Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

March 21st, 2008 by Graham Attwell

YouTube is becoming a great resource for tecahing and learning. Over the next few months I’m going to feature some of my favourites in this spot. This video was made by bjnesbitt who says “This project was created to inspire teachers to use technology in engaging ways to help students develop higher level thinking skills. Equally important, it serves to motivate district level leaders to provide teachers with the tools and training to do so.”

Eduspaces comes back home

March 18th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Well….it seems I was a little too quick in announcing the funeral rites for Eduspaces.

But I didn’t see it ending up like this. The eagle eyed A. T. Wyatt leaves a comment on my previous entry pointing to the new announcement on the Eduspaces site..

“It was announced at the beginning of this year that TakingITGlobal would take over and continue to host the community. Because of their location in Canada, some legal issues had to be sorted out first. This was why EduSpaces members had to explicitly state to have their account transferred to what would have been a new provider. Unfortunately, the legal issues didn’t end there, so, to avoid any more inconvenience for EduSpaces users, TakingITGlobal and the EduSpaces team have decided not to continue with the planned migration.
What will this mean for you? Well, Eduspaces will remain EduSpaces, and your account will stay where it is for the foreseeable future. This means no migration nor termination of the service and you can continue to use and enjoy the service as you have always done. Misja will help look after the community.
We have learnt many valuable lessons during this process and would like to apologise for the way the transition period was handled.
The EduSpaces team – March 18th, 2008”

Welcome home, Eduspaces. And it is great to see that Misja is taking responsibility for the site.

To be or not to be – support Al Upton

March 18th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

This story is all over the net and I can’t resist wading in.

From Wikinews: “South Australian primary school teacher Al Upton was ordered to shut down an educational blogging initiative last week following a directive from the South Australian Department of Education. Al Upton is internationally recognised for his educational blogging efforts over the past 5 years, but his recent project known as The Minilegends has attracted concerns from parents generally relating to interactions between children and adults online..”

This case raises big issues and it is good that the educational technology community has reacted so strongly.

What is notable about the Minilegends project was the care Al had gone to in tecahing students about not only internet safety but how to develop their own digital identity and presence and the issues around that. He had also informed parents in advance about the aims of the project and had obtained parental permission for the children to take part.

The reasons for the close down notice appear to revolve around two issues and both warrant further discussion. The first is that the children used real photos of themselves rather than avatars. Al’s view is that students benefit from seeing their own images. If students – of whatever age – are going to develop an authentic on-line presence then pictures play a big part in this. And pictures are a representation of ourselves. Witness the many ridiculous photographs people use on Facebook or the student prank videos on YouTube. Are these a real image of who they are? What pictures we choose to use is a message we are saying about ourselves. Is it possible to set an age when it is safe ot use a real photograph to represent ourselves? Clearly not. The key issue is that developing and managing our digital identity is seen as pat of learning in just the same way as developing other social skills. Of course this raises issues about safety. But so does just about any other learning activity. Sue Waters links to a Review of the February/March issue of the journal American Psychologist and titled, “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention. Definitely worth a read, she says, because it highlights many of the concerns are myths and that “there is no doubt that Internet predators are real, and do pose a threat. But the real danger is the public’s deeply flawed understanding of the problem.”
The second issue is the use of adult mentors to support students. I really don’t know what to say. We have daily interactions between adults and children. What seems to be sparking the panic here is because the interaction is on-line. There is a real danger to saying that whilst children can talk with adults face to face they cannot do so digitally.

If one good thing comes out of this it may be that we will get an open debate about the use of the internet for communication and learning. How have we got to the absurd situation that Bebo, Facebook and the burgeoning Disney sites are seen as OK for kids, whilst a well thought through educational project is closed down?

Teaching and Learning with Web 2.0

March 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell


A lot of projects seem to involve case studies. Sometimes I think it is just an excuse because educational researchers do not know how to do anything else. But done well, case studies can produce a lot of useful knowledge. Being interested personally in pedagogy and changing pedagogies, I get a little frustrated at how case studies so often fail to capture pedagogic processes. We find out everything else – except for about teaching and learning processes.

As part of a project called b-learning aiming at the development of a handbook for practitioners in designing blended learning programmes, I have to undertake a couple of case studies and I am doing my best to focus on teachi9ng and learning processes. In the last issue of Sounds of the Bazaar I featured an interview with Helen Keegan who has re-designed and implemented a new course module called ‘Advanced Multimedia’ as part of the University of Salford’s BSc (Hons) degree in Professional Sound and Video Technology.

The podcast was a (very) edited version of a forty minute interview. I have now re-edited the interview to provide a text transcript as part of the case study. I think there is much of interest in this interview – especially about approaches to using Web 2.0 tools and sites for teaching and learning. Many, many thanks to Helen Keegan for all her time.
Question: Can you tell me about the new course you have set up?
Anwer: The students are final year students on a professional sounds and video degree. The module is called advanced multi-media.
I have noticed with these students or students like these that they all have MySpace sites and do great work in terms of the audio and video they have produced. However, scrolling down their sites you see really inappropriate comments from their friends. I was thinking about this because you read that so many employers today Google potential applicants. Few of the students had any real awareness of how they are presenting themselves on the internet.

They were all well versed in the use of different applications and they all knew how to produce and download – albeit illegal – audio and video but after talking to them they had little real knowledge of what happens in between being a producer and a consumer. They are all theoretically going to be producers in the video and audio industries. These industries are changing dramatic ally because of new technologies and I thought these issues were something important to tackle.
Question: So there is a gap between their knowledge as producers and as consumers and a gap between knowledge their theoretical knowledge of being a producer and their occupational practice?
Answer: Yes and they do not understand about blogging and how that can be important in getting an authentic voice and for distributing your work
Question: Is there also a gap in their knowledge between the formal theoretical computing side and about web 2.0?
Answer: They are all on MySpace and they listen to music on my space but they were not thinking about how this could work for them and about things like the long tail, the democratisation of the internet, the read-write web – these were things that they need to know.
It is about having a deep understanding about things going on. Naturally teaching people computer applications is quite instructivist and once you have learnt a few applications it is easy to learn more – we had already done applications. The need now is for the students to become professional. As final year students I wanted to get them really clued up as to what is going on out there in the net and how that will impact on them as video and audio professionals. They needed to learn about things like content mash ups and copyright and licensing and Creative Commons. They all go and look at YouTube and download things but they do not really engage with how they am going to feel as a professional if someone downloads my work.
Question: So that gave you the idea of the module you wanted to develop. You developed an overall philosophy and outline of content. What was the next step?
Answer: Then I had to develop the structure of the course. The first half of the module was largely based on individual work and the second half on group work. The first half focused on web 1.0 and web 2.0 and the idea of the digital self. The digital self is similar to the idea of an e-portfolio but there are some important semantic differences.
The main aim of the first half of the course was professionalisation. This included looking at the students’ on line presence and supporting them in designing their own web sites, web site headers, and business cards. The first two weeks was focused on design principles and the process of design. We then moved on to blogging using a wordpress platform and then delved quite deeply into the presentation of the self in a digital environment, digital identities and – on a practical level – what happens when you Google yourself.
The students learnt that maintaining a blog and putting some pictures on their Flicker account provides them with an authoritative and positive professional identity through their web presence. Moreover this identity will be included in the first few pages of a Google search
Question: What learning materials did you use?
Answer: Many of the learning materials were case studies from the news that week. We also used the students own on-line presence. In the following part of the programme we looked at digital CV production. At the end of this process each student had developed a matching CV, web site, and a web based showcase on MySpace. We also looked at YouTube and examined the technical side of on-line video production. Despite them being final year video and audio students they had not covered technical production for such an environment. YouTube is not a traditional broadcast media. However, YouTube is extremely important for anyone wishing to work in the music and video industry. It is the major outlet for new music video releases today.
The final part of the first half of the course focused on developing and using content mash ups. We used real life examples from the internet to discuss issues like copyright, content licensing and re-use.
Question: What sort of assignments did you set for the students to do?
Answer: The first assignment was to write a reflective critique of an article called ‘The new web’. For the second assignment I gave them two articles about web 2.0 in the broadcast industries, one pro Web 2.0 and the other anti, and then I gave them a Guardian editorial which was talking about the deal which have been struck between Last FM and Sony BG to distribute the content. Basically I gave them a very pro and very anti stance and something which was showing how things could come together in the middle. I asked them to blog about the articles. It was interesting because the first time I asked them to blog the first question they came back with was ‘how do we write it’, the they went on to ask ‘what style do we use’, ‘is it a report or is it an essay’? My reply was that there was no set format – is was their voice and they should relish this – you do not get many opportunities to write from the heart unless you are doing an English literature degree or something like that and certainly not in the sciences. I was really impressed by the standard of their work and really impressed by how they expressed themselves when they were given the freedom to do it.
In the second half of the module we moved over to group work. Although I had developed the framework or the structure of the module in place, when it came to the groupwork it was very leaner centred.
In the first week of the module I asked the students to fill in a detailed questionnaire on who they were, what were their prior experiences in audio and video, what did they want to do in the future with the internet, how might they use Web 2.0 technologies, and what mobile devices did they use. I got a really good picture of the directions they wanted to go in and this was used to inform the second half of the module. The students split into groups and they worked on research projects using wikis for collaborative research and we also did some podcasting and developed rss feeds.
The group work on wikis was very successful. I set a word limit of 3500 words for their group reports on the wiki. This is a very low word count for final year students but I wanted them to think about it as a wiki and not repeat what people have said before but rather use external hyperlinks. I wanted them to experience the web 2 ethos by not just regurgitating what is already out there but bringing it in and developing their own angle on it.
Question: What platforms did you use?
Answer: I adopted a platform neutral approach for the whole module – we would use one platform in class for demonstrations but they were really free to use what they wanted. They seemed to appreciate having that level of autonomy. One of the groups decided to do their work directly in wikipedia.
The last couple of weeks of the module were spent looking at video conferencing, both the technical side in general and the netiquett involved. Rather than the traditional presentation of their projects through Powerpoint we got them to do a web conference. At first they were uncomfortable with this but they warmed to it quickly. In the final week they were split across different rooms with a radio mike and an amplifier and they broadcast across to the other rooms. The students ran this session themselves and asked questions to the different groups. In this way they learnt from each other’s research projects and I think they definitely learnt much more than they would have done if they had just watched powerpoint presentations.
Question: What would be your initial evaluation of the module?
Answer: First I have to say I have only run the module with one group and it is a very early stage in the course development. But the results have been absolutely fantastic – we had an evaluation session and focus groups afterwards and the feedback has been very good. I even had three students contact me for information over Christmas after the course had finished. The students don’t want to stop; they are carrying on developing their web sites and their blogs despite not being assessed. One of the students is releasing an album. He is working on the album at the moment and he is using his site in a real web 2.0 sense to get people to give their opinions on the tracks and on the mix. He has built a community going around his album on the wordpress platform and again, he wasn’t asked to do that.
I think the success of the course is down to loosening control, giving the students autonomy, not dictating what platforms they should use, adopting a very user centred approach and involving them in defining their own curriculum. It is very interesting, taking away the control and watching how people flourish.
Question: This is blended learning but perhaps not in the traditional sense. The design of blended learning has often been based on instructional design based sequencing material, choosing the materials and checking the mix is right. To what extent did you follow an instructional design process?
Answer: I followed the instructional design process in terms of designing the framework but not in terms of what goes in the framework. Before I could do that I needed to know my students and that was a big part of the first half of the course.
Question: How did you decide on the structure of activities?
Answer: One of the structuring factors was the time slot – we met between 9 and 11 on a Monday morning. Bearing in mind that about half of this group are DJs or they work in studios, they tend to go to bed rather late. Nine on a Monday mounding is not a good time for them. I made a rule for myself – which I didn’t tell the students – called my twenty minute rule. I would not do anything for more than twenty minutes. I used a lot of Youtube videos– one or two a session – just to break things up and liven things up. We would start with a Youtube video and then go into a discussion. In depth discussions developed without the students even realising it. It was a mixed up, mashed up approach.
Question: So your blended approach is mico blending – it is a learning mash up?
Answer: Yes, totally.
Question: Obviously this approach was very successful with this group but you have been using web 2.0 technologies to teach people about web 2.0. How much of what you have done is transferable to other subjects or topics which might not be about web 2.0 or even about media?.
Answer: I think there are elements which could be transferable across many subjects. I am currently redesigning our entrepreneurial management workshops for a cohorts of about 160 students and I am taking a very web 2.0 approach. I am thinking about how we can use YouTube. I have remodelled the modules so each week I have one or two trigger videos which are on YouTube. One advantage is that the students can watch the videos when they wish. I am also asking the students to watch the related videos and critically appraise them. Not only are they critically appraising entrepreneurial theories but they are learning about digital literacy. There are very good materials on sites like YouTube but there is also a great deal of rubbish. The key is to get students thinking and talking about the materials and evaluating them themselves..
Question: What to teachers need to learn in order to be able to use Web 2.0 for teaching
Answer: The main thing about teaching teachers to use web 2.0 is contextualising things, it is about situatedness and authenticity.
Away from the actual content and delivery one of my big passions in terms of teaching and learning is motivation – motivation and emotion. Why are the learners here? Why do they want to learn? If you give your learners a case they are interested in to back up an example and it has appeared in the news in the last few days they perk up immediately. It is as simple as that. Half way though the course the course Radiohead released their latest album and said that it was optional to pay for it – that was brilliant – so using these kinds of examples instead of standing up there talking about the history and the legality of video which is so dry I could bring in something they could relate to> We went on to talk about artists who have been discovered on MySpace – these are all things which strike a chord with them and as a motivator cannot be underestimated
In terms of the disciplinary culture in a science faculty the tradition is mainly positivist so our approach is quite unusual. We are dealing with messy or ambiguous ideas and the students can find it quite hard to think in that way. It has been interesting getting them to think about the grey areas rather than the rights and wrongs and absolutes.

Emotional learning and sport

March 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell


A friend told me last week she liked my blog but it was just too techy for her. I had never imagined this as a techy blog. So it is time to get a bit more…what I don’t know.

Anyway a quick word on sport. I like sports – well some sports anyway. I like the intensity of being a supporter, I love the crowds and the emotion, the ups and downs.

This weekend was indeed two days of ups and downs.

On Saturday I watched the final match of the 6 Nations rugby tournament. The match was between Wales and France and the winners would win the Championship. Wales won and won in style. For those readers who do not understand the meaning of rugby in Wales I quote from todays on-line edition of the Western Mail, Wales’ daily morning newspaper. “while it may have been the end of a perfect tournament for Wales, it’s the start of a new dawn for the nation.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said, “This Grand Slam will do so much for Wales as a small country because we can now all say proudly that we are the champions of Europe and champions of the Northern Hemisphere. Bring on the Southern Hemisphere..” Economists, they say, are predicting an upturn for the Welsh economy . Hm…well perhaps.

On Sunday I watched football – Werder against Wolfsburg. This should have been a stroll. But it wasn’t – we lost – and we were direly bad. From euphoria one day to despair the next.

And the point of this – yes I can tie a sports report to e-learning. How can we get such passion into learning? Do we want learners to experience such feelings of elation and despair? And how can we both develop Personal Learning Environments yet replicate the feeling of being part of the crowd?

Eduspaces RIP

March 16th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I know this is old news and no-one is really bothered anymore. But for those of you looking for an update on the Eduspaces closure and takeover by Taking IT Global, the following notice has been up on the site for at least the last ten days.

eduspaces notice

Pontydysgu – a model organisation of the future?

March 14th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Interesting coverage in the Guardian newspaper of a report from the UK Chartered Management Institute on the future of work.

Amongst their predictions for the year 2018 are that there will be a proliferation of “virtual” companies, often small community-based enterprises without conventional business premises.
“These enterprises would have to compete for employees, who will become more footloose and less inclined to work for an organisation that does not allow individuals to tailor the working day to meet their personal requirements. “Organisations will have to address the growing power of the employee,” the report said.
Whether or not workers enjoy this extra flexibility, they will not be allowed to cling to traditional patterns of employment. “On all levels there will be a move towards upskilling and multi-skilling … Employees will be required to be more flexible with regard to organisational needs,” the report said.

This may mean workers abandoning traditional shifts. People may work from home on assignments during specific time slots, or be available on call when work needs to be done.

They will communicate by high-speed broadband, perhaps supplemented by hologram technology permitting virtual presence at meetings.

Many talented people would become “multi-employed”, some working for a day or two a week in “third place locations” outside their organisations or home office.

As work becomes more project-based, people will need to use specialised services to market themselves for individual ad hoc projects.”
“It said collaborative working would become so important that companies should consider abolishing positions and job titles. “Instead each employee should be seen as a valuable resource, to be employed according to specific organisational needs.”

Companies would come to regard wisdom as a valuable resource. Some would try to nurture an organisational memory by arranging rituals and storytelling, and listening to the accounts of long-term employees.”

I don’t know about 2018. this describes Pontydysgu today. are we so forward looking or are the big companies surveyed for the report so much behind the times.

N.B. There were two technical scenarios which interested me. The idea of holograms attending meetings may sound far fetched but surely this is just an extension of an avatar.

I’m not so sure about enhancing the capabilities of staff by implanting microchips in their brains. Hm…has some attractions though.-:)

Open education or educational marketplace?

March 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

It had to happen but its taken a long time coming. Over the last two weeks I have stumbled on an increasing number of sites offering free access to tools for on-line teaching and learning. Most of them seem to incorporate some elements of social software along with video conferencing software.

WiZiQ advertises itself as a platform for anyone and everyone who wants to teach or learn live, online. With a virtual classroom, educational content and a session scheduler, WiZiQ works best for anyone’s online teaching and learning needs, they say.

Whilst WiZiQ stresses the virtual classroom, Learnhub has a more community orientation. This is a site where people teach & learn online, they say. But the functionality seems much the same. And whilst it is hard to work out WiZiQ’s business model, Learnhub says in the future they will take a percentage from paid for courses.

It’s not confined to the English speaking world. is a German language portal offering much the same services (and using Adobe software for conferencing).

All these sites are encouraging ‘teachers’ to develop their own courses and run them through the site. All are trying to a greater or lesser extent to build some kind of social software based community.

I think it is impossible to overestimate the importance of what is going on. None of these sites require that you are a trained or qualified teacher. None have restrictions based on age or geography.

It now is very, very easy to organise on-line seminars and programmes. In the past software was always a struggle. But it is not clear how this will evolve. It may be that the most use will be to supplement existing educational programmes. It could be that we will see an explosion in self organised teaching and learning. (I plan to organise a Pontydysgu seminar series in the near future). Or is could be that this is another step down the road to an education free market – and education courses become just another global commodity. I have argued endlessly that technology does not determine social development, instead society shapes technology. There is wonderful potential with this new wave of software but who it benefits will depend on how we use it.



Rich surveys

March 11th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

First in a new series of short vidcasts (is that the right word?). In this one I talk about the idea of ‘rich surveys’. Puzzled? What to know more? Just watch the video. It is about 5 minutes long.

Learners can use technologies – the problem is the institutions

March 11th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

This story from in Canada shows just why we need to tackle issues over assessment (thanks to Cristina Costa for forwarding). Ryerson University is threatening to expel a student for administering an on-line study group.

“First-year student Chris Avenir is fighting charges of academic misconduct for helping run an online chemistry study group via Facebook last term, where 146 classmates swapped tips on homework questions that counted for 10 per cent of their mark.

The computer engineering student has been charged with one count of academic misconduct for helping run the group – called Dungeons/Mastering Chemistry Solutions after the popular Ryerson basement study room engineering students dub The Dungeon – and another 146 counts, one for each classmate who used the site.

Avenir, 18, faces an expulsion hearing Tuesday before the engineering faculty appeals committee. If he loses that appeal, he can take his case to the university’s senate.

The incident has sent shock waves through student ranks, says Kim Neale, 26, the student union’s advocacy co-ordinator, who will represent Avenir at the hearing.

“All these students are scared s—less now about using Facebook to talk about schoolwork, when actually it’s no different than any study group working together on homework in a library,” said Neale.

“That’s the worst part; it’s creating this culture of fear, where if I post a question about physics homework on my friend’s wall (a Facebook bulletin board) and ask if anyone has any ideas how to approach this – and my prof sees this, am I cheating?” said Neale, who has used Facebook study groups herself.”

Ir seems fairly ridiculous that we spend so much time and trouble working on the use of new technologies for collaborative learning – and even more so for encouraging autonomous learning, only for academic institutions to take actions like this. Furthermore, every survey of employers suggests that the ability to work as part of a team is both one of the most sought after competencies and one which they feel is not being taught by the education system.

If the university is really worried about the integrity of its assessment system there are many things they could do. At a simple level why not set group assignments. Peer group assessment can provide for individual assessment within a group. Or, they could take a little more time and trouble and develop more authentic assessment to test each learner’s ability to apply knowledge developed through group work.

As Chris Avenir says ” if this kind of help is cheating, then so is tutoring and all the mentoring programs the university runs and the discussions we do in tutorials.”

  • Search

    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.

    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
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      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      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.

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  • RT @YvetteTaylor0 Sneak preview of illustrated report on student estrangement - coming with me to ⁦@genderanded⁩ conf. @cristinacost#StrathEstrangement

    About 2 days ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via Twitter for Android

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