Friday, 17 September 2010

Activity-Based Learning


the VCILT has been since 2003 an active promoter of the pedagogical concept of activity-based learning where the students is provided with a number of learning scenarios rather than e-book versions of paper-based manuals. As mentioned the real drive at the VCILT to engage in such approaches came from the interactions that the academic staff engaged with high-profile researchers and practitioners like Daniel Schneider of TECFA, Pierre Tchounikine of LIUM and Gilbert Paquette of TELUQ , just to name a few, in the field of educational technology. The VCILT was also very fortunate to have the visit of people from the Center for Activity Theory and Developmental Work Research of the University of Helsinki who are involved in transformative pedagogies and work intensively on activity theory. Consequently, the academics of the VCILT embraced that approach which proposed a clear demarcation from the use of the web as only a new delivery medium for learning materials. It was clear that this concept would bring about a new paradigm in the teaching and learning of the University of Mauritius.

The two educational philosophies that influenced the VCILT's pedagogical approaches mainly came from the activity-theoretical method of conceiving the learning process together with Schneider's definition of project/activity-based learning. In one of the presentations that Daniel Schneider made in Mauritius, he argued that new pedagogies alone including project-based and collaborative learning do not guarantee automatic results. The role of the teacher was therefore still very crucial for meaningful and successful learning to occur. However, the teacher was not the same "know-it-all" version that we are accustomed to but mainly with a redefined role mainly that of a facilitator, orchestrator and manager of the pedagogical scenarios that he elaborates for the students. As orchestrator, the teacher can be seen as the one who is the author of the pedagogical scenarios and learning content. As facilitator, he is the one who is the pivotal point for learner support as he needs to be there to clarify concepts, resolve students' perceived deadlocks, and helping in the fuzzy parts of the learning activity. While the role of the teacher as manager is described by Schneider (2003) as "make sure that such loops are productive, e.g. that the students produce something, that it is task related, that they engage themselves in meta-reflection (look critically at their own work) and that they discuss and share with others", it is also important for the teacher to manage the affective side of the students' engagement in the learning activity.

The first problem which is of pedagogical nature, that can arise in such situations are the possibilities of over-structuring of the scenarios that result in the same 'spoonfeeding' technique that is so much criticized by proponents of socio-constructivism. It is this lack of too much structure in the learning activity steps that creates the fuzzy element to foster original thinking as well as unique and different solutions from the learners. The idea is to have semi-structured learning activities or scenarios to prevent learners to propose stereotyped work that look similar to each other.

Learners should have the freedom to propose their own solutions but in a negotiated way with the teacher. Daniel Schneider also concurs with this by highlighting the need for equilibrium between liberty and guidance (figure 3.1). 

The second issue is more complex, given that the teacher no longer performs one single role, but panoply of roles from orchestrator and facilitator to the management of the learning process. From experience, this can be a really difficult situation for the teacher who is more and more solicited by the students and at any time. The time that a lecturer has to devote with respect to project/activity-based learning also increases drastically with respect to the number of students and/or the number of learning activities to be monitored. It also depends on the number of courses being taught by one academic. While the first implementations of activity-based learning at the VCILT were within the Masters in Computer-Mediated Communications and Pedagogies course, the number of students was less than twenty and it was perfectly manageable for the academic. However, as the number of students started to grow and the VCILT started to diversify its courses, the workload of academics involved in activity-based pedagogies increased to a great extent. At some point, taking into account the constraints, the exigencies of service and other professional commitments, we tend to realize that having recourse to such efficient, innovative and competencies-based pedagogies are not affordable and sustainable by institutions in developing countries with limited resources.

On the other hand, after going through this painstaking process, the results are more than comforting for the practitioners when students are able to demonstrate the competencies they have developed. For instance, some years ago the VCILT offered a module on "Educational Technologies" which was offered as a general elective module. The course had three main learning activities and the outcome that students had to achieve was the production of an educational website. In the first learning activity they had to use concept mapping tool to devise an appropriate structure for their course. The second activity was based on presentation software to model a prototype of the final web based learning environment while the third activity was to actually learn to use a web authoring software to develop a small educational website. While the students came from different fields and with different levels of exposure and skills with respect to computers and information technology, they all (those who submitted their work) managed, in successive cohorts to achieve well above average in the course. The illustrations below (Fig 3.2) are sample of the outcomes of activity-based approaches to learning.

figure 3.2
This leads us to the third important issue related to the implementation of activity-based pedagogies. While teachers need to have the right mindset to be able to keep up with their new roles, students need to also understand their new responsibilities and tasks. In an e-learning environment focused on the development of skills and competencies, students are no longer mere recipients for 'pre-cooked' knowledge. Students need to be equipped with the relevant techniques of methods of inquiries, information search, retrieval and classification as well as application in context-dependent scenarios. Therefore, students need to show a more entrepreneurship culture and independence in the learning process. An entrepreneurship culture would therefore mean more autonomy, development of self-management and self-regulation abilities in terms of commitment, time management and work rate. 



Wednesday, 15 September 2010

e-Learning Insight

“ eLearning ?? What’s the big deal? Just go on Moodle.org, download and install the learning platform, put some contents, enrol your students and there you go!” Well that would be the first reaction of any newly employed IT graduate or the recently recruited academic e-learning enthusiast. With such a recipe at hand, any new e-learning initiative is bound to be a disaster. 

What does it take to have successful eLearning in an institution? What are the day-to-day issues that an academic involved in teaching online has to deal with? To what extent is prior planning important? What are the implications of adopting innovative pedagogies for a transformation of the learning process? Why is online teaching different to self-learning? How is eLearning similar and different to traditional distance education concepts? What are the mistakes that policy makers generally do in trying to get eLearning to kickoff in their institutions, in particular traditional institutions?  

Recently during a visit to the University of the South Pacific, where I met with some academics from the Open University UK, from Scotland and from Jamaica just to name a few, all of us recognized that whether you are in a developed or a developing country did not really matter, the problems and issues related to eLearning are pretty much the same. We just had a one week in Mauritius in the company of our external examiner from Malaysia, and in the context of the research week 2010 of the University of Mauritius, our newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, who apparently has intensive experience in the field highlighted the same issues, which were mainly the findings of the MASSIVE project. But the real debate is not around the issues because everyone knows about them through peer exchanges, their own experiences or from research findings, but very few of us, have found effective and efficient solutions to these. There have only been possible solutions that were put forward and not concrete reports or evidence of any solutions that worked and that can be applied de-facto elsewhere to solve existing concerns.

Monday, 13 September 2010

DE: Facts and Fallacies for the Mauritian Context

The University of Mauritius has a long history of more than 40 years since it was established in 1965. The concept of distance education emerged in the 1990s and the Centre for Distance Learning was established in 1993. The impetus came from the need to adopt a new teaching, and learning approach in certain modules, due to the inadequacy of the conventional method to fulfil the expectations of both “the students and the Faculty members”. In this endeavour, the University of Mauritius was backed financially, and also in terms of expertise (through the Laurentian University, Canada), by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). In 2004 a number of 45-hour learning units were currently offered using print-based distance learning mode at the University of Mauritius via the Centre for Distance Learning (CDL). It has to be noted that at the CDL, "DE" is used to refer to the use of a mixed mode approach, where there is more frequent interaction between the tutor and the student and where the clientele consists mainly of on-campus students. It is only quite recently that the concept has been extended to a number of ‘off-campus’ students.

From DE to e-Learning


In 2001, to catch the eLearning bandwagon, the VCILT was created in bid to modernize the distance education concept by fully utilizing the possibilities offered by IT-enabled networked systems and the Internet. The vision and mission statement of the centre, after nearly 10 years of operation has not changed. But whether it has been able to achieve its mission or at least part of it, is an open question. Whether eLearning can be considered as a successful initiative at the University is also a debatable question. One certainty is that it has surely brought in some non-negligible innovations in the teaching and learning landscape. Inevitably, as any innovative practices, it has brought its share of disruption in the traditional university setting, what I call constructive-disruptive technologies. Well for sure, that’s an oxymoron. As any innovative practice would have to face, the eLearning initiative at the University of Mauritius had to face much more resistance than initially expected and the VCILT has had over the years to fight a battle to justify its existence in a traditional university setting.

Coming back to the vision and mission statement of the VCILT, I shall allow myself to quote it here:

  • Promote innovative teaching and learning practices through the use of distance and flexible learning technologies.
  • Experiment with new educational delivery systems.
  • Establish a partnership with the academic staff to help them meet teaching and learning requirements which attains user satisfaction.
  • Be forward looking and thus supporting a leadership role in the development of telelearning.
  • Be a leading edge, high quality provider of on-line web-based education and telelearning.
  • Provide means to develop an international standing.
  • Help the university become a leading institution.
  • Increase student intake and access to the university.

Fuzzy Issues & Terminologies


As anyone can see, the statements above had all a very close tie with respect to the University’s overall strategic directions. To be frank, even today I cannot figure out why the term telelearning was included in that mission statement. A quick search on Google, telelearning is defined as “education via a computer and telephone connection; also called distance learning; also written tele-education“


One such truth is that nowadays most educational researchers and reflective practitioners would tell you that the teacher has no place in the educational process, but the facilitator has an even more important role than the learner himself! A nice anecdote for this is that provided by the research of a certain Professor Mitra, who I met briefly in the World Innovation Summit for Education in November 2009 in Doha. One of his research titled “can kids teach themselves?” which left the audience in a state which I cannot find the words right now, addressed the fact that students, if provided with the right tool and facilitation will definitely learn and develop competencies much more than is expected from them. His project about leaving a computer in a remote village in India, (where students hardly have access to any modern technology) was simply amazing. When he came back after a few months, the computer was not broken, but the kids had “mastered” using the computer to play games or do any other interesting things on it.

Coming back to the distance education issue, let us take the case of a student who, in the late 1990s, just finished the Higher School Certificate, and enrolls with an institution like the UNISA where the course was offered on distance education through high-quality self learning manuals. A series of assignments were planned for each course, which the student would do and send to the tutor, thousands of miles away. After a few months, the assignment would be returned by post with comments. If the student had trouble understanding something, he/she would either look for someone locally to help or would address a letter to the tutor who lived somewhere in South Africa. The student would then sit back and wait patiently for the response. This is to my view called distance learning or distance education.

With advances in technology and the emergence of the world-wide web, the internet provided for an alternative medium of delivery of course content which was far more rapid and efficient, but only for those who can afford the associated costs. Alternative modes of delivery have always existed in the past. For instance, instead of writing a letter to a tutor, those who could afford it would have made a long-distance call to the person, or simply send a fax at that time or send the mail through rapid services such a FEDEX, DHL and others. With the internet, those who could afford access to a computer would just need to click a button and the message would go. This is basically what telelearning meant in the mission statement of the centre. Unfortunately, telelearning is not and cannot be eLearning if we by the definition quoted above. Either the term was wrongly used, or the one wrote used it had another meaning in mind or it was simply there because the very basic aim was to convert all the printed material that existed already in the Centre for Distance Learning into digital format to be disseminated through the Web.

Regarding the telelearning-distance learning issue, the web can be seen as either a new medium to deliver contents, or a mode of delivery based on improved teacher-learner communication or most interestingly as a new paradigm for teaching and learning. Over the years a number of institutions cropped up, which we usually call in our jargon as “mushroom” institutions (they keep on growing as mushrooms) which represented more and more foreign universities. Students enrolled on courses offered by these foreign universities through those institutions and then attended classes regularly until the end of their courses. Those institutions operate principally as profit making businesses, and having at some point in time been quite involved with them, I found out that the interests of the students were not the priority of their priorities. In a recent workshop organized at the University of Mauritius in the context of a European funded project on distributed education, the VCILT organized in collaboration with the WGDEOL a workshop on capacity-building for ODL practitioners in the SADC countries. In one of the presentations about the state of ODL practice in Mauritius, apart from the ‘ODL’ experiences of the University of Mauritius, the Mauritius College of the Air, the Mauritius Institute of Education but more bizarrely those ‘mushroom’ institutions were portrayed as distance education providers. What I personally noted in those presentations is that most of those institutions through their presenters had an erroneous understanding of the distance education concept, at least from my perspective.

When people talk about distance education in Mauritius, they confuse it either with the number of Mauritians involved in following distance education courses, or the number of Mauritians following courses at institutions who have got franchise agreements to offer courses of other institutions or universities in Mauritius. If were to give it a genuine thought, would a student attending an institution five times a week, sitting in a classroom and listening to the lecture being delivered by some subject matter experts be called a distance education student just because the institution he is attending is offering a franchise course?  Distance education is also very often associated with self-learning. But self-learning does not happen only in distance education contexts. Self-learning is a learning approach that depends on the learning preferences of a particular student. We can say in general terms, that it is a type of ‘learning style’ and nothing more. Self-learning is a concept that highlights the quantum and extent of effort a learner is prepared to put in his or her learning process.

Global Learning – the world is a small village, isn’t it? Then where does the “distance” come from?

In fact, researchers like Shale for instance, in 1991 in his work titled “Towards new conceptualization of distance education” published in the American Journal of Distance Education  argues that the paradox that exists in distance education is that it is a phenomenon that has proved its existence but has not yet been able to define itself. This paradox, according to a number of authors is the result of laying focus on the term “distance” more than the term “education”. Distance education is primarily and above all an educational process. The irony for a country like Mauritius is that while the focus is still on the term distance, Mauritius is so small that it seems a joke to talk about distance education in the 21st century especially with respect to local institutions. In Mauritius for instance, a course manual has never been sent by post to a student. Instead practically all students have made the journey to the University to collect the manual. A much better term to use would be flexible distributed learning and/or lifelong learning in that case as many of the students preferring this modality would be working students aspiring for career progress and who have for instance social, professional and family responsibilities that make it difficult for them to attend classes even beyond regular normal working hours. Distance education is basically characterized by the separation of teacher and learner, usually in both time and space. This separation fosters noncontiguous communication (communication that occurs between the learner and teacher from a distance), which has to be mediated. Mediated communication is an important feature in distance education. On the other hand, this argument is however quite contradictory as it assumes that face-to-face communication in traditional learning environments in not mediated. From a scientific perspective, sound cannot travel without the presence of air (that is a medium). Therefore technically speaking any type of communication needs to have some form of mediation. Nowadays, it is possible to overcome the teacher-student distance problem by a combination of educational methods and interactive technologies. For instance, two-way communication can be mediated by tools like audio and video conferencing as well as computer-supported conferencing. Let us take the concept of video-conferencing for instance. When two persons (or more) are engaged in a video-conference they will most probably be in different locations but their conversations will take place in real-time. Furthermore the comparison of distance education is often made to face-to-face classroom teaching. However, when you have access to technologies such as video-conferencing, you are in fact in a face-to-face conversation with the only difference being that for the other end, you are ‘virtually’ present. If a virtual presence, in real-time is allowing two or more individuals to ‘recreate’ the traditional environment, the ‘distance’ concept as it is defined in the term distance education, no longer holds! Interestingly the question that has to be answered now is that whether a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is a distance education environment especially if it incorporates such advanced mediating instruments like video-conference tools and other advanced interactive facilities for promoting the teacher-learner relationship and communication.

Research Design for Educational Technologists

Description:
This is a "crash course" on Research Design, Research Methodology and some practical issues regarding the making of an MSc thesis. Target audience are Master Students in Educational Technology from various backgrounds.

Objectifs:
  • Know about fundamental principles of an academic project 
  • Be familiar with three major classes of research designs: (1) Theory-testing approaches, (2) Qualitative and new theory-creating research, (3) Design-science research. 
  • Be aware of the fundamental elements of a Research Design (1) Definition of a subject, (2) Research Goals and Questions, (3) Literature Review and selection of theoretical and conceptual frameworks, (4) Approach and Methodology: Operational Research Questions, Analysis frameworks and methodological techniques. 
  • Learn basic (or at least the existence) of a few selected research methodologies, e.g. data gathering, sampling, simple quantitative and qualitative data analysis. 
  • Deliverable: A draft project for your master thesis.
Full Course

http://tecfa.unige.ch/guides/methodo/edu-tech/welcome.html

Thursday, 9 September 2010

OERs - "how to use" guides

A link to the discoverED initiative that aims to be a sort of search engine for Open Educational Resources http://discovered.creativecommons.org/search/

A GREAT site on how to use web 2.0 technology for education
http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/

The Educause '7 things you should know about...' series is a good introduction to many new technologies: http://www.educause.edu/7things

A site devoted to teaching about how to use Creative Commons materials in education
http://learn.creativecommons.org/ Also see http://creativecommons.org/choose/ for a guide on how to license your own work under Creative Commons.
A good site on how to use various tools for education, explained in simple English http://www.commoncraft.com/

Good site to learn how to use Digital Images in your educational work

Some useful links on best practice in online education provided at http://cnx.org/content/search?words=online%20pedagogy

New toolkit from JISC on the issues of intellectual property rights and the internet at http://www.web2rights.org.uk/


Free OER Applications

A large list of FREE software applications that can be downloaded to memory stick from JISC Scotland - specifically customised for educational use - http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/eduapps/compare.php

An interesting link to collaborative drawings online
http://mashable.com/2009/05/01/collaborative-drawings/



A great wee programme to take your photographs and create thumbnails (that take up MUCH less memory space) for using as icons and so on, to illustrate your online work. Download free software and install from http://www.fookes.com/ezthumbs/

This is a useful site to compare wikis http://www.wikimatrix.org/

A handy tool for downloading YouTube videos etc is at http://youtubedownload.altervista.org/

A nice wee freeware application to send voice snippets by email - download at http://www.jdvoicemail.vze.com/download.html

GIMP - Open Source application for manipulating digital graphics and photographs downloadable at http://www.gimp.org/
A useful tool for capturing images on screen is at http://www.mirekw.com/winfreeware/mwsnap.html

Dspace - open source repository software for sharing resources at http://www.dspace.org/

Fedora - commons repository software for maintaining and linking resources at http://fedoraproject.org/

Open Archives Initiative - standards for web content interoperability - http://www.openarchives.org/

Jorum - tool for the deposit and use of OER for UK Higher and Further Education athttp://www.jorum.ac.uk/deposit/

A fun tool for designing your own (educational) cartoons for teaching and learning is at http://toonlet.com/

Interesting Literature on Open Educational Resources (OERs)

A link to a great resource on OER for education is the Open Education Resources Handbook for educators at http://www.lulu.com/content/3597933

An interesting report on the impact of web 2.0 innovations on Education and Training in Europe is at http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC49108.pdf (a pdf to download)

A good dissertation on how and why learning objects are re-used (or not!)
http://www.archive.org/details/PatternsOfLearningObjectReuseInTheConnexionsRepository

A good,clear summary of Creative Commons licences is at the JISC publications site at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/bpcreativecommons.aspx

The African Copyright & Access to Knowledge (ACA2K) Project is probing the relationship in African countries between national copyright environments and access to hard-copy and digital learning materials. The project is probing this relationship
http://openeducation.developmentgateway.org/?itemId=1153561&intcmp=700


An open e-book on 'how to tutor online' with some good tips and resources - more relevant to the general topic of online course design and construction http://www.jiscinfonet.ac.uk/Resources/evalkit/toolkit-database/all-records/ev029


The OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) - links to more information on OER http://www.oecd.org/document/20/0,3343,en_2649_35845581_35023444_1_1_1_1,00.html
 
UNESCO Open Training Platform - policy guidelines and lots of other resources from UNESCO at http://opentraining.unesco-ci.org/cgi-bin/page.cgi?d=1
 
Opening Up Education (MIT Press) - a wide selection of articles and sample chapters on open education and open processes at http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11309&mode=toc
 
The Instructional Use of Learning Objects (free online book) at http://www.reusability.org/read/

Link to Athabasca University Press (buy books in hard copy or download and print free http://www.aupress.ca/ Especially worth noting is
"The theory and practice of online learning" at http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120146

Giving knowledge for free: The emergence of Open Educational Resources OECD Publication, ISBN 978-92-64-03174-6 available for purchase from www.sourceoecd.org/education/9789264031746

eLearning Concepts

The term e-Learning does not have a single definition. Furthermore the term is very often used interchangeably with other words like online learning, Internet-based learning, web-based learning and computer-based learning. However, if we look closer to the terms, the implications may be different. eLearning can be seen as an acronym for electronic learning. In other words, every form of learning that takes place using digital media as mode of delivery would be seen as e-learning. For instance, an educational programme on television would definitely be e-Learning. However, this technology is quite primitive and lacks interactivity. New e-learning technologies are more interactive that the television mode of delivery, for instance an interactive multimedia education program that runs on a personal computer.

The word online is normally associated with an event that is taking place live and in real-time. For instance, suppose we are watching a movie on television and suddenly the programme is interrupted. Then you see the reporter talking to you live from the stadium where your country has just won the World Cup. So you see him in live telecast, and the reporter on TV can exchange words with the live reporter using a videoconferencing system. The word online is nowadays very much associated with virtual presence on the Internet and the World Wide Web. If you are on a chat room and your colleague is chatting with you, then both of you are online, i.e. virtually present in a place at the same time. So, in the context of online learning, a nice example would be that you are engaged in a chatting session with your lecturer who is away from you but present in a virtual classroom like space to interact with you and offering tutorial support.

The terms internet-based and web-based learning are basically the same. These two terms are also closely related to online learning since the Internet and the World-Wide Web provide the main platform for online learning nowadays. Web-based or Internet-based learning however may comprise of a mix of self-directed learning (through Interactive Web-Sites) and online learning. In this case, there are two types for interaction. The first type is system-based interaction where students interact with the system by browsing through the course material, doing self-assessment exercises and interacting with multimedia elements. The second type of interaction is community-based interaction supported by the system. In this type of interaction, students communicate with peers and lecturers to get academic, pedagogical and sometimes technical support.

On the hand, computer-based learning may be seen as using the computer to learn from interactive stand-alone multimedia CD-ROMs or using the computer to carry out online or internet/web-based learning. In fact, nowadays the computer is the primary tool or mediating instrument to support e-learning.

Can Kids Teach Themselves?

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The "Hole in the Wall" project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who's now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it "minimally invasive education."
"Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra's experiments prove that wrong."
Linux Journal
_____________________
Watch the video here
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The sad truth about F2F by Martin Weller

 http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/

Martin Weller says :


I've never tried face to face (or f2f as it's known by the sad geeks who participate in it), but I know I don't need to in order to understand that it is a facile, shallow form of interaction compared with the rich dialogue we have built up over centuries in social media.

F2F gatherings often take place in specially designed physical spaces. The spaces cannot be altered, people here think moving a chair around is rearranging. Gone is the rich possibility of creating virtual worlds, of being a flying cow or a twelve foot purple cat in a world with 1/3 earth's gravity. No, here people sit around at tables and inanely flip cardboard 'beer mats' against a backdrop of red flock wallpaper.

But if the environment itself were not depressing enough, then the level of interaction is enough to have any right thinking citizen weeping. F2Fers talk about football, what they had for dinner and that bloke in the office, over and over again. Gone is the rich debate, the informed discussion - here there is no recourse to wikipedia, instead interlocutors call upon a mythical 'bloke in the pub told me' as their sole source of fact.

"Even more worrying we seem to be abandoning our cultural history of considered debate. In a F2F setting there is no time for reflection, the imperative is always upon the immediate. the sound-bite, as if the motto were 'say anything rather than be silent'. I don't know about you, but I was always brought up to believe that taking your time to reflect, research and compose your response was the best way to proceed."

Experts warn that f2fing could damage our communication skills (photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/74321115@N00/4219119825/)


Another disturbing factor is the drastic pruning of social relationships. Having developed skills at maintaining a complex set of relationships that are not limited by geography, time or demographics, the F2Fers now find themselves only able to be 'friends' (they have misappropriated the Facebook term) with people they can meet at a set time in a set location. Psychologists believe that this contraction to a restricted set, what is being termed the Dunbar number, will severely limit the capacity for social growth and innovation.

When we think about the great bloggers of the past, such as Montaigne, we can ask where are the great bloggers amongst the F2F set? They are almost entirely consumed with 'chatting' with people in cafes and bars. Would Montaigne have written so many thoughtful blog posts if he had spent all his time sipping lattes? I think the answer is no.

But all this might be dismissed as the ravings of an old misery, which is fine, but the implications could be far more sinister. No less a scientific dignitary than Baroness Brownhouse has recently decried the rise in F2F popularity, stating that 'it is a fact that less online interaction will rewire these kids brains resulting in them being less capable of processing complex information. By tweeting to 2 or 3 people I know that restricting your social field to those you can meet on a real time basis reduces an individual's neurological capacity for reflection, empathy and social understanding. Fact. Fact. Fact.'

Lastly, this F2F phenomena has seen a rise in a new, voodoo form of economics and publishing, where instead of gathering the inputs from everyone and allowing the best to rise to the surface, contributions are 'filtered'. This has led to paper based productions, labelled 'newspapers' being passed around for money. The so called writers (termed 'journalists') of these, don't contribute their ideas or opinions based on beliefs or knowledge, but rather are led by the business motivations of the newspaper owner. In one story I heard, a sinister underground figure known only as 'Murderok' owned several 'newspapers' and made the journalists write what he wanted. And yet the F2Fers proclaim this as a form of freedom because it allows for journalistic privilege! What happened to the wisdom of the crowds?!

So, while new blog darlings rush to embrace the F2F rebellion and abandon their twitter accounts for Starbucks loyalty cards, and reject considered thought in favour of inane blatherings, I'll stick to what has worked fine for the past few hundred years. As Shakespeare posted, 'I blog, therefore I am.'

Academic Year 2010/2011 Starts......

Six cohorts of students currently enrolled on VCILT programmes. Currently there are a total of approximately 200 students enrolled.

The following programmes are being offered:

  • Diploma in Web and Multimedia Development
  • BSc (Hons) Educational and Instructional Technology
  • MSc Educational Technologies
The VCILT also launched a new e-learning server which can be accessed at http://ilearn.uom.ac.mu 

The platform is being hosted on a latest powerful DELL server replacing the 10-year old veteran that was struggling to provide a good service at this age.