Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Open Design

April 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking hard about the role of different stakeholders and potential partners in the Learning Layers project. As regular readers will know by now, Learning Layers is a large scale EU funded project, seeking to develop the use of technology and particularly mobile technologies for (informal) learning, initially in the construction and medical sectors.

The project has adopted a user centred design approach. This involves a series of use cases and studies, with direct involvement of potential end users in design workshops, leading towards iterative software development.. At present Layers is working on four design ideas, looking at functional requirements but more importantly sketching wireframes and designs and sharing these with users.

This is a fairly labour intensive job. And even in a generously funded project, it is dubious whether we will have the resources to develop all four as full and mature applications. Furthermore, the more we talk with end users, the more ideas they are giving us for possible applications. So should we stop collecting design ideas? And how do we prioritise development activities?How do we overcome the limited resources we have in terms of developers?

I was talking with Raymond Elferink last week in Dublin. Raymond runs Raycom, a Dutch software SME. I asked him if he would like to join our stakeholder group of Layers Associate partners. And naturally he asked me what Raycom would get out of such involvement. Well, I stuttered, you will get early access to our products. And we will invite you to an annual stakeholder meet up. Oh, and yes, we will send you a half yearly bulletin. None of this really seemed to cut the ice. So we talked longer about what a project like Layers could offer to engage software developers. In line with most information technology projects funded by the EU, Learning layers is committed to releasing code under an open source license. It is also envisaged that we will try to build a community of developers to guarantee the future development of teh project following the end of EU funding. But to Raymond it was not the code that was so important. As he siad, he can write the code himself. But what he saw as potentially valuable was access to design ideas – and in particular to design ideas that have been codeveloped and validated with end user groups.

This got me thinking. Instead of waiting until we have code and developing an open source community around that code, could we develop design ideas and build communities around that. We could even run hack days and launch competitions around the best prototype for a particular design idea. And instead of shutting out new ideas and designs, we could continue to develop such designs, with the community being encouraged to come in early, take the deigns and build applications. Layers could help and advise developers, as well as giving access to user groups for feedback and validation. In other words we could open up the project at an early stage to a wider community of developers. OK, I don’t know of any European project which has done this before but this does not seem impossible to do.~ At the moment, most of our design activities are coordinated through a closed wiki. But we could ensure that each design idea has a corresponding page or space on the project web site and make sure this is updated as each ‘mature’ version of the design idea comes out, rather in the same form of versioning which is used with open source software.

In fact, we have sort of started this process. In February, we had an ‘Application Partner Day’, with medical practitioners and administrators, in Bradford in England. Jen Hughes got talking to a doctor who said the main barrier to learning for him was lack of time. The only real time he got for reflection was when he was travelling in his car between meetings, appointments and visits ot patients. Jen and me dreamt up a mobile app to allow him to structure his thoughts and ideas whilst he was in his car. And through Andreas Schmidt, a professor at the HsKa institute in Karlsruhe, in Germany, we got to pitch the idea to a group of students on a business iCT course. they have a semester long course where they undertake a project for a commercial client. happily to say, the students voted to develop our app, codenamed ‘Reflect’. So the project is based on a design idea which has come out of the Layers project, but the resources to develop it further are external to the project. I will write more about this as the project takes shape.

 

Presence and Engagement

April 3rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Great video, found thanks to Mr T. The video looks at the role of the teacher in creating and sustaining a learning community, developing presence and fostering engahement.

Where we work and how we collaborate

March 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

This is the first of a new mini series of articles on the impact of technologies on how we work. I started thinking about it after Yahoo announced they were ending the practice of employees being able to work from home. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together.” Mayer has said the change in policy was necessary to foster more collaboration among employees and restore Yahoo’s competitiveness. A number of other companies have since followed suit.

I think Yahoo has got it completely wrong. When I first started work, working from home was virtually unknown, except for consultants or university researchers. The first signs of things changing came with the invention of telecottages, enabling internet access at a time when connectivity was slow, expensive and tenuous. With the availability of cheap and reliable bandwidth and apps, home working took off rapidly. I might be wrong, but my suspicion is that not only did organisations save on infrastructure costs – imagine what would happen if every university employee turned up on the same day, but with the blurring between home life and the word of work, many employees actually worked longer hours. Years ago Saturday and Sunday working or working in the evening incurred time and a half or double pay, that has long since gone.

In many occupations, work is changing rapidly especially because of the use of video, conferencing and networking applications. This includes not only research but occupations in sectors like construction. But coming back to the Yahoo decision the point is not whether people are at home or at work but how they are working. I used to work physically in a university but would rarely see others, individuals spent all day locked away ion their offices with closed doors. Equally, I now work from home and probably spend much too much of my time discussing with others on skype or in conference calls.

Developing collaboration, quality and innovation depend on work organisation. Technology is disrupting work organisation, both allowing new ways of working and challenging how we are used to doing things. This requires far more subtle interventions that just requiring employees to clock on at a set time in a set place each day. And to a considerable extent we are all still struggling to realise the most effective forms of collaboration. Research is lagging behind practice. So Yahoo needs to look at the process of collaboration within their organisation and the culture of the organisation. Maybe they are doing this but it doesn’t appear to be from their press releases. Rather than focus on where people work, they need to look at how the work is organised including how learning takes place at both a individual and organisational level. This is much harder but much more effective in the long term.

 

Communicating with stakeholders

February 25th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Some time in the mid 1990s I can remember writing my first project web site – for a project called DETOP, I think. It was pretty crude – I got myself a teach yourself HTML book and away I went. Now of course very project has its own web site – and many have more than one. Content management Systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla have made the technical process pretty easy.

But that hasn’t done much for the quality of the content. In particular, most research projects are pretty dull stuff. The aims and objectives, a list of partners with their logos, various reports downloadable in Word or PDF format, a news page usually showing a picture of project partners at their last meeting and sometimes (but too rarely a blog).

These sites are basically a formality – to fulfil funding conditions rather than to involve users. We have been thinking about how to change this for the EU funded Learning Layers project. The project is researching and developing the use of technology for informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. And one of our targets is to engage with significant numbers of users – initially in two ‘industrial clusters’, a health cluster in north east England and a construction industry cluster in north Germany.

To help in this task we are developing a User Engagement Model. And of course, we have to develop a dissemination plan. I have been doing some literature searches around user engagement models. Surprisingly, not much came up. Most of it is either promotional materials offering (for a price) to help you gain users or ideas social software providers can fi9nd out more about their users. Changing the search string to Stakeholder Engagement, though, provides much richer results. Although many of the ideas have been written by NGOs or charities written from the viewpoint of engaging with stakeholders in their various projects or from local authorities and other organisations wishing to consult with service users, their is much which is relevant and well though through.

One research paper which particularly interests me is ‘An Organizational Stakeholder Model of Change Implementation Communication‘ by Laurie K. Lewis.

Implementation is seen as ‘‘the translation of any tool or technique, process, or method of doing, from knowledge to practice’’ (Tornatzky and Johnson, 1982 p. 193) and the authors quote Real and Poole (2005) who argue that ‘‘without implementation, the most brilliant and potentially far-reaching innovation remains just that—potential’’ (p. 64).

The paper argues that change models and processes need to be linked to communication strategies towards different stakeholders. They advance four dimensions of communication strategy choices:

Positive versus balanced message

In considering the positivity or the balanced nature of the communication messages, implementers decide whether positive aspects of the change should be emphasized or whether emphasis of positives should be balanced with acknowledgment of negative aspects of the change or the change process……

Dissemination focus versus input focus

In considering the focus of the communication campaign, implementers decide whether to orient their communication resources toward sharing information about change or toward soliciting input from stakeholders. This is essentially a question about whether to engage in a participatory approach to implementation wherein stakeholders at various locations around the organization are invited to be heard and/or are empowered to make decisions. The alternative approach emphasizes information or instruction about the change in top-down messages that attempt to influence compliance……

Targeted message versus blanket message

This dimension of the communication campaign deals with the degree to which messages created about the change will be customized, targeted to specific stakeholders or stakeholder groups, or whether the campaign will have a more blanket strategy wherein the same basic messages are repeated across all stakeholder groups…..

Discrepancy focus versus efficacy focus

This dimension of the communication campaign concerns the degree to which the message is focused on creating an urgency that motivates the need for the change (discrepancy) or on creating a belief that the organization and the individuals in it have the resources necessary to close the discrepancy gap (efficacy)…..

And whilst the research and model is intended as a scholarly contribution, it seems to me to provide some very real ideas and choices for how we might want to deign a communication strategy for different stakeholders, of which our project web site will provide a key element (more on these issues to follow).

Was Google Wave just ahead of its time?

February 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Remember Google wave? As Wiikipedia explains Google Wave is a web-based computing platform and communications protocol designed to merge key features of communications media such as email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.Communications using the system can be synchronous or asynchronous. Software extensions provide contextual spelling and grammar checking, automated language translation,[3] and other features.

Initially released only to developers, a preview release of Google Wave was extended to 100,000 users in September 2009, each allowed to invite additional users. Google accepted most requests submitted starting November 29, 2009, soon after the September extended release of the technical preview. On May 19, 2010, Google Wave was released to the general public.

However Wave proved to be short lived. On August 4, 2010, Google announced the suspension of stand-alone Wave development and development was handed over to the Apache Software Foundation which started to develop a server-based product called Wave in a Box.

What went wrong? Certainly Wave felt clunky to use and was not always particularly reliable. The interface felt crowded and sometimes confusing. But I think the main problem was that we just didn’t get the idea. Now only three years on, it might have been so different. Just within one project I am working on, Learning Layers, we are using Flash Meeting and skype for regular synchronous communication, Doodle polls to set up meetings, dropbox to share files, Diigo to share bookmarks, Google docs for collaborative writing, to say nothing of the project internal media wiki site and the public wordpress based web site. And of course a list serve which bombards us with ever more email. We all complain that communication is not good enough and simultaneously that we have too much communication.

In reality communication has moved from being episodic, where email replaced snailmail and online meetings replaced face to face – to a stream. Managing that stream is problematic. And that, I think, was what Wave was designed to do. Sadly it was ahead of its time. Come back Wave, all is forgiven.

Announcing Serennu ar sgeip

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I seem to have spent the last two weeks in meetings. Breakfast meetings, slype meetings, FlashMeeting, pub meetings (my favourite). Anyway one of the best of the meetings was with a team of students at HsKa – the technical university of Karlsruhe in Germany. The students have been working with us over the last five months on a project to develop a new platform called Serennu ar sgeip for school teachers to manage virtual presentations form people in different occupations to students in their class.

Today we had the final review presentation with the students and their teachers. And it was awesomely good – both the presentation and the platform. This is a teaser post. Both the teachers and members of the team have promised ot right up their experiences of the project to post on this blog. We will also talk about our perceptions of the project in a mini series which we will be running here. And of course we will tell you more about the platform based on wordpress and available under an open source license.

Congratulations to the HsKa team. We are looking forward to your reflections.

Using web 2.0 and social media in European projects

December 20th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, UK from Web2LLP on Vimeo.

There is growing interest in how to use social media in European research and development projects. The Web2LLP project aims to improve web strategies and maximise the social media presence of lifelong learning projects. Their web site explains they provide “personalised support and training (a week-long face-to-face course and free webinars), and shares best-practices and resources.”

One of those resources is a video gallery including interviews with project managers who have used social media in European Commision sponsored Lifelong Learning Programme projects.

And when Maria Perifanou asked me for an interview how could I refuse. I talked to Maria about how we used social media in the G8WAY project. The G8WAY project was based on the idea that the growing availability of web 2.0 allows for bridging the present gap between the structures developed to support students in mastering today’s educational transition and their formulation in an institutional perspective through learner centered and connective approaches, with a chance to more effectively manage educational transition.  “G8WAY  developed web 2.0 enhanced learning environments, to enable learners to reflect and develop their creativity potentials and transitional skills in the light of their own and others’ learning experience, made visible through a variety of media sets and PLE tools, each of them designed to meet the requirements of transition envisaged, and all of which are mapped into one single pedagogy framework.”

Work based Personal Learning Environments

July 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell
View more presentations from GrahamAttwell
The Personal Learning Envrinments conference is a flipped conference. Traditional paper sessions are frowned on and presenters are invited to put forward their idea of how to engage participants in teh different sessions. Sessionc hairs are asked to negotiate with presenters. Thus it was that this afternoon I received an email from Linda Castenda who is chairing the session with my paper about Developing work Based Personal Learning Environments.
“Dear authors”, she said, “As you may already now, I’ll be the chair of your session in the PLE Conference in Aveiro. …
We will be together in the A3 session, on the Thursday 11th at 011 O’clock in the room Number 2.

I’m really happy of sharing with you this moment and I hope to have the possibility of trying a different kind of session that help us to find new ways for enriching or work and for find new ways of collaborating together.

I’ve thought on the possibility of organizing a different session, I’m absolutely open to all of your suggestions, but I would like to propose you the following organizing, if you like it:

11:10 to 11:15 Presentation and explanation of the session dynamic  (me).
For it I would love to have a picture of you for including on the presentation.

from 11:15 to 11:45 an “Speed dating” session:
Each paper will be localized in three different “spaces” in the same classroom. The audience will be divided into three groups that will be passing by each paper and  each one of you will have to explain your work in 9 minutes to three different groups of people. After 9 minutes I’ll ring an alarm to change the group.
I know you have to repeat the explanation 3 times, but It would help them to be more close to you and to be more “active” during the explanations. You could use for your presentation a slideshow (in your computer or tablet, a pamphlet, a paper, a trip tic, or whatever you want… BUT taking into account that you are presenting for few people only.
Attendees will have some papers to include questions and comments of the presentations that we will recover after the round of presenting.
If you don’t mind (if you do, please, let it me know)  I will love to record each presentation in video for uploading to the web after the session.

11:50 to 12:05 Panel for answering:
We will try to make a panel with you three and try to answer to questions. I will have also some question for you, only in case you have not any Q from the public

12:05 to 12:30 Conclusions and PLN
After the questions I will ask you for doing a deliverable by paper WITH the attendees… maybe you can think in something to do around your paper (questions, short activity, or whatever) , or maybe we can do something generic… what about a kind of map of relationships between the research presented by you and the attendees research area (including contact details)?

I’m sure it seems a bit complicated, but it would be very active and challenging in order to take advantage of the papers and the groups that are going to be there…”

I am very happy with the idea. But then the problem – I had brought no slides for this session. So in record time I have hacked together a quick presentation and thanks to the speed of teh network here in Aveiro, have got it up on slideshare already.

The importance of understanding participatory media

November 13th, 2011 by Cristina Costa
For the past 3 1/2 years I have been looking at the impact the web has had on the practices of Academics who are highly engaged in virtual environments. This inevitably takes me to explore the social side of their … Continue reading

Personal Branding, Digital Scholarship, and that thing called PhD

March 27th, 2011 by Cristina Costa
I have been meaning to blog. I actually feel the need, but in the end it’s a bit like sport. The more you do it, the more energy you find to keep doing it. Once you start ‘tricking’ the routine, … Continue reading
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