehorses to cross the road going out to exercise. When not working or driving I have been pushing forward the interests of Haverhill Online Learning Community   and the  I have also just cleared the hoops to become an online tutor for a company in Gloucestershire who I visited in November.  Just have to find the time to do all I have promised!   Beginning of 2013 looking good as a time for growth and expansion.

Really impressed with a new feature on Google + ; Communities.  At a stroke it would appear to enable a true community sense to be applied to the online communities set up.    I have set up the Haverhill Online Learning Community and Google + Communities to join just follow the links and click on the Visit Google Community group.  You may get a 404 error with the sites but if you follow the Contact Us tab and provide your email address (has to be a GMail account) we can get you involved that way.

Haverhill Online Learning Community (HOLC) have very kindly been provided use of a private room on StudyRoom. This is the resource used by Harvard for edX courses.  By joining you can have access to this resource where you can interact with the rest of the community.  This is a complementary tool to Google + Hangouts from the community page.  StudyRoom allows you to gather around a table, use a whiteboard, chat and generally socially interact.  The tools you choose to use are up to you.  At HOLC we intend to provide as many ways of carrying out Life Long Learning effectively as a community.

Lots of things going on but the cunning plan (reference to Baldrick from BlackAdder) seems to be coming together.  Next week will be a good test to find out how the momentum of the set up process can be mainatained as working in Ely all week.  If I have put enough of the bare bones in place it should not be too much time invested in putting meat onto the bones!  

Oh by the way the picture was designed by me for a business venture while holidaying in Crete.  A bit of a description of what was going at the time when I was a full time teacher looking for a trapdoor to vanish from that particular stage.  Still running, still have the hat but hopefully the battery is nearly full charged, looking forward to just trickle charging!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday Reflection

In ancient shadows

Well last week in November been and gone!  Have spent an interesting week working in Ely and refining the Haverhill Online Learning Community(HOLC).  The poor camera phone photograph shows the view from the window towards the cathedral (better images can be seen on this Google Search).  Ely Cathedral  is a successor to the original buildings recorded in 673 AD.  These were founded by St Etheldreda  who was a daughter of King Anna of East Anglia.  Thus the site of  worship and learning pre-dates the founding of the English State.

Ancient learning is further emphasised in the city (city in the old sense that it has a cathedral) with the King's School Ely  founded in 970 AD turning such old boys out as Edward the Confessor, the patron Saint of England before the popular symbol of St George took over fully in the 1300s.

Ely has had it's rebels in the past.  Hereward the Wake who opposed the Normans taking over and whom some think was the basis for  Robin Hood legend, used the  fen (wet) lands around the Isle of Ely to avoid capture .  The other rebel of note who left an indelible mark on British History was Oliver Cromwell.  Oliver Cromwell lived in the city for 10 years prior to turning the English Parliament on it's head and creating a republic that lasted for about 13 years.  Ely has had a lot of influence on shaping what we now call the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland over the last 1300 years!

Side step into history over  and back to task!  The Reflection for the week!  Have continued to use what I have learnt from the OFLC (Online Faculty Learning Community) of Bank Street College New York to develop our own local Online Learning Community.  We have incorporated a SlideSpeech generated presentation as a link on the homepage of HOLC.  There have been many emails off to various different people and have received some very positive replies.  We have contacted the makers of StudyRoom  (as used by edX and Coursera) and have been granted a private room in principle  for HOLC for which we are very grateful.  Hopefully this should be set up and being used by the New Year!

Coding has started to be be looked at again but not to the stage where I can upload anything yet to the OFLC.  Getting excited though at the possibilities as I delve further into the coding.  Want to get a Raspberry Pi  and programme in Python on this platform, may even be able to run Chrome OS on it as well will have to look into this?  Really cheap basic access for less than £40 (with appropriate accessories).

So next week continue programming with course. Gather collaborators for HOLC locally and further a field. Have an idea of trying to get U3A  members in Haverhill involved in Local History projects, the Church Crawlers and Historians, Digital Camera Group, Garden Group and Art Group.  Already put the information out to local members so will see what happens.  Contact the myriad of local groups and charities (even our county council libraries are being run by a charitable trust on behalf of the council) and present the case for peer to peer learning!

Couple of more weeks of potentially travelling to Ely until the end of the school session.  I have a good journey along picturesque country roads.  The only major "traffic jam" is waiting for the race horses to cross the Fordham Road from  Exning (village where St Etheldreda was born, link back to first part of the reflection, knew I'd be able to get it in somewhere) as they go out to exercise on the gallops!  Very pleasant to watch as they come of the mist!


Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday Reflection

Back in the Swim!

At the end of last week I reflected again as to how the week had gone.  Well back in the swim well and truly now.  One of the tasks for the week was to take the next steps to establishing a Haverhill Online Learning Community.  After making contact with a number of people in local organisations to float the idea on Friday last week, I decided to take the plunge.  

On Sunday I re-established my own domain presence again on the internet after about a year's re-evaluation and consideration.   I used Google Apps for Business to set up the domain  The process was so simple and cheap compared to other packages that I have used.  The DIY approach suits me since I have a lot of experience of dealing with Templates and modifying HTML.  The tools provided were simple to set up (but then I have experience of Google technologies) groups, Google +, Blogger, WordPress and the website.  The website has been launched for Haverhill Online Learning Community (HOLC).  The website can be found at   Please follow the link and view the site.  Visit the Google + site from the link to see how the project is developing.  The site is almost complete in outline only the mission statement needs to be looked at but should be complete over the weekend.

We have a number of collaborators interested in joining the community.  If you are able to offer help and advice please contact via the Contact Us page on the website.  We have a number of projects for collaboration proposed including a Hacktivate Nursery Rhyme book and a Local History Project.  A CPD project for Teachers of Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 on how to programme with Scratch is included.  This is the project  already under way with the Bank Street College of New York's Online Faculty Learning Community.

The journey has begun to 21st Century Learning and 21st Century Working.  A good link to find out more about 21st Century Working is the Telework Association.  A body from whom we now have support in the role of an Online Learning Community.  We will be developing courses that will be available on the HOLC website showing  how to go about flexible working and teleworking.

A busy week coding for Google Course Builder is coming along will have to share some code both on the HOLC site and the Bank Street OLC.  So more of the same needed.

For next week, now the site set up and the bare bones of the HOLC stablished it is a time for consolidation and delivering content and connections.  The day job is starting to take off again (must be the season of cold, teacher training).  I have spent yesterday and will spend today in the Isle of Ely area teaching at a very good Academy. Always good to keep your hand in!  Looking forward to seeing how  HOLC develops!


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Haverhill Online Learning Community

The torch is coming!
 (Olympic Torch along Haverhill High Street)

21st Century Learning:  Open, Online and Innovative

Online Learning Communities (OLCs) is a new area of learning experience.  We are all familiar with the traditional role of instructor and student carried out in a classroom.   We all have our own experiences of what worked for us and what did not.  We may have had the elation of receiving a certificate followed by the question what happens next?  Is the learning over?  What if I am still no longer clear about the bits I understood and the bits I did not?  How can I keep in touch?  

The questions may be applied to all stages of life.  Leaving school and entering work or further study, working and growing personally in your chosen area of life, then making the transition into well earned leisure time of retirement all have challenges that  may be helped by community of learners.  The challenge today is that of Life Long Learning.  Online Learning Communities are a way to do this as you pass through the three ages of man.

How can you do this?  I am setting up an Open Learning Community for the Haverhill area.  An Open Online Learning Community.  It is in it's crawling stage at the moment and seeks to appeal to learners from 13 to 99.  I am in discussion with various local Haverhill Groups seeking to establish a 21st Century Learning Community that is both innovative and flexible to move with the vast changes we see happening around us.    A community moulded by and by inspired by it's participants. 

A few scenarios that demonstrate some of the benefits of being involved I have been blogging about in recent months.     

The Everlasting Class:  When did you last speak to your teacher? Did you still have learning questions unanswered on your road to the better lifestyle?

A Personal Reflection on Online Learning Communites:  A personal experience of Life Long Learning within an Open Learning Community

Education in the Third Age:  Ideas on how to keep connected and pass on experiences.

So how to move towards creating a Participatory Learning Community. Some ideas behind establishing the Open Learning Community taken from my own involvement with participating an Online Learning Community (see blogs for details). 
 1.With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement2.With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others3.With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced ispassed along to novices 4.Where members believe that their contributions matter5.Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).
Not every member must contribute, but all must believe they are free to contribute when ready and that what they contribute will be appropriately valued.

If you would like to express an interest or make a comment visit the Facebook page .  As we gather more interest and other parties become involved the intention is to establish a Haverhill Online Community presence.  Regular updates will be posted 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Thoughts on Virginia Tech Model: Part 3

Cognitive Conflict: Piaget and Vygotsky 

The previous blog   looked at the Virginia Tech Model and how it could be extended to include cognitive conflict (defined in previous document).  The model in graphic form (Fig. 1)  was then transformed into a scattergram (Fig. 2).

Fig 1. Graphical representation of Virginia Tech model

Fig 2.  Representation of the Virginia Tech Model in terms of student ownership/engagement  against cognitive conflict.     1. The Audio/Video Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

The transformation of the model into a scattergram allows a pseudo Cartesian co-ordinate plane to be established for the relationship of student ownership and cognitive conflict.  The model shown in the youtube video, mentioned by John Graves (a collaborator in the Bank Street Open Learning Community) in a
personal communication via a Google+ post ,    for the three levels of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy there are three planes of student engagement.  The first plane being the remember, understand apply.  The second plane analyse and evaluate.  The third the creative plane.  (Might need to question the correct usage of the term plane in this context).    It might be best thought of like a game of vertical chess with the student moving between the levels of Revised Bloom’s taxonomy according to the rules of the learning activity and outcome.  

The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is drawn on top of  the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy’s (RBT) plane.  The ZPD is the  shoulders, so to speak, on which the next  learning is about to stand.  After the learning and understanding the RBT planes extends to encompass the ZPD to become the what you know core.  This then acts as the starting point for the next learning activity and outcome.  This is a constructivist view of the model, and open to discussion as always.  It is also an iterative process that occurs within the overall learning objective (the “blended” use of activities that have their own learning objective to achieve the overall learning objective).  This is the intrinsic relationship between perceived micro and macro learning activities, a bit like a Russian doll.   

Key Question (IMO):     How might RBT and ZPD be represented on a Scattergram model?

Looking at the RBT model we will take 2 plane definition of Lower Order Thinking skills (LOTS) and Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) as a starting point.  This is often referred to by a lot of trainers as fixed definitions.  What might be  LOTS for one group could be  HOTS for others and vice versa.  In other words the instructor needs to embrace the idea flexibilty of task to the approach to learning.  Sometimes difficult to maintain when dealing with the same group throughout  a year where curricula dictate you look at a certain knowledge area but “have to use” HOTS when the group may still be in the realms of LOTS. (But that is a different discussion for another day!).  

Looking at the Vygotsky model of ZPD we have three concentric zones (Fig 3.).   We have the core to the “apple” of what you know, the flesh (mesocarp for the botanically inclined) of the apple which is what you can learn on your own and the “skin” of the apple what you can learn with help.  The “apple” may be a good way of thinking of ZPD in terms of the amount of independent action on the part of the student.  A misshapen “apple” may be used to map the diversity of learners within a group and their relative position to others (another point possibly for development).

Fig 3.  The ZPD model, green represents prior learning (least cognitive conflict), amber represents the application of students knowledge and understanding to new challenges, red represents the greatest cognitive conflict where greater instructor or peer input is needed   
The red zone of Fig 3 is the position where I would expect the social media and collaboration to take place ie the what I can learn with help.  The relative sizes of each zone  would depend on the  learning context.  A MOOC would be more operating in the amber zone while an OLC would be in the realms of the red zone.

On a scattergram I would envisage again green, amber and red zones.  These would be arranged along the cognitive conflict continuum.  An illustrative example is shown in Fig. 4.

Fig 4.  Zones of ZPD superimposed on a Scattergram of Reworked Virginia Tech Model.  Green = What you already know, Amber = What you can learn yourself, Red = Waht you can learn with help from instructor (facilitator) and peers in a social interaction (Numbers represent learning activities from Fig. 2)

The green area extends to the line where cognitive conflict is zero since everything to the left is assumed to learnt and understood and therefore concrete.  (This is an assumption many teachers have make to their peril when trying to use cross curricular skills or a new group of students).  The amber zone is the transition achieved through independent learning using the concrete skills (green zone)  to the point where new learning understanding requires more instruction (the red zone).  As stated previously this might be through the intervention of an instructor or by the use of peer knowledge and peer instruction in an OLC.  This is why I have left activity 3 in it’s position in the 4th quadrant in the red zone
(below the axis where studentship and instructor ownership is zero or of parity between student ownership and instructor ownership).  

The learning activities (the numbers in Fig.4.) can move between the various different quadrants  as would be expected with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Group Learning Plans (GLPs).    The activities equally can move between green, amber and red zone.  The zones do not have be fixed on a particular line of cognitive conflict either, I will possibly discuss this in another paper.  

Comments would be appreciated.

Then next step could be to incorporate a degree of grading or using a UK term leveling on the cognitive conflict axis.

There are a lot of very complex interactions between student, instructor, context of learning activity and prior knowledge within the proposed model. Partitioning of the effects of each component and testing their impact becomes a challenge. Developing or applying standard evaluative methodologies to the steps proposed in the development of the Reworked Virginia Tech model requires some though at this time. Possibly a subject for an Open Learning Community!

Thoughts on Virginia Tech Model: Part 2

Fig 1. Graphical representation of Virginia Tech model reworked from original by

Mapping Learning Activities

The reworking of the Virginia Tech Model  above, which I blogged  about previously  , is a starting for classifying Learning Activities by cognitive conflict. 

 Cognitive conflict is a term  defining relative demands made on learners to change or reinterpret their pre-held  concepts.  It is a type of conflict centred on completion of task.  In order to change their understanding of concepts and principles students/participants have to be involved in the learning journey.    

The above is an interpretation the Virginia Tech model and is not intended to be definitive.  The Models themselves are can be subsets of another.  For instance for  a pupil with specific learning challenges such as associated with Dyslexia the primary model may be (2) Personalised System of Instruction.  The secondary model used may (10) problem based learning.  The point I am trying to make is that they are not mutually exclusive but can be “bundled” together.

Another representation of this might be as below.

Fig 2.  Representation of the Virginia Tech Model in terms of student ownership/engagement  against cognitive conflict.     1. The Audio/Video Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

The above is not, as said, a definitive model just a relative qualitative weighting of the activities compared to each other.

So how might I use this in the context of the project shared on the OFLC drive.

  1. To group Apps, tools with their most appropriate model
  2. Within the context of an Individual Learning Plan (IEP, have had to fill out many forms over the years that did not really address the aims  with Learning outcomes in a clear format) to illustrate where learners may be at in terms of independence of learning and ability to cope with cognitive conflict. Quantifying the learning task against the Learning outcome by using a leveled approach (a link here to Levels applied in UK Curriculum ICT    Could also be linked to Piaget’s or Vygotsky’s terms.
  3. To use as an aid to course to design for learning outcomes and representation of number of pupils who are achieving a level or completing a task. Individual tracking also springs to mind.
  4. Mapping the relationship between different activities in a “bundled” model of a particular learning activity/ course..

Below in Figure 3, I have sought to apply this to a Dyslexia scenario.

Fig 3.  Application of scatter chart to specific learning difficulty Dyslexia: tools considered YouTube and Kindle-book .    1. The Audio/Video/Visual Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

The Virginia Tech model definition (1) (which I have slightly modified to be Audio/Video/ Visual Approach) may appear in several positions on the scatter gram Fig. 3 ( there is a more correct name but can’t recall it just at the moment).  This could be used as a graphic for the initial evaluation of where the pupil may be at and how provision for access to learning may be achieved.  The solution graphic might look something like this.

Fig 4.  Application of scatter chart to specific learning difficulty Dyslexia: tools considered YouTube and Kindle-book .    1. The Audio/Video/Visual Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

In Fig 4 I have sought to demonstrate how mapping of activities to solutions might take place. A text based mode learning activity might not be the most appropriate for dyslexia at first glance.  Using the tool OpenDyslexic  ( could be a solution,  closing the gap between learning task and accessibility.  

Mapping a learning journey may be achieved using the same framework.  This could either teacher, peer or self-assessed all that is needed is editing access to the graphic.  In Fig. 5 a theoretical journey has been shown for increasing knowledge and understanding of the Louvre Gallery in France and the Mona Lisa (general easily recognised subject).

Fig 5.  Application of scatter chart to map the learning journey for specific learning difficulty Dyslexia: tools considered YouTube and Kindle-book .   Arrows indicate potential route of the learning journey (open to change)   1. The Audio/Video/Visual Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

Final bit for the thought on the model is the monitoring stage.  The timing might be over a whole  unit/course or during a year.

Fig 6.  Application of scatter chart to map the learning journey and monitoring for specific learning difficulty Dyslexia: tools considered YouTube and Kindle-book .   Arrows indicate potential route of the learning journey (open to change), red circles indicate the start and finish time for example in an academic year and not necessarily duration.    1. The Audio/Video/Visual Tutorial Approach, 2. Personalised system of instruction, 3. Goal Based Scenarios, 4. Case Based Teaching, 5. Guided design, 6. Anchored Instruction,7. Cognitive Apprenticeship,8. Cooperative Learning,9. Constructionist Project based Models,10. Problem based Learning,11. Learning Environments

The cognitive conflict the pupil undergoes during learning is a difficult quantity to measure.  Approaches of defining progression through cognitive conflict using Piagetian levels has been attempted with the use of Cognitive Accelerated Science Education (CASE).    This is not necessarily the same as the use of case based teaching alluded to in Learning Activity 4 of  the Virginia Tech Model. 

The next step will be to look at how the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky might fit into this Reworked Virginia Tech Model.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Friday Reflection

Treading Water!

The Friday reflection has come round again, well Thursday evening. It is Friday already somewhere in the world. Have been having a bit of week of treading water.  A week of considering whether that hillock is the top of the mountain or only anthill that could have been avoided without disturbing the occupants.

To start off with, something that I have learnt this week.  I found out when  reading and posting to Google+  that there was a hump day.  Being in the UK I was a little puzzled.  Camel support day?  But I was politely informed it was Wednesday by another name.  So over the hump I went.

I have had a little review my own personal experiences of completing courses and lack of engagement afterwards.   This led me to conclude that there is a place for the Everlasting Class to become a new forum for professional dialogue.  A Networking opportunity not limited by geographical boundaries.  In a small country like the UK relatively short distances with congested infrastructures are such barriers.  Google+ Hangouts  can be a solution.  I was unable to attend a local meeting of Best of Haverhill , owing to a few conversations via mobile phone, discussing a very worthy topic of reconnecting Haverhill back to the railway.   We had our rail link removed nearly 47 years ago in a so called rationalisation.  In my apologies for absence on the Best of Haverhill Event Facebook page I suggested that a Google+ Hangout or YouTube channel broadcast would be ideal for small business owners to be informed of such an important topic. We will see what comes of that.

On Wednesday (my Hump day apparently)  I blogged on the topic of the changing mantras of UK education.  The article that prompted my meandering  was  thought provoking as it gave insight on the influences of our current Minister for Education.  The book that he was most influenced by according to the article promoted the ideas that there were no individual learning styles.  That rigorous testing was good for the development of learners and should be the norm.  Without having read the book yet I am not in a real position to comment (sitting on the fence?).  I haven't found a Kindle version of the particular book.  Amazon  do have it for sale in print version.  However, I predict that that the book may be a mini-bestseller as every Head Teacher, Deputy Head and journalist will clamour to buy a copy in a bid to understand the future path of education in England and Wales (Scotland has it's own apparatus for mass education).

After one of the pillars educational thought had been questioned how did this affect my perception of Open Learning Communities (OLC also stands for Online Learning Communities).   A reference to the Royal Society in Tuesday's blog and it's origins prompted a comment from one collaborator of the Bank Street OLC.   The  original format for Royal Society meetings was a kind of "show and tell".  He was interested how this element could be introduced into Google+ Hangouts.  Smartphones were mentioned as a possible tech solution.  The new Nexus range launched this week could be in the part of the enabling technology.  Especially if there are front and back mounted cameras that can work independently in separate Hangout Windows.

So how did I do with the plans for this week.  Well I have edged a bit further along the path to coding and producing a Google Course Builder application.  Still a little way off.  Have to catch up with the edX and ALISON courses. Did use Study Room   for the edX course.  Interesting experience, a bit like a game navigating the Avatar to interact with other students.  Have not yet blog posted the updated Virginia Tech thoughts.  May look at the context again to see if it is Learning Style independent.  First thoughts are that it is since it works on the student-instructor continuum.

So for next week.  I will look at how OLC could be set up in the local area for Haverhill and float some ideas.  The coding courses really need to be caught up with and put back on track.  Long Term plan may need to be completed!

Well just about cat is in front of fire.  One side is done the flip side soon to happen.  Think I will join her next to the fire as it starting to become very wintery in Suffolk!