Let’s get this methodology into shape

I need to write a proposal for my PhD application. A part of the proposal is the methodology – the part I have the most trouble with.

I have written methodologies before, but not for a while. The last time was for my Masters about five years ago.

My original plan was to do an “Open PhD”, but I’m not disciplined enough for that and procrastinate too much.

The next idea was to do a “professional PhD”, that is a practice based doctorate based on my day job. I got the backing of my employer for this and got the application in, but the University, which is also my employer, decided not to run that course next year.

That left only to apply for a traditional PhD and write a traditional PhD proposal for my application – a lot different to the application process for a professional PhD.

So this is the plan for the methodology:

  • How will I collect data?
  • What kind of data will I collect?
  • What methods will I use?
  • What are the benefits of these methods?
  • What are the drawbacks of these methods?
  • Why are these methods better than other methods?

The methodology needs to be about 1000 words long. Now all I need to do is get on with it.

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Linux Voice Launch

I’ve been a subscriber to Linux Format for years and an avid listener to their Tux Radar podcast. Now the team behind these cornerstones of the Free and Open Source Community are going it alone. They’ve quite their corporate jobs to do something they believe in: to produce a magazine that better meets the needs of the community they love to serve.

The magazine is to be called Linux Voice and they have a crowd-funding campaign to get it going.

They are trying to do a good thing and deserve your help. Watch them explain it for themselves and the video below then get over to Indiegogo and make your contribution.

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#edcmooc – Week 1

Film 1: Bendito Machine III

  • What is this film suggesting are the ecological and social implications of an obsession or fixation on technology?
    • Ecologically, old technology doesn’t go away, it just takes up space in land fill. The obsession with technology, and a must have attitude to the next new thing is an ecological disaster.
    • Socially, the association is made with religion and the Marxist adage of religion being the opium of the masses.
  • Do the film’s characters have any choice in relation to their technologies?
    • The people are passive receivers of the technology and of what the

    technology broadcasts, unquestioning when it harms them. When someone does question what is happening, he seeks out new and better technology, perpetuating the cycle.

  • What are the characteristics of various technologies as portrayed in this film?
    • The technology gets bigger and offers more and more of what pacifies the people. Like a drug, you want more and more just to feel normal. The people want bigger and more technology just to satiate their need for what they see as a normal life.

Film 2: Inbox

  • Is this a Utopian or a Dystopian account of technology?
    • The technology connected two people that would not otherwise have connected. The woman’s attitude to the men in the store made it clear she was not interested in being ‘picked-up’. The man, was clearly too shy to make a move in the face to face situation as she was clearly portrayed as ‘out of his league’.The technology allowed a relationship to develop based on the non-visual attributes of the characters, perhaps allowing a stronger connection to be made.

      The downside of this form of relationship building is when the technology breaks there is no means of re-establishing that connection, except by shear chance.

      On the down-side, this ‘safe’ means of communication is open to abuse. In the film the characters were honest with each other, but the potential for ‘grooming’ by a predator is clearly there..

Film 3: Thursday

  • What message is the film presenting about technology?
    • Technology seems to be portrayed as dehumanizing, making people conform to accommodate technology.
  • What losses and gains are described?
    • The reassurance of routine is nothing to be sneered at, and it is something that technology is good at providing. Technology offers predictability, conformity and reassurance. When something goes wrong – the bird pulling a wire – people don’t know what to do.Nature has not been accommodated in the technology city, but nature has accommodated technology and found a place anyway.

      The routine of the people leaves no room for impetuousness – even the sex seems predictable and expected – but and its chick offer a glimpse of nature as free spirit.

  • Who or what has ‘agency’ in this film?
    • The city, its inhabitants and all its components are portrayed as an entity, almost with its own consciousness. This seems to have agency – making decisions and controlling the lives of its inhabitants, even limiting the time of respite some of the inhabitants have outside the city, ironically, on the viewing platform to see the city from space.The bird is the only being to live outside the system and living in a state of nature, in contrast to its surroundings.

Film 4: New Media

  • There are definite visual echoes of “Bendito Machine III” here – what similarities and differences can you identify between the two films?
    • Both film show technology having control over society. Who or what is controlling the technology is not revealed, but the ordinary people are the ones being controlled, being kept in a state of subjugation.Stylistically the films are obviously different. Bendito Machine III, an animation, mimics primitive motifs, suggesting human primal instinct to worship.

      New Media uses special effects to create the illusion of technology moving freely in the real world, showing technology as a hostile invader, taking over and controlling their creators. In this case the created have overcome the creators.


There are many Utopian and Dystopian stories about technology told in popular films from Metropolis to the Matrix. Can you think of an example and describe or share it in the discussion board, on your blog, or on Twitter?

The Time Machine

I’m more influenced by HG Wells’ novel (probable the first true science fiction novel), but there have been at least two films made of it, so I’m going with it.

It’s a heady mixture of technology, class politics and evolution that tell of how, in the distant future, the human race has evolved into two branches: the simple, gentle but useless Eloi and the fierce, nocturnal and technologically advanced Morlocks.

Humans are split along broadly class lines, the Eloi being the idle rich upper-class and the Morlock the industrious, hardworking working-class.

In a post-apocalypse world, the humans that became Morlocks retreated underground and used their technological know-how to survive and thrive, while the humans that became Eloi, while being attractive, regressed to become little more than cattle, literally farmed by the Morlocks.

There is a moral ambiguity at the heart of the story: industriousness and technological advancement allows people to survive and thrive but turns them into monsters; wealth and luxury turns people into attractive but useless simpletons.

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Activity 4 – Identifying priorities for research

Advice to a funding organisation that wishes to promote activity and research in the area of open education.

Priority One

How to integrate open education into mainstream provision

Open education is seen as something “other” and different, certainly something that is outside the normal experience of educators and learners in mainstream education. More often than not it is seen as second rate or at least not a good as the education traditionally provided by traditional institutions.

Priority Two

How to encourage use of open education

Open education, in various guises, has been available for some time, but it has only seen widespread use in niche areas, usually areas that do not have adequate access to traditional education.

Despite funding and promotion from major institutions it is still viewed with suspicion by the people that matter – educators that deliver classes in mainstream education. The reasons for this need to be researched and solutions put into practice.

Priority Three

How to encourage the creation of open education

Open education has received a lot of funding to guarantee that there is a lot of “stuff” out there for people to access. Open education has had a good and well funded start. When the funding stops open education must be self sustaining. There must be a reason for open education to continue to be created and systems in place that enables the systematic creation of open education in educational institutions.


This list of priorities reflects where open education is at the moment and how it needs to progress to remain relevant: making it a part of mainstream education, encouraging its use by end-users as a matter of course, and a sustainable model for its ongoing development.

Forum responses

  1. Was there consensus about what were the key priorities?
    The issues discussed in the forum for this activity cover quite a wide range but there was more emphasis on pedagogy, learner support, quality, intellectual property rights and sustainability.
    For me, there has already been a great deal of work done on most of these issues, where further research is needed is the issue of sustainability which is one of my priorities.
  2. Do you feel some issues would be more easily solved than others?
    Where we are working in an area where a great deal of existing research and practice already exists I feel that yes, issues would be more easily solved. There has been twenty year or more of research and practice on pedagogy and learner support in the area of online and distance education, but how we create a sustainable ecosystem for open education remains to be seen.
  3. What would be effective ways to address some of the priorities listed?
    I think a comprehensive literature review would be sufficient to address most if not all of the priorities listed. This would also reveal where further research is needed.
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Representing open education

A mind-map representation of what defines openness in education drawing on concepts listed by Weller and Anderson: Read More »

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Open Education – Activity 1

I work in eLearning at a university and MOOCs are flavour of the month at the moment, so this seemed like a good opportunity to do a little semi-formal studying on the subject and experience a MOOC at the same time.

I have a bit of history in this area. I’ve been working in eLearning for about ten years now and completed the MA in Online and Distance Education with the OU about three years ago – H817 Open Education was not an option at the time so, again, this is an opportune moment to update my learning in a familiar environment.

I’ve also been a long-time advocate of openness, especially in education. This interest stemmed from my use and advocacy of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and the belief that the theories underpinning FOSS could be transferred to education.

That’s me in a nutshell, but I’m sure I’ll reveal more about myself in future blogs.

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E-Learning Needs Cultural Change

John Seely Brown (2007) says that there needs to be a cultural shift in the way teaching and learning takes place that integrates, or even better, makes central the use of information technology and social media. He calls this process enculturating: emersion into a community and practice to become a practitioner.

He says that understanding is socially constructed and these new Social Networks, including blogs and wikis, encourage people to form communities of practitioners and thus extend the reach of instructors and education. For this to happen there needs to be a major retraining of teachers for e?learning to work. Mentoring, rather than teaching, needs to be brought into the process and there should be a merging of the teacher/learner distinction. Sfard (1998) might point out that Seely Brown adopts the Participation Metaphor (PM) and neglects the Acquisition Metaphor (AM), with AM being knowledge as commodity and PM being learning as activity. Social media falls very much into the PM style of learning where the acquisition of knowledge is based on the the act of becoming a participant. Sfard importantly points out, with reference to the “learning paradox” that learning cannot take place solely through adherence to he Participation Metaphor as it cannot account for the transmission of knowledge and can lead to a gradual disappearance of a well defined subject matter. Use of the Acquisition Metaphor style of teaching and learning is necessary. Sfard describes them as differing perspectives rather than competing opinions. Seely Brown does hint though that the role of the mentor is a subtle balancing act: shaping and directing learning, especially at the outset, but recognising the need to abandon that role and join the developing community and participate in the knowledge creation. This idea corresponds with Wenger (1998) who identified two key elements in the creation of a community of practice: participation and reification. Participation merely involves the engagement of an individual with other members of the group as part of the process of creating meaning. Reification is the process of turning practice into a “thing”. This “thing” could take the form of anything but has to be practice that is formalised so it has some independent life.

Similarly, Weller (2007) says the Internet was constructed around three design principles: robustness, decentralization and openness. These design principles became social characteristics. E?learning would naturally follow the community norms of the Internet. The challenge for educators is how to accommodate this way of working, a way of working and communicating that is increasingly comfortable for a new generation of learners, into formal education.

Seely Brown cites Free and Open Source Software as an example of what he is talking about, describing it as a participatory learning platform – a form of distributed learning. In fact the leading blog and wiki software, WordPress and WikiMedia, are both Free and Open Source Software. Their source code is freely available to download to examine, learn from, modify and contribute back to the community. This idea of sharing and community building that blogs and wikis help to create is not a new idea. As a formal theory it can be traced back at least as far as Mutual Aid by Peter Kropotkin (1902) where mutual aid is put forward as an evolutionary imperative, which more than corresponds to what Seely Brown is proposing about moving into a new kind of economy – a creator economy, and a new kind of culture – a culture of co-operation.

The most famous and ardent proponent of Free Software is Richard M. Stallman, who set out to create a free Unix-like operating system called GNU in 1983 (GNU stands for Gnu Not Unix) after restrictions were put on the sharing of software source code by software companies, and then founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985. His motivation was not to be able to go on not paying for software but to be able to see the software code to help himself and others learn how to make better software.

Eric Raymond, in his essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar (1999), examined the Free Software process of developing software through the sharing of code and co-operation. He described the process as bottom-up and likened it to a bazaar, and compared it to the top-down, closed, corporate model of software development which he liked to building a cathedral. The essay has proved very influential and was a contributing factor in Netscape making their internet browser “open source”, a phrase coined by Raymond to better describe the process of Free Software development. The Netscape browser eventually became the current Firefox browser, one of the most successful Free and Open Source Software projects.

The open sourcing of Netscape is examined in Glyn Moody’s Rebel Code (2001) which describes the evolution and significance of Free and Open Source Software and in particular the Linux operating system which started life as a student project released as Free and Open Source Software and has since gone on, with the help of numerous contributions by volunteer enthusiasts to become the operating system that now runs most of the Internet.

In 2009, BBC Radio Four broadcast the documentary “Inside the Virtual Anthill: Open Source Means Business”. As well as looking at how Free and Open Source Software rivals and excels more commercially developed software, the programme looks at how the ethos of sharing, co-operation and participation is spreading to other businesses. This is how things like blogs, wikis and e?learning in general should be deployed. As Seely Brown in particular advocates, education needs to change to embrace e?learning, and that means changing the way teaching and learning is approached: it needs to be about participation, community building and co-operative knowledge building, it needs to be Open Source.


  • Inside the Virtual Anthill: Open Source Means Business, (2009), BBC Radio 4, 1 June. (Accessed online 19th August 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/kp806/)
  • Kropotkin, P. (1902) Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution. Reprint, Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1989.
  • Moody, G. (2001) Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution. London: Allen Lane: The Penguin Press
  • Raymond, E. (1999) The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source from an Accidental Revolutionary. O’Reilly and Associates, Sebastapol, CA.
  • Seely Brown, J. (2007) ‘Learning 2.0: New Modes of Learning and Scholarship’ – Open University’s Open Learn Conference, Milton Keynes, England, 31 October 2007
  • Sfard, A. (1998) ‘On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one’, Educational Researcher, vol.27, no.2, pp.4–13.
  • Wenger, E (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press
  • Weller, M. (2007), ‘The distance from isolation: Why communities are the logical conclusion in e-learning’, Computers & Education, No. 49, pp. 148–159.
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The Solution Test

Describe my solution

1. What does my solution do?

First of all, my solution does not provide online education. There are more than enough online courses covering every subject under the sun and of far better quality than I or any individual can offer.

What I am proposing is a way for people to record their learning and to offer validation for learning conducted outside the normal channels.

Also, to offer advice on choosing a pathway to where people want to go with their education – to offer suggestions and recommendations for future learning and how to achieve individual goals.

2. How does it work?

This is where I get a bit vague, so here’s my chance to firm-up some ideas.

My solution will be, essentially, an ePortfolio where people will record their formal education and qualifications. More importantly, there will be a space to record non-formal education and training with evidence of their achievement ready to be assessed and validated.

The assessment and validation side of things will have to have some sort of authority behind it, i.e. a university, awarding body or government.

Universities already have experience in the “accreditation of prior learning” for admitting students to courses, and it can account for up to half of an undergraduate programme and one-third towards a post graduate award. QAA has published formal information and guidance on the subject. There will have to be some compromise by awarding bodies on the validity of learning undertaken independently by individuals for this to work.

There will have to be a “learning planner” to help people focus on choosing the right learning for them so that they achieve what they want to achieve and reach their ultimate goal.

For example, if someone wants to become a graphic designer, their is certain knowledge and competencies a learner must have together with a body of work that meets a professional standard. the planner will help the learner plan their learning: producing a course of study and identifying appropriate learning resources.

3. Why would someone want it?

Education is expensive and only getting more so.

For most jobs, a higher education is not necessary.

The “experience” of college and university is being questioned for being worth the money.

This solution will offer people a cheap and fulfilling alternative to enable them to achieve the education they want and need.

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The Pain Test Questionnaire

Please take a few minutes to answer these questions.

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My Idea

Tuition fees for higher education are rapidly increasing. Many people are asking if formal education is worth the cost and subsequent debt and are looking elsewhere for their education.

I want to provide a service that points people to online learning and resources, enables them to record their learning and then validate that learning.

I want to do this because I believe that access to knowledge and education should not be subject to one’s comparative wealth.

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