Landing : Athabascau University


  • Jon Dron commented on the blog My learning style September 17, 2019 - 3:59pm
    Thanks Nathaniel! I'd say 'no' to any technology preference. I have a passing interest in this thanks to the work done some years back by my own PhD student, Diana Andone, on which we published widely and gained a few top paper awards (though I...
  • Jon Dron published a blog post My learning style September 16, 2019 - 5:53pm
    I am a visual, aural, read/write, kinaesthetic, introvert, extravert, sensing, intuitive, analytic, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving, independent, dependent, collaborative, competitive, participant, avoidant, wholist, analytic, verbalizing,...
    • Hello Jon

      Thank you so much for being such a continuous poster of this theme of learning styles research. A couple of articles back you linked to a paper where I believe they noted that the reason the learning styles movement still exists is because it seems to make sense. Which is nonsense when you look at all of the research...

      Here is one of quotes I really liked and will promote when I speak to educators :"Educators need not worry about their students’ learning styles. There’s no evidence that adopting instruction to learning styles provides any benefit. Nor does it seem worthwhile to identify students’ learning styles for the purpose of warning them that they may have a pointless bias to process information one way or another."

      With my obvious support of the lack of any evidence that learning styles exists - I do have a question for you. What about when GenZ (my kids aged 10-30) learners have technology (aka smartphone, or other network linked device) in their hands as compared to our older generation learners - who did not grow up with these devices imbedded in their world. Do you think that there is anything like a "technology preference?" that educators may need to consider when planning instruction, OR like the article you provided has stated - learners should be taught to deal with all types of learning with technology....? While at the PCF9 Conference this past week Dr Sugata Mitra spoke about his research (Hole in the wall, SOLE, etc) and he stated that indeed, young learners - given devices that are connected to the internet - can and will be able to answer pretty much any question given to them. I wonder if older learners can do the same? I suspect not for various reasons - So Is there something there to consider when planning technology-enabled/enhanced learning with GenZ?

      Nathaniel Ostashewski September 16, 2019 - 6:19pm

    • Thanks Nathaniel!

      I'd say 'no' to any technology preference. I have a passing interest in this thanks to the work done some years back by my own PhD student, Diana Andone, on which we published widely and gained a few top paper awards (though I suspect that was more to do with the tag-cloud approach to sharing research findings that we developed, more than the actual findings themselves). Though she desperately wanted to find otherwise and sometimes claimed as much, from her own findings and from those of many others it seems pretty clear to me that there are no significant differences between generations and their use of technology for learning, at least in a formal educational context. There are certainly birds-of-a-feather effects in use of social technologies, but that's the nature of the beast. There are also significant differences between older and younger people in how they go about learning, but I've never seen any convincing evidence that this has changed in any significant ways between one generation and another, nor that digital technologies have had anything much to do with it. It's more about inevitable demographic differences between the lifestyles and contexts of older and younger people (responsibilities in work and family, free time, available funding, experience, differently sized and constituted circles of friends, etc, etc). What is interesting is that such tools can bring everyone up, regardless of age, and they increase the adjacent possible for all.

      Though Mitra is a very likeable and passionate fellow, with whom I share many ideals, interests, and beliefs, he tends to be a bit reticent about mentioning that the hole in the wall studies essentially failed once the cheerleading researchers left. The PCs were taken over by older, more assertive kids and largely abused for almost anything apart from learning (mostly playing games). Moreover the sponsors included substantial contributions from a commercial e-learning company so they were not just plain vanilla computers with web browsers, and learning was far from totally unstructured.  Most (if not all) have been actual holes in the wall for some time, and those that persisted longer have been in regulated, closed spaces like school playgrounds, virtually all of them within a more regulated and conventional framework. The issues with them are what led to his SOLE work, which is far more conventional in its use of teachers, controlled spaces, policed access, and formally established groups/structured networks to help guide learners. I don't think of it as self-organized at all - it's just a fairly conventional and generally sound broadly constructivist approach with mentors, small groups, and a guided process. The hole in the wall project was a very good thing inasmuch as it improved access for kids that would otherwise have had no chance at all to use such tools, and Mitra's evangelism did a great deal to boost other such initiative elsewhere that had similar benefits. He's an inspiring speaker who certainly made an impact on me with his first TED talk. I'm less impressed with his 'books' (very slim volumes) on the subject, but they are still good reads that are full of sound ideas and good observations. The main one, interestingly enough, has a foreword by Nicholas Negroponte, some of whose work is in much the same territory. In particular there are close parallels with the OLPC project, that still totters along despite having lost much of its relevance, and that similarly raised awareness of a critical issue, as well as providing some really fascinating innovations, many of which have yet to hit the mainstream (but they should), from their ingenious power supply solutions to their mesh networks to their remarkably excellent and so-very-sensible low power screen technology. See for Donald Clark's scathing critique of the Hole in the Wall project, and for Donald's thoughts on SOLE (that closely match my own). I have written critically about both initiatives in my forthcoming book, albeit in much less scathing terms than Donald, observing that, when they worked, far from being self-organized, the kids were surrounded by teachers, both on the Internet and around them, and that this was not a bad thing but a cause for celebration.

      As a researcher in self-organized learning using computers, who was doing his own PhD in the topic at the time Mitra was doing his early work, I am disappointed that I somehow missed meeting Mitra or seeing the holes in the wall in action at the time they were active, when I was actually in at least two of the parts of India that they were installed (twice, over 2 years), and I maybe even passed them by. I would have loved to have integrated my CoFIND work with his - they were very complementary ideas. The EU-India project I was involved with was far more participative, and far more rooted in and driven by the communities we worked with, but we shared many of Mitra's ideals and interests. Interestingly, self-serve self-teaching kiosks for knowledge transfer (unlike Mitra's work, these were mostly for adults, and especially for women), organized from the bottom up, were among our main proposed solutions. In fairness, unlike some of our other solutions, they hadn't happened by the end of the project and I'm pretty sure they are not there now, but perhaps we planted a seed or two that might have sprung up there or elsewhere.


      Jon Dron September 17, 2019 - 3:59pm

  • For most organizations there tend to be three main good reasons to implement an information system:    to do things the organization couldn’t do before    to improve things the organization already does...
  • Tony Bates extensively referenced this report from RBC on Canadian employer demands for skills over the next few years, in his characteristically perceptive keynote at CNIE 2019 last week. It's an interesting read. Amongst its...
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file Tony Bates at CNIE 2019 May 28, 2019 - 11:59pm
    Tony Bates talking about the future of education
  • Source:
  • Jon Dron bookmarked The Myth of 'Learning Styles' May 18, 2019 - 12:49pm
    A straightforward journalistic article from the Atlantic that does a decent job of explaining how and why learning styles theories simply don't work, with a particular focus on VARK. The takeaways are that, yes, people do often prefer to learn in...
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire April 27, 2019 - 1:09pm
    The exact same time as the climate.
  • Jon Dron bookmarked E-Learn 2019, Call for Proposals: Due July 8 April 24, 2019 - 1:14pm
    Call for Proposals: Due July 8 E-learn has been running since 1996 (originally under the name of WebNet) and is a great conference for researchers into online learning working in higher education and related fields. At its peak, it used to attract...
  • Jon Dron published a blog post In-person vs online teaching April 12, 2019 - 1:54am
    This is roughly the content of my 3 minute pitch to explain (some of) my research, that I gave at the OUNL research day in Heerlen, Netherlands yesterday. I was allowed one slide: This is (very roughly) what I said: Mediaeval scholars were...
    • Jon,

      That's quite a summary. Thanks for sharing it.

      As you know, this also relates strongly to my research, so I very much appreciate it. At the moment, I have been working with some elementary (4th and 5th grade) mathematics educators to develop a face to face learnign environment that is high on autonomy, competence, and relatedness support and that provides students with as much freedom of pace, etc. as is possible. 

      It has been challenging but exciting work. 

      Gerald Ardito April 12, 2019 - 3:22am

    • Thanks Jon for sharing this.  I like it and the topic of next generation pedagogy for online higher education. Oscar 

      Oscar Lin April 12, 2019 - 10:04am

  • Jon Dron uploaded the file in-person vs self-paced online learning April 12, 2019 - 1:34am
    This is the (single) slide from my 3 minute pitch at the OUNL 2019 research day in Heerlen, April 2019. It's meant to describe the inverse strengths and weaknesses of typical in-person teaching vs self-paced online learning, in terms of support for...
  • A characteristically smart and articulate post from George Siemens explaining why a view of the universe as nothing but networks all the way down - that he has supported in the past - is not sufficient to explain everything that matters. As George...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Premature optimism February 28, 2019 - 3:35pm
    Despite careful future-proofing and a structure that was deliberately built to evolve over time so that it would remain current, my elderly Social Computing course has pretty much reached the end of its useful life, so I have started to revise and...
  • Jon Dron published a blog post A blast from my past: Google reimplements CoFIND February 26, 2019 - 6:07pm
    A blast from my past: Google reimplements CoFIND
    While searching for a movie using Google Search last night I got (for the first time that I can recall) the option to tag the result, as described in this article. I was both very pleased and a bit disconcerted to discover that the tool they...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked A Universal Moral Code? February 14, 2019 - 11:41am
    It appears that there may be a universal moral code, at least across 60 very different cultures, at least according to this large metastudy of anthropological literature. The authors focus explicitly and exclusively on manifestations of cooperative...
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file 57 varieties February 14, 2019 - 10:26am
    Public domain image, downloaded from Flickr Commons at
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire February 12, 2019 - 3:17pm
    February 2019: Sorry for the downtime Tuesday, 12th February. It was caused by a fix gone wrong. Should be OK now.
  • I'll surely let you know, thanks Jennifer! Yes, the branching and pulling approach you suggest is pretty much exactly the cooperative pattern I have in mind, though collaborative group projects as such are mostly out of reach, thanks to...
  • Thank you Jennifer! One of my tasks between now and the start of my sabbatical in July is to revise COMP266 so I really appreciate the comments. The new version will take the student control aspect even further (for instance more flexibility in...
  • Some rambling reflections on being a Chair of a school
    • Oh interesting! Would you be able to ping me once the version is in? I'd love to be one of the first students to take it for drive. :)  I've gotten many AU courses approved by work for 2019 for reimbursement - COMP266 is currently 3rd on the list but I could take it later to wait for the revision. 

      I recall we once had a conversation about using version control tools like Git where you mentioned the added dififculties of rules concerning server locations, etc. I believe you were considering hosting your own Git server? I've only ever used Git with Bash and have no experience with other version control solutions.

      It would be quite interesting if instead of just posting on the forum to help other students that we could also review each other's code, create a branch and a pull request for our changes to be merged. And it would be neat to have the option for group projects (Group work would need to be optional as even if students had the same start date, some may aim to finish in 4 weeks, others 4 months).

      One option to help students get acquainted with git (or whatever you choose) would be to create a site listing students' project websites (perhaps with the TA being the owner). Students could then create a branch, add their url / description to the page, submit a pull request, etc. It could make for a simple/painless introduction for them.

      Time to tuck in the kid. We'll talk more later. :)

      Jennifer Davies February 9, 2019 - 8:34pm

    • I'll surely let you know, thanks Jennifer!

      Yes, the branching and pulling approach you suggest is pretty much exactly the cooperative pattern I have in mind, though collaborative group projects as such are mostly out of reach, thanks to self-pacing. I'd not want to prevent it if it occurred - I just couldn't require it. I also intend to provide some default bits of both client- and server-side code that people can simply drop in for stuff like AJAX etc, as well as to provide (largely optional) scaffolding to get started. It will make the 'fix the broken page' exercise way more straightforward, and all the stuff about reusing and repurposing code will be so much easier to track. Right now it is way too easy for students to forget to tell us which bits are theirs, which is bad whether they accidentally commit plagiarism or whether we miss the smart things they have done to improve it. As you know, the course very much applauds intelligent reuse but it's often hard to see the students' own contributions.

      Self-hosted Git is an option, as is use of the version control service provided by AWS (we have an arrangement with Amazon so I guess we might as well use it) but I'm still struggling with that: the server side is easy enough, but most client tools are too complex and/or flaky for beginners with other more important things to learn about. Finding something simple, learnable, and reliable enough, but with enough features to do the social thing, and that doesn't prevent high-fliers or those with existing experience from taking it further, is the big blocker at the moment.  Now that I have more time, I mean to spend a few days over coming weeks doing some deep investigation of the very many options. In an ideal world, as well as something foolproof, powerful, and easy, I'd like to find something with good social tool integration and Landing-like per-post/branch/project access control, but that might be tricky. If I had more time and resources I might build a plugin to do it, or to do it the other way round (embed Git, Mercurial, whatever in the Landing) but I fear I may have to make a compromise or two on that for now.

      Jon Dron February 10, 2019 - 10:59am

    • Jon,

      I really enjoyed your reflection on having been (yeah, past tense) the Chair. 

      Your experience was definitely consistent with mine time as Chair for a couple of years a couple of years ago.

      I am also very interested, as I think you know, in the same area of research. I wish you well on the next adventure, and hope we get a chance to collaborate.

      Gerald Ardito February 10, 2019 - 2:00pm