Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Managing meetings

May 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

There’s been a bit of a debate in social media on how to run successful meetings. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon seems to have kicked it off. According to the Guardian newspaper “Bezos told the audience at the George W Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, he has banned the PowerPoint presentations that dominate most commercial meetings. Instead, some poor devil must spend a week or more preparing “a six-page, narratively structured memo” full of “real sentences” rather than bullet points. Everyone else must then spend the first half-hour of the meeting silently – and publicly – pondering it, before moving on to a debate. Bezos calls this “a kind of study hall””

The Guardian went on to document a number of fairly bizarre ideas for how to make meetings more productive. One thing everyone seems to agree on is we spend too much time in meetings. In my view the real problem is online meetings. Online has simply made meetings too easy. At the same time, it has cut down on the need for so many face to face meetings – although some may not think that is much of an advantage.

I think there are a number of rules – for both face to face and online meetings. None are particularly new or profound. The first is to prepare meetings well. That means providing an agenda in advance – and anything people need to read or know before the meeting. The second and perhaps most important is have an active facilitator who chairs the meeting. The facilitator needs to keep things moving, make sure people stick to agreed timings, try to encourage constructive engagement and make sure everyone has a chance to contribute and to actively summarise discussions.

This is especially so with online meetings which lack the physical cues we rely on in face to face encounters. In face to face meetings we often turn up early (for the coffee) and have a chance to chat with other participants. That social action is critical but is hard (but not impossible) to reproduce on line. Closure is a particularly tricky issue online, with discussions having a horrible tendency to meander around in circles.

Finally – and this is what I am not so good at – make sure someone is keeping good notes of the meeting and try to get the conclusions out before everyone forgets what the discussion was about.

One of the problems is that there is little if any recognition of how important the facilitator is and subsequently few opportunities for training. There is often training in how to use a piece of technology, a community platform, a learning platform or an online meeting application. There is seldom training in how to facilitate its effective use in practice.

The Guardian reports Professor André Spicer from Cass Business School at City, University of London as saying: “The death of the long lunch is a tragedy for businesses.” “Many organisations had lunch together in cafeterias where everyone stopped and ate together and talked.” We lack long lunches together on line and for that matter coffee breaks. We need to find new ways of encouraging the social interactions which are so important for sharing knowledge and developing networks.

Taking further steps with the TACCLE4-CPD project – Part Two: Revisiting the legacy of the Learning Layers project

February 26th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my latest blog I started a series of blog posts with which I want to take further steps with the ongoing EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. Already in December I had posted of our kick-off meeting and shared some links to videos that presented the work of earlier TACCLE projects (that equipped teachers with capability to use digital tools and to create online content for their teaching). Now, the current TACCLE project – the fourth one – is focusing on continuing professional development (CPD). The partners from different countries focus also on different educational sectors (general education, adult education, vocational education and training (VET)). Moreover, the partners bring into the project different background experiences in introducing digital tools and web resources as well as enabling the practitioners to reach e-maturity in their own context.

In my previous post I gave a nutshell description, how our institute (Institut Technik & Bildung, ITB) positions itself in the project as the partner responsible for the field of VET. With this post I try to give an idea, how we worked in the predecessor project Learning Layers (LL), and how we have been able to build on the legacy of the project and its successor activities. In particular I will highlight the training activities and the piloting with the digital toolset – the Learning Toolbox (LTB).

The role of training campaigns in promoting e-maturity – the case of Bau-ABC

Initially the Learning Layers (LL) project was launched primarily as an ambitious co-design project – with a Europe-wide consortium and with multiple development agendas to be implemented in the pilot sectors Construction and Healthcare. The key impulses were given in the first Design Conference in Helsinki, in which also the idea of digitisation of training and learning materials of Bau-ABC was taken on board. However, in practice the co-design process turned out to be more complicated than expected (see below).

In the light of the above it was of vital importance for the Construction pilot that we started the Multimedia training activities in Bau-ABC at a relatively early phase – with a smaller number of pioneering trainers who volunteered to participate in training workshops that took place on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In the first phase of these training sessions the participating trainers got an overview on the most important digital tools and enhanced their skills in producing and editing videos. For a short interim period they continued to engage themselves with digital media in Friday afternoon sessions. Then, at a crucial phase in the project work the trainers initiated a training scheme for the whole organisation – based on the idea of “Theme Rooms” to be visited in a series of workshops. This idea was put into practice at the end of the year 2015 as a joint effort of ITB researchers and the pioneering trainers. In the final phase of the project we knew that these training campaigns were of vital importance for the co-design process and for the pilot activities. Therefore, I produced already in 2016 a digital overview on the evolution of the training activities – using a moodle ‘course’ as the means of presenting the different phases and respective actions. Below I share the link to this moodle overview:

The “Theme Room” training in Bau-ABC Rostrup – from the origins to the implementation in 2015

(Please use the guest login to access the overview.)

Learning Toolbox – from digitisation of training materials to a flexible toolset with many applications

As has been mentioned above, the co-design process in the Construction pilot (and in particular in the Bau-ABC) started with the idea to digitise the training and learning materials – hitherto collected into the “White Folder”. However, after a rather short explorative phase, the process took a new course – to develop a digital toolset (that can be used with mobile devices) – the Learning Toolbox (LTB). Here, it is worthwhile to not that the explorative phase helped to put an emphasis on supporting workplace-based learning of the users. This process was carried out – parallel to the training campaigns – and completed with a viable product that the Bau-ABC trainers could use.  Primarily they presented working & learning tasks, share relevant knowledge resources and managed training-related communication. Parallel to this, the first applications were developed, in which LTB was used to support the coordination and management of construction work and related communication on a construction site.

Based on this founding phase, Bau-ABC has continued with its internal follow-up activities, whilst new challenges have come to picture in projects that extend the use of LTB to construction work in decentralised work organisations (and decentralised training and learning within continuing vocational training).

Moreover, a very different context for using LTB has been discovered in the conferences of former LL partners. In the Helsinki conference of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) in 2017 the LTB was used to reshape the poster area and to shift the emphasis from paper posters to ePosters that were shaped with the LTB. In some other conferences in 2017 a different approach is introduced with a limited number of hybrid posters or hybrid presentations that are linked to LTB-stacks. In this way the use of LTB is spreading to other contexts.

For our present discussions in the TACCLE4-CPD project I have prepared a similar moodle-based overview on these developments. Below I share the link to this latter moodle overview:

Learning Toolbox (LTB) pilot and follow-up (2014 – …)

(Here again, please use the guest login to access the overview.)

I guess this is enough of the legacy we bring to the TACCLE4-CPD project from the predecessor project Learning Layers. In particular the latter overview shows that the Learning Toolbox (LTB) is not only viable but also transferable – in the original contexts and in new ones. Therefore, I have to keep my eyes open to see, what all we can learn from the transfer activities.

More blogs to come …

Happy birthday, Graham Attwell!

February 16th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today the fellow-bloggers on Pontydysgu site can congratulate Graham Attwell on his birthday. I hope there is no home-made rule that would prevent us from celebrating this day via his own website.  Cheers, Graham!

Years and more …

Peace on Earth – Give peace a chance! – My Season’s Greetings

December 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

I am not used to writing blogs on current politics. At best I may have picked special events or anniversaries to make some sideline commentaries. But that has been most of it. Likewise, I have not been active in sending ‘Season’s greetings’ in public domain – at best on my Facebook account but that has been it.

This time things are different. For quite some time I have been following the war in Syria and the bombardment of Aleppo – and the difficult efforts of diplomats to get a ceasefire that could bring real help to people who were stuck between the warring parties. Indeed, Aleppo has become to us and pour contemporaries the symbol of similar sufferings as Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and Sarajevo in the Wars arising from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. This time it has been hard to witness and understand the weakness of the World Community, the UN Security Council and the public opinion. During the most recent days there have been relieving news on ceasefire and the start of evacuations, topped up by the unanimous vote of the UN Security council to send Peace Monitoring teams to support evacuations and international aid. Let us hope that they can provide help for the ones needed and give peace a chance.

However, parallel to these news we get schocking news of terrorist attacks in different places. For me the most striking is the news from Berlin – given that I have lived in over a year in Berlin (1994 – 1995) and I know the places in West Berlin very well. Here, the most striking thing was that the terrorist attacked the Christmas market area at Breitscheidplatz, next to the Gedächtniskirche – the ruin church that has been kept as a memory of the destruction caused by World War II. But equally, what has happened in Zürich (shootings in Islamic Centre) and in Ankara (the murder of the Russian Ambassador), in Yemen and in Somalia (the latter ones hardly attracting the attention of the Western worls) – all this is too much.

What is also striking is, how differently people react. My German Facebook-friends have promptly reacted with messages that express their condolences to the relatives of the victims and injured and condemn terrorist actions, whatever their motivation may have been. At the same time they have expressed their anger about the right-wing demagogues who have tried to pass the blame to all refugees and migrants en bloc. I have been pleased to share their messages and to translate their points in English. They speak the language of peace and understanding (instead of suspicion and xenophobia), they speak for dialogue with well-thought facts and for building bridges (instead of isolating oneselves and building walls around comfort zones).

In this spirit I also want my blog to pass messages of peace and understanding as my Season’s Greetings for the Christmas time and for the New Year 2017:

Let There Be Peace on Earth

Give Peace A Chance

 

The return of printed books

July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The various reports (see for example this article in BoingBoing) detailing the upturn in the sale of printed books in the UK, and a corresponding downturn in the sales of e-books are interesting, if only because it shows that trends towards digital products are not irreversible.

And although I eagerly embraced the ebook trend, I find myself increasingly buying traditional books. Why? Firstly, I think a book is just more enjoyable as a product, as a design artefact. Secondly, whilst I bought an early Kindle, I refuse to be tied in to Amazons social and economic ecosystem. I use a Android tablet now as an ebook reader and it generally works OK, but can be fiddly with different formats and finding downloads (NB Verso books has the answer – providing multiple formats, no DRM locks, and a variety of means of accessing copies). However, the tablet screen is not really readable in bright light, which certainly is a disadvantage in southern European countries.

I very much like the Chrome plugin allowing users to browse books on Amazon and then providing information on where they can be bought in the nearest bookshop. But although Amazon’s recommender system was a novelty at first, that novelty has worn out. It is just too damn predictable: the joy of bookshop browsing is in finding the unexpected and of course the ability to read the first few pages before deciding whether to buy. From a research point of view I find it much easier to recall where in a paper book the quote or section I want is, although that is probably my incompetence with productivity tools in electronic media.

And just like record shops, independent bookshops are upping their game, becoming more community and event oriented. It is difficult, if not impossible, for online bookshops to compete on these terms (although once more Verso does a pretty good job).

So I am not surprised at the return of the book but I wonder which sector or product is next in line for reverse digital disruption (unflipping the classroom)?

Confer – Three steps to consensus

February 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I have written a number of post about the Learning Toolbox mobile app being developed through the Learning Layers project and of course Pekka Kamareinen has documented the development of the project in some detail on this site.

But Learning Toolbox is just one of a number of applications developed by the project and being rolled out for evaluation this spring. One which in my view holds some promise is Confer. Confer is a collaborative workflow tool, being launched under the banner of  “Confer – Three steps to consensus”. Confer provides online collaboration spaces for working groups that can be used both synchronously as well as asynchronously and supports groups in working collaboratively on a task or project; helping to keep the work focused and flowing, recording the discussions and reasoning along the way and producing a final summary output that can become the first draft of a report or recommendations.

Confer is based on research work in computer supported work and learning – for instance by Hämäläinen & Häkkinen, who say “the production of descriptive and surface-level knowledge, the difficulty in creating explanation-seeking questions, the reaching of mutual understanding among participants, and uneven participation are some of the main challenges that exist in computer-supported collaborative learning settings.”

Confer supports and scaffolds groups in working through a collaborative meaning making and decision process.

It first asks “What do we need?” by clearly describing the problem at hand including what, where, when and for whom? The second stage is to explore “What do we know?” through a brainstorming process identifying issues and collecting together relevant knowledge, resources, ideas and experience.

The third stage is decision making – “What should we do?” –  developing and describing options/solutions that will address the problem and identified issues. The end point is to agree on a recommendation.Whilst it may all sound simple in real life these processes are challenging especially with distributed groups who may only meet together face to face at limited intervals. Our research suggests that in reality one person is left alone to write up the results, thus both diminishing group expertise and often failing to develop shared meanings.

The pilot implementations of Confer start next week. But if you would be interested in trialling Confer please email me. You can find out more by visiting the Confer Zone.

Entering the post Facebook age

August 26th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

I have written before about how I expect the future of social networking to eveolve towards less public and more niche social networking applications and channels. In that respect I like a recent article “How to Escape the Public Internet” in New Republic.

In the article draws attention to the increasing take up of Slack, an app we have been using for communication in some of our projects.

Ostensibly a powerful work chat app where teams can communicate with each other in channels of various topics (in the manner of its public predecessor IRC), Slack has also developed both a rabid userbase and a culture of its own as people turn its groups into communities. Its users aren’t just corporate teams, either. They’re freelancers, groups of friends, and even gaming clans. Though they use it differently, all have turned to the app for the same reason: to take their conversations from public to private.

Slack and other private modes of communication, says Alang, “offers a space hidden from the public internet. What it thus represents is a retreat into the private—or rather, a return to it.” I don’t think this is the only reason for the rise in popularity of private channels (and the return of curated newsletters). Although there have been several attempts to develop alternatives to Facebook they have all tended to look like Facebook clones. Slack is pretty, works on all platforms and is free of the distracting advertising and looks and feels nothing like Facebook.  More importantly Slack allows communication with a more limited community of ‘real’ colleagues and ‘friends’. And perhaps most important of all, as in the example Alang provides of a channel for writers and academics, Slack channels seem to be more focused on what you want to discuss, with people with the same interests. Slack for education – there’s a thought!

Radio goodness at Online Educa Berlin

November 26th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

It is nearly the end of November and time for Pontydysgu’s annual trip to Online Educa Berlin. And as usual, together with our friends form the University of Koblenz) we will be presenting our Internet Radio show, the Sounds of the Bazaar, live from the conference.

Sounds of the Bazaar will go out on Thursday 5th of December and Friday 6th December at 1100 – 1140 Central European Time. As usual we will present all the best from Online Educa, including interviews with speakers and participants and visitors and reflecting on this years developments and trends in the use of technology for learning.

There are different ways you can get involved. If you are coming to Online Educa we would love to interview you live on the show. Just email me Graham Attwell at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling me what you would like to talk about. Or come along to find us at our planning meeting from around 1400 on Wednesday 4th in the Marlene Bar. Or just turn up for the broadcast – once more by the Marlene Bar – and we will try to fit you in. If you aren’t lucky enough to be coming to the conference in Berlin, then be sure to tune into our programmes.

The address of our live stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31022/live.m3u. Open this in your internet browser and it should stream from your MP3 player of choice (e.g. iTunes). And we will tell you how you can get in touch with us to ask your own questions or give us feedback on the broadcasts.

This year we have a special extra programme. RadioActive Europe is a European Commission funded project a pan-European Internet Radio platform, incorporating Web 2.0 functionality, linked to innovative community based pedagogies to address themes of employability, inclusion and active citizenship in an original and exciting way. Along with the project coordinators, the University of East London and the University of Koblenz, we will be presenting the project on the European Commission stand that Online Educa. As part of our presentation , we will, of course be broadcasting a live radio show. We will be talking live to the different project partners and exploring their work with different groups through RadioActive Europe. At the same time we will be featuring short clips from broadcasts for each of the project partner countries – in the UK, Germany, Portugal. Romania and Malta.

And once more we would love to hear from you. The programme will go out from 1215 to 1300 CET on Thursday 4th December from the EU stand at the conference. Once more if you are not able to be in Berlin tune onto the programme live. The address for the radio stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31244/live.m3u.

If you cannot listen n live, podcasts from the programmes will be available on the RadioActive101 web site, the Pontydysgu web site and Online Educa following the conference.

Look forward to talking to you all – face to face or live on internet radio – next week.

 

 

Closing the gap: notes on developing a mobile workplace elearning App

August 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Mind the Gap, says Geoff Stead referring to the gap between theory and practice in mobile learning. And it is this gap which is perplexing me as we attempt to develop an App (code named Rapid Turbine) for use by German construction apprentices.

Writing in a blog for last year’s MobiMOOC Geoff says:

There are a few academic frameworks that can be useful in evaluating, and reflecting on m-learning:

  1. Laurillard’s Conversational framework (2002) – showing the different roles that technology can play in the process
  2. Park’s Pedagogical Framework for Mobile Learning (2011) – offering a simple matrix to map the transactional and/or social closeness of a learning intervention
  3. Koole’s Model for Framing Mobile Learning (FRAME) – 2009 – showing how the mobile learning is an interaction between the technology, the learner and the context.
frame-venn-i1.png
FRAME model

The one that most connects with my own thinking is FRAME, because it is quite clear that you any theory about m-learning needs to engage with the technology itself (the device), AND the learner (who they are, what they want), AND their social context.

The reason the definition works for me is exactly the reason why I suspect m-learning has proved so problematic to define precisely. It just isn’t one thing. There may well be one core idea in the middle, but this is heavily influenced by factors that are different in different contexts.

Here are some examples, and contrasting ideas:

  • while m-learning at work might be about performance support tools, and access to small nuggets of information; m-learning in the classroom might be more about exploring ideas together, and collaborating on a project
  • while m-learning on a field trip might be exploring your environment (GPS / augmented reality / mapping / camera), m-learning in a lecture theatre might be about taking notes, and looking up references.
  • while BYOD m-learning might be about sharing critical information via any device; a specific iPad activity will be rely on a specific app on a specific, named device

Folks, these are ALL m-learning, but because the circles in the Venn Diagram are filled with different questions, the resulting answer is different.

The core idea behind Rapid Turbine is that it brings teogther learning in different contexts – in the vocational school, in the industry training centre and in the workplace

Thus the pedagogic design of the App needs to be ‘mutable; to reflect these different designs. In the vocational school learning may be more formal and the app needs to scaffold and support apprentices in linking that formal knowledge to the work based learning gained in practice.

In the training centre the use of the App is focused on gaining practical work based knowledge and the presentation of learning materials and learning support needs to reflect that use. In the workplace, the App may be more needed to provide information and knowledge based on the other settings.

The different dimensions of the App should adapt to these different contexts of use. Collaboration, communication and data sharing will vary in each context of use. Thus a use case based on a single scenario or context will only provide us limited help.

Perhaps a dimension or scale lacking in these frameworks is that of depth and breadth, which can be seen as key in linking both the different kinds of knowledge and learning and the different resources which support scaffolded learning.

If we take a particular work task as the basis for an application (as Rapid Turbine does which is why it is high in authenticity and situatedness) then at some points apprentices will want to progress in more depth which perhaps brings in more theoretical learning and in other cases with more breadth which provides more contextual links to other work tasks (and arguably to more holistic work tasks).

The App needs to overcome not just a gap between theory and practice in mobile learning design but the gap between theory and practice in skilled construction work and the gap between informal and formal learning. And that is not easy

Give us back our data

June 27th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

We’ve always joked that security services were listening in on our email and chat. I suspect many of us thought it was not a joke but it sounded so madly paranoid we didn’t like to admit it. Some of my techy friends steered clear of social networks, others encrypted their email. This sounded a little over the top. Not any more. Thanks to public hero, Edward Snowden, we know the US and UK security services have been illegally intercepting millions of internet based communications (and of course the internet includes telephone) and mining the data for goodness knows what.

And guess what, people don’t like it.

In a recent article referring to “Without Permission: Privacy on the Line” published in the International Journal of Information Security and Privacy, by Johanne Pratt and Sue Conger the editors say:

This feeling of victimization and violation of privacy is the fuel behind the recent public outrage directed toward the NSA and companies utilizing big data in marketing. A recent post on NPR’s blog Monkeysee discusses the differences between the information gathering done by Apple and Target, for marketing purposes, and the government’s motives for data collection:

“Government has no such transparent single motive, like profit, but a variety of motives, not all of which people are confident they know about. What you believe to be the motives of a particular administration or government agency depends on a complicated, often highly charged calculus of politics, policy, media consumption, and internalized constitutional theory that you may not have even verbalized but know in your gut.”

Over the last week I have been having a series of conversations with different project partners about how we should react. We don’t really have anything to hide, nor do we carry commercially sensitive data. But it is just the feeling of outrage at the fact that they intercept and mine our data, Google for commercial reasons and the NSA for perhaps more sinister reasons. We were already uneasy about letting Google have our data. We were already looking for more efficient tools for project management. And I think overall we are looking for systems we can install on our own servers and maintain ourselves. Of course that will not stop intercepts, nor will it stop our data being hacked. But al least we will have some element of control back over how we store and manage our data. Longer term this could have quite profound implications for how the internet develops.

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    News Bites

    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


    Industry 4.0

    The UK Education Select Committee has launched an inquiry into the challenges posed and opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.The Committee is inviting written evidence on:

    • The interaction between the Government’s industrial, skills and digital strategies
    • The suitability of the current curriculum to prepare young people for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
    • The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the delivery of teaching and learning in schools and colleges
    • The role of lifelong learning in re-skilling the current workforce
    • Place-based strategies for education and skills provision; and
    • The challenges and opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for improving social justice and productivity

    The deadline for written submissions is Thursday 21 June 2018.


    Online Educa Berlin

    OEB Global (formerly Online Educa Berlin) has announced its Call for Proposals and the overall theme for 2018: Learning to Love Learning. The event will incorporate Learning Technologies Germany – a leading European exhibition on learning technologies in the workplace – for the first time this year. More details here.


    Barcelona to go Open Source

    The Spanish newspaper, El País, has reported that the City of Barcelona is in the process of migrating its computer system to Open Source technologies.

    According to the news report, the city plans to first replace all its user applications with alternative open source applications. This will go on until the only remaining proprietary software will be Windows where it will finally be replaced with a Linux distribution.

    To support the move, the city will employ 65 new developers to build software programs for their specific needs. they also plan the development of a digital market – an online platform – whereby small businesses will use to take part in public tenders.


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    Need is for transparency of Algorithms. Until then anxieties completely rational. twitter.com/InsightBrief/s…

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