Surface-Strategic-Deep is not a continuum of learning styles

May 16, 2014

Or at least a single dimensional one.  In response to this week’s TEL One task I have been distracted from thinking about what my style of engagement is with ocTEL, or how I might accommodate different learning styles (activity 2.2?) in my design, into what the differences are between surface, deep and strategic learning styles.

My first encounter with these styles was on my PGCert when starting lecturing where the link was clearly made with motivation: deep=intrinsic, surface=extrinsic. Not sure where strategic fell in the mix.  But it is clear from many descriptions, that strategic is more extrinsically driven, whether from the ocTEL official post, participant contributions (e.g. c.collis) or other external sources (e.g. Warwick U). However strategic learning is typically also seen as focussed on a more in depth/higher level of knowledge, even if the goal is only to achieve a better grade.

This could be seen as resulting in a simple continuum from simple surface learning, through strategic to deep learning as follows:

learning styles

While this could be seen as a strawman, with an obvious question of how you quantify or classify knowledge, I think it a reasonable summary of different views.  More importantly there are obvious ways of thinking about a level of knowledge of a subject, for example Bloom’s taxonomy.

My preferred way of thinking about knowledge is to use a definition derived from knowledge management (KM) – a business discipline favoured in the 90s following the 80s down-sizing.   In this approach, it is possible to think about knowledge being information structured to achieve a goal.  This links in nicely with models such a Bloom where the amount of information, and how it is connected, varys tremendously between being able to remember or explain a particular concept compared to evaluating, synthesizing or creating new ones.  It also links nicely with the goals related to the learning types shown above.

However, the continuum above breaks down when one considers that motivation and knowledge acquisition are in fact independent or orthogonal.  This provides a way of clarifying the muddied approach that Diana refers to by the introduction of a strategic style between surface and deep.  So rather than referring to a “student (who) can be strategic and either deep or surface in relation to a particular learning task”, I would suggest that strategic learners would be aiming to acquire and structure information differently, depending on their goal, rather than a particular task.

The result is that we do have strategic learners who may acquire superficial amounts of simply structured information, provided it is enough to get the good grade they are after.  We also have strategic learners, as exemplified by c.collis in another of his contributions, who are extrinsically motivated by a particular goal, rather than being intrinsically motivated by the love of the subject, but who also engage in deep learning.  By considering goals and information structures independently of motivation we can cater for strategic learners who range from consultants who need just need enough information to bluff to clients, to weary lecturers who need a good understanding to teach what they are told to inquisitive students, to motivated professionals who want to successfully implement  change in their working environment.

As a parting thought from reflection which is mainly driven by personal experience over the years, I was interested to skim Bigg’s later paper in which he proposes a two dimensional approach to the classification of learning techniques.  In this, engagement or type of activity mirrors the knowledge level I would propose as one dimension of classification.  I have yet to work out how his second dimension of student activity relates to my second dimension of motivation though there are obvious links.  Given extra time, I would sketch this out in more detailed words and pictures!

Biggs, B. 1999, What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning, Higher Education Research & Development, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp57-75, DOI:10.1080/0729436990180105


(Re)engaging with online tech/learning

May 2, 2014

Was going to say I have been inspired by the ALTc mooc on tech+ learning to re-engage with online tools.  More importantly, this is something I really need to do having been away from it for almost six months.

But as mentioned on the mooc forum, keeping up with the tech as it changes is such a brain ache!  I was interested to see the ocTEL mooc using delicious – a blast from the past and something I’ve not seriously used for a couple of years now.  And as a case in point, I tried to follow this up only to find that delicious are changing their platform yet again, and the ocTEL tag doesn’t seem to work – grrr.

Other things I need to re-engage with are:

  • TweetDeck, or someother twitter tool
  • a URL shortner (where did the one go that I installed in my browser)
  • a replacement for delicious
  • a way of organising my to do list

… the list could go on.  But as ever, being a student again exposes you to the challenges of being a student in today’s world!

Notes to self shows how to link to a reply in a discussion topic.  Hoping this will work with the one below!


The virtual chat room

October 7, 2011

There are too many social networks and too many ways to connect.  Institutions, like universities, might want all the chat to happen one way, inside their own platform – but this is never going to happen.  So how do you bring it all together?

There are applications out there that enable you to do this.  One of the better known would be Tweetdeck which enables you to manage conversations across Twitter and Facebook – or at least to read news streams from both sources and post back to both.  But does it really enable a facebooker to chat well with a tweeter?

It would be great to be able to make this kind of thing happen, and be able to plug it into a virtual learning environment – in a really neat, seamless way that provide a home or anchor for the conversation.   RSS feeds can provide the basic plumping (although not sure if they are responsive enough) with some Javascript to glue it together?  Go figure!

Facebook RSS updates

July 6, 2011

… or not.  Blog was updated at 17:53 yesterday but despite the statement that “Facebook will automatically update your notes whenever you write in your blog”, updates from this blog have yet to make their way into the Test 101 page.

How long will this take?!

RSS updates to the blog

July 5, 2011

Having just checked the RSS feed on the word press site, it seems as though post edits don’t warrant a new separate entry in the the feed – although I should have checked to see if the feed contained the original or new version of the post.

Facebook as extension to VLE

July 5, 2011

Currently playing with facebook RSS feeds + pages/groups as a way of stretching the reach of VLEs within HE.

Having subscribed to this feed via the notes of a Facebook page, I would be interested to see if this edit shows up in the RSS feed.

Presenting on the iPad with KeyNote

September 29, 2010

If I am going to use my iPad as a presentation tool I am going to need an application to drive the external monitor/projector – at least until Apple come up with generic mirroring capabilities in a new iOS update. There are lots of apps out there to help you use your iPad for using external displays but I am going to go with Apple’s KeyNote for the iPad app. As the official Apple product  I am hoping that it will provide better integration for downloading off the web and more support for complex slides.

There is lots of stuff out there which talks about this, so I am just going to record my experience with KeyNote, the standard VGA output cable and StudyNet.  By the way, Keynote can be used for creating presentations as well as showing them, which may account for the higher price. The install goes fine, and going back to my previous test set of slides when I click on the link to PowerPoint (ppt) slide I now get a button in Safari giving me the option to “Open in KeyNote”.  But be quick, this will disappear if you don’t take the chance.

So far so good then – except I am now looking at a long list of “presentation import warnings” most of which related to the fonts used and the “build order” of those custom animations. A tap or swipe takes me through the presentation, including the step by step animations. I have to say that the text generally looks fine, and I can in the first instance notice the changes in build order so things are still looking good.

The final test is hooking up the external display.  Hitting the play button puts the presentation slides up on my external test monitor and starts the presenter view which was exactly what I was expecting have read the discussion here and seen the screen shots. Not being able to see the slides on the iPad or add annotations on the fly are limitations. The first is minor and can be over come by getting a remote to control the slide – this would be also be my preference anyway as I like to walk about in talks. However, from the discussion on Apple’s forum, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen any time soon.

The inability to add annotations to slide is more major and is something I need to find a work around for. One of the key benefits of using PowerPoint is the ability to use it as a whiteboard to capture audience ideas both there and then, and for later.

So all in all – it works as well as expected.  Here’s hoping for updates to fix those extra niggles.

Presenting on the iPad without KeyNote

September 29, 2010

Okay – I have scrounged a VGA connector (thanks Simon) and am contemplating my induction talk tomorrow for “Web App Dev” and web services modules. Plugging the iPad in to monitor does nothing, as expected, but playing Fat Boy Slim via YouTube shows everything is working okay. This list of apps may tell you if what you are trying to use will output to an external device without having to jailbreak your iPad.

Next questions is, “what format should I get my slides in?”. The demo iPad in the Apple store had no real problem showing a presentation I downloaded off our University portal but I am guessing it already had KeyNote for iPad installed. So I have uploaded my induction slides in a variety of formats to see what happens using my basic, “vanilla” iPad.

So the results of viewing the different versions of the PowerPoint file on the iPad with iOS 3 with nothing extra installed are:

  • PowerPoint 2007 (pptx/ppsx):Poor – Safari displays the presentation as a scrollable document with individual slides but there is no clear division between slides.  Imported images are fine but custom animations don’t work, some PowerPoint drawing objects are mangled, e.g. arrows at wrong end, with some borders and “call out objects” (e.g. clouds, icons etc) missing.
  • PowerPoint 2003 (ppt/pps): Poor – this version does slightly better with less missing drawing elements, but is still not good.
  • PDF: Acceptable – produces an accurate copy of the slides, as might be expected, with each slide on a separate page but there are no transitions or animations.  By default there is no option to open the file in the iBooks application, unlike with the latest iPhone iOS 4 (which then lets you flick through each slide quickly).
  • Open Presentation format (OPD) and Microsoft’s single file web page (MHT): Doesn’t work – won’t download or open in Safari as the iPad clearly doesn’t understand these file formats.
  • QuickTime movie (MOV): Doesn’t work – this is only available as a “save as” file format in the Macintosh version of PowerPoint so will not be available to most people.  And as it stands, at least the way the movie is downloaded from StudyNet, this file will not play either in the iPad or iPhone default QuickTime players.

The most important thing to note is that NONE of the applications used will actually show anything on an external display via the VGA connector as things currently stand.  As for quick saving of PowerPoint slides for download and review on the go, it looks like Adobe pdf files are the best. there are other ways to get your presentation out there (e.g. saving each slide as an image, producing a movie in a different format, or using a slidecasting website) but they are not going to be as quick and easy to save and upload.

I am off to get a copy of KeyNote to see how well that works.  Given reports elsewhere, I am expecting it to be usable, but that my slides with their custom animations and builds may get a bit mangled.

iPad – initial thoughts from ALT-C 2010

September 14, 2010

So having spent three days at the ALT-C learning technology conference my first considered thought is that the iPad is a nice device, but it’s not a useful, must have tool … at least not yet.

My main reasons for getting one to trial, based on product features and ignoring the hype, include:

  • the screen size: would it be a practical way of reading ebooks
  • speed and battery life: would it make it a better web browsing tool than a smart phone
  • touch capabilities: could it replace my tablet PC as a presentation/annotation device.

Taking these points in reverse order, I downloaded some whiteboard apps and bought a stylus and video adapter to enable me to present and annotate slides on the fly, only to find the apps wouldn’t drive an external display. And while I had the opportunity to use the iPad in my presentation, in the end the use of a USB remote control/clicker for those custom animations meant I stuck to the default presenter PC.   As an aside, I was interested to hear another presenter had to “jail break” their iPad in order to mirror the iPad screen to show it’s ebook capabilities. So while iPad appears to support vanilla Keynote presentations well, if you want something different such as annotate slides on the fly, then your options are limited. You could try an online presentation option such as slideshare or other slidecating sites but Apples lack of support for Flash on it’s mobile (iOS) platform means that route is blocked at the moment too.

So if I can’t annotate slides on the fly, what about using the touch capability to sketch notes from presentations (such as Ronna Sharpe’s digital literacy framework). The DAGI stylus (which seems more precise and fits my hand better than the Pogo one) is fine, but the multi-touch capability means resting a hand on the screen causes problems. The result is that I will need to change my writing style so as not lean on the screen, or invest in a glove! I have yet to acquire a PDF annotation app (though there are plenty in the app store, such as iAnnotate) but I imagine the same issues will arise.

So having mentioned ebooks and PDFs in passing, what about the iPad as an ebook reader? I have yet to try all the functionality of the different apps available but on face value they all seem to be much of a muchness offering different font sizes, searchability, page turning, bookmarks etc. The key issues lie outside any differences in software. At one end is the comfort factor in holding the iPad and reading the screen and from my short experience this seems fine, although I have only got through the first 10 of the 3030 screens in my free copy of Dorian Grey.  Instead, more work related content has dominated (e.g. Best practices in virtual worlds teaching, or other JISC reports) and these are easy to read on screen. At the other end of the spectrum, the issue is about access to and management of content. And here, as an academic at an institution where content is provided through publisher portals in the form of PDFs or webpages, the advantage of specific content provided by Amazon or Apple or Google is a moot point. So does the iPad offer a new, compelling electronic reading experience? Not £400 worth in my experience.

So what about the iPad as a web browsing device? Yes, the big screen makes browsing much easier than on a small screen smart phone. Yes, the high quality screen and audio makes watching video a pleasure. And yes, the battery is good enough for a whole days activity. But with all this, there are still minor niggles. So many providers, from JISC to mass media such as the BBC to the Guardian, provide video but it’s often Flash video which is inaccessible on the iPad. And as for being part of the web2.0 user generated content revolution, too many sites (with or without dedicated “app” support) have features that just don’t work on the iPad, whether it’s file uploads to get a profile picture on to Crowdvine (the social platform for the altc conference), Javascript bookmarklets to share resources via Delicious, or even trying to add tags to WordPress blog posts.

So all in all across three key tasks of presenting, reading and consuming web content the iPad fails to shine.  While glossy purpose produced content designed for iPad can be great (as Wired and Vanity Fair have shown) the rest of the web has yet to catch up.  The big caveat to all these criticisms is the depth of personal knowledge, or the lack of it. But for a company with Apple’s reputation for usable design, and to this reasonably tech savvy user, the steepness of the learning curve and limitations on use seem too great. Maybe I should have bought that netbook instead.

Another reason for hating Apple’s walled garden

September 7, 2010

Trying to get to grips with tweet deck and bookmarking on the iPad and really struggling. Someone posts a great link on Twitter, follow the link, it opens in a browser window INSIDE tweet deck and if I want to save the link, I need to go out of tweet deck to save the link with another app – and repaste the URL and make up or copy a page title. In my fully functional browser (with javascript tools/extensions) I could bookmark or tweet with no extra effort.

Is it me or am I wrong for trying to manage content in one place?