Category Archives: Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning

Old lobster almost boiled

Learning on the Beach 2011

The second annual Learning on the Beach unconference #lob11 has just scattered – I am blown away, boiled, invigorated and inundated – and that was just the weather. We were a self-select group of ‘old lobsters’ like me @richardmillwood and some fresh faces like @squiggle7 – the value of this mix in challenging the norms of indoor education was enormous.

Activities included:

  • a scene setter on flat-lining and free-learning from John Davitt
  • collaborative presentations by teams of participants on themes (and genre) as diverse as Irish History (sing-song), The Salt Marsh (tragedy) and Tides (rap)
  • a tour of the beach with Se√°n and Matthew to understand the nurturing approach to the ‘machair’ or sand dunes found on the west coast of Ireland and particularly in Mulranny, where we were staying
  • the Explainer Olympics – a chance to hone with a sharp stick in the sand our skills in capturing a concept
  • a Ceilidh to let it rip -thanks to Jim and Ann, @angedav @JamiePortman @mlovatt1 @magsamond @johndavitt
  • Postcards from the Edge, scribed on the beach – to let us shout about our findings
  • thoughts to challenge suppliers – what do we need to support learning outdoors in the design of equipment and infrastructure? Peter at @westnet_ie made it possible for us to connect from the beaches around Mulranny so that we could benefit from our vast array of gadgetry to support our inquiry including TouchaTag an RFID technology, but there were many issues addressed regarding weatherproofing, robustness, daylight viewing and power supply that would enhance outdoor activity anywhere
  • hot tub, sauna, steam room, cold plunge and swimming pool – four facilities that were welcome ūüėČ
  • the sharing of Guinness, Google, kindness, camera-derie, Twitter, time, humour and happiness ( to say nothing of black and white pudding, fresh air and fine rain)

There are not enough wild sea-horses to hold me back from attending #lob12  РI already miss the lobsters: @squiggle7 @magsamond @JamiePortman @mlovatt1 @andyjb @dughall @VickiMcC @johnmayo @johndavitt @angedav @katherinedavitt @timrylands @sarahneild @susanbanister

PhD / Masters opportunities with University of Bolton

I have been working part-time in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) at the University of Bolton for the last two years, after seventeen years at Ultralab.

IEC houses three major projects:
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†the JISC Innovation Support Centre for Educational Technology & Interoperability Studies (CETIS);
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project creating innovative higher degree frameworks (IDIBL);
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†the TenCompetence European research project developing a lifelong competence development infrastructure for Europe;

I work on the IDIBL project with Stephen Powell and Mark Johnson – an enormous pleasure to refine and improve the Ultraversity model we created in Ultralab at Anglia Ruskin University in 2003 and which is still running. The model is of work-focussed action inquiry as a means to learning, supported by colleagues, online community, facilitators and experts.

After IEC’s success in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, we are able to ramp up our activity in this area and are looking to extend our research group in IEC to focus on the following topics:
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†systematic institutional transformation;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†organisational improvement;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†inquiry-based learning;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†learning with technology;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†interoperability and standards;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†learning design;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†assessment and portfolios;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†lifelong competencies.

Key features of the learning experience for new members of the research group are:
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†improvement in current work context as the focus for study which enables work full time and study full time;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†completion of Masters in 15 months, PhD in three years;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†study online with no need for attendance;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†learning together as an online community with access to IEC experts;
‚Äʬ†¬† ¬†assessment to fit creative and work expertise.

A competitive bursary scheme for PhD will help lower the costs for successful applicants.
If you feel that you fit the bill, then we would be delighted to  to discuss further Рmail me at r.millwood [at] bolton.ac.uk or call me on +44 779 055 8641

Content is muck

muck

I have been reading¬† the report ‘On-line Innovation in Higher Education‘ submitted by Sir Ron Cooke to John Denham recently and I’m not impressed.

It seems to be but a variation on the ‘content is king’ theme and, by its own standards, seems to miss many points.

The title of this blog ‘Content is muck’ is intended to disparage this approach and at the same time recognise the importance of high quality, accessible content as a fertiliser for the growth of knowledge amongst learners.

Probably most critical is the following:

“2.5 The education and research sectors are not short of strategies but a visionary thrust across the UK is lacking.” p8

So where in this document is a vision outlined – where is it to come from? I (and many others) would be happy to offer one! But seriously, this is the moment and little here is visionary.

These further quotations from the document raised a range of issues:

“1.1 [..] We lag behind in generating and making available high quality modern learning and teaching
resources. [..]” p3

The difficulty I have with this is the way in which we go about catching up. We should be careful not to spend too much money on material which becomes out-of-date within a year, is specific to particular courses, contexts and levels or fails to enhance the creative r√īle for the learner in developing their own knowledge.

“3.15 [..] diagram [..] showing areas where students are currently pushed beyond their comfort zones.[..]” p12

The diagram referred to shows some ICT tasks in a grid with four quadrants – the top left shows tasks which are ‘”Familiar” / “Not comfortable using”¬† and includes “Using social networks such as Facebook as a formal part of the course”, but the task “Using existing online social networks to discuss work” is shown in the bottom right quadrant “Unfamiliar” / “Comfortable with using” – how can this be, what do they mean? Sadly the document lets us down here, with no reference to a source, unlike the bulk of the work. A report of this significance needs to be of the highest quality of it is to be convincing.

“3.19 [..] iv. where students tend to learn almost entirely at a distance (e.g. The Open University and the student base the UK e-university aimed for) high quality, purpose written, online materials and high quality online support services are essential;” p13

I agree in part, but what does “tend to learn almost entirely as a distance” mean? Is it not the case that¬† learning materials and support for face-to-face learning should be of similar standard? The unspoken assumption is that learning at a distance is solitary and thus the materials and support must compensate for the lack of ‘learning conversation’ – this is simply not the case in the modern social web.

We have had extensive experience over five years of fully online provision in the Ultraversity project where “purpose written, online materials” have been minimal. This has led to no lack of quality, as the guidance and support is generated through dialogue shared by a cohort of students – the online community of inquiry. Authoritative sources, journals and textbooks including key professional documents, are available widely on the internet and can be engaged with rigorously, critcially and comprehensively. This way of organising learning is most effective in that it also sets up the student for further lifelong learning.

“3.28 [..] The e-university was ahead of its time but the UK can learn from its mistakes and it is not too late to try again to address the demand for virtual, largely on-line education in the UK and
elsewhere. [..]”¬† p15

I think not – the e-university did not take a visionary nor innovative approach in my view and was not at all ahead of its time, but tried to take old approaches into new technology with minimal account of growing evidence of the efficacy of new models of online learning.

For the sake of my tax bill please lets not try again without considerably more care and wisdom!

Online community

I have enjoyed discussing with colleagues at Manchester University the nature of online community, which made me think about the various terms used – hence the above slide. It was also fun to explain the work done over ten years and how we came across many of the concepts we take for granted. Here are the slides as a PDF file, which miss out on the many videos I showed of participants talking about their experience.

Keynote broadcast

Keynote speech broadcast

The JISC Regional Centre South West recorded and webcast my closing keynote to their conference using Adobe Connect and you can find the recording here. Thanks to Melanie Roberts at JISC RSC SW for managing the slides & chat and to her colleague who filmed and recorded sound so expertly. It was interesting to go back over the transcript from the four remote participants and see what worked (and not) for them – movies seem to be a bit of a problem, a shame since I had taken the trouble to transcribe and dynamically subtitle some of them using Quicktime text tracks – how does that get routed out to Adobe Connect?

Action inquiry-based learning

Action inquiry-based learning

The Learning Through Enquiry Alliance conference at Sheffield University is a breath of fresh air – practitioner led, but research oriented, but above all a sense of camaraderie with many others struggling with the ideas we have been exploring for the last five years.

A ‘world caf√©’ exercise to break the ice led to my re-draft of an action inquiry model on the tablecloth, adding my latest concern for ‘feeling’ based on my interest in John Heron’s work. I have added a ‘FEEL’ aspect – feeling the need to improve, feelng curiosity which relate to Heron’s ideas of zest and interest around delight. We have for a long time talked about exhibiton as a mode of assessment – I have clarified in this diagram by adding the word ‘celebrate’, that this is as important to feeling as it is to knowledge and communication.

Can we improve the future with lessons from our past?

Exchange Conference Centre at the Express Park, Bridgewater

I am giving the closing keynote in a few minutes at this venue for the JISC South Western Regional Support Centre’s Summer Conference. The theme is social software and naturally, I am speaking about the way we can build from past thinking and find foundations for future improvement.¬† Here are the slides as a PDF.

Surprise, surprise

Times Higher Educational Supplement logo

Tara Brabazon in the Times Higher Education Supplement when discussing coursework masters degree courses:

“They are squeezed between the crowd control of undergraduate education and the over-bureaucratised doctoral programmes that dislodge the historically functional relationship between a PhD candidate and supervisor.”

She draws attention to the remarkable creativity of her students, when unleashed with a little flexibility:

“Although there is a science ‚Äď and craft ‚Äď to curriculum, we never know how our students will remix our aims and riff off our structure to create melodies and syncopations beyond our lesson plans.”

I know what she’s talking about and we have designed this thinking in to our new degree framework for batchelors, masters and doctorate at the University of Bolton.

Although her article is flowery in its language and this begins to grate as I get to the end, the sentiments and concepts are important:

“These students want a second chance to remake their careers and lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and their examples show that change and creativity emerges when courageous students decide to live their lives differently.”

Our take on this fertile opportunity is Inter-disciplinary inquiry-based learning founded in an action research philosophy.

At this point in her article, Tara switches to talking about the link between research and teaching, through the students’ inquiry referencing the HEA report Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments.

My worry is that this paper, and her language, are not radical enough in conceiving students as co-researchers in the 21st century. Surely now, ivory-tower academic authority is no longer seen as the know-it-all top of the pyramid (to mix a few metaphors myself), but still has a vital role to play in gathering the best, modelling excellence and rigour and wisely critiquing and deferring to the evidence base from professional practice.

Tara pleas:

“I hope that through the stress and the marking, the stress and the moderation, the stress and the exam boards, academics feel buoyant at their teaching achievements but humbly reflective about what our students can teach us.”

Agreed, and I suggest we should focus on how to make these important teaching acts as delightful and stress free as possible.

An Analysis of Delight

Delight

Ever since reading about John Heron’s ‘up-hierarchy’ of delight, with his wonderfully expressive language, I have been enjoying adding new elements (although disregarding for now their connection, except as a list). I have made a poster of them and will be talking about them (if chosen to speak) at the TeachMeet in Redbridge on Monday 19th May.

The idea is that they are a source of explanation and stimulus for designing delight into teaching & learning.

Why do we like playing games on the computer? – perhaps because high quality and visually seductive graphics offer ‘appreciation’ and the many choices and their consequences feed ‘zest’.

Why do we like learning together? – perhaps because we get ‘conviviality’, ‘recognition’ and ‘controversy’.

Why do we persist when learning is tough? – perhaps because there is ‘interest’, ‘recognition’ and ‘resolution.

Is this all too obvious? Or do you, like me, want to put this poster on your wall to keep it fresh in your mind?

Creative Commons License
An analysis of delight by Richard Millwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at blog.richardmillwood.net.An Analysis of Delight

A University for Improvement

IDIBL logo

Almost five years to the day that Ultraversity was validated at Anglia Ruskin University, we have received conditional approval for a new scheme based on the same philosophies of learner-centred, work-focussed, community-supported, action-inquiry and innovative assessment.

This IDIBL course framework validated at the University of Bolton is more ambitious in scope, more refined in character and draws fresh inspiration from the organisational thinking from its home in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics.

We can now begin to recruit in earnest for a Masters course in ‘Learning with Technology’ and follow it up with further courses in Regeneration & Sustainable Communities, Chronic Healthcare and other societal thematic problems which need active and vibrant attention.

In each case the proposals will be relatively cost-effective to approve by basing their pedagogy and organisation on our IDIBL framework:IDIBL framework

Channel 4 Education Debate – Staying On?

Channel 4

“Will ‚Äėstaying on‚Äô to 18 raise education standards and improve the employability and promote social mobility as the Government believe?”

This was one of the questions put to a panel and a small audience at the debate tonight at Channel 4. Some interesting debate, some intense and challenging moments, but best for me was the point at the end:

“We have spent all evening discussing the ‘engineering’ of a solution, but failing to look for clarity on the aims of education”.

A recurrent problem, well observed in my view, and begged my concern that we should not forget that education is fulfilment in itself, not simply preparation for life.

Making IT Work

making-it-work.jpg

I was pleased to present these slides at this international pre-BETT event organised by BESA and Steljes – it gave me a chance to glue together the thinking we have developed over the year in Core UK through our projects. Linking the National Archive of Educational Computing (hindsight) to our work to facilitate communities of curriculum innovation with QCA (insight) and to the meeting in Kronberg to consider the future of Knowledge Sharing and Acquisition which we helped to organise with UNESCO (foresight) gave me great pleasure – as did the first outing for my analysis of delight, in part based on John Heron’s work.

Shirley on ‘Undergraduates and wider reading’

Shirley

Shirley asks about reading:

  • What prompts students to read more relevant material?
  • Is there sufficient emphasis on appropriate wider reading in the module resources?
  • Are there sufficient opportunities for students to discuss their reading?
  • How can students make better use of libraries, both on and off line?
  • Is there a need for more help on assessing the credibility of reading material?

I would add:

  • How can students share the task of assessing the importance of an article?
  • How can students tackle the academic style and cultural background of articles?

I’m a strong believer in creating reading groups and structuring the responsibilities so that students take turns in presenting their analysis of articles and being critical friends to each other – a simple, but effective teaching organisation, which soon lifts mutual capability.

Why British universities are limiting the experience of secondary education. How can they be doing a better job?

 Haberdashers

This was the title of the Thirteenth Askes’s Education Lecture held in the Haberdasher’s Hall, West Smithfield, London, given by Dr Anthony Seldon, Master, Wellington College.

Anthony delivered an impassioned plea to sit up and take notice of the damage done by league tables and subject examinations to the notion of a broad education and the well-being of future citizens. He observed that education had improved markedly in each of the preceding three decades, but that the whole child was only being developed in few schools and without proper acknowledgement. Part of the blame was placed on the university system with its exam expectations, narrow academic focus and selection processes.

I asked Anthony (and others): where is innovation in higher education to spring from to improve the situation? Imaginative action is needed – I’m ready!

RSA Networks workshop

 RSA Networks

The objective of this workshop was to begin a new kind of RSA fellowship engagement ‘RSA networks’, and to discover what they might do and how they might work.

A stimulating ‘Open technology’ format was used to generate, discuss and refine over 70 ideas from the 260 fellows and staff present.

I proposed ‘What’s wrong with university” and “The University for Improvement” as ideas for debate and constructive thinking. The fellows who joined me were surprisingly gentle, compared to the RSA report “In from the cold- the rise of vocational education” written by Professor Sir Graham Hills in November 2004. Graham was project champion of the RSA’s Visions of a Capable Society programme in 2004, and he identified the following flaws in the qcademic ethos:

  • Fragmentation of knowledge
  • Internal referencing, peer review, cronyism and social corruption
  • Absence of context, flight from reality
  • Objectivity taken to extremes, dehumanisation of science
  • Authoritarian attitudes to knowledge and behaviour
  • Competition between knowledge bases leading to internal uniformity and external conformity

He continued to claim that the world of reality and technology, outside academia was:

  • Holistic, not reductionist
  • Context driven, not subject driven
  • Mission-oriented research, not blue skies
  • Teamwork, not individual scholar
  • Multi-authored publications, heteregeneous knowledge bases
  • Divergent not convergent thinking
  • Reflexive philosophy rather than objective statements
  • Decisive criterion: does it work?

Nevertheless I went away feeling that both business and academia (both well-represented in the session) were unhappy with the current state of affairs and the University for Improvement – an idea based on the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning¬† project (IDIBL) I am working on at the University of Bolton –¬† was well received.

As Graham Hill put it: “The best way to connect the world of industry to¬† academia is to people it with students” – something IDIBL will be striving to do.

JISC CETIS conference 2007

 JISC CETIS conference diagram

Loads of enjoyable discursive sessions here, but I enjoyed Scott Wilson’s workshop ‘Co-ordination and Control of Business Processes’ most of all. We discussed which higher education processes could respond to development in the light of technology developments. Our group’s diagram, although untidy led to a neat table of processes we felt could benefit from development:

Process Driver Impact Readiness for change Interventions
1 Peer learning matching Learning productivity Better results, fulfilment Good As 4 below
2 Teaching workload move effort from presentation to facilitation, formative assessment Medium Business process concepts as 4 below
3 Marking / assessment Discomfort, hard work, fairness Lower costs, reliable results, happier staff Low Systems of peer ranking
4 Environmental Audit Environmentalism Planet saved Good Online support
5 Learn(ing)ed Societies, (Journals, peer-review, inter-institutional repositirys, joint bids Need for enhancement of academic society Better education Good Social software, intentional communities of practice, business process enabled

RSA talkaoke

RSA talkaoke

A fascinating evening sitting in the Star Trek-like environment of Talkaoke at the RSA. Discussing the development of an online environment for the RSA Fellows. A wide-ranging discussion which homed in on the confrontation between the trust and shared intent of a closed society and the creativity and diversity of open thinking. A chance to present the IDIBL project and consider its place in RSA developments to become a dynamic force for change by offering a route for those keen to embrace civic innovation in a disciplined and rigorous manner and gain academic qualification at the same time.

Conferencing with the Azores

Azores

Made a presentation today, based on my developing talk about ‘delight’ applied to the task of professional development of teachers and trainers. We used Marratech and although this provided a good sense of presence, my audio was not well heard.

Thanks to Antonio Reis for inviting me – it took only an hour out of my day to make some kind of impact in the Azores!

e-Learning Lisboa 2007

Lisbon street

My task at this conference was to talk about the delightful development of e-tutors and trainers. This gave me a chance to re-read John Heron’s ‘up-hierarchy’ (don’t ask*) which when interpreted in a learning context gives strong support for offering digital creativity, inquiry-based learning and opportunity to negotiate and choose the curriculum. Delight in learning is not just an entitlement for moral reasons, but effective when seen in this way.

By the way, got completely obsessed by the suspension bridge out of my Lisbon hotel window, which constantly found its way into every photo!

*Heron, J, Feeling and Personhood: Psychology in another key. London and Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.