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

    Yo quiero estudiar espanol

    July 9th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    Last year my new year resolution was to learn Spanish. It didn’t work out. I signed up for 10 private lessons in a local language school, doing one or two one hour lessons a week. Although I got on well with the teacher the course was not for me. It was based on Spanish grammar with weekly progression, regardless of whether or not I had understood the previous weeks lesson. The vocabulary to learn seemed to be an outcome of the grammar lesson to be tackled. I gave up after six lessons.

    This year’s new year resolution is to learn Spanish. I am well motivated, given that I live most of the time in Spain. My goals are to be able to have a conversation with people I meet in the street and to be able to read the local newspaper. This time I have signed up on DuoLingo. And I love it.

    DuoLingo introduces small chicks of grammar and new words at a time. And then you have to practice it endlessly, with short ‘units’ taking around two or three minutes to complete. If you make a mistake you repeat the exercise until you get it right.

    One of the criticisms of DuoLingo is it provides little formal help or explanation of grammar. But I find myself more engaged in trying to work out the grammar rather than just reading about it. DuoLingo provides some gamification. XP points which are collected from the completion of each exercise can be exchanged in the ‘store’. This doesn’t greatly interest me, although I will have a go at the ‘flirting in Spanish’ unit that can be unlocked for 30 ‘lingots’ (the DuoLingo ‘currency’). The second gamification feature is ‘sprints’ – the number of days in a row you achieve your personally set target for learning. This is strangely compelling and certainly supports the idea that learning at least a little every day is central to language learning. The third feature is a leader board. There are five levels of leader boards with 50 leaners on each board and a competition lasting a week with relegation for the bottom ten and promotion for the top ten. It is not so much the competition which interest me (although I am surprised how competitive I am) but the visible presence of other people which is most valuable. We know learning is a social activity. We know the advantages of online learning – particularly for me the ability to go at your own pace, to go back to practice and probably most of all the flexibility in when you learn. But learning on your own can be a lonely and dispiriting experience. Just seeing my 50 co-leaners on the leader board and watching their progression breaks that isolation.

    I will keep you updated on my progress. But now back to my language learning – I am doing a ‘module’ called school at the moment. Yo quiero estudiar espanol.

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    Learning Analytics Cymru

    June 25th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    Jisc report that “Learning Analytics Cymru is generating interest across the world.” The service, which has every higher education institution in Wales signed up and is supported by the Welsh Government, is the focus of a new article for US edtech organisation Educase.

    In the piece Jisc consultant Niall Sclater’s  discusses the Learning Analytics Cymru model and how it provides a blueprint for delivering such services on a national scale.

    By pooling resources, institutions are benefiting from opportunities to share experiences and learn collaboratively in the emerging field of learning analytics.

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    Woodstock for Geeks

    June 17th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    I love the description of big academic conferences as “Woodstock for Geeks.” This is a brilliantly made cartoon by Mike Morrison, not only explaining the problem with poster sessions at conferences but putting forward a simple template for designing research posters as a practical help to overcoming the problem.

    One part of the design idea is to include a QR code providing access to further information, papers and so on. My friends from Kubify have gone one step further producing mini posters linking to ‘stacks’ of interactive and multimedia material.

    Kubify’s Learning Toolbox, they say,  “is an award-winning ePoster platform and is a versatile tool that can also be used to support other event and education activities.

    Learning Toolbox allows people to quickly and easily build their own stacks of interactive and multimedia material and share them with others. These dynamic stacks can be used as ePosters, research calling cards or learning resources.”

    Rich ePoster content

    “A Learning Toolbox ePoster can contain many different rich resources such as videos, images, audio, apps, presentations, twitter and links to interactive online resources.”

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    Skills for Green Jobs

    June 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell


    Addressing climate change and setting economies and societies more firmly onto a path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future is one of the defining challenges of our time. Such shift will entail far-reaching transformations of our economies, changing the ways we consume and produce, shifting energy sources, and leveraging new technologies.

    The European Centre for Vocational Education and Training, Cedefop, has released a new report on Skills for Green Jobs. The report is based on country studies undertaken in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in six countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France and the UK) since 2010.

    A key outcome, says CEDEFOP, is that countries vary in their approach to defining, classifying and collecting data on green jobs and skills. However, they have observed increased efforts are observed on data collection on developments in the ‘green economy’.

    Since 2010, green employment trends have tended to parallel general economic trends. Carbon reduction targets and associated incentives and subsidies have been especially influential on green jobs and skills; other green policies, such as legislation to protect the environment, have also been important.

    Although few countries have a strategy on skills for green jobs, “the updating of qualifications and VET programmes has soared, reflecting increased demand for green jobs and skills since 2010.” Updates mainly concern adding ‘green’ components to existing qualifications/programmes, since changes in skill demands are perceived more pertinent to including new green skills within existing occupations rather than the creation of new green ones.

     

    More information is available in the CEDEFOP magazine promoting learning for work, Skillset and Match.

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    Is manufacturing finished in the UK?

    June 12th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    The Guardian newspaper highlights a report by Cambridge University for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), showing that Britain’s manufacturing sector is much larger than official figures suggest.

    The report argues that official statistics, which estimate that manufacturing output accounts for 9% of national income, are based on “outdated and inaccurate methods of counting” and the figure is much higher.

    The report avoids putting a fresh figure on the proportion of GDP accounted for by the sector, but one of its authors said it was nearer 15% once activities tied to the sale of UK-made products, including engineering support and contracted services, were included.

    “It is essential that policymakers have accurate information on the size of manufacturing sectors in order to develop an internationally competitive industrial strategy,” said Eoin O’Sullivan, one of the report’s authors.

    “In particular, policymakers need to be able to measure manufacturing in a way that better reflects how firms actually organise themselves into value networks.”

    While the Guardian news spin on the report focuses on the threat to the manufacturing by tariffs on exports resulting from a no deal Brexit, the report has wider implications. Manufacturing has long been seen as in decline and is accordingly unattractive as a careers option when compared to the growing service sector. Yet the report shows the continuing importance of occupations like engineering.

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    Cities of Learning

    June 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

    posterPontydysgu’s Spanish organisation is part of the EU CONNECT project. Funded under the Erasmus Plus programme, the CONNECT project aims to leverage the impact of Learning Cities through building urban ecosystems of lifelong learning that harness the assets of European cities and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience for adult learners. The project application says: “In a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, connected learning for all citizens can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity; in particular when integrating both the potential of ubiquitous learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.”

    Pontydysgu have been working on two main things. Firstly, we have been doing a field study on Russafa, an area of Valencia, looking at different opportunities for non formal and informal learning, as well as at formal adult learning provision. One of our main conclusions is the importance of public spaces for learning to take place. To this extent history, culture and context play an important role and not least climate: in Valencia many learning opportunities take place outdoors! Urban design is another key contextual factor.

    Secondly, we have been undertaking a literature review. One of the most interesting documents we have come across is ‘Cities of Learning in the UK’ – a “prospectus” published by the RSA. Cities of Learning (CofL), they say “is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass engagement movement around learning and skills. It seeks to close gaps in opportunity and empower places to promote lifelong learning as core to their cultural and civic identity.”

    “CofL can be a galvanising force for bringing people together with a city’s economic and social aspirations. It can open new sources of city leadership, learning potential and civic energy. Cities can both make visible and amplify nascent systems of learning – involving learners, institutions, employers, civil society and the voluntary and cultural sectors. Learners, especially those from underserved communities, can benefit from much greater access to the wealth of enrichment experiences and opportunities their city offers. By deepening social and civic connections, CofL can be a means to developing a sense of place, identity, mission, ambition – and learning.”

    The Cities of Learning movement started in the USA but the Prospectus has been “adapted for UK.”

    One thing I very much like about the CofL approach is the emphasis on place. As the RSA say “Learning systems – formal, non-formal, informal – are experienced by people in places and form a fundamental part of how they experience life within their neighbourhoods, communities, and towns and cities. They operate outside of the silos of traditional programmes, allowing organisations to work together to focus on shared outcomes rather than individual concerns.”

    They go on to say that CofL “capitalise on crucial intangible factors that drive collective action, such as identity, heritage and community.” Certainly, from our research in Valencia we would concur – although I am not sure that heritage and community are intangible.

    The Prospectus emphasises the widening participation and opportunity gap in society today.

    It stresses the importance on non-cognitive as well as cognitive skills for future employment. Skills and calls for cities to develop learning pathways leading to Open Badges, recognizing learning or formal and informal learning experiences. Learning networks would incorporate a skills spine using both OECD core skills and competences as well as more locally developed learning needs. The report points to different Interest driven and destination driven learning pathways – destination driven meaning learning for employment. This seems to us too binary a division. Interest driven learning can often lead to skills for employment and vice versa. In reality people often cross over between different pathways.

    Dense networks and relationships are seen to be central to the development of CofL with “anchor organisations” and “influential change makers” acting as “network hubs and stewards.” Three key factors are identified for developing CofL initiatives – leadership, networks and platform.

    Although stressing the importance of networks and of community organisations, the examples provided seem to be driven by city governments. And the report also provides the example of a large employers overhauling their recruitment policy as driving change through their supply network, but there is no discussion of the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises who provide the majority of employment in cities like Valencia.

    Cities are of course important but I do not see why the approach to learning in place based networks should not also include more dispersed population areas, including rural areas and towns in the south Wales valleys with different population structures.

    One thing definitely welcome is that the technology plays an enabling function, supporting learning. Technology Enhanced Learning may have a weak link to place, but place is key to practice in learning.

    Less welcome is the unnecessary emphasis on CofL as disruptive or as they call it a “quiet disruption.” Neither do I see Open Badges as a “disruption.” I can only see CofL and Open Badges as developing and extending traditional ideas of adult education.

    The report also claims that CoFL challenges the fragmented rigid and centralised nature of public services. Certainly, education services have become fragmented but the major challenge is not that but is government austerity policies which have decimated adult education provision.

    However, despite this, City of Learning is an exciting vision, and one I think which could spread beyond the RSA sponsored experiments and networks.

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