Introduction

    Welcome to the Wales Wide Web

    October 25th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.

    You can reach Graham by email at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

    Wales Wide Web

    Professional identities and Communities of Practice

    April 22nd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    Technology Enhanced Learning, at least form a research perspective, has always tended to be dominated by the education sector. Coming from a background in vocational education and training, I was always more interested in how technology could be used to enhance learning in work and in particular informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises.

    Much early work in this area, at least in Europe was driven by a serious of assumptions. We were moving towards a knowledge economy (remarkable how quiet that has gone since the economic crash) and future employment, productivity and profitability, required higher levels of skills and knowledge win the workplace.. Prior to the rise of the World Wide Web, this could be boosted by enhancing opportunities for individual learning through the development of instructional materials distributed on disc or CD ROM. Interestingly this lead to much innovative work on simulation, which tended to be forgotten with the move to the online environment offered by the World Wide Web.

    One of the big assumptions was that what was holding back learning in enterprises was the cost of releasing employees for (formal) training. Thus all we had to do was link up universities, colleges and other training providers to enterprises through providing courses on the web and hey presto, the problem would be solved. Despite much effort, it didn’t really work. One of the reasons I suspect is that so much workplace knowledge is contextually specific and rooted in practice, and trainers and particularly learning technologists did not have that knowledge. Secondly it was often difficult to represent practice based knowledge in the more restricted learning environment of the web. A further issue was a failure to understand the relationship between learning nd professional development, work practice and professional (or occupational) identities. That latter issue is the subject on a paper entitled Facilitating professional identity formation and transformation through technology enhanced learning: the EmployID approach, submitted by my colleagues from the EmployID reject, Jenny Bimrose, Alan Brown, Teresa Holocher-Ertl, Barbara Kieslinger, Christine Kunzmann, Michael Prilla, Andreas P. Schmidt, and Carmen Wolf to the forthcoming ECTEL conference. Their key finding is that there is “a wide spectrum of how actual professional identity transformation processes take place so that an ICT-based approach will not be successful if it concentrates on prescribing processes of identity transformation; rather it should concentrate on key activities to support.” They go on to say that “ this is in line with recent approaches to supporting workplace learning, such as Kaschig et al. (2013) who have taken an activity-based approach to understanding and supporting collective knowledge development.”

    The following short excerpt from the paper explains their understanding of processes of professional work identity formation:

    “Professional work identities are restructured in a dynamic way when employees are challenged to cope with demands for flexibility, changing work situations and skill needs (Brown, 1997). The work activities of practitioners in Public Employment Services (PES) need to be trans- formed due to the changing nature of the labour market. As their roles change, so do their professional identities. Work identities are not just shaped by organisations and individuals, but also by work groups (Baruch and Winkelmann-Gleed, 2002) or communities of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991; Brown, 1997; Ibarra, 2003). PES practitioners in particular need to develop multi-dimensional (individual and collective) professional identities to cope with socio-economic and technological change (Kirpal, 2004). This shift is underpinned by the increased importance of communica-tions skills, a willingness to engage in learning and reflexivity, while reflection on experience over time may be particularly significant in the build-up of implicit or tacit knowledge as well as explicit knowledge (Eraut, 2000). At the individual level, emerging new demands and associated skills shifts generate a potential for conflict with traditional work orientations and associated values, norms, work ethics and work identity patterns of employees. One important focus for support are individuals’ strategies for dealing with such conflicts. While any identity formation process has to be realized by the individual, the process of acquiring a work identity also takes place within particular communities where socialization, interaction and learning are key elements. Therefore, supporting networks, of ‘new’ communities of practice (Lave, 1993; Wenger, 1998; Billett, 2007) and feedback from other practitioners are important aspects on which to focus.”

    References

    Baruch, Y. & Winkelmann-Gleed, A. (2002). Multiple commitments: a conceptual framework and empirical investigation in a Community Health Services Trust, British Journal of Management, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 337-357.

    Billett, S. (2007). Exercising self: learning, work and identity. In: Brown, A.; Kirpal, S.; Rauner, F. (eds). Identities at work. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 183-210.

    Brown, A. (1997). A dynamic model of occupational identity formation. In: Brown, A. (ed.) Promoting Vocational Education and Training: European Perspectives. Tampere: University of Tampere, pp. 59-67.

    Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal Learning and Tacit Knowledge in Professional Work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 70, No. 1, pp. 113 – 136.

    Ibarra, H. (2003). Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

    Kaschig, A., Maier, R., Sandow, A., Lazoi, M., Schmidt, A., Barnes, S., Bimrose, J., Brown, A., Bradley, C., Kunzmann, C., Mazarakis, A. (2013). Organisational Learning from the Perspective of Knowledge Maturing Activities. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technol- ogies 6(2), pp. 158 – 176
    Kirpal, S. (2004) “Researching work identities in a European context”, Career Development International, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.199 – 221

    Lave, J. (1993). The Practice of Learning. In S. Chaiklin and J. Lave (eds) Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

    Lave, J. , & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

    Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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    How do apprentices use mobile devices for learning?

    April 9th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    Last autumn, we undertook a survey of how apprentices in the German construction industry use mobile devices. This was undertaken as part of the Learning Layers project. We produced a report on this work in December, when some 581  apprentices had completed the survey. Now we have more than 700 replies. We plan to update our analysis to include those who responded after that date. However a number of people have asked me for access to the report as it is and so I am publishing it on this blog.

    In summary we found

    • 86,7 per cent of apprentices survey have a smartphone, 19,4 per cent a tablet
    • 94 per cent  pay for internet connectivity themselves
    • 55.6 per cent use their smartphone or tablet more than 10 times a day
    • 42.8 per cent say they use their mobile or tablet often or very often for seeking work-related information. However this relates to use outside work time, in the workplace the numbers are much lower.
    • 58% use mobile devices for work-related conversations and 53.2 for work-related information
    • 11.2 per cent say they often or very often use web tools in the workplace
    • 95.9 per cent had heard of WhatsApp, only 16.7 per cent of the BoschApp designed for the construction industry
    • The most frequently used app in the workplace was the camera, with 19.6 per cent using it often or very often
    • 79.3 per cent sought information in text format and 59.2 per cent video.

    Around half would like more information about using web tools for learning in the work process and 115 have left their email addresses for us to send further information

    The survey indicates that the vast majority of German apprentices in the building trades possess devices and the skills to use them. These devices could be used as part of the Learning Layers project. As the cost of tablets and smartphones becomes cheaper, the digital divide does not seem to be a major issue for this group. Smartphones are used for acquiring work-related knowledge, through personal communication or from the internet. These activities are to a large extent carried out in the apprentices’ own time.

    However, the work-related use of digital devices is still uncommon. 20% of the apprentices use their smartphones to make work related photos and such existing practices, could be used by the Learning Layers project for enabling the collective development and sharing of learning materials. The majority of apprentices think that the support offered by mobile devices at the workplace would be useful. The Learning Layers project has the chance to scale up the use of mobile devices by offering apps that are helpful and/or showing the possibilities of making innovative use of existing apps.

    Knowledge about work-related apps is gained to a large extent from personal contacts with other apprentices, colleagues, and trainers.

    You can download the full report here. If you would like access to the full data please email or skype me.

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    What is happening with Learning Analytics?

    April 7th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    I seem to be spending a lot of time looking at the potential of various technologies for supporting learning at work. I am not talking here about Virtual Learning Environments. In the construction industry we are looking at how mobile devices can be used to support learning and knowledge sharing between the different contexts of the vocational school, the industrial training centre and the workplace. And through the Employ-ID project we are looking at how to support continuing professional development for workers in public employment organisations across Europe.

    None of these is particularly easy. Pedagogically we looking at things like co0counselling and at MOOCs for professional development. And another target on our horizon is Learning Analytics. Like so many things in technology advanced learning, Learning Analytics launched with a big fanfare, then seems to haver sunk under the surface. I was excited by the potential of using data to support learning and wanted to get in there. But there seems to be a problem. Like so often, rather than looking to use the power of Learning Analytics to support learners and learning, institutions have hijacked the application as a learning management tool. Top of the list for UK universities at least is how to reduce drop out rates (since this effects their funding). Rather than look at the effectiveness of teaching and learning, they are more interested in the efficiency of their approach (once more to save money).

    So we are back where we have been so many times. We have tools with a great potential to support learners, but institutional managerialism has taken over the agenda. But perhaps I am being overly pessimistic and looking for information in the wrong places. If anyone can point me to examples of how to use Learning Analytics to support real learning please post below.

    NB. Another issue concerning me is how to tell users what data we are collecting and how we are using it. Once more, does anyone have any pointers to good practice in this respect

     

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    CareerHack competition reeps rich harvest

    March 31st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    First the official stuff (from the press release).

    “Talented UK students have won three out of four prizes in a worldwide competition to create a new app to help people develop their career.

    The CareerHack open data contest was launched in November last year by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), and asked developers around the globe to build an app based on the UK Commission’s “LMI for All” open data, which contains information on the UK labour market, including employment, skills and future job market predictions.

    First prize winner for the competition was Tomasz Florczak from Logtomobile in Poland, who won £10,000 for his innovative Career Advisor app, while 16-year-old school student Harry Jones, from Bath, took home a £5,000 prize for his Job Happy entry.

     

    The contest also had a special prize specifically for entrants aged 16-24 in Further Education. In this category 22-year-old IT apprentice Phillip Hardwick won the £5,000 prize for his entry, Career Path. And judges were so impressed with the quality of entrants from the category that they introduced an additional runner-up prize of £2,500, which went to a team effort from students at Barking and Dagenham College in London.

    Competition judge Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Chair of National Careers Council and a Commissioner for UKCES, said:

    “As judges we were all highly impressed at the outstanding contributions made by our winners, and of the talent and ability being displayed by the next generation of up-and-coming developers and programmers.

    “The quality of the submissions was so high we felt the need to introduce an additional prize, but all those that entered should be extremely proud of their efforts.”

    The judging panel was made up of technology experts from Google, Ubuntu and HP, alongside representatives from the UK Commission and John Lewis. Judges made their decision based on how innovative the entry was, how viable it was as a working app, the potential it had for making an impact on society and the overall quality of the packaged app.

    CareerHack judge Matt Brocklehurst, Product Marketing Manager at Google UK said:

    “At Google we’re well aware of the importance of making data open and encouraging young, creative talent. CareerHack was a fantastic example of this and we were very impressed by the high standard of entries from everyone who entered – the fact that three of the four winners are young people at the start of their careers is fantastic news.  We hope these prizes will enable them to get a head start down whichever career path they choose to follow.”

    Fellow CareerHack judge Cristian Parrino, Vice President of Mobile and Online Services at Ubuntu, added:

    “The CareerHack competition demonstrated how an set of open data can be used to cater to the needs of people at different stages of their career paths. It was wonderful to see the different flavours of high quality applications and services built on UKCES’s data.”

    LMI for All has been developed by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, working with a consortium led by the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University and including Pontydysgu, RayCom and Rewired State.”

    Pontydysgu’s bit in all this is managing the technical side. I have to say I was a bit sceptical of producing an APi and then opening it up and encouraging contributions through a competition, but having looked at the videos I am gobsmacked by the inventiveness of teh programmers who entered. We will be looking in more depth at what has been produced. We are also seeking feedback from all those who participated and planning more events later in the year. If you would like to know more (and particularly we would be interested in similar approaches to Open data for Labour Market Information in other countries) please contact me at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

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    User Stories and Persona

    March 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    I worked with Owen Grey on the slides for my presentation on ‘Developing Context and Work Based Mobile Learning in the Construction Sector’ at the Bristol Ideas in Mobile Learning symposium. And I included a series of Persona developed through early work in the Learning Layers project. Owen was not impressed – they are dreadful he said, they do not match reality. He was right and indeed I deleted the slide. But during my presentation, I stated my difficulty with Persona and this led to some discussions (to say nothing of tweets).

    In the past I have been fond of persona as a working methodology. Indeed, I even wrote a guide to how to develop Persona for the EU G8way project. Here is an extract:

    Identifying Personas

    Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behaviour set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way (Wikipedia). Personas can be seen as tool or method for design. Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of users in order to help to guide decisions about a service, product or interaction space for a website.

    A user persona is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a real group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesised from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in one to two page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. Personas identify the user motivations, expectations and goals responsible for driving online behaviour, and bring users to life by giving them names, personalities and often a photo. (Calabria, 2004).

    Personas can be based on research into users and should not be based purely on the creator’s imagination. By feeding in real data, research allows design teams to avoid generating stereotypical users that may bear no relation to the actual user’s reality.

    Tina Calabria (2004) says personas are relatively quick to develop and replace the need to canvass the whole user community and spend months gathering user requirements and help avoid the trap of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use.”

    The problem is that all too often in synthesising data to produce a representation of a real group of users we do end up with a caricature. This is not just because creators rely purely on their imagination and fail to take account of the research. But (and I will talk more about this issue in a future blog post on Transdisciplinary Action Research), all too often the researcher or creator is just too far from the users to understand the meaning of the research. This distance can include class, geography, language (including domain language) culture and perhaps most critically (at least for the Learning layers project) occupation. And thus, rather than building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use, we build software that only a caricature would use.
    That is not to say we should give up on developing Persona. Indeed, a later revision and rewriting of the Learning Layers Perosna was a great improvement. But I think we need to re-examine how we are developing perosna, how we combine them with other tools and approaches and what limitations there may be to their use.

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    Personal Learning Environments Conference 2014

    March 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

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    In case you missed it first time round, the PLE 2014 Conference has issues a second call for contributions. The new deadline for the submission of extended abstracts: April 1, 2014. The theme of the conference is Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working.

    PLE 2014 – the 5th International Conference on Personal Learning Environments – will take place in Tallinn, Estonia, from July 16th to 18th with a preceding “pacific” event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from June 25th to 27th.

    The PLE Conference intends to create an engaging, conversational, and innovative meeting space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences, and research around PLE related themes.

    The conference invites contributions in the format of “academic papers” or “alternative session proposals”. However, authors of both types of contributions will be asked to communicate their research and ideas within session formats that look to avoid the traditional 15 minute presentation.

    The 5th Edition of the PLE conference aims to move beyond discussions about definitions to explore emergent practices for living, learning and working in relation to PLEs and the new understandings and underlying needs that arise around these practices in our contemporary society. Delegates are invited to submit their ideas, research and/or practice under the topics listed below.

    Topics include (but are not limited to)…

    • PLEs for managing life transitions
    • PLE and formal learning contexts: conflicts and confluences
    • PLE theoretical frameworks
    • PLE in early childhood and the family
    • PLE as literacy
    • PLE and portfolios
    • PLE and PLNs (Personal Learning Networks)
    • PLE and creative practice
    • PLEs in formal contexts (Schools, Vocational, Higher Education)
    • PLES in Lifelong Learning
    • The social PLE
    • Personal Learning and assessment
    • Digital footprints and identities
    • Ownership and agency
    • Emergent pedagogies and approaches
    • Innovative work-based learning and practices
    • PLEs and technologies
    • Personal learning and the creative economy
    • Future challenges in the PLE context

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