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

    A good day for English education?

    July 15th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    govetweet

    The departure of Michael Gove as English education minister will be greeted with celebration and relief by most teachers and educationalists in the UK. But although his pronouncements and policies appeared as arrogant, narrow minded, reactionary and sometimes just bizarre, there was a direction and theme which underpinned such policies: privatisation. Gove and his policy advisers, not to mention friends and lobbyists, wanted to privatise schools in the UK. In a time when profits are hard to come by, public services represent a huge untapped market for capital. And the removal of Gove alone does not mean that the dream of giving education to the private sector has gone away.

    Nicky Morgan will probably be less abrasive in pursuing such a dream. But she also comes from the right wing of the conservative party. As the Guardian reports:

    Morgan, a trustee of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, voted against same-sex marriage partly because she could not reconcile it with her faith. This is likely to be the reason that Cameron split the women and equalities brief, handing the latter to Sajid Javid, the culture secretary, and leading to accusations that she was the “minister for straight women”.

    She was privately educated at a girls’ day school before reading law at Oxford University and going on to become a corporate lawyer.

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    Developing a Work Based, Mobile Personal Learning Environment

    July 6th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    As regular readers will know, for a long time I have been fascinated by the potential of mobile technologies for developing work based learning and work based Personal Learning environments. Mobile technologies can allow learning to take place directly in the workplace. Learning can be recorded and for that matter reflection on learning take place as a direct part of the work process. In such a way the workplace becomes part of the Personal Learning Environment and conversely the PLE becomes part of the work process. At the same time, such an approach can bring together both formal and informal learning. Through sharing learning processes and outcomes, learners themselves can contribute to a growing ‘store; of learning materials.

    It hasn’t happened yet and it is worth thinking about why. One reason maybe that only recently has seen the spread of sufficiently powerful mobile devices and applications. Another is the suspicion of employers about the uses of such devices in the workplace. Most importantly may be the failure to develop pedagogic approaches for mobile learning. Most developments to date have essentially been about consumption of learning materials, albeit sometimes in innovative ways. And much of the publicity or mobile learning has emphasised consumption of short episodes of learning away from the workplace – or for that matter the classroom (for some reason we will all be learning on the bus or the train on our way home from work in the future or so the vendors say).

    That is not to say there have not been attempts to develop more radical thinking. Members of the London Mobile Learning Group have, like others developed new ideas for work based mobile learning pedagogy. Yet still, as far as I can see, there have been few attempts to implement such ideas at any scale.

    It is for these reasons that I am so interested in the development of the Learning Toolbox, initially targeted at apprentices in the construction industry, as part of the EU funded Learning layers project. Perhaps the biggest thing I have leaned from this work (apart from how difficult it is) is the need for co-development processes with end users and stakeholders in the industry. The new paper we have written for the PLE2014 conference documents the research we have undertaken and the co-development process, as well as our understanding of the issues around context and how to address such issues.

    You can download the paper here. As always any and all feedback is very welcome.

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    Would you like to work for Pontydysgu?

    June 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    Pontydysgu’s hiring! If you are interested please get in touch. And please pass on to anyone you think might be interested.

    An internship with a difference!

    Have an adventure – go to Bremen in Germany to work with the team developing tools for the EU Learning Layers project www.learning-layers.eu. There is an open design library – http://learning-layers.eu/open-libraries/ – showcasing the prototypes so far which you can access via the website. The EU team operate in English, are very friendly and you will work with other technologists, researchers and other project team members. You will be collaborating closely with Bau ABC, a construction industry training centre that supports apprentices in the building trades.

    Pontydysgu has its head office in Wales UK but also has an office in Bremen, Germany. Graham Attwell, the technical lead person who works out of Bremen will:

    • Put you on a 4 week intensive  German course (you will not need to be fluent, just learn enough to get by and order a beer)
    • Help you arrange accommodation
    • Pay you 1200 Euros a month during the internship

    What do you need?

    • To start ASAP (easiest to get on language course run in August  2014)
    • Knowledge of HTML 5, CSS3, Content Mangements Systems (WordPress in particular including PHP and MySQL) and an interest in mobile app development (android and/or iOS) and work based learning (or interest in learning these skills)
    • Be flexible and willing to work to tight deadlines
    • Be willing to travel to 3 day project meetings throughout Europe
    • Be prepared to stay for a year
    • Be a good communicator with all kinds of people
    • A ‘can do’ attitude

    What will you get out of it?

    • Excellent experience on your CV in terms of your technical skills
    • Cross-cultural collaborative experience (a skill potential employers are keen on)
    • Experience of living abroad for a year (or if you already live in Germany, experience of working with a UK company)
    • Experience working with a wide range of users – apprentices, meisters, academics, researchers, technologists

    Interested? Email Graham Attwell (graham10 [at] mac [dot] com) for further information, telling him in no more than 300 words about why you would be ideal for this opportunity.

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    Radioactive goodness

    June 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    http://radioactive101.eu/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/RadioactiveLogo.jpg“RadioActive101 is an innovative pan-European educational intervention, using internet radio and also social media to promote inclusion, informal learning, employability and active citizenship in an original and exciting way.”

    That is the official project blurb for Radioactive which is funded by The European Commission. But it doesn’t really tell the full story. Radioactive is working with different groups of people, from youth clubs, organisations of unemployed adults etc. to develop and produce internet radio programmes.  Hopefully along the way they are having lots of fun. And we know they are learning many different skills – including designi9ng content, interviewing, presenting, directing, production as well as technical skills and skills in post production. Radioactive has developed a set of badges, using the Mozilla badges schema.

    For me the attraction is that learning is taking place in an informal setting. Learning  by doing and learning through using social media. Anyway you can judge for yourself. This week there are three programmes being broadcast.

    We have a show going out from Germany later this evening:
    http://de.radioactive101.eu/news/

    Tomorrow from Portugal Wednesday, 25, at 4pm (CEST) with their newest partner, EntrEscolhas Geração D’Ouro E5G.
    Listen on RadioActive101, on the 25th, at 4 pm,
    http://pt.radioactive101.eu/2014/06/23/primeira-emissao-do-entrescolhas-geracao-douro-e5g/

    And on Friday sees the second airing of a really interesting show from the UK on ‘Body Image, Media and Music’ http://uk2.radioactive101.eu/event/details/on-air-20th-june-body-image-and-the-media/

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    Developing the capacity to mdoernise workplace learning

    June 21st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    I like Jane Hart’s work on learning in organisations. And I like this presentation on 20 small changes to modernise the workplace learning experience. However, I am not so sure that the changes she advocates are so small. True each one on its own may represent just a small step forwards. But to be effective the changes need to be taken together. And that requires a big change on organisational practice. Many, if not most, organisations, especially Small and Medium Enterprises do not have the capacity to take these steps. That is why in the Learning Layers project we see capacity building as central to developing technology supported informal learning in SMEs. Capacity involves the confidence and competence of trainers and others who support learning, the understanding and support of managers, the physical infrastructure and perhaps most critically the culture of organisations.
    We are working to produce an ‘e-learning readiness tool’ to help organisations assess where they are in termsn of capacity and plan the steps they need to take in order to develop tehir capacity. I will publish a draft of the tool in the next few weeks if anyone is interested.

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    Personal Learning Environments, Self Directed Learning and Context

    June 15th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

    Ten days ago I had an email from Alexander Mikroyannidis from the UK Open University. “Together with some colleagues from the EU project ROLE (http://www.role-project.eu)” he said, “I’m preparing a book to be published by Springer. It will be entitled “Personal Learning Environments in Practice” and it will present the results of applying PLEs in different test-beds in the project.

    For each chapter, we have invited an external expert to provide a 2-page commentary that will also be published in the book. Would you be available to write such a commentary for the chapter that describes the vision of the project?”

    How could I refuse? And here is my contribution:

    Research and development in learning technologies is a fast moving field.  Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology community but by the way people (and not just students) are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.

    Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning. Such trends became more pronounced with the emergence of Web 2.0 and social software. Social networking applications in particular, allowed the development of personal learning networks. Rather than go to the institutionally sanctioned LMS or VLE, learners communicated through Facebook or Whats App. PLNs were not longer limited to class or course cohorts but encompassed wider social and learning networks. Wikipedia has emerged as a major open resource for learning.

    As mobile technologies have become increasingly powerful and, at least in some countries, internet access has become increasingly ubiquitous, learners use their own devices for learning and are not confined to institutional facilities. Regardless of trends in educational technology theory and research, learners are developing and using their own Personal Learning Environments.

    At the same time, the ongoing rapid developments in technologies are changing forms of knowledge development and leading to pressures for lifelong learning. Universities and educational institutions can no longer preserve a monopoly on knowledge. Notwithstanding their continuing hold on accreditation, institutions are no longer the only providers of learning, a move seen in the heart-searching by universities as to their mission and role.

    Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.

    Learning is becoming multi-episodic, with people moving in and out of courses and programmes. More importantly the forms and sources of learning are increasingly varied with people combining participation in face-to-face courses, online and blended learning programmes and self directed and peer supported learning using different internet technologies.

    These changes are reflected in discussion over pedagogy and digital literacies. It is no longer enough to be computer literate. Learners need to be able to direct and manage their own learning, formal and informal, regardless of form and source. In conjunction with More Knowledge Others (Vygotsky, 1978) they need to scaffold their own learning and to develop a personal knowledge base. At the same time as the dominance of official accreditation wanes, they need to be able to record and present their learning achievement. Personal Learning Environments are merely tools to allow this to happen.

    All this leads to the issue of the role of educational technology researchers and developers. In research terms we need to understand more not just about how people use technology or learning but how they construct a personal knowledge base, how they access different resources for learning, including people and how knowledge is exchanged and developed.

    At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes. Not all workplaces or for that matter communities offer a rich environment or learning. Yet there is vast untapped potential in such environments, particularly for the development and sharing of the tacit knowledge and work process knowledge required in many tasks and occupations. PLE tools can help people learning in formal and informal contexts, scaffold their learning and develop a personal learning knowledge base or portfolio.

    At both pedagogic and technical levels, context provides a major challenge. Whilst mobile technologies recognise the context of place (through GPS), other and perhaps more important aspects of context are less well supported. This includes time – how is what I learned at one time linked to something I learned later? It includes purpose – why am I trying to learn something? It includes the physical environment around me, including people. And of course it includes the social and semantic links between places, environments, people and objects.

    The challenge is to develop flexible applications and tools to enhance peoples’ PLEs and which can recognise context, can support people in scaffolding their learning and develop their own Personal Learning Networks and enhance their ability to direct their own learning and the learning of their peers.

    Two major European funded projects, ROLE and Learning Layers are attempting to develop such applications. They both have the potential to make major inroads into the challenges outlined in this short paper.

    Reference

    Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

     

     

     

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