Nogbad’s Education

June 19, 2008

SociaLearn conference

Filed under: OU, Social Networking, Socialearn, Teaching and learning — nogbad @ 22:31

Back from the SociaLearn conference at Horwood House, Bucks. I’ve mentioned the conference in an earlier post but in case you missed it the public-facing blurb is available on the SociaLearn site and that also gives an overview of the project. Jo has also covered the initial premise on her blog posting (which has just popped up while I was writing this)

The whole event was fascinating and an opportunity to share space with some really imaginative, smart, intelligent, bright, awesomely clever and switched-on people. Jo mentioned the backchannel and I think that’s also the main thing which struck me.

We’d been invited to take laptops and PDAs and there is a (closed) Ning community for catching and discussing ideas. Some of us were also using Twitter and Purk to bash around and develop thoughts – a commentary on the event which was building and scaffolding understanding about how we might do things and where we might take them. And all those thoughts were captured for later analysis and development or restructuring and reassessment – and, to me, that’s part of what using web technologies to support learning should be about. Attending a presentation where I can quickly run a search on an author the presenter has mentioned, bookmark a couple of papers and, perhaps, speed-read a blog piece which outlines their work is my idea of how things should work. Seeing responses to a presentation as it’s happening, watching the shape of people’s ideas while they are sparking off each other, being an active participant rather than a passive observer – that’s all very powerful stuff and even if we can’t make every learning experience like that then we can certainly replicate parts of it by finding ways of introducing learners to these communities of practice.

That’s how I see SociaLearn “adding value”, it’s an opportunity to plug into these roving groups of people with common interests. It breaks away from the formality of tutor group-based conferences and allows students to find groups with which they feel comfortable. Maybe these groups are moving at a different pace or in a slightly different direction but groups can form, work together for a short period and then break up as a different subject group is coalescing. Web 2.0 SNS tools allow for these loose, informal, groupings and learning doesn’t occur in lumps of a given size (see Weller slide 10) and students are rarely working at the same pace and the current OU practice supports the 80% in the middle of the train but the 10% sprinting ahead and the 10% struggling along at the back tend to be alone. If we have a series of groups and students are shown how to move between groups or to straddle a few groups they can find what they need when they need it – peer-supported student-centered learning perhaps?

I need to spend more time structuring these ideas but I also have to write a profile for the PET web site, iron some shirts and clear out the fridge tonight so I’m going to post and revisit another day.



  1. great post Nigel, I agree, the act of participating in the workshop in the ‘web2/SNS’ way we are trying to create was a powerful experience.
    How do we get students to see this? how do we get staff to experience this? We’ve used the assessment lever in the past, but this requires something else. Passion? Evangelism?

    Comment by jobadge — June 20, 2008 @ 9:49

  2. I think that doing this properly needs the one thing we can’t rely on – f2f. As that’s not a runner for the majority I think we need to “seed” the environment by finding and supporting evangelists – students and tutors who will give it a spin, preferably at level 1.

    That’s how Martin’s first level course (T171) changed the face of online stuff for the OU; 50,000 students on an “online only” course over five or so years meant that we had a lot of students who were “up for it” around CMC and they wandered off to other courses (and faculties) and pushed for online support. Perhaps we need a web 2.0 level one course?

    Comment by nogbad — June 20, 2008 @ 10:10

  3. I like the idea of a level one web2.0 course. What would we put in it?

    Comment by misetak — June 20, 2008 @ 11:57

  4. I’ve posted in the SL community but here’s the meat of it:

    “Using that as a point of departure I see my new level 1 course (30 points – technology) as being aimed at the people using Facebook and Twitter and Plurk now but not yet hooked into studying with the OU. The course will include study skills ranging from the traditional notetaking, critical thinking, active reading, etc to the “web 2.0″ study skills around using SNS for collaboration and finding and developing your circle of FOAF. In terms of content I think I’d plug in some systems stuff, maybe using web 2.0 apps for systems diagrams. I’d fold in some basic programming concepts using tools like Boolify and Sproutbuilder and I’d feature stuff about Smart Mobs and that Rheingoldian culture of sharing and experiential learning and the idea of the group going and experiencing the world and then coming back to virtual chautauquas where we share and interpret what we’ve found (I’m using the term here in the way Pirsig uses it rather than as a musical entertainment). The place to advertise – in addition to the usual channels – is Amazon, Facebook, etc and we might talk to Amazon and others about co-funding.”

    Comment by nogbad — June 24, 2008 @ 8:53

  5. Photos from conference:

    Comment by nogbad — June 24, 2008 @ 9:14

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