What’s Stirring? 2014



More connected /more mobile.
Things are changing fast in the UK:

  • 83% of  households now have an internet connection
  • 73% of adults go online at least once a day
  • Over 50% of adults mobiles to go online.

Isn’t it about time our planning for top quality learning opportunities for adults caught up with the real world?

Of course we need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the digital world and the Go On campaign reminds us that  ‘1 in 5 adults in the UK don’t have Basic Online Skills’.  However, our biggest challenge now has to be to offer the skills and knowledge that enable people to take control of their online lives and online learning. Read on to How do we feel about the Internet?  for thoughts on the next real challenge for providers of adult learning.

As 4G mobile connectivity rolls out during 2014, we should expect even more mobile surfing.  Read on to BYOD and be ready for computers in the pocket of every learner.

How do we feel about the Internet? 
Oxford insights to Internet Cultures
It has been all too tempting to describe access to the online world in terms of a clear digital divide to be overcome. The French talk of a ‘fracture numerique’ and the Germans a ‘Digitale Kluft’ both suggesting that there is a single ‘crack’ or a ‘gap’ to be bridged.  If only life were so simple!

The  work on Internet Cultures from Oxford helped us to understand, in a more meaningful way, how people actually perceive the online world. William Dutton and colleagues at the oxford Internet Institute identified five basic types of attitude to the Internet and as the graph shows, the largest single group are ‘moderates’ – moderate in both hopes and fears about the Internet.

This is a powerful reminder that even those who can use the digital world, are not necessarily comfortable there, even so called Cyber Savvy users:

 feel as if the Internet is, to a greater or lesser degree, taking control of their lives, because it can be frustrating, wastes time and invades their privacy.   

Anyone using technology in learning (and that’s most people) should be mindful, not only of what their learners can do online, but also  how they feel about it. After all, we keep saying that we care about the ‘affective domain’  in learning;  here is a framework to help to understand learners better and to meet their needs.

Bye the way, I could myself as an -E-Pragmatist – where would you place yourself?

With insights like these,  2014 should be a year in which adult educators get better at understanding the subtle and complex relationship that learners have with the digital world.


Couch potatoes start sprouting
‘Double Screening’ sends TV interactive where red button failed
How much hype did we hear about interactive digital TV and the power we would have by pressing that red button?  Well, with slow loading times and limited additional information red buttons passed most viewers by.

However, ‘Double Screening’ is delivering now what red buttons promised us back in the noughties.  Surfing, Tweeting and Facebooking using mobile screen whilst watching TV  is already very widespread and is turning passive consumers of screen-based content into active content contributors through micro blogging and alarming programme makers with instant feedback.

However as an approach to informal learning, the second screen on the lap opens the doors to viewers well beyond a voice to articulate a reaction to a TV programme.

That second screen can, and should, become the ‘learning tool on the lap’ as viewers seek background information on content appearing on screen and sets minds wondering and  wandering.

In the classroom should we nurture this culture of independent inquiry through ‘second screening’ or enforce a regime of single focus on the teacher’s radiating wisdom?

Open Education
The Open Educational Resource debate  should be getting boring by now!

The idea that publicly funded materials should be made freely available to use, adapt and re use was kicked off in 2002 by UNESCO and reaffirmed ten years later.

Three cheers to NIACE for embedding Open Educational Practice in the Community Learning Innovation Fund projects. However, it is taking time to get the concept adopted.


At last we have a study on use of Open Educational resources in adult learning from Glasgow Caledonian offering these recommendations:

1. Recognise that ‘learning’ takes place everywhere

2. Extend the range of people and organisations who produce and use resources

3. Think of OER more broadly than as content

4. Promote awareness of open licensing and its implications

5. Improve the usability of OER

6. Plan for sustained change

I’m glad to say that there will be an adult education presence at the OER14 conference in Newcastle this April.

This really is a great moment for adult educators to embrace the practice as well as the principle of Open Education and make it work for our learners. The Glasgow Caledonian report provides an opportunity for us all to raise the debate.

MOOCs go mainstream and French have FUN
MOOCs were probably one of education’s Massive Talking Points in 2013. Hundreds of thousands signed up, hundreds finished and everyone whether they’d done a MOOC or not had an opinion! Well almost everyone in the education world had a view and we saw  xMOOCs and cMOOCs enter the lexicon.

Back in September 2013  The Ufi Trust announced Citizens’ Maths MOOC. There is no launch date announced but this certainly is worth watching as it will be:

 a MOOC to offer a free, online Level 2 maths course, massive in scale yet personalised to the needs of individual learners.

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) has shown how a coherent community of practitioners can work together to create a very effective MOOC to share and develop skills at no cost to participants. The Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning (OCTEL) is a tribute to the commitment of members contributing their time that this model from and by a professional association has worked well.

However, the MOOC world is being shaped by platforms offering to showcase courses from selected high-status institutions. The UK responded to US based, Coursera and Udacity with the launch o Futurelearn in Autumn 2013. With the OU in a lead position this array of free courses is widening  access to learning but also acting as a powerful marketing tool for the partner institutions.

MOOC platforms, are also developing key cultural ambassadorial roles.

While Futurelearn is already doing this for the UK and France University Numerique (yes that’s  F.U.N.) is about to follow suit offering a platform for francophone courses.


Lights, camera, action………….video, video, video

It seems that in Higher Ed there is endless talk of lecture capture – sadly not a police operation to detain and prosecute tedious lecturers, but a national obsession with  filming everyone who steps anywhere near to a lectern. Of course this can be a great boon for oversleeping students! More importantly,  the ability to run, re-run and re-run again the few minutes of a lecture you didn’t quite understand seems to me to be an admirable use of the video medium.


However, how many students now DON’T have video making capacity in their pockets?  This image is a still from a very creative enactment of past tense verbs that was made on a mobile phone in 30 minutes by two students in an adult French class.

I suggest that for 2014, we leave the lecture capture trucking along where it does a job in HE (and maybe FE as well)  and get serious with placing video in the hands of learners.

  • Moving image with sound is now the dominant communication method of the 21st century.
  • Learning by working stuff out in groups (Constructivist / Constructionism)  is a well established successful pedagogy.

This is the year to put the two together and letting learners use their own creativity to make videos as part of their learning process.

I have been impressed with the willingness of professional film makers like Adam Salkeld, who are approaching the world of education to share their knowledge of the world of film. Adam talks of the ‘grammar of video’. Well, we are forever discussing digital literacy so a bit of grammar would not go amiss! Educationalists should take up these offers to draw on professional knowledge so that 21st century learners can express themselves effectively in video, montage and animation.

The C word – Curate
I have lost track of the amount of curating that seems to be going on these days.

It certainly is increasingly used as a way of helping to make sense of the growing stack of resources turning up  online.  Could it just be that  that professional judgements are holding their own in a world of metadata?

Language Challenge
There is much talk of how the economic spotlight has moved from the Atlantic to the pacific in the 21st Century. The focus on the need for a competitive workforce is   welcome  It could just be time to start reacting to this by having a go at getting some basic understanding of Mandarin. European languages still dominate the language learning market but it could be a good year to start thinking about learningchineseez   http://www.learnchineseez.com/


 Bring You Own Devices


No comment needed!

Data as currency – Big Data as big currency
Big Data is not new but we’ll do our learners favours if we are able to help explain the role that data disclosure plays in paying for those online services we like to think are free.

The global digital divide
It’s when we look at worldwide stats that the digital divide is stark and shows how internet access correlates with economic power.  Will the internet make it harder to ignore global inequalities?

Percentage of population connected to the Internet


Source: International Telecoms Union

You really can’t have read this far without disagreeing with something I said!

Please feel free to answer back at:  https://stirringlearning.wordpress.com

Contact me

Alastair Clark: available for training, facilitation, workshops and key-note speeches

+44 (0) 7847417027

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Copyright in the text: Alastair Clark
The text may be used by others under the terms of a Creative Commons, non commercial attribution licence.



4 Responses to “What’s Stirring? 2014”

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    Reblogged this on Learning English at University College Cork, Ireland and commented:
    This makes for interesting reading and certainly ‘sets minds wondering and wandering.’

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