Reflections on Week 1.1 – EUCLID, Using Tools and Looking Right Ahead

EUCLID Experience

I applied last week on EUCLID having been asked to do a formal application by the College Office. The whole process was pretty smooth. It provided good feedback to students at all stages. It was good to see this process from a student perspective. I was given an e-mail with a “continuation” link right at the first stage which was reassuring. But I did have a glitch after 6 of the 8 or so steps and Internet Explorer refused to continue with messages about cookies not being enabled (when they were). This persisted for a few attempts and alternative routes to recover, so I had to give up.

Then when I came to use the e-mailed continuation link, it would not let me login with the credentials given. This was some half an hour after they had been mailed. I contact the IS help desk who very quickly came back (even at 9pm at night – Yan). he explained that the username setup can take some time. A long delay like that is not something anyone would expect. It may be worth warning EUCLID applicants of this in the e-mail they are sent we initially applying.

One process issue I spotted was at the point where a student place was offered and accepted. Up to then, the e-mail address provided on application is used for all correspondence, and to tell you items are waiting in EUCLID. It seems that at the point of registration the process establishes a student e-mail address – in my case s1200634@sms.ed.ac.uk – and e-mails get send there. My matriculation details and form for example were sent there. But as you have no indication e-mail is going to a new account you lose communication. The process should at least inform you when a student e-mail account is set up for you. The setting up of a forwarding filter is itself a technical process which some students might find difficult at first. I made a mistake in writing the regular expression rule and took 3 attempts to get a forward attempt to work. An improvement to the process would be to set up the SMS student account with a default filter rule that also forwards the mail to the originally provided applicant’s e-mail address.

Learning Challenge on Understanding Learning Course

I have some fun thinking about this one. I had been considering an appropriate and suitably interesting, challenging and achievable learning task… I was intrigued to see that motor skills can be considered as well as more cognitive knowledge-based tasks. So I was considering a range of things when I happened to be at the hairdresser and a new junior was being assisted by a senior colleague while she washed my hair. That got me thinking…

Speaking with the senior stylist there, a L’Oreal I.D. Expert, who I happen to know is one of the top hairdressers trainers in Scotland, and an award winner, I asked what a junior hairdresser can expect to learn in their first training periods and how long such training takes. We chatted about the initial skills: hair washing; customer interaction; blow drying; colour removal; colouring; etc. Training typically takes place on a half day when the salon is closed, and practiced on dummies, and colleagues. And the taken into the salon gradually. We chatted more and I explained about the learning challenge. I could sense an opportunity.

I think this might be a novel and fun challenge. Quite different to what I normally do. Involving interaction with different people. The Stylist thought it would be cute to have a skill where I could offer to professional blow dry my wife’s hair. When I mentioned this to my wife she said she would prefer me to get a motor skill like ironing, cooking or painting windows! She also said that it was a good job I had not been to the dentist and suggested that as a learning challenge!

Junior Hairdresser Application

My “application” as junior hairdresser was accepted and my training sessions are set up for 19th and 26th October. I will be training initially on a dummy head. I will be given advance reading about brush shape and choice and the reasons to use different brushes. I am required to maintain a training log book. I am also told to arrive in smart casual clothing (better update my outfit with all those young things about) and expect to get hot.

Private Weblog… Really?

I have been using the Weblog to make notes on upcoming work, ideas, outline reports, etc. It is my approach to do outline far in advance of delivery dates. I am a natural list maker but relax as soon as things are on a list (its a known condition some call “Zygaric Stress”). But I really do want these to be private as they give away ideas I don’t want to introduce, even to tutors, until the right time. I wonder who can peek in 🙂

Tools

All week, I was still adding more and more web sites, tools, user names and passwords to get set up for the courses. There really are a LOT. I sugegsted that we establish a Twitter tag #msculoe for the Understanding Learning in the Online Environment course, which the course tutor approved.

I have not used the a.nnotate tool before to allow for discussion threads via post it style notes on papers. I think it works very well.

I was having trouble with http://holyroodpark.net/atate which did not seem to show all my posts. Ones posted in week 0 as introductions for example were not showing in my “All Posts” link, and cannot be found in the Search facility even when the exact post title is used. But a direct URL access for such posts is available where I have a record of that elsewhere. I reported this in the IDEL forums, and was advised to use the”Archive” link which does reach all your own posts.

Other Future Assignments

I have begun thinking ahead for assignments and possible topics. I like to get outlines I am comfortable with, and then spend some time collecting ideas, notes and materials. I don’t like to be up against deadlines.

Ethnographic studies for IDEL: I wonder if I can use the 300 or so people that have registered on OpenVCE.net and involved in emergency response communities, suitably anonymised.

Essay Topics for Understanding Learning in On-line Environments. Possible areas could pick up on my interests in mixed initiative tutorial environments, and the process-product planning cycle (relate to Carroll’s task-artifact cycle model – http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/task_artifact_cycle.html ). We could contrast the mixed-initiative approach with purely top down teacher driven learning and bottom up student driven discovery (relate to “Zone of proximal development” by Vygotsky, at suggestion of Hamish Macleod – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zone_of_proximal_development). A theme of “mixed initiative approaches to distance education” might make a good theme to propose. It could explore the using the model of sets of issues to address, activities to perform, constraints to maintain, and annotations/notes model for the production of educational materials, to define educational goals and their adaptive refinement to specific learner contexts. And perhaps look at a next generation of more effective intelligent learning environments which can use these to support those involved as tutors and students in distance education. This area might make a good lead in to the main dissertation.

Project for Digital Cultures Course – I have been experimenting with the idea of a “Life Wall” – your life in tags and clippings in unstructured and structured timeline forms for display on 2 X HD display screens. I spent some time getting a flow style sheet and outline web page that would work as I want to let me explore ideas. I will blog about this separately as my ideas develop. For the Digital Cultures assessment, this Life Wall may perhaps be used to find a way to present an academic programme of research, its themes and areas of influence, the work that went into it, and the results, publications and applications impact that arose. Relate to programme “road maps”.

Main Dissertation: I have made some notes on a possible dissertation area.

  1. The area of “collaborative work over the Internet for work and play” could be promising… and would let me explore some of the case histories I have been involved in for both professional and recreational purposes. I once wrote a book with someone I never met until after it was published (Reading in Planning: Allen, Hendler and Tate). We have done much work with multi-national emergency response communities, especially via OpenVCE.net. Recreationally, we created many Gerry Anderson 3D modelling assets (GA-MMA) and Supercar assets between people scattered all round the globe.
  2. Another possible area is the use of a virtual worlds classroom assistant that would be available in the classroom 24/7 and supportive of people using the room. It might use non-player character (NPC) technology just now appearing in OpenSim. It could link up and use chatbot technology (MyCyberTwin for example) with suitable FAQs, tutorial capability, etc. It might make use of the I-X helper. Care would be taken to ensure I focus on areas where I have done the development and concepts and development myself, such as in the area of virtual personalities using chat and NPC embodiment.
  3. A serious possibility could be to look at mixed initiative interaction as a model for distance education. see notes under Understanding Learning above.

Money and Matriculation

Well the payment of fees got sorted out really quickly between the various parts of the University. I was most impressed. Will not be so cynical for a while. I also matriculated so I am now a fully fledged student and staff member simultaneously.

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