The web-site is now in readonly mode. Login and registration are disabled. (28 June 2019)

Keynote: Conole - Innovation through design: new approaches to learning and teaching

Keynote by Grainne Conole, Cambridge International Conference of Open & Distance Learning, 24/09/09

Cloud created by:

Gráinne Conole
13 September 2009

This cloud has been set up for my keynote at the Cambridge International Conference of Open and Distance Learning 2009 on 24th September 2009.This cloud can also be used as a discussion space around the themes and issues raised in the keynote.

The talk focuses on work we are undertaking as part of the OU Learning Design Initiative and the Hewlett-funded Olnet initiative. A key focus of our work is the development of tools, methods and approached to support the desing of innovative learning activities and Open Educational Resources (OER). The website provide further details on both initiatives and links to assocaited tools, resources and publications. For this keynote I want to focus in on one strand of our work; namely how to leverage technologies to promote bettter sharing and discussing of learning and teaching ideas and designs.

When asked what they would find most helpful to enable them to use technologies more in their teaching, most teachers say "give me examples, in my subject area" and "point me to relevant people I can discuss these issues with". Web 2.0 technologies - with their emphasis on sharing, networking, user production, seem to offer the solution. However uptake and use of web 2.0 sites such as Facebook, Ning, Flckr, and Twitter for educational purposes has to date being marginal.

Some of the key questions in relation to this work are:

  • Why have web 2.0 technologies not been taken up more extensively in learning and teaching?
  • What are the barriers to teachers sharing and discussing their learning and teaching ideas and designs?
  • How can social networking practices be harness and used in an educational context?

Also see related clouds and ongoing discussions on these issues:

The talk will then outline the development of a social networking site for learning and teaching, cloudworks; which is attempting to apply web 2.0 practices to support dialogue and sharing around learning and teaching ideas and designs.



Contact details: Grainne Conole,

Extra content

The two cloudworks paper provide an outline of the development of cloudworks todate. The Ascilite one provides details of the theoretical basis for the concept and in particular the notions of "social objects' and designing for sociality. The Computers and Education paper provides details of the design decisions and associated evaluation of use of the site. The chapter in the book by Tait et al. provides an historical reflection on the origins of the OU Learning Design Initiative work. Finally, the Ariadne article outlines some of the pedagogical schema/design methods we have been developing.

Gráinne Conole
06:25 on 24 September 2009

Summary of the discussion so far:

  • Academics allegiance to their disciplines
  • Sharing as a cultural practice
  • What are the different motivations and reasons for individuals to particiate – to share and discuss?
  • Institutional VLEs as a barrier to Web 2.0, but also the VLE as a “safe harbour”
  • Time is the main barrier, but also speed of change
  • Lack of involvement because “that’s what learning technologists do”
  • Web 2.0 practices need to become part of normal practices
  • Issues in terms of staff illiteracies with new technologies

Gráinne Conole
06:31 on 24 September 2009

This work is part of the OU Learning Design Initiative and Olnet. People involved include:

  • Giota Aleveizou, Andrew Brasher, Paul Clark, Simon Cross, Juliette Culver, Andrea De Santos, Rebecca Gallley, Patrick McAndrew, Elpida Makriyannis, Paul Mundin, Martin Weller, Tina Wilson.
  • Juliette Culver is the site developer and Rebecca Galley is helping in terms of site use and moderator

We would like to thank the OU for strategic funding to support this work, also the JISC as part of their Curriculum Design Programme and the Willaim and Flora Hewlett Foundation for funding Olnet.

Gráinne Conole
07:38 on 24 September 2009

Embedded Content


Frances Bell
9:42am 21 September 2009 (Edited 12:33pm 21 September 2009)

In an excellent keynote at a Salford conference , our new VC stressed academics' allegiance to their discipline.  I am interested in sharing as a cultural practice and so I think that social media could be imprtant in disciplines in which social media has become a part of their cultural practice e.g. learning technologists. It's also important to ask why sharing is happening. For example, the dominant cultural practice in the publication of lectures, etc. by elite institutions could be publication (and esteem-building) rather than reciprocal sharing.  The clue here would be noting where and by whom resources are reused - do those publishing their lectures openly acknowledge the reuse of those from others.

Gráinne Conole
10:16am 21 September 2009

Hi yes I agree Frances - it is very interesting the way we have appropriated social media and interesting to compare with other disciplines where the norms and practices are quite different. Also as you say there are different motivations and reasons for engaing in debate/in sharing/in publishing. As always there is a spread of practices and mixing of technologies/context/personal preference - one size definitely does not fit all!

The Cloudworks Team
10:19am 21 September 2009 (Edited 12:37pm 21 September 2009)

via @daveowhite on twitter

@gconole Lack of takeup cos Web2.0 requires residency from staff ( )>requires time >requires persona as well as knowledge.33 minutes ago from TweetDeck in reply to gconole

Derek Harding
11:09am 21 September 2009

  • Why have web 2.0 technologies not been taken up more extensively in learning and teaching?

Could it be that Institutional VLEs are now a barrier to take up of web 2.0?

  • What are the barriers to teachers sharing and discussing their learning and teaching ideas and designs?

Time to do it seems to be a big problem these days.  I also wonder if such things are seen as 'stuff that the learning technologists and projects do'.

  • How can social networking practices be harness and used in an educational context?

I feel they need to become normal activities for academic staff to engage in, then they will be used more in educationally useful ways.

Gráinne Conole
12:32pm 21 September 2009

Hi Derek

yes all good points. In a talk i did last week on briding the gap between policy and practice, I suggested a number of possible reasons for lack of success of technological innovations, i) common responses, ii) resistance strategies and iii) classic mistakes see this blog post for more. The cloud for the talk is here.

Antonella Esposito
4:30pm 23 September 2009

Hi Grainne,

I try to give a response related to your first question. I thought of faculty I have been working with since thirteen years.

Why have web 2.0 technologies not been taken up more extensively in learning and teaching?

-    Speed of change.

Faculty already engaged in the adoption of ICT tools in teaching are not so wiling to adopt (and learn) new tools and approaches (“A new tech fashion? No, thanks!”).

-    Spirit of pioneers.

The institutional VLE can be sometimes considered a constraint, but if it usually works, it is a safe harbour vs the jungle of Web 2.0 tools (which is it worth choosing? are they reliable? where are the examples to be followed? etc).

-    Bad academic reputation.

Web 2.0 technologies embed conversational and playful features: faculty can see and fear these features as disruptive ones in respect to the traditional rigour and severity of the academic context. In addition, in the Web 2.0 approach the technology isn’t anymore confined in one “place”, say a VLE, but it is pervasive and rampant…

-    Literacy is not plural in HE yet.

Many faculty are convinced that the intensive use of digital media is corrupting the writing skills of the young generations. And writing has always been the privileged means for the western rationality. All the other multimedia means of expression are only an (unnecessary) add-on in the academic discourse and teaching.  These faculty are unlikely to use the web 2.0 technologies in teaching. Discussion and actions related to digital literacies is not so spread to promote mind change.
Have a good talk!

Gráinne Conole
4:35pm 23 September 2009

Hi Antonella

thanks for responding - all excellent and very valid points I think. We tend to understimate the human factors in terms of use of technologies - the engrained cultural contexts and personal preferences. Academics need clear assurances as to the benefits and value of these new technologies. Trouble is I am not sure we can really give them these assurances - precisely because these technologies are complex, multi-faceted and can be used in a variety of different ways.

Dominic Newbould
4:37pm 24 September 2009

There's perhaps a new 'digital divide' between Web 2.0 evangelists and inherently conservative academe.

Most campus activity is still subject/discipline focused rather than applied research on teaching practice.

The rewards available to academics for investing in new methodology are outweighed by the effort involved - or the perception that there is no time available to make the effort...

Gráinne Conole
4:55pm 24 September 2009

Totally agree Dominic and what is worse is that you don't get this web 2.0 stuff unless you actively participate, until you appropriate it for your own context, find your own ah ha moment. Also social networking only makes sense if your peer community is also participating. I think this means there is a huge gap between those who participate and those who don't. And the age old issue of research being priveledged over teaching is still as true as ever.

pamela ryan
1:32pm 26 September 2009

just to add to what Dominic said, I have tried in vain to get my Bookclub (yes I do have one) to read my blog. Their responses tend to cluster exactly around Grainne's (sorry about lack of accent G) avoidance strategies: "too much like hard work"; "I do this all day at work, why should I do it for pleasure?". IOW, blogging and therefore technology is 'not fun' for some so how much more difficult to get academics who already feel overwhelmed to engage in 'fun' practices that they don't yet regard as fun.

There's much to be uncovered here, issues around what it means to share in a public space, fear of being exposed, just plain fear of unknown. Rather like when mobile phones first appeared: people's reaction was one of scorn and avoidance.

Gráinne Conole
1:46pm 26 September 2009

Totally agree Pam! This is complex stuff - a mixture of the affordances of the technologies, individual preferences, changing patterns of social behaviour, motivations and requirements. Your analogy re: the mobile phone is spot on. Most people now have one but it took a while to catch on and of course a small  a majority always resist. I am sure we will see similar patterns of uptake and spectrums of use with these technologies. For me focussing on the motivational aspects - the 'what's in it for me?" question is crucial.

Frances Bell
2:43pm 26 September 2009

Also, maybe the late adopters who use slim phones with decent user interfaces are smarter than those of use who earlier carried round a Nokia brick with cr*p menus. It's the lack of middle and late adopters that forces the technology providers to get their act together.  Think of how dreadful some institutionally bought telephone systems can be.  they are sold to the procurer not the user.

Gráinne Conole
3:14pm 26 September 2009

Lol too true Frances. the ease of the i-phone interface and the variety of useful apps i can get for it has transformed the way i am doing alot of things! I think there is a time element as well, some innovations are not of the right time and hence dont hit the mark.

pamela ryan
4:27pm 26 September 2009

Agree. I am waiting for my contract to run out so that I can dump my brick of a PDA into the ocean and get myself an IPhone.

Frances Bell
5:15pm 26 September 2009

Not entirely pro-iPhone today as having problems with network coverage/ sim card - help desk not sure which.  Also I have found it interesting to compare my work practices on iPhone with desktop. I have a twitter client (Tweetdeck) and delicious app on my iphone but the process of hoovering links from tweets to delicious in a seamless fashion does not happen on iPhone.  On the other hand, I love the way I can take a photo on iphone and tweet it without the burden of the bulk photo upload.  It's the 'presence' of the media and intereaction that are so appealing.

Gráinne Conole
7:18am 27 September 2009

Agree its not perfect - i have a great spanish dictionary on my laptop that enables me to click on a word in situ and get the meaning, my iphone app doesnt. Of course the iphone is just the start - others will and already are following, functionality and look and feel can only get better. Did u read Niall Sclater's blog post about mobile phones? Will post the link here in a mo.

pamela ryan
7:48am 27 September 2009

I really value these exchanges, if only for selfish reasons, as am hovering between Blackberry and IPhone for next upgrade. Would appreciate seeing the blog on mobile phones Grainne.

Gráinne Conole
8:15am 27 September 2009

Selfish reasons are the key in social networking! If it does have value/meaning for you to participate you won't! Will be interested to hear which one you decide on. Have added the link to Niall's blog post, also have a look at some of the stuff in the cloudscape for the OU's special interest group on this topic

Frances Bell
8:15am 27 September 2009

I wanted to leave a comment on Niall Sclater's blog but couldn't see how to get an account.  One thing that I think he missed is that publishers might want to make a new economic transaction model whereby books are offered as service, centrally controlled. I have heard that some Kindle books have been withdrawn wherea no bookseller comes into your house and removes the books from the shelves.

Gráinne Conole
9:58am 27 September 2009

Lol he will just have to read and comment in here instead then ;-) Good point re: publishers. I think we are going to see alot more new business models emerging around "free content" its bound to happen. Suspect this will also be the case with Open Educational Resources and think that's what our new VC was implying in his keynote on Friday.

Contribute to the discussion

Please log in to post a comment. Register here if you haven't signed up yet.