Author: Doug Belshaw (page 1 of 204)

Weeknote 37/2019

I used to employ a bullet-point format for these weeknotes but that seems to have gone by the wayside since starting my Friday roundups on Thought Shrapnel of interesting things I’ve read. I guess I don’t like writing two bullet-point based posts within a 24-hour period…


Anyway, it feels like a golden age on the internet for newsletters and podcasts at the moment. Which is to say that, sadly, it’s not particularly a golden age for blogging and other forms of social media. Most of the good stuff arrives in your ears and inbox rather than the open web.

In an attempt to force myself to use bullets, here’s three newsletters that you should check out. Interestingly, they’re all ones I pay for via Substack:

I’ve already listed a bunch of my favourite podcasts in the show notes to Microcast #072.


This was quite a quiet week, all things considered. The rest of the MoodleNet team apart from James were otherwise occupied with holidays, moving house, or adding a small human to their family!


After making an appointment related to stuff I was discussing last week, I got a chance to talk to someone Trained In These Things. It’s not like any of this is a mystery to me; I put the anxiety I experienced from my teaching career into a box, which now, almost a decade later, is being triggered by my involvement with Scouts. So after a quick chat, I’ve been referred for some CBT. Fingers crossed.

I’d told our Group Scout Leader that I was planning to step down after Christmas, but decided that it was actually in my best interests to do so immediately. While it made me feel guilty for the lack of notice, they’ve got enough leaders to cope, and it should help me get things sorted out.


In other news, this week’s Thought Shrapnel article seemed to be well-received. I also enjoyed putting together my latest microcast about privacy and children’s use of technology. Oh, and I wrote a short thing about why capitalism needs people to be upset about ‘prizes for all’.

Two more bits of news. First, the family of Dai Barnes have asked me to deliver a eulogy at his memorial service. It’s a huge honour to do so, and I’m grateful to Eylan Ezekiel and Dai’s brothers for their help with this. Second, I’ve managed to squeeze myself onto the last ‘split weekend’ Mountain Leader course I could go on this year. We start in the Peak District next month, and I’m very much looking forward to it.


Finally, I’d deleted Red Dead Redemption 2 after Dai passed away, but my brother-in-law Sean bought the game specially to play with me. It was a lovely gesture and very much appreciated, so I’ve reinstalled it and been showing him the ropes. It won’t take him long to be much better than me, as Dai was. (I’ve been playing the FIFA series of games for 25 years and still get rinsed by nine year-olds.)


Next week, I’m at home with Wednesday off to get the eulogy written and life admin done. All of the MoodleNet team apart from Mayel will be back, so it’s time to crack on with getting everything ready for the beta launch in November!


Photo taken on a family walk at Druridge Bay.

Weeknote 36/2019

It’s all been happening this week: back-to-school, wedding anniversary, publishing the very last episode of a podcast I published with my late friend, Dai Barnes, and… referring myself to counselling for anxiety issues.

I don’t want to shy away from talking about the latter issue, as I know for a fact that it’s something that affects many people. Men in particular are bad at discussing it, due to some misplaced notion of manhood whereby your inner life is all plain sailing.

In my case, I’m pretty sure my issues, which come and go, seem to be triggered by things relating to my teaching career. I’ve now not been a teacher (nine years) for longer than I ever was one (seven years), so it goes to show how much this stuff can have an effect on you.

Anyway, a good friend of mine had some real breakthroughs around an unrelated issue through counselling, which was a prompt for me to get something done. I guess the grief I felt with Dai’s passing was the proximate cause for getting something done about it, but it’s been brewing for a while.

In other news, as of today, I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Hannah, for 16 glorious years. We took the opportunity earlier this week to go away for a night and had a thoroughly great time. It’s part of the marriage journey to see people at their best and their worst, and she’s seen a bit of both this week. I’d like to publicly thank her for her love and patience.

From a productivity point of view, some forms of anxiety can make you a dream employee. So long as it’s not the stifling and debilitating kind, your brain constantly reminds you that things need doing and you’d better get them done sharpish otherwise the world’s going to end. It never does, of course, but weirdly my personal angst hasn’t been causing me professional issues.

I’ve got plenty done in the three days I worked on MoodleNet this week. Most notably, I created a new version of the overview slide deck we use to introduce the project, with an accompanying screencast. I also tidied up the MoodleNet wiki, creating a scenarios page and adding more detail to the roadmap.

In terms of Thought Shrapnel, I wrote an article which I was pretty pleased with (and for which I found the perfect image!) I also recorded a microcast and roundup of links I’ve found interesting this week. I’m taking a break from Twitter, so I won’t be posting links to my work there for a while.

Next week, I’m back to the usual routine of taking Wednesday as my non-Moodle day. We’re potentially going to be without three members of the team for various reasons (holiday, moving house, etc.) so it’ll perhaps be a quiet one.


Photo taken by me in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Monday night. It turns out to be art by Prefab77 whose work is described as “fast, hard edged and stripped down, a dark world of Gangs, Goddesses and Groupies, woven into a pure, rock and rebellion”. Nice.

Weeknote 35/2019

You know that feeling after you come back from holiday and you let out a sigh and then get back to work? I did that again this week after a five-day long Bank Holiday weekend spent in Devon at my in-laws. We had a great time.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the work I do, as far as work goes. But like most people, I think, given the current state of the world, there’s plenty of other things we could be doing with our time. MoodleNet will help with some of that, but obliquely. It’s going to help a certain group of people (educators) better teach another group of people (learners) so that they can, hopefully, improve our world.

I’ve written an update on the MoodleNet blog about where we are with the project. I have no major concerns right now, although the timeline for testing federation has slipped a bit.

The thing that’s taken a lot of my brain space this week is getting out the last two ever episodes of the TIDE podcast, which I recorded with my late co-host Dai Barnes. I added an intro and edited out part of the original recording we made back in June to publish Episode 119: AirDrop Crossfire on Thursday. Next week, I’ll release a memorial episode that I recorded with the help of Eylan Ezekiel and many audio contributions from friends and listeners to TIDE.

So it’s been a quiet week: driving back from Devon, working four days for Moodle, editing two podcast episodes, producing stuff for Thought Shrapnel, and then dealing with some drama when my son had to go to hospital after an accident involving him attempting some parkour. He’s OK, thankfully.

Next week, it’s back-to-school week for my kids, including a new school building for our youngest on the far side of town. So some logistics to deal with there, as she’s (just!) too young to walk there alone. Other than that, I’m taking Monday off and then working on MoodleNet stuff Tuesday to Friday.


Header image: photo of some street art at a skate park in Honiton, Devon

Weeknote 34/2019

This week has been about getting back to work after our fantastic family holiday in New England. I’m used to the post-holiday blues, so mentally prepared for them this time around, taking things slowly on Monday and easing back into it.

Thankfully, it’s Bank Holiday weekend, so I can take a five-day holiday without having to take any leave. The joys of working a flexible four-day week!

There have been three main areas of activity for me this week:

1. MoodleNet

I returned a bit concerned that we weren’t going to make our (self-imposed, but widely-publicised) November deadline. That was because Mayel, MoodleNet’s Technical Architect will soon be taking a month’s paternity leave, and refactoring the backend code has taken longer than we thought. However, I’ve been pleased with Karen’s progress on federation and Ivan’s work on the new user interface. I think we’ll get there!

I focused on writing a lightweight spec document and updating Moodle Tracker issues this week, as well as the inevitable catch-up meetings and management duties. I’ve also published a blog post about MoodleNet’s draft user agreement and covenant for instance administrators.

2. Memorial TIDE episode

Earlier this week, I spoke with Eylan Ezekiel as we’re organising an episode of TIDE to celebrate Dai’s life. We’ve already started taking audio contributions, so please do consider adding yours.

Back in June, Dai and I recorded episode #119 of TIDE, but I never edited and released it, for a number of reasons. One of them was that it was interrupted by a couple of fire alarms at Dai’s school. Another was that I wittered on about anxiety to the interest of probably nobody.

Anyway, I’ve been listening back to what we recorded and I’m thinking of knocking it into shape to release as an episode. Dai says some pretty insightful things in it.

3. Thought Shrapnel

You know, I really do enjoy the work I do on Thought Shrapnel, and the new routine of posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (with an email digest on Sundays) seems to be both sustainable and appreciated by subscribers!


Next week will be a short working week for me. I’ll be planning more for MoodleNet federation testing, and integration with Moodle LMS.

Weeknotes 32 & 33/2019

I’m composing this from Boston Logan airport before an overnight flight to Manchester, and a drive back home. Team Belshaw has been in New England on holiday for the past couple of weeks. In many ways it’s felt a lot longer than that.

Let’s deal with the positives first. Our experiences here have been the kind we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. The kids have got on well together — gloriously screen-free, apart from the occasional movie on a TV in an Airbnb.

The weather has been exactly what we hoped for: hot without being scorching. We travelled clockwise from Boston, to Cape Cod, to Providence, Rhode Island. From there we went up to Vermont and then across to Maine. Finally, we drove back to Boston to fly home.

It’s the most expensive holiday we’ve ever been on for a couple of reasons. First, New England is an expensive place to take a vacation in there summer. We managed to score super-cheap flights thanks to Jack’s Flight Club, but the accommodation cost a lot more than we were expecting.

Second, it was announced a few days into our holiday that the British pound was the lowest it had been against the US dollar since 1985. In these kinds of situations, you can decide to economise as much as possible, or just enjoy your holiday and deal with the consequences when you get home. Unusually, we decided to do the latter.

Some of the many memories I’ll take back with me:

  • Going whale-watching off Cape Cod at the same time as starting to read Moby Dick for the first time.
  • Playing ‘baseball’ with a foam bat-and-ball pretty much everywhere we stayed.
  • Visiting, and photographing, beautiful old lighthouses along the coast of Maine and Cape Cod.
  • Kayaking near Cape Elizabeth (it was our daughter’s first time!)
  • Paddling in Queechee Gorge in Vermont and imagining what it must have been like hundreds of years ago.
  • Eating whole lobster and feeling like we were eating an alien!

We’d definitely come back, especially to Cape Cod which we absolutely loved.


Now then, while I was away, the plan was to uninstall all messaging and social media apps from my phone. It was supposed to be a break from what can feel very much like an always-on, hyperconnected lifestyle back home.

As I’ve already written, we stepped off the plane to some tragic news about my good friend Dai Barnes. Given that Twitter is the place many know him from, it was important to try and balance honouring his memory with being present for my family.

As a result of being on Twitter, I couldn’t help but become briefly embroiled in a debate which happened amongst educators in Twitter. I didn’t originally engage with it directly, but rather reminded white guys with a decent following that they have responsibilities via this tweet:

If you're a white male with a bunch of followers, it's probably worth:1. Telling people that you're anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic (if, indeed, you are)2. Acting like it.#its2019people

(I delete my tweets every month, so this is a screenshot)

Unfortunately, instead of any kind of nuance or healthy debate, the whole thing descended into A Hashtag About Which People Should Take Sides™. I’ve been a little skeptical when people have called Twitter a ‘rage machine’ because of the move they’ve made towards an algorithmic timeline. Well, I was wrong to be doubtful; this was that in action.

If you want to read more on the whole debacle, I’d recommend that you read Shame Cycles and Twitter Rage by Sherri Spelic, and Edutwitter, Witches, and Whiteness by Michael Cole.


Next week will be all about the jet lag and catching up with developments with MoodleNet while I’ve been away. I’ve been mostly Telegram-free all holiday, so I guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

#RIPDai: in memory of a good friend

Dai Barnes was my partner in crime. We’d posse up, steal some horses, perhaps rob a bank, and then have a dramatic shoot-out with the law. All the while on PS4 voice chat.

Not only would we talk about how much of a great game Red Dead Redemption 2 is, but also life, the world, and everything. Dai would swear like a sailor. We’d laugh. We’d tell each other stuff we probably wouldn’t have shared with other people.

Men don’t really call one another up and just ‘have a chat’, which is one of the reasons why I found recording the TIDE podcast with Dai so amazing. We recorded TIDE for just over four years, from March 2015 until this June. It was just like having a chat with a mate while drinking whisky, that just happened to also be a podcast.

TIDE didn’t come from nowhere. Dai and I met in October 2014 in a Newcastle coffee shop when he was up for an event. I hadn’t seen him for a few years, and had a actually forgotten he went barefoot. We talked about how we missed the good old days of EdTechRoundUp, which was between about 2007 and 2011.

Dai was a bit of an enigma. At the same time as there being layers and layers to him that you’d peel back as conversations unfolded, he also wore his heart on his sleeve. I’ve never known anyone like him. He was fiercely loyal, but (I’ve learned) also kept his friendship groups separate.

He was around a decade older than me, but it didn’t feel like that at all. Dai had such a youthful exuberance about him and I’ve never met anyone who had such an affinity with kids. It really was his mission in life to be the best educator he could possibly be.

If there’s anything that Dai’s taught me over the years, and I feel like he’s taught me a lot, it’s that there’s nothing so important as human relationships. He also taught me a healthy dose of pragmatism gets shit done. And finally, knowing a little of his personal life, he demonstrated how to keep it all together and show courage under fire. What a guy.

I miss him.


Dai Barnes passed away suddenly in his sleep after a camping trip with friends in Idaho, USA on the night of Thursday 1st / Friday 2nd August 2019.


Ways to remember Dai:

  1. Write a blog post (see Christian, Tim, Aaron), compose a poem, record a song, or paint a picture. You could share using the #RIPDai hashtag on Twitter.
  2. Contribute to the #barefootfordai hashtag on Twitter (and Flipgrid)
  3. A few of us a planning a memorial episode of TIDE for later this month for which we’ll be taking audio contributions. Whether you knew Dai well or fleetingly, please have a think about what you could say, and we’ll feature your contributions.

Finally, I’d like to thank Amy Burvall and Eylan Ezekiel for their love, support, and organisational skills. Also, the edtech community, whose outpouring of affection for Dai has been touching.

Please message Amy, Eylan, or me for Dai’s parents’ address should you wish to send something. I believe they are collecting tweets and other online contributions into a book.

Weeknote 31/2019

This has been a week of consciously winding-down towards my holidays. Too often it takes me a few days to properly relax and then, inevitably, a few days before going back to work you start shifting back into ‘work mode’. During a two-week holiday, therefore, I end up only getting a couple of days of proper relaxation.

I worked two and half days instead of my usual four this week, and spent time preparing for Team Belshaw’s upcoming holiday to New England. We’ve got a bunch of stuff planned, including kayaking, cycling, exploring the history of the region, and chilling out next to water.

The main aim this week was to make sure the rest of the MoodleNet team can be productive in my absence. Given how talented and self-sufficient they are, that’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, but any team needs co-ordination.

As part of these efforts I produced a MoSCoW prioritisation grid for both pre-beta and post-beta functionality. For such a simple approach, it turned out to be remarkably useful. I also did some work around OKRs and other admin-focused tasks, and met with Eummena, who have hired developers specifically to work on MoodleNet.

I did my usual Thought Shrapnel work this week, including an article on FOMO, a microcast on Philosophy and Accessibility, and a roundup of links that I found interesting. My wife and I also went out for afternoon tea at The Running Fox, I hosted a Scout Leaders’ planning meeting, and I spent some time cleaning the street sign at the bottom of my road (after running out of patience with the council).

Next week, I’ll be… ON HOLIDAY! 🏖️


Photograph of Tynemouth South Lighthouse taken by me on a family walk last Sunday.

Weeknote 30/2019

I’m writing this in my lounge where, when I look up from my laptop screen, I can see a sky the colour of tupperware providing the kind of rain you expect to see in Autumn.

It’s been a strange old week, weather wise. We’ve had days in the high twenties celsius, followed by thunderstorms and now rain. A neighbour’s daughter is getting married today. It’s as if she’s being trolled by the weather.

The first of six summer holiday weeks has gone by as you’d expect with a 12 year-old and 8 year-old in the house. Or, not in the house as much as possible. They’ve been at an athletics camp and church holiday club, respectively, which has kept them busy. I’ve been working more in the house, mainly because my well-insulated home office turns into an oven at temperatures over 20°C.

This time next week we’ll be in the car, driving to Manchester airport to then fly to Boston, MA. This came about, as I’ve been telling people for the last few months, because of a wonderful app called Jack’s Flight Club. The rest of my family have never been to the US of A before, and so when an ‘error fare‘ appeared back in January, we jumped on it straight away! We’re also going to Iceland in December from Edinburgh airport ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Back to this week, and I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff, including in my four days for Moodle:

  • Releasing the clickable prototype of MoodleNet’s UI 2.0 to the community for feedback.
  • Contacting those who have volunteered (so far) for the federation testing programme.
  • Facilitating an internal Moodle meeting at short notice, which included a (very) condensed version of the pre-mortem activity I’ve written about before.
  • Grappling with Moodle Tracker. We’ve realised that sub-tasks get in the way of our workflow.
  • Spent time thinking through an updated workflow for uploading openly-licensed resources to MoodleNet
  • Reviewing a new Moodle ‘How We Do Things Around Here’ course from the People & Culture team.
  • Updating the MoodleNet overview slide deck for July 2019.
  • Doing some quick research into resource-sharing in ALT’s journal.

I’m a big fan of quotations, and perhaps I should start including one every week here. This week, I’ve been thinking about how the delicate act of being a Product Manager is such great practice for being a better human being:

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.

Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

I published my usual three posts for Thought Shrapnel which this week were:

I also changed the avatar on my social media profiles for summer, after reading a great section of Jonathan Crace’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep talking about ‘everyday life’.

After my move from Linux to ChromeOS (+Linux) at the start of the year, I explained how to get a Linux software centre on ChromeOS, and created a screencast demonstrating a useful search hack.

Next week is going to be successful if my wife and children remain happy, we manage to pack for our holiday without any drama, and MoodleNet remains on-track.


Photo taken by me on a family walk to The Plough at Mitford and back #nofilter

A quick dive into ALT’s journal with my MoodleNet hat on

One of the things I miss from my doctoral research is reading journal articles. So, with my MoodleNet hat on, I dived into ALT’s Research in Learning Technology today. I was on the lookout for things related to professional development and Open Educational Resources (OER).


Drumm, L. (2019). Folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories: how lecturers rationalise their digital teaching. Research in Learning Technology27. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.2094

I admit that I was attracted to this article by its title, but it came up trumps:

Ideally, educators should critique and adapt ‘best practices’, taking charge of their own pathways of teaching. Indeed, as demonstrated in the data, many of these lecturers do this, but there is a block in articulating, reflecting and sharing these pathways. A solution could be to frame academic development and teaching qualifications as a medium for educators to explore their own voices and communicate about their teaching, without requiring them to fit into prescribed orthodoxies. Rather than setting folk pedagogies and pseudo-theories as ‘incorrect’, they could be acknowledged and used as starting points for conversations about teaching.


Macià, M., & García, I. (2018). Professional development of teachers acting as bridges in online social networks. Research in Learning Technology26. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v26.2057

This is a particularly useful paper, where the author refers to ‘social networking sites’ as ‘SNSs’. It’s worth quoting at length:

SNSs used in education can promote socioconstructivist learning (Allen 2012; Manca and Ranieri 2017) by modifying the learners’ role and providing them with new educational understandings. The interconnected model of professional growth explains how teachers can benefit from the information acquired in online SNSs. This model takes several domains of the teaching situation into account (Clarke and Hollingsworth 2002): (1) the personal domain, including teachers’ ideas, knowledge and beliefs; (2) the external domain, represented by information or resources that teachers acquire while collaborating with other teachers or participating in training activities; (3) the domain of practice, related to action research activities developed in the classroom context; and (4) the domain of consequence, which includes students’ results and other consequences in the classroom climate or organisation. According to the interconnected model, an external source of information, which could be the consequence of participation in an online network or community, can generate change in teachers’ knowledge and foster new practices in their teaching. After experimenting in the classroom, teachers can evaluate the applied processes and student outcomes and, based on the results of this evaluation, make changes at a cognitive and behavioural level. In this context of participatory networking, teachers assume responsibility for the information that they exchange and the contributions they make to the educational networks in which they participate, as well as for the information they integrate and the connections they make, deciding by themselves what they need at every moment.

Recent research describes online teachers’ networks through the theories on social capital and social network analysis, which reveal how information flows between a group of network members (Ranieri, Manca, and Fini 2012; Schlager et al. 2009; Smith Risser 2013; Tseng and Kuo 2014). Bordieu’s ‘social capital theory’ (1986) asserts that:

the social capital possessed by a person depends on the size of the network of connections they can effectively mobilize and on the volume of the capital (economic, cultural or symbolic) possessed in their own right by each of those to whom they are connected. (p. 21)

Then, teachers’ social capital can increase when they connect to a larger number of colleagues who are highly skilled. According to Bordieu (1986), participants in a group have to make an effort to sustain the relations that ensure the continuity of the social formation through social exchanges. These social exchanges are identified as mutual recognition and recognition of the membership and also define the limits of the group. Members control new entries by defining occasions, places or practices to gather with other people who have similar interests. In this sense, maintaining and increasing social capital through exchanges requires continuous efforts of sociability, recognition and social competence, and this can result in the transformation of one’s own cultural capital (knowledge, principles and values).

Twitter is of special interest for this research because many teachers participate in this network and use it to share experiences and reflect on practice, to pose or ask questions, to share teaching materials and resources, to hold generic discussions and to provide emotional support (Davis 2015; Smith Risser 2013; Wesely 2013). In general, people tend to use Twitter to write posts about themselves, whereas educators tend to use it to share information (Forte, Humphreys, and Park 2012). For this reason, Twitter frequently plays the role of an aggregator of content or resources present in other social networks or virtual sites (Wesely 2013), as teachers tweet the link to such content and it can be recovered through the use of a hashtag (the method used on Twitter to categorise tweets into topics). Teachers also use Facebook, especially the ‘groups’ functionality, which is a closed environment that facilitates interchange around generic or specific topics (Ranieri, Manca, and Fini 2012). The use of both networks may have an impact on teachers’ professional growth by fostering their digital competence and helping to change their practice and educational perspectives (Manca and Ranieri 2017).

This quotation from an interview with a teacher is illuminating:

Starting to share in networks for me was a ‘before and after’. It was a complete change. I have evolved as teacher and I have a relationship with students which I never imagined. It has been much more than the knowledge, new tools or meeting people; it has generated a change in the way I work. After the project [a project about student talents] I started to take into account students’ emotions. I learned to respect students. (Interview, Teacher 6)

Also useful:

The teachers interviewed were all active members on SNS and preferred Twitter for dealing with educational issues. Twitter is a generic SNS that has been adopted by educators for multiple professional purposes such as communicating with others, increasing the visibility of classroom activities and sharing information, resources and materials (Carpenter and Krutka 20142015; Davis 2015; Veletsianos 2012; Wesely 2013). The asynchronous nature of online SNSs, the knowledge sharing and the immediacy of responses make Twitter and other SNS a suitable space for enhancing teacher professional development. Twitter was also praised for filtering valuable content for teachers, for facilitating searches on educational topics (Carpenter and Krutka 2015) and also for enabling serendipitous learning thanks to its condition of being a network (Wenger Trayner, and de Laat 2011). The participants in the study justified that they used Twitter because of the rapid flow of information, the ease of use of the platform, its open and participative nature and finally the high number of Twitter users who belong to the educational world. Indeed, involvement in online SNS helps teachers enlarge their professional community, share resources and reflect on teaching practices (Carpenter and Krutka 20142015; Wesely 2013).

Participant teachers also used instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp or Telegram to keep in touch with other teachers or to sustain active discussion groups. The use of these tools is very much related to mobile phones. These tools offer the same immediacy as Twitter in a closed and more controlled environment, where people can only join by invitation. The use of these instant messaging tools, and particularly their use in combination with other SNSs, has barely been studied for educational and training purposes but could be effective for maintaining informal communities of teachers (Bouhnik and Deshen 2014; Cansoy 2017).

The activities conducted openly in this SNS are mainly sharing information and socialising. In fact, we can consider that these two types of activities determine two different patterns of participation: (1) teachers who mainly use Twitter to share information, news, resources or media and who dedicate around two-thirds of their activity to this endeavour, and (2) teachers who mainly use Twitter for social purposes such as living a social life, live event participation and courtesy, with this social activity accounting for around 50% of their total activity. These two patterns, consisting of sharing information or being social, could be related to teachers’ interests and also to their personal and professional identity. Carpenter and Krutka (2014), in a study with 755 educators, found that the 96% of them used Twitter to share and acquire resources, 86% to collaborate with other teachers, 76% for networking and 73% for chatting. These results are consistent with the two main patterns of Twitter use identified in this study.

This explorative study into teachers who act as bridges reveals that they are active in SNSs and that they take advantage of this participation by introducing new practices into their classrooms and also by collaborating with other teachers to develop school practices. These teachers are highly motivated, enjoy their work and are eager to improve professionally, which could have triggered their participation in SNSs. Thus, it is not clear whether their participation in SNSs directly causes the improvement in their teaching practices or whether SNSs are just another tool used by teachers who are already interested. This question remains open and it is key to understanding the role that online networks and communities can play in teachers’ professional development. Our results show that there is certain interdependence between actively participating in an SNS and being involved in several communities. The results also highlight the relevance of lightweight peer production and peripheral participation in productive online social networks, which materialises in this bridging role that certain participants assume.


Atenas, J., & Havemann, L. (2014). Questions of quality in repositories of open educational resources: a literature review. Research in Learning Technology, 22. https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v22.20889

This paper is all about ‘quality indicators’ in Repositories of OER (ROER):

Drawing from our analysis of the literature, we would argue that the ethos underlying the creation of ROER can be said to comprise four key themes, which we refer to as SearchShareReuse, and Collaborate. The purpose of ROER is to support educators in searching for content, sharing their own resources, reusing and evaluating materials, and adapting materials made by or in collaboration with other members of the community.

The four themes can be understood in greater detail as follows:

  1. Search: As Google tends to be the first reference point for many people, it can be considered a ‘living index and repository for enormous content’ (Atkins, Brown, and Hammond 2007). Although the internet has among its archives billions of documents and multimedia materials that can be found by using search engines, it is a more complex task to ensure that the materials and documentation discovered in such searches are appropriate to a specific educational field and context. For Wang and Hwang (2004), it is difficult for educators to build and maintain personal collections and is ‘very time consuming to locate and retrieve distributed learning materials’. For Rolfe (2012), searching for OER in repositories facilitates the non-commercial reuse of content with minimal restrictions.
  2. Share: According to Hylén (2006) one of the possible positive effects of openly sharing educational resources is that free trade fosters the dissemination of knowledge more widely and quickly, so more people can access resources to solve their problems. For Windle et al. (2010) the quality assurance and good design of OER can enhance the reuse and sharing of OER, as ‘evidence suggests that those who feel empowered to reuse are more likely to themselves to share and vice versa’ (p. 16). According to Pegler (2012), if OER are not shared or reused, the main objective of the OER cannot be accomplished; also, the number of times in which a resource has been shared can be considered a measure of resource quality, as it provides an indication of the impact a particular resource has had.
  3. Reuse: A key concern of educators regarding the reuse of OER relates to the contextualisation of resources; to adapt, translate or reuse materials for use in different socio-cultural contexts could potentially be more difficult or costly than creating new resources. To alleviate these challenges, the main impetus must come not from technologies but from pedagogical communities where academics and teachers are both, content producers and users (Petrides and Nguyen 2008). The practice of reusing content has in the past been considered ‘a sign of weakness’ by the academic community, but this point of view has been changing as the OER movement is increasingly embraced by academics which are willing to share their content with others (Weller 2010).
  4. Collaborate: OER repositories, if well designed, can serve to facilitate different communities of users who collaborate in evaluating and reusing content and co-creating new materials by encouraging the discussion around improvement of resources (Petrides and Nguyen 2008). Though traditionally teaching materials were produced within the context of a classroom, OER can be created collaboratively in virtual spaces (McAndrew, Scanlon, and Clow 2012). ROER have potential as a framework in which ‘various types of stakeholders are able to interact, collaborate, create and use materials and processes’ (Butcher, Kanwar, and Uvalić-Trumbić 2011).


Whitworth, A., Garnett, F., & Pearson, D. (2012). Aggregate-then-Curate: how digital learning champions help communities nurture online content. Research in Learning Technology, 20. https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v20i0.18677

The authors refer to the ‘Aggregate-then-Curate’ model as ‘A/C’ and ‘Digital Learning Champions’ as ‘DLCs’

(1) Identification: The initial motivation for creating resources must come from the community participant (an individual, or a group), even if the motivation is in response to an external stimulus, e.g. a request to participate in a project. There will be at least one existing resource that the participant has in mind. This may be a physical object, a text (digital or otherwise), or tacit knowledge such as a skill, personal narrative, etc. The resource belongs to the participant and not to the project or to the partner institutions.

(2) Initial aggregation: This stage begins the process of connecting together resources by revealing links between them, suggesting appropriate groupings, potential learning pathways and so on. This is a social process and so must involve other members of the community, but not necessarily involve digital media. Often, it will take place very informally, as community members validate one another’s opinions about what information is useful, sometimes explicitly but often with reference to implicitly held, shared views – the sort of thing that binds people together in “communities” in the first place. However, it may also involve more organised and/or formal processes. What this stage entails is the intersubjective validation of initial, subjective ideas by members of the community.

(3) Digital creation: Once resources and connections between them have been identified by the community, some form of digital representation can be created. Even where some existing resources, first identified then aggregated in Stages 1–2, are already in digital form, the connections between them may need expressing as digital content in their own right.

A DLC would help here if they were at a different “developmental phase” in their work with, and experience of ICT, and could thereby provide technical assistance to the creation of digital artefacts. A particular resource might be very relevant and timely. However, its usefulness will be diminished if it is, for example, an inaudible recording. Is metadata in place, can the resource therefore be found by others? Is the appropriate format, or medium, being exploited? Is the material legal? These are more objective filtering criteria than apply at earlier stages.

(4) Digital aggregation: At this stage, resources are informally aggregated in a community-driven way. Digital aggregation involves using social links that either already exist (and may, or may not, have played a role in the initial aggregation at Stage 2), or which are discovered at the digital creation stage. Once again, this process may be supported by a DLC.

(5) Sequencing and curation: Sequencing is when the aggregation process takes on a more structured form. The collection of resources begins to demonstrate its potential to solve problems or drive learning outcomes both within and outside the community. Learning pathways or other broader narratives begin to be addressed through the aggregation process in a coherent way.

This is the stage at which curation comes into play. The subjective and intersubjective values assigned to the community informational resources by individuals and other community members, are validated here by interests that are partly external. This is a significant moment for the collection. If “curator” is broadly defined as “a person in charge of something … a guardian” (from Chambers English Dictionary), curation can therefore be defined as the management of a collection of resources at a fundamental level. As Simon (2010) recognises, and as our background discussion concluded, it is the level of participation in curation that is significant. Sequencing is the stage at which the resources’ quality begins to be judged by institutions that may still be familiar with the general context from which they emerged, but which are essentially external to the community. The role of a DLC here would be to facilitate the interaction across the boundary for mutual benefit, helping the community members reflect on, and thereby learn from, the interaction: but also helping the institution learn from the community.

(6) Social media aggregation: Their quality validated by a wide range of interests that remain local, resources that reach a certain standard – judged either by technical quality, informational quality, or widespread relevance and appeal – are then widely disseminated. The resources “go viral” in some form or another. The community that is now validating them and assigning them value is now much wider in scope and may exist in contexts that are quite distinct from that in which the resources initially emerged.

The effective use of a social media aggregator, such as a blog or a wiki or a more dedicated social media aggregator offered by a provider, would represent a shift in the participants’ mastery of a range of social media. This would indicate that they have a range of effective digital skills to use to curate digital content, as well as to negotiate with a number of third parties including groups, such as local history groups, as well as cultural and educational institutions.

(7) Accreditation: Collections of resources may be recognised as definitive, publishable, in need of protection, or other such formal recognition of their value (quality, distinctiveness, relevance). Individuals and communities may have their work on the resources recognised by the formal award of credit from an educational provider, or some other mark of status or achievement, perhaps an exhibition, further commissions, etc.

It must be stressed that this model is an ideal. In reality, later stages are often never reached, and some may be bypassed, or take place without the participation of effective learning champions, adequate levels of community participation, and so on. 


Di Blas, N., Fiore, A., Mainetti, L., Vergallo, R., & Paolini, P. (2014). A portal of educational resources: providing evidence for matching pedagogy with technology. Research in Learning Technology22. https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v22.22906

Learning object repositories can be difficult to navigate, and the educational material difficult to integrate into online courses. Schoonenboom, Sligte, and Kliphuis (2009) observe that the literature on the reuse of learning materials has largely focused on the development of materials. The authors developed guidelines that support staff and/or management in cases of (un)successful reuse of existing digital materials and provided methods for teachers in higher education in such cases. 

The authors observe that the tendency of current repositories is to retain content in the form of a broad mix of text documents, videos, audio files and graphics (EDRENE 2009). It also emerges that a few repositories include non-digital materials (e.g. text books). A little less than a third of repositories surveyed have a mix between free and commercial material. What is relatively clear is that educational repositories are mainly created to share learning objects, often characterised by metadata or ready-made courses, intended as an organised set of learning resources related to a specific discipline. However, they largely fail to provide a whole, fully described and reproducible learning experience that can clarify when, where and how materials, digital or not, were used; how the learning process was organised; what educational goals were planned; which educational benefits were generated and what the role of the technology was.


It’s not an in-depth analysis, just a quick look at one particular journal. However, I’m pleased with what I came away with. If you’re reading this and know related stuff I should be aware of, please share in the comments below!

Weeknote 29/2019

I’m writing this sitting in my lounge while my daughter is watching Gym Stars (her favourite programme) and my son is upstairs playing Fortnite (his favourite game). My wife has just served up some magnificent scones with clotted cream and jam to celebrate the end of the school term.

Even though it’s almost a decade since I worked in schools, my brain still works in academic terms. It’s hard for it not to, really, given the lives of the other three members of my immediate family are school-centred.

I’ve got another couple of weeks before we head off on holiday. There’s plenty to get done, but it’s all manageable, I think. The clickable prototype that Ivan has been working on is looking great, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with the community next week.

This week, MoodleNet started federating! That meant that this week we shared a blog post for expressions of interest for our Federation testing programme. We’ve still got work to do on the front end and back end, but we’re aiming for this to kick off in about a month’s time.

I was looking forward to the Scouts Beach BBQ this week but, unfortunately, it rained. That meant we decamped to the Methodist church (where are meetings are usually held) and cooked the burgers, etc. in the ovens. Thankfully, everyone still came, so it was a good end-of-term event.

For Thought Shrapnel this week I wrote a pretty long article with an equally-long title: The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge. I recorded a microcast entitled Voice assistants, the gig economy, and… giving it all up? And then I shared some interesting links in Friday federations.

In other news, I’m taking a bit more of a back seat with the co-op over the next few months. I’m not leaving, just with everything else on I need to focus on other things and know that my colleagues have my back. Which is a great feeling.

Finally, I bought a bunch of books in the Verso sale. Their deals are so good, as you get the ebook and hard copy for the price you’d often pay just for the ebook. This time around I went for:

Next week, I’ll be working around the logistics of ensuring our two children get to various summer activities (football camp, church holiday club, etc.) while ensuring everything is going according to plan with MoodleNet.


Photo taken by me of a wonderful sign in a neighbours porch: “Watch out for the cat” (in Italian)

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