Group Dynamics on a VLE



The diagram reflects the individual posts of the members of a group in the online course ALGC. Ignore the colours, they don’t mean anything. Note though that the letters indicate order of posting, from the opening of a discussion activity – which was to agree a group name. The connections indicate the next and the last person who posted, relative to the individual.

So what does this mean?

It says nothing about the quality of posts, just the volume of posts, and to a limited extent the sequence of posts. It does indicate who may have interacted with who though. What you would really need to do is indicate who initiated conversations, who replied to other students, and whose discussion posts moved the conversation forwards.

This was not my group, and there is anonymity here, since the discussions were secure behind a password protected firewall. Not all students managed to participate within the time limit, and N, O and P joined the discussion late. They did not make up for lost time by replying to other people’s posts though. A,C, D,K and M were very proactive and would make good learning partners, since they are chatty and responsive. Most students were somewhere in between these two previous groups.

What on earth is difficult about agreeing a name for a group?

Accessing the VLE, slow internet connections, hardware and software incompatibilities, lack of time, problems registering, not knowing which group they were part of (in the case of three students in total, one from this group). What were there barriers to learning? I am planning some research into barriers to learning, so the answers would be interesting… please leave your comments here colleagues if you would like to.


Adult Learning and Global Change

24th April, 2017.

Course registration in progress.

Interesting that the course director asks for confirmation of receipt of the email with joining instructions… in the past I wonder whether students have received the emails I send and I also ask for read receipts.

One student said he was away for 3 weeks and had 1600 emails in that time… the digital ‘noise’ (Shannon and Weaver 1949) created by those emails prevents communication from me to him and the feedback loop back to me.

Next steps: course registration completed, a registered letter with a password for the VLE to be sent in July. In the meantime – reading and thinking about previous students’ blogposts and projects internationally.

  • – – – –

12th April, 2017

Application to Linkoping – passport application sent off, when it returns I can send a copy to Sweden admissions (UCAS equivalent) and hopefully my application is then complete.

Three years later I have been admitted to this programme, and it begins with registration on September 13th. I wonder where this learning journey will take me….

Virtually to Canada, Australia, South Africa and Sweden I suppose….

The hermeneutics of semiotic materialism.

If you put together a semiotic materialism, trade union education, and a preferred hegemonic reading of a text you can get the following results:

When Word 1 = Meaning 1, and Word 2 is the student’s preferred Meaning…

in a discussion of trade union values, perhaps eight values are mentioned, but one of the values, mentioned most commonly is none of the above, but a modified meaning.

The symbolic meaning has failed to be mediated by the symbol, and the hegemonic meaning is modified by the learner’s own meanings: the actor has become an actant and an intermediary.

We say equality and they hear justice… but in some instances the hegemonic meaning (which is the counter-hegemonic meaning) is taken to be its antonym, and what is said is the exact opposite of what is heard: we say scab, and they hear strike-breaker.

Gramsci’s hegemony, and the neo-Gramscian counter-hegemonic hermeneutic, explain why the preferred semiotic meaning is modified, lost, or transmitted.

Exegesis tries to read the meaning from the text (and the text may be words, pictures, or symbols), whereas eisegesis reads meaning into the text from the experience and viewpoint of the reader. It’s like wearing tinted glasses – after a while you stop noticing that everything you see has that colour of tinting applied to it. We need to be aware of that bias, and being aware of it we need to try to read without reading into the text. Understanding the mindset of the text’s author is therefore a key part of understanding the meaning that the author intended the text to convey.

Bourdieu’s notion of doxa and his field theory explain why some readings of a text may not suggest themselves to us: there is heterodoxy and orthodoxy, but beyond these there is a range of readings that don’t even spring to mind – these are because of our social conditioning, the doxa in that field.

Freire’s culture of silence explains the same thing – society controls what we think and do, and only praxis can take us beyond orthopraxy and heteropraxy into a conscientisation which changes both us and the world in which we live.


Language and communication

I remember learning HTML, and being so proud when I learnt to take my first steps in the language. It wasn’t very useful for me, though there are still times when it’s helpful to look at the code for a webpage and look at the different coding elements in the page (usually server side scripts using PHP or javascript, occasionally Java).

I have learnt and forgotten quite a few languages, but I have the certificates to prove I retained them long enough to pass the test. In terms of academic languages my first language is theology, my second language is philosophy and social sciences, and my third language is industrial relations. Lagging behind is the language of education, and after that educational technology.

Each language has its own syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, structures for constructing arguments, as well as distinct dialects.

I think and dream in English (mostly, though I occasionally dream in Arabic), but I ratiocinate in the symbolic languages of theology and philosophy, then begins a long process of simplification and translation into the languages of education and educational technology – that’s what I mean by simplify.

Education is not my first academic language, and its conventions are not my natural ones, it’s much harder to express myself clearly in the academic conventions of education. I often turn to my friends to help understand the value and limitations of this language, a language which is designed as much to define and exclude from the academic community as to include. These friends include bell hooks, who had her own take on the language of higher education, and Paulo Freire who reinvented education for many.

What language do you speak most naturally?

Assessment and Pedagogy

Abstract: All organisations have values. We don’t always share those values. In this short video the author discusses his own values and how these affect assessment. The perspective is from Paulo Freire and Eric Mazur and focuses on respect for learners.

Ipsative assessment usually refers to the measurement of a student’s progress against themselves, not against any other. Here it is used to mean assessment by the student against their own aims for the course.

thesis know how – beware the quote dump

So it happens at doctoral level as well as undergraduate and taught masters? Fascinating.


I very often see first drafts of theses – and sometimes completed ones – which suffer from quote dumping. A quote dump is when the writer inserts a very large extract of someone else’s words into a text and then does nothing with it. The quote sits there, highly visible in its indented and italicised state, inert, unyielding, impenetrable.

The quote dump often occurs in literature chapters and/or when the thesis writer is discussing theoretical literatures. It’s sometimes used when people are explaining their methodology. It can happen when people genuinely attempt to engage with other people’s words and ideas and either challenge them, evaluate them or make them into foundations for their own research.

While quote dumping might have been the way to get good marks in essays in undergraduate and Masters work, it is a learned strategy that doesn’t fly so well in a doctoral thesis. Yes, the…

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