Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Publishers and Open Access

October 27th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

In a blog post circluated widely on twitter yesterday Gerge Siemens reports: “At the EDUCAUSE 2011 conference today, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Hal Abelson – founding director of Free Software Foundation and Creative Commons. He presented on the state of openness in education. While on the surface openness is gaining traction through scholarship and publication, content providers and journal publishers are starting to push back”

Goerge posted the slide (reproduced left) from Hal’s presentation used to argue that journal publishers have a monopoly. George goes on to say: “The surface progress of openness belies a deeper, more dramatic period of conflict around openness that is only now beginning.”

The slide is taken from a discussion document (pdf) containing “pertinent information, arguments, and data about the current debate over open access (OA)” for the proposed US Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009. The document contains a second and perhaps more shocking diagramme comparing the profits made by academic publishers to other industries.

I suspect, though, that such inflated profits are confined to the large global academic publishers. Whilst in New York, I talked to Michael who works for a relatively small publisher in the city. He gave me the impression they were certainly not raking in so much money! His main current work was focused on providing e-book versions of older manuscripts and publications which are now out of press. He felt there was much valuable knowledge which was presently lost to the system because of the nonavailability of older print based publications and saw the possibilities of cheaper e-book publishing as opening great possibilities to bring this knowledge back to life.

He was not concerned about the possibilities of e-publications being pirated, arguing instead that if every 100 pirate editions brought one sale, then that was good for the publishers and of course good for learning and knowledge sharing.

In this regard I wonder if there is the basis for some kind of alliance between the Open Access movement and the smaller academic publishers.

Has Open and Linked Data failed?

October 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I am intrigued by this presentation. Whilst I appreciate what Chris Taggart, who has been invo0lved in the development of the opencorporates and openlylocal data sites (and who undoubtedly has more experience and knowledge than me of the use of Open and Linked Data) I would be less pessimistic. I see the use of open and linked data as in very early days.

Firstly, although I appreciate that politicians and bureaucrats do not always want to release data – I think there is still a groundswell in favour of making data available – at least in Europe. Witness yesterdays unveiling of the Italian Open data store (sorry, I can’t find the url at the moment). And although Google search results do not help promote open data sites (and I am not a great fan of Google at the moment after they wiped out my account ten days again), they have contributed very useful tools such as Refine, Fusion Tables and Public Data Explorer.

I still think that as Chris Taggart says in one of his first slides the biggest challenge is relevance. And here I wonder if one of the problems is that Open and Linked Data specialists are just that – specialist developers in their own field. Many of the applications released so far on the UK Data store, whilst admiral examples of the art of development – would seem to have little practical use.

Maybe it is only when the tools and knowledge of how to work with Open and Linked data are adopted by developers and others in wonder social and subject areas that the true benefits will begin to show. Open data applications may work best, not through dedicated apps or sites, but when incorporated in other web sites which provide them with context and relevance. Thus we have been working with the use of open and linked data for careers guidance (see our new web site, www.careerstalk.org which includes working demonstrations).

Bu even more important may be finding ways of combining Open and Linked data with other forms of (human) knowledge and intelligence. It is just this form of knowledge – for instance the experiences and informal knowledge of careers guidance professionals, which brings relevance and context to the data from official data sets. And that provides a new design challenge.

What caused the riots?

October 25th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

A Ministry of Justice report from the UK government confirms what we all suspected about the riots which took place in the summer in England. Despite the prime ministers rush to blame gangs and gang culture for the riots this was not a major factor.

Instead, according to the Guardian newspaper, the report found “that those arrested during the riots mainly came from deprived areas and had the poorest educational backgrounds. More than two thirds of the young people involved were classed as having special educational needs and one third had been excluded from school in the past year. More than 42% received free school meals.”

Those arrested would appear in general to be young people alienated from the education system and with little prospect of skilled work (or indeed in the present economic climate any work at all). Education policies designed to promote traditional subjects and attempts to strengthen school discipline are not going to help. Neither will the cutbacks in educational expenditure, which are having a disproportionate impact on vocation education and the near closure of many youth services.

The debate over the future of education gets public

October 24th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The debate over the future of Higher Education is continuing. There were two interesting newspaper articles in the past days in the Guardian and the New York Times.

The Guardian reports that the first set of statistics on applications to university next year, published by the Universities and Colleges and Admissions Service (Ucas), reveal that 52,321 applicants have applied from within the UK, compared with 59,413 this time last year. This is a fall of some 12 per cent, perhaps unsurprising given the steep rise in university tuition fees.

But the main interest is in the detail. The fall in applications is by no means even across universities and subjects, or by geographical region or age of applicant. The Guardian reports: “The figures suggest more women than men have been put off from applying to university. Some 10.5% fewer women have applied this year, and 7% fewer men.

Mature students appear to have been particularly deterred by the higher fees, the figures show. The number of applicants aged 40 or older has fallen by 27.8%, and among those aged between 30 and 39 the number has dropped by 22.7%.”

In terms of regions  the “numbers of applicants from the east Midlands (down 20%), Yorkshire (17.3%) and the north-east (14.7%) have fallen furthest, the figures show. London (down 9.1%) and the south-east (8.1%) have been less affected.”

And in terms of subjects “applications to education degrees have fallen by 30%, and those to business studies by 26.1%, the figures show.”

There are some pretty clear patterns here. Although there is no data on socio econo0mic backgrounds of applicants the fall in applicants is greatest from working class areas. And in  deterring mature students from applying, this will have a disproportionate effect on education which has in the past been an attractive second career.  The reduction in applications for business studies is more puzzling. Once more this may be an effect of less applications from mature students. Or it could be a general disillusionment with business as a whole. Or it may be that students are turning towards more vocational degrees and fear business studies offers little chance of post university employment.

It is also interesting to note that the fall in applications is uneven across institutions. The elite universities – like Oxford and Cambridge –  are little affected with the biggest reductions seemingly hitting the old Polytechnics.

Once more this can be seen as a class factor, with elite universities always having had a disproportionate number of applications from higher income social groups.

All in all, the figures appear to co0nfirm those critics who pointed to the UK university system becoming more elitist, with working class students afraid of the high debt levels the new fees structure will result in.

The New York Times published an “Opinion” article by Michael Ellsberg entitled “Will dropouts Save America”?

Although somewhat whimsical, Ellsberg points out most job creation comes from business start ups. he goes on to say: “Start-ups are a creative endeavor by definition. Yet our current classrooms, geared toward tests on narrowly defined academic subjects, stifle creativity. If a young person happens to retain enough creative spirit to start a business upon graduation, she does so in spite of her schooling, not because of it.”

But Ellsburg’s solution is hardly progressive. He thinks schools and universities should teach people how to buy and sell things as the bedrock of business start up. And in general he thinks young people are better off not going to university. Ellsburg ignores the importance of access to capital for those seeking to set up new businesses. But I would agree with several things he says. he points out that there is a dual job market in the USA – and I would contend in the UK as well. he points to an informal job market with employment being based on netwo0rking and contacts. “In this informal job market, the academic requirements listed in job ads tend to be highly negotiable, and far less important than real-world results and the enthusiasm of the personal referral.”

And he says “Employers could alter this landscape if they explicitly offered routes to employment for those who didn’t get a degree because they were out building businesses.”

Such employment routes used to be called apprenticeships. A revival of apprenticeship training could offer a high skills alternative to university education and provide the job adaptability skills need for succeeding in the highly unstable employment market today. But such apprenticeships cannot be left to employers alone. In the UK the government has taken to calling almost any course an apprenticeship, regardless of skills levels or length. Apprenticeship requires development and regulations to ensure the quality of the learning experience. Bit apprenticeship can offer an alternati9ve route of education to the failed model of mass university education.

Mobility Shifts

October 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I was in New York last Friday presenting at a panels session at the Mobility Shifts Conference on In, Against and beyond the Institution. The panel was chaired by Mike Neary and comprised of myself, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Joss Winn. Somewhat surprisingly to me some 15 people turned up despite it being scheduled at se4ven o’clock on a Friday evening.

Joss presented the  Student as Producer project which re-imagines students role in the design, development, and critique of the curriculum. The process of teaching learning is decoupled from traditional power relationships so students become an integral part of the governance of an institution rather than solely its customer (there is a paper available on this written by Joss together with Mike Neary.

Richard considered how students and teachers might dissolve the symbolic power of the University into the actual, existing reality of protest, in order to engage with a process of transformation (for more see his blog).

Josie talked about the transformative aspects of digital literacy. And I looked at changing pedagogies in work based learning and developmental competence – the capacity of the individual to acquire and demonstrate the capacity to act on a task and the wider work environment in order to adapt, act and shape (design) it.

All good stuff. I found some of the ideas hard – and we certainly did not reach any conclusions. But the very fact that we are having such discussions – and the renewed interest in critical pedagogy – is testimony both of the crisis which pervades our univeristies and the growing opposition and questioning of the purpose and organisation of education including the role of researchers and teachers. To that extent I think the title – In, Against and Beyond – is helpful in linking the attempts to transform practices and roles within universities to growing protest movements outside the institutions – including the many initiatives – particularly in the UK – to explore alternative structures to the established universities.

More on this when I am less tired. in the meantime Doug Belshaw has written a  series of excellent blogs talking about some of the many wide ranging discussions which took place at Mobility Shifts.

Yma o hyd….. yng Nghwpan y Byd. YMLAEN CYMRU! Pob lwc oddiwrth bawb ym Mhontydysgu.

October 12th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

This vid has got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that WALES ARE NOW IN THE SEMI FINALS OF THE WORLD CUP (ac mae’r tim Saesneg wedi mynd adre). It is a learning object and I’m using it to illustrate an article I read today about a BBC Wales project, targeting ‘hard to reach’ teenagers, that used rugby as a vehicle for informal learning.

By the way, the title of this post translates (possibly) as “Informal Learning through the Internet: a learning journey through the world of rugby.” ; ) – which is actually the title of a report on the project (more…)

Evaluation 2.0: How do we progress it?

October 11th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

Have been in Brussels for the last two days – speaking at 9th European Week of Regions and Cities organized by DG Regio and also taking the opportunity to join other sessions. My topic was Evaluation 2.0. Very encouraged by the positive feedback I’ve been getting all day both face-to-face and through twitter. I thought people would be generally resistant to the idea as it was fairly hard-hitting (and in fairness, some were horrified!) but far more have been interested and very positive, including quite a lot of Commission staff. However, the question now being asked by a number of them of them is “How do we progress this?” – meaning, specifically, in the context of the evaluation of Regional Policy and DG Regio intervention.

Evaluation 2.0 in Regional Policy evaluation
I don’t have any answers to this – in some ways, that’s not for me to decide! I have mostly used Evaluation 2.0 stuff in the evaluation of education projects not regional policy. And my recent experience of the Cohesion Fund, ERDF, IPA or any of the structural funds is minimal. However, the ideas are generic and if people think that there are some they could work with, that’s fine!

That said, here are some suggestions for moving things forward – some of them are mine, most have been mooted by various people who have come to talk to me today (and bought me lots of coffee!)

Suggestions for taking it forward

  • Set up a twitter hashtag #evaluation2.0. Well that’s easy but I don’t know how much traffic there would be as yet!
  • Set up a webpage providing information and discussion around Evaluation 2.0. More difficult – who does that and who keeps it updated? Maybe, instead, it is worth feeding in to the Evalsed site that DG Regio maintain, which currently provides information and support for their evaluators. I gather it is under the process of review – a good opportunity to make it more interactive, to make more use of multimedia and with space for users to create content as well as DG Regio!
  • Form a small working group or interest group – this could be formal or informal, stand alone or tied to their existing evaluation network. Either way, it needs to be open and accessible to people who are interested in developing new ideas and trying some stuff out rather than a representative ‘committee’.
  • Alternatively, set up an expert group to move some ideas forward.
  • Or how about a Diigo group?
  • Undertake some small-scale trials with specific tools – to see whether the ideas do cross over from the areas I work in to Regional Policy.
  • Run a couple of one-day training events on Evaluation 2.0 focusing on some real hands-on workshops for evaluators and evaluation unit staff rather than just on information giving.
  • Check out with people responsible for evaluation in other DGs whether there is an opportunity for some joint development (a novel idea!) Unlike other ‘perspectives’ it is not tied to content or any particular theoretical approach.
  • Think about developing some mobile phone apps for evaluators and stakeholders around content specific issues – I can easily think of 5 or 6 possibilities to support both counterfactual, quantitative approaches and theory-based qualitative approaches. Although the ideas are generic, customizing the content means evaluators would have something concrete to work with rather than just ideas.
  • Produce an easy-to-use handbook on evaluation 2.0 for evaluators / evaluation units who want practical information on how to do it.
  • Ring fence a small amount of funding to support one-off explorations into innovative practice and new ideas around evaluation.
  • Encourage the evaluation unit to demonstrate leadership in new approaches – for example, try streaming a live internet radio programme around the theme of evaluation (cheap and easy!); set up a multi-user blog for people to post work in progress and interesting observations of ongoing projects using a range of media as well as text-based major reports; make some podcasts of interviews with key players in the evaluation of Regional Policy; set up a wiki around evaluation rather than having to drill down through the various Commission websites; try locating projects using GPS data so that we can all see where the action is taking place! Keep a twitter stream going around questions and issues – make use of crowd sourcing!
  • Advertise the next European Evaluation Society biennial conference, in Helsinki, October 1st – 5th 2012 “Evaluation in the networked society: New concepts, New challenges, New solutions” (There you go Bob, I just did!)
  • Broaden the idea of Evaluation 2.0 and maybe get rid of the catchphrase! We are already using the power of the semantic web in evaluation to mash open and linked data, for example. Should we be now be talking about Evaluation 3.0?? Or should we find another name – Technology Enhanced Evaluation? We could have TEE parties instead of conferences – Europe’s answer to the American far right ; )

P.S. Message to the large numbers of English delegates at the conference

When you left Heathrow yesterday to come to Brussels, I do hope you waved to the English Rugby team arriving home from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

(Just as well this conference was not a week later or I’d have leave a similar message for the French delegates…..)

Can we trust the Cloud?

October 11th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

More and more of our data is being incorporated within Cloud services. Universities and other educational institutions are increasingly outsourcing services to cloud providers. But can we trust the cloud?

I am not convinced. Pontydysgu uses a number of different could services, most notably Google, Dropbox and Apple and there is no doubt that these services allow us a high degree of organisational flexibility and functionality for work in a distributed community. We do not pay for the Google or Apple services (although it could be argued that Apple services are paid through hardware) although we do pay for extended storage on dropbox.

I actually have (or rather had) four google accounts. My main account was tied to my mac (.me) email address. I additionally have a gmail account which I use as a backup email service. Somewhere down the way I created a Pontydysgu organisation account. And some time in the apst for soem reeason I couldn’t access anything so I set up yet another googlemail account (that was a mistake) …..although I instantly forgot I had got it.

But it was that account which caused me problems. Somehow that appears to havegot corss linked to my .mac account. If someone sent me access to a document on the .mac address google wa sautomatically changing that to my now dormant and throw-away gmail account. My Youtube account was beinga utomattcially linked in against it. And so on.

So idecided to simlify thigs. i would just erase the unwanted and unused account. That was easy. But at the same time it deletedmy main .mac account. How I have no idea. But everything was gone. I tried tehGoogel account recovery process but with little hope. The questions were impossible. I did not know teh eyar I had set up diffferent Google services let alone the month or day. And so it turned out – I had an auto email saying they were nable to restore my account beacuse they could not validate that I was who I said I was ands was tyeh owner fo the account.

OK – I gave in and setup the account again. Forthunately my amails were on anotheraccount. I lostmy feed readerbut it needed pruneing anyway. I lost access to about 200 docuemnts although once more only about eight or ten were in current use and I had backups of teh rest. Oh – and I lost access to 500 or so followers on Google plus.

None of this too much of a tragedy. But it has made me think agin about the cloud. If Google can screw up accounts then so can anyone else. And so whilst Cloud services can be very useful, i think I want to keep backups of my data on my computer for the moment.

Halloween 2.0

October 9th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

At a presentation at a recent conference in Budapest I indulged in a short rant about the tendency to put 2.0 after everything these days. the term – if it can be called that – has lost any meaning, I said. But I do like this doodle by Jenny Hughes that I just found on the floor of our office!

The future of wikipedia in Italy in peril

October 5th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Italian language version of wikipedia has published the following open letter which we reproduce in full below. Comment seems unnecessary.

Dear reader,

at this time, the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced to actually delete it.

The Bill – Rules on Wiretapping etc., p. 24, paragraph 29, letter a) states that:

«For the Internet sites, including newspapers and periodicals delivered by telematic way, the statements or corrections are published, with the same graphic characteristics, the same access methodology to the site and the same visibility of the news which they refer.»

Over the past ten years, Wikipedia has become part of the daily habits of millions of web users looking for a neutral, free-content, and – above all – independent source of Knowledge. A new, huge multi-lingual encyclopedia, freely available to all, at any time, and free of charge.

Today, unfortunately, the very pillars on which Wikipedia has been built – neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents – are likely to be heavily compromised by paragraph 29 of a law proposal, also known as “DDL intercettazioni” (Wiretapping Act).

This proposal, which the Italian Parliament is currently debating, provides, among other things, a requirement to all websites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image.

Unfortunately, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge – the opinion of the person allegedly injured is all that is required, in order to impose such correction to any website.

Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a “corrected” version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources.

During all these years, the users of Wikipedia (and we want, once more, to point out that Wikipedia does not have an editorial staff) have always been available to review – and modify, if needed – any content deemed to be detrimental to anyone, without harm to the Project’s neutrality and independence. In the very rare instances it was not possible to reach a mutually satisfactory solution, the entire page has been removed.

The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is, provided by the named paragraph 29, without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based and this would bring to a paralysis of the “horizontal” method of access and editing, putting – in fact – an end to its existence as we have known until today.

It should be made more than clear that none of us wants to question safeguarding and protection of the reputation, honor and image of any party – but we also note that every Italian citizen is already protected in this respect by Article 595 of the Criminal Code, which punishes the crime of defamation.

With this announcement, we want to warn our readers against the risks arising from leaving to the arbitrary will of any party to enforce the alleged protection of its image and its reputation. Under such provisions, web users would be most probably led to cease dealing with certain topics or people, just to “avoid troubles”.

We want to be able to keep a free and open-to-all encyclopaedia, because our articles are also your articles – Wikipedia is already neutral, why neutralize it?

The users of Wikipedia

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    News Bites

    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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