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‘E-learning and digital cultures’ has been….

Monday, December 21st, 2009

…a 12-week course element of the fully-online University of Edinburgh MSc in E-learning. The course finished in December 2009.

It was an experiment in using an open-access, disaggregated learning environment which pulled together content, readings, tweets, blog postings and other social media in an attempt to explore what is most interesting not only about theories of digital culture, but also about the forms and practices of contemporary e-learning.

‘E-learning and digital cultures’ was created using WordPress. The site will stay up at least until we run the course again, in September 2010. Access to students’ blogs and lifestreams, to all course content, and to the visual and ethnographic artefacts created during this course are all available from here. Only copyright-protected readings and a discussion board are protected by passwords. Final assignments will also be up, once they are finished in mid January.

For more information about what we’ve been doing on this course, contact the tutors – Sian Bayne and Jen Ross, School of Education, University of Edinburgh. Finally – many thanks to everyone who made this course, in every sense!

our penultimate week

Monday, November 30th, 2009

As you know, there are no group activities for the next couple of weeks, to give everyone a chance to really focus on the assignment. Jen has posted our skype ‘open office’ times below, so please drop by and chat about your assignment then, if it’d be helpful to you. Or use email or the discussion board – whichever works best for you.

The main thing is that you do at least have a discussion with your tutor about your topic and the form of your assignment, before you get too far down the road of writing/making it. Jen and I will be online for this until the end of next week, and the submission date is 3 January, midnight.

The last few weeks have gone so quickly and have been such fun – personally I am going to really miss EDC once it’s over : )

Look forward to talking more about your ideas over the coming week…

more on the final assignment topic

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

We wanted to clarify what’s expected in terms of the topic for the final assignment, as the course guide is perhaps a little ambiguous on this. The expectation is that you should write ‘on an aspect of the course content defined by yourself’ – this can be any aspect of the course content. While the content of the third block, on critical perspectives, is likely to feed into your final topic in some form (as stated in the course guide), it doesn’t have to form the focus of it.

So, while you can’t replicate work from the visual artefact and the ethnography in the final assignment, you can go back to some of the ideas generated during those activities for this final piece work, if you want to. Or you can return to the themes we looked at during the film festival.

Please drop Jen or I an email if it would help to exchange ideas one-to-one – and to discuss with the whole group, there is a dedicated topic area in the discussion board.

I hope this helps – when you’ve pretty much decided on a topic area and a medium for the assignment, please just run it past your tutor, and contact us at any point for help with any of this.

home straits: week 9

Monday, November 16th, 2009

The ethnographies are all up now, and the work that’s gone into these, and into the constructive and supportive commentary, has been genuinely impressive. The studies have opened up and dusted down corners of the web which I had no idea existed, and have engaged critically and reflexively with essential questions like ‘what constitutes community?’, ‘what is ethnography?’, ‘how do the ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ intersect?’, ‘what counts as internet research?’ and many, many others. I’d really recommend anyone who hasn’t yet had a read of the ethnographies to spend an hour or so on this when you have it.

Meanwhile, we continue this week with the readings on cyborgism, posthumanism and related critical theories. These will lead into our skype chat next week on wednesday, when we’ll talk about applying some of these ideas to online pedagogy. There have been some really great additional readings, videos and links coming through on Twitter to help with these readings – many thanks everyone for those.

Finally, the wallwisher on being posthuman is starting to look really good so do keep posting to this when inspired to. Remember to log out of wallwisher if you want to post anonymously.

See you in the blogs and on Twitter – have a good week.

all the ethnographies

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Thanks Sibylle and Silvana for getting things rolling! We’ve made a page for the collected ethnographies.

You can also link to this from the right hand menu now.

Looking forward to more links and comments!

(week) 7 is a lucky number!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Time passes by and we’re now in the final week of block 2. I get the sense from the discussion board and the blogs that everyone’s working hard at the ethnography – none are actually up yet but I think they are very much on the way. When yours is ready, just post a comment to the ‘building your ethnography’ page to say where it is, and tweet to #ededc too. We’ll collate links together in a single page to make things easier. The earlier in the week you get yours up, the more time there is for comments from the team!

Finally, there seems to be good support for the idea that in weeks 8 and 9 we stick with the blogs and peer commentary rather than take discussion into the discussion board, so let’s do that. We’ll also have ‘bring a friend to class’ over that period, so let us know if you’re introducing someone. If the friends are willing, we can also post up their names and a bit about them in a new page in the course site – so do give us that information if you can.

Best of luck with the ethnographising – as always, shout if you need help of any kind from the group, or from your tutors.

ethical issues

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

As Tony mentioned in discussion, the Association of Internet Researchers guidelines are still a good starting point on thinking through ethical issues, though they are getting old now. The questions they raise do help in terms of establishing whether there are ethical issues that have serious implications for your own micro-studies though.

1) What ethical expectations are established by the venue?
the greater the acknowledged publicity of the venue, the less obligation there may be to protect individual privacy, confidentiality, right to informed consent, etc.

2) Who are the subjects posters / authors / creators of the material and/or inter/actions under study?
the greater the vulnerability of the author/subject – the greater the obligation of the researcher to protect the author/subject.

3) What are the initial ethical expectations/assumptions of the authors/subjects being studied ?
do participants in this environment assume/believe that their communication is private?

4) What ethically significant risks does the research entail for the subject(s)?
if the content of a subject’s communication were to become known beyond the confines of the venue being studied – would harm likely result?

Perhaps the best way forward would be to ask these questions of your own proposed domain of study, and if you have serious doubts on any of these points just choose something else. This is a small-scale, essentially 2-week activity, in which only something very contained can be achieved. So in addressing the questions above, I suggest you would likely want to go for a community (or field) which is:

1) as public domain as possible
2) definitely not involving the vulnerable, as far as can be established (ie no children, those explicitly with mental health issues, etc)
3) try to stick to communities where there is no reasonable expectation that the communication taking place is private (ie YouTube is probably OK, much of Facebook probably isn’t: see Michela Clari’s paper in the secondary readings for an example of work around a Flickr ‘community’)
4) if there’s even a suspicion of possible risk to participants in your research or publication of the analysis, avoid the field

I think you would want to avoid the need to gain consent in such a small-scale piece of work, though there may be instances where it feels OK just to post a message letting people know you’re doing the research and to let you know if they don’t want you to cite them, particularly if you are researching a community of which you are a part.

One final point – if you have doubts about ethical implications for your own study, please talk to your tutor about them. Not that our judgement is going to particularly be more apt than yours, but just that convention in the School of Education is that at Masters level ethical issues are cleared at the level of the supervisor/tutor rather than by our ethics committee. That just means that Jen and I carry ultimate responsibility as far as the School is concerned, if anything goes wrong!

I hope all this doesn’t seem too constraining. It’s always going to be an option to come back to an activity like this for a more sustained piece of research for the dissertation.

Finally, please share your links on ethical issues in internet research by using the delicious tag edcethics.

Onward to block 2

Monday, October 19th, 2009

The visual artefacts have been fantastic – I had real trouble tearing myself away from them this weekend, there’s so much to say about each one. It makes no sense to try to summarise such rich diversity of  thinking and expression. However it does seem to me that a few themes have tended to dominate: the utopia/dystopia opposition; the question of text/image and the ways in which meaning emerges differently across different media; the nature of identity and the way we manage our digital existences across multiple nodes of the network; and – perhaps more subtly – the implications of all this for the digital ‘classroom’.

I think we should extend the commenting period for a few days, while also turning attention to the next block of study – it’s going to be interesting to see how these themes extend into the next few weeks. This is where you conduct a piece of ethnographic micro-research in an attempt to think through the notion of online ‘community’. The plan is that this week we will discuss ideas for communities that you’d like to look at, and share thoughts on media you might use for presenting your ethnography, while also doing the readings. We’ll kick off discussion in the – until now barely used! – discussion board and see how it goes. I imagine ideas will migrate from there to blogs and to Twitter.

After this week, you’ll be working largely alone in conducting and presenting your ethnography, though in week 7 we should have some good exchanges going on around the ethnographic representations as they start appearing. This seemed to work really well for the visual artefacts.

Thanks everyone for the work you’ve put in over the last few weeks – it’s been really terrific.

all the visual artefacts in one place

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

I thought it’d be helpful to collate them all together on one page – so here they are, so far:

http://digitalculture-ed.net/?page_id=460

I’ve added a link from the right hand menu too.

new things: adding avatars, tracking comments

Monday, October 5th, 2009

I’ve been busy this afternoon adding some new features to the blog, and here they are:

1. You can now upload your own photo to use as an avatar on the site, so that when you post comments on other blog posts (on this site), there will be an image beside your name. Log in to your blog admin control panel, click on ‘users’ then ‘your avatar’ and upload the image you want to use. You will then get the option to crop the image.

YouTube Preview Image

(okay, not this kind of avatar)

2. On the ‘lots and lots of blog posts‘ page, and on this page (below the recent tweets), you will now see the most recent comments on the site. You can subscribe to these in your own RSS reader if you like – the feed address is http://digitalculture-ed.net/global-comments-feed/

3. You can add your own comments from blog posts across the whole site to your lifestream! Unfortunately this will only work for comments from this afternoon, and only for comments you posted when you were logged in. If you want to include comments that don’t fit those criteria in your lifestream, copy and paste them to a new blog post or similar. But from today on, if you’re logged in when you comment, the following setup will work:

- go to your lifestream control panel.

- click ‘generic’ in the ‘add new feed’ section.

- add the following feed address: http://digitalculture-ed.net/wp-content/recent-global-author-comments-feed.php?author=USERID

- replace USERID above with your own blog user ID number (see list in comment below)

- name the feed something like ‘my EDC comments’ or similar.

- click ‘add feed’.

That should do it!