Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

A teacher’s perspective on creativity and learning – by Martin Owen

November 14th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I would be delighted to host guest entries on the Wales Wide Web. I forgot to ask. But Martin Owen has emailed me saying: “I have been minded to write some things about 1994 for some time and I was prompted to write this. I think it might belong on Pontydysgu.” It certainly does, Martin. And I am honoured. Martin was one of the people who first got me hooked on technology and learning. you can read it here now. When I get the research pages sorted I will also add it there.

“I write this from a teacher’s perspective. I may write the story from a learner’s perspective later. It is a response to Graham’s piece of Nov 9th about the death of VLE’s.

This is a heresy in some circles – repositories of learning materials are not what the world needs. The idea that a teacher needs a mound of other people’s worksheets or powerpointlesses or yet –SCORM/IMS Learning Design structured learning objects is a figment of the imagination of deranged computer scientists and people who need tidy desks to remember where they put things.

I will say that having good access to some neat stuff (like a well drawn diagram of  Fleming’s Left Hand Rule which I found in seconds on Wikipedia) and sharing that knowledge with others is incredibly useful.

What was true in 1994 – when I first wrote a successful grant proposal for social media in education – is true now. Sharing and borrowing is what we need to facilitate. Sharing and borrowing are social actions. They involve reciprocity and interaction between the people who share and borrow. It comes with knowledge that the people are the source and people are the receivers of this stuff and that is quite a different mindset to the notion of a repository. They are verbs associated with communities. They come with conversations.

It is increasingly easy to find stuff and publish stuff in ways they can be found. The repository is the internet and search engines are pretty dam powerful. They both become much more powerful when people are trading ideas around what is there.

My first attempt at a “virtual learning platform” was an open access room in my University that was open ‘til late. It had 12 networked MacPlus with some networked hard drives (G. Sidhu is the unsung hero of modern computing for developing AppleTalk) with the best peripherals and software tools I could afford (Scanners etc). People met, people talked, people traded, people created together. My second attempt added FirstClass to this – which coupled with putting 56 computers into the schools where my pre-service trainee teachers were learning to teach. I learned from this.

One thing I learned is that teaching and sharing on line is not straight-forward. People who were starting using the internet for learning just then where doing things like putting up some text and the telling students to “discuss and respond” in some associated forum. The kid who was going to do well usually wrote a convincing response and the best the rest could do would be to say “me-too” or “flame”. Instruction to students needed to be structured in ways that allowed multiple responses and required students to think about how they would involve others in their learning. It needed to be like the open access room where there was borrowing, sharing and mutual support. I have some  historic advice on this.

The online environment we started to build as a European Framework 4 Telematics project REM was about a multi-media learning network (we were not building platforms or repositories- we were building tools for a learning network – a different mind-set). It had means to share and discuss resources and to build collaborative learning in a virtual resource rich environment. As with all too many projects the files now rest on an old hard disk with files dated December 2000 – the end of funding.

There was a tension in the development I am only just fully coming to understand. There was some feeling amongst the project workers that there was “a” workflow through which we would drive people. We adopted a model from a paper by Lehrer et  et al . This was constructivist in its intent – however I do not think that the authors intended it to be as hard wired as a workflow as our designs might have made it.  I think design and learning are not one-way flows or on a single track. Human activity is capable of managing multiple tracks – and prefers it that way – that is to say learning is managed by the learner – learning management is not imposed or assumed by the system. As an aside, my colleagues who promoted this system initially (with my full agreement) went on to be leading proponents of IMS Learning Design. I think at a micro level it is clearly the job of a tutor to direct attention to what is salient and more importantly provide formative feedback to students on their learning. I am far from convinced that there is a set of recipes, templates or algorithms that are the formula for teaching and learning success. I appreciate that has been a holy grail for learning technology. My 36 year career in learning technology has been littered with such visions from   Skinner  onwards. I think humans are much too good at learning to be constrained by such tracks.  I even proposed an   educational modeling language  based on conversations and meaning making (as per  Nonaka) myself.

I   do think that some of the ideas expressed about the teaching of creativity in design by  Richard Kimbell at London Goldsmiths – who proposes phases like having ideas, developing ides and testing ideas without suggesting that students might not be doing all three in some sense at any time – although design will tend to go in a general direction if it is to be completed.

But getting back to the main thread of thought. In our second phase of development of this learning network tools we engaged with a BIG international bank. What was learned from talking to their training management was that they had  profound understanding of learning in their company, that development of staff was multi-dimensional: company process knowledge; knowledge of the industry’s facts and concepts (legal frameworks, economics etc) ; generic knowledge (IT skills) and interpersonal skills and so on. Using a standardised controlled vocabulary to describe their resources or most of the wrappings of systems like SCORM did not begin to address the richness of training they needed to deliver. However they were very systematic in profiling employees, their employees career trajectories, and equally profiling the needs and skills that the company required to function as a business. They recognized they needed systems of mentoring, instruction, community building, reward-giving, need-identification, ambition fulfilling . They had their own dynamic mappings of conversations, resources and learning pathways. The pathways were never straight.

Here is a simple case example. An employee was newly charged with writing a quarterly report that demanded skills in spreadsheets and charts he had not previously had. Normal processes would have had them identify and external course provider and sent the employee out for a day at some high-cost and loss of his labour for that day. A modern trend might have been the provision of one of the many dull online courses there are in the subject. However the company had tagged or profiled one of its employees with “Excel expert” and “mentoring” attributes. The company demonstrated that having someone show you the ropes to get going and being there to help when you get stuck is quite and efficient way of learning to use software – and in the process two people were having their career developed and a community of practice was being augmented.

When Graham Attwell writes about social media tools connected together to make learning are   better than VLEs  we should think about that social process of learning and teaching. Sure we can probably do them better with loosely coupled tools but I can still make cock-ups. The way we plumb things together is significant and needs to map onto the activity system or be part of the transformation of an activity system. That is a new skill – however we are fortunate in that the tool-bag is fairly bulging with opportunity and we can add, remove, augment or find scope for new invention. We can build many tailored systems for sharing and reciprocity that are true to the context in which they work. One size, one platform, one standard does not fit all.

Sounds of the Bazaar 14

November 14th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

This edition of Sounds of the Bazaar came out a couple of weeks ago. But it was just before we launched this web site. So I am republishing it now, for those of you who may have missed the original on the Bazaar site.  And, don’t forget, Sounds of Bazaar can also be obtained from the iTunes store.

Welcome to the second of our special series of autumn shows. This series is being produced in conjunction with Online Educa Berlin. Each edition we feature some of the themes and speakers form this years Online Educa conference, being held at the end of November in Berlin.

In this show we feature two contributors to Educa. Ruth Rominger is Director of Learning Design at Monterey Institute. Ruth talks to us about the development of Open Educational resources, social authoring, sustainability models and much more.

Steve Wheeler will also be at Online Educa. He is part of a panel looking at the potential of Multi User Virtual Environments, including Second Life, for learning. In the interview Steve talks about the development of a project on sexual health in Second Life.

Web site of the month is “not School, not Home , but Schome.”

We present the second part of our interview with Stephen Downes.

And I talk about the forthcoming Bazaar conference.

The musical mix which holds it all together is the work of Dirk Stieglitz. As a good tradition the music comes again from the great music site Jamendo.com and is published under a Creative Commons licences. In this volume you listen to the band Killing Jazz and their album “2nd Round“.

We hope you will enjoy the show.

Sustaining the commons

November 14th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

ccmixterInteresting letter from Larry Lessig asking for advice about the future of ccMixter, “the community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons, where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want.” I first came upon ccMixter when I was searching for Creative Commons licensed music. It is a great site and I had a go at the remix competition myself (although the result was so bad I never actually entered it).

Firstly, great that Lessig has written to all those registered on the site. And I am sympathetic to his fear of being misunderstood – in the Open Content movement we can get too paranoid about peoples’ motives sometimes. More importantly, it raises big questions about how we sustain open and free resources. Servers cost money to run. Users require support. Technical development is important if services are to grow. sadly, legal advice is critical. And, without advertising, which I personally hate, the more a service becomes popular, the higher the cost. ccMixter is not the only service facing this challenge. I think Larry’s proposal seems a sensible courses to pursue. I would be very interested in hear what others have to say – not just on the subject of the future of ccMixter but on the general issue of developing and sustaining free and open community services

“I am writing to ask for your advice about a Creative Commons project that you know a great deal about: ccMixter. Let me start by saying “thank you” for participating in that project. By sharing your gifts with the community so that other musicians can learn and create together, you have helped us make it clear that culture is enriched when artists work together in a legal and sane way.

As you know, ccMixter.org started as a tie-in promotional remix contest with WIRED magazine . Thanks to you, it has grown into a vibrant community of quality musicians sharing not only their love for music but the music itself, and not just with each other but with everybody through Creative Commons licensing. As part of a larger initiative to spread the word about music in the Commons, that one-off remix contest site is now part of the larger Creative Commons Sample Pool that boasts over 50,000 CC licensed music samples including 700 amazing a cappellas. As sponsors of ccMixter.org and the Sample Pool initiative we are both honored and heartened that the music production community has taken to these projects.

We at Creative Commons are now working through how we can best build upon the success that ccMixter is. We are a nonprofit. We don’t have the resources or expertise to turn it into a business. Nor do we want ccMixter to lose its special commons-like character. We are therefore considering a move that I’d like to get your feedback about.

This move would change the “ownership” of ccMixter, and add to its potential. It would not in any way change its importantly “free” character. In reading the description that follows, please keep this promise in clear view: ccMixter’s core character — as a free, non-advertising space where people can share and remix (at least for noncommercial purposes), will not change. Instead, the change we are considering would simply complement this core character, with added functionality, and value, that we believe could help sustain the site, and make it much more significant.

It is this change that I want to get your feedback about. The plan currently being discussed is to identify a competent commercial entity to take over operations of ccMixter. Subject — again — to the
requirement that they keep the existing ccMixter.org site as it is, this commercial entity would be free to add commercial services beyond the services currently provided. Again (and I know, even if I say this 100 times, there will still be some who don’t hear it), ccMixter.org would remain as it is. It would be kept free from any commercial interference (fees, ads, etc.) and continue to have all the music owned by you, licensed under CC; in other words, everything exactly the way it is. But the company would fund the free site by creating a new business-to-business website devoted to serving commercial consumers of music.

This new site (call it ccMixter-Plus) will be for commercial purposes and require that the artist signs a (non-exclusive) contract with the company to participate. By signing with the company, the artist will allow the company to license music for the financial gain of both the company and the artist. Registered users of the free ccMixter site will be NOT automatically be signed to the business site. That decision will be between the artist, company and fellow artists. No one will be required to sign. No one’s rights to use ccMixter.org will change depending upon whether they sign. The only change would be to offer to artists who want it a way that they might commercialize some of their (and everyone who wants) creativity. And its aim would be to enable this opportunity with minimal hassle.

So, again, ccMixter (the free site) would continue to work the same way it always has. But it would now also serve as a “community A&R” pool for signing artists to ccMixter-Plus (the music licensing site). The profits from the business, in turn, would fund the free site, and guarantee it can continue to grow as one of the most interesting music remix sites on the web……..”

Has informal learning a chance as bosses crack down on internet socialising?

November 12th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

How ironic. I was waiting for a telephone call to IBL to talk about a discussion for Sounds of the Bazaar podcast on collaborative learning. And my eye caught this article from the Guardian technology page.

“More than 1,700 public employees have been sacked or disciplined for internet or email misuse in the past three years, our research has found.

The figures – obtained from 65 institutions – show how strongly employers are clamping down on staff who spend hours on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

Unions say that disputes over the sites are growing at a phenomenal rate and have demanded clearer guidelines for their use. Studies have shown that up to £130m a day in productivity is lost because of the sites, with Facebook’s British members spending an average of 143 minutes a month logged in.”

And I went on to have a great talk with Jaan and Agnes from Berlin about how e-collaboration tools can enhance learning – especially informal learning, boost productivity and promote innovation.

But it seems UK employers just don’t get it. To a large extent it is a question of trust – the very issue I talked with Jay Cross about in an interview a few weeks ago. Informal learning is the most powerful route to competence development and innovation in the workplace. But informal learning means trusting employees – trusting employees to usefully use their time, trusting employees to make decision, trusting employees to try out new ideas.

The public sector is probably the worst place for trust. In many organizations public sector workers are not even entitled to send emails without prior approval. Supervision rules. Why? The work culture of the public sector is still all too often rooted in Fordist ideas of production. Knowledge is carefully filtered and controlled. Strict hierarchies prevail.

I ‘m not sure even researchers and those who defend the workers get it. From the same article: “Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said that managers should be realistic. “Britain has some of the longest working hours in the developed world. Employers have created this culture. It is natural for people to have to use work computers for organising their personal life.”

Of course I agree with him. But that is not the point. Social networking is not just about organising ones social life. I certainly do not go to Facebook to arrange to meet my friends in the pub.

Social networking can be about spreading and sharing ideas, solving problems, forming and participating in communities of practice. And to all of you who say I am not being real, I suggest you study how people really use the internet n companies. Most people like to learn, they enjoy learning. Learning is a natural human activity. How sad we are so suspicious of it.

end of todays rant. Time to organise my social life. i am going to the pub.

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Yet another social networking application

November 12th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I am thoroughly bored with Facebook now. An endless wall of twitters. I am totally indifferent that Brian Kelly added the Where I have Been application, that 5 of my friends were tagged in an album or that Emma Duke Williams joined the group A Cup of Tea Solves Everything. Sorry. Perhaps I am just an anti-social heartless being. But I don’t care. Mind, it is strange. As much as Facebook status updates annoy me, I like the same feature on skype. That Ben is at ‘Coffee time’, Martin ‘is buzzing’ and Lawrie is ‘overrun by ferrets’ seems to add to my day. I can’t really explain it.

S, time to move on to something new. I have just opened an account with Ning. I know I’m probably being slow – I’m sure you have all already got Ning accounts.

Ironically I only opened the account because Michelle De Craene invited me to join a group she had set up: ‘Remixing History: The International Techohistorian Project‘. Ironically – because she invited me through Facebook. So, tehre is some use for it after all.

Anyway I like the idea of being a Techohistorian – perhaps I should put that on my business card. And although there is not much there yet the idea sounds good to me – “This project is to encourage educators to take on the role of historian in sharing technological advances.”

Back to Ning – had a play around. Seems very easy to set up groups, teh interface is clean and attractive and appearance can be fairly quickly customised. I could see me using it for quick ad-hoc groups around an event or a course. And indeed, my friends from UOC have set up a group to continue discussions around the recent inspiring UOC Unesco International seminar.

The problem I see with it is the opposite of Facebook. There is little or no potential or functionaility for social networking. Unless I am missing something you can set up or join groups. Thats it, full stop. And for that metter, the my groups page isn’t working properly for me – it only displays one of the three groups I am a member of, having grown up on Elgg, I am used to being able to link up with others based on their interests, to manage feeds in and out and to configure my own page through Widgets. Ning has none of this.

I suppose I am just a moaner. But there has to be some half way house. Trouble is that much as I love social networking software we are not in teh driving seat, we are evlauting other peoples designs and development to see what use we can make of it. That is why I am still excited by Freefolio – at least in hacking WordPress we can react to real needs as we find them, rather than telling people what they need is what the software provides.

About this web site

November 11th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Despite one erroneously dated back entry, which, for an hour until I corrected it, indicated I was in Houston, I have enjoyed two weeks of not traveling. And that has left me with enough time to work on developing this site. And after two weeks it is worth a quick reflection on how the site is doing.

Firstly I am gratified with the number of visitors. Firtsly as far as i can tell most regular readers have diverted their feedreaders from the old World Wide Web bog to our new address at Pontydysgu. Secondly, visitor figures seem to be very respectable (although I am not quite sure what respectable means in this case). Of course, we were boosted by a reference in Steven Downe’s OL Daily, which resulted in a quick flurry of hits.

More importantly perhaps, Dirk Stieglitz has made great progress in bringing on-line new sections of the site. Multimedia is mostly live. Some of the projects section is partly populated. Now we are thinking about how to deal with the research section.

At a technical level, we still have a few glitches. WordPress stubbornly refuses ot show us thumbnails of uploaded graphic files (anyone any suggestions?). The categories list which we use to allocate the entries ot different parts of the web site is growing alarmingly long and we can find no way of displaying sub lists. Widgets are working but we cannot find proper ways of dynamically styling the contents. Any help with any of these issues will be gratefully acknowledged.

But the site is developing in the direction we intended. We particularly wanted a web site which is dynamic , which incororates multi media, which can be updated frequently with minimum programming effort and which allows us to show the relation bewteen out research and ideas and the day ot day work we are undertaking, particualrly on projects. And we wanted a site which connects with the wider community of practice. In this respect, the number of comments on different post has been very gratifying.

Over the next week we will continue to bring the projects section online. And I will continue to enter back posts from Wales Wide Web. This is particularly tedious. I am uploading them from Ecto. This uses a small Apple script to reset the date to the original. But of course the categories all have to be re-entered and Ecto crashes on some entries, those with attachments or multi media which it does not know how to handle. We will also be incorporating more feeds, from delicious and possibly from aggregators around the different project topics. Hope you are enjoying the site. And if you have any suggestions how we can improve it do not hesitate to put forward your ideas.

Why loosely coupled, freely available third party systems can be better

November 9th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I remember three years ago having a debate with Alexadra Toedt at a SIGOSSEE meeting in Denmark on why I thought there was no future for VLEs. I was a bit torn between wanting to promote Open Source software alternatives to Blackboard and the like but also frustrated by the pedagogic restrictions of institutional systems for managing learning. Needless to say I convinced few people at best they thought I was well meaning but hopelessly impractical.Nowadays it is becoming almost respectable to predict the end of the VLE. But fortunately we have well developed alternatives to the VLE. In any case students are voting with their feet (or mouse). Better still we have an increasingly sophisticated argument not just as to why VLEs are bad (which I have to admit was the heart of my argument but why “loosely coupled, freely available third party systems” can be better. This is from The Ed Techie blog by Martin Weller:

  • “Better quality tools – because offering each of these loosely coupled elements is what each company does, it is in their interest to make them really good. This means they stay up to date, have better features, and look better than most things produced in higher education.
  • Modern look and feel – related to the above, these tools often look better, and also their use makes a course feel more modern to a user who is raised on these tools compared with the rather sterile, dull systems they encounter in higher ed.
  • Appropriate tools – because they are loosely coupled the educator can choose whatever ones they want, rather than being restricted to the limited set in the VLE. This is one of the biggest draws I feel – as an academic if I want a particular tool I don’t have to put a request in to IT and wait a year to get a reduced quality version, I just go ahead and use it.
  • Cost – using a bunch of free tools has got to be cheaper hasn’t it?
  • Avoids software sedimentation – when you have institutional systems they tend to embody institutional practice which becomes increasingly difficult to break. Having loosely coupled system makes this easier, and also encourages people to think in different ways.
  • Disintermediation happens – this isn’t really a benefit, just an observation. If a services can be disintermediated then it will be. In this case the central VLE system is disintermediated as academics use a variety of freely available tools.”

The Social impact of Personal Learning Environments

November 9th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

This may not be entirely new to readers of the old World Wide Web, I think I posted an early draft of this paper. Indeed, it has been six months in revsion. And now I have missed the deadline for publication. The paper was originally intended as part of an special edition of a soemwhat posha cademic journal. I thought they might protest at the content ideas. But no, the big problem was the referencing. One reviewer said: “I did, however, miss proper referencing in the first few parts of the paper. For example, the author is unlikely to have come up with the link between the societal demands of the industrial revolution and the organisational structure of the education system, but it looks as if that is what he claims.” Well I did. Honestly. But I am sure I am not the only one to have that idea and if anyone can come up with refercnces for me I would be very grateful. And also for any other feedback.

I have included the full text of ther paper in the extension to this post. But I have also linked it as an RTF file if you would prefer to download it.

The Social impact of Personal Learning Environments

1. Personal Learning Environments – cause and effect

Although the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is a very new term, (van Harmalen (2006) argues the first recorded use of the term is November 4, 2004) the concept represents the latest step in an alternative approach to e-learning which can trace its origins to earlier systems such as Colloquia (reference) , the first peer-to-peer learning system (released as Learning Landscapes in 2000), and to more recent phenomena such as the Elgg system released in 2003 (reference). The PLE approach is based on a learner-centred view of learning and differs fundamentally from the alternative Learning Management Systems or Virtual Learning Environments approach both of which are based on an institution- or course-centred view of learning. Van Harmelen describes Personal Learning Environments as “systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

  • set their own learning goals
  • manage their learning; managing both content and process
  • communicate with others in the process of learning
  • and thereby achieve learning goals.”

He goes on to say: “a PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services.”

Downes (2006) says “the heart of the concept of the PLE is that it is a tool that allows a learner (or anyone) to engage in a distributed environment consisting of a network of people, services and resources. It is not just Web 2.0, but it is certainly Web 2.0 in the sense that it is (in the broadest sense possible) a read-write application.” Important concepts in PLEs include the integration of both formal and informal learning episodes into a single experience, the use of social networks that can cross institutional boundaries and the use of networking protocols (Peer-to-Peer, web services, syndication) to connect a range of resources and systems within a personally-managed space. The ‘pedagogy’ behind the PLE – if it could be still called that – is that it offers a portal to the world through which learners can explore and create, according to their own interests and directions, interacting as they choose, with their friends and learning community. Seely Brown (1999) has drawn attention to the social nature of learning: “Learning becomes as much social as cognitive, as much concrete as abstract, and becomes intertwined with judgement and exploration.”

This paper examines the social impact of Personal Learning Environments. In so doing, it is difficult to separate cause and effect. Personal Learning Environments can be expected to have a profound effect on systems for teaching and learning, on pedagogic approaches to learning and on knowledge development and sharing. Conversely, the emergence of PLEs and the widespread interest in PLEs may be seen as a reaction to the changing ways in which people are using technology for learning, to new societal demands for education and to changing forms of knowledge usage within society.

Download rtf version of full paper

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The benefits, risks and limitations of Facebook

November 8th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Brian Kelly writes about using social software services in education: “I think we’re revisiting …f fears that popular Web 2.0 services (not just Facebook) are challenging IT development plans. However rather than simply asserting limitations and implying that these are the overriding factors (with the “Web links are easily broken” argument being updated with various concerns over privacy, rights and interoperability) I feel that we need to engage with successful widely used services.”

Whilst I agree with many things Brian says, I think he misses the point. The issue is not technical development – yes lets socialise education software – but the issue of values and control.

Take this story from Labourstart: “The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was organizing casino workers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They set up a page on Facebook. Facebook later took the page down, claiming that groups like a union were not allowed to have pages, and that Facebook pages could only be setup by individuals. The union responded that many companies had set up Facebook pages including Tim Horton’s (of donut fame).
The story has a happy ending. In early September, the results of the vote came in — and the workers overwhelmingly chose to be represented by the SEIU.”

The lesson of the story, says LabourStart’s Eric Lee, is “that by “outsourcing” our online campaigns to social networks like Facebook and MySpace — which are for-profit, commercial organizations — we are more vulnerable to this kind of thing than when we build websites ourselves, using freely-available tools.”

Eric is not opposed to using social software services. He goes on to say: “That doesn’t mean we should avoid using Facebook — after all, LabourStart has 998 members in its Facebook group. But it means that we should aware of the risks and limitations.”

I think in education we also must be aware of the risks and limitation inherent in Facebook and similar services. I tend to agree with Steven Downes who sees these as interim applications. And I think that we also must educate learners in to understanding the benefits and the limitations of such services. that is one reason I am so in favour of e-Portfolios: to ensure that learners themselves have a copy of their own data.

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Structured blogging in Freefolio

November 7th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Several people have homed in on the structured blogging functionality in Freefolio. The templates we have provided are only examples and were designed for particular contexts. I suppose we should have changed them for this release but we really wanted just to get the thing out.

But the possibilities are very considerable. It is not so difficult to write the templates (having said that, I did not code them myself) – they are small XML files. It would not be impossible to develop a custom editor to write the templates. And the XML leaves intriguing possibilities. We have got one somewhere for a book review – will tery to get this one on the demo site – which, when you put the title in – hits the Amazon databases and auto fills the ISBN number, the date of publication etc. and even provides a thumbnail of the cover. OK, nice but gimmicy.

But imagine if we were to be able to hit a database of competences. Users would not be constrained in what they would add to their portfolio but by simple keywords could indicate what competences their learning contributed towards and with a bit more coding we coudl develop a custom report of that learning towards a formal qualification – wherever the learning took place.

Still easier, might be to develop an organisational knowldge base, based on the XML entries in individual blogs.

Non trivial but doable. If anyone has ideas of a little funding to help us do this I would be very grateful, equally does anyone want to join us in working on this?

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    News Bites

    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

  • Twitter

    RT @Omar_Gaza To those who tell us to "stay safe": I truly appreciate your support but: 1- #Gaza has no shelters. 2- I'm staying at home, what else can I do to stay safe? 3- Gaza is a highly populated condenced little space. 4- Most of us are unarmed. What else can we do? #GazaUnderAttack

    About 6 hours ago from Graham Attwell's Twitter via Tweetbot for Mac

  • RT @AndrewMarr9 Let me get this right. May is now being told price for avoiding No Deal is her resignation and a Job for a Boy. Refuse and the UK gets no deal? Well, thanks a bundle chaps

    About 6 hours ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via Twitter for Android

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