"Letters from the Edge: Keep Calm and Carry On" @jamesclay #jiscel10 #uksnow

Below is a blog entry written by James Clay for the currently ongoing #JISCEL10 conference, drawing upon a title I suggested for our talk at #PELC10 (Keep Calm and Carry On – my PhD research included this topic). As we are running into another freezing cold snap, the issues we raised at that conference are raised highly again. At the University of Winchester as we look to embed the use of Wimba amongst staff (and students, although we’ve been running some test sessions with them, and they don’t need any guidance, but dive straight in and experiment with the tools), this re-emphasises the need for using such software, although there’s a clear feeling at the moment that’s its more of a choice/add-on.

Moor LaneLetters from the Edge

Keep Calm and Carry On
November 24, 2010 12:47pm | Categories: question, views
Tags: snow
posted by James Clay

The BBC is reporting that:

The UK is entering a prolonged cold snap which could bring one of the earliest significant snowfalls since 1993, according to weather forecasters.

Northern and eastern parts of the UK are expected to bear the brunt of the wintry conditions.

So more snow and more prospects of snow closing institutions… despite the fact that we currently have the technology to enable institutions to remain “open” virtually, whilst keeping the physical site closed.

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”.

In February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Across the UK many schools, colleges and universities closed for a few days as travel made it impossible (and unsafe) for learners to get to their lessons and classes.

As it was the worst snow for twenty years, any idea of planning to use the VLE or similar to support learning from home was thrown out of the window, as it was obvious that such bad snow probably wouldn’t happen again for another twenty years…

Of course less than twelve months later, we had even worse snow. We saw even more closures and for even longer!

What were the chances of that happening?

What are the chances of it happening again?

Probably less than a million-to-one!

Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?

Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any such million-to-one chance happens.

Changing the culture is going to take time, having access to the right tools can help, but attitude towards those tools is just as important. Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow or any other “disaster” only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

This is something that I have been talking about for ages and discussed during a symposium at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.

“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”


Recording of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” debate at PELC10.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #030: Snow Joke Two

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #012: It’s Snow Joke

Digital Event

#pelc10: audiocast

Listen to the full podcast. The slides from my section are here, and the original/revised abstracts!

Academic Digital Event

#pelc10 Plymouth E-Learning Debate

View more presentations from Bex Lewis.

Great conference ongoing in Plymouth, hope to put some more content up shortly, but meantime, follow the Tweetstream. We had a great debate earlier, above are my slides… (debate abstract)

Academic Digital Event

University of Staffordshire, Change & Innovation, #pelc10

Undertaking – innovative stuff in a traditional institution

  • Most staff trying to be innovative, doing in isolation- not aware of top-level… how do we start to engage staff, understand how strategy is changing… Handout – resource basis,everything was coming from top-down and external influences, not taking on board internal.
  • Enable: portfolio management (strategy development, change management, organisational growth) – curriculum is growing, why is it just growing, how manage.why not culling?
  • Initiative (project) management – analysis, planning, implementation, review! Needed to be holistic in what was doing – P3M3 – mentioned by JISC, picked up by industry… Executive level strategy – focusing on traditional learners – campus learners, etc. not what their partners are doing… need to recognise that business is growing outside the traditional learner.
  • Impact, Business Case, Focus, Grants.. we need to stop doing this as it costs money, and impacting out curriculum, etc. Information was ring0fenced in course databases -info only online/the net… Projects running without direction – didn’t understand why they were doing something, lost sponsorship and going off in diff directions – project was trying to do too much… too much narrow focus – not getting the right people involved, ignoring funding…
  • Think where are you going? Enterprise architecture approach… (a tool that is difficult to communicate, so don’t discuss with others). Gives roadmap, overview and idea on how things will change… lots of info online – tends to be v. dry… Scoped to curriculum design & development. Models/maps, ideas of technologies needed to move forward…
  • Keep the staff engaged… have a history in institutions of people feeling imposed upon by central services or QAA, ensure they’re informed, and that they are consulted about thoughts/feelings/ideas… often difficult as each Faculty wants to do things their own way! Support rather than a control mechanism… communicate benefits from bottom up to senior management…  Global view – how do you ensure it goes across to other systems, thinking what is the best way forward fro everything else…
  • Job to find out what people want and make it possible, get rid of barriers, get rid of the mundane, and can then focus on curriculum design, etc. rather than endless committees… Traditional teaching materials on the VLE, but think what you want to do with them…
  • Said “they must have this” – need to think about WHY they have it up there, and contextualising their PPTs, etc…
  • Creating systems until it becomes embedded in practice – too many people doing things in pockets, not scaleable – e.g. they’re so keen, drag out old hard drives, etc. – not sustainable, but how do you keep that innovation going… No initiative/closure/evaluation documentation… Encourage those pockets to talk to the right people… Manager of Elearning projects – doing projects without her knowing about them… that’s good, means is not ALL having to come from top down?!
  • Why does everybody feel that they have to run a pilot when one department already has? James hates the word project – what about initiative? Why do you think it’s not going to work in your Faculty? Lot of resistence, just need to deal with it sensitively, tend to talk perceptions re reality. Blogs heavily, including internal (anonymised) … whether it’s real or not, it’s a perception that exists! “This is what they’re telling me”…
Academic Digital Event

Social Software for Learning, #pelc10

Social Software for learning – definition…

  • Do we need it or is it fancy hype?
  • How do we use it?
  • What are the apps of the future?

The Theory

Most of us use it every day without even realising it…e.g. Facebook

Social software treat triads of people differently than pairs… needs more collaboration features…

Social software treats groups as first class objects in the system – more important than individuals

Richter and Koch, 2007

So, what now…

  • 3 types
  • ID & Network management – rep of users & their ties within the internet
  • Communication – enable management of comms between users
  • Info management?  find, rate & manage online contents.
  • [Practika – add delicious to Twitter, etc.]
  • Is it new? what has changed? Much communication was 1-2-1 (telephone/letters), whereas radio/newspapers (1-many), now many-many
  • Is social important?
  • Attention – common & selective
  • Emotion – better memory with attachment (e.g. remember Twin Towers, not everyday activities – also a shared/common experience)
  • Possible online – to get emotionally attached when not even here – online emotionally
  • Motivation – cannot be created, but be supported…
  • Community – medically important & part of human nature.
  • Community – the most powerful factor affecting learning.
  • Structures of motivation and rewarding within the human brain are activated during cooperative behaviour.
  • Scientifically proven t0 improve brain strength
  • #Social Software supports searching and finding information from learners – can ask the network…
  • Enables learners to contribute personal expereinces & opinions to formal learning content
  • Emails not adequate medium for comms & knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge can’t always be formalised in docs. (e.g. phones, rarely learn through manual, but through learning from others who already know how to do it…)
  • Communication not document management – best info silo can’t solve most of the described info problems… ‘real’ experts not able to formalise their exetensive knowledge…
  • Learner Preferences – creator, analyst, perceptor, organiser, constructor, ?
  • Augmented Reality – “layer” (using geolocation – e.g. picks up tag clouds from surrounded Twitter account, etc.)

Augmented Reality – VFX Breakdown from soryn on Vimeo.

Video linked to by @jamesclay in session.

  • WikiTube
  • Facedetection
  • Autotagging of photos
  • Voice detection (good for disabilites)
  • Time in virtual form
  • WILD wireless interaction learning device – mobile device to students, students indicate too fast/slow/don’t understand, polls, etc.
  • CoCoMa
  • Social Network Visualisation – Facebook plugin
  • rescale data visually
  • Serious games 0 e.g
  • Friend Mapper – just locates those people who you are connected with…