Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

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.

Reflections on ONLINE EDUCA Berlin

December 7th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

For those of you who have not been there, On-line Educa Berlin, which claims to be Europe’s biggest event on Technology Enhanced Learning, is a mix between a party, a meet up, a trade exhibition and oh yes, a conference. this year there were once again over 2000 delegates, which, considering the price of the conference for non presenters is over 800 Euro and the general impact of the recession is impressive. Is e-learning standing up despite financial cutbacks? According to the organisers the largest ‘country group; was the Netherlands, followed by the UK, Finland and Norway – although I don’t know quite what this signifies.

Online-Educa is probably not the place to go for cutting edge research and development. Rather it tends ot rflect what is main-streaming and this make sit all the more interesting. the following is a highly impressionistic account fo this years trends / non trends and general goings-on.

Probably the biggest trend is the movement away from a  focus on VLEs towards looking at the use of social software for learning. And, linked to that, is a growing realisation or concern about the gap between the way (not just) young people are using social software for  communication, leisure, information seeking and learning and the way educational institutions are stumble trying to manage learning through the walled gardens of LMS systems and VLEs. Equally, many speakers pointed out the growing availability of  free resources for informal and self directed learning and the need for institutions to rethink their role and how they facilitate learning. None of this is new. What is new is that the idea has moved from being a fringe or minority viewpoint to at least entering the mainstream educational technology discourse. Indeed, in this respect it is interesting to see the recent Guardian newspaper article by Victor Keegan. Keegan says”

”  … YouTube is developing into a kind of University of the Grassroots. Instead of learning being a top-down process, dictated by institutions and governments, it is evolving into a bottom-up process driven by users.

If you want to learn, say, the Python programming language (often used in mobile phones) then your first move may not be to sign up at a local educational institution but instead to look at one of the YouTube videos and benefit from the reactions of other viewers. Education has been slower than other sectors to respond to the digital revolution but, as elsewhere, the direction is being dictated by users….

It is difficult to predict what effect all this will eventually have on education but it could be profound. It must be questionable whether you need three years to complete a PhD when you have instant access to so many archived books as a result of Google’s book-scanning programme. …But, increasingly, the basic street-wise skills people will need during the digital revolution may more easily, and certainly more quickly, be learned from the People’s University of the Internet than from an academic institution.”

In the sessions I attended, there seemed to be more of a focus on pedagogy or suing technology for tecahing and learning, than using technology as a starting point, as in sessions I attended in recent years. Equally, there was less product placement and less focus on corporate learning than in previous years: whether this is the result of the recession or because of a concious decision by the conference organisers I am not sure.

Last year there was a big buzz around Multi User Virtual environments such as Second Life. The bubble has burst this year: presenters were still enthusiastic about the potential for tecahing and learning but the feeling was that present commercial worlds were just not good enough (in this respect it is interesting that Linden Labs did not even have a stand).

Wandering around the extensive exhibition area there seemed to be little new. One surprising omission was the paucity of attention paid to the potential of mobile devices (apart from Blackboard promoting their mobile platform integration). Despite many of teh delegates sporting their iPhones few seemed to have thought about how they might be used for learning. However, perhaps that just is a reflection of Online-Educa: mobiles have not yet entered the mainstream!

Facebook has problems- Zuckerberg spammed

December 4th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

facbookOnline- Educa Berlin tends to be one or two years behind the research in Technology Enhanced Learning. But it is a great indicator of what technologies and ideas are mainstreaming. This year there is little or no discussion of Virtual Learning Environments: all the talk is of the use of social software for learning.

And with that discussion, comes concerns over users control of their own data, of data security, of privacy and safety – and of course issues related to digital identities.

In this respect, it is very good to see Jerry Zuckerberg’s open letter on the future of Facebook, pledging to provide greater and more fine grained control for users over who can access their data.

However Zuckermann’s letter, or rather the responses to it illustrate one of the big problems facing Facebook. At the time I looked at it, it had 33858 comments. And, as far as I can see, the vast majority were spam (see selection above). If Facebook cannot provide Jerry with user controls to prevent spam, what hope is there for teh rest of us?

Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE at the ONLINE EDUCA Berlin 2009

December 3rd, 2009 by Dirk Stieglitz

Just a quick post to be extended later. It is the second day of the ONLINE EDUCA Berlin 2009 and we just finished our todays LIVE Internet Radio programme. And you can listen here to todays show and our yesterday afternoon programme as well. Yesterdays we had little problems with the mixing deck at our stand. Very huge and proper live signal to the speakers but the signal to the streaming software was very low. But anyway enjoy listening to Sounds of the Bazaar.

Find now also our third and last live programme from this year’s ONLINE EDUCA Berlin here as a podcast.

Music Playlist of the show:

    Semiotics and new literacies

    December 1st, 2009 by Graham Attwell

    I was fascinated by a presentation by Elizabetta Adami on issues on literacy in the contemporary semiotic landscape at the workshop on ‘Technology Enhanced Learning in the context of technological, societal and cultural transformation’ at the Alpine Rendezvous at Garmisch Partenkirchen.

    Here are my live blogging notes on her presentation. Her slides can be found here and their is a longer discussion around the workshop on the workshop Cloudworks site.

    Part 1

    “L.iteracy has extended meaning – but only in English! Literacy as fruit of power relationships. Literacy same meanings as competence in Italian.

    Confused and diverse semiotic practices used for communication in different countries. Some practices become institutionalised if approved by elite and then become genres with conventions.

    Descriptions are important in a genre as proscribed and prescribed practices – this is what is taught in schools as literacies e.g. CVs, academic articles, newspaper articles but also dance, architecture etc. Vertical power relationships – texts policed by limited number contributors or elite. Standards change but always is a standard. Literacy is to know the established conventions. schools teach the norms of a society.

    Power relations in new media more horizontal – developing wide variety of types of text which do not have established conventions – eg podcasts, text.

    Shift from competence to given norms to creative ad hoc agency.

    If schools are to teach new literacies what norms can they teach to and what generalisations are possible? If was to be possible is it desirable to keep cycle of institutionalisation going?”

    Part 2

    “More from Elizabetta – media have affordances for new shared social practices. Many devices enable us to produce great variety multi modal artefacts and distribute in social spaces – all share copy and past – ability to select, represent and  recontextualise. Changes in mechanism for representation have led to changes in mechanisms for communication. Leading to individualised participation in networks / chains of semiosis according to participants wishes. But shared understanding becomes less important than usability. Leads to scattering of coherence patterns. Cooperating becomes less important than using according to ones interest. Browsing is not coherent – but related to our interests in links we encounter whilst browsing.

    Collecetd (and often incoherent) artefacts define online identity.

    Questions – moving from coherence in contents to forms in contexts. Does this lead to a lack of wholeness. What capabilities are developed most and least. Is coherence still useful and where is it needed?

    1. What is gained and what is lost?

    2. Where are we headed to?

    – do we teach the most required abilities

    – or do we teach the lost-in-transition abilities

    3. Is the description – pre/proscription cycle avoidable”

    Lack of standards a big barrier to development of mobile applications for learning

    December 1st, 2009 by Graham Attwell

    I am in a workshop at the ‘Alpine Rendezvous’ on “technology-enhanced learning in the context of technological, societal and cultural transformation.” Long words. More interesting stuff than it sounds – though I am struggling with some of the media theory. I am also trying to work out where the theory and practice match – if they do at all.

    Anyway, my presentation here was based on work for the Mature-ip project around a Work Oriented MoBile Learning Environment (WOMBLE). And I have focused on work based learning and the potential use of mobile devices. I will post the slides juts as soon as I have recorded an audio track to accompany them. Without that the slides will make little sense. I will also try to provide an overview of the workshop (although that is going to be hard).

    For now, just a quick note about hardware and software on mobiles. We really do seem to be back in the grim days of the browser wars. A Work Oriented MoBile Learning Environment would preferably run natively on an iPhone or android phone, or indeed a Symbian or Windows based machine.

    The reality is that to develop applications for all the platforms will take too long and cost too much. Therefore we are looking at developing a browser based PLE, using server end and javascript applications.

    I have my doubts that this will work. Handling browsers on mobiles is still a clunky experience compared to running native applications. But i see little other choice.

    We urgently need standards for phone based applications. the present situation only provides more power to propriatary platforms and pllaication providers.

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      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


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      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.”

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      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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