Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

The perverse effects of government policies

July 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell
Policy initiatives often have perverse effects. Of course it is perfectly easy to argue the English government’s entire policy on education is perverse.
But the latest announcements that some English universities may choose to offer bursaries to high achieving school students show just how policies can go wrong. the government has been encouraging universities to provide support for students as part of a commitment to widening access. But given the veracity of research showing that those form higher socio economic backgrounds have higher achievement levels in schools, the impact is going to be to reduce access to students from working class backgrounds and acerbate socio economic divides rather than widen access.
The government is also promoting STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. However in the present cash strapped situation, following government finding changes, universities may well choose to reduce provision in subjects such as science which require expensive resources and instead promote courses such as management studies which are relatively cheap to offer.
Of course the article is right in stating it will be very difficult to recover loans from students in other European countries. Personally I doubt their will be a flood of incoming students. Firstly the reputation of English universities is falling fast. And secondly most European countries offer free or low fee courses. But even the previous fees regime was seen by most students as unjust and as such the avoidance of fee repayments is seen as socially justified and acceptable.
clipped from www.guardian.co.uk
The prospect of cheaper deals for high achievers was criticised by Gareth Thomas, the shadow universities minister, who said the money should be spent on widening access to students from poorer backgrounds. Nearly a third of students achieving AAB or above are from private schools and 20% of those achieving the highest grades at state sixth forms are in grammar schools.
He also said he expected to record substantial numbers of courses closing, particularly in sciences, as many universities decide they can no longer afford to run expensive, laboratory-based degrees.
He warned that universities could be faced with European Union applicants “flooding in”, because it will be virtually impossible to force them to repay their student loans once they return to their home countries.
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The future of social media

July 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Although Google+ has been generally welcomed the advent of yet another social networking site has given rise to some thoughts on just exactly what value such sites are.

In a perceptive blog post George Siemens writes:

I’ve concluded that most of the hype around social media is nonsense and that people, particularly the self-proclaimed social media elite are clothing-less……What has social media actually done? Very, very little. The reason? Social media is about flow, not substance…….Twitter/Facebook/G+ are secondary media. They are a means to connect in crisis situations and to quickly disseminate rapidly evolving information. They are also great for staying connected with others on similar interests (Stanley Cup, Olympics). Social media is good for event-based activities. But terrible when people try to make it do more – such as, for example, nonsensically proclaiming that a hashtag is a movement. The substance needs to exist somewhere else (an academic profile, journal articles, blogs, online courses).

It is difficult not to agree. Even on twitter – to date my preferred social network – the ratio of conversation to proclamation – or information sharing – seems to be decreasing. Or is this a reverse power  effect – is it that the more people you follow the less the social interactions?

I think the problem is context. Social media work well in a particular context – be it talking with close friends and family – keeping people up to date on your movement or planning holidays – or around conferences and events, planning projects or seeking jobs. However social media is far less strong in the context of everyday life flows. Indeed the only aspect of context that social media seems good at is geo-awareness with all the privacy issues that brings.

It may be important though to distinguish between social media ‘in the wild’ – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ web sites – and the integration of social media within more specific and contextually defined web tools to support activities, learning or communities. Twitters success may be down to its relatively open development environment making it easy to embed twitter flows into blogs or community web sites.

Not withstanding the debate over the use of real names in Google+ and acknowledging the interest in the playful use of alternative identities, the issue of linking real life worlds and social media worlds seems an important one. As George says “substance needs to exist somewhere else”. But whilst George is posting that substance in the academic world, such substance may lie in different facets of our lives – within work, play or the community.

Yet I suspect those corporations developing social media applications have little interest in such substance. The substance for them is in the advertising and commercial world which produces them profit, the ultimate arbiter of success for social media companies. I have written before that the future of social media may lie in more focused and niche networks and communities – communities which can link our online and off line activities and enrich both. But such communities will have to be developed from  the bottom up. And in this context the issue of design will involve much more than cool tools and applications – or indeed encouraging us to follow ever more ‘friends’.

What we learned at the #PLE_SOU Conference

July 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Its my first day back in the office after three weeks of meetings, conference summer schools and travel. There is a lot to catch up on. First a rather belated review of the Personal Learning Environments 2011 conference in Southampton, UK.

#PLE_SOU (for some reason we have adopted a hash tag convention of following airport codes!) had much to live up to. The first PLE conference in 2010 in Barcelona had created a great buzz around it. In part this may have been the excitement of a conference dedicated to PLEs, in part the wonderful people it attracted and also the great venue in Barcelona. It was also because last year we had spent considerable effort in moving away from the traditional twenty minute paper presentation, followed by five or ten minutes of discussion, to facilitating more open and interactive formats, adapting more unconferencing type approaches to exchanging ideas.

We adopted the same approach in Southampton. Not everyone is happy with such an approach and it requires considerable effort on the part of session facilitators. But just as in Barcelona, we wanted to merge the informal and formal sides of the conference and to develop an ongoing dialogue between participants.At the same time with three or four simultaneous sessions we wished to provide people with choices of different formats and with opportunities for unconferencing break out sessions if the wished. And on the whole I think it worked well.

This year too, we put considerable effort into ensuring  we had a robust technical infrastructure capable of supporting everyone being logged on with at least two devices simultaneously and providing a rolling display of tweets from the conference. We also provided a live stream from one of the four conference spaces, which attracted a surprising number of participants. Next year we will look at ways to better integrate those following the conference at a dostance.

Lisa, Su and Hugh, assisted by David Delgado have put considerable effort into the curation of the conference, with the conference web site providing access to photos, slides and videos and to a full archive of conference papers.

Now on to  the contents (based on the sessions I attended). We still have no agreement on a definition of PLEs. I am not sure this is important. There seems to be a broad consensus about PLEs as an approach to teaching and learning and within that there is plenty of room for different developments and initiatives, be it m,ore theoretical pedagogic research, surveys and empirical studies, innovation in practice or technological development. Different approaches could include the development of Personal Learni9ng Environments, institutional support for PLE development (more on that in a moment), MOOCs or support for work based learning. Having said that there was a general recognition that the adaption of a PLE approach is challenging existing institutional practices and for example present practices around assessment are a barrier to PLE implementation.

There was also considerable concern that not all learners are confident or capable of developing and managing their own PLEs. In part this concern was based on a series of different studies looking at how learners are using new technologies and particularly social software and social networking applications. These studies are valuable and it would be good if there could be some kind of sharing space for such work.

Concerns over the confidence of learners in using technology are largely behind the move towards developing ‘institutional PLEs’. There is also a move by schools to adopt such systems both because of concerns for privacy and data security with commercial applications and services and to allow access to social networking technologies for those under 13 years old.

Although most research and development presented at the conference was orientated towards higher education there appears to be increasing interest in PLEs not only from the school sector but also for learning at work and in the c0mmunity.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the discussions was that we were talking about actual PLE implementations, rather than the more speculative research  and planning in Barcelona. PLEs are no longer a dream, but are increasingly being adopted for learning.

Digital Transformations with Internet Radio

July 22nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. I have been travelling, firstly in Wales, then London, on to the PLE conference In Southampton, from there back to London, Bremen and then on to Porto where I am now. This has left me with a serious backlog of posts which I will try to get on topof next week.

I am in Porto for the Gary Chapman International School on Digital Transformations. The school, according to the web site, is for advanced students and emerging professionals, social entrepreneurs, and activists from around the world with an interest in digital technology and the enrichment of civil society. It aims to explore the potential for digital media to empower citizens, strengthen communities, and contribute to a more vibrant civil society.

I am still not quite sure what is really being meant by digital transformations. Indeed, I am not vven sure that we are not overly focusing on technologies, whilst lacking a shared vision of how we want society to develop. But I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with so many talented epople from different disciplines, interests and cultures.

Togther with Cristina Costa, I was invited to join the ‘faculty’ for the school. And they told us that they welcomed novel and active approaches to the one and a half hours allocated for each faculty memmber to present their work. So Cristina and I pooled  our time and instead of a formal presentation ran a workshop on using internet radio. Particpants had two and a half hours working in groups to plan their slots, followed by a half hour live internet radio broadcast. It turned out to be great fun. We were not really sure how such a workshop would work with a large group of people with so much expertise in different fields. But what was very encouraging was the intense discussions the workshop tasks provoked around the meanings of the different apsects of digital transformations and how much the participants enjoyed the event (at least they told us they did!).

Many thanks to eveyone who took part. Special thanks to audio engineer Rui Silva who agreed at very short notice to support us and ended up running a workshop himself om the techncial side of internet radio. Rui also did the post processing for the podcast version posted here.

Second day of Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE Radio at #PLE_SOU

July 15th, 2011 by Dirk Stieglitz

Here is the podacst of our second programme from the PLE-Conference in Southampton.

You can find the music we played here on Jamendo. It is the album “Dresses & dreams” by the artist On returning from Tranås, Sweden.

Sounds of the Bazaar at #PLE_SOU day 1

July 15th, 2011 by Dirk Stieglitz

Like in the last year at the 1. PLE-Conference in Barcelona we broadcasted again from this years’ PLE-Conference in Southampton, UK. We made two 30 minutes programmes and tried to catch the vivid spirit and most important content of this great conference. Here now the show of day 1 as podcast.

Jam Hot! A new take on Personal Learning Environments

July 11th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

It is conference season. Today marks the start of the PLE2011 conference in London. Together with Andrew Ravenscroft, Dirk Stieglitz and David Blagborough, I am presenting a paper with the snappy name ‘‘Jam Hot!’ Personalised radio ciphers through augmented social media for the transformational learning of disadvantaged young people.’

Although the paper is very much a work in progress, there are a series of ideas here which I find interesting and will return to on this blog in the future. In the meantime any feedback very welcome.

‘Jam Hot!’ Personalised radio ciphers through augmented social media for the transformational learning of d…

Sounds of the Bazaar Internet Radio Summer Tour

July 8th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

It is becoming a bit of a tradition that every summer the Sounds of the Bazaar Internet Radio show goes on tour. This year is no exception. And we have lined up a brilliant schedule over the next month including live coverage from conferences, workshops, summer schools and festivals spanning four countries.

To listen to any of the programmes just go to http://cp2.internet-radio.org.uk/start/ravenscroft/

You can listen direct from this web page or open the stream in the music player of your choice.

We kick off next week from the Personal Learning Environments Conference in Southampton, England (#PLE_SOU) with two lunch time shows. We wil be broadcasting live interveiws, vox pops and bringing you the best of the conference live from Southampton. The shows run from from 1330 – 1400 UK Summer Time (1430 – 1500 Central European Time) on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 July.

On Friday 15 July, we have a special broadcast being produced as part of a workshop with Inspire! the Education Business Partnership for Hackney, the Yo youth agency and the University of East London and sponsored by the RadioActive and G8WAY projects. More on this soon but it promises to be great fun. The programme goes out from 1530 – 1600 UK Summer Time (1630 – 1700 Central European Summer Time).

The following week we will be broadcasting LIVE from the Gary Chapman International School on Digital Transformation in Porto, an event jointly organised between the University of Porto and the University of Texas.

The summer school themes are

  • Information access and open civic discourse
  • Digital tools for government transparency
  • Evolving Internet content regulation and the public’s right to information
  • Digital media and the democratic process
  • Factors influencing the growth of online civic engagement

Details of the radio show are still being finalised but we can promise you some surprise guests along with great interveiws and content for anyone intersted in digital media.

And the last stage of our summer tour takes us to SMIAF – the San Marino Arts Festival where we will be running workshops and broadcasting live from one of the city squares. If you are interested in getting involved here are more details:

Graham Attwell (UK) & Dirk Stieglitz (DE) di “Pontydysgu – Bridge to Learning” e della web radio: “Sounds of the Bazaar” condurranno il workshop in occasione dello SMIAF 2011.

Insieme a loro si capirà come costruire una web radio, come produrre il materiale per il broadcasting e tutto quello che serve per trasmettere.

Il workshop prevede due incontri:
Venerdì pomeriggio a partire dalle ore 15
Sabato mattina alle ore 10,30.

***Si richiede ai partecipanti un pc, mac, laptop…personale.
Lo SMIAF non fornisce computer ma solo la connessione WIFI, gentilmente concessa da PRIMA s.r.l.

Dopo il workshop..anche broadcasting in diretta:
Sabato 6 e domenica 7 agosto in occasione dello SMIAF si potrà dare vita alla prima SMIAF web radio e trasmettere in diretta da P.zza S.Agata durante il Festival.
I partecipanti al workshop e anche al festival sono liberi di trasmettere musica, interviste, e tutto quello che ritengono bello ed interessante per quei giorni.

Per iscrizioni al workshop, invia una email a: smiaf.giovanisaperi@gmail.​com

Don’t miss these shows – there will be lots of room for participation and we are looking forward to a great summer radio tour.

My first opinion of Google+ – thumbs up

July 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Like many of you I guess, I have been playing around with Google+ this weekend. And, unlike the clunky experience when Wave first came out, it is fun. Google seem to have got it more or less right in judging when to make a new app at least partly open to the world. Too soon, it doesn’t work and puts people off. Too late, not enough user feedback to be able to judge whether you are going in the right direction.

Google+ has four main ‘areas’. Like most social software interfaces it provides an activity stream but with the ability to switch between different ‘group’ views. These groups are set up through Circles which provides a visual interface to grouping your social network. the interface is pretty intuitive, although it looks far better on my large screen iMac than on my notebook. Working out how to group different contacts is another questions though. I guess I would like the ability to set up subcircles, so I could put all my project colleagues in a circle called projects, and then sub circles for each different project (although you can add people into as many circles as you like already.

Sparks is a little underwhelming, providing essentially access to saved searches, but with little functionality, for instance the features of advanced search, or the ability to add RSS feeds.

Hangout is cool, providing audio and video as well as text conferencing based on a circle or individual members of a circle. I have only tried it with one person so far and the interface and quality was stunning. Be interesting what it looks like with more people. It needs more functionality such as the ability to share files and to share urls and well as just Youtube video but i guess that will be added to in the next few days.

The interface is very clean free of all the usual Facebook clutter. And at the moment it is advert free, though I can’t see that surviving long term. At the moment it is rather sealed off but rumour says Google have develop a full API for + which will be rolled out at some point. Picasso is also built in with a free 7MB storage area for photos.

Perhaps most refreshing is that Google seem to have learned the lesson from Facebook about ownership and privacy. Content is owned by the user and you can get your content out of the application. That is vital for use in education.

And Google+ provides fine grained privacy with the ability to decide who you share with on an action by action basis.

The only thing I have struggled with is the Android App. The reviews say it is very good but I can’t persuade it to conect with my .mac account, rather than my gmail account, which I only use occasionally.

Who is it for? The press reviews tend to think Google is taking on Facebook directly. I am not so sure. Only last week I speculated that the real target for many new social networking apps is the enterprise market, previously the preserve of smaller social networking companies such as Yammer. And linked to Google docs and other cloud services (I assume there will be some levels of integration int he near future) Google+ looks a good contender. Whilst Facebook is a good market place for advertising and publicity, be it for enterprises or education, its shortcomings in terms of ownership and privacy really make it a non starter as far as serious social networking goes. Will people trust Google? I guess it largely depends how they behave. But so far they seem to have learned the lesson from previous less successful ventures into the social networking jungle, and are playing up the privacy aspects of +.

Next week Facebook are expected to hit back with a release of Skype for Facebook. But Skype is now owned by Microsoft and I can’t help thinking Google have timed this well in terms of offering a simple to use free service for video and audio conferencing. Certainly I am going to give it a go for project meetings. The world of social networking is certainly not dull at the moment!

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    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.


    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers


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