Many years ago, when I was very small, I can remember talking to my maternal grandmother about an article she’d seen in the newspaper. It was about an eclipse which was predicted to take place on 11th August 1999, and would be the first to be visible in the UK since 1927.
At the time it seemed like such a long way into the future. Who could imagine being 18 years of age? When the time came, I ended up driving the length of the country with some friends to see the eclipse in its full glory. My grandmother, sadly, had passed away peacefully some months before.
To a great extent, I feel like I’m living in the future. It’s easy to use the conceptual shorthand of ‘flying cars’ to represent what we were expecting technologically at this point in time, but I’m not sure I would have been massively surprised if, when I was younger, you’d described the world as it currently stands.
I don’t think we live in ‘unprecedented’ times. Human beings are human beings, at the end of the day. It’s just that we’ve got some more technology which extends our reach and increases our impact, for better or worse (usually worse).
I posted my 2019 retrospective on Christmas Eve after returning from a short family holiday to Iceland. It’s a magical place, particularly just before Christmas and we had a wonderful time.
What did threaten to put a slight dampener on things was when I managed to lose the keys to our rental car in the snow somewhere near Kerið, a volcanic crater lake. Note to self: zip keys in pocket next time!
Other than that, we stayed in three different places, and experienced wonderful places, vistas, sunsets, and people. We’re definitely going to have to go back.
While I was there, I started reading Independent People by Halldór Laxness. What a novel! It really helps you understand how brutally difficult life in Iceland was before electricity and modern conveniences.
This week, I’ve been trying to get back to some kind of decent routine. It hasn’t stopped me snaffling mince pies and eating festive leftovers, but I have, on the whole, eaten more healthily, and done more exercise.
The stimulus to this was tipping 90kg for the first time just after Christmas. It’s amazingly easy to drift into a less-healthy routine and convince yourself you haven’t changed that much.
I worked two days this week for Moodle, continuing to lead the MoodleNet project. Next week will be the first where I’m splitting my work differently: three days for MoodleNet, and two days working with We Are Open Co-op.
The rest of the MoodleNet team are mostly back on Monday, so I spent my time catching up and planning. I’ve moved all of our day-to-day issues to GitLab, because I think that these should be next to our codebase. Also, because Jira.
At Discours.es this week I’ve collected a bunch of quotations from my morning reading, with perhaps my favourite being:
One of the unpardonable sins, in the eyes of most people, is for a man to go about unlabelled. The world regards such a person as the police do an unmuzzled dog, not under proper control.
New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet, although we did all go into Newcastle to see the fireworks at 6pm. It feels a bit more wasteful every year as the displays go on longer and longer, to be honest. I can’t quite believe that Sydney went ahead with their display in the midst of the bushfires ravaging Australia.
On New Year’s Day we went for a bracing walk in the Simonside Hills near Rothbury. We always enjoy that, and the views were amazing given the light. The whole world and their dog was there, though, obviously.
I re-start CBT next week which I’m very much looking forward to. I’ll also be doing more MoodleNet planning, as well as finalising the pre-conference AMICAL workshop I’m delivering on digital literacies the following week!
As ever, but even more so now I’ve got a bit more capacity, if you know of an organsiation that could do with our help, please let me know!
Photo taken on a New Year’s Day walk in the Simonside Hills, Northumberland
Let’s deal first of all with the huge, blonde-haired elephant in the room. While I expected a Conservative majority in this week’s General Election, I predicted +50 before going to bed on Thursday night, rather than the +66 that resulted.
That the British people are bored of Brexit is manifestly obvious, and has been for a while. Doing anything other than, as the Tories said, “getting Brexit done” would lead to not only dragging out the saga, but deeper divisions between an already-divided nation.
That being said, I voted Labour to prevent the Conservatives getting in where we live. I usually vote for the Greens, but it ended up being quite a close-run thing. For example, the constituency next to us, Blyth Valley, was part of the ‘red wall’ that crumbled this time around.
The reason Blyth Valley is interesting is that it’s a historically-Labour area, a place of mass unemployment, poverty and food banks. It’s incredible the way that the impacts of Tory-imposed austerity have been packaged up and sold as being related to our membership of the European Union. This is the same EU that has invested in infrastructure up here in the North East, including broadband and roads,
I could go on, especially about the way that the left have reacted to the identity politics of the right. But I won’t. Instead I’ll stare into my cup of tea, consider my family’s options, and try not to get into any conversations about politics with my neighbours this Christmas.
On Friday, in the immediate aftermath of the election, I was in Newcastle with representatives of the co-ops that form the CoTech network at the Winter Gathering. I was expecting despondency, but after acknowleding the result, we moved swiftly on to more pressing things such as building the co-operative economy and improving the ways we work together.
As ever, I did a bit of light facilitation, and got stuck into questions around potential membership fees for the network, skill-sharing, and decision-making procedures. CoTech contains a great bunch of people, including an increasing number in the North East, so I look forward to our co-op working more closely with some of them in 2020.
Other than the above, I spent three days working on MoodleNet this week. That included:
Presenting as part of the ALT Online Winter Conference, with a recording of the session posted on the blog.
Attending a Moodle dev training workshop on accessibility.
Catching up with a number of team members either 1:1 or in small groups.
Meeting with Martin Dougiamas and doing a deep dive into the future of MoodleNet. There was also a management meeting this week.
Working on a 3-year plan and roadmap for 2020.
Next week, I’m working on MoodleNet-related activities between Monday and Wednesday, and then heading off to Iceland with my family on Thursday. I’m really looking forward to the holiday, but also just to relaxing for a couple of weeks.
After all, who knows what will be in store for Team Belshaw in 2020?
This week has been a bit of an odd one, mainly because it began with my wife’s birthday and then threw me a bit of a curveball in the middle.
I usually plan out my weeks on a Monday morning (or if I’m Very Organised™ perhaps the prior Friday afternoon). This week I had everything mapped out, primarily because this weekend I’m off on my second Mountain Leader weekend, which involves wild camping in the Lake District. I had things to buy and stuff to prepare.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from my father asking me to go immediately to the hospital where he was with my mother. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but it transpired she’d suffered (suspected) temporary temporal lobe amnesia.
What I found fascinating was that, over the course of around four hours, what had been a complete memory ‘black hole’ for her slowly started to re-appear. The period between Sunday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, none of which she could previously remember, came back to her. All, that is, except for the stressful event which seemed to trigger it.
The human brain is an amazing, but fragile, thing. My Grandmother lost her short-term memory entirely before she died, and her sister (my Great Aunt) had Alzheimer’s for the last few years of her life. I’m glad my mother seems to have recovered pretty much immediately.
Everything else this week therefore paled into into insignificance. I ended up taking Friday afternoon off work to get things bought, packed, and organised for the weekend. Thankfully, there’s a Montane outlet near my parents’ house, so I was able to feed two birds with one scone.
On the MoodleNet front, we’re on the home stretch towards the Global Moot in Barcelona. This week, we decided that instead of having a separate federation testing period and then the ‘launch’, we’d do things a bit differently. We think it makes more sense to start the federation testing period, and carry that through the Global Moot and on into December.
Talking of December, we’ve submitted a proposal for the ALT Online Winter Conference, and drafted a post about why we’ll be moving our code repositories away from gitlab.com (hint).
Other than that, I’ve been laying the groundwork for a security review of MoodleNet to take place before the federation testing begins. I’ve also been grappling with Aha! and liaising with a Moodle Partner about developing a plugin for Moodle LMS. It’s also been fantastic to welcome back Mayel de Borniol after his month-long parental leave.
I went to a climate change event, organised by Northumberland County Council. They seem to have a decent enough plan, but it’s not really worthy of a climate emergency. And I said as much, along with plans a bit more radical than they were proposing.
Striking as part of the Global Climate Strike. We took the kids out of school and through to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to give them their first sense of activism. We made signs and everything. Awesomely, Moodle employees were encouraged to join in the strikes.
Writing an updated version of the eulogy I’m going to give at the memorial for Dai Barnes next weekend. It can never capture all of his different facets, but I hope it gives people there some insight into them.
Continuing leading the work around MoodleNet. Mayel, our technical architect, is on parental leave, but Ivan (designer and front-end developer) is back, and we’re in pretty good shape at the moment. I’ve been talking with Moodle Partners about further development of the Moodle LMS plugin that our team prototyped.
Next week is my last at home before a fair bit of travel between now and the end of November. Some of that is for a Mountain Leader course I’m going on (three weekends in different parts of the country), some for work, and some for what I’d loosely call ‘professional development’ (MozFest!)
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 Technology, 26. 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)
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 2014, 2015; 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 2014, 2015; 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 Search, Share, Reuse, 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:
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.
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.
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).
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 Technology, 22. 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!
I don’t know why I don’t just book time off every half-term. Unlike the summer holidays, where the kids get into a rhythm of entertaining themselves, as a parent you always feel ‘on-call’ when they have just one week off school.
Thankfully, my wife was around, but I felt like my work was an inconvenience to family life this week. And, after all, why do we work? Part of it is to have the money to spend time with your family doing fun things. I don’t feel like I enjoyed the fruits of my labour this week.
There were good reasons why I didn’t book holidays this week, though. One of them was because it was Product Management Planning Week at Moodle. These have been a bit sporadic since their inception just after I joined the organisation at the start of last year. So it was good that I got to spend some time, albeit virtually, with fellow Product Managers.
Back on the home fromt, my wife’s sister and family were up last weekend. They’re so much more chilled-out than our family, which tends to schedule all the things and treat everything as a competition. Sometimes you need a welcome encouragement just to relax.
Other than that, it’s been good to see support come in via Open Collective for We Are Open community projects like Badge Wiki. We’re planning to launch a forum soon for the discussion of badges, among other things. This will go under the umbrella of our ‘Learning Fractal’ sub-brand, which we’re currently using only for our newsletter.
Finally, I took the opportunity of some spare hours on Friday while my son was at trials for the Newcastle Eagles academy to go to the Laing Art Gallery. I’ve been trying to carve out time to see Chris Killip‘s photos of the decline of shipbuilding on the Tyne since reading about the exhibition in The Guardian earlier this year. The photos are amazing and the story is a sad but evocative one.
Next week, I’m getting back into the regime of taking Fridays as my non-Moodle day. I’ll miss having my week split in two, but on the other hand it should give me more scope to get up some mountains and get 20 Quality Mountain Days under my belt!
This week has been one of adjustments, for a couple of reasons.
First, my wife is back doing supply teaching, meaning that I have to be more flexible in my working arrangements so that I can drop off and pick up my daughter from school.
Second, two new people joined the MoodleNet team this week, so we’ve take the opportunity to shake things up a bit. Other than me, everyone else on the team will soon be doing 2.5 days per week. So we’ve agreed to have team meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, doing the bulk of our work together between those times.
This week, however, I was already committed to a co-op day on Wednesday with my We Are Open colleagues. It was enjoyable, even though we were talking about hard things like money. We’ve put a call out for people and organisations to fund Badge Wiki, which you can read about on our blog. Thanks to those who have already stepped up!
Other than that, I’ve helped ship MoodleNet v0.9.3 which is looking good, said goodbye to Alex Castaño, hello to Karen Kleinbauerů and James Laver (our new backend developers), done some planning for future releases, and produced a report for the rest of the Moodle Management team.
After a three month hiatus due to playing the magnificent Red Dead Redemption 2 together, Dai Barnes and I have finally got around to recording another episode of the TIDE podcast. Of course, it didn’t quite go to plan and Dai was called away to deal with a pupil (he lives and works at a boarding school) about halfway through the recording.
I’ve been doing plenty of other stuff as well, including writing for Thought Shrapnel every day (are you supporting that yet?), going geocaching with Scouts, taking my daughter to her first swimming gala, booking a family holiday to Iceland in December to see the northern lights, getting better at FIFA 19 Seasons, finishing Jamie Bartlett’s excellent book The People vs Tech, having my last Moodle coaching session (all of the Management team have had them), and trying to fit in daily exercise.
Next week, it’s half-term, and as I hinted at above I’m moving my non-Moodle from Wednesday to Friday. That means I’ve got a glorious Bank Holiday weekend with the in-laws, before spending Tuesday to Thursday planning with the rest of the Moodle Product Managers. I’m not sure whether that sounds intense or pretty chilled.
This week, several people have asked me whether I’m ‘nervous’ about the first test of MoodleNet, a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content. We’ve invited 100 people (50 English testers, 50 Spanish) to have a look and give us some feedback over a three-week period starting from next Tuesday.
To answer their question: no, I’m not. That’s not because of arrogance or misplaced optimism, it’s because of something that Baltasar Gracián talks about in The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence, a book I read from every morning:
Don’t arouse excessive expectations from the start. Everything initially highly praised is commonly discredited when it subsequently fails to live up to expectation. Reality can never match our expectations, because it’s easy to imagine perfection, and very difficult to achieve it. Imagination weds desire and then conceives things far greater than they actually are… Good beginnings serve to arouse curiosity, not to guarantee the outcome. Things turn out better when the reality exceeds our initial idea and is greater than we anticipated. (Baltasar Gracián)
I think we could sum that up with ‘managing expectations’. It’s kind of the opposite of Silicon Valley hype, and useful when you’re developing a product for the long-term.
They were testing a value proposition, something like: “Do people want to tell the world what they’re up to in text-message sized updates?”
The answer, of course, turned out to be in the affirmative. But it took a while. I joined Twitter in February 2007, a few months after it launched. I loved it and, as I was teaching at the time, ran Twitter workshops for my colleagues. Most of them appreciated my enthusiasm, but didn’t think it would catch on.
Twitter took about five years to go mainstream. Here’s a potted history of that time period from the Buffer blog:
July 2006: ‘Twttr’ is available to the public
October 2006: Sign up for Twitter without your phone number
May 2007: You can block others and Twitter gets a mobile site
May 2007: Twitter gets an @replies column
August 2007: Twitter Profile Search goes live
September 2007: Tracking Twitter alias #Hashtags goes live
September 2008: Twitter gets Trending Topics
March 2009: Twitter introduces “Suggested Users”
October 2009: Twitter launches Twitter Lists
November 2009: Twitter unveils the new native RT function
March 2010: You can now add your location to your Tweets
April 2010: Twitter launches “Promoted Tweets”
September 2010: Twitter introduces the “New Twitter”
June 2011: Twitter launches its own link shortening service
So let’s just stand back and look at this for a moment. The functionality that we would say was pretty core to Twitter took a good while to roll out. Another interesting fact, not really highlighted in the Buffer post, is that many of these involved Twitter responding to what users were doing or had invented.
For example, people were using ‘RT’ to manually retweet posts way before November 2009. Meanwhile, hashtags were an invention of Chris Messina, and initially rejected by Twitter as too nerdy. Users who like what you’re trying to achieve will help you reach that goal.
Before Twitter became a publicly-traded company in 2013 it was much more focused on the ecosystem it was creating. One of the best things about early Twitter was that there was a huge range of clients you could use to access the service. In fact, the ‘pull-to-refresh‘ functionality that’s in almost every mobile app these days was invented by a third-party Twitter client.
Returning to MoodleNet, the reason it’s taken a year to get to this point is because of all of the preparation we’ve done, and all of the other kinds of testing we’ve done up to this point. So this is just the next step in a long journey.
Our value proposition is: “Do educators want to join communities to curate collections of resources?” The answer might be negative. In that case, we’ll go back to the drawing board. My hunch, though, borne out through tens of hours of conversation and experimentation, is that there’s something in this, and it’s worth pursuing.
All in all, I’m excited about this next step and looking forward to getting user feedback on the fantastic work my team have done.
Image: sketch of early Twitter taken from a 2018 tweet
I knew this had been coming for the last few years, really, but today I discovered that Path, the social network I use with my family, is shutting down. We’ve been using it since 2010 to share photos of our children growing up, and to keep each other up-to-date with family life.
Last year, I started paying for Path, as a small effort towards making it sustainable. Obviously not enough people were doing so. To be honest, the value proposition for paid versus free accounts wasn’t exactly awesome. After all, there’s only so many sticker packs you can use!
So my family will be looking for something that replaces Path. This turns out to be something that’s both of personal and professional interest to me at the moment, as I’m leading the MoodleNet project.
My first port of call when I’m looking for an alternative to some software is alternativeto.net. Their crowdsourced list of apps that could replace Path doesn’t quite do the job, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to think about why that is, so fired up Google Slides and created image at the top of this post. You can remix it if you want.
My point here is to show that there’s many kinds of social interactions. I’m focusing on what my family uses, so haven’t put MoodleNet on there, but if I had, I think we’d be looking at it being right in the middle. The small grey arrows show the direction of travel I think that each app is, or has been, on.
It would be easy to look at this and conclude that we’re living in a world where everything’s moving to being more synchronous and public, but I’m not sure that’s true. Ideally, I reckon we want the option to communicate with one another in all four quadrants here.
What do you think? Is there anything out there which would replace Path? We’ve been trying out a private Google+ community, but it’s somehow not as… fun.
Update: after a quick dalliance with Google+ we’re currently trying out Vero.
TL;DR: I’m leading a new project called MoodleNet that is currently described as “a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content”.
I don’t know about you, but I like getting involved with projects on the ‘ground floor’, so to speak. Figuring things out excites me, as does taking a bunch of possibilities and figuring out a way forward. It’s with this in mind that I’d like to invite you to get involved with a new project I’m leading: MoodleNet.
It’s really early days and, in fact, we’re still figuring out what MoodleNet actually is. Suffice to say that Martin Dougiamas, Founder and CEO of Moodle, sold me on it enough that I’ve agreed to spend four days per week on it from January 2018. One way he’s described it is as, “a new open social media platform for educators, focussed on professional development and open content”. Sounds good to me!
If you’ve been involved in any of the work I’ve helped establish before, such as Open Badges or the Web Literacy Map, then I want you to know that you’re very welcome as part of this new project I’m leading. So are those who are entirely new to this way of working! As you’d expect, we’ll be working entirely in the open, making progress with a combination of community input, business priorities, and decisions taken by Moodle HQ.
Job one is to write a white paper that helps tell the story of what MoodleNet could be. I loved the approach Erin Knight took with the original Open Badges for Lifelong Learning working paper, where she explained how badges could help in various scenarios. I need help in defining those scenarios for MoodleNet .
No matter whether you’ve got ten minutes, ten hours, or ten days to contribute to the MoodleNet project, your time and experience is valued. I’d love it if you could check out the work so far, introduce yourself in the MoodleNet forums, and perhaps help out with white paper. Thank you in advance!
Some people may wonder what taking on this new role as MoodleNet Lead means for my consultancy business, Dynamic Skillset — and for the co-operative I co-founded, We Are Open.
This opportunity to lead an open-source project that could help so many educators and learners was too good to pass up! I’ve really enjoyed full-time consultancy with a range of clients, but it’s time to get my teeth into something longer-term.
Given that I’ll be working four days per week with Moodle, I still have scope for additional consultancy and working through the co-op. Feel free to get in touch as usual! It’s just that now my time will just be even more precious than usual, and I’ll have to lean on my co-op colleagues to a greater degree.