Archive for December, 2008

Foucault and the proposed Code of Conduct for Teachers

December 31st, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Last week I wrote an article about the controversial General Teaching Council of England proposed code of Conduct for teachers. Commentators had protested at what they saw as intrusion into the personal lives of teachers. Furthermore, there was a concern as to who was saying what was and what was not acceptable behaviour and how such a code might be used to suppress ideas seen by authorities as undesirable.

Recent events in London show the dangers. As reported in the Guardian newspaper a  Special Needs teachers, Adrian Swain, was dismissed a week before Christmas from St Paul’s Way, a comprehensive in Tower Hamlets, east London for refusing to stop wearing clothes which failed the school’s new dress code.

What were the offending clothes? Adrian Swain, who teaches Physical Education, came to work wearing track suit bottoms and trainers.

There is widespread suspicion that the real reason for sacking Adrian, is because he is secretary of the local teachers union, the National Union of Teachers.

The school justification for the enforcement of a dress code is that teachers should not wear anything that the students are not allowed to. And, for non UK readers of this blog, the UK persists in allowing schools to force students to wear school uniforms, even for very young children. When my stepdaughter was 7, I was summonsed to a meeting the her headteacher, who told me that she would no longer be allowed into school if she wore Doctor Martins shoes. The reason for the ban, said the head, was because wearing such shoes was hindering her learning!

As Foucault said prison is not unique. It is positioned within the disciplined society, the society of generalized surveillance in which we live. “What is so astonishing,” Foucault asked, “about the fact that our prisons resemble our factories, schools, military bases, and hospitals-all of which in turn resemble prisons?”

Commenting on the Swain case, Brian Lightman, former president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said many schools had dress codes for their teachers because staff were role models to their pupils. This begs the question of what sort of roles are being modelled, The sacking of Adrian Swain has no connection to his abilities as a teacher. It is all to do with reinforcing uniformity and maintaining the role of schools as an instrument of control. The proposed Code of Conduct for Teachers is designed for the same purposes. It should be stopped.

How my Personal Learning Environment is Changing

December 29th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Alec Couroso has been pondering on the differences between a Personal Learning Environment and a Personal Network. The replies from a Twitter shoutout are interesting. But I am not really convinced. For me the idea of a Personal Learning Environment was never limited to the tools we use for learning or to on-line learning. It is what is says – the environment in which we learn. And that includes work, the home, our social environment and the institutional learning programmes in which we participate. It includes books and above all perhaps it includes people.

What distinguishes PLes from VLEs, e-Portfolios, or from classroom and lecture based learning for that matter, is that it brings together informal and formal learning. It recognises the primacy of the learner on driving and developing their learning. And – in terms of tools – it provides them the means to organise their own learning. Whilst I don’t really see the point in distinguishing between a PLN and a PLE there are changes in the ways we are learning and the tools we are using to learn.

Tow years ago a wrote a short paper on PLEs in which I listed the tools which comprised my PLE:

  • “Word processor for writing papers like this – Nisus Writer Express
  • E-mail client for communication – Mac Mail
  • Diary for managing my work and sharing with others- iCal linked to my web site
  • Audio for making podcasts – Garage Band
  • Video editor for making multi media presentations – iMovie
  • Weblog client for various blogs I contribute to – Ecto
  • Content Management System for creating web sites – Joomla
  • Personal Weblog – Knotes
  • Photo editing programme – iPhoto (and plug in for uploading to Flickr)
  • Photo sharing service – Flickr
  • Web Browser – Firefox
  • Bookmark sharing service – Delicio-us
  • Podcast publishing – Joomla plug in
  • Presentation software – Keynote
  • Newsreader – Net Newsreader
  • Instant messaging and VOIP – Skype
  • Search engines – mainly Spotlight and Google
  • FTP client for sharing multimedia files – FileChute”

I still use quite a lot of these tools. But for most of my web based publishing I have moved to WordPress. And I now use Open Office as a work processor. For bookmarking I use diigo. And Vienna is now my newsreader of choice. But these are small changes. What has changed since i produced this list is the development of web based tools for social networking. Facebook has come and almost gone (although more on that in another post). Twitter is a critical part of my PLE. I live on skype and sometimes venture out in Second Life. I regularly facilitate or participate in sessions on Elluminate. But it is not even the advent of new tools but rather chnages in the way we are using the web for learning. So whilst before my PLE comprised of a series of tools for managing learning, for consumption and for creation, and tools for communication – today the communication tools are central in managing my networked and collaborative learning. Web 2.0 tools have allowed us to put the social back into online learning. That for me is why elearning 1.0 never really worked. Learning is a social activity. Early e-learning applications tried to bypass the social. Interaction was with the computer, not with other learners.

Personal Learning Networks, Personal Learning Environments – I don’t really mind what we call them. What is critical is that a PLE / PLN helps us in organising our learning and helps us make the connections with those with whom we want to collaborate and share, whoever, wherever they are.

Research Assessment Exercise in Pain English

December 20th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A great new video by AJ Cann on the Research Assessment Exercise in the UK universities.

Proposed Code of Conduct for Teachers angers Twitterers

December 20th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

An article by Jessica Shepherd in yesterdays Guardian newspaper has drawn the ire of twitter posters today. The article, entitled “Teachers could face sanction for weekend drunkenness”, reported on the new code of conduct being issued by the General Teaching Council for England. The code says teachers could face sanctions if they damage “public trust and confidence” in their profession.

According to the Guardian “Keith Bartley, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for England (GTC), the profession’s watchdog, said teachers needed to “consider their place in society”, and act as role models.

When asked what the watchdog would do if teachers were drunk and rowdy at the weekend, Bartley said the GTC would look at the individual circumstances before deciding if they should face disciplinary tribunals.

Teachers didn’t have to be exemplary citizens every second, Bartley said. Nevertheless, their behaviour could be “lawful but not acceptable”.

The code, which comes into force next autumn, states that teachers and trainees must “uphold the law and maintain standards of behaviour, both inside and outside school, that are appropriate given their membership of an important and responsible profession”.

They should “demonstrate awareness of their role as a significant figure in the lives of children and young people, lead by example, and model the characteristics they are trying to inspire in young people”.

In the discussion on Twitter, which is still ongoing at the time of writing, Drew Buddie said “surely a schools own staff code of conduct is sufficient? if teachers have to stand up to that scrutiny why not all professions?”

Josie Fraser was outright in her opposition to the code: “GTC proposals a timely xmas insult to teaching staff everywhere. Stuff already covered in Terms and Conditions of employment. What would be more useful to teachers is support in understanding management of public/private online. Which is what I’m working on.”

Kate Sim pointed out that ther are some good bits – “Keep up to date with important changes in [..] technology, so that they can help.” But Drew Buddy replied “but how the heck does THAT clause belong in a (Code of Conduct) document with all the other claptrap” and having read the whole proposal Kate Sim replied “too bits concern me who will decide what is appropriate behaviour? This is wide open to interpretation.”

Leon Cynch raised the question of privacy “I object to the GTCE role model code in that it is intrusive into teachers’ personal lives.”

In my view Kate and Leon have raised critcial questions. In proposing to take sanctions againsr teachers for what may be legal activities in their own time, the GTC is setting themselves up as moral judges over teachers’ lives. could sanctions be taken against someone for writing “inappropriate” comments to Twitter? Is a teacher who gets sent off for being involved in a fight in a rugby game to be disciplined?

The GTCE are failing teachers. The use of new technologies is blurring the divisions between the public and private. The GTCE should be supporting teachers in dealing with these issues.

The proposals are now subject to consultation and hopefully the teachers’ unions will lead the opposition. If you want to follow the discussions on twitters a tag has now been established: #GTCE.

Join us at the Edublog08 awards party

December 18th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Saturday night (depending on your time zone) the EduBlogs08 award ceremony is being held in Second Life. And since as some of you know Pontydysgu is a distributed organisation and are friends are in many different countries, we’d like to invite you all to join us at the show and after show party for an end of year bash. the ceremony takes palce at 2300 UK time and 2400 Central European Time.

The ceremony wil be held on the Islands of Jokaydia with a meetup at the jokaydia Landing point (SLurl) for newbie support and pre-event hot chocolate. The ceremony will be held in the new auditorium (SLurl).

It seems there is a limit on the number of visitors but there is an overflow area with chat bridge and audio streaming at the jokaydia Meeting Hall (SLurl) for those who don’t get a seat but would still like to hang out inworld.

EdTechTalk will be providing a web-based audio stream of the event which can be accessed at: http://edtechtalk.com/live and there is also a chat room.

Meet at jokaydia Beach! (SLurl) for the post event party.

Graham Attwell’s inworld name is Graham Lightfoot and Cristina Costa is Kayla Helgerud. We look foward to meeting up with you. (By the way of you haven’t voted yest head over to Edublog awards site.

We have the ideas and the technologies – what changes in the system do we need for Open Education?

December 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

The education system does not work

Last week in a post entitled “If PLEs are Incompatible with the System, how do we Change the System?”, I argued that our present systems are unable to keep up with the requirements of society and of industry for learning and knowledge development.  Curricula cannot keep pace with the speed of technological and social innovation and the skills and knowledge required by today’s technology cannot be delivered through a rigidly sytematised, market led educational system.  Present education systems cannot support lifelong learning and it will cost too much to extend the present model of institutional education to deliver the learning required by the present phase of capitalism.I could – and should – have added that in many countries there is still not free access to basic education – let alone to higher education. Even in advanced economies such as the UK students are expected to contribute towards the cost of their education resulting in many leaving higher education with large debts. There is an assumption that they will do this because of the premium this places on their earning power but research shows this premium to be eroding. And such a premium is based on the differential between them and those without higher education; if everyone has equal access to learning then such additional income would disappear.

An emergent alternative

If the present systems cannot be extended to deliver education for all and lifelong learning is there an alternative? I believe we have an emergent alternative based on the use of new technologies and on radical changes in pedagogy.

Open Educational Resources

Lets start with learning materials or educational resources. We are moving from a position of scarcity to one of abundance through the rapid development of Open Educational Resources and internet based media. Books, videos, audio,learning materials, research papers, journals can all be accessed through the internet. Critically the development of cheap sub laptop computers and of handheld devices (plus the soon to emerge, cheap electronic book readers) and increasing access to internet access, provide a wealth of easily accessible educational resources. Such media are socially and economically sustainable through the very numbers of people contributing to their development and publication. There are still issues over quality and discovery but these issues are far from unresolvable.

Social Networks

Secondly, social networks allow us a forum and social space for shared and peer group learning. We are no longer dependent on the classroom based expert learning model of the past. Just by following Twitter isit is possible to find every day streamed conferences and seminars with free online access. More importantly teh culture of free and open education is spreading. A number of educational social networking sites allow anyone to offer courses and anyone to attend. Whilst some are based on business models involving fees, it seems more likely we will move in the direction of free online education. Early Open Educational resource sites are increasingly looking at enhancing teaching and learning provision to support the materials they are posting online.But most critically, social networking allows us to find and collaborate with people who share a similar interest – and that can include a similar interest in learning. As early as 1970, Illich put forward a vision that people would send a postcard to a central address expressing there learning interests and that a mainframe computer would match up their interests with others and arrange them a meeting with such people. Now that process can be expidited through online social media and geographical location technologies could allow us to meet up face to face with those people with similar interests in our geographical vicinity.

Curricula

One of the barriers to such self driven and social learning has been centrally controlled and regulated curricula. Here too, the use of social media is leading to new ideas of community driven, emergent curricula based on the model of the Rhizome. Learning will not so much be driven by enrolment on a officially prescribed course or curricula, but in participation in learning as part of a community of practice where bodies and tenets of knowledge are changing, emergent and transparent.

Participation in courses and programmes of learning also has a social element. But here too, we have an alternative model. Massive On-line Open Courses (MOOCs) offer a model for the scalable delivery of courses and programmes, and more importantly for the organisation of social interaction around such courses, both online through blogs, wikis, online seminars, internet radio, MUVEs etc. and face to face through geographically located study groups and circles.

Personal Learning Environments

A further piece in the jigsaw is the move towards Personal Learning Environments. PLEs are important in allowing individuals to organise and manage their own learning, regardless of where that learning takes place. PLEs can provide a framework for scaffolding and reflection on learning.

Changing the system

Put all the parts together and we have a new model, a model which can extend learning to all those who want it and support lifelong learning. A model which is affordable and scalable. But of course it requires imagination and change to implement such a model.

There are four key changes we need to take.

The first is in the role of teachers. Teachers are important for guiding and supporting learning. Teachers are a precious and scarce resource. Too much to their time at present is pent delivery front of the class learning and lecturing. If we could increase social and peer group learning and free up teachers time, then we should be able to provide open access for teachers to all who require such support.

The second is assessment. present methods and approaches to assessment are one of the biggest barriers to new and more radical pedagogic approaches. If assessment was seen as part of the learning process, rather than as a process of measuring what people do not know, assessment could become an integral and important part of a new system.If education and learning are integrated in society, then assessment can become authentic within everyday living and working situations.

The third is the role of schools and the design of learning environments. The schooling system has become institutionalised. the vast resources used to support and maintain school buildings and facilities could better be used supporting learning within the community. Schools should be opened to learners of all ages providing guidance and support for learning. But schools are not the only place in which we learn. It is widely accepted that much of our learning is informal. Yet we do little to enhance working and community environments to support that learning. The working environment is not juts the physical surrounding but the deign of work tasks and the work organisation. For learning to be effective we need opportunities to put that learning onto action. We need a holistic approahc to learning environments. A positive outcome of deschooling society is to introduce learning in the wider spheres of activity in our societies.

The final change is in accreditation. There is little point in developing learning in the workplace and in the community and encouraging the development of Open Educational Resources and Personal Learning environments, if access to future opportunities is reliant on accreditation which can only be obtained through participation in prescribed courses. Accreditation can and should be based on presentation of evidence of learning and competence, based on our e-Portfolios and participation in learning activities. Of course, this may require some forms of presentation, in electronic and other media and may require expert and peer testimonial. This is not so much of a technical change, but a change in how we view the validation and recognition of learning.

Of course these are radical chnages. But the main point of this post was to say that we have the ideas and the technologies to support an alternative to the present education systems, systems which are failing so many indiviidals and failing society as a whole.

2009 – The year of Creativity and Innovation

December 17th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

The European Association of Education of Adults has recently released in their website that 2009 is going to be the European Year of Creativity and Innovation.
Well, that is about time Creativity and Innovation came hand in hnad with education, and also that it gained the recognition it deserves as part of one’s learning process and life long development. In my mind, attached to it is spontaneity, a wider diversity of contextual opportunities to learn and practice, hence, more value put on informal and reality learning approaches; learning spaces turned into environments where people really feel at ease to communicate and share… feel they belong to (all agents included), more choice and personalization, that is, voices emerging…
The hint is that ICT will have a decisive role in this approach, and that the learning activity becomes more connected and with a wider networked audience. 🙂
Now the questions are: how will participatory media finally be embedded (and not forced) as a fundamental part of institutions’ strategies and approaches towards teaching, learning, and research? How will creativity be regarded, supported and enhanced in formal settings? How will innovation happen … This really takes a lot of thinking, and a lot of courage too to take this forward.

This morning I was also reading the IPTS policy brief on ICT for Learning, Innovation and Creativity (2008), and their observations are not really surprising, but compared with what the Lisbon Strategy initially set forward, it’s almost shocking.
Ala-Mutka, Punie and Redecker (2008), point out that despite the fact of ICT have been increasingly taken up in educational settings in the last decade, it still hasn’t had the ‘transformative impact’ on teaching and learning inside the institutions. Nevertheless, it is progressively gaining more importance outside. The report also says that ‘while many education institutions all over Europe are currently experimenting with diverse digital tools, the approaches developed are not always creative or innovative’.
Who hasn’t come across cases like this? How many ICT projects are nothing but the replication of what has been done in face to face scenarios? What’s the added value in this? So why using technology, going through the hassle of learning new things if we just aim at replicating what we already do well? Technology is only useful when there is true added value to it. For that to happen new learning situations need to be created, the institutions (and all its agents – students, lecturers, tutors, researchers, librarians, etc) need to make the connection with the virtual world real. This takes an open and social approach in which participatory media can help tremendously not as a solution per se, but rather as a means to an end … as a platform for meaningful communication and development of learning networks and communal engagement.

As part of their recommendations, set of suggestions at different levels have been enunciated. In terms of pedagogical innovation, experimentation is encouraged – let people try, they say!!!! Only if we do it, will we know if it works. We ought to be a bit more daring in education – it kind of goes well together with the real life we are preparing our students for! Networking and exchange of good practices amongst educators seems to be a must. Thus teacher training and support are crucial.
As far as innovative organizations go, open and network institutions comes at the top of the recommendations in this category, alongside with the development and support of a favourable culture for ICT innovation and learning and the building of a strong vision of ICT and innovation for lifelong learning in Europe.
Finally, some ideas on how to support and take advantage of the technological innovation. That calls for Co-development of tools for learning and teaching – working closely with the users does seems a great idea. Research on how ICT impacts on learning is also seen as essential. To it, I can add another thought: research on practice, and how it drives change, creativity and innovation seems to be also as important.

If Educational institutions all around Europe are going to allow this to happen, that remains to be seem. But I certainly would like to see this as first item on every School’s/ university’s New Year’s resolution list…or is that asking too much?

Beyond Competence: Creating Learning Spaces for the training and professional development of trainers

December 16th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Posted below is a PDF copy of a new book: ‘Creating Learning Spaces: Training and Professional Development of Trainers’. the hard back copy will be published early in the new year. The book comes out of the two year TTPlus project on professional development for trainers. The project involved researchers from six European countries and was coordinated by Eileen Luebcke from Pontydysgu and funded by The European Commission Leonardo da Vinci programme.

At the heart of the project was the aim to develop a Framework for the Continuing Professional Development fo trainers. But we had also set out to look at who is responsible for training, what trainers do in practice and how training is changing. In fact, considering how much is talked about the importance of training, it is quite remarkable how little is known about who the trainers are and what they do.

We found that increasing numbers of people are responsible for training as part of their work – as skilled workers, as team leaders or as managers. Very often they do not have the word trainer as their job title, neither do they identify themselves as a trainer. In some cases responsibility for training comes as part of the job, in other cases they were selected because they appeared to have an aptitude for the role. In some cases they had some prior experience of teaching, in others they attended some courses but in many cases they had no training or professional development as trainers. We found that whilst there were differences between countries, especially in regulatory regimes, in terms of practice and changes in practice nationality was not a particularly significant variable in what trainers do. In all the cases we examined there appeared to be a move towards more work based learning and more use of technology for learning. This is important as most studies of trainers in Europe have started from a comparative methodology based on country. We wanted to go beyond this and examine the real practice of trainers. This involved talking to trainers themselves, talking to learners and talking to managers in different companies in the six countries involved.

We felt that if the standards of training are to be raised, improving the training of trainers must be a priority.  However, given the heterogeneous nature of the group and the range of sectors and occupations in which they work, it is difficult to see how this could be standardised, or indeed whether it is desirable to do so.  Certainly some sort of common framework would have advantages. It would provide a degree of coherence to what is a very fragmented field. It would increase the visibility of trainer training and in so doing, increase awareness. It could also stimulate the establishment of communities of practice between trainers.

Previous attempts at solving this problem can be roughly divided into two:

a)    Competence framework approaches
An output based solution that depends on disaggregating the skills and competences that have been identified as necessary for skilled performance. It is often used as a way of providing recognition for the skills already possessed by the trainer, typically though the compilation of a portfolio of evidence. It will also highlight missing competences so that the trainer can see which areas they need to develop. The disadvantages are:

  • It is essentially a backward-mapping exercise – recognizing and rewarding competences rather than providing opportunities for new learning.
  • There are invariably problems with granularity and with designing a credible classification system.
  • It identifies gaps in skills and knowledge but does not fill them.

b)    Qualifications approach
An input based approach that depends on increasing the professionalisation of trainers by providing accredited training-the-trainer opportunities, which lead to formal qualifications, hierarchically arranged. The assumption is that the provision of higher levels of trainer training and thus higher-level qualifications for trainers will push up standards of the training they deliver. The major problems with this approach are:

  • This can only operate on an individual level and is not transferable to organizations
  • There is an issue around occupational identities. Many ‘trainers’ do not see themselves as trainers per se, their occupational identity being based on being a skilled worker or manager but who still have some responsibility for facilitating the learning of colleagues.
  • It implies that progression for trainers is ‘vertical’ whereas in practice many of the trainers’ learning needs will be lateral. That is, they may want more knowledge or skills at the same and not a higher level.
  • The assumption that if qualifications are higher and harder then standards somehow go up, is unproven. In countries with a formal training-the-trainer framework (e.g. UK) there is little research evidence to suggest this.

Instead of a competence based approach we have developed a series of principles and a series of standards, together with a flexible accreditation process. The principles include the recognition of the importance of:

  • trainers in facilitating learning and the role of learning for individual competence development and organisational development
  • different modes of learning and different modes of assessing learning
  • different roles people play in training and learning
  • opportunities for initial and continuing professional development
  • opportunities of opportunities to practice
  • networking
  • partnerships
  • the development of tools and platforms
  • ongoing research and monitoring

The standards are expressed in the form of a series of commitments. The commitments are not only for individual trainers, but for teams, organisations and enterprises and governmental bodies. The proposed accreditation framework supports a process of trainers (or organisations) themselves deciding on what steps they wish to take to meet the different commitments and then of developing a portfolio or evidence to show that they have achieved this. We have also provided examples of the sort of measures they might tackle.

We have discussed the Framework with trainers and other people involved in training and there is considerable enthusiasm for our approach. In the next year we hope to further develop the framework and to run a series of pilots.

Personally I am very happy with this work. We have moved beyond competences to place practice and learning at the centre of the Framework. I would love to hear your comments on the book. And if you are interested in working with us please leave a comment or email Graham Attwell.

To download the book click here.

Meeting webheads at Online Educa 08 – part II

December 15th, 2008 by Cristina Costa

I am still marveled by the Online Educa Berlin 08 experience. It mainly has to do with the fact that I was able to meet and talk to so many interesting people, and to learn what they are currently doing.

Like I already mentioned in previous posts, Online Educa unexpectedly become a webhead meeting too. It doesn’t take much to organize one. Webheads are quite spontaneous people and any place is good to host a get-together. Berlin, in this sense, was a stupendous meeting point. We had so much fun. I have been in closer contact with Heike Philp since the Training the Trainers Online Conference. Although she’s also an webhead, we hadn’t actively engaged in many discussions at the webhead’s headquarters…I am not even sure why… However we knew each other, and after the online event we started skyping more and talk about our projects. Once Heike learned Buth and I was going to be in Berlin, she decided to come too. That was quite a surprise and I am glad she came, because we sure had a great time.

Heike has a new project starting soon about Second Life and Language Learning. Teaching and learning Languages in SL seem to have a big impact in environments like this. I personally like the fact that I can embody my presence through an avatar, and use voice activated speech to interact with others. The fact we can visit different places, and construct artifacts is also appealing to me… the way I see it it should make me feel I am part  of that environment in a rather meaningful and contextualized way. However, this is not what usually happens with me. I am still fascinated by the fact my avatar represents me in a more tangible way, and that I also get to go places while there, etc… but, at the same, time I usually feel frustrated by the fact I can’t figure out how to control my avatar’s movements, and body language signs, with proficiency. Constructing stuff in SL is even harder… Equally upsetting is the fact that when I don’t crash, someone else does. Even though this is becoming less frequent, it is still a reality for many people who are running on older computers or have a slower connection.
Nevertheless, I really want to learn more about SL, and hope to include it as part of my Personal Learning Environment and Network. I still see many limitations for it to work at a larger scale and for a wider group of people. As my dear friend Hala Fawzi says – she is not a Second Lifer – and she does not say that because she doesn’t see the learning benefits of being part of such environment, but simply because her internet connection is still not fast enough to ‘enter this world’.

However, it look things are changing. Heike’s project – Access to Virtual Action Learning live ONline (AVALON) seems to address some of this issues mentioned above, and she does talk about accessibility and usability. I hope you enjoy the video. It was recorded at the Xmas Market in Berlin, as you can tell from the background music.

[bliptv Ad7NCAI]

Also, if you want to be introduced to SL in a friendly, supportive environment, then you should consider the Virtual World Session Graham Stanley, Nick Noakes, Dennis Newson and  Nergiz Kern are going to offer as part of the EVO Sessions. They are totally free and a lot of fun! I will join them too. 😉

The potential of technology to change the way we work

December 12th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I have spent most of the day working on the Mature project. The project, funded by the European Commission, is developing services for knowledge maturing in organisations, including the introduction of Personal Learning and Management Systems and Organisational Learning and Management Systems. Of course, before we can develop or implement such systems we have to work out what they are. For me that is half of the attraction of the project.
This morning we had an on-line meeting for one of the work groups, this afternoon I had a long talk with Tobias Nelker from Paderborn University and in-between I started writing up overdue reports.
here are just a few thoughts following our discussions.
One of the attractions of the project, which is relatively well funded, it it brings together an interdisciplinary research team including researchers from sociology, computer sciences, education and work sciences. We are struggling still to find a common language. sometimes I do not understand what the computer scientists are talking about – and I am quite sure they have similar problems with me. More problematic is the development of a shared research approach and methodology for the project – different disciplines have different approaches to similar issues. We need to find ways of using this as a strength for the project.
With reference to knowledge sharing, I think we have some tensions between those who view knowledge through artefacts and others of us who see knowledge development and maturing as a process. I am by no means convinced we can measure or even understand knowledge maturing in the progressive iteration of a document or artefact – to me it is the social use of such artefacts which matures.
The project is through the technology programme of the European Commission and oart of the work involves the development and testing of tools. There seem to be two tensions. How can we marry together research into how people learn and how knowledge is developed with actual practice within organisations?
And how can we design tools which help people in their everyday work and lives based on their practice – rather than saying – here is a cool wizzy tool which we would like you to try out.
I am increasingly aware of the importance of context in learning and in knowledge development – especially in work based learning and in informal learning. there are multiple contextual variables of which I feel the most important is work organisation. It is not only an issue of opportunities for learning but an issue of the autonomy to use such learning in practice. This cannot be reduced to merely adopting to the work environment but the ability to shape that work environment based on individual and collective or organsiation knowledge.
This in turn requires change processes. But any project such as Mature is acting as a change agent in the very processes it studies.
All in all this is complex. But I am convinced that we can use technology based tools to open opportunities and support learning in the workplace – not just to courses – but for individual and peerr group learning from everyday working experience. This can not only lead to individual learning but can enrich work environments and lead to enhanced quality of goods and services. And in many ways I think this may be the real impact and potential of what we have called e-learning – rather than trying to use technology to implement traditional classroom based learning at a distance.
NB I am increasingly convinced of the potential of microblogging systems for knowledge exchange and development. This was what I taled to Tobias about this afternoon. Will write something more on this over the weekend.

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    News Bites

    Cyborg patented?

    Forbes reports that Microsoft has obtained a patent for a “conversational chatbot of a specific person” created from images, recordings, participation in social networks, emails, letters, etc., coupled with the possible generation of a 2D or 3D model of the person.


    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.


    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.


    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.


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