Posted by & filed under learning design, oldsmooc, oldsmooc-w1, Sugata Mitra.

I’ve spent much of the week reflecting in different ways on Yishay Mor’s comment in the opening presentation about learning materials being ‘objects with intent’. To which I asked, by email, ‘whose intent?’

From there there’s one rabbit hole you can disappear down which is the whole ‘is it learning design or is it teaching design?’ question. I avoided that, but in so doing, fell down a different hole just beside it that has snagged many before me. This is the ‘to what extent can learning be designed?’ question.

Concentrating on learning materials is one thing, because obviously there are design choices you have to make. But learning itself is something different. Designing learning is not the same as designing an MP3 player or a kitchen utensil. This is where the intent of the learner, as opposed to the teacher, comes in. To someone with the intent to learn, almost anything can be a learning experience (John Cage shows one way). The same is not true of someone with the intent to listen to recorded music or chop onions.

Learning is an emergent property of life. Sugata Mitra says some interesting things about this. At a grand, evolutionary scale, learning happens even without intent to learn: intent to survive is sufficient.

Now, I did warn you this was a rabbit hole. Anyone who’s got a class to teach at 9am tomorrow could reasonably ask WTF has this got to do with anything?!

But what I’m interested in is how to design contexts and environments to nurture, accelerate, unlock or direct this emergence, like Mitra’s design of the famous Hole in the Wall facilities and Self Organised Learning Environments. The Hole in the Wall terminals may look like they’re just plonked there, but actually feature many design characteristics that discourage, for example, adults monopolising the terminals to surf for p*rn, as explained in his e-book. Hopefully this explains my dream project, though it seems unlikely that it will fly.

So all this leads into the importance of context for learning. And I’ve, literally, just this moment seen that that’s what we’re covering in Week 2. Which is good.

[Side note: the nosy and/or observant may notice that the previous posts on this blog provide a history of previous MOOCs I’ve started and abandoned due to frustration, lack of commitment, or just life…]

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Welcome to! This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

Happy blogging!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Welcome to After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.

Posted by & filed under analytics, APML, Courses, Google, LAK12, personalisation, privacy.

Thanks to Erik Duval for pointing us last week to the Atttention Trust, from which I found myself (via a route I can no longer find!) rediscovering Attention Profiling Markup Language (APML). Ever since I first heard of it, I loved the idea of APML, which I understand as basically giving us a standard format in which we could extract all our own attention data — the music we listen to, the sites we browse, the photos we tag, the bookmarks we store, the bon mots we tweet — and then aggregate and analyse them. What a great resource for personal reflection, learning and development that could be!

Here’s the stirring APML call to arms:

APML is about something bigger than technology. It’s about your right to take ownership and control of your Attention Profile so that you can share it with the services you know and love.

From AttentionTrust – your Attention rights include:

  1. Property: You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
  2. Mobility: You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to. You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
  3. Economy: You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return. Your attention has WORTH.
  4. Transparency: You can see exactly how your attention is being used. You can DECIDE who you trust.

And here’s something rather less inspiring that I wrote in a book:

Possibly for commercial reasons, these providers don’t currently let you export your data in a format that could be imported directly into other services. You can’t easily take your purchase history and ratings on Amazon and use them to get a better quality of service from Barnes and Noble. However, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, recently indicated his company’s intent to avoid such protective practices, saying, “The more we can… let users move their data around, never trap the data of an end user, let them move it if they don’t like us, the better.” It remains to be seen how many providers will follow suit, but some are already collaborating to create standards to give you more control over your “attention data,” the profile of things you read, listen to, and watch (see, for example, Attention Trust and Attention Profiling Mark-up Language).

Openness and transparency will again be the best strategy for the service providers involved. As’s Martin Stiksel told me:

We collect data about the music you listen to, and we make no bones about that fact: people can see it in the personal charts we provide on everyone’s public profiles, so they come to expect it and to enjoy the benefits that the data bring.

The catch? The book was published five years ago (actually written six years ago). Since then there’s been no visible progress in moving APML to widespread acceptance and take-up. The Attention Trust seems to have folded — at least, their domain is not responding. The last message on the public APML mailing list was in 2010. Dead in the water?

Meanwhile, think of what Facebook has achieved in the last 5-6 years, driving a coach and horses through our Attention Rights as enumerated above.

What’s going on here? Do people really not care about this stuff? Not the EFF in the US or the Open Rights Group in the UK? I’m a member of the latter: I guess I should ask them!

As a footnote, Google takes a lot of flak for its privacy policies, some of it deserved. But at least senior managers have committed themselves to statements like the one I quoted from Eric Schmidt, and at least the Data Liberation Front exists to pursue this agenda for Google products and services. You don’t get that from Mr privacy-is-over-get-used-to-it Zuckerberg.

Posted by & filed under academic analytics, analytics, Courses, Douglas Rushkoff, LAK12, learning analytics, Purdue Signals, scientific management.

I don’t suppose anyone is actually ‘following’ this blog in an active sense (only two visits to the site in the last week!), but if they had been, they might be forgiven for  thinking that dropped out of the Learning Analytics course. There have been a couple of moments when I wondered that myself. However, I have been keeping up with the reading, even if I haven’t been blogging. Firstly what stop me from writing in, Weeks 2 & 3, was that a lot of what I was reading confirmed some of the fears and maybe prejudices that I wrote about in earlier #LAK posts here. Here’s an example: the Knewton sales video:

It’s the publishers’ interests that get mentioned first: “lifetime relationship with student [read: customer lock-in and continuous revenue stream] and an experience that is unique and can’t be shared, reused or pirated.” I know what the intent is behind the “can’t be shared” statement, but, really, think about it: do we really want learners to have experiences they can’t share with each other? That cuts off one of the most powerful channels of learning — just think of this course, for a start — right there. Learners’ interests do get mentioned in the end. Once again, it’s at the end, after every other stakeholder you can think of. I could go on. But mostly the reason I stopped blogging in those weeks was that I feared I’d start sound like a broken record, and a slightly bitter broken record at that, just whingeing about the same basic points …Like how the UMBC and Purdue Signals systems represent an ostensibly helpful, but ultimately insidious, intervention that encourages students to self-police themselves and never step too far from the well-trodden path of their peers and predecessors…

Then Week 4 happened. Though I’d hoped to get back on the blogging horse then, other stuff intervened — principally an immovable work deadline. I also took time to read Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed and that gave me a critical purchase on the learning analytics field that I’d felt had been missing from the course readings up to then (happily remedied in Week 5). My perspective is that many of the uses of learning analytics tend towards the “be programmed” end of the spectrum. There’s a strong flavour of old F.W. Taylor-style Scientific Management that pervades many of the applications. And, yes, I know some may respond to this immediately, “No, no, that may apply to academic analytics, but we’re doing learning analytics; we’re the good guys.” Well… that’s like saying the Tavistock Institute were the antidote to Taylorism. Sure, they had a softer, more qualitative, more human-centred ethos. But with the hindsight of history we see that what they shared with Taylorism was some fundamental assumptions and orientations that outweighed their differences. And actually I think most flavours of analytics share those same orientations:

  • the focus on efficiency,
  • on delineating “best practice” and then providing the means to replicate it,
  • the treatment of learners/workers as experimental subjects, and
  • also as objects to be manipulated, or subjected to “interventions” in the name of efficiency and optimisation.

Right, hopefully that’s got that out of my system. As long as I don’t fall off the horse again, next posts may feature more on what I take from Program or Be Programmed and also more on the good stuff that cropped up in Week 5, particularly (whatever happened to) APML and data liberation.