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

    The challenge for Learning Analytics: Sense making

    January 28th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    https://sylviamoessinger.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/learninganalytics_chalkboard.jpg

    Image: Educause

    Its true Twitter can be a distraction. But it is an unparalleled  resource for new ideas and learning about things you didn’t know you wanted to learn about. This morning my attention was drawn by a Tweet linking to a interview in Times Higher Education with Todd Rose entitled “taking on the ‘averagarians’.” Todd Rose believes that “more sophisticated examples of “averagarian” fallacies – making decisions about individuals on the basis of what an idealised average person would do – are causing havoc all round.” The article suggests that this applies to higher education giving the example that “Universities assume that an average student should learn a certain amount of information in a certain amount of time. Those who are much quicker than average on 95 per cent of their modules and slower than average on 5 per cent may struggle to get a degree.”

    It seems to me that this is one of the problems with Data Analytics. It may or may not matter that an individual is doing better or worse than the average in a class or that they spend more or less time reading or even worse logged on to the campus VLE. Its not that this data isn’t potentially useful but it is what sense to make of it. I’m currently editing a paper for submission to the workshop on Learning Analytics for Workplace and Professional Learning (LA for Work) at Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference (LAK 2016) in April (I will post a copy of the paper here on Sunday). And my colleague Andreas Schmidt has contributed what I think is an important paragraph:

    Supporting the learning of individuals with learning analytics is not just as designers of learning solutions how to present dashboards, visualizations and other forms of data representation. The biggest challenge of workplace learning analytics (but also learning analytics in general) is to support learners in making sense of the data analysis:

    • What does an indicator or a visualization tell about how to improve learning?
    • What are the limitations of such indicators?
    • How can we move more towards evidence-based interventions

    And this is not just a individual task; it requires collaborative reflection and learning processes. The knowledge of how to use learning analytics results for improving learning also needs to evolve through a knowledge maturing process. This corresponds to Argyris & Schön’s double loop learning. Otherwise, if learning analytics is perceived as a top-down approach pushed towards the learner, it will suffer from the same problems as performance management. These pre-defined indicators (through their selection, computation, and visualization) implement a certain preconception which is not evaluated on a continuous basis by those involved in the process. Misinterpretations and a misled confidence in numbers can disempower learners and lead to an overall rejection of analytics-driven approaches.

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    DJ showdown: older DJs and today’s crop of Turntablists trade blows

    January 28th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    Final-Logo-RadioactiveAll too often projects fail to prove sustainable. Quite simply without external funding the products and practices developed do not survive. But sometimes they take off and resonate in new ways even without a financial stimulus. So it is with RadioActive. RadioActive was a project funded under the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning project to develop the use of internet radio with unemployed people and socially disadvantaged groups. And although the funding finished over a year ago, projects partners in three countries – Germany, Portugal and the Uk are still producing radio programmes.

    Today is London’s turn. At 1400 UK time, 1500 CET the Univeristy of East London present a show entitled “DJ showdown: older DJs and today’s crop of Turntablists trade blows.” Is DJing an art form? With digital tech so easily available and virtually unlimited access to MP3s via a laptop, is everyone now a DJ? And if so does that mean older people who learnt their craft through hard graft have wasted their time? Don’t all the years of physically carrying lbs of vinyl to clubs and then actually mixing records live amount to something? We examine what does it mean to be a DJ in 2016 and how it has changed over the last three decades.

    We compare the different styles of mixing music ranging from Geoff Humphries who DJ’d in the house music scene of Ibiza, Rhythm Vandals (mostly playing the clubs in Leeds in the 90s) right up to newest wave of teenage Turntablists where Abrakadaniel beat mixes for us. Tracks include the Sex Pistols, Madonna/Abba, the late Lemmy from Motörhead through to Soulwax. What influence have new techniques and digital accuracy that take account of key and time signatures actually had on mixing? We hear the likes of Titancube, RiFF RAFF, Skrillex, Datsik, Brillz & LAXX and more.

    You can listen live at http://listenlive.radioactive101.eu/ . And if you can’t tune in live catch up afterwards with the recording of this and other programmes at http://uk2.radioactive101.eu/broadcast/

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    Children in UK spend more time on the internet that in front of TV

    January 27th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    The Guardian newspaper reported yesterday on a survey finding that for the first time children in the UK are spending more time on the internet than in front of the TV.

    Research firm Childwise found that on average five- to 15-year-olds were spending three hours a day using the internet, compared to 2.1 hours watching TV.

    While time spent watching television has been in decline for some years, time online has seen a huge surge according to the research, up 50% from two hours last year.

    However, there are  some problems with the survey results. The research, which is based on an online survey of more than 2,000 children, did not distinguish between TV-like services on the internet, such as Netflix and iPlayer, and other forms of browsing such as Facebook, meaning it is unclear whether children are merely watching shows in different ways.

    However, says the Guardian “the report says that YouTube has taken “centre stage in children’s lives” with half accessing it every day and almost all using it at least occasionally.

    The majority of children who use YouTube visit the site to access music videos (58%), while around half watch “funny content” and a third say they watch gaming content, vlogs, TV programmes or “how to” videos.”

    The survey also reported that time spent reading books for pleasure has declined from an hour a day on average in 2012 to just over half an hour on average this year. However, once more this does not include time reading books on computers.

    I am not sure that raw figures of time spent watching TV versus time spent on the internet, be it computers, tablets or mobiles is the real story, although it might be of concern to advertising executives. More interesting would be to know more about patterns of use of computers, what levels of interaction there are with others and the degree to which computers are used actively or creatively compared to the passive entertainment which marked most television viewing.

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    What is the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities?

    January 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    I like Cristina Costa’s blog, “Is technology changing learning habit(u)s?” (and not only because she cited me). Cristina says how her study on students’ digital practices shows how students’ learning habitus (their histories/experiences with education) have not changed that much in the formal setting, even when they are presented with new pedagogical approaches. It is not so much an issue of their digital competence but an issue that the informal uses of technology do not simply transfer into formal contexts.

    Students, she says, “have a feeling for the ‘academic game’ and do their best to adjust to the field’s rules in order to succeed in it.” It seems to me their was always something of a game in academia and especially in undergraduate education. Even in the early 1970s we had well developed strategies for getting through exams (for instance I undertook a rather more in depth study of past exam questions than I did of the overall curriculum and it worked well for me).

    But there are more profound contradictions in today’s higher education system. On the one hand universities are supposed to be about education and learning – as expressed through Humboldt’s idea of Allgemeine Bildung—or well-rounded education—to ensure that each person might seek to realize the human potentialities that he possessed as a unique individual or more modern appeals for a broad liberal education (unless such an education can be seen as improving their employability). On the other hand in the UK students are paying substantial fees for a system designed to provide them with a qualification to realise the so called graduate wage premium in the world of work. In such a situation it is little wonder that students are reluctant to participate in the innovative pedagogies – described by Cristina as  Freirean and Deweyan type of pedagogical approaches – designed for them to explore ideas and knowledge – quite simply they want the knowledge and skills they need to pass the exams and thus justify the expenditure. In this situation students will readily adopt productivity apps – office tools, citation databases, revision apps etc – and of course will use technology for social purposes and entertainment. But I am afraid asking them to use social software for learning within the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities may be going to far.

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    Yishay Mor talks about Design Patterns

    January 14th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    At Online Educa Berlin 2015, I had the opportunity to interview Yishay Mor (see podcast below). I was keen to talk to him as he has been one of the people pushing the idea of Design Patterns in technology enhanced learning. And in both the two EU research projects in which I am involved, EmployID and Learning Layers, we are adopting patterns as a design tool or methodology. Both projects from their inception were committed to user centred design. But that left major issues of how to do it. It is not just a matter of getting a group of potential users together and talking with them. We need a language to structure conversations and a language which can describe practice. We have experimented with Personas which I suppose can be described as ideal types. However, all too often the persona ceased to correspond to any reality – or contained a mix of practices from multiple people – rendering them extremely problematic for design purposes.

    Design narratives, design patterns and design scenarios seem to offer a potentially richer process for designing for learning, furthermore they may have considerable value in describing innovations in technology. Despite releasing applications as open source, they fail to be picked up on – especially for occupational learning, as the potential uses are opaque.

    The following notes are taken from Yishay Mor and Steven Warburton’s paper, ‘Assessing the value of design narratives, patterns and scenarios in scaffolding co-design processes in the domain of technology enhanced learning.

    Design narratives provide an account of the history and evolution of a design over time, including the research context, the tools and activities designed, and the results of users’ interactions with these

    Design narratives offer thick descriptions of innovations, but they are often too specific to lend themselves to efficient transfer to novel challenges. Design patterns fill this gap by offering a “grounded abstraction” of design knowledge distilled from design narratives. Design patterns originate in the work of Christopher Alexander and his colleagues in the theory of architecture (Alexander, 1977).

    A design pattern describes a recurring problem, or design challenge, the characteristics of the context in which it occurs, and a possible method of solution. Patterns are organized into coherent systems called pattern languages where patterns are related to each other. The core of a design pattern can be seen as a local functional statement: “for problem P, under circumstances C, solution S has been known to work.

    There are many different ways of describing patterns. In EmployID, reflecting its status as a research project we have adopted the following template:

    Problem: What is the learning problem that has been addressed? This encompasses a sufficiently generalized version of a learning scenario

    Analysis: Interpretation of the problem from a theory perspective

    Context: What are the relevant contextual factors that determine if the proposed solution is actually (and maybe allegedly) successfully applicable?

    Solution: What is the (socio-)technical solution?

    Evidence: Accumulated evidence that the solution is a solution to the problem when the contextual conditions are met, e.g., examples in a specific context, but also feedback from external stakeholders that problem-solution pairs appear applicable in other contexts.

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    PLE Special Edition

    January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

    OK – the ed-tech world moves on to its latest craze. But Personal Learning Environments have not gone away as the new call for papers for the PLE Conference 2015 (Special Edition) makes clear:

    Since the emergence of the term Personal Learning Environments (PLE) in the scientific discussion around the year 2004 in Oxford, PLE have become a field of research that has opened up great opportunities for reflection on almost all important aspects of education and learning with technology at all levels; from the study and development of tools, interaction processes among participants, cognitive mechanisms of individual learning, learning in groups and networked learning; life long learning; personal learning networks; even organizational learning environments, and so on.

    In these years, the discussion has also transcended the traditional boundaries of academia and has been amplified in both the forms and contexts in which it takes place. The communities created around the concept and practices of PLE, have been responsive not only in the reflections on the realities concerning to learning, but also to the way in which these reflections are made.

    Therefore, in this particular special issue supported by the PLE Conference community and its reflections during 2015, we would like to have a compilation of the current state of the field, papers that allow readers to have a vision of what are the most topical ideas and practices around the PLE nowadays, but with a clear vision of where the analysis is headed.

    Find the full details here.

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