Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Mass education is a child of a mechanical age

May 19th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

For some time now, I have been saying that the present mass model of schooling is a product of teh indutrial age and is out of sync with the forms of social interaction and knowledge development of the present period. This change is an outcome of the present ‘industrial’ revolution which we are going through, based of digital technologies. This is OK for conferences. But when i have written it in journal articles and book chapters I have been challenged by editors and reviewers to provide citations for my assertion.

So I am delighted to have found, in  Norm Friesens digital except from “The future of education: The class of 1989: by Marshall McLuhan and George B Leonard published in 1967.

They say “Mass education is a child of a mechanical age. It grew up along with the production line. It reached maturity just at that historical moment when Western civilization had attained its final extreme of fragmentation and specialization, and had mastered the linear technique of stamping out products in the mass.

It was this civilization’s genius to manipulate matter, energy and human life by breaking every useful process down into its functional parts, then producing any required number of each. Just as shaped pieces of metal became components of a locomotive, human specialists become components of the great social machine.”

McLuhan and Leanard go on to say:

“In this setting, education’s task was fairly simple: decide what the social machine needs, then turn out people who match those needs. The school’s function was not so much to encourage people to keep exploring, learning and, therefore, changing throughout life as to slow and control those very processes of personal growth and change. Providing useful career or job skills was only a small part of this educational matching game.All students, perhaps more so in the humanities than the sciences and technologies, were furnished standard “bodies of knowledge,” vocabularies, concepts and ways of viewing the world. Scholarly or trade journals generally held a close check on standard perceptions in each special field.”

McLuhan recognised that education is resistant to change. However as the title implies he expected this to have changed by 1969, largely due to the impact of computers on learning. It seems that educations resistance is greater than he expected – but the ideas are alive and still relevant today. Although McLuhan recognised our tendency to reproduce previous pedagogies and social forms through new technology, he underestimated, I think, the ability of institutions to adapt new technologies as a tool for management and control, rather than for change. It has taken the advent of social software to see the dawning of McLuhan’s vision of an “environment …. packed with energy and information – diverse, insistent, compelling.”

Many thanks for Norm for provding a copy of the paper.

Story from Portugal

May 18th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Just back from a twelve hour journey from Portugal and somewhat tired but thought I would give a quick blog update and trail some future posts.

Yesterday I was eating an excellent evening meal thanks to my Portuguese hosts and staring absent mindedly at the television. In truth I rarely watch television – apart from football – and so tend to be fascinated especially by adverts which seem to be the most creative side of TV production these days.

My Portuguese language is non existent yet I found myself being drawn into the story. It went something like this. Young man, student, young professional (good looking of course) is in apartment flat, dozing on sofa (too long out night before or just lazy?). Flat is in a bit of a mess – we know this because is shot in black and white! Doorbell rings. Young man vaults sofa to open door. Beautiful woman is standing there smiling. Man goes to invite her in. Woman shakes head and refuses bringing out form behind her back cleaning pad and cleaning liquid. Turns back and goes. Young man cleans apartment / flat with amazing cleaning product. Door rings again and young man opens (apartment / flat now in colour). Woman goes to come in – young man brings out from behind his back bottle of cleaning fluid.

Pretty banal – huh? But that lot all takes place in about 30 seconds and the storyline is perfectly clear without the need for any spoken text.

I can’t help thinking there are lessons for us in how we might use stories to promote learning. I wonder though how culturally specific such stories are. Coming from Wales I can understand the story and I suppose it must work in Portugal. I wonder what the cultural limits of understanding are? I also wonder if we could take a ‘chunk’ of learning and storyboard it in such a clear way?

End of todays musings. Much serious stuff to report on tomorrow – not least more thoughts on Web 2.0 and dissemination.

Learning about informal learning

May 14th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am in Evora in Portugal at a two day meeting of the European funded ICONET project. ICONET builds on a previous project called Informal Competencies and their Validation (ICOVET) which developed an interview procedure for the validation of skills and competencies, a manual, and a programme for further training. ICONET is adapting and trying out the approach and tools in different sectors and different contexts in seven European countries.

The project has now only six months left to run and we have spent the afternoon discussing project dissemination. Mant of the discussions parallel recent talks in various Jisc programmes about how to ensure project sustainability and maximise the use of project outcomes following the end of external funding.

One measure is to design a range of dissemination products geared for different target audiences. New technologies can help gretaly – we havebeen looking at using video and audio as well as the more common brochures and flyers.

But the discussion today has also raised issues about what is realistic to expect from a modestly funded project. The ideas we have explored would require major changes to education systems if they were to be widely adopted. We do not have the infuence to do this. Probably the best that we can hope for is to show the possibilities of informal learning and hope that others will pick up and build on our ideas.

The e-Learning Show

May 12th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Regular readers will know of our slightly irreverent, somewhat wacky fun LIVE internet radio show, The Sounds of the Bazaar. We like making Sounds and form feedback we gather our listeners enjoy it too.

But, for some time now, we have been wanting to branch out and make other types of programmes. We experimented with two documentary programmes, The Dragons Den, earlier this year.

And now Jisc has commissioned a pilot of a new programme, the e-learning show. The pilot programme will be broadcast next Thursday, 21 May at 1800 UK Summer Time, 1900 Central European Time.

The following blurb provides the rundown for the show:

“Thursday, 21 May sees the pilot programme of a new Jisc live internet radio programme, ‘the Elearning Show’. The programme which is to be broadcast at 1800 – 1855 UK summer time, is based on issues raised at the recent Jisc Lifelong Learning Symposium.

These issues include how university and college cultures need to change to support work based learning, who the new students are and what are their needs, how e-Portfolios can be used both for recording learning and for providing information, advice and guidance and the use of mobile technologies.

The programme considers both current and emergent practices in elearning and the development of policies to support such practice.

The programme will be presented by Graham Attwell and guests include Derek Longhurst from Foundation Degree Forward, Clive Church from Edexel, Lucy Stone from Leicester College, Tony Toole from the University of Glamorgan, Bob Bell, HE in FE consultant for the northern region, Sandra Winfield from Nottingham University and Rob Ward from the Centre for Recording Achievement

The programme will also feature a live panel. with the opportunity for listeners to skype or email their questions and comments and their will be a live chat room for listeners.

To listen to the programme go to This will open the LIVE radio stream in your MP3 player of choice.

You can take part in the chat room at Just add your name and press enter – no password required.

If you like to send us questions for the panel in advance of the programme, email Graham Attwell – graham10 [at] mac [dot] com or skype to GrahamAttwell.”

Although the programme is based on developments in the UK many of the issues to be discuassed on the programme will have relevance for listeners interested in the use of technologies for learning wherever they are.

And if you are missing the old Sounds of the Bazaar, don’t worry, we haven’t gone away. The next programme planned in that series will be broadcast live from the ProLearn european Summer School in Slovakia in the first week of June. Further details as soon as we can agree on a timeslot for the programme.

Talking about learning

May 7th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I greatly enjoyed myself at the Plymouth e-learning conference a couple of weeks ago. Firstly because it was organised by Steve Wheeler who I greatly respect. And Steve had kindly let me off the leash and said I could be as controversial as I wished. Also because I had a few new ideas to explore – in trying to talk about open education and informal learning to an audience of skilled and dedicated professionals including teachers and student teachers. The issue of institutional change is high on the agenda at the moment – not so much driven by the institutions, but more by the impact of the use of new technologies both by young people but increasingly by teachers in the class room. But all too often I am asked by frustrated teachers how they can persuade their managers to allow them more creative approaches to teaching and learning. I am not sure I have any good answers (one thing I wonder is if Web 2.0 changes the dynamic of institutional change, form a top down process to a bottom up one?). All these issues came up – not just in my talk but in the very lively discussion which follows.

I am afraid it is quite a long video (about an hour) . But if you can keep going the last 20 minutes of dicussion is probably the best part.

NB Video quality is a bit fuzzy – but the sound is not too bad.


May 6th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

The reviews have been released for the Alt-C2009 conference. I has two proposals for the conference. I was slightly irritated by the rejection of the workshop proposal I submitted along with Steven Warburton on Digital Identities. It was not, clear, said the reviewer, what would be the outcome for the participant. Hm…seemed clear enough to me. The workshop would allow them to explore their own digital identity and to consider the implications for tecahing and learning. Does that sound clear enough to you? One of the problems, I feel, is that workshops are very different to conference paper or symposium presentations. Or they should be. And all to often standard confernce submission forms do not take this into account, neither do reviewers. And do reviewers really understand how to structure a workshop? Anyway enough of the moaning.

I am very happy that the sceond proposal, submitted by James Clay along with Steve Wheeler (hi Steve – good to see you are up and twottering again) was successful. This one is entiltled “The VLE is Dead”.

The abstract goes like this. The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection o
tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

The first panel member will argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning. Some are little more than glorified e-mail systems. Others are overpriced aggregations of web tools that can be obtained for
free on the web.

The second member of the panel believes that the VLE is dead and that the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the solution to the needs of diverse learners. PLEs provide opportunities that go beyond the VLE, offering users the ability to develop their own spaces in which to reflect on their learning.?

The third panel member, an advocate of web 2.0, however believes that the VLE is not yet dead as a concept, but can be the starting point of a learning journey involving multiple tools.

The fourth panel member argues for the concept of the institutional VLE as essentially sound. His position is that VLEs provide a stable, reliable, self-contained and safe environment in which all teaching and learning activities can be conducted.

Should be lots of fun.

And of course along with AltC goes FAlt09 – the Alt conference fringe. As last year FAlt will be organising a particpatory, open and creative fringe to the conference. If you have ideas just mosey along to the FAlt wiki and no doubt something will start happening there soon.

The power of Social Software and Creative Commons

May 5th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Yesterday afternoon I blogged about our forthcoming handbook about the use of Web 2.0 and social software in the classroom. The handbook is being produced by the EU Taccle project. I asked people to email me if they were interested in receiving free copies. Little did I anticipate the response. When I returned from a quick trip to the shops I already had received some 15 emails. Panic!

I produced a very quick Google form (whatever you think about Google, their forms application is awesome, embedded it in a WordPress page on this site and edited the blog to point to the form.

By now, some 75 people have requested copies of the book from about 15 countries. If nothing else, Web 2.0 and social software make dissemination easy. On the form I asked if anyone was interested in translating the handbook into other languages, given that it is to be published under a Creative Commons liscence. And to date I have had expressions of interest in translating the handbook into Greek, Icelandic, Portuguese, Arabic, Welsh and Catalan. Many thanks to you all – it just shows the power of Social software and Creative Commons working together.

Free handbook for teachers on using Web 2.0 and social software in the classroom

May 4th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Over the last eight months Pontydysgu (well mainly Jenny Hughes) has been working on editing a handbook for teachers on the use of social software and web 2.0 in the classroom. The handbook, produced by the European Commission Comenius programme funded Taccle project will be published in June in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Dutch and, we hope, Greek.

It will be available free for download on the internet and as a 150 page printed handbook. If you would like to pre-order copies, please fill in the order form here, telling me the number of copies you would like and the language version. The following text, taken from the draft of the preface, tells more about the purpose and content of the handbook.

“Information and Communication Technologies are being increasingly used to create richer learning environments. In all sectors of education from primary schools to adult education, in schools for pupils with special education needs and in colleges and universities, technologies are being used across the curriculum to enhance students’ experiences.

However, technology is not enough. The creation of high quality content is essential if the potential of ‘e-learning’ is to be realised in a way that stimulates and fosters Life Long Learning. It is important to train teachers how to design and develop their own content and generate learning materials that can help their own students and
can also be freely exchanged with others.

The European Commission Comenius programme funded Taccle project  aims through  training teachers to create e-learning materials and raising their awareness of e-learning in general, to help establish a culture of innovation in the schools in which they work.

This handbook has been produced by the Taccle project partners in five different European countries. It has been written by teachers for teachers and caters for those with only basic computer skills and limited technical support.

The handbook is geared to the needs of the classroom teacher but teacher trainers, ICT support staff and resource centre staff may find it useful too! It provides both practical support for
teachers who want a ‘hands on experience and also help and information for teachers who just want to find out about e-learning.

The handbook is designed to provide practical support for teachers to:

  • create content for electronic learning environments in the context of an e-learning course
  • identify and decide which ICT tools and content are most useful for particular purposes.
  • create learning objects taking into account information design, web standards, usability criteria and reusability (text, images, animations, audio, video) and which enable active, interactive and cooperative learning processes.
  • use learning environments effectively in order enhance quality and create resources to help them do so.
  • share the developed content with their peers using existing repositories.

If you do not understand some of these terms do not worry. The handbook provides friendly step by step guidance about how to do it and explains the different terms along the way.

Of course it might seem a little strange and old fashioned producing a printed handbook about the use of new technologies. But, as Jenny Hughes says in her introduction to the handbook, we felt that the very teachers for whom this book is written are probably the group least likely to use or feel confident about using web-based materials. A book is comfortable and familiar and that is exactly how we would like teachers to feel about e-learning.

Technologies are changing very fast. When we originally applied for a grant from the European Commission, we anticipated the main focus of the handbook would be the use of Learning Management Systems – systems that help to organize  and administer learning programs for students and store and organize learning materials. At the time, this seemed to be the most important technology for creating and managing content. But since then , we have seen an explosion in the use of social networking applications like blogs and wikis, as part of what has been called Web 2.0. These are tools which make it very easy for people to create and publish their own content in different forms – text, pictures, audio and video.

These technologies make it easy not just for teachers, but for students to produce materials themselves and are increasingly being used in the classroom mixing traditional teaching methods with some e-learning methods in what is called Blended Learning.

Therefore, we have shifted the main focus of the handbook to provide a hands on guide to the use of such tools in the classroom.”

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    News Bites

    Zero Hours Contracts

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

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

    Resistance decreases over time

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

    Postgrad pressure

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

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

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

    Teenagers online in the USA

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

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

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

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

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