Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Apprenticeships in Computing: a Vygotskian approach?

February 28th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I am much taken with David Hoover;s Top 5 Tips for Apprentices, based on his book ‘Apprenticeship Patterns‘, and reported on by James Taylor in the O’Reilly Radar blog. Although the book is looking at the Computer Industry the pedagogic approach could hold true for any knowledge intensive industry. Critically Hoover sees computing as a craft skill.

James Turners says:

“According to Hoover, one way to ease the transition into real life development is to use an apprenticeship model. His book draws on his own experience moving from being a psychologist to a developer, and the lessons he’s learned running an apprenticeship program at a company called Obtiva. “We have an apprenticeship program that takes in fairly newcomers to software development, and we have a fairly loose, fairly unstructured program that gets them up to speed pretty quickly. And we try to find people that are high-potential, low credential people, that are passionate and excited about software development and that works out pretty well.”

Hoover bases his approach to apprenticeship on Vykotsky’s idea of a Significant Other Person who he describes as a mentor.

“For people that had had successful careers, they only point back to one or two people that mentored them for a certain amount of time, a significant amount of time, a month, two months, a year in their careers.”

He also points to the potential of a distributed community of practice for personal learning, including finding mentors outside a company the ‘apprentice’ is employed in.

For me personally, I wasn’t able to find a mentor at my company. I was in a company that didn’t really have that many people who were actually passionate about technology and that was hard for me. So what I did is I went to a user group, a local Agile user group or you could go to a Ruby user group or a .net user group, whatever it is and find people that are passionate about it and have been doing it for a long time. I’ve heard several instances of people seeking out to be mentored by the leader, for me that was the case. One of our perspective apprentices right now was mentored by the leader of a local Ruby user group. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working for the person, but you’re seeking them out and maybe you’re just, “Hey, can you have lunch with me every week or breakfast with me every other week.” Even maybe just talking, maybe not even pairing. But just getting exposure to people that have been far on the path ahead of you, to just glean off their insights.

And he points out the value of being that Significant Other Person to those providing the mentoring.

At a certain point in your career, your priorities shift from learning being the most important thing, to delivering software is the most important thing, then mentoring becomes part of your responsibilities. It’s something you take on if you’re following the craftsmanship mentality of apprentice to journeyman to master. And transitioning from apprentice to journeyman, part of that is taking on more responsibility for projects and taking on more responsibility for mentoring.

Although there is no explicit reference to Vygotsky in James Taylor’s review of Hoover’s book, the Top five Tips for Apprentices correspond to Vygotsky’s model of learning through a Zone of Proximal Development.

  1. Understanding where you’re at.
  2. Find mentors who are ahead of you in the field
  3. Find some peers to network with.
  4. Perpetual learning.
  5. Setting aside time to practice

I haven’t read the book but intend to. It is rare to find an such a model for learning in an advanced knowledge based industry like computing. And the drawing of parallels with the craft tradition of apprenticeship provides a potential rich idea for how learning can be organised in today’s society

Reviews, quality and the development of communities of practice in academic networks

February 27th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I have just spent the morning reviewing proposals for the Vocational education and Training Network strand at the European Conference for Educational Research.

I have never enjoyed reviewing papers. I worry that my own knowledge of the subject is often too little, still more that I only have an abstract idea of what comprises quality.

However, as a community building process, I find it more interesting. I haver been involved with VETNET for fourteen years. In the early days nearly everything used to be accepted. But as time went on a discussion emerged over improving the quality of VETNET and a formal review procedure was developed.

VETNET remains a somewhat traditional academic conference with paper and sumposium presentations. I suspect that the community’s desire for Vocational Education and Training to be taken seriously as a part of mainstream education research has tended to make us somewhat conservative in our approaches to formats and quality.

Over time as a community we have started defining quality indicators – even though they may be contested. We have had long debates about the relation between research focused on a particular system or country and its relation to wider European agendas. We have discussed how important the quality of language (English) is in assessing a contribution? Should leeway be given to emerging researchers to encourage them to contribute to the community? How important is a clear methodology when considering a submission?

This years debate has been over work in progress. It started innocuously enough with one reviewer emailing that he was concerned that many submissions referred to research which was not yet finished. Should we only consider completed research with clear results, he suggested? This provoked a flurry of replies with major differences between the reviewers. Some agreed with the original email; others (including myself) saw presentations based on work in progress as a potentially useful contribution to the community and a means of researchers testing their ideas in front of a wider international audience. In the normal way of things this debate will be reviewed at the VETNET board meeting at this years conference and revised guidelines agreed for next years conference.

In this way I think the review process does work well. It allows community rules and standards to emerge over time.

The other big change in the review system has been the use of an electronic reviewing system ‘conftool‘. The major benefit is to support the management fo the review process. VETNET receives some 120 proposals each year. The use of the system ensures every paper receives at least two reviews. More interestingly it makes transparent where there are disagreements between reviewers, providing a view showing the overall score for each proposal and the span between reviewer’s scoring. I was allocated nine proposals to review. Four of them have already been reviewed by a second reviewer. And somewhat to my surprise the span between my score and the other reviewers was small (the highest of the four was 1.7 (however the other reviewer has recommended rejection of this proposal and I have recommended acceptance!).

I welcome that when we have finished our reviews we are able to see other reviews of the same submission. This provides for me an opportunity for reflection and learning – and strengthens the potential of the academic review  becoming part of the process of community emergence.

Why I have an android phone

February 25th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Like many of us, I guess, I was underwelmed by the launch of the iPad. It seems just to be a large version of the iphone, without the capacity to make phone calls. But who knows, it may catch on – many doubted whether phones without a physical keypad could ever be popular.

However what really worried me about the iPad is the choice of operating system. the iPad runs of Apple’s mobile platform, developed for the iphone. And that platform is locked down. You cannot add an application from a CD Rom or from a memory stick. You cannot download an application from the Internet. The only way to add an application is from the Apple Store. And Apple decide what they will allow on the store.

My Motorola Milestone phone (the European version of the Droid), running on the opens source Android platform, is not so slick as the iPhone. Sometimes the apps don’t quite seem to sync with each other. Just like with the iPhone, I can go to the app store – unimaginatively called ‘Market’ – to search and download apps. But I can also download any application I like from anywhere on the internet and install it. This means developers are not beholden to Android (read google) in the same way as with apple. they have freedom to try out their ideas. It preserves the idea of the Open Internet. And in the long term I suspect it offers more opportunities for developers to get paid for their work than does the Apple Store. there has been much hype over how the iPhone has fostered a new generation of developers. But I have not talked to any developer who has made any substantial money from their Apps. Furthermore the App store is now so huge it is virtually impossible to find anything unless you know its precise name. So developers are forced to maintain their own web site to publicise their work, but are not allowed to add a download link. Ultimately this will stifle innovation – not that I think Apple will be greatly concerned by that.Over the last year I have been involved in a number fo project applications involving mobile learning. We have had long discussions over platforms. Should we develop for the Apple as it has the largest user base in education for smart phones? Should we try to use browser based JavaScript type applications to provide cross platform functionality. In the last few months we are increasingly seeing the Android platform as the best for rapid development and deployment. Of course this may change especially with Nokia also adopting open source platforms. But the iPhone is looking increasingly unattractive as long as apple retains its walled garden approach.

Do no evil

February 25th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Am I getting increasingly paranoid? A Guardian newspaper article reports:

The video shows a Toyota driven by Anna Shavenkova, the 28-year-old daughter of the woman who chairs the Irkutsk region’s election committee, mounting the pavement at high speed and ploughing into two sisters, crushing them against a wall. As the two women lie injured, Shavenkova leaves the car to make a phone call rather than check on her victims. Yelena Pyatkova, 34, died in hospital shortly after the accident.Her sister, Yulia, 27, was left paralysed.

Clicking on the the video, hosted by Google owned YouTube, results in a message saying: “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.”

I leave you to make of it what you may.

Open Education and the Free Technology Academy

February 24th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The open education debate has gone a little quiet in the last few weeks. It is an important debate in that it centres on the development of new models for education, both pedagogically and in terms of organisation.
One of the more interesting developments at the moment is the Free Technology Academy (FTA), financially supported by the Life Long Learning programme (LLP) of the European Commission, and based on collaboration between the Free Knowledge Institute in the Netherlands, the Open Universiteit Nederland (OUNL), the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain and the University of Agder, Norway. According to the project web site, the Free Technology Academy aims to contribute to a society that permits all users to study, participate and build upon existing knowledge without restrictions.
The FTA offers an online master level programme with course modules about Free Technologies. Learners can choose to enrol in an individual course or register for the whole programme. Tuition takes place online in the FTA virtual campus and is performed by teaching staff from the partner universities. Credits obtained in the FTA programme are recognised by these universities. The full master programme can be concluded at one of the universities.
The programmes are based on Open Educational Resources (OER) and the software used in the FTA virtual campus is Free Software and is built upon an Open Standards framework.
The FTA Consortium partners aim to accelerate the adoption of Free Software and Free Knowledge by working on strategic projects like the FTA, the international SELF Project, and other initiatives. They collaborate with parties to set up a solid ecosystem for the production of free educational materials.
The courses are not free – according to the website the “FTA charges tuition fees to cover only the marginal costs of running the courses and tries to keep costs as low as reasonably possible to make participation in its tutored courses accessible to those interested.” This year the fee has been set at 380 Euro a module. But it is particularly interesting that the consortium has agreed a standard fee, which in many cases is substantially lower than that usually charged by the participating universities and is justifying this through the use of OER and open source.

Lifelong Learning, UK twitters about policy

February 21st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

It seems to me that government departments and agencies have been pretty slow in understandings the potential benefits of Web 2.0 and social software. Even more so when it comes to authorities charged with managing education. So it was both a surprise and pleasure on Friday when I received the following email from Bryony Taylor, Senior Policy Advisor – Technology Enhanced Learning, Standards and Qualifications, Lifelong Learning UK.

Dear Graham, she said “you may be aware that we launched an exciting social media experiment on Lifelong Learning UK’s Twitter channel and website this week: http://www.lluk.org/learning3.htm

We are encouraging people to submit thoughts and ideas on the impact that new technologies are having on teaching and learning via the ‘hashtag’ #learning3 or by emailing learning3 [at] lluk [dot] org. After collating all the submissions, we intend to create a collaborative publication with innovative ideas for helping the lifelong learning sector adapt to the technological changes taking place around us. Broad themes for the discussion are:

  • the changing nature of pedagogy
  • the changing nature of work place learning
  • the changing nature of institutional learning (that is, learning that traditionally takes place in classrooms and lecture theatres in learning institutions such as colleges and universities)
  • How are the information age and the proliferation of new technologies changing the way we teach and learn?
  • What can be done or what is already working with regard to helping the lifelong learning workforce adapt to these changes?”

Bryony also enclosed an invitation to a seminar UK Learning are organisinga orund teh activities. :To see what people are already talking about, please look up the #learning3 hashtag on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#search?q=learning3 – and please do join in!,”
she says.

A good initiative, I think. If you want to keep in touch with what is going on you can follow Bryony Taylor on Twitter as @vahva.

Developing a Pedagogical Framework for Web 2.0 and social software

February 17th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Earlier this week, I wrote a post on issues in transitions between school and work, school and university and university and work. This is part of Pontydysgu’s ongoing work on the recently launched (no web site yet) G8WAY project. the project seeks to use social software to help learners in transitions. We are working at the moment on developing a Pedagogical Framework.

This is not so easy. I used to rail against the idea that educational technology is pedagogically neutral as so many vendors used to say. All technology has affordances which can facilitate or impair different pedagogical approaches. And whilst the educational technology community has tended to espouse constructivist approaches to learning, the reality is that most Virtual Learning Environments have tended to be a barrier to such an approach to learning.

However Web 2.0 and social software opens up many new possible approaches to learning, largely due to the ability for learners to actively create and through collaboration and social networking. But teachers constantly ask what software they should use and how they can use it in the classroom. What software is good for what pedagogic approach, they ask?

The idea of the G8WAY framework is enables us to map onto digital media and e-tools with regard to their learning characteristics, such as thinking and reflection, conversation and interaction, experience and activity or evidence and demonstration. This can then be used as the basis against which to benchmark pedagogical principles for any particular learning scenario developed within G8WAY.

So, for example, a learning activity that enables learners to reflect on their experience, say for example, in a work-based learning context – would map to ‘thinking and reflection’ and ‘evidence and demonstration’. In contrast, a learning activity that supported collaboration would map to the first three characteristics. Of course any one individual using this schema would map particular instances differently, depending on their interpretation of the framework and the context of use of the tools; the point is this framework provides a useful schema to think about tools in use and how they map to different characteristics of learning.

This seems a useful approach – the question is how to do it? Does anyone have any references to previous approaches like this?

Social networking in the real world

February 16th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

One thing we know about social networking is that it doesn’t stay still. Witness the decline of Bebo and My Space, which only two years ago looked all conquering. Now Facebook is in its zenith but how long will this prevail?

I am interested in the connections between the different affordances of social network sites and how we communicate (both on-line and face to face).

My Space was above all a site to talk about music and for bands to communicate with us and with each other. In those terms it remains highly stressful.

Facebook could be said to inherit the mantle of Friends Reunited. Whilst the latter sought just to allow us to stay in touch (or get back in touch) with friends from school or university – interestingly the attempt to extend it to the workplace didn’t really take off – Facebook started out primarily as a place to connect with present friends in college or university. Even following its expansion outside education the principle remained the same – friends mutually followed each other with both having to consent to the connection. Twitter changed all that by allowing non reciprocal connections i.e. I can follow people without them following me. And people rapidly grew long lists of followers. Different people use Twitter in different ways. For me, it is a great resource repository – an informal, real time feedreader if you like. And despite the long running debate as to whether Twitter is killing blogging, I find myself reading more blogs as a result following links in tweets.

Bit I wonder if the social is missing somehow from these social networking services. In an article in Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson says:

socializing doesn’t scale. Once a group reaches a certain size, each participant starts to feel anonymous again, and the person they’re following — who once seemed proximal, like a friend — now seems larger than life and remote. “They feel they can’t possibly be the person who’s going to make the useful contribution,” ….. So the conversation stops. …. At a few hundred or a few thousand followers, they’re having fun — but any bigger and it falls apart. Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting.

In that respect I think the rise of ‘extreme; social networking site Chatrouette is interesting. According to the Guardian newspaper:

Chatroulette, which was launched in November, has rocketed in popularity thanks to its simple premise: internet video chats with ­random strangers.

When users visit the site and switch on their webcams, they are suddenly connected to another, randomly chosen person who is doing precisely the same thing somewhere else in the world.

Once they are logged in together, chatters can do anything they like: talk to each other, type messages, entertain each other – or just say goodbye, hit the “next” button and move on in an attempt to find somebody more interesting.

Perhaps predictably, Chatroulette is reportedly host to “all sorts of unsavoury characters” and the Guardian quotes “veteran blogger Jason Kottke, who has spent years documenting some of the web’s most weird and wonderful corners, tried the site and then wrote about witnessing nudity, sexual activity and strange behaviour.”

But I wonder in Chatroulette is a sign of us wanting to use the internet as a social space to meet new friends, in the way we might face to face in a bar or at a party. Despite the attempts of Mr Tweet or of Facebook to introduce us to new people, they lack the randomness and intimacy of human face to face serendipitous encounter.

And I wonder too if that may be some of teh thinking behind the new Google Buzz social networking service. I can’t find the link now, but when I first looked at Buzz (in the pub!) on my mobile phone, there was a tab for ‘local’ allowing me to specify the geographical radius for activity I wanted to see. Along with us wanting to recreate the opportunity for meeting new friends, I think the future for social networking may be local, with us wanting to use such services to be able to find out what is going on around us, at a distance in which we can physically reach.

So as social networking becomes part of our everyday life, it may be that we want to  integrate it into our everyday physical spaces, rather than extend the range of the everyday to unreachable zones of cyberspace.

Just an idea.

Supporting learners in transitions

February 14th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been thinking about educational transitions today. this is part of the European funded G8WAY project which aims to use social software to support learners in transitions. In particular the project aims to focus on three transitions – from school to work, from school to higher education and from higher education to work. and being a well designed project, the first phase involves the elaboration of a pedagogic framework for the project.

This – I think – needs to link a number of things. Firstly we have to look at what are the issues in transitions, secondly look at different pedagogic approaches to supporting learners n those transitions and thirdly find a way of linking social software tools or rather the affordable of different social software tools to different activities which could be included in a pedagogical approach. Not so easy. I have just finished reading a two papers by Grainne Conole which have an interesting take on developing models for this kind of work although I am not sure how they can be used in practice, Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design – cowritten with M. Dyke, Martin Oliver and J. Seale puts forward a model “that supports the development of pedagogically driven approaches to learning. Grainne follows this up in a more recent paper called ‘New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and technologies. In this paper she looks at Web 2.0 and argues that “the current complexity of the digital environment requires us to develop ‘schema’ or approaches to thinking about how we can best harness the benefits these new technologies confer.”

I will return to these models and schema in a post later this week.

in this post I want to briefly brainstorm the issues in transitions for learners – both as notes for myself and also in the hope that readers may be able to point be in the right direction or suggest things I have missed.

School to Work Transition

  • change from school based subjects to work based applied competence
  • change from school based class organisation to team or hierarchical work based organisation
  • increased responsibility for own work
  • increased responsibility for own learning
  • different forms of work based learning
  • may have to deal with customers or members of other work organisations
  • may have to follow quality processes and procedures
  • different forms of assessment of learning and /or performance
  • different ways of reporting on work and achievements
  • changes in identity (school student to worker)
  • different social groups 0 integration in work community and / or communities of practice
  • increased informal elarning

School to university transition

  • Different forms of subject organisation
  • different forms of time organisation – with increased responsibility for own time management
  • different forms of assessment
  • greatly increased responsibility for own work
  • frequently accompanied by leaving home – having to organise own life (financial management)
  • different forms of study
  • need to manage own time
  • need to select course modules (learning pathway) and consider post university career
  • new learning tools (increased use of technology)
  • new identity as student
  • different social groups integration in student community

University to work transition (largely same as school to work transition)

  • change from university based subjects to work based applied competence
  • change from university based faculty organisation to team or hierarchical work based organisation
  • increased responsibility for own work
  • increased responsibility for own learning
  • different forms of work based learning
  • may have to deal with customers or members of other work organisations
  • may have to follow quality processes and procedures
  • different forms of assessment of learning and /or performance
  • different ways of reporting on work and achievements
  • changes in identity (student to worker)
  • different social groups 0 integration in work community and / or communities of practice
  • responsibility for planning own professional development and career progression
  • increased informal learning

Can anyone add to these lists?

Microblogging, learning and Communities of Practice

February 11th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu is very phappy to be one of the co-organisers of the MicroECoP workshop at the WCC 2010 conference in Brisbane, Australia in September. The following text from the workshop web site explains the background to the workshop. The web site provides details of the call for proposals and key dates in the proposal process. Looking forward to seeing you in Darwin!

Microblogging has become a very popular social networking activity in the recent years. The limitation of 140 characters constrains the user to send concise messages. Twitter and other popular microblogging tools have acted as catalysts for a flurry of new and fast exchange of thoughts and artefacts, and from these activities a new area of research has emerged. There are case studies for the application of microblogging in scientific conferences, educational courses, distributed software engineering teams and corporate project groups.

A number of questions are emerging from the early use of micro-blogs as social networking tools that connect communities of practice and interest. These include: How can microblogs support the development of professional communities of practice? How can microblogs be effectively incorporated into formalised professional learning? How can we measure the optimum levels of engagement necessary for microblogs to be successful social networking tools within professional communities of practice? How are communities of practice enhanced or enriched as a result of the application of microblogs? What about issues of security, privacy and intellectual property – how can these be protected? Do the filtering features on microblogs constitute semantic tools?

The workshop will take place at the WCC 2010 conference in Brisbane, Australia. It focuses on current research trends in the application of microblogging in various domains. The workshop seeks to attract quality research papers that propose solutions to the issues identified above. The workshop also seeks papers that comment how the application of micro-blogging can impact on real life experiences in diverse communities. It aims to bring together scientists and engineers who work on designing and/or developing the above mentioned solutions, as well as practitioners who use and evaluate them in diverse authentic environments.

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    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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