Archive for December, 2009

Blackberrys- this years most popular Christmas gift for teenagers?

December 18th, 2009 by Jo Turner-Attwell

Ellen is currently a Y10 student in Secondary school in England and recently called me telling me she wanted a Blackberry for Christmas. I personally couldn’t understand the attraction as to me the Blackberry had always been a business phone for people that wanted to read emails on the go. So I was even more surprised when she told me she wasn’t the only one and that they were extremely popular in her school. When I spoke to her further about this, it seemed this was connected with a move away from camera and music phones towards only wanting a phone to text, call and as ‘an added bonus’ use the internet. Personally I think this is most likely connected to the new Facebook culture in schools where people constantly share photos and want to look at their best, and therefore want higher quality pictures and an easy method of connecting to the computer. As a result young people have begun to use their actual cameras more regularly and the quality of cameras on phones is less important, with high quality camera phones usually being out of price range. In fact I spoke to two students about why they wanted Blackberry’s one in secondary school and one in university, and neither even knew if the Blackberry had a camera. On the music side, nothing comes close to the the iPod and short of buying the iPhone having a separate device is in general thought to be considered the best option. In comparison Internet is becoming an increasingly important function. With social networking becoming as regular as texting, ease of use for both functions is a massive advantage. Therefore the blackberry media messaging system, as blackberries increase in popularity, becomes an increasingly popular way to keep in contact.
Another factor is simply that they are high quality phones, which are actually affordable. People are becoming ‘bored’ of the standard phones and want something new, but most of the top range phones are too expensive for people in school on a low monthly allowance. Blackberry’s allow for an iPhone apps type format, which is the latest and best in phone technology, whilst just remaining in an affordable price range.
However even with their current popularity with mobile technology progressing so fast who knows what phones will be fashionable for Christmas next year.

Are VLEs the problem or is it just how we use them?

December 17th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I was in Wolverhampton yesterday for round 2 of our AltC debate on Virtual Learning Environments (watch the movie here) this time entitled the VLE is Undead . In come ways it is knockabout stuff – Steve Wheeler, James Clay, myself and Nick Sharratt all delivering a ten minute contribution on our different takes on the theme and chaired by the ever ebullient Josie Fraser.

My presentation was basically pushing the idea of Personal Learning Environments as learners spaces as opposed to the institutionally controlled VLE. There were some interesting points that came out of the discussion. John Traxler noted that we were using the theme of educational technology to discuss the future of education. He is right. The debate over PLEs and VLEs cannot be separated from discussing either where we think education is going or from larger ideas of where we want education to go. But it may be that by focusing on education technology, it makes the debate easier to get a grip on. And it may also reflect the growing importance of technology in education.

My argument was predicated on four trends (borrowed from Martin Weller 🙂 ):

  • The growing pressures for personalisation of learning – and the fact that the present standardised education systems and institutions fail to meet the needs of many learners
  • The growing demand for education – both from developing countries who lack sufficient education services (and in many cases even access to basic schooling) and demands for lifelong learning)
  • The growing diversification of contexts and sources of learning – including of course the web and mobile learning but also media organisations and importantly the workplace – with increasing recognition of the importance of lifelong learning
  • The different ways in which people are learning – including through the internet, through personal Learning Networks, through social communities and groups and in communities of practice.

In reality VLEs have failed to prove attractive for learners – they log in when they have to but with little enthusiasm. And, however we define them, Personal Learning Environments are a reality – in the way in which people are using Personal Computers, web based applications and social networks to support their own learning.

I don’t think I won the debate – if such a debate can be ‘won’. Participants in the workshop were concerned about how to manage learners. For institutions this is a legitimate concern but would be better handled by applications for administering and managing from those for learning (indeed this was what the Jisc tried to do with its approach to service Oriented Architectures although this approach appears to have been too complex and hot problems in defining services at a technical level).

There was also concern over assessment – how would this be done without VLEs (on this I think we need especially in the UK to work out what we are trying to achieve through assessment).

The ideas around digital identities and digital literacies seemed to be very new for many of the participants. I think this is a key area which we will have to do more work on in the future.

I raised the question of students not having access to their work after a module or a course had been completed. Some saw the introduction of e-Portfolios as an answer to this although one said it was the students responsibility to make sure they has personal copies of their work. This seems to me to get to the heart of the problem. VLEs are bing used as a space for handing out assignments and for collecting in the results – as a repository. I am not convinced that VLEs are best designed for such a purpose but it once more begs the question. Essentially students are having to design their own environments for learning, whilst using the VLE as a institutional space for managing their work. And institutions are not interested or do not have resources to support students in developing their learning environment.

Interestingly, those most enthusiastic about VLEs seemed to be in institutions using their own in house software or using Moodle and I would guess that reflects the degree of ownership teaching and administrative staff feel over the VLE. It is of little surprise that those least enthusiastic seemed to be using (or being told to use) Blackboard or WebCT.

Overall, I guess, the main feeling was that VLEs were not succeeding because they were being misused or badly used. And that neatly brings us back in a full circle to the discussions about the future of education and to the purpose of educational technology. But I am concerned that the debate, such as it is, is being framed within institutional concerns. Little attention is being paid to the potential for informal and work based learning and that for me is where the true potential of technology for learning lies.

Digital Identities and Personal Learning Environments

December 17th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

These are the slides from my presentation from the excellent session on Digital Identities at the Online Educa Berlin conference held earlier this month.

The E-nigma decoder: A teacher’s guide to intercepting enemy communication

December 17th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

This is Jen blog-squatting on Graham’a blog again with another TACCLE post.

Some weeks ago I rashly promised I would try and provide some regular input to the Pontydysgu site on Practical Ideas for E-Things To Do With Kids – aimed primarily at teachers in the classroom. So far these have been on the lines of “25 things you can do with….”

This time I thought I might break the mould and introduce teachers to on-line kidspeak. This is a code that is strictly not Open Source and so probably violates Pontydysgu policy. However, thanks to clever espionage techniques, a few fifth columnists and offering bribes (and / or torture as appropriate) to enemy agents, I am now in a position to share this highly classified and restricted information.

(The only reason I will avoid capture and worse is the sure knowledge that my kids are highly unlikely to browse any site which can be described as even remotely educational)

(Code on screen in front of enemy is followed by translation into English)

9 Parent is watching
T9 Teacher is watching
99 Parent or teacher no longer watching
CD9 Parents or teachers are around (code 9)
P999 Parent alert
T999 Teacher alert
P911 Parent /teacher alert (if you are American or your kids watch too many American films)
PAL Parents are listening
PLOS Parents looking over shoulder
TOMS Teacher over my shoulder
NP Nosy parents
PRW or PAW Parents are watching
AITR Adult in the room
PIR Parent in Room

You will also be pleased that kids are actively engaging in critical reflection of their learning. Check out their screens for feedback on your lesson.

BBB boring beyond belief
DDSOS different day, same old shit
CWOT complete waste of time
FWOT more common than the one above – use your imagination!
CRAFT can’t remember a f****** thing
BTD bored to death

Or if you are lucky…..

CSA cool, sweet, awesome

And you can learn a lot about their informal learning habits and what they might have done the night before.

I&I intercourse and inebriation
Pron porn
420 dope/marijuhana
BIBO beer in, beer out
BNDN been nowhere, done nothing
n/m nothing much
EWI e-mailing while intoxicated (always a bad idea…)

And just because we have the IT support department techies looking at this site …here are some useful diagnostic phrases and feedback to give all those teachers who think you have nothing better to do all day than sort their technical problems out

CHA click here asshole
ESO equipment smarter that operator
FBKS failure between keyboard and seat
FUBAR f***** up beyond all repair
IBK idiot behind keyboard
IIIO Intel inside, idiot outside
OMIK open mouth, insert keyboard
P2C2E process too complicated to explain
SWAG scientific wild ass guess
PEBCAK problem exists between chair and keyboard
PICNIC problem in chair, not in computer
PLOKTA press lots of keys to abort
PSO product superior to operator
RTFM read the f******* manual
RTFF read the f****** FAQ
SAPFU surpassing all previous f**** ups
SEWAG scientifically engineered wild-ass guess
TARFU things are really f***** up
TFMIU the f****** manual is unreadable
YAUN yet another unix nerd
O-O nerd

OK, that’s all for now but there will be some more lists next week.

On a more serious note, there are lots of number codes and abbreviations related to on-line sex and bullying. I would like to include some of the more common ones so that you can keep a weather eye on your own children and on the children in your classroom. However, there are ethical issues around this as well as the acceptability of some of the codes appearing on a public website so I’ll wait for Graham to get back and see what he thinks.

Most teachers are aware of the dangers of cyberbullying and grooming but, as ever, I would like to move this into practice and give teachers the information and tools they need.

Would be interested in what others think.

Informal learning – linking the University to the outside world

December 14th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

One frequent comment I get from teachers when talking about the use of new technologies for learning is the need for examples of effective use in practice. And all too many projects, national and European, talk about changing practice but from a research or theoretical perspective.

The ICONET project has taken a different route. Based on the earlier ICOVET work, it sought to take a basic tool for identifying and recognising informal learning with socially disadvantaged young people, and implement it in different situations with different groups of learners. In the UK we worked in two quite different contexts, although both were located at Salford University. The first, called Cartoon Planet and working with Salford Young People’s University, has already been published on this blog.

The second sought to embed the process within a Personal Development through Enterprise initiative. In this report Helen Keegan explains the background and results of the project work.

Background

“The University of Salford is a Widening Participation university, with a student body largely made up of ‘first generation’ students – that is, students who are the first in their family to enter higher education. For many of our students, studying for a degree is particularly challenging. Students often fail to see the bigger picture in terms of the acquisition of invaluable life-skills, preferring instead to take an assessment-driven approach where formal learning is prized (i.e. what needs to be remembered/prepared in order to pass a module) at the expense of informal learning and skills development. However, in terms of pedagogy and public policy it is increasingly acknowledged that informal skills are equally as important (if not more so) than formally learnt curricula through the course of one’s life, where participation in a rapidly changing, networked society demands significant informal competencies which lie outside of mainstream curricula.

Finding ways of developing learners’ informal competencies alongside subject specific knowledge within mainstream curricula is therefore crucial. The Personal Development through Enterprise initiative focuses on developing informal competencies alongside Enterprise within the curriculum, through nurturing reflective practice on learning that goes on outside the classroom, alongside a core suite of 21st century competencies which are recognised as being essential attributes for the successful lifelong learner. Ultimately we want to equip our learners with the skills to self-direct their learning for life, through a process of meta-learning, critical reflection, and the ability to recognise their informal skills and how these enable them to become lifelong learners.

Development

Personal Development through Enterprise focuses on the development of innovative learning activities and teaching and mentoring methodologies as to foster the development of informal competencies and reflective skills alongside formal Enterprise curricula.

Over many years teaching in the classroom, the tutor had noticed how students appreciated being asked about what they do OUTSIDE the classroom – that is, their interests and activities in their spare time. Many of these activities have real value, and yet the students don’t think of their informal learning as being valuable as it is not being assessed. The aim was to recognise what people do outside the classroom, getting the students thinking about how the skills developed through their off-campus interests can be used across different contexts – valuing their informal learning alongside formal, and integrate the two.

Alongside this was the problem of the student’s perception of Enterprise in the curriculum. While entrepreneurial skills (and even more so, INTRAPRENEURIAL) are commonly seen as being essential skills in the workplace (the ability to lead, make decisions, and drive change from within), many students are resistant to the idea of Enterprise teaching as they see it as something which is only relevant to those who want to start their own business. This is a common misconception, but one which needs to be addressed and the skills required for Entrepreneurship are required in nearly all walks of life.

Piloting the programme

In order to engage the learners, encouraging them to reflect on their informal learning and how this leads to a set of behaviours which are transferrable across contexts – including organisational – we wanted to address the perceived lack of relevance of informal skill sets through active pedagogy and experiential learning rooted firmly in the real lives of our students, in order for them to realise their potential in the wider world as lifelong learners.

We wanted to make the classroom more dynamic, giving learners control in terms of how the sessions were run – and even what content they covered. There was a strong emphasis placed on peer mentoring.

The class were split into groups and each week a different group would lead the session. Suggested (and covered) topics were:

  • Organising
  • Leadership
  • Working across cultures
  • Assertion and negotiation
  • Using broadcast materials for presenting
  • Business ethics

Each group was only given a brief outline of the topic/goals for the session and they had to create the lesson themselves, sourcing information and using examples from their everyday lives and first-hand experiences.

They were asked to design classroom sessions which were fun and interactive – some of the things they came up with included games, debates, role-playing and even a song competition!

There was an emphasis on imaginative uses of technology to support their sessions and learning, e.g. wikis, videos, audio, visual aids and props. They were encouraged to use idea creation techniques such as brainstorming (both within groups for session planning and in the sessions they actually led). The students developed skills in using and managing information, particularly in the sense of synthesising their informal learning into what they commonly thought of as ‘learning’ (which tended to be formal). They communicated ideas to others using multiple forms of media and technology (which involved them developing a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of media), and reflected critically on their learning which helped them to develop the ability to self-direct their learning.

As in the case of Cristina Costa’s Cartoon Planet project (one of the other ICONET studies), the curriculum criteria were based on three broad aspects of teaching and learning:

  • an interactive approach;
  • a focus on informal learning and skills;
  • attractive, diverse strategies for class engagement.

A learning development journal was kept by each student in order to stimulate individual, peer and group reflection, and this gave them a structure within which to translate their informal competences – gained within, but also (and more importantly) outside the classroom – into a ‘CV-ready’ format, enabling them to recognise the links between their informal learning and how this can be reported in a more formalised manner.

Results

As in the case of Cartoon Planet, the outcomes envisaged were:

  1. To stimulate guided reflection about the learners’ strengths and skills through different peer and group activities.
  2. To utilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to empower students to communicate their skills and competences in an interactive and personally meaningful way.

However, in this case one of the most empowering aspects of the project was that students were given a brief which was wide open in terms of the way that they used ICT – obviously this is much easier to do when the students are older, as in this case. Through giving the students the opportunity to develop the content and design their own sessions (the main instructions being to base everything on their experiences OUTSIDE of the university and to use whatever ICT they wanted in innovative ways), the students became highly engaged and started to realise that the concepts, knowledge and transferrable skills which are covered in Enterprise teaching are in fact everyday skills which they have been practicing throughout their lives without actually realising it!

Issues around leadership and roles were viewed through the lens of friends and family, then teased out and viewed through the lens of the workplace. Issues around presenting using broadcast materials and business ethics were viewed through the lens of file sharing on the internet (of which many students have first hand experience).

Each group delivered a final presentation outlining ideas for a business which drew on their informal learning (i.e. hobbies outside of university) but informed by concepts covered in class, and they came up with some fantastic ideas based on their informal skills which they wouldn’t ordinarily bring into the classroom environment. By leading workshop sessions themselves they developed real confidence in their ability to stand up and express their ideas, and did so in an engaging and imaginative way.

The personal development journals were particularly effective not only for the recognition of competences, but for the identification of problematic areas (some students reflected on their difficulties with time-keeping and organisation which they had not picked up on before, purely because they hadn’t needed to direct their own learning and be responsible to a team to such a great extent). They developed valuable skills in reflecting on their own learning, both inside and outside the classroom, and how they influence one another.

Reflection

Feedback from the students indicated that they found their self-directed workshops to be of real value, although at first they were nervous about taking responsibility for their learning in this way. They also expressed surprise that so many of the skills they brought into the workshops were skills that they had developed outside of the classroom. Through being encouraged to work independently in groups, using a diverse range of media, they were able to develop a range of 21st century skills – particularly in terms of collaboration and creativity – based on their informal learning.

Something which worked particularly well was their final presentations, where they were asked to work in their groups and develop an idea for a business and present it without using Powerpoint. This meant that they came up with innovative ways to ‘sell’ their idea, such as panel games and role-playing. One group was made up of boating hobbyists and 2 environmental campaigners (all activities which they were involved in outside of the university), and so they came up with an idea to run water-taxis between Manchester City Centre and a new MediaCity development, cleaning up the waterways in the process. One month later there was an announcement in the local news that a water-taxi business is going ahead in the area – nearly identical to their idea! For them, to be able to bring in their informal learning and present it in a business-like way gave them a real sense of worth, and a genuine appreciation that they had been able to use their informal learning in a formal setting.

The personal development journals worked really well as they helped the learners to reflect and develop meta-skills needed for lifelong learning. Also, the PDJ gave the learners a method for the translation of informal competences into a more formal framework, which is especially useful when it comes to CV-writing.

Overall, the emphasis placed on their extra-curricula activities and ‘accidental’ learning allowed them to see themselves differently, recognising that they have valuable skills which haven’t been acquired formally and therefore valuing what goes on outside the classroom much more than they did before. In this sense, it was transformative.

In summary, the elements which really helped to engage the learners were:

  • Facilitated independence in terms of group work
  • Regular mentoring from the tutor (face-2-face)
  • An environment where they felt free to take risks
  • Socially-oriented learning
  • Opportunities for creativity across a range of media
  • An emphasis on peer interaction and collaboration
  • A sense of fun and play”

The issue of Digital Identities won’t go away

December 11th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Last week I welcomed Facrebook’s announcement of new fine grained access controls which they claimed would allow users to decide what and iwth whom they wished to share.

On Wednesday they started rolling out the new interface pushing an “important message” to all users:

“We’re making some changes to give you more control of your information and help you stay connected. We’ve simplified the Privacy page and added the ability to set privacy on everything you share, from status updates to photos.

At the same time, we’re helping everyone find and connect with each other by keeping some information—like your name and profile picture—publicly available.”

The new controls are far from simple. And after an hour playing with them it appears they provide far less potential privacy than the original settings. Name, profile picture and as far as I can see your personal wall is set to public and cannot be hidden. So what is behind this? Is Facebook really concerned to protect privacy. It seems a bit too much of a coincidence that the new settings were launched a week or so after the announcement of deals with Google and Microsoft to provide Facebook data for real time search (just an aside – what is the value of real time search – I don’t get that one).

I might be paranoid but I suspect the real point of the new controls is to make sure data is available to the search engines, rather than allowing users more control over their own data. In the discussion over the new settings in the Guardian yesterday, some commentators asked why so much fuss given that it was a free service. Well firstly is Facebook really free. We provide our data which makes the site valuable for advertisers who pay Facebook. That doesn’t sound so free to me.

The question of  access controls will not go away. Digital identities are becoming increasingly important especially for young people. A couple of weeks ago a Romanian CEO of an advertising agency said in a confernce I was at that he would not hire anyone who did not have a good digital identity. Our on line identities are fast replacing the traditional Curriculum Vitae. We have a situation where the main spaces young epopel use to meet. communicate and share their lives together are controlled by private companies who are claiming ownership of our data. That is not a minor issue. OK – we can delete our accounts (although then Facebook still retains the data). But young people are not going to do this. Regulation is probably the only answer, although it is hard to regulate international platform providers. And of course, education on not just digital safety but education about the importance of digital identities and how to develop and manage them.

In my next post I will post a report for the EU ICONET project on a great course developed at Salford University and looking at digital media and identities.

Google Goggles – an important tool for mobile work based learning?

December 10th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Is Google running short of imagination. Not when it comes to applications – there seems to be a new product announcement almost everyday. But Google Goggles – who thought that up? Its a terrible name. But in terms of developing a work based mobile learning platform it may represent a big step forward.

Goggles is a very simple application. You merely point your Android phone at an object – a building, an object, an artefact – and it produces search results based on the image (Google say they will be porting it to other platforms in the future).

If course Goggles has not been developed for learning. Google are interested in driving more search traffic to their site and have arguably paid little attention to education in the past (witness the little attention paid to developing Google scholar). But we have noted before the way in which social software applications (as well as mobile devices) are being appropriated for learning despite their original design purpose.

Work based learning poses particular opportunities and issues and for mobile learning.  Most elearning courses are based on formal programmes of study, on a curriculum, usually designed around a particular discipline. Even vocational programmes envisage steady progression through a corpus of ideas and knowledge, albeit with practice based phases. Work based learning is predicated on occupational practice. Practice is often inter disciplinary in terms of a knowledge base and progression is dependent on the nature of the work being carried out. In other words in work based learning the context of action is king. Up to now it has proved difficult to develop elearning base don widely differing contexts of practice based action.

Mobile devices have portability to be used in workplaces where access to computers may be problematic. Goggles can allow simple gesturing to allow access to a wealth of information about the particular practice being carried out. Of course this is not enough to support learning. Learning requires reflection. But it is not difficult to envisage a simple interface allowing reflection through audio, video or text input which could then be aggregated along with the original video which sparked the reflection and the results of the Google search. The addition of keywords could allow such reflections to be added to a Personal or Organisational Learning Environment. Geotagging could also allow an extension to enhanced reality applications thus allowing interaction with other learners also encountered similar learning situations.

The object or artefact opens a Zone of Proximal Development in Vygotsky’s terminology, with ‘the significant other’ supporting learning being mediated through technology.

Workplaces could become a rich learning environment with learning opportunities embedded in artefacts and in geographical spaces. And at the sameGoogle Giggles  time informal learning, that learning which takes place everyday in relation to context, can be brought together within a formal learning base.

None of this seems unrealistic to me. Who wants to build me some apps to try it?

Hearing the learners’ voice

December 9th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

One big thing was missing from last weeks Online-Educa Berlin conference was the voice of the learners. Not so strange I suppose in view of the cost of the conference. and not so strange when compared with other conferences on technology Enhanced Learning. Although we talk about leaners a lot, how often do we talk to them or, more importantly, listen.

Although many projects talk about user centred design, and research based design, I get the impression that there is more talk than action. Often technologists are happier with usability rubrics than they are sitting down with real learners.

Of course there is a problem of methodologies. How do we research what learners are doing with technologies. What research methods can help us and how can we interpret the results? Ethnographic studies are one obvious approach and one that many researchers I have talked to have advocated. However, ethnographic approaches, at least in the traditional form of the discipline, are extremely time consuming and require extended access to the subjects of study. Within the Mature project, we have used an approach dubbed Rapid Ethnography. What this really means, I think, is extended case studies.

The UK Jisc funded Learner Experiences of E-learning strand is extremely impressive in this regard. Initial project work helped us, they say, “to understand the complexity of learners’ lives and experiences.” The projects found

  • “Learners are living complex and time constrained lives. In these circumstances efficient and flexible access to learning materials, experts and communities are becoming increasingly important. Learners appreciate flexible access to course related resources.
  • Learners make frequent use of technology both at home and within their institution. They use the internet as the first port of call for information in their lives and expect to be able to locate and download relevant resources for their study.
  • Similarly, many learners are used to establishing and maintaining frequent technology mediated connections and expect frequent and responsive communications in relation to their study.
  • Personalisation and choice are core elements of technology use in learners’ lives that they expect to transfer to their study.
  • There is evidence of an ‘underworld’ of informal learning which is not expected or supported by the institution or its courses but may be enabled and sustained by use of technology.”

I am especially interested in the last of the bullet points and will return to it in a later post.

The methodology is also outlined on the project wiki pages. They found that

And best of all they have “produced a set of recipe cards for different types of data collection methods, particularly well suited to evaluations of learners’ experiences of e-learning:

This is an impressive piece of work. But I particularly like the use of the wiki, not only to provide access to the outcomes of the projects, but to share tools and methodologies with other researchers. If all projects were to follow such an approach we could collectively begin to address some of the methodological challenges for involving users in technology design.

This years most desired Christmas gift – a Blackberry of course!

December 8th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am very fond of saying that we must look at pedagogy first. Technology is just a tool. But of course it is an important tool. And despite all the interest in mobile learning, thus far practice has been limited. One reason for this has been the limitations of the technology. Of course that has changed with the iPhone and the release of other smart phones in the last two years. However these phones are expensive and way beyond the budgets of most students.Many m-learning projects have had to lend smart phones to learners. And most schools still ban the use of students own phones in schooltime.

This could be all about to change. Firstly there seems to be a growing realisation from school and college managers that banning the use of what are effectively mini computers may not be the future way to promote learning. At the same time there are more and more examples of effective practice in using mobile devices in the classroom. Jenny Hughes’ recent blog post on 25 practical ideas for using mobile phones in the classroom is currently the most popular post on this web site. And critically, the price of smart phones is set to fall. In Germany the Palm Pre is on sale for one Euro with a 20 Euro a month contract and the Motorola Droid, named the Milestone in Europe, running the Android operating system is set to go out at the same price. These phones have full support for GPS, wifi etc. and at least in the case of the Milestone, appear less locked down than the iPhone.

Research I have been doing in the UK suggests most young people of 16 and over pay for their own mobile phones from earnings form part time work. Phones are seen as a priority – over and above clothes and entertainment. With this new generation of cheap smart phones it is not difficult to guess that their will be a rapid take up by students. Strangely, gossip suggests that this years most wanted Christmas present is a Blackberry, which is now being seen as a status symbol and fashions statement by school students in the UK.

So – students are getting the phones, teachers are developing the pedagogy. The scene is set to take off. having said all that though, I still think the major impact of mobiles will be for informal learning in work. Advanced mobiles have the potential to allow te recording and reflection on practice in a way we have never yet really been able to do with Technology Enhanced Learning.

Trust and Web 2.0: is the model broken?

December 8th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

The Web 2.0 model is essentially built on the wisdom of the crowd. Rather than relying on experts users are encouraged to rate or recommend other people as friends, products or software applications. But does the model scale? And can the crowd keep growing for ever? Is their a finite level at which wisdom becomes aggregated to the lowest common denominator? And are we reaching that point now?

Putting it another way how many social software sites can we manage? Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Slideshare, Blip.fm, Blip.tv, YouTube, GoogleWave, Linkedin – the list goes on. And how many ‘friends’ can we follow?

But perhaps the most obvious example that the model does not scale is the Apple Aps store. A year ago I used to regularly surf the latest apps for my Pod touch, looking at user ratings and reviews. Now with over 120000 apps on the site it is a waste of time. There is simply too many apps with no way of finding what might be useful. furthermore the ratings system does little to help. Most have a rating of 3 or 4 as one might expect. furthermore, Apple has just suspended 100 apps due to suspicions that the reviews are being fiddled. Increasingly the only way to find new applications is to use review sites – in other words to go back to a reliance on so called experts. Although on a lesser scale, the same problem exists with WordPress plug-ins. And there seems to be a move with WordPress away form free and open source plug-ins towards commercial software. Trust through payment?

So what is the way out of all this? Probably we will see more specialised social networking sites, targeted at particular interests or groups. In that respect Linkedin, which always seemed a bit staid and boring, may well prove to have got the model right. And trust relationships will become more important. Recommendations will be based not on the numbers of the crowd but on who the people are. To an extent that is already happening through Twitter. Instead of trying to keep up with the flood of new blog entries on a Feedreader we are choosing to follow recommendations from our trusted friends of what to read. And I suspect that the word friend will come to mean more what it used to. Instead of blindly accepting friendship from anyone who offers it, we will develop smaller networks of those we really trust.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Learning about technology

    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

    When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

    Building apps (45%)
    Creating Games (43%)
    Virtual reality (38%)
    Coding computer languages (34%)
    Artificial intelligence (28%)


    MOOC providers in 2016

    According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users  in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

    They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:

    1. Coursera – 23 million
    2. edX – 10 million
    3. XuetangX – 6 million
    4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
    5. Udacity – 4 million

    XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.

    In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.


    Jobs in cyber security

    In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.


    Number students outside EU falls in UK

    Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

    Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

    Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

    Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.


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