Tag Archives: books

Euclid in colour and technology for learning

I work in the area commonly known as Learning Technology, or Educational Technology.  I don’t have much time for trying to pin down what exactly constitutes “technology” in that context, and certainly none for considerations like “printing is technology, does that count”.  But today I bought a book which does quite literally(*) illustrate advances in printing applied to learning.

euclid2The book is a reprint of the Oliver Byrne’s The first six books of the elements of Euclid in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater ease of learners which was first published in 1847. Instead of the conventional referencing of lines, shapes and angle by letters used in geometry text books. So instead of:

Proposition 30: Straight lines parallel to the same straight line are also parallel to one another.

Let each of the straight lines AB and CD be parallel to EF.
I say that AB is also parallel to CD.

Let the straight line GK fall upon them. Since the straight line GK falls on the parallel straight lines AB and EF, therefore the angle AGK equals the angle GHF.
Again, since the straight line GK falls on the parallel straight lines EF and CD, therefore the angle GHF equals the angle GKD.
But the angle AGK was also proved equal to the angle GHF. Therefore the angle AGK also equals the angle GKD, and they are alternate.
Therefore AB is parallel to CD.
Therefore straight lines parallel to the same straight line are also parallel to one another.

This book has:euclid1

Colour printing of books was not common in 1847, it only became commercially viable after the invention new printing techniques in the C19th and mass production of cheap synthetic dyes, starting with mauvine in 1856, so this can fairly be called advanced technology for its time. Like many uses of technology to enhance learning, when colour printing of text books did become commonplace, it wasn’t used with the same imagination as shown by the pioneers.

* except, of course, that “literally” means according to the written word and this is a book of pictures. #CetisPedantry

Book now available. Into the Wild – Technology for Open Educational Resources

Into the Wild (Book cover)
Into the Wild (Book cover)

With great pleasure and more relief I can now announce the availability of Into the wild – technology for open educational resources, a book of our reflections on the technology involved in three years of the UK OER Programmes.

From the blurb:

Between 2009 and 2012 the Higher Education Funding Council funded a series of programmes to encourage higher education institutions in the UK to release existing educational content as Open Educational Resources. The HEFCE-funded UK OER Programme was run and managed by the JISC and the Higher Education Academy. The JISC CETIS “OER Technology Support Project” provided support for technical innovation across this programme. This book synthesises and reflects on the approaches taken and lessons learnt across the Programme and by the Support Project.

This book is not intended as a beginners guide or a technical manual, instead it is an expert synthesis of the key technical issues arising from a national publicly-funded programme. It is intended for people working with technology to support the creation, management, dissemination and tracking of open educational resources, and particularly those who design digital infrastructure and services at institutional and national level.

You may remember Lorna writing back in August that Amber Thomas, Martin Hawksey, Lorna and I had written 90% of this book together in a Book Sprint. Well, the last 10% and the publication turned in to a bit of a marathon-relay, something about which I might write some time, but now the book is available in a variety of formats:

  • If you want glossy-covered paperback, then you can order it print-on-demand from Lulu (£3.36); if you’re not so fussed about the glossy cover and binding then there is a print-quality pdf you can print yourself.
  • If you have an ePub reader you can download, there is a free download of an epub2 file.
  • If you have a Kindle, you can download the .mobi file and transfer it, or if you prefer the convenience of Amazon’s distribution over whisper-net you can buy it from them (77p, they don’t seem to distribute for free unless you agree to give them exclusive rights for all electronic formats).
  • finally, if you prefer your ebook reading as PDFs, there is one of those too.

All varieties are free or at minimum cost for the distribution channel used; the content is cc-by licensed and editable versions are available if you wish to remix and fix what we’ve done.

Available via the Cetis publications site.

Am I an expert?

I heard Allison Littlejohn give the opening keynote at the JISC Using Learning Resources event a couple of days ago. Thank you Allison for such a thought provoking presentation, and especially for allowing time for discussion afterwards. Sheila has written a summary of that meeting, including Allison’s presentation.

One reference that caught my attention was to the book Rethinking Expertise by Harry Collins and Robert Evans, which coincidentally I had just finished reading. The book is centred around a “periodic table of expertise” listing, among other things, a spectrum of levels of expertise from “beer mat” knowledge of disconnected facts up to the level of expertise needed to contribute to research on a topic. The novel idea in the book was that it is possible to have “interactional expertise”, which is the ability to talk sensibly to domain experts about a topic (e.g. gravitational wave physics) without being able to make a contribution. It is implied that this level of expertise would be useful in the management of projects and setting of public policy that have scientific or technical elements (and yes, the idea that “experts” might have more sensible things to say about technical topics is apparently contentious).

I found this interesting because I have always flinched when called an expert on X, but perhaps I can be happier if all that is required is interactional expertise. Certainly, interactional expertise in each others domains is a requirement for making a venture like educational technology truly inter-disciplinary (which it needs to be) rather than a disconnected set of specialisms.

Rethinking Expertise is reviewed more fully in the Times Higher and drafts of the first two chapters are available from Harry Collins’s publications page.