Auricle hibernates!

It has been a long time since I last posted on this site. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, I retired from my Associate Head of e-Learning post at the Higher Education Academy in July 2011. So, despite my continuing interest in the influences (negative and positive) of technologies on learning it was time to fade gently into the background. Secondly, Auricle at one time was a fairly rare beast, i.e. a Higher Education blog. It was great, therefore, to have a sense of contributing to this new emerging means of communicating a message or point of view, as well as building a potentially useful resource for others to use. Today, however, e-learning blogs are commonplace and so it has become harder to justify the effort. Thirdly, there comes a point where you find yourself beginning to repeat the same mantras and so run the risk of becoming identified with a particular message or perspective. Finally, I particularly value long-form online works because there is space to develop a theme, postulate arguments and link to resources. That’s quite a distance from the multiple short-form distraction fest of Twitter and Facebook (see, a mantra repeat 🙂 )

So I’m putting Auricle to bed. Not killing it off. Just letting it sleep in case I wish to ever revisit my decision. The site will remain accessible as an archive, but only background technical/security updates will be taking place from now on. Anyone wishing to use any of my postings can do so on an attribution and notification basis (by clicking ‘Read More’ and then entering a comment identifying yourself, your institution, and how it is being used at the bottom of this posting. That information will then be shared with other users when I approve the comment).

As for me, I still run a couple of other blogs. Firstly, there is VeloScience which is a cycling site with a touch of science and technology. Secondly, there is CyberStanza a poetry site which reflects on living, learning, and surviving in our increasingly technological world. The Auricle influence is there in both.

My thanks to everyone who has read Auricle over the years. I hope you found some of it useful; or at least thought provoking at times.

Derek Morrison, Bath 26 June 2014

In memory of Jane Plenderleith

by Derek Morrison, 23 May 2012

Over my ever increasing years working in (or for) various organsations very few people have impressed me so quickly. Jane Plenderleith, however, who died peacefully yesterday at the conclusion of a rapidly progressive illness was one such person. Jane was part of the dynamic duo otherwise known as that have, over many years, made a significant contribution in UK Higher Education to the development and evaluation of the thing we had come to know as e-learning. I worked with Jane and her partner Veronica since 2005 first in the national UK Benchmarking of E-Learning in Higher Education Project, followed by the Pathfinder Project and, more recently, the Welsh HE “Gwella” (Enhancement) Programme. It is fair to say that it was Jane’s very rare balance of detached analysis, quiet assertiveness, communication abilities but, yet, innate empathy which made her a such a terrific force to be reckoned with. Jane only found out how ill she was relatively recently but yet marshalled resources of courage and willingness to face her death that should be an inspiration to us all. We should not be surprised that she wished to share her experiences in the digital domain via her blog at To the end Jane lived her life how she wanted to and I salute her final act which was to donate her body to medical science. Goodbye Jane, we will miss you.

Education – whose business is it?

By Derek Morrison, 7 February 2012

I like exploring the byways of what our national and international media have to offer; particularly regarding perspectives on the future of learning and teaching in an increasingly digital and globalised world. Consequently, I sometimes stumble upon something of particular note worth sharing. But before I share please indulge a brief polemic. Much as I like what the BBC has to offer it’s a real pity that this public service corporation didn’t invest some of our pre-austerity licence fee in creating transcripts for its educationally oriented output. The US NPR On the Media programme has a lot to teach it here with each item in each week’s programme being supported by a transcript. Polemic over, and now on to the sharing. Continue reading

Newton’s reincarnation?

by Derek Morrison, 14 July 2011, updated 17 July 2011

I’ve noticed more and more people turning up at various higher education conferences or seminars with iPads rather than the traditional laptop. My interest lay not in the iPad’s obvious attraction as a highly portable media access and consumption device but rather in how it is being, and could be, used as a creative device at the simplest level, i.e. for taking notes.

Theoretically, as a tablet computer the iPad could be a powerful writing machine. But … (that Auricle “but” again).

It depends what we mean by “writing”. If we actually mean typing there is always the iPad’s on-screen keyboard and that is what I see most HE conference delegates using. Alternatively, touch typists can plug in a bluetooth keyboard thus converting their iPad into a quasi netbook/laptop. I’ve not seen too many do the latter because after all it’s the convenience of touchscreen computers which has gained them such traction.

But why shouldn’t it be easy to use the iPad and similar for ‘real’ cursive writing which in efficiency terms going to be streets ahead of the hunt and peck that even skilled typists are forced into when using the iPad as a notetaking device? So I set off to see if I could find out. Continue reading

Quote: Publishing may be in trouble but storytelling is not.

Posted in The Auricle (
by Derek Morrison, 25 June 2011, updated 28 and 29 June 2011

“Publishing may be in trouble but storytelling is not. Authors such as Amanda Hocking are understandably giving the industry the jitters. Hocking didn’t succeed in getting her young adult novels into print in the traditional way, so she uploaded digital versions on to the web, making them cheaply available. At first she sold only a few copies. Soon, however, she was selling hundreds of thousands of virtual books, and only now has she signed a deal with St Martin’s Press.” (Erica Wagner, Literary Editor, The Times, 25 June 2011).

I would like to share the link to the above quote with Auricle readers but Rupert Murdoch’s walled garden (sorry paywall to his UK newspapers) prevents me from doing so; please forgive me. Some columnists offer a copy of their articles on their own web sites but Erica Wagner doesn’t appear to do so.

As I find myself reading more and more epublications on various mobile devices (and, yes, actually reading more as a result) it’s easy to empathise (but not sympathise) with the growing sense of panic from traditional publishers who must by now see the latest digital tsunami building mass and momentum off-shore.

Viewed from an HE perspective it’s now way past the time to start thinking creatively about the opportunities that this presents; and not just focus on the Continue reading

Click in the Classroom

by Derek Morrison, 26 June 2011

Screenshot from BBC Click episode 25 June 2011The first 6 minutes of the BBC’s Click program for 25 June 2011 contains an interesting item about how some schools have taken radical decisions about the role of technologies in their classrooms and whether “the cheque is worth the tech”. Featuring New York City’s Hudson High School (Twitter @hudsonhslt), the private Long Island University, and New York City’s iSchool the item contained such assertions as “… expensive multi-year services service contracts are no longer necessary and some schools and colleges have gone so far as to design their own software solutions to further drive down costs” followed by a sequence of Long Island University students using an in-house iPad app earthquake simulator. The item then segued to how the NYC iSchool exploited Skype to provide their students with remote access to outside speakers, experts, authors, and other students from sites thousands of miles away. Cue the Skype in the Classroom initiative which at the time of reporting was used by over 12,000 teachers in 186 countries. Although primarily an upbeat Click item, the concluding minute acknowledged the issues that learning technologies have brought to the fore, e.g. equity of access to devices and connectivity, plagiarism, and the need for the technology to blend into the background. On the question of plagiarism Alisa Berger, the founder of NYC iSchool offers a useful message that should give pause for reflection everywhere ” We have found that when kids feel what they are learning is valuable to them they don’t want to cheat because they feel there is value in knowing it, and I think that is a cultural shift that will occur in our society”.

You can watch the item on BBC iPlayer. The episode also appears to be available from the previous episodes section of the BBC Click site so that may work for non-UK residents. There doesn’t appear to be another source for non-UK residents as yet although YouTube does appear to have an ad hoc collection of Click related items.

Quote: Twitter lessons for spammers and spinners?

by Derek Morrison, 23 June 2011

… do not use Twitter as an old-fashioned marketing tool. Because it isn’t. The old way of marketing is sending, the new way of marketing is about dialogues, personal conversations, and one-to-one advice.” (Pay With a Tweet is Spam, FutureBook, 20 June 2011)

A message there for us all to reflect on, even non Twitter-oriented individuals, organisations, and corporates.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

by Derek Morrison, 22 May 2011 updated 27 May, 31 May 2011, 3 June 2011, and 17 June 2011

Adam Curtis describes himself modestly as “a documentary film maker, whose work includes The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, The Mayfair Set, Pandora’s Box, The Trap and The Living Dead” but that understates his unique approach to employing visual imagery to help the viewer construct and deconstruct. Those open to having their comfort zone regarding the digital world we are creating made somewhat less comfortable may be interested in his latest three part documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace which explores “the idea that humans have been colonised by the machines they have built”. Given Curtis’ provenance, system and managerialist ideologues may be too discomfited to watch.

For everyone else it starts tomorrow (23 May 2011) on the UK’s BBC 2 television channel and should be available on the BBC iPlayer thereafter. A streaming video taster is offered on Adam’s own The Medium and the Message blog. Non UK readers may be interested in the OLDaily reference in the Further Reading/Viewing section at the bottom of this posting.

Memorably, the British author Bryan Appleyard describes Curtis as the BBC’s “in-house video philosopher and archive-crawler” who believes “that ideas change the world … but they don’t have the consequences people expect”.

Curtis’ latest documentary series should perhaps be followed by reading Dan Gardner’s Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail and Why We Believe them Anyway and then Tim Harford’s Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure. Follow that aperitif with a revisit to Francis Fukuyama’s book The End of History and the Last Man (1992) in which the right-wing neocon Fukuyama and champion of rugged individualism asserted that the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union evidenced “western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”. Twenty years later the realities of the turbulent world we now live in and the rise of authoritarian capitalism has led to a new more left-leaning Obama-supporting Fukuyama revising his views. His change of perspective is perhaps hinted at in The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution (2011) which acknowledges the limitations of self-interest as the underlying model of human social development (see also Fukuyama’s own web site at Stanford).

And the obscure title of Curtis’ documentary series? That comes from a poem contained in a 1967 collection of the same name by Richard Brautigan in which cybernetics has restored nature’s balance and human labour is no more. Read it and shiver, read it and shiver! Continue reading

The personalisation of a learning environment: student-led connections online and offline

by Derek Morrison, 1 June 2011

Hugh Davis and Su White led an interesting and challenging session at an invitation only workshop organised by the UK’s Higher Education Academy as part of their Enhancement Academy initiative. The meeting was hosted by the Learning Societies Lab at the University of Southampton last Thursday (26 May 2011). Hugh and Su’s session was titled The Personalisation of a Learning environment: Student-led Connections Online and Offline. It certainly demonstrated a welcome potential to begin the process of stimulating a much needed deep reflection about escaping from the gravity exerted by what are still fundamentally first generation virtual learning environments being employed by HEIs and other educational entities – albeit with some Web 2.0 bells and whistles added. Continue reading