Monday, August 31, 2009

Furthering the use of workplace learning research using mobile technologies

I have recently made contact with Dr. Laurent Fillietaz, from the University of Geneva who is currently doing work at Griffith University with my PhD supervisor, Dr. Stephen Billett. Laurent has been using discourse analysis to understand how apprentices learn a trade. A paper with on situated trajectories co-authored with Ingrid de St.Georges provides an example of his work.

As a result of reading up on Laurent’s work, I have been exploring the area of multi-modal discourse analysis where there will be a workshop in Wellington and a one day conference in Auckland. The Languages in the workplace project is based at the University of Victoria in Wellington and led by Dr. Janet Holmes. Presentations in Auckland centre around the work of Dr. Theo Van Leeuwen and Dr. Rodney Jones with the conference convened by Dr. Sigrid Norris. So there is a good range of people & their work to catch up on!

The London Mobile learning group has a good resource of publications which I will be reading through over the next few weeks. I am keen to follow through on the use of mobile technology to help inform vocational educators about how their students learn in both on-job & off-job contexts. I have been reflecting on how to study the multi-literacies and multimodal means of learning which are involved in learning a trade. Mobile technologies provide for one avenue towards providing a means to collect evidence of skills learning. There is a need to drill deeper into the ‘hidden lives of learners’ in non-formalised learning settings. My goal is to try to better understand how learners learn skills, knowledge and attitudes which lead eventually to becoming skilled crafts people and trades persons. Then perhaps to investigate the current disconnect between how skills are learnt and how they are assessed using competency based assessments. There has to be a more authentic, less time consuming and effective method than what is currently the accepted practice which is heavily reliant on paper-based evidence.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Update on mobile learning - the future of mobile communications

Getting back into mobile learning after a few months steeped in educational research.
Judy Brown who maintains mlearnopedia provides a good overview & updated presentation on mobile learning on slideshare. Over a hundred slides! but covers reasons for using mobile learning, tools, sites and examples.

I uploaded my mlearn2008 presentation on to slide share late last year and see that it has been viewed over 200 times! This from no real adverts or indication that I have put it up. I had originally put it up with the intention of comparing slideshare with other presentation tools like flowgram. Unfortunately flowgram ceased a few months ago & I did not get around to putting the links up. So the number of views caught me by surprise & reminded me of the power of the internet for sharing & networking.

While on slideshare, I decided to have a look around to see if there were other presentations to update myself on mobile learning. To start with, came across this one on phone design trends. It’s two years old & the trends are supposed to appear by next year. Some seem to be already available, especially several versions of jewel encrusted gold plated mobiles. I was really taken by a crystal mobile phone (wow) but the wristwatch phone was supremely nerdy. Other ones that caught my imagination were the robot phone (really cool) & the flexible phone (a great idea).

Also discovered MOCOM 2020 – a think tank on the future of mobile technology via their presentation on the mobile future into the year 2020. Their by-line is “you can only create what you can imagine”, so the site has a survey to find out if you agree with some of their predictions & a user friendly interface to allow you to join up as a friend of their site. The presentation is very slick & does present many plausible scenarios for the future. There are two you tube videos embedded, the first one is a call to join up with the conversation and the second summarises the think tank’s ideas. There is a good overview of mobile developments from 1906 to the present & then on to 2020. Great ideas & much food for thought. No real mention of mobile learning but the possibilities are inferred & I can see many applications if some of the scenarios eventuate (& some are highly likely).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Web 2.0 storytelling - using narratives in research

Last week, I was working on the Ako Aoteoroa funded ‘teaching craftsmanship’ research project which involves the building of narratives based on information gleaned from questionnaires and interview content. Each narrative is constructed based on set criteria. This then allows a horizontal comparison to be made between each narrative. Commonalities and differences are then easier to distil out of the mass of data presented.

I could clinically construct the narratives as a large spreadsheet or table but building narratives is imminently more satisfying J Narratives are also much more pleasant to read and some of the characteristics that define each research participant come through, even in a rather objectively composed narrative. The narratives tell stories which are much richer and intense then a list of characteristics off a spreadsheet.

However the above is my interpretation, as a researcher of the participants’ original stories. I need to put some time into exploring how to provide opportunities in my future research projects to record participants’ own narratives.

Bryan Alexander & Alan Levine discuss in an educause review article the emergence of the genre of web 2.0 story telling. They propose they consolidation of a range of social networking tools as being methods by which people are able to ‘tell stories’ about their lives. Alan Levine aka Cogdogroo provides 50+ways to tell digital stories, so there are no shortage of ideas of how to people can garner their experiences, archive them on various sites and for others to follow the threads of their thoughts & learning as they navigate through the various hyperlinks presented. Liz Kolb provides a couple of examples of how to use the mobile phone to create digital storybooks using yodio. Chrissy Hellyer presents the use of voice thread as a digital portfolio & Photopeach as another option.

Lots of ideas, some of which I have explored in the mobile portfolios project. Bringing the opportunity of recording learning while it is taking place provides for many possibilities to extend on Graham Nuthall & others’ work on the hidden lives of learners. The emerging field of multimodal discourse analysis is something I will need to explore as this provides for the rigorous data analysis of the plethora of data that will emerge from investigating participant generated artefacts!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tools for analysing qualitative research data

Jane Hart is compiling a list of most useful / most used tools for research. Many of the ones listed are unfamiliar to me!! Most of these are search engines, although there are also bibliographical archiving tools. I have been trawling the databases the last couple of weeks. Basically doing the ground work for my Ako Aoteoroa funded ‘teaching craftsmanship’ research project. So it was a good opportunity to try out a few of these tools. I find Google Scholar to be a good way to source ‘key words’ & starting material which I can then use in the standard academic search database to find references pertinent to the topic I am researching. Due to the nature of the topic ‘new trades tutors & their perceptions of teaching’ I have to rely on journal articles. A few books are available on Google books but only as previews so I have had to request interloans via our helpful CPIT library.

I have also started data anaylsis, learning my way through nVivo. I need to use NVivo so that I am familiar with the software in order to be able to support other staff in using this research analysis tool. Will provide more feedback later in the year on how I feel about using nVivo to replace my usual mixture of iterative data analysis using ‘copy & paste’ & find features on Word, along with summarising, collating and reorganising themes / threads into tables. My first impressions are that nVivo imposes a way of doing (& thinking) which is slightly out of synch with how I usually approach my data. I need to have a handle on the ‘big picture’ & how other themes relate to the overall scheme of things. An article by Elaine Welsh (2002) presents both the advantages & disadvantages of using nVivo for qualitative analysis.

Helen Colley & Kim Diment’s article on ‘holistic research for holistic practice: making sense of qualitative research data’ is part of the UK’s teaching & learning research programme ‘ building research capacity’ site. Their interpretation and recommendations on qualitative data analysis does resonate with my approach to undertaking research. I am often after the ‘whole picture’ of why things happen & am constantly trying to work out how the various themes that immerge from the data ‘fits into the whole’. It is also important to view the data as a holistic ‘narrative’ rather than just focus on its atomistic parts. Telling the story which research participants try to impart via their involvement in interviews etc. is an important role of the research process. I need to distil rather than filter & at the moment, I feel a software tool like nVivo is causing me to filter & sieve rather than to distil, refine and sharpen themes. It could be because I am working solely with digital sources instead of a mixture of digital & hard copy. Will persevere for the moment with nVivo & evaluate what eventuates in a couple of months. I can always do a manual collation as well after the nVivo process to see if anything different comes through.

The TLRP site is one I constantly dip into for interesting, informative and mostly practical / applicable suggestions on doing research. The Teaching & Learning Programme itself has been a source of many articles and research reports of relevance to the work I am doing towards by PhD thesis. In particular the projects completed under the ‘further & post 16 education’, higher education, workplace learning, professional learning, lifelong learning and technology enhanced learning sections.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BBC podcast on Web 2.0 in corporate 'training' & action research in the workplace

Gillian Rose, one of our staff developers, listened this podcast from the BBC early one morning last week. The half hour provides for a good overview of the introduction of elearning into corporate training (elearning only coined in 1998!) and how it is now moving towards using social networking tools like blogging, wikis, social networking sites, twitter etc. within corporate training and knowledge creation, sharing and archiving.

Limitations and challenges are discussed along with ways in which to maximise on the use of social networking in building a participative workplace culture.

By coincidence, I was reading a chapter from the book ‘handbook of action research’. The chapter is ‘action research in the workplace: the socio-technical perspective’ by William Pasmore is readable via Google books. I was reading the chapter as an update on my understandings of action research, in preparation for teaching & sharing my classes’ perspectives on action research and it’s role in education. The chapter provides a succinct summary of the work of Lewin and Trist along with work undertaken by the Tavistock Institute on socio-technical systems.

In an effort to bring together the core principles and approaches of action research & socio-technical systems, ten paradigm shifts were proposed (most of which can be linked to how the internet & social networking as tools to assist). These include:
· Elevating quality of total human experience above measures of economic progress.
· Devising ways to make expert knowledge available (the internet has surely a major role to play here).
· Speed of learning should be used instead of costs & efficiencies to measure system performance (hmm, this one needs some thought).
· Elevate environmental & community issues above the creation of wealth as the primary political concern (we really need this one!).
· Restore human dignity as important criterion for evaluating educational, organisational & political systems (yes, & the slow movement towards sustainability is a way forward).
· Enhance diversity in scientific methods and ways of knowing.
· User control (not just the experts) for information, productive and political systems (the power of the internet to do this cannot be disregarded.
· Networking groups that have shared interest across organisational, community boundaries (again, social networking can be used for the betterment of society).
· People working globally just as important as people working as individuals & locally (internet is a tool that also must be used knowledgeably and responsibly).
· Need to explore better ways for organisations & societies to develop, release & use their capabilities(as per above, how to maximise on social networking but to also use it for improving the lives of others ).

Monday, August 03, 2009

Implementation of eportfolios for 'adult education tutors'

Late last week, the staff education and staff development team held a short meeting to discuss the implementation of eportfolios into the revised Diploma in Tertiary Learning & Teaching (DTLT) which replaces our current Certificates in Adult Teaching (CAT) and Diploma in Adult Education (DAE).
One of the courses for the ‘certificate’ part of the course is a ‘professional portfolio’ which will be run concurrently while students are completing five other ‘certificate’ courses. The ‘professional portfolio’ will involve students reflecting on their journey as they ‘become teachers’. Evidence of their growing skills, knowledge and confidence as teachers may be collated in an eportfolio. Therefore it was a good forum to discuss the rational for implementing eportfolios.
To start with, the team were distributed several articles including one from Educause on portfolios to webfolios & beyond:- levels of maturation. Also this one from Educause which gives a good overview on eportfolios, from a more traditional viewpoint.

I am more interested in seeing the use of Web 2.0 eportfolios as summarised by Helen Barrett in this diagram which builds on work by Derek Wenmouth and Sonia Guilana. Out tutors might not be ready for the big wide world of Web 2.0 eportfolios, but as staff educators, we need to be able to promote examples which reflect the future of education. The implementation of the use of eportfolios in the ‘professional portfolio’ will also eventually be followed on my the use of eportfolios for internal CPIT processes exampled by new tutor induction & probation, ongoing academic staff appraisals, professional development portfolios, websites for staff to showcase their work and promotions. Some programmes are also considering the use of eportfolios as an assessment option. Therefore is it important for the staff education team to model not so much ‘best practice’ but ‘informed practice’.

The educational reasons for using portfolios are varied but recent moves in theories of learning indicate that individuals’ learning are influenced directly via their interaction with the various social cultural arenas the live within. An article which provides good back ground is by Hodkinson, Biesta & James (2008). This article discusses the dualist nature of learning as being based on either individual or social and replaces this view with the use of the ‘becoming’ metaphor to help understand learning as being more holistic. Portfolios are one way to try to record the ephemeral nature of learning, the tacit, ‘informally’ learnt, often not described in learning outcome skills, knowledge and attitudes that constitute authentic learning. Teaching is but one occupation which is often learnt more from ‘conversations in the corridors & staff room’ than from reading books on educational theory. Portfolios (be they e or not e) may assist in helping learners to place credence on some of these encounters & to reflect on whether these conversations lead to improved teaching practice.