Author Archives: Colin Walsh

Week 5 – Distraction Visualisation

Figure 1 – Distractions

Since the beginning of the year I have been getting distracted easily from work or masters related reading. I noticed that since we are stuck at home my main way of distracting myself was getting cups of tea so thats how this visualisation came to be, I wanted to see all the times I distracted myself along with keeping track of all the times I had a snack (normally always biscuits).

Description of the Visualisation

This visualisation is similar to an ECG, each ECG is a different day starting from top (Monday) to bottom (Friday). Along the top you can roughly see the time (that was more for me) which only covers 9am to midnight as these are my active hours.


Figure 2 – Legend


I went for an ECG style drawing as most of my time is spent sitting down at a laptop which doesn’t really get my heart going in the literal sense. Each time I get up my heart has to work and start to beat more (albeit only slightly).

I took the approach over this block to keep my visualisations quite simple, I have quite a lot of data hidden behind each heart beat such as what I ate for each snack, dinner, breakfast, etc. My goal over the next block will be to expand the complexity of the visualisations.

Block 1 – Reflection

This block gave me a view of data capture and the overwhelming feeling I took away from it was:

The data that is collected is not what should be collected

The learning management systems (LMS) that are being utilised today gather information on the interactions and time users (the systems are tracking everyone) spend with the system. The value of this information improving peoples learning is questionable since it is a limited set of variables to do with interaction with the system. As discussed by Bulger (2016) most if not all current education systems are responsive, meaning that the system needs a ‘cause’ to then ‘react’. A teacher in most cases would be far more adaptive and be able to adapt to students prior to an issue arising.

Over the course of the three visualisations, I have tracked personal details such as how much interaction I had with course materials, how much sleep and exercise I got and finally how often I would have food or drink or snacks. These items show the level of interaction, how effective that interaction might be due to cognitive capacity and the distraction of having a cup of tea instead of focusing on course material.

The above items in my view are more important to understand, as the social life of the person shows more about what that person might be able to achieve. For example, if I do not sleep well that has a greater effect on my learning than what a system can tell from me rewinding a video several times. One of the ways to allow the LMS to see such a situation would be through wearables, those wearables as discussed by Knox et al (2020) could also provide feedback to students that would optimise when to learn and rest.

Personalisation within education has the goal of a single teacher to a single student (Friesen 2020). One of the main questions coming out of personalisation is if that teacher were a machine that could pass the Turing test is that not equal to a human teacher? In Benjamin Bloom’s paper “The 2 sigma problem” (1984) it shows that having the one to one, master – student relationship is highly beneficial. The problem though at this moment is that the master in machine learning does not exist, the technology has that goal of reaching it one day but currently it is not the case. We currently have a system as discussed above that has a limited set of variables to work from and no context around those variables e.g. sleep. A human working in a one-on-one relationship with a student can determine many different variables and through dialogue can understand the mood of the student and on a day to day basis manage their studies based on this.

With personalisation there is always a risk that a system might create a feedback loop for students. If the system recommends a certain subject or the administrator wants more focus on certain subjects they could ensure that the system nudges people in a certain direction (Knox et al 2020). Once a student is on that path perhaps the system continually pushes that new direction and the student unbeknownst to them is being nudged down a path they would not have wanted if they had freedom to explore.

Week 4 – Personal Data Visualisation

Figure 1 – Personal Tracking

A few years ago, I heard Matthew Walker author of Why We Sleep? discussing how important sleep was to pretty much everything we do. Something that is said is that if you don’t get a good night sleep you won’t be able to “take things in.”

Description of the Visualisation

From left to right is each day, each ring/line represents a different recommended amount of activity. The idea of the circles comes from video games and the idea of levelling up (I looked to for this example to explain what I see in my head).



The reason for measuring these was hearing several different articles recently mentioned that people especially since the new year were struggling to sleep and focus and I count myself as one of those people. I notice that when I don’t get a good dose of all three, I struggle with focus and in trying to understand a new topic such as the readings we are tasked with.

I can say that the days on the visualisation that I do not hit the recommended target, that day and the following day are a struggle to concentrate and with that my ability to read and focus drops.

Week 3 – Visualisation

I decided to go for a forest visualisation for this week. The main idea was that these trees would grow over time and if I was to use the same trees each week more branches would be added and the trees would get bigger.

Description of the Visualisation

Each tree represents a day going from left to right, Monday to Friday. For each day, specifically for the Masters, I kept track of different items I did in relation to it. If I did the same action multiple times during the day such as reading, there are multiple branches for the times I started it. I didn’t keep track of the length of time I did each for, just that I did them.

I have gone for a rather broad view of some of the topics. I think as I go forward there will be some weeks where I get more specific.


IDEL Results – This week the IDEL results (last module) were released so there was some preoccupation knowing that they were coming out.

Data – This is anytime I did preparation or admin work for this module such as figuring out what data to monitor or gathering all the readings together.

Reading – Specifically the essential readings for the block.

Forums – Reading and replying to forum threads to see what other people on the course are discussing.

Twitter – This week was a Tweetorial meaning a heavy Twitter round of checking, reading and responding to different ideas to the three different questions of the day.

Why? What? Where? When? – Introduction

The why

Currently I am working in the video conferencing and telephony world, to be more precise I work as part of a team in Cisco (the people behind Webex). This team is specifically focused on getting customers to test early release software and physical products around the “collaboration” space, which is a marketing way of saying communications like phones, instant messaging, enterprise video conferencing, etc.

At the start of this pandemic, I thought about tools like Webex, Zoom, Teams, etc, being used by new people and I knew that it would not be welcomed (it’s an acquired taste). Then I started to see how it was impacting people doing education and it was at that time I began to look at possibly doing some type of study around education and how it is done remotely and if it is successful.

I will say from University pretty much until today people have always mentioned to me that I should look at teaching or training people. It is an area that has brought me great pleasure when training new people and helping people understand different topics. I have always had an idea that it would be something I would do but was not sure how I would get to that point and I think the time we are in and the interest to learn a new skill has got me here. And who knows maybe a change of job at the end of it.

Why this module

Data is such a big part of my job and of pretty much everything now and being able to understand this area of Big Data and where it has come from is something that I have been looking to understand. From my current view Big Data is a word that is thrown around like “Cloud” is for computers, it is just a marketing term to make certain people feel comfortable in conversation, it doesn’t mean anything, there is no substance to the term.

The Edward Snowden revelations about data are also something that has me curious about Big Data. The revelations essentially showed that everything we do is being tracked and I was always curious how they (NSA) could wade through such large amounts of data and make sense of them (turns out they are not but it doesn’t stop them from collecting it).

There have been many other topics over the years that have piqued my interest in data and the lengths that people will go to to defend their right to it. If you have time the story of Aaron Swartz and his fight against the academic research paper industry is eye opening (and infuriating) one.

The Interest

I am curious to know the true weight put behind this “data” in education. I have seen data manipulated or certain variables intentionally not collected so that the issues cannot be tracked, and I want to see how that is within education and if the same happens.

The ability to be able to make data have value is an area that I find myself attracted to, for example in Dear Data how the data has value because Giorgia and Stefanie spent time mulling over it and really extracting the good.

I think over the course of IDEL it was the data modules that I took more of an interest in over the time. I will say that on listening to the podcast about what the upcoming modules where I thought the opportunity to have Ben Williamson as a part of the experience and hear his view was one not to miss.

Really looking forward to this module and I have already enjoyed the readings and the initial two weeks, onwards!