Monday 11 March 2013

Extramural creative production by two students featuring indicators for #connectedlearning. An #ICEL2013 research article.

Written for researchers and educators interested in the Connected Learning framework and extramural, online creative production by university students in the Global South.

The conference paper 'Students as Creative Producers' written by Laura Czerniewicz, Cheryl Brown and I, has recently been accepted for the International Conference on e-Learning 2013. As lead author, it developed from my research assistant work on the fourth phase (2010-11) of the Centre for Educational Technology’s ‘Students Information Communication Technology Access and Use’ project. It reflects my interest in the use of online media for creative production; it dovetails with my PhD focus on the e-portfolio design choices of Visual Arts learners.

In reviewing the evidence from 24 first-year university subjects, we found that four use online services predominately to pursue extra-mural creative production activities. These include: fiction and non- fiction writing; songwriting and singing; and film-making.  In drafting case studies it became evident that the use of online services from 2010 to 2013 by students enabled them to experience indicators from the Connected Learning learning framework (Ito et al, 2013). The Connected Learning (CL) framework was produced by the Digital Media and Learning Hub. It argues that learners flourish and achieve their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity. Our paper shows how the varied online publication services used by two students, 'Odette' and 'Vince', provided them with inter-connected and relevant extramural experiences. As an approach to learning and design, research on the CL framework originally centered on secondary school learners in the U.S. and Great Britain. This paper reveals that a CL framework is also relevant for the extramural, online creative production activities of university students elsewhere in the world:

Both student examples featured the core properties of the CL framework in taking advantage of openly networked, online publication services to produce presences that fostered self-expression. Their extramural use of these new media services also expanded the potential social support for their extramural or co-curricular interests with online peers. Through this, the students could experience learning experiences and build their capabilities.

Their examples also demonstrated CL design principles despite being student-led: the well-resourced students learnt through doing, faced continual challenges and could connect different domains. The extent of this varied by student; Vince had socially- embedded, interest-driven, educational experiences across varied domains. Odette had legitimate copyright and feedback concerns that resulted in a more nuanced use of online presences, although fewer indicators were present.

Further, these case studies suggest that interest-powered, online creative production can have important benefits for students: feedback from online peers helped students to improve their creative skills and helped build their confidence; by serving as a space for students to reflect on, and define, their interests, the students experienced personal growth; and in using online publication services to bridge academic, civic and career domains, the students had opportunities to reflect on their roles within, and across, these domains.

To meet an ICEL2013 submission requirement that our article be less than 5,000 words (including its references and appendices), we chose to focus on two students. We are currently investigating journal opportunities to publish an 8,000 word article featuring three cases studies (adding the case of a student journalist and broadcaster, 'Jake').

Our research was funded by the International Development Research Center and the ICEL2013 article is available on Google Drive as a public good. Please read the article and email the authors your feedback. Or add your comment below. Thanks.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Did you know your printer has a limit on the number of pages it can possibly print?

Written for printer purchasers and users.

If you spend a fair amount on printer cartridges, you should read the UK Daily Mail's recent article on 'The great printer rip off: Ink costs more than vintage champers - and devious new tricks mean you constantly have to buy refills'. This article reveals that printer manufacturers make it as hard as possible for you to have competing choices when purchasing cartridges. They also deploy a range of tricks to make you use ink faster than you need to.

Although this article mentions how manufacturers prevent consumers from using cartridges 'low on link', it did not raise the point that printer lifespans are themselves also controlled by a limit on printable pages. I recently experienced this with my Canon Pixma iP5000 when it displayed the following, seemingly innocuous 'Support Code : 1700' error message:

I took it to a licensed service provider who informed me that most printers track the number of pages printed. Once a page limit is reached, your printer displays an error message and you will be unable to print. They advised that this can be fixed by replacing the printer's main board, but warned that this only has a 50% chance of working. After authorizing this, the error message disappeared and I could print again... for a brief while until the print quality become erratic and several varieties of error message were displayed. The service provider informed that although my print head required replacement, this was impossible as that part was no longer in production. As a result, I was given a newer refurbished model for free after my "old" one was recycled.

I would like my printer to work until it literally 'falls apart' and wonder whether there is any printer manufacturer which produces a printer that; is designed to last longer than five years, has no limits on printable pages and a reliable supply of spares? (If you know, please let my readers know in the comment box below, thanks!) Given the growing market for environmentally responsible products,  there could be a market niche for such a green printer.

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