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
September 21st, 2016 by Graham Attwell
Part four of the series on working places as learning spaces focuses on the internet. Giving this just one photo would not really work so I have indulged in three.
Dave White distinguishes between digital visitors and digital residents in their use of the internet. “When in Visitor mode, individuals decide on the task they wish to undertake. For example, discovering a particular piece of information online, completing the task and then going offline or moving on to another task. When in Resident mode the individual is going online to connect to, or to be with, other people. This mode is about social presence.”
I am a digital resident. Increasingly my online world and off line world are intertwined and I guess much of my learning takes place on the Internet. I have combined using different tools to form a Personal Learning Environment, although it is neither particularly stable or efficient. I use a wide range of different applications and tools, depending on what I am doing.
Probably most important are applications for communications. For one to one communication my app of choice is Skype. Skype has one big advantage – almost everyone I know has a Skype address and it seems to work on most platforms. OK,the video and audio quality are not great. But it is simple and it just works. With close friends and colleagues, I tend to use it like a conversation in an office, stopping to say good morning, to talk during breaks, to meet to discuss particular problems and issues. One curious thing I have noticed is that with some people I tend to mainly use text and with others video although I have no real idea why. I guess these just become habits.
I have missed feelings about online meetings. For sure they allow people to meet from all over the world without the time and cost of travel. But sometimes I think just because they are cheap and easy, we hold more meetings than we necessarily need. And online meetings are very different from face to face meetings. Firstly they lack the many visual cues we use in face to face conversations. And there is a tendency for discussions to go round and round with little movement towards closure. Remaining focused on the screen can get very tiring – an online meeting room lacks the visual distractions of the physical environment. I think those distractions are necessary for longer meetings. Preparation and moderation are even more important in online meetings than face to face if meetings are to be open and participative and arrive at conclusions, whether shared or not.
Twitter is my favourite social networking tool. Although it can take a bit of time curating the right people to follow (and unfollow), Twitter offers a wealth of learning. Shout-outs to followers with particular queries often elect helpful responses. More importantly I get links to ideas, to blogs, to papers, to people I would be never have heard about otherwise. The recent popularity of simultaneous tweet-meets usually lasting something like one hour in the evening and focused around responses and discussions of four or five key questions, have opened up a new self organised learning space.
For access to academic papers I am almost completely reliant on the internet. Whilst I miss the atmosphere of the library, it is much more convenient and offers a wider range of publications. However, far too many papers and publications are still hidden behind publisher pay walls and too expensive for those who do not have a university library affiliation.
Finally a word about books. Like many of us, I guess, a few years ago I was sold on book readers and online publications. But, similarly to many others if the market data is to be believed, I have slowly drifted back to paper publications. True, electronic books take up less storage space. They are also cheaper. But I don’t think they offer such as attractive learning space as paper publications. It will be interesting to see how in the future we integrate our physical world including artefacts like books with the digital world.
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September 19th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
Here is part 3 of this part 5 series.
These pictures was taken at the 2016 Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference in Barcelona, with some 3200 delegates. The EU Learning Layers project had a stand at the conference, organised a bar camp and presented a paper and two posters.
In truth the stand is not a great learning space design. We only had two chairs and only really many visitors in conference coffee breaks and at lunch. But one thing about running an exhibition stand is you never know what people are going to be interested in or what they will ask. In a big project like Learning layers which has some 20 partners and is organised in different work teams developing different applications to support informal learning, it means you have to appreciate and understand the work of others in order to explain it to visitors. And with the barcamp and posters sessions we developed spaces for informal learning within the conference. The bar camp – an unconference session – allowed participants to put forward their own ideas for discussions and exploration in a series of round tables. Participants were active and motivated, unlike the usually passive engagement in formal paper sessions at conferences. I have little experience in medical education. Most of the participants were practitioners in medical education, with many ideas to learn from. I do not really understand why more such sessions are not organised in major conferences. As an aside, conference venues are seldom designed as learning spaces. Rows of chairs facing a presenter at the front hardly inspires interaction and social learning.
I always like the idea of poster sessions. But with some 600 posters at AMEE and proposers given only three minutes to present their papers it really failed to work as a learning space. We are working at the moment on the idea of using technology to enhance the poster sessions at next year’s conference.
But for me the real learning at the conference was from the Learning Layers team. There were eight of us and we rotated in pairs on the exhibition stand. Like many of the big European research projects, Learning Layers in an interdisciplinary project. Partners include social scientists, pedagogists, business science specialists, designers and technical developers. We can learn from each other and from people with a different subject specialism from our own. This happens to an extent in formal project meetings but the time spent on the stand allowed more in depth conversations. And in the course of the three days spent together we bonded as a team.
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September 19th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
There is a small but growing community emerging in Europe around the potential and use of Learning analytics in the workplace. And there are still places available for a free workshop entitled ‘Learning Analytics for Workplace and Professional Learning’ on Friday 23 September in Leeds in the UK.
The workshop is being organised around two main activities.During the morning all the participants will shortly present their research work or the research questions they are working on. Thus, we can find common problems, synergies and potential collaborations in future projects. During the afternoon we can work on smaller groups to discuss some community building mechanisms: follow-up workshops (maybe at LAK’17), potential grant applications, creation of an on-line community, collaboration in current or future projects, collaboration with other researchers or research communities.
More information can be found in this PDF document. And to register, please send an email to: Tamsin Treasure-Jones (t [dot] treasure-jones [at] leeds [dot] ac [dot] uk)
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September 16th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
Below is part two of my series on Working Places and Learning Spaces. Meanwhile Angela Rees, Steve Wheeler and Colin Milligan have both produced their own photos and reflections on their learning spaces. Feel free to join in. You can find the original idea for the meme here.
With new technologies, many conversations take place today over the internet. And those technologies help us develop and curate Personal Learning Networks. Yet face to face conversations can be more animated informal and allow wider ranging conversations. It is notable that many people say the best learning at conferences and meetings take place in the coffee breaks and in the evenings.
Sometimes I contact people in advance to meet up for a chat. Other times such meetings happen by chance. Sometimes meetings are with friends I have met and worked with before, sometimes with more distant contacts. And sometimes they are with friends and family.
This picture is of me with Jose Luis Garcia, a professor from the Complutense University of Madrid. I have worked with him on projects in the past, he is my girlfriends father and a good friend. The working space was simply my living room in Valencia. We had dinner together and afterwards were talking. I told him I was interested in learning spaces and explained the background to the Institute of Education’s project which kicked off a wide ranging discussion which went on late into the night. He told me about his interest in the idea of ‘mobilities’ which he saw as similar to spaces.
I wrote a series of notes – on the back of an envelope. Technology often gets in the way of conversations like this –the only problem with hand written notes being my terrible handwriting.
Learning like this happens in informal spaces – bars, restaurants, coffee houses and so on. With one friend and colleague we have on a number of occasions organised walks. We walk and talk – stop at a bar and make notes and then walk and talk again. But more often such conversations are more serendipitous than planned.
The photo is a selfie. There was no-one else present to take the photo and I wanted both of us in that. The photo does not show much of the space we are in – and that is the point –it really does not matter as long as we are have a space in which we are both comfortable.
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September 14th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
Here is the first of the series on working places as learning spaces, produced for the Institute of Education in London as a contribution to the Lifelong Learning Hub (ASEM LLL Hub) international network.
I work for a small research and development company called Pontydysgu, based in Pontypridd in Wales. We have something like 14 employees, most of us part time, and living in Wales, England, Germany and Spain. Although we have two offices, in Pontypridd and in Bremen, Germany, most of us work from home. We make extensive use of technologies for day to day communication (that will be the subject of another picture).
I have two of what the Germans call ‘home offices’ in my two homes in Spain and Germany. I suppose these are the nearest I have to a ‘traditional’ working space.
The offices serve a number of purposes. One of the big advantages of working from home is that it does not take long to get to work (in one of my previous jobs I was travelling nearly three hours every day, to and from my official workplace). But there are downsides. One is that I am not careful I can end up working very long hours – another is that it is hard to get away from the work. At least with an office it is possible to escape form the clutter of work instruments and tools – papers, files, computer equipment, printers, stationary and so on. Secondly, the office provides a place to flee to avoid disturbing other people in my flat.
Neither office is really ideal – nor am I quite sure what an ideal office would look like. Certainly in summer both suffer from a surfeit of sunlight! But at least in my larger Bremen office, I have an old sofa and an Ikea chair for when I get fed up at sitting at the desk.
The big problem with an office I think – and this applies just as much if not more to working in an institutional environment – is social isolation. I used to work in an institution in the university in Bremen. It was a modern architect designed, environmentally friendly building. It certainly was not the breeze blog and concrete UK researchers have had to get used to. And in terms of learning probably one of the worst places I have worked. The blinds went up and down automatically according the not so intelligent decisions of the central computer. Lights were automatic too. In evenings if you did not move enough you were plunged into darkness. But worst was that although everyone had =very nice offices, the building had been designed without any social spaces (apart from two small kitchens). And it is in those (informal) social spaces where learning takes place.
There are similar downsides to working at home despite the ease of telecommunications. But I frequently move around the flat to different rooms and there is usually some kind of everyday social interaction, certainly with the environment, often with other people. Indeed, I noticed that in both of my offices I have a large computer screen but I rarely plug them in, preferring instead the mobility of a 11inch laptop. I have never really got used to playing music while I work (although I wish I had). But frequent social interaction somehow makes a working place more human and that interaction in turn helps social learning in one way or another. I think it is connectivity – being connected from the world of research and development to the wider world outside us.
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September 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell
At the 2015 European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), I attended an interesting symposium led by Natasha Kersch and Karen Evans from the Institute of Education in London on learning spaces. I promised to contribute some pictures and ideas to the project. Predictably perhaps, I forgot, but due to their very welcome persistence have finally got my act together. I find the whole area fascinating: my working spaces have changed so much over the years. I am not quite sure I am providing what they want – instead of a few lines I think I am telling a story and instead of one photo have taken the indulgence of providing two for most of those short stories. Anyway below is the invite and scoping of the task. Over the next few days I will post my photos and stories on this biog.
We would be very grateful if you could take part in ASEM ‘Working places as learning spaces’ research. Established in 2005 by the intergovernmental Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Lifelong Learning Hub (ASEM LLL Hub) is an international network of higher education institutions and educational policymakers from these two world regions. Its members, as institutions and individuals, work and learn together towards three aims: to achieve excellence in comparative research on lifelong learning; to offer research-based education policy recommendations; and to develop mutual understanding between Asia and Europe. The ASEM LLL Hub provides a platform for dialogue between researchers and policymakers, thereby contributing to evidence-based educational reform and innovation.
We are currently undertaking research on ‘workplace spaces as learning spaces’, specifically focusing on the ways people learn at work through different kinds of spaces: physical, virtual etc. As part of this process we are hoping to interview a small number of professionals involved with VET/adult education/ICT, specifically asking them to talk about their perceptions of ‘learning spaces’ at work (i.e. how people view their learning spaces at work). We would be most grateful if you could talk to us about your experiences of “learning spaces’ within your own professional practices . The interview will take around 30-40 min. As part of this research, we would also be really grateful if you could send us some photos that capture the idea of learning spaces that are important for you in your work and work practices (with a couple of lines of explanation for each picture). Those could relate to a variety of spaces: areas of your office, your desk, meeting room, , virtual space at your computer, cafeteria, etc.
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