Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Do we need Learning Management Systems?

March 31st, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I’m back on the road this week.

Tomorrow I head off to Karlsruhe for the launch of a new research project called Mature. “MATURE conceives individual learning processes to be interlinked (the output of a learning process is input to others) in a knowledge-maturing process in which knowledge changes in nature. This knowledge can take the form of classical content in varying degrees of maturity, but also involves tasks & processes or semantic structures. The goal of MATURE is to understand this maturing process better, based on empirical studies, and to build tools and services to reduce maturing barriers.”

I will be working on how Perosnal Learning Environments can be used as part of the knowledge maturing process. Could be a lot of fun.

And on Friday I head off to Pesero in Italy. On Saturday I will be running a workshop on social software, PLEs and e-Portfolios. The workshop is the last day of a five day course on Open and Distance Learning. There are five tutors on the course. We had a skype meeting to discuss what platforms we would use and as might be expected we all had different ideas. The first two days of the course are to be run using Dokeos. I had a try at setting up materials in this system. There is nothing wrong with Dokeos. I is a perfectly respectable Open Source Learning management System. But I just can’t get along with such systems. I guess I just find it too difficult to think in LMS structures. So, along with Cristina Costa, who is also teaching on the course, I set up a PBwiki, I was much happer with this. It is quick and flexible. And Cristina has extended it to include several Pageflakes mash-up pages.

I like this and will use the wiki for support material for presentations and workshops in the future. I will also use the wiki as part of the workshop for recording processes and outcomes. Everything is licensed under Creative Commons. So, if you want to reuse materials please feel free.

I guess I won’t have so much time for blogging this week. But I will try to post a couple of progress reports from the road.

How do you get to be an e-learning expert?

March 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I had an interesting email from a student today: “Dear Professor”, it opened – I was flattered, “….I’m now applying to a PhD through the Fulbright Comission to study in U.S. Can you please advise me about the best PhDs that could help me become an eLearning expert? I’m interested in Educational research, but also in developing informatic skills.”

I know little of the US Doctoral system. But the more general question also flummoxed me. Is a Doctorate a good way to become an e-learning expert. Or do you just have to go out there and do it. Or,  should we be developing higher education degrees to train pople in e-learning? Is there an occupational profile for an e-learning expert? Or is it a hybrid made up of several different occupational profiles?

I will pass on any good comments to the student who emailed me.

IBM Centre occupied by protesting avatars

March 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

ibmsl

Photo: RSU: Some rights reserved

Caption: ‘IBM workers and friends protest at the IBM Business Center in virtual world Second Life, amidst concerns that IBM are outsourcing thousands of staff without proper consultation or securities.’

Protesters occupied the IBM Centre for two hours. It greatly heartens me to see such creative and socially constructive use of new technologies. For more about yesterdays demonstration see the IBM Virtual Protest Official Blog.

Who reads this blog?

March 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We do have an account with Google analytics to provide us with details about who is accessing the Pontydysgu web site but I have ot admit I nearly never look. It is just too detaied for me and as far as I cans ee it does not pick up feedreader access. Wea lso have a plug in called statz (it is German) which provides some quick and dirty figures. It provides daily statistics on hosts – on where people are coming to the site from. That used ot be dominated by Google. But not any more. Since the start of the year there has been a steady increase in referrals from Yodao. Yodao – which translates as “there is a path” – allows users to search for Web pages, images and blogs and to translate Chinese into English.

sadly we have never had a comment form anyone in China although there have been a few trackbacks. I would love to hear from anyone accessing the site form China – what are you looking for, is the site helpful and how is e-learning being developed in China?

Support IBM workers in SL

March 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Global decision from companies need Global action from employees, we saw that with the virtual strike and now we can do it with a virtual demonstration. The national unions, works councils and IWIS (IBM Workers International Solidarity) global network are organizing a global virtual demonstration against the outsourcing contract.

IBM is misusing outsourcing contracts to reduce his own workforce in a cheap way. In this kind of contract, IBM is selling not only services and machines but also persons. We can see that recently on the AT&T contract.” say the IBM Second Life Strike Organisation.

Tonight the unions are organising “a training course to learn how to:

  • enter Second Life and to move around (for beginners),
  • use the “IBM demonstration kit”
  • and… get ready for the GLOBAL ACTION DAY against IBM’s FORCED-OUTSOURCED JOBS….that will take place TOMORROW.”

Th action starts tonight at 2100 hours at “Union Island” (search “Union Island” in the search menu once you’re in Second Life and click “Teleport”). Tomorrows demonstration takes place from 1800 – 2200 Central european Time. The meeting point is Commonwealth Island. The unions are asking for support from Second Life friends. I’ll be there. Hope to see you too.

 

Hype filled buzzword or how people learn?

March 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I think I am doing a keynote presentation on May 7th at the Swedish Agency for Flexible Learning. Think – well it is arranged but their emails are bouncing, they are not answering their phones and skype cannot find their account. Small technical problems!

Anyway, Pelle Filipsson, who works for the Agency, was kind enough to leave a comment on my blog this morning. he invited me to look at his blog, which, of course, I did. And I found an interesting post on informal learnng, with which I totally disagree. So, in the interests of a little debate and discourse in advance of my arrival in Stockholm, here is my reply.

Pelle says: “A somewhat hyped expression the last few years is “informal learning”. I have heard it, used it and at last I came to think about what it really means. “Informal” in popular adult education is a welcome and positive way to regard learning. You learn everywhere, in any situation. It is a central aspect of the sociocultural learning theories too. But what do I learn? When I get really drunk at the pub I learn something, apparently. When I watch a stupid youtube clip for the tenth time too? But how do I experience that I have learned something? How do I measure that learning? How do I know how to use the experience and the things learned?

And what can schools and learning institutions use from the informal learning? That it is a good idea to start teaching at discoteques? (A metaphore to what is going on in every social network on the web at the moment)

A fight broke out in the blogosphere when Bill Brantley went through Jay Crosses book “Informal learning“. Here are some qoutes:

“Informal learning is just another hype-filled, buzzword that pretends to be a radical change from the past but is really bits-and-pieces of other learning methods badly packaged.”

“Cross’ definition of informal learning is so wide open it can mean almost anything.”

Of course not every activity results in learning. But I do have to say some of my best learning has come from pubs. There is a problem that my handwriting does tend to degenerate over a long evening and I sometimes cannot make out what I write the next morning. I wonder why pubs can be such a good source of learning. Could it be in the intensity of a face to face dialogue which is so often missing in formal conferences and seminars?

I think the more serious challenge especially when looking at the use of the internet, is to distinguish between accessing information and learning. I learn little from the long time I spend searching for aircraft routes to different places in Europe (except perhaps how poor the design of so many e-commerce sites is – interestingly the cheap airlines usually have the best sites). But I learn a lot from almost random surfing. How? Often through thinking about what people are saying and clarifying my own views. I could hardly say that reading Fellipe’s post is a formal learning experience. But it has certainly caused me to pause and think.

In the ICT and SME project, which looked at the use of computers for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in six different European projects (you can download the book of the project here), we found few instances of formal learning. But computers were being used extensively for all sorts of different activities. We considered whether these activities could be considered as learning. In many cases we concluded they could. Why? Activities identified through the project case studies were:

  • Purposeful
  • Heavily influenced by context
  • Often resulted in changes in behaviour
  • Were sequenced in terms of developing a personal knowledge base
  • Problem driven or driven by personal interest
  • Social – in that they often involved recourse to shared community knowledge bases through the internet and / or shared with others in the workplace

In my view such criteria clearly differentiate learning from the acquisition of information. And this is a widespread activity. So, Pelle, not hype at all. But probably the main way people learn.

Engagement or control?

March 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian is one of the more sane newspapers when it comes to social panics. But even they could not resist headlining this article ‘Warning to parents over children ‘being raised online’.

The report has not yet been released. But it looks interesting and if the Guardian is to be believed is in line with reports from other countries. However, when it comes to the level of recommendations it simply gets it wrong.

“British children are spending more than 20 hours a week online, most of it at social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo, and are in effect being “raised online”, according to research from the Institute for Public Policy Research” says the Guardian.

“But the IPPR research, to be published next month, raises concerns about the content that young people can access and the lack of awareness among parents about what their children are doing on the internet.

“My mum will ask sometimes ‘Is it safe?’ but she doesn’t really know,” a 16-year-old girl told the IPPR. A 14-year-old boy added that even the sort of child-locks that are put on internet access at school can be circumvented by youngsters, who often know more about IT systems than their teachers. “We have restrictions at school but we can just get an administrator’s account and take them off.”

Children are also aware of the restrictions that the sites implement, with one 15-year-old girl telling researchers: “Everyone lies about their age ‘cos I think it’s like if you’re under 18, your profile gets set to private.”

The report shows that teenagers are digitally promiscuous, switching allegiance from sites as fashions change. One 16-year-old girl told the IPPR: “First it was like everyone was on MSN, then everyone sort of has Bebo, now everyone who had MSN moved on to Facebook, so it’s just what everyone’s doing at that time.”

The IPPR found that four out of five children aged five to 15 have access to the internet at home, with 40% of 8- to 11-year-olds and 71% of 12- to 15-year-olds saying they browse the web on their own. Contact with some form of online pornography was reported by 57%.

The IPPR wants the regulator Ofcom to take a more active role in the protection of children on the internet, by making recommendations to the government about where there is a need for action, such as tackling violent user-generated content. “The government should consider extending Ofcom’s remit to cover internet content.”

It also wants sites that are popular with young people, such as MySpace and Bebo, to develop what it terms cross-industry guidelines and become funding members of the Internet Watch Foundation.

The report suggests there is a lot of work to be done in educating parents about what their children are doing online. Ofcom already looks at the level of what it terms media literacy among consumers, but the IPPR wants the Department for Children, Schools and Families to have overall control of media literacy, with better information and support for parents.

The report, Behind the Screen: The Hidden Life of Youth, comes as Tanya Byron, the television psychologist and parenting expert appointed last year by Gordon Brown to look into the issues surrounding children and technology, prepares to release her final report. She is expected to recommend that computers be placed in communal areas rather than children’s bedrooms so parents can keep an eye on what is accessed.

A committee of MPs, meanwhile, has been investigating harmful content on the internet and in video games.

“The internet offers great benefits and opportunities for young people,” said the author of the IPPR report, Kay Withers. “But … parents need to be reassured about what they are looking at.

“Government needs to improve media literacy programmes for kids and to make sure parents are aware of how they can support young people’s positive online experiences.””

So where does this report get it wrong? The recommendation for cross industry guidelines is good – depending of course on the content of thoee guidelines. But he idea that access to computers should only be in communal areas is just unrealistic. Do we really want a return to the days of the 1950s when lack of central heating meant families huddles together in one room and young people had no personal space for chatting with their friends (because that is what they predominantly do on line). I remember those days, I was there.

The main tenet of the recommendations are controlling digital literacy and reassuring parents. These are not the answers. The key people are the users – in this case young people. And the answer to digital literacy and on-line safety are engaging users, not control or reassurance. That seems to have been forgotten. In a skype chat yesterday Cristina Costa said: “Basically I think kids need more attention, teachers more support and the entire community needs to engage with new technologies actively.” That sums it up for me.

eLearning 2.0 at Diigo

March 24th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I know social bookmarks are a good idea. But I never really got on with del.icio.us. Guess I could never quite remember where the full stops went in the address. And I kept getting lost in the site. But this week when my Firefox tabs got up to about 26 and I wanted to keep access to them all I realized I had to do something. I was trying out some new OpenID service which Scott Wilson had linked to. And that claimed to give me access to TechCruch without logging in (it didn’t seem to work, but thats another story). But I ended up at TechCrunch and there I found a review of Diigo. “Diigo is a research tool which rocks”, they said. Well, that was talking my kind of academic language.

So I opened an account. I set up about 20 accounts a week and rarely do much with them. But I love Diigo. It truly rocks. And I have set up a group called eLearning 2.0. The description reads “This group is for all those interested in the use of social software for learning and in developing new pedagogic approaches to elearning.” So please come along and join. Lets share bookmarks!

 

Meme: Passion Quilt

March 23rd, 2008 by Graham Attwell

bomblets

I like this challenge passed on from Steve Wheeler. Steve says looks a little like a chain letter. It might look like it but it isn’t and it probably is (see my comment after this post). It is a creative way to use trackback to promote reflection and at the same time to produce a useful set of Open Educational resources. That is what social software should be for. What is more it is fun.

Steve blogs “Mike Hasley, of TechWarrior Blog, has laid down a challenge for me and 4 others to add to a collection of photos that represent our passion in teaching/learning. I have to tag it ‘Meme: Passion Quilt’ and post it on a blog, Flickr, FaceBook or some other social networking tool with a brief commentary of why it is a passion for me.”

I have cheated. I have managed to break to break or lose three digital cameras this year. And I am not that good at taking photos. On the other hand, my friend, Jenny Hughes is very good. Ages ago, I asked her if I could post the photos on the site. I put them on Flickr and then forgot to link to them. So, thanks Steve for reminding me.And the brief commentary. Does it need one? Learning technology is important. But it is not everything. To be able to learn children need peace, freedom from war, freedom from hunger. Bread not bombs. Teachers not soldiers. I love the potential that technology offers for communication, for sharing, for connections and understanding. But technology is not neutral. Technology is a double edged sword. In the hands of the wrong it can be misused. We have to control and shape technology to ensure that it is used for good and not evil.

End of rant. I think Easter is getting to me.

If you would like to see the rest of this collection by Jenny go the the Multimedia / Photos page.

Here are my nominations to add to this collection: Wolfgang Greller, Cristina Costa, Fabio Giglietto, Daniela Reimann

How are we spending Easter

March 23rd, 2008 by Graham Attwell

SoBlogo

Well, Pontydysgu has never been renowned as a particularly religious organisation. More like beer and football. But we aren’t chavs – we are nerds and we are proud of it. So we have been spending the last couple of days trying to set up Sounds of the Bazaar Live! We plan to launch our own internet radio station at the end of April. And before, the launch, we will be making a couple of pilot (test) programmes. Those will be exclusively available to Wales Wide Web readers. So watch this spot.

In the meantime, if an of you have any experience in livecasting from a wireless LAN, please do get in touch. You could save us hours of technical puzzles. We’d also be grateful for any recommendations on streaming servers. Surely, someone out there must be offering a free (or cheap solution for educational broadcasting.

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