A conference from Helen Barrett on ePortfolio and Social networks

Browsing the web I found this Helen Barrett’s talk of ePortfolio. Helen Barret is presented as the grandmother of ePorfolio, and according with all the work and researches she dedicated to ePortfolios in the last 20 years, I agree with this claim.

In this 19 minutes conference extract she is speaking about students ownership and compare ePortfolios with social networks.

Interesting references are given.

You can access this here : http://youtu.be/ckcSegrwjkA

I unfortunately missed her talk at ePic 2011 in London a few weeks ago and regret it.

Categories: Uncategorized

D844 Block One – Exercice 2 Question 3: What do the two models have in common?

According to Hammersley and Atkinson (2007) the two competing philosophical positions in ethnography: positivism and naturalism, have in common that they both try to maintain a detached position of the researcher, and they both consider social interactions or phenomena as objects.

They should be seen as complementary each other instead of  rival methods.


Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in practice, Taylor & Francis.

Categories: D844

D844 Block One – Exercice 2 Question 2: What differing philosophical positions have underlain qualitative and quantitative research?

What differing philosophical positions have underlain qualitative and quantitative research? (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007, p. 4-10)

Hammersley and Atkinson speak about a clash between two competing philosophical positions: positivism and naturalism (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007, p. 4).

They consider the major tenets of  ‘positivism’ as the following :

  1. experiment results must be quantitavely measurable
  2. events are explained in  deductive fashion by appeal to universal laws
  3. the foundation of positive-science is observation
  4. the method is concerned by the testing of theories and hypotheses (see Descartes, 2001)
  5. the facts that the method and observations collect are theory-neutral
  6. the final aim is the search for universal laws

On the other hand, ‘naturalism’ is presented as:

  1. developed by the what called School of Chicago
  2. underpinning ideas coming from the holistic movement of thinking, following Melèse (1972), Wygotsky (2003) or Wiener’s (1952) systemic approach
  3. being an approach to understand cultural meanings
  4. focusing more on the relation between the sing and the significance and its evolution through time than on facts
  5. using a set of qualitatives tools
  6. not trying to sum up observation but recording events and observations with a huge sense of the details.


Descartes, R. (2001) Discourse on method, optics, geometry, and meteorology, Hackett Publishing.

Gindis, Vladimir S. Ageyev and Miller, Suzanne M. (2003) Vygotsky’s Educational Theory in Cultural Context (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in practice, Taylor & Francis.

Mélèse, Jacques (1972) L’analyse modulaire des systèmes, Paris, Edition des Hommes et Techniques.

Wiener, Norbert (1952) Cybernétique et société, Deux Rives.

Categories: D844

D844 Block One – Exercice 2 Question 1: What is ethnography, according to Hammersley and Atkison?

What is ethnography, according to Hammersley and Atkinson (2007, p. 1-5)

Hammersley an Atkison, claim that ethnography comes from nineteenth-century Western anthropology. Ethnography was primarily ‘a descriptive account of a community or culture, usually one located outside the West’ (ibid, p 1).

Mainly ethnography in the twentieth-century means writing about the experiences and observations (data) gathered from living with a group of people (fieldwork) for a long time. Aims in ethnography research studies are to understand other’s people lives.

The features that characterise ethnography are :

  1. People’s actions are studied in everyday contexts and not in laboratories
  2. Data, which are more often qualitative reports and field-notes, than quantitative figures, are gathered from a range of sources
  3. Gathered data are for the most part, unstructured
  4. Fieldwork is made of few cases, which facilitates in-depth study but doesn’t give a truthful picture of the whole
  5. Analysis involves interpretation of the meaning
  6. Studies employ a relatively open-ended approach (Maxwell, 2005)

Hammersley and Atkinson also claim the importance for the researchers to negotiate their position in the community they seek to study. This negotiation is an never-ending process, the researchers taking part to the community evolves and their roles may change and then must be re-negotiated regularly (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007, p. 4)


Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007) Ethnography: Principles in practice, Taylor & Francis.
Maxwell, J.A. (2005) Qualitative research design: An interactive approach, Sage Publications, Inc.

Categories: D844

D844 Block One – Exercice 1: What is ethnography?

In D884, the OU’s course named “Ethnography”, the fist question of module one is: “What is ethnography”. Through the reading of a few articles’ and books’ extract the course guide invites the student to build a representation of what is ethnography with their own words.

The common grip among the plethora of definitions and concepts covered by the ethnography field of research is certainly that it involves, above all, observational and qualitatives research methods (Mason, 1996; Denzin, 1997; Fielding, 1993). It seems also clear that ethnography results are mostly presented as a descriptive and accurate writing about what has been observed by one or many researchers, living with the specimen they observe for a rather long period of time (Mason, 1996; Denzin, 1997; Willis and Trondman, 2000; D844, 2011 p. 8; Baszanger and Dodier, 2004).

This writing has to present the reality in the most convincing way (Malinoswki in Denz, 1997). This creates a tension between two schools of thinking: the naturalists who assume that researchers living and observing a population have not influence on it and the constructionists who claim that results and the research itself is influenced by the researchers’ posture or even by the just the fact the observers are observing.

It seems that, in ethnography, a big place is given to descriptive writings of the reality observed, whereas a smaller place is left for quantitative data analysis, statistical decisions and inferences.

In short and as a first definition of “What is ethnography”, I would say:

“This is a form of research that implies researchers to study a field of research in situ and for a long time, to provide, with a set of empirical tools, a written report of their experience and observations, which are as close as possible to what it could have been observed by anyone in the same place and the same time, but also knowing that the collection of data may have been different if the researchers were not there”.

I will have to rethink about this later during the course.

Baszanger, I. and Dodier, N. (2002) ‘Relating the part to the whole’, Qualitative research: Theory, method and practice. London: Sage publications.
D844 (2011) ‘D844 Block one – The ethnography tradition’, The Open University.
Denzin, N.K. (1997) Interpretive ethnography: Ethnographic practices for the 21st century, Sage Publications, Inc.
Fielding, N. (1993) ‘Ethnography’,.
Gilbert, G.N. (2001) Researching social life, Sage Publications Ltd.
Mason, J. (2002) Qualitative researching, Sage Publications Ltd.
Willis, P. and Trondman, M. (2000) ‘Manifesto for ethnography’, Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 5-16.

Categories: D844

MoodleMoot FR a commencé

Voici le stream des Tweet envoyés lors du MoodleMoot FR 2010 à Troyes

Mahoodle ! Pourquoi il ne faut pas attendre Moodle 2.0 ?

Categories: Uncategorized

Using wiki with students as a notebook for ICT learning

Executive summary

In this report I will explain what is a wiki and how I use it in my ICT course with my students as a participative notebook. I will point out the different outcomes and drawbacks I have noticed after two years of practice. Finally I will provide some recommendations for using wikis with students and give some further readings.


Although the web service Wikipedia is well known by most Internet users, the concept behind wiki remain obscure for most of them. A wiki is a piece of software usually accessible on the web in which users can create, edit and improve text as in a word processor.
Text authors embed links, multi-media such as images, sound or video. Wikis are called social tool because they let other users to interact with published media and edit in the same time or at different time. Documents can then be created within a group of users. Authors or wiki managers can attribute roles to each actor and limit the right to edit or create to certain or all readers/users.
An history is preserved and shows all the editing together with the name of those who made them. From this, it is always possible to rollback and return to a previous version of the wiki documents or to decide to purge the history and then freeze the document in its latest stage.

Current practice

With my first year Gymnasium students (secondary school, students in age 16-17) I give an IT course. This course is given half class (about 16 students) every two weeks. One of the most problems is students’ memorisation of taught concepts between two session. Sometimes, taking account of the holiday and imponderables more than one month can separate two lessons.
Until 2007, I requested students to take notes of what we studied during a lesson. Especially when working on Excel with some complex formula or concepts. More than
once, notes were lost and not taken by students and then assessment always shows poor results.
Since 2008, after each didactic sequence, students are asked to write a small report on a wiki for memory. They also have to write step-by-step instructions to show they have understood how to proceed with tasks and to remember the process in the future. These notes are shared among the groups and each member can come on one other’s wiki and edit it if he finds that corrections have to be done.
The result of this is already a better rate of pass at the final assessment. I have observed that students go by themselves to find information in their wiki’s notes whenever they need to recall some procedure in Excel or in Word. They are more critics on the notes they take and on the notes others have taken.
In the future I would like to observe whether the reflexive task requested after each learning sequences gives students more confidence or doesn’t change long term retention.


To extend or adapt use of wikis in teaching, we must be aware that a wiki is not a tool our students have already use. A phase of learning a about the tools is essential, and exercises using wikipedia, for example, could be positive.
Installation of wiki is relatively complicated. But a simple wiki with basic functions is available in Moodle as activity. This activity module supports groups and grouping to crate group, private, or class wikis.
Without tasks that demand collaboration a wiki is useless. And wikis are to develop interactive and dynamic, multimedia, hyperlinked documents. For any other use of text processing, wikis have to be replaced by fora or blogs which are more common to practitioners.


The main issue is in the nature of wikis which is not very well understood by users. Wiki is a tools belonging to the Web 2.0 family. It encompasses collaborative, multimedia and hypertext facilities. It resembles to a word processor but has to be use differently.
Page layout editing is most of the time less straightforward than in a word processor, in a blog or in a forum. Editing wikis has some limitations that are minors if other functionalities (group, link, multimedia) are used. .

Further reading

Duffy, Peter D. and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In: Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, 26 Sep. 2006, Brisbane. Available from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5398/1/5398.pdf (accessed on 11 January (2010)
Educause (2005), 7 things you should know about… wikis, Educause, Available online http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7004.pdf (accessed on 10 January 20010)
Mader (2006), Using Wiki in Education, Steward Mader ed.
Richardson, W. (2009) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for
Classrooms Corwin Press; Wikipedia (2010), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki (accessed 11 January 2010)