Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Open access journals

February 26th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am ever more excited by the possibilities of ebook and emedia readers linked to open access publications. I think we are on the cusp of a big change in access to learning. Recently I produced a short consultancy report on the potential for a new journal. The major technical considerations in the publication of a journal, I said, was if it was to be open or closed and what media should the journal deploy? Below is an excerpt from the report.

Open or Closed Acces
s

There has been much recent discussion about Open Access journals. Much of this stems from the Budapest Open Access Initiative launched by the  Open Society Institute (OSI)  to accelerate progress in the international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the internet. The  Budapest Open Access Initiative is intended as a statement of principle, a statement of strategy, and a statement of commitment and has been signed by a growing number of individuals and organizations from around the world who represent researchers, universities, laboratories, libraries, foundations, journals, publishers, learned societies. Signatories include the University of Hamburg.

Open access journals are scholarly journals that are available to the reader “without financial or other barrier other than access to the internet itself.” Some are subsidized, and some require payment on behalf of the author. Subsidized journals are financed by an academic institution or a government information centre; those requiring payment are typically financed by money made available to researchers for the purpose from a public or private funding agency, as part of a research grant. There have also been several modifications of open access journals that have considerably different natures: hybrid open access journals and delayed open access journals.

Open access journals may be considered to be:

  • Journals entirely open access
  • Journals with research articles open access (hybrid open access journals)
  • Journals with some research articles open access (hybrid open access journals)
  • Journals with some articles open access and the other delayed access
  • Journals with delayed open access (delayed open access journals)
  • Journals permitting self-archiving of articles

It should be noted that many of the hybrid journals maintain both an open access or delayed access online version alongside a paid for print version.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (http://www.doaj.org/), maintained by the University of Malmo, and  which covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals and aims to cover all subjects and languages currently lists 3786 journals in the directory. 1330 journals are searchable at article level and at the time of writing 240714 articles are included in the DOAJ service. 258 of the journals are in the field of education and 50 in technology. A list of these education related journals is included in Appendix 2. it should be noted few, if any are in the filed of vocational education and training.

Th advantages of open access journals is obviously their accessibility. A number of extensive studies have shown that articles in open access journals are much more likely to be cited than those in closed access journals.

It has also been argued that open access journal will promote innovation, facilitate collaboration between researchers and that the results of research funded by public money should be published in the public domain. It is interesting to note that there appears no difference in status or scholarly reputation of journals between those with open and those with closed access.

Open Access on-line journals are particularly popular for allowing access to doctoral research. For example Educate (http://www.educatejournal.org/index.php?journal=educate) is published twice a year in June and December under the auspices of the Doctoral School at the Institute of Education, University of London. The journal aims to provide:

  • opportunities for the dissemination of the work of current post-graduate researchers at any stage of their research, and recent doctoral graduates, on any aspect of education or related areas
  • opportunities for the dissemination of “work in progress” to the academic community
  • a resource for professionals involved in educational enquiry and research

Educate articles are peer reviewed by both an established academic and a current post-graduate researcher. Articles are further reviewed by the editorial board as a whole.

The obvious argument against is financial. Doubts have been raised over the viability of the journal publishers if Open Access becomes the norm (although these questions are also raised by the move to online journals). There is a further issue that payments by researchers for publishing will disadvantage those without access to substantial research grants.

Media – print, online or both and what about publishers?

There is a growing trend towards on-line journals. Indeed, all journals today would appear to have some form of web presence.

However there is a basic divide between those journals which are only available online and those which are also available through a print edition. For those which also maintain a print edition, varying levels of access may be provided to the online content as noted above. It should also be noted that those journals with restricted public access to online content, may often allow that access if the researchers institution has a subscription to the journal. This is under the so called Athens Access Management System. There is also a growing number of online journals that require a subscription for access to full articles.

Many of the major journal publishers – for instance Blackwells – are currently launching enhanced on-line platforms. Additional a number of university libraries are exploring providing only online access to journals. This is likely to be accelerated by the move to digitalise texts and by developments in mobile devices and book readers able to access the internet.

There are obviously advantages for on-line publications in terms of accessibility.

If a publication is only available through the internet there are major advantages in terms of cost. Put quite simply, it is possible to by-pass publishers who represent a considerable hurdle in launching any new journal. Publishers want to be sure there will be a financially viable market for a journal and in a relatively small research area such as VET are understandably cautious. Furthermore, the long lead in time in negotiating with publishers can dissipate effort and lessen initial enthusiasm. In addition there is access to relatively powerful Open Source journal software such as Open Journal Systems (http://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs) which claims to be running 1400 journals in ten languages in March 2008. There is some evidence to suggest it may be possible to shorten submission to publication turn around times using online journals.

So what are the disadvantages? Put quite simply, it  is one of prestige. Articles published by renowned academic journals have been seen as having higher prestige than those that are published online. This is not just a matter of prejudice. Many countries, including the Netherlands and UK, have a rating system for journals. And be it online or print, those backed by publishers have tended to have a higher research rating. Individual researchers may also feel that more traditional and often older professors do not value online publications.

This may be about to change. In the field of Technology Enhanced Learning, an area which would be expected to be in the forefront of any move to online publications, there are increasingly prestigious publications which are only available on line. Examples include the long established, peer review journal, First Monday, focused on the Internet, which since its launch in May 1996 has published 953 papers in 150 issues; these papers were written by 1,195 different authors. Equally prestigious is Innovate (http://www.innovateonline.info/?view=about), an open-access, peer-reviewed, online periodical  published bimonthly by the Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University in Canada. The journal focuses on the creative use of information technology to enhance education and training in academic, commercial, and governmental settings.

It should also be noted that the  LOCKSS system (http://www.lockss.org/lockss/Home) allows a distributed archiving system among participating libraries and permits those libraries to create permanent archives of a journal for purposes of preservation and restoration.

One probable future trend is the merger of different media. Video is increasingly of importance with many educational projects and initiatives publishing videos on public access sites such as Youtube (http://www.youtube.com). Blogging is an increasingly important way of publishing on work in progress. Online seminars are now freely available on all manner of topics. It is likely that journals will increasingly embrace such media with text publications accompanied by video material, slidecasts (audio and slide presentations) and by online seminars to present papers and discuss issues arising from the work.

There is another option between the idea of an online ‘self published’ journal and a print journal provided by a publisher. Some universities have themselves published journals. This is not particularly technically difficult. The major problem is distribution. Most university published journals tend to come from those universities with an associated publishing house, like the University of London Press or the University of Oxford Press, who in effect operate in little different a way than commercial publishers. Recently technical innovation has led to the development of printing on demand. Although there are different financial models, typically printers charge a flat fee per print edition and an extra fee per copy. The cover price is determined by those commissioning the printing. The printers will often distribute copies themselves. Individuals can order online and the book or journal will be printed when ordered and despatched by post. It is then possible to offer both an online version for free or a hard copy for those who would prefer to have
a print volume. The economic of this require further exploration but it is a rapidly growing market. It is interesting to note that in addition to a number of commercial printers in north Germany, Hamburg University Press (http://cmslib.rrz.uni-hamburg.de/hamburg-up/content/home.xml) is now offering printing on demand. There are also technical developments in machines which allow printing of books or newspapers on demand in a bookshop or kiosk.

What is innovation?

February 24th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am still at CEDEFOP at a conference entitled ‘Teachers and trainers at the heart of innovation and Vocational Education and Training reforms’. Snappy!

This morning I participated in an interesting workshop where we discussed the link between innovation, education and training and teachers and trainers.

Last December when I participated in a workshop organised by Jay Cross, two fundamentally different ideas were expressed on the purpose of VET. Whilst Jay said the purpose of education and training is preparing learners to adapt to their environment, I put forward the idea that education and training should  faciliate learners in changing the working environment. That, for me, is at the heart of innovation. All too often, the idea of innovation is reduced to the implementation of new technologies.  When asked what leads to innovation, particpants in the conference in Thessaloniki said creativity. But creativity requires the ability and the autonomy to shape and change the way we live and work. Indeed in the ICT and SME project in which we particpated, we found that the use of ICT for learning in small andmedium enterprises was largely dependent on the freedom they had to organise their own work. My feeling is that all too often work organisation inhibits creativity and innovation. No amount of changes in our education systems will overcome that problem. Rather, we have to look at both education and training and autonomy and responsibility in the workplace together.

Trainers, identities and qualifications

February 23rd, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am in Thessaloniki at a conference on vocational teachers and trainers organised the the European Agency, Cedefop. Whilst everyone is convinced of the key roles  of teachers  and trainers (it is interesting that no one ever stops to question that), and agree that we need better training and professional development for trainers, there remains little agreement on how this might be done.

Presenters from OECD and the European Trades Unions ETUCE) seem convinced the answer is higher levels fo academic qualifications for teachers and trainers – the ETUCE going as far as to say all vocational teachers and trainers should have ‘Masters degree level’ qualifcations.

This, forme raises all kinds of questions related to identity. Vocational teachers have dual identities – as a teacher and as a skilled workers. Many of those responsible for the learning of others in the workplace – I prefer this clumsy phrase to the word trainer – may not even identify themselves as trainer at all, but rather as a skilled worker in their occupation.

Leaving aisde the issue of whther or not masters level qualification helps teachers and trainers in their practice, I wonder how the imposition of such an academic qualification impacts on the identity of a teacher or trainer. I wonder, too, if we are confusing competence and expertise in teaching and training with univeristy degrees?

As an aside, one thing the ETUCE speaker put forward that I agreed with was the idea of autonomous work as a competnce for teachers. But does a univeristy degree result in the development of autonomous thinking?

How can we manage our digital identities?

February 17th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

digidentitiescreenshot

We have been running monthly online seminars for almost a year now through the Jisc Users and Innovations Evolve project. This spring the seminars are being run in conjunction with the German Educamp organisation.

Yesterdays session on Careers and the Internet was one of the best yet. There were two excellent and complementary  presentations by Mario Grobholz, creative director of the myON-ID Media Corporation, and Steven Warburton from Kings College London who is working on the Rhizomes project. Almost as good was the participation in the chat room with many questions and ideas emerging.

Steven focused on what he called our ‘fractured digital identities.He focused in particular on on the tensions between online personal and professional identities and public and private identities and how these were changing. Mario looked at reputation management and introduced a platform his company has developed to help people manage their reputation online.

Great stuff. The full recording is available on the Jisc Support, Synthesis and Benefits Realisation Elluminate site (no log in required). If you missed the session and are interested in these issues it is well worth watching.

Is it just that the law is an ass or are deeper motives behind this?

February 16th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

No real time to blog today – much too much admin to allow such trivial things! But I couldn’t resist giving myself a short break from the spreadsheets to comment on two of today’s twitter memes.

The first is the draconian new Conditions of Service released by Facebook. As Chris Walters points out anything you upload to Facebook can now be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later. Want to close your account? Good for you, but Facebook still has the right to do whatever it wants with your old content. They can even sublicense it if they want.

“You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.”

That language is the same as in the old TOS, but there was an important couple of lines at the end of that section that have been removed:

“You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.”

Furthermore, the “Termination” section near the end of the TOs states:

“The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.”

The second is the goings on in New Zealand where the protest against the Guilt Upon Accusation law ‘Section 92A‘ that calls for internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny has led to a viral campaign to black out avatars on social networking sites.

Is it it just that the law is an ass? Or is it that legislators are quite happy to take action to prevent individuals sharing files, sharing ideas and creating new works, but bow down to the real pirates – the Facebooks of the world. Money still counts when it comes to the law.

Learning pathways and the European Qualification Framework: can the two go together

February 16th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Last week I took part in a fairly impassioned Flash meeting debate about the use of the European Qualification Framework for the training of teachers and trainers. Opinions varied greatly between those who saw the EQF as a useful tool for promoting new qualifications for teachers and trainers to those who saw it as a barrier in this field.

Firstly, for non European readers, it may be useful to recapitulate what the EF is all about. The European Qualifications Framework (EQF), says the European Commission,  “acts as a translation device to make national qualifications more readable across Europe, promoting workers’ and learners’ mobility between countries and facilitating their lifelong learning.” The primary users of the EQF are seen as being bodies in charge of national and/or sectoral qualification
systems and frameworks. The idea is that once they have related their respective systems to the EQF, the EQF will help individuals, employers and education and training providers compare individual qualifications from different countries and education and training systems.

To achieve this the European Commission has designed a framework of eight different levels. Each of the 8 levels is defined by a set of descriptors indicating the learning outcomes expressed as knowledge, skills and outcomes relevant to qualifications at that level.

The problem is that it doesn’t work. For the moment I will ignore the more epistemological issues related to the definition of knowledge kills and competences. The biggest problem for me relates to levels. The Framework has mixed a series of different indicators to derive the levels. Some of the indicators are based on academic attainment. For instance the descriptor for knowledge at Level 8 states (can) “demonstrate substantial authority, innovation, autonomy, scholarly
and professional integrity and sustained commitment to the development of new ideas or processes at the forefront of work or study contexts including research.” Some are based on levels of responsibility and autonomy in work roles.  Level 4 talks of the ability to “supervise the routine work of others, taking some responsibility for the evaluation and improvement of work or study activities.” Others are based the complexity of the work being undertaken. Level four skills says: :advanced skills, demonstrating mastery and innovation, required to solve complex and unpredictable
problems in a specialised field of work or study.” Yet others are based on quite abstract ideas of knowledge. Level six knowledge comprises of “advanced knowledge of a field of work or study, involving a critical understanding of theories and principles.”

One of the biggest problems is the framework attempts to bring together applied knowledge and skills within a work process, work roles as expressed by responsibility and knowledge as expressed through academic achievement. And of course it is impossible to equate these, still less to derive a hierarchical table of progression and value. It is easy to pick holes: why for instance is “exercise management and supervision in contexts of work or study activities where there is unpredictable change” level 5, whilst having a “critical awareness of knowledge issues in a field and at the interface between different fields.”

There would appear to be a serie sof unspoken and implicit value judgements related both to the value of academic versus vocational and applied learning and to different roles within the workplace. There also seems to be an attempt to deal with work organisation with teamwork being written in as a high level function. Of course it maybe, but then again in particualr contexts teamwortk may not be so important. In some jobs, the ability for autonomous work may be important, in others not so. And how can we translate between such abilities, competences or whatever they are called and qualifications.

I do not think it is possible to design such a frameworks, nor do I think that levels are a useful concept, especially given the hierarchical structures of this and other similar frameworks. Why should one particular competence or skill be valued over another. Even more important is the idea of hierarchical progression. Lest this be thought to be merely an academic question, the UK government has already withdrawn funding support for those wishing to progress from one qualification to another at the same EQF related level.

one of teh aims of the Frameowrk is to promote Lifelong Learning. But an individual may not wish ot advance their learning in the social forms envisaged by the Framework. There is an assumption for instance that a teacher or trainer will progress towards being a manager, as represented in the higer levels within the EQF. But many teachers and trainers that I have talked to actually want to improve their practice as tecahers or trainers. Or they many wish to move ‘sideways’ – to learn more about working with particular groups or to undertake work as a counsellor for instance. The implicit progression routes inherent in the Frameowkr do not necessarily represent the way we work and learn. far better nore me is the idea of Learning Pathways. Learning pathways can represent a progression in our learning based on the context of our life and our work and based on individual interest and motivation. Our Learning Pathway may at times go upwards, downwards or sideways in the table of skills, competnces and knowledge as representd in the Framework. Such an idea of Learning Pathways is contiguous with the idea of Perosnal Learning Environments and of teh idea of more self directed learning. Of course it is useful to have a framework to assist in selecting progression routes and for counselling, guidance and support. But lets abolish the taxonomy of levels and start representing learning opportunties as what they are, rather than a somewhat oddly derived taxonomy trying to make things fit neatly which do not and embodying implict social values.

Software which works

February 11th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am an avid list maker. And over the years I must have tried about twenty different software applications for making lists and tacking to do items. I think the longest any of them have lasted has been a week before I have returned to the tried and tested technology of the back of an envelope.

But now – I think – I have finally found a software programme which works. Remember the Milk is fabulous. What makes it different from all the others? For one thing being an online application it means I can use it from any of my computers. Google Gears allows it to be used off line. And there is a very cool app for my ipod. But the best thing of all is how little it demands. Yes, there is plenty of add on, on demand functionality – notes, completion dates, contacts, urgency etc. But if you just want to add a task and leave it all that the system is quite happy. Software which works anywhere and with any device and that does what you want it to. Amazing – whatever next.

User enagagement

February 9th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been working this afternoon on a series of use cases for the Mature-IP project. Of course, there is always a problem, especially in an international project, of agreeing exactly what a use case is! But at least for me, it does provide some degree of focus on what users are going to do with software. In the context of the Mature project which seeks to support knowledge maturing processes through the development of Personal Learning and Management Environments and Organisational Learning and Management environments, a focus on users seems very relevant.

Indeed, I am somewhat confused as to why educational technology development is not more often focused on end users. I liked the approach of the Jisc Users and Innovation programme in implementing a so called Users and Innovation Design Model – now called a User Engagement Approach:

Jisc say “a user engagement approach needs to meet certain requirements to benefit both users and developers. It must be able to:

  1. Identify, describe and analyse the users, their tasks, real world objects and usage contexts.
  2. Translate the user’s world into a system’s world
  3. Involve users throughout the whole design/development process
  4. Flexibly explore different design responses and decisions
  5. Test the effectiveness of the user engagement throughout the development life-cycle.”

The mystery for me is that such an approach is seen as novel. Far too often learning technologies are based on innovative approaches to technology itself, regardless of whether it is of any  practical application for learners. And one of the base assumptions behind the design of much educational technology, appears to be the present paradigm of course and classroom delivery of learning. If we are to extend educational technology to support informal learning and work based learning,  understanding users, their tasks, real world objects and usage contexts would seem critical.

That does require new approaches and models, not only for software design and development, but to understanding the processes of learning from work and of how informal learning results in knowledge development. And this in turn would seem to require multi disciplinary approaches involving developers and researchers as well as learners from different specialities and with different areas of expertise.

Beyond the Virtual Classroom

February 6th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Every day now, I get invitations to participate in online seminars, courses and events. For free. And if I took up every invitation from my Twitter feed, I could spend all day participating in online learning events. Whilst somewhat overwhelming, it is a very big step forward. One of my complaints about Technology Enhanced Learning has been that it has provided more opportunities for those who already have opportunities, whilst ignoring those not enrolled on a formal course or programme at an institution. Now everyone can take part, provided they have access to a computer and bandwidth.

However, I still have issues with the design and pedagogic approach of the applications being used to provide such online learning. We still seem overly hung up with the metaphor of the classroom. True, whenever developing innovation we tend to fall back on the previous paradigm, in this case of the classroom and then try to express that paradigm through new technologies. For me one of the big issues is control. whilst I have mainly used Elluminate for online seminars and have somehow grown quite fond of the programme, it has its irritations. Hand raising if you wish to speak seems so elearning 1.0.

But you can get round these restriction in Elluminate through the settings. the whiteboard can be transformed into a collective area for sharing pictures and text. The microphone can be opened to allow four simultaneous speakers, thus, at least in smaller groups, alleviating the need for handraising.

Last week I had a look at WizIQ. It would be interesting, I thought, to try another system. And WizIQ runs in a browser, thus overcoming potential firewall restriction on installing the Elluminate Java client. I have to say I was disappointed in how far they had gone in replicating both a classroom and teacher control. No one can speak without permission. The moderator is called a teacher (that put me off straight away). The aim seems to be to preserve teacher control. Surely this is at odds with the changes which Web2.0 and elearning 2.o is bringing, focusing on more participant led learning, with the role of a teacher becoming that of facilitating, scaffolding and supporting learning.

Educational technology is not pedagogically neutral. All technology makes pedagogic assumptions, whether these aare epxlicit opr implicit. And the message from WizIQ seems to be to sit down, be quiet and listen tot he teacher.

Skilled performace as a basis for professional practice?

February 4th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Chris Sessums asks: “What would a knowledge base for the teaching profession look like? How can we get one?”

He goes on to say: “Imagine teachers collaborating around the globe to improve education. Sound like a fantasy? Is there a path that could lead from classrooms to a shared, reliable professional knowledge base for teaching? Is it because practitioner knowledge is highly personal, highly contextual, and lacks the vetting process associated with scientific research that such a path has never been developed? Given the millions of teachers producing knowledge of classroom practice everyday, is it worth examining what would be needed to transform teacher knowledge into a professional knowledge base for teaching? What would such a path look like?”

These are good questions. However, they pose problems over the nature of practice. Chris bases his idea of practioner knowledge around the idea of “elaborating a problem” and alaborating and testing answers to such a problem. But surely this is only part of the practice of a teacher. Can teaching be reduced to a knowledge base? In struggling to envisage what form such a knowledge base might take Chris suggests it could be developed around lesson plans. Although a readily accessible and open bank of lesson plans might be a valuable resource, it still ignores many elements of the practice of teaching. It is perfectly possible that no two teachers would use the plans in the same way. Of course that is not important. But such a knowledge base might then fail to capture the essence of professional practice (I am unconvinced of Chris’s distinction between practioner knowledge and professional knowledge).

Reckwitz (2003) distinguishes 3 different meanings or understandings of practice:

  • Practice as embodied knowledge;
  • Practice as a skilful performance with artefacts;
  • Practice as implicit knowledge, as the implicit logic of doing things

It may be possible to develop a database of the background knowledge and of the artefacts. Far mor problematic is the skilful performance. Yet it is this element of practice which would seem to be most useful for teachers and trainers.

Is one of the problems the divisions we have made between so called scientific (or professional) knowledge and practice? I wonder if it might be possible to develop taxonomies for practice embodied as skilful performance and then develop social software which would allow the sharing of such practice. If, so how and what might it look like? Does anyone have any ideas?

Reference

Reckwitz, A. (2003). Grundelemente einer Theorie sozialer Praktiken. In: Zeitschrift für Soziologie, Jg. 32, H. 4, 282-301.

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