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PLE2011 Conference

January 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Last year Pontydysgu helped organise the first Perosnal Learning environment’s Conference, PLE2010, held in Barcelona. And, to our delight, it was a huge sucess, as much for teh open format and exchanget of ideas as the subject, I suspect.

And although, we had envisaged the conference being a one off, we have been encouraged by the feedback to organise a second conference this year. Our good friends Hugh Davis, Lisa Harris and Su White at the University of Southampton in the UK have kindly offered to host the conference. And here is the call for contributions. As last year, we particularly welcome interactive and participative formats for sessions. The conference web site can be accessed here.

Call for Papers: The PLE Conference 2011

Following the highly successful inaugural event in Barcelona (#PLE_BCN), the next PLE Conference will be held at the University of Southampton, UK (#PLE_SOU) from July 11th  to 13th 2011, and will have a lively social  programme as well as a highly interactive and innovative technical programme.

The Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Conference is intended to produce a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experience and research around the development and implementation of PLEs – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise. Whilst the conference includes a traditional research paper strand, we also encourage proposals for sessions in different formats including workshops, posters, debates, cafe sessions and demonstrations aiming to sustain the dynamic and interactive discussion environment established by the opening event in Barcelona in 2010.

A Personal Learning Environment (PLE) includes the tools, communities, and services that constitute individual educational platforms learners use to direct their own learning and pursue educational goals. This represents a shift away from the traditional model of learning, and towards a model where students draw connections from a growing matrix of online and offline resources that they select and organise. To gain something of the flavour of last year¹s conference search for #PLE_BCN and see http://pleconference.citilab.eu/

CALL FOR PAPERS

Deadline Saturday 26th March

The conference organisers welcome 500-800 word abstracts for full or short research papers. Submissions for other types of presentation, such as workshops, symposia, demonstrations and installations are also encouraged. These can be submitted electronically via ConfTool http://pleconf.cs.uni-paderborn.de/ . The full guidelines for submissions can be downloaded here.

Conference themes

Conference themes include (but are not limited to):

  • Theories and frameworks for Personal Learning Environments
  • Technologies and software for developing Personal Learning Environments
  • PLEs in Practice (case studies, approaches to using PLEs)
  • Educational institutions, change and PLEs
  • Pedagogical approaches to managing personal learning
  • The development and management of Personal Learning Networks
  • Mobile PLEs and augmented reality
  • Supporting informal and contextual learning
  • Using PLEs in organisations
  • Using PLEs for Work Based Learning
  • Mash-up PLEs
  • Presentation formats
  • Future visions:  Quo vadis PLE?

The PLE conference is especially looking for originality and relevancy of ideas and for creative proposals, in both form and content. Formats for publication and communication of research are two different things! Independently of the publication format you decide to contribute, full research paper, workshop etc., the organising committee encourages interactive and creative ways of communicating research.

Hence, we invite you to submit your contribution in the publication format you prefer and select your preference regarding the type of presentation  you wish to make (e.g.: round table discussion, bring your own laptop, cafe session, etc.) in the submission form. Once the review of papers is concluded, presentations will be organised by topics and session chairs will start liaising with participants regarding the organisation of their session. Our goal is to create spaces for meaningful discussions. In short, the purpose is to create opportunities for delegates to interact with each other and achieve real communication. We aim to promote dialogue and interactivity throughout the conference.

We welcome submissions and ideas for videos, photo collages, podcasts,  cartoons, posters – or any other kind of artifacts you can think of. In celebration of User Generated Content we will have a Mediacast Contest during the PLE Conference 2011 with awards for the best three mediacast productions on Personal Learning Environments.

A separate call for pechakucha sessions will be released shortly.

Review Process

All proposals will be subject to a peer review process and all proposals accepted will be published electronically with an ISSN number. In addition to the proceedings, we intend to publish selected conference papers in special editions of the journals that support the conference.
Please note that all submissions should be licensed under a Creative Commons licence.

Each registered participant may submit one full or short paper contribution to the conference, although further proposals in different formats are welcome.

Deadlines

The deadline for proposals is March 26th, 2011.
You will be notified if your submission has been accepted by April 30th.
For those submitting proceedings papers, the deadline for the receipt of the full paper is May 28th.

Final Submission Information

Full Papers
If your abstract is accepted, the full paper should be between 3000 and 5000 words. words (including references, tables and figures).

Short Papers/ Extended Abstracts
The short paper proposals are especially designed to encourage the presentation of work in progress. Short papers should be between 1500 words and 2500 words.

Workshops, Posters, Symposia, Demonstration, Installations, BringYourOwnLaptop sessions and other Formats.
Please submit your proposal indicating that you intend to make a contribution in one of these alternative formats.

Serious Social Networking

January 24th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper points to a so called ‘backlash’ against social networking, expressed in a number of recent academic studies and books. And to an extent, I agree. I suspect the novelty factor has worn off. That does not mean social networking is dead, far from it. But it does mean we are slowly evolving an ecosystem of social networking and I am not sure that the Facebook model, driven by the desire to monetarise a huge user base will survive in the long term.

Instead I see two trends. With applications like Facebook, or whatever succeeds it, friends will return to being friends. People we know, people we want to socialise with, be it family and friends we see regularly face to face or friends in distributed networks.

The second will be the growth of social networks based on shared interests and shared practice. Of course this is nothing new. The early days of the web spawned many wonderful bulletin boards with graphics being based on the imaginative use of different text and fonts. Ning led to the explosion of community sites whilst it remained free. But now we are seeing the evolution of free and open source software providing powerful tools for supporting interest and practice based communities.

Cloudworks, developed by the UK Open University has now released an installable version of their platform. Buddypress seems to have developed a vibrant open source community of developers.And I am greatly impressed by QSDA, the Open Source Question and Answer System. Quora is all the hype now. But like so many of these systems, it will be overrun not so much by machine driven spam, but by the lack of a  shared community and purpose.

According to Ettiene Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions – mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.

Open Source networking tools can allow us to support that shared repertoire of communal resources. I am working on the development of open and linked data for careers guidance and counselling. it is a fairly steep learning curve for me in terms of understanding data. And one of the bests sites I have found is Tony Hirst’s Get the Data site, only launched a week ago and based on the QSDA software, but already providing a wealth if freely contributed ideas and knowledge.

it is this sort of development that seems to me to be the future for social networking.

Those Barcelona PLE papers

January 24th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I(n the concluding session of the PLE conference last year in Barcelona I made a rash promise. We would go through all the papers submitted to the conference, I said, and for those authors that wished, we would seek to publish the papers in a series of special editions of journal. We had no shortage of journals, with four editions offering us space. then the problems started. it is much, much more work than I had anticipated to select appropriate papers for journals with differing foci, to organise peer reviews, to contact authors and get them to undertake the revisions requested and to finally edit and format the different contributions.

I still am not sure how I feel about the academic publishing industry (for that is what it is). I am much happier with publishing in online and open journals. But I wonder if the traditional journal format best serves knowledge development. However I recognise the i9mportasnce for individual researchers in publishing their work. And although laborious, most of the reviews we received were thoughtful and helpful, although there still remain widespread discrepancies over perceptions of academic quality.

Anyway, here is the first of our edited journals, published by the online and open journal, the Digital Education Review (the second will be in International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments – to be published this Spring.

The papers in this edition are all from authors working in Spain and the journal was edited by Ricardo Torres and myself

Strategy approach for eLearning 2.0 deployment in Universities

Oskar Casquero, Javier Portillo, Ramón Ovelar, Jesús Romo, Manuel Benito

Building Personal Learning Environments by using and mixing ICT tools in a professional way
Linda Castañeda, Javier Soto
El diseño de Entornos Personales de Aprendizaje y la formación de profesores en TIC
Julio Cabero Almenara, Julio Barroso Osuna, M.Carmen Llorente Cejudo
Ventajas pedagógicas en la aplicación del PLE en asignaturas de lengua y literatura de educación secundaria. Análisis de cinco experiencias
Rafael Martín García
Evolución y desarrollo de un Entorno Personal de Aprendizaje en la Universidad de León
Fernando Santamaria



Thye social web – a huge shopping mall?

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Facebook privacy arguments won’t go away. In part this is because as a society we are having to rethink what we mean by personal privacy and how much we are prepared to live our lives openly on the net.

And it is also in part because Facebook are keepi9ng the pressure on for ever more disclosure of data. last weekend Facebook announced that it had expanded the information users are able to share with external websites and applications, to include home addresses and mobile phone numbers. True, this had to be authorised but as is often the case the interfaces for doing this were less than clear. In the event Facebook backed off and on Monday announced they were rethinking this feature. But they will be back.

In one of a series of articles she has written on Facebook in the Guardian newspaper, Jemina Kiss explains Facebook’s motivation:

Facebook’s future – if it is to meet the increasingly inflated aspirations of its “incentivised” investors – is to use a combination of its scale and the acres of intimate information it holds about all of us to find the real money in targeted advertising. The strategy is to gradually open our personal data more and more, making open information the norm, desensitising us to any uncomfortable feelings we might have had about our personal data being released into the wild.

And in turn Facebook’s incentivised investors are driven by the aspirations of Facebook to control the social web and eat into Google’s search driven advertising revenue.

This raises a big question. If ‘social’ is indeed the future of the web, do we necessarily have to give over control to a bunch of investors. Is the web just to become one big shopping mall. Or indeed, is that what it is becoming already?

Declaring our Learning

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I am ultra impressed by the idea behind the Declare-It web app. The site says

Declare-It is a tool that assists you in creating, tracking and being held accountable to your goals. For every declaration you make, Declare-It requires you to add supporters. Supporters are notified of your declaration and receive progress reports along your journey. If you start to fall off track, your supporters are sent an ALERT message. They can send you comments and even add incentives to help you stay motivated.

Sadly, Declare-It is a commercial site. Although it allows a ten day free trial, it then costs $9.99 per month. And I don’t honestly see enough people being prepared to pay that money for the site to gain critical mass. But the idea is simple enough and could easily be adopted or extended to other web tools.

Essentially all it is saying is that we set our own learning goals and targets and use our Personal Learning Networks for support. Then rather than just selecting friends to monitor our progress and receive alerts when we slip behind, as in the Declare-It app, we could select friends from our Personal Learning Network to support our learning and receive alerts when we achieve something or need collaboration.

Of course many of this will do that already using all kinds of different tools. My learning is work based, and most of this work is undertaken in collaboration with others – using email, forums or very often skype. Having said that I have  never really got on with any of the myriad task setting (lists) and tracking tools and astikll  tend to write my lists on the back of envelopes.

But rather than a separate web site like Declare-IT (which admittedly does have some Twitter and Facebook integration), I need some way of integrating Declare-It type functionality with my everyday workflow. A WordPress plug-in could be wonderful, particularly for project work.

Conference time

January 14th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu is sponsoring the Mobile learning: Crossing Boundaries in Convergent Environments 2011 conference being held in Bremen on March 21 – 22. And as I did with the PLE2010 Conference last year, I will be writing the occasional bog about how we are organising the conference and why.

We held a meeting of the organising committee today. The committee is small, Klaus Rummler, Judith Seipold, Eileen Luebcke and myself. The advantage of such a small group is that meetings are informal (and generally productive) and we can all meet face to face. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are not many people to do all the work. Informal is key for me. Long gone re the days when conferences could only be organised by the great and the good, and organising committees were full of Professors with many letters after t5heir name. This is one of the democratising effects of social media. In the past it was necessary to have such grand committees in order to get word out of an event. Now we use twitter and facebook and viral info0rmation flows. In additio0n I think researchers are changing their attitudes towards events. In the past it was the authority of the organisation running the vent which was key – were they and their organising committee respected academics with many publications to their name. Now people are more interested in the subject of the conference and on the possibilities for fruitful exchange of ideas and knowledge.

Of course there remain issues. It is often difficult for researchers – and especially students – to get funding to attend a conference. for that reason we have tried to make the event as cheap as possible. We are only charging 50 Euros, and even though we have no sponsorship, we are confident we can break even. I was disappointed last year that the conference on Open education in Barcelona was charging something like 500 Euros to attend.

We rely on the goodwill and input of the community to organise the event. The hardest job is reviewing. We are sending all of the submissions for the conference to two reviewers. With something like 50 submissions that means 100 reviews. the open source Easychair system helps in organising this but is by no means perfect. And I remain sceptical about how review systems work. However clear the instructions, different reviewers seem to have very different perceptions of submissions. however, I have no ideas of a better system for quality. And at the end of the day, the success of the event depends on the quality of the inputs.

One of the more bizarre problems in organising such events is collecting the mo0ney. It is extremely hard to get systems for universities to accept money in (and often just as hard to get the money out again. Furthermore, an overview of who has paid is vital and university finance systems are rarely geared to providing such information on demand. however Paypal makes setting up your own payments system fairly easy.

We started  talking about the programme design today. One thing we are keen to do is to separate between the submission of a high quality research paper and the traditional academic form of presentation. Endless paper presentations do not stimulate discourse and ideas, and seldom lead to the generation of new knowledge. Thus we are looking at different forms of presentations, including cafe type sessions and debates. It is also very heartening that we have received some excellent proposals for workshops with real interaction with participants. And once we have got an outline programme we will be looking at add different unconferencing sessions.

Submissions for the conference officially closed last Friday. But if you do want to make a last minute proposal email it to me by Sunday. But even if you haven’t got a proposal in their will be plenty of ways to participate. Hope to see many of you in Bremen in March

The future of textbooks

January 9th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Two discussions have been coming together recently – the use of mobile devices – especially tablet computers – and the provision of text books.

As more tablet devices are released – and the increasing functionality of smart phones – plus the rising availability and popularity of ebooks, there is an immediate attraction to the idea of giving students mobile devices pre-loaded with all the text books students need for a course. However, as Ewen MacIntosh has pointed out, mobile devices remain relatively expensive compared to the price of text books and it may be that the only institutions that can afford to distribute them to students for free are those catering for relatively wealthy students anyway.

That ebooks have made a limited impact in the education textbook market is not surprised. Remembering my own student days – and talking to friends little seems to have changed – there is a thriving market in second hand textbooks. Digital Rights Management software and prohibitive licensing have prevented such a market emerging in ebooks.

I wonder though, if the debate over text books and mobile devices has been overly limited in scope. The real qu8estion for me is if we still need textbooks. The development of Open Educational Resources would appear to potentially render many textbooks redundant. But even more, web 20 and multi media applications put the ability to produce and share materials in the hands of anyone. So text book publishers no longer have a monopoly on the production of (scientific) publications. And that of course, has big implications for what is considered as scholarly or what publications or artefacts have authority, approval or sanction as learning materials. to an extent that debate has already started with the widespread use of wikipedia despite the frequently ambiguous attitude of academic providers.

Is it too big a step to imagine that in the future the ability to seek out and evaluate source materials will be seen as a key part of learning, rather than absorbing pre given material. And further, that student work can contribute to the body to learning materials, rather than being seen as just an exercise on the way to achieving accreditation?

Disruptive technologies and the social shaping of our futures

January 6th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

There is an interesting debate taking place on Steve Wheeler’s blog about disruptive technologies. Steve says:

Disruptive technologies are those that change the market and in most cases replace an existing technology. They are characterised by their capability to do so over a relatively short period of time. Some are known as ‘killer applications’ because they completely wipe out the opposition due to their placement in the market, their greater appeal, availability and lower price, to name just a few of the key factors.

Welcome though the debate is I think it is overly simplistic and veers towards technological determinism. Technology progress is seen as an inevitable and to take on a life of its own in terms of social impact. In counter to this there is a long tradition or research and thinking, especially in The Nordic countries and in Germany which sees technology as being ‘socially shaped;. Researchers such as Engestrom, through activity theory, have seen technology as a mediating factor within a human activity system. German researchers have referred to the idea of ‘Gestaltung;, a difficult word to translate, but variously used to refer to ‘social shaping’ or ‘design’. Technology is designed by humans and has social impact. In the area of vocational education, researchers form the University of Bremen have pointed to the interaction between ‘competence is use’ (Beruf – another almost impossible term to translate) and work organisation in shaping the use of technology. This is an excerpt from a paper called “The social shaping of work and technology as a guiding principle for vocational education and training” which totherw ith Gerld Heidegger I wrote around 200) and was subsequently, published by CEDEFOP, I think.

Social shaping and the perspective of an open future

An important counter-argument against the shaping approach challenges the supposition of the possibility of influencing production technology as well as the concomitant work organisation.

Very often, and currently again with increasing intensity, technical change, or technical innovations, are thought to be determined solely by the progress of knowledge within the technological and natural sciences. Such a technological determinism would signify that only the most effective path existed for the development of production technology, for technical progress, and it would also determine the path to be taken to the future of work. Such a view is one-sided, as has been shown from historical studies (Kuby, 1980; Hellige, 1984; Noble, 1984). If one looks at technical development, one sees there were situations with forks in the road in the past where development could have taken different directions. The development of technology is also a social process (Bijker et al., 1990). In other words, technology is influenced by social conditions, both in its application and in its inner principles. As far as applications are concerned, this topic was discussed some time ago (Cooley, 1980). It seems apparent that the economic conditions of capitalism have influenced the specific way of applying technology in the production process. And this is, of course, still the case. But relating only to this would mean maintaining an economic determinism. There are, however, other societal influences that have tended to be consistently overlooked in recent discussions. According to the view of the authors cited above, that which can be considered to be a ‘successful’ technical solution – there is no ‘right’ one, though there are a lot of wrong ones – depends on cultural parameters; that means, it is also influenced by the form of human social life.

Hellige (1984) in particular introduced the concept of ‘horizons of technological problem solving’ which vary during historical development. This means that the engineers themselves take into consideration only the restricted set of criteria which lies inside their horizon of thinking. This horizon, however, varies according to ‘industrial culture’ (Ruth & Rauner, 1991). If the shaping of technology aims at really new solutions it is necessary to overcome these boundaries. Here non-experts can show considerable imagination because they are less influenced by the ‘normal’ thinking of the community of engineers. Therefore, devising new technical ‘outlooks’ might well be possible in secondary education. At the very least, future skilled workers should be able to discuss certain aspects of technology with the engineers. The same should be true for the participation of persons as non-experts in general discussions regarding technological policies.
Speaking within the scope of a more theoretical orientation, the development of technology not only owes a debt to a ‘material’ logic, ‘techno-logic’, but at the same time to the opposite element of social ‘development logic’, with this the former forms a ‘dialectical unit’. One cannot refer to social ‘development logic’ until one also assumes an ‘inner logic’ of development for social conditions. But, on the other hand, in the social field the unforeseen is a daily experience.

According to Luhmann (1984), this can be attributed to a basic condition of human communication, ‘double contingency’. In the case of communication between two people, this means that ‘each of them knows that each of them knows that one can also act differently’.
Technology in its interaction with chance results in a partially predetermined, partially unforeseeable progress that can be termed technical change. Accordingly, the interaction of social development logic with ‘contingency’ leads to social change. The latter takes place on a less spectacular, though no less profound scale than the former, especially since it is a question of interpretation whether one attaches greater weight to the persistent or to the changing aspects. This becomes plain particularly for the goal of social shaping of work and technology. Rauner & Martin (1988) interpreted socially shaped technology as a unity of the elements of that which is technically feasible and that which is socially desirable, as a regulative principle at any rate. That which will be feasible is, even in the case of technology, not that much a question of forecasts; because there, too, is great uncertainty concerning the change in this field. Therefore scenario pictures of the future can mislead. Just think of some of the grotesquely exaggerated forecasts of the past, prepared by ‘scientific futurology’.

What is desirable, however? The answer is the subject of controversy and will probably remain so. Is it, at the same time, that which is reasonable? And what is then the latter? An attempt will have to be made to obtain, as has been said, compromises between different wishes (Romanyshyn, 1989). This does not mean harmonious assent, but rather a restructured dissent which has to be discussed and disputed over; from there on, one should hope, one would become able – to some extent – to act jointly. For the task of shaping work and technology this perspective does not allow for objectively valid criteria. Instead teaching should aim at developing orientations for deciding on different alternatives, and to enable young people to develop their own orientations.

The point we were trying to make is that vocational educatio0n should provide young people with the ability themselves to shape technologies for the future. Such ideas are not a long way from recent work by Ceri Facer looking at the future of education. Ceri says:

The developments in remote interactions and in disaggregation of content from institution; the rise of the personal ‘cloud‘; the diagnostic potential of genetic and neuro-science; the ageing population; all of these, when combined with different social, political and cultural values lead to very different pedagogies, curriculum, institutional arrangements and cultural dispositions towards learners.

She suggests that

the coming two decades may see a significant shift away from the equation of ‘learning‘ with ‘educational institutions‘ that emerged with industrialisation, toward a more mixed, diverse and complex learning landscape which sees formal and informal learning taking place across a wide range of different sites and institutions.

Rather than try to develop a single blueprint for dealing with change we should rather develop a resilient education system based on diversity to deal with the different challenges of an uncertain future. But such diversity

will emerge only if educators, researchers and communities are empowered to develop localised or novel responses to socio-technical change – including developing new approaches to curriculum, to assessment, to the workforce and governance, as well as to pedagogy.

Thus rather than view technology as inevitable and to wait to see what disruption it brings we have the ability to shape its future. But this in turn depends  on reshaping our education systems and pedagogies to empower both educators and worker to themselves co-determine their futures.

What role does technology have in shaping a new future in education?

January 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The first blog of the new year looks at what I see as something of a contradiction for those of us wanting to change and hopefully improve education. Lets look at two trends from 2010.

In terms of the use of technology for teaching and learning we saw limited technical innovation. OK, the UK saw an increasing trend towards providing Virtual Learning environments (mainly Moodle) in primary schools. Applications like Google docs and Dropbox allowed enhanced facilities for collaborative work and file sharing. However neither of these was designed specifically for educational use. Indeed the main technical trend may have been on the one hand the increased use of social software and cloud computing apps for learning and on the other hand a movement away from free social software towards various premium business models. Of course mobile devices are fast evolving and are making an increasing impact on teaching and learning.

But probably the main innovation was in terms of pedagogy and in wider approaches to ideas around learning. and here the major development is around open learning. Of course we do not have a precise or agreed definition of what open education or open learning means. But the movement around Open Educational Resources appears to be becoming a part of the mainstream development in the provision of resources for tecahing and learning, despite significant barriers still to be overcome.  And there is increasing open and free tecahing provision be it through online ‘buddy’ systems, say for language learning, various free courses available through online VLEs and the proliferation of programmes offered as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) using a variety of both educational and social software. Whilst we are still struggling to develop new financial models for such programmes, perhaps the major barrier is recognition. This issue can be viewed at three different levels.

  1. The first level is a more societal issue of how we recognise learning (or attainment). at the moment this tends to be through the possession of accreditation or certification from accredited institutions. Recognition takes the form of entry into a profession or job, promotion to a higher level or increased pay.
  2. The second level is that of accreditation. Who should be able to provide such accreditation and perhaps more importantly what should it be for (this raises the question of curriculum).
  3. The third is the issue of assessment. Although traditional forms of individual assessment can be seen as holding back more innovative and group based forms of teaching and learning there are signs of movement in this direction – see, for example the Jisc Effective Assessment in a Digital Age, featured as his post of the year by Stephen Downes.

These issues can be overcome and I think there are significant moves towards recognising broader forms of learning in different contexts. In this respect, the development of Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks are an important step forward in allowing access to both technology and sources of learning to those not enrolled in an institution.

However, such ‘progress’ is not without contradiction. One of the main gains of social democratic and workers movements over the last century has been to win free access to education and training for all based on nee4d rather than class or income. OK, there are provisos. Such gains were for those in rich industrialised countries – in many areas of the world children still have no access to secondary education – let alone university. Even in those rich countries, there are still big differences in terms of opportunities based on class. And it should not be forgotten that whilst workers movements have fought for free and universal access to education, it has been the needs of industry and the economic systems which have tended to prevail in extending access (and particularly in moulding the forms of provision (witness the widely different forms of the education systems in northern Europe).

Now those gains are under attack. With pressures on econo0mies due of the collapse of the world banking system, governments are trying to roll back on the provision of free education. In countries like the UK, the government is to privatise education – both through developing a market driven system and through transferring the cost of education from the state to the individual or family.

Students have led an impressive (and largely unexpected) fightback in the UK and the outcome of this struggle is by no means clear. Inevitably they have begun to reflect on the relation between their learning and the activities they are undertaking in fighting the increases in fees and cutbacks in finances, thus raising the issue of the wider societal purposes and forms of education.

And that also poses issues for those of us who have viewed the adoption of technology for learning as an opportunity for innovation and change in pedagogy and for extending learning (through Open Education) to those outside schools and universities. How can we defend traditional access to institutional learning, whilst at the same time attacking it for its intrinsic limitations.

At their best, both the movements around Open Education and the student movement against cuts have begun to pose wider issues of pedagogy and the purpose and form of education as will as the issues of how we recognise learning. One of the most encouraging developments in the student movement in the UK has been the appropriation of both online and physical spaces to discuss these wider issues (interestingly in opposition to the police who have in contrast attempted to close access to spaces and movement through he so-called kettling tactic).

I wonder now, if it is possibel to bring together the two different movements to develop new visions of education together with a manifesto or rather manifestos for aschieveing such visions.

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    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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  • RT @stevedickychap #Sociology #SOCHTH Use this historical case-study to illustrate the link between #patriarchy and health theguardian.com/science/blog/…

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