Lansley’s Health Bill -Lolcatted in No 10

In the UK, many of our cherished institutions are under threat from the coalition government, none more so than our beloved NHS.  Today a petition to “Drop the Health Bill” passed the magic 100,000 signatures that will help it to be considered in parliament.

In celebration of this momentous occasion, I have LOLcatted an image provided by our own dear prime minister of Larry the No 10 cat

Larry protesting Health Bill
Oh noes to Health Bill

Even the Tory pets are revolting!

Comparing two publication channels – academic journals and blogs

Henry Jenkins by Tamaleaver CC by 2.0
Henry Jenkins by Tamaleaver CC by 2.0
Journals on shelves
Journals by Bezanson CC by 2.0



I am going to throw out a few initial ideas about comparing academic journals and blogs as publication channels, as a kick off to a writing project I’ll be doing with Cristina Costa.

Let me start by saying that it is very difficult to generalise about either academic journals or blogs as channels since they are each in a state of flux, changing and interpreted differently  by different users and audiences. This post has been provoked by recent discussion on peer review and journals within my (albeit limited) network.  The issues that interest me are:

  • development of research and writing
  • the role of peer review and editing
  • dissemination of research

Obviously, I will be collaborating with Cristina and we will both improving our review of the literature to find what is already known on the subject.

development of research and writing

Blogs can play a role in the development of academic writing.  An author can try out ideas and get feedback.  I have tried this myself  (but can’t point to the posts as they are sadly lost) on a paper I wrote for Networked Learning 2010.  Also I recall a learning developer who posted successive drafts of an essay on their blog in response to readers’ feedback (would love the link to this if anyone has it). I think the intention of this was to reveal the sometimes messy journey of writing rather than to recommend this as a method of writing.

I see writing as a process with a product that emerges from privacy to publication with more eyes seeing and commenting along the way. A tweet may take only a minute to write but increasingly this text is wraparound/trigger to click a link to another text /multimedia artifact such as a blog post or video created over a much longer period.

There are different styles of blogging and plenty of tips on how to do it and writing for different audiences is very useful for an author’s toolkit.

Writing an article for a scholarly journal is likely to be a much more lengthy process with commenting and revisions emerging from the exchanges between authors, reviewers and editor(s) not all which are ‘public’ in the sense the article itself is.  The process for rejected articles is private with no publication endpoint. Journals with a commitment to the development of their authors will try to ensure that peer review is as much about development as about selection/ rejection.  I am interested in the role that blogging and other social media can play in writing development.

the role of peer review and editing

Journal peer review can be double blind (where neither reviewer nor authors are known to each other – though it is sometimes possible for them to guess each others’ identities); single blind where the reviewers know the authors’ identities but they remain anonymous to authors.  Usually peer review remains a relatively private exchange with comments and responses sent by email.  Different levels and types of openness are possible.  JIME, Journal of Interactive Media Education conducted very interesting dialogic review  and I am interested to research into evaluations of that and similar approaches.  I do know that reviewing can help writers develop, and that editing has had an impact on my reviewing and my writing.

I was also interested in Alan Cann’s experiment with open review but  think that much more work needs to be done to tease out more and less effective methods of using feedback to develop writing. I am not at all convinced by Doug Belshaw’s linkage of transparency to better in relation to peer review (see last sentence).

With blogs, comments are usually (but not always) invited and open, but may be moderated by the blog owner who may choose to reject comments e.g. spam comments.  The blog owner has quite a few powers at his/her discretion moderation, deletion, opening/closing comments. You could say they are their own editor – as they make the decision on publication of post and comments.  Some bloggers (like Seb Schmoller at Fortnightly Mailing ) invite guest contributions that they then edit before publication. So power relations are exercised in both blogs and journals in relation to what is published and how, and in both cases there may be room for more research into how the dimensions of power are operationalised.

dissemination of research

At Research in Learning Technology, we are keen to explore the role of social and other media in disseminating the research articles we publish in our newly Open Access journal.  I have blogged about this here and here .  The joy of Open Access is that every article has a clickable link so we can safely tweet links to articles knowing that all readers can open the article and read some or all of it as they wish. In Actor Network Theory terms, we hope to grow our network of human (readers, authors, etc.) and non-human (articles, web sites, tweets, blog posts, etc.) actants.  And if you wish to read more about ANT you can check this article or this one or this one.


It will be really interesting to see what the literature throws up on journals and blogs as publication channels, and I would also be very grateful for any comments and suggestions that you have to make.  Clearly the openness of processes in writing and publication is worthy of question and shifts in practices should be observed and evaluated to achieve potential benefits of digital publication for readers, authors and others.  Clearly there are cases when openness can help to emancipate but I can’t help but wonder if slavish openness can also have the potential to reinforce existing power differences and may even aid discrimination if not handled carefully.

Increasing the relevance, audience and reach of a scholarly journal

Research in Learning Technology Open Access

In another post I wrote about Research in Learning Technology’s move to Open Access and since then the transition has taken place.

The web site is open for business so authors can submit their papers for consideration.

Our full back catalog is available so researchers and practitioners can search for relevant content knowing that there will be no barriers to them accessing the articles.

We already have some idea of the increase in hits on the web site but the full challenge of increasing the impact of the work of authors, reviewers, editors and others is only just beginning.

Doug Belshaw blogged about this blog post by Dan Meyers and it has really set me thinking about ways to seize the challenge of increasing impact. I should make it clear that I am fully committed to peer review and the need for rigorous research.  However, I think that there are big challenges and opportunities in Open Access publishing within a social media context.

Here are a few ideas:

  • we are thinking about podcasting and webinars around issues and to support authors (and maybe potential reviewers)
  • our work as editors and reviewers is to support authors in producing work that  is relevant, rigorous and readable (this is BIG work)
  • as editors we wish to continue to improve the quality and effectiveness of our editorials
  • we want to consider what other types of content (if any) could improve the journal
  • can blogging bring our work to a wider audience
  • how can we make use of the clickable link of an open access article to include our content in social media conversations about practice and research with learning technologies?

I would love to hear any comments and ideas you have.

Please note: views expressed here are personal and not official policy from Association for Learning Technology

Digital literacies in HE : constructive dialogue between teachers and students

Digital literacies are relevant to anyone who works, learns and plays in the digital media landscape – most of us want to do all those things as well as we can. It’s quite difficult to some up with a simple definition of digital literacies – in fact Doug Belshaw has come up with a whole thesis that moves from What is Digital Literacy? to What are Digital Literacies? (thanks for pluralising me Doug)  Much of the discussion is framed around the place of digital literacies in formal education, generating questions (for me) such as:

Should digital literacies be embedded in the subject curriculum or be the province of librarians or learning developers?

What are relevant digital literacies for teachers and how do they acquire them?

How can students leverage their existing digital practices to benefit their studies?

Putting my cards on the table, I led the development and delivery of  Year 1 UG module called Emerging Technologies whose curriculum includes the contexts of  study (developing personal learning networks) and work (the impact of social media on organisations) with lots of practice and critique for the students. I have for a long time been interested in the relationship between students’ and teachers’ learning practices, particularly with respect to emerging technologies. Of course, these learning practices could take place in formal education or in any area of everyday life.  More recently, I have been thinking about the ongoing development of digital literacies as a dynamic process since new technologies will emerge, and existing technologies will change (eg Facebook’s privacy).  It may be more useful to use Schon’s work on the reflective practitioner to look at practice across work, study and play contexts – everyday life- and how learning can cross these contexts via reflection.

Considering the practice of ‘teachers’ and ‘students’ I came up with this diagram for a session with colleagues at Salford. I, like Jeff Swain and Abhay Adhikari, am interested in the role of conversation in learning about ‘doing’ emerging technologies.

Digital Literacies v1
First attempt at modelling digital literacies as a conversation

However, I wasn’t completely satisfied with it: I seemed to be getting bound up between the ‘roles’ of teacher and student and the ‘activities’ of teaching and learning so I have had another go and here is version2.

Digital Literacies v2

What I am trying to say  that for all of us in our everyday life in the digital media landscape, we engage (at different times and with varying degrees of effectiveness) in innovating, learning, modelling and reflecting.  Teachers (or librarians or learning developers) who want to have a constructive conversation with students about digital literacies (that I am characterising as effective practice in the digital media landscape) will need to achieve sufficient learning via innovation and reflection to do their key role activity of modelling (and encouraging reflection).    Students (and their listening teachers) can benefit from this constructive conversation by reflecting on their everyday practices, helping them bring what they have learned in an everyday context to their context of study in HE.

Although I did get this positive response to my lecture that covered personal (learning) networks, I tend to think that effective practice in personal learning networks comes via doing it then reflecting on it. Maybe my lectures are about marketing the ideas.

Mint lecture
Tweet from student during lecture

Anyway, I would love your feedback on these ideas so I can reflect on them before my contribution to the JISC online conference next month.

It’s mine – or rather, it’s his: other ways to talk about changing practice

This blog post is a reply that I posted to Stephen Downes’ review of Anya Kamenetz’s booklet on Edupunk, and a celebration of finding David Jenning’s blog.

@Stephen I think you make a valuable distinction in your first paragraph between learning by doing and DIY learning that is useful to anyone learning or trying to help others learn.
I found myself wondering why Anya Kemenetz didn’t refer to the provenance of the term Edupunk or FWIW cited OLDaily as a resource but then I checked out the comments thread here and began to think that maybe Anya would be damned if she did try to acknowledge the ‘origins’ of Edupunk just as she has been damned for not doing so.

It's Mine
This blog post is a reply that I posted to Stephen Downes’ review of Anya Kamenetz’s booklet on Edupunk, and a celebration of finding David Jenning’s blog.

@Stephen I think you make a valuable distinction in your first paragraph between learning by doing and DIY learning that is useful to anyone learning or trying to help others learn.
I found myself wondering why Anya Kemenetz didn’t refer to the provenance of the term Edupunk or FWIW cited OLDaily as a resource but then I checked out the comments thread here  and began to think that maybe Anya would be damned if she did try to acknowledge the ‘origins’ of Edupunk just as she has been damned for not doing so.
I think Ed Webb made a good point on the same comments thread.

Ed Webb says:
February 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm
I can’t be doing with all this movement theology. The spirit of the thing seems to be the most important. If it’s no fun any more, if the thrill is gone, then the breakup makes sense.
Also, this:

I do wonder about the value of trying to pin down and own the term Edupunk see

I agree with @David that it is quite a useful booklet.  I would think that if I directed two resources – Anya’s booklet and your Future of Online Learning article- to new students thinking about how be effective learners in a changing sociotech landscape, they would find hers much more useful. Whereas learners researching online learning would find yours useful at a much deeper level.

As an idea Edupunk is clearly inspirational and motivating but it’s not a completely fixed thing where you need to check all the boxes.  If it were, you couldn’t really ‘claim’ your (excellent) MOOCs as part of it.  I remember in CCK08, you and George clearly positioned yourselves on occasions as ‘teachers’ teaching a ‘theory’ despite the rhetoric of teaching by modelling practice
Being a teacher myself I felt a mixture of sympathy and amusement when you were moved to reply to a participant:

“I’m sorry to be snippy – but I’m getting very tired of students in this course saying “I disagree” or “You’re wrong” without giving me even the faintest clue about what it is that seems wrong much less concrete evidence that they’ve read the work they’re disagreeing with).

This isn’t a confessional course. You do not need to profess your faith one way or another. I don’t care whether or not you agreee or disagree with me or anyone else. What I do care about is that you have understood the theory sufficiently as to have some reason for disagreeing.” (scroll down)

What I suspect is at the bottom of this is captured in @David’s last 2 paras how do we critique ideas and practice of learning (like MOOCs , connectivism and Edupunk) in this changing socio-technical landscape. As I commented here , I don’t find the occasionally tetchy tone very helpful.  Also, I think we should guard against the premature stabilisation of ideas .

Stephen’s post has also been valuable to my networked learning as it has helped me to find David Jenning’s blog  – so thanks to both of you for that.

Managing networking in social media – what’s in between the zone of homophily and broadcast?

I was interested to read George Siemens post on his loss of interest in social media, I did not completely agree with him , though my disagreement was not so dramatic as Donald Clark’s. I think George might be confusing a channel/ web service with what people can do with it.

I was interested to read George Siemens post on his loss of interest in social media, I did not completely agree with him , though my disagreement was not so dramatic as Donald Clark’s.  I think George might be confusing a channel/ web service with what people can do with it.

However, George’s post did get me to reflect on my own practice with Twitter.  I had a think and came up with this analysis of my own Twitter network.  Everyone’s Twitter network is different e.g. @Downes with 4k+ followers and following 1.
My personal Twitter network

My personal network contains two zones – the blue (those who follow me)and the red (those I follow).  The overlap between those is my zone of homophily. This is a bit of a comfort zone where those with whom I share interests can share resources and conversation (sometimes silly).  However, previous research warns us of the dangers of group think  and the dangers of familiarity can militate against questioning and criticality.

In the blue zone of those who follow me, there will be people I know but don’t follow – I broadcast to them!.  I suspect there are a lot of ‘dead’ Twitter users who followed me then left.  Some who found me via the 112 lists I am in (I own 1 list) may still be following me. I would also guess that there are quite a few bots and spammers that I haven’t managed to spot and block.  This all makes the apparent 1198 to whom I broadcast my tweets (without me seeing theirs) look like  a large  overestimate of ‘followers’. Although my attention is mainly focused towards the red zone, I still value the tweets from some of the 1198 that hop over to grab my attention by using @francesbell.  I will usually click on their name and take a quick look at their recent tweets, maybe following them if they look interesting.

In the zone of those I follow but they don’t follow me, I am on the receiving end of broadcasts from the great and the good of social media /learning technology, a band, a folk festival, news media feeds, a funding body, a cinema,  a couple of celebrities,and  my Vice-Chancellor. I definitely can gain information from these links but there is little or no conversation taking place.  I am in their blue zone and may @message them but only once if I don’t get a reply – I get the message they aren’t seeking conversation;)

So although the focus of my Twitter network may appear to be my zone of homophily, my broadcasters and broadcast audience are also important to me. If your zone of homophily is too big to manage, prune it but don’t blame the channel.  If my valued network decamps to G+, I might need to shift my activity there but currently, I find Twitter a lot more manageable and less intrusive than G+.  I ‘go to Twitter’ via Tweetdeck whereas G+ comes to me every time I log into to my Google account for other reasons.

Edit: a question from @heloukee made me realise I hadn’t said how I worked out the numbers.  I got the number of followers and followed by me from Tweetdeck then got the number I follow who don’t follow me back from I would have been in trouble if that number was more than 100 (twopchart’s limit) so this method won’t work for everyone.