Archive for the ‘Digital Identities’ Category

Pedagogic Approaches to using Technology for Learning – Literature Review

May 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The proliferation of new technologies and internet tools is fundamentally changing the way we live and work. The lifelong learning sector is no exception with technology having a major impact on teaching and learning. This in turn is affecting the skills needs of the learning delivery workforce.

Last September, together with Jenny Hughes I undertook a literature review on new pedagogical approaches to the use of technologies for teaching and learning. You can access the full (86 pages) document below.

The research was commissioned by LLUK to feed into the review then being undertaken of teaching qualifications in the Lifelong Learning sector in the UK. The review was designed to ensure the qualifications are up to date and will support the development of the skills needed by the modern teacher, tutor or trainer.

However, we recognised that the gap in technology related skills required by teaching and learning professionals cannot be bridged by qualifications alone or by initial training and a programme of opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) is also needed to enable people to remain up to date.

The literature review is intended to

  • identify new and emerging pedagogies;
  • determine what constitutes effective use of technology in teaching and learning
  • look at new developments in teacher training qualifications to ensure that they are at the cutting edge of learning theory and classroom practice
  • make suggestions as to how teachers can continually update their skills.

Pedagogical Appraches for Using Technology Literature Review January 11 FINAL 1

Super injunctions and digital identities

May 16th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The UK press has becoem obsessed with the issue of press freedom and super injunctions. the so called super injunctions not only legally ban the press from reporting about a particular person or issue, but also ban them from stating that such an injuction exists. But such draconian legal measures have become somewhat ineffective in the face of social network services like twitter which do not recognise UK borders or to that matter injunctions.

However the debate is confused, not least because of the UK press obsession with chatter about the private lives of celebreties. Ordinary people have no access to legal redress to ban press reports. And the real issue is not so much privacy but our abilities and rights to control our own digital identities. And that debate will not go away.

E-portfolios – taking learning out of the shoebox: a reply to Donald Clark

April 1st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The ever provocative Donald Clarke has posted an interesting article – E-Portfolios – 7 reasons why I don’t want my life in a shoebox. It has sparked off a lively debate with Simon Grant wading in to defend E-Portfolios.

Clarke makes two key points in his argument. The first regards lifelong learning:

People do not see themselves as ‘learners’, let alone ‘lifelong learners’. It’s a conceit, as only educators see people as learners. Imagine asking an employer – how many learners do you have? People are individuals, fathers, mothers, employees, lawyers, bus drivers, whatever….but certainly not learners. That’s why an e-portfolio, tainted with ‘schooling’ will not catch on. By and large, most adults see school as something they leave behind and do not drag along with them into adulthood.

Of course he is right, but there are two ways to look at the idea of lifelong learning. And I do not think this new paradigm of the lifelong learner is a conceit of educators but rather is a policy directive. In a fast changing economy and a period of rapid changes in technology and working practices the drive of such policies is to say that we should all be involved in learning for all of our lifetimes to ensure we are employable and have up to date skills and knowledge etc. etc. This is part of a longer term debate over who pays for education and whose responsibility is it for maintaining our ability to find jobs. In this scenario, unemployed people only have themselves to blame for having no job. If they had maintained their skills they would now be able to find employment. It is indeed a conceit – or rather a deceit – but one which is ideological in intent. But of course educators are being coerced to make this happen.

But there is a second way to look at the idea of lifelong learning. We all learn to a greater or lesser extent every day. Not from the schooling system but through work and play, through informal learning. Of course we do not recognise that as learning and often would not identify ourselves as learners. And then the issue is how that learning can be recognised societally. Not through ‘my life in a shoebox’ but precisely my life outside the shoebox of formal certification and records of achievement.

And coming back to Donald’s shoebox – is this anything new? Prior to e-Portfolios, we all kept bundles of certificates and formal qualifications – indeed often in a shoebox. e-Portfolios have the potential to free us from such restrictions and such narrow ways of looking at learning.

But I agree with Donald when he says:

Media are linked on the web and cannot be easily stored in a single entity or within a single entity, so the boundaries of a real e-portfolio are difficult to define, and will change. An e-portfolio would have to cope with my social networks but they are proprietary. Information wants to be free fiscally and ontologically. We want to be part of all sorts of expansive and variously porous networks, not boxed in.

E-portfolio systems – as they have been conceived – have often been proprietary – despite Simon Grant’s and others’ best efforts to promote interoperability standards. Even that is not the main problem. The main issue is that our digital identity and thus the story of  our personal achievement is scattered across the web. E-portfolios have firstly tended to overly value (and prescribe) formal learning and achievement and secondly have failed to allow us to present our digital presence and life stories in any meaningful way.

Then arises the issue of whether all the effort (and money) expended on e-portfolios has been wasted. On the whole I think not. e-Portfolios is merely a term which was used to encompass the research and development of new forms of technology beyond the VLE – what we now often call Personal Learning Networks or Personal Learning Environments. Perhaps the term e-portfolio is no longer relevant. But that work maintains its coherence and validity. That we have moved on from earlier developments is unsurprising. The use of computers in business and entertainment and for all kinds of other uses is hardly a slow moving field. We cannot expect the use of technology for learning to be any different.

There is one part of Donald’s article with which I would disagree. He talks of a ‘recruitment myth’ saying:

I spent a lot of time recruiting people and what I needed wasn’t huge, overflowing e-portfolios, but succinct descriptions and proof of competences. If by e-portfolio you mean and expanded CV with links to your blog and whatever else you have online, fine. But life is too short to consider the portfolios of hundreds of applicants. Less is more.

In my experience employers are precisely wanting to move away form formal competences to learn what people can do. One Romanian CEO in an advertising company told me he would not employ anyone who did not have an active web presence. Many employers – especially in small enterprises – just Google someone to find out more about them. So yes, I do think we need an application which allows us easily to create an expanded (digital) CV with links to whatever we have online. We do not really have such an application at the moment. If this is to be called an e-portfolio or something else does not matter.

Finally I think Donald disproves his own point when he says:

I can see their use in limited domains, such as courses and apprenticeships, but not in general use, like identity cards.

It seems to me Donald’s “limited domains” are pretty broad. Of course the use of any software, educational or otherwise, is contextual. Contextual in place and time and contextual in terms of why and how we use it. And those are some of the main issues for those wishing to explore the future of e-portfolios or whatever else we call them!

Identities, relationships and on-line spaces

March 15th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Interesting post by Karen Romeis on identities.

Karyn says:

I have noticed that some of the people with whom I have both and on- and off-line relationship are competent at conducting a single relationship in two spaces. Others less so. In some cases, there is a strange split. There is one relationship going on online and another offline, and that it seems to be ‘not done’ to break that wall…….In cases where people pursue two separate relationships with me, I have come to regard that as a sign of an inability to assimilate an online space into an existing relationship. An indication that there is a level of maturity still to be gained. By and large, this two relationship experience tends to be restricted to those for whom social media tools are little more than toys.

I am not sure it is as simple as that. We are increasingly morphing the digital into all aspects of our lives. But at the same time – just in the way the environment shapes our face to face relationships – then digital tools intermediate digital relationships. And I think that we all have different identities. Such identities are mediated by environments. And I am unsure that it is simple to just ‘assimilate’ an online space into an existing relationship. That on-line space surely mediates the nature of the relationship – off and online. In the comments on her post Karyn says when she talks about maturity she is referring to the maturity of the digital environments we use. But I can see more ‘mature’ digital environments – for instance augmented reality – further enhancing our different identities – rather than leading to a single identity – on or off-line.

Thye social web – a huge shopping mall?

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Facebook privacy arguments won’t go away. In part this is because as a society we are having to rethink what we mean by personal privacy and how much we are prepared to live our lives openly on the net.

And it is also in part because Facebook are keepi9ng the pressure on for ever more disclosure of data. last weekend Facebook announced that it had expanded the information users are able to share with external websites and applications, to include home addresses and mobile phone numbers. True, this had to be authorised but as is often the case the interfaces for doing this were less than clear. In the event Facebook backed off and on Monday announced they were rethinking this feature. But they will be back.

In one of a series of articles she has written on Facebook in the Guardian newspaper, Jemina Kiss explains Facebook’s motivation:

Facebook’s future – if it is to meet the increasingly inflated aspirations of its “incentivised” investors – is to use a combination of its scale and the acres of intimate information it holds about all of us to find the real money in targeted advertising. The strategy is to gradually open our personal data more and more, making open information the norm, desensitising us to any uncomfortable feelings we might have had about our personal data being released into the wild.

And in turn Facebook’s incentivised investors are driven by the aspirations of Facebook to control the social web and eat into Google’s search driven advertising revenue.

This raises a big question. If ‘social’ is indeed the future of the web, do we necessarily have to give over control to a bunch of investors. Is the web just to become one big shopping mall. Or indeed, is that what it is becoming already?

Blankenberge Radio Day

October 26th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been quiet on the blog lately. The last two days I have been rushing to finish a long – and behind schedule – report on pedagogic approaches to the use of technology for teaching and learning and the initial traini9ng and continuing professional development of teachers and trainers. And all last week I was in Blankenberge in Belgium, where together with jenny Hughes I taught on a course on the use of social software in the classroom.

The group on the course were great and I enjoyed myself greatly. More on that in a  later post. Thursday last week was Radio Day. I am more and more convinced of the use of internet radio for teaching and learning. Internet radio involves so many different skills and competences – from technical skills to interviewing, from researching to presentation, from planning competences to multi media skills. And above all it requires team work. We presented the day as a sort of role play. We were role playing researching, planning and broadcasting a 40 minute radio programme. Only we were doing it – for real. Producing a radio programme is authentic learning and is fun.

In the morning we split into three groups. The radio- heads went off with me where we started planning the programme, allocated different roles – floor manager, producer, anchor people, music producer, audio techy etc. We set up and tested the equipment and liaised with the other two groups who were developing content. One group was exploring the ideas around digital literacies, the other about digital identities. Each agreed to come up with 10 minutes worth of programme as a result of their workshops.

As the day went on the tension increased. Would we get it all together, would the programme really go out. The last hour before the broadcast was mad. And at 1600, right on queue Sounds of the Bazaar – Live from Blankenberge went on air. People were nervous but I think you will agree they all seemed to enjoy themselves. And afterwards we discussed how participants could use internet radio in their own teaching and learning.

Give it a listen. If you are interested in us running a  workshop or if you would like to give internet radio a go get in touch. Its great for pedagogy, its fun and it isn’t so expensive or difficult as you think.

In the meantime thanks to all of you who produced the show – too many to name. Thanks too to Audrey’s son whose music we played. If someone can remind me of the name of the band and the url we will give it a plug on this blog.

Free workshop on educational transitions

September 3rd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The autumn conference season is in full swing. One  of my favourites is Online Educa Berlin – this year being held on 2 and 3 December. If nothing else Online Educa is a great social event – a chance to catch up with friends from round the world. Online Educa also organises a series of pre conference workshops on 1 December. and this year we are organising a workshop for the European funded G8WAY project on educational transitions. Whilst there is a fee for many of the workshops, the G8WAY event is sponsored by the project and is free to participants.

The workshop will focus on the issue of how educational transitions can be made easier for young people through Internet-based services (e.g. career advice, information and guidance).

According to the workshop website the importance of helping young people in their quest to find employment is widely recognised and there is growing interest in the potential of technology-assisted learning when it comes to helping young people make the transition from education to employment. However, this area of learning remains in its infancy and throws up a series of issues for policymakers, researchers and practitioners alike.

The European project G8WAY: Enhanced Gateway to Educational Transition is investigating how social software and Web 2.0 applications can be used to help young people in make transitions.

The following key issues will be explored in the workshop:

  • What are the challenges of educational transitions – how can young people start a career in recession-hit European societies?
  • What is the potential of social software and Web 2.0 tools in the context of transitions?
  • What role can careers guidance and support play in this process?
  • What is the future of technology-based learning regarding career education?

The active involvement of participants, exchange of expertise and creation and further development of ideas will be the key elements of this pre-conference workshop.

whilst the workshop is free places are limited and pre registration is necessary. If you are going to be in Berlin, don’t miss our workshop.

Digital Literacies – another viewpoint

July 20th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The definition of digital literacy is constantly evolving with a steady movement away from technical competences to an understanding based on social interactions. I like this latest interpretation from the Futurelab Handbook: Digital literacy across the curriculum (via Matt Lingard). However I wonder if there aren’t a couple of things missing. First is the issue of digital identities. Of course you could say that digital identities is all of the above. Bu8t I think that at the present time the ability to manage digital identities is one of the most critical issues facing young people. And I wonder if sharing should also be there. Sharing is a little differejnt than collaboration. Knowing what to share with who and for why is key to understanding the use of the social web.

Finally I wonder how long we can persist with the term digital literacy. The use of technologies is becoming so intertwined with young people’s daily life that it may be said to be just a part of literacy. Perhaps the only reason to persist with the distinction is to help the education system catch up in their understanding of this.

Digital Identity Matters

June 14th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Over the last two years I have been lucky to work on a project called Rhizome. Rhizome is a research and development project, funded by Eduserv, exploring the key social and technical elements that impact on the construction of online identities.

The Rhizome awareness report, published today and entitled ‘Digital Identity Matters’ highlights the issues we face when dealing with our online identities. It outlines the design pattern approach that has been used to help define a set of problems and their solutions that all relate to our understanding and use of a digital identity. The material is released as an open access resource and is aimed at contributing to a deeper understanding of digital identity and the impact it can have on the individual and those around them. It will be of relevance to anyone who uses the Internet to disclose personal information about themselves – be it purposefully through the use of social media tools or as a result of work-based professional activities. The report can be downloaded from the Rhizome project web site. The following text is an except from the introduction to the report.

“Our relationship with the Internet is changing. Mobile devices, wireless connectivity, and our increasing virtual presence across multiple social media services have all but collapsed the boundary between being online or offline. Together the virtual and the real form the seamless space in which many of us live out our daily lives. We fashion the self through social interaction, community and network affiliations, and here come to construct our identities as well as interpret the identity of others.
The ease with which individuals can now produce, reproduce and distribute digital content has powerfully shifted the ways in which we think about global connectedness, media access and distribution, social action and the production of knowledge.

Our ability to engage so readily with digital media and online networks is empowering but our resultant actions also make us vulnerable. We suffer the pressures of information overload, time management and, as we argue in this publication, the need to curate our increasingly visible digital lives. The Internet is not a set of static objects but a dynamic network of connected, interacting subjects.

How does our online visibility affect who we think we are and our ability to act with purpose and intent? How should we ethically respond to concerns about the impact of one person’s online behaviour upon the lives of others. These are two of the questions that are explored here.

We focus on a design pattern called ‘Putting Children First’ and two supporting case-stories that describe the dangers of using an online photo-sharing service. Together they illustrate the complexities of negotiating our responsibility to others when we are in the process of developing our own digital identities. This pattern offers a design solution for using social media in a thoughtful, literate and ethically responsible way.

One of the aims of this publication is to raise awareness and we hope you will distribute this material as widely as possible.”

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans!

June 1st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Yesterday I wrote about the perosna methodology we have been trying out in the European G8WAY project on educational transitions. At the recent project meeting in Bucharest we split into groups to look at some on the initial interviews which have been carried out. I presented two interviews, undertaken in the UK by Angela Rees from Pontydysgu.
We had been asked to look at the interviews and discuss:

  1. What is the most relevant learning event of the case?
  2. Is this learning event only relevant in its national context or there features common to different countries?
  3. How we can make use of this learning event in relation with:
  • Benefits for young people (What kind of support can we provide?)
  • What is the impact on the proposed project Web 2.0 platform?

In this post, I will present Kat. In our discussion we consiered Kat to be almost a persona in herself, with a little further analysis added to the case study. Kat is focused on what she wants to do and an accomplished self directed learner. She learns from courses, from different jobs she undertakes, from the internet from reading and from her own research. We noted that transition is becoming more and more a permanent or overlapping state. Kat is constantly learning and her life appears a long period of transition with shorter periods of more intense transition occuring from time to time.

In terms of the potential of Web 2.0 to support Kat in her transition she lacks web tools to present her knowledge, research and achievements. Kat also explains that she spends much time searching for potential PhD opportunities. It seems somewhat surprising that noone has thought to develop a portal to allow easy access to such opportunities (or have they?). Kat might also benefit from the provision of e-guidance or e-counselling.

The project partners felt the case study to be relevant for their own countries (Portugal, Greece and Sweden). In fact Kat might be seen as following the typical career of a modern international researcher!

Kat,

Case Study

Motto: Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans!

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Kat, 29, female, comes from a well educated background, she is currently living alone in rented accommodation in France. Kat finds herself moving house frequently between London, France, Spain and her family home in Newcastle in order to take advantage of short term work placements as they arise. She enjoys the arts, always has her nose in a book and has an extensive, global network of friends and acquaintances.

Transitions

Educational and transitional pathways:

After graduating from her first degree in Zoology in 2003, Kat has been opportunistic in her method of finding field work, relying on contacts, friends of friends and recommendations.

“The issues I faced were gaining relevant experience to work in my chosen field, although that’s probably an issue specific to ecologists/biologists. I found it wasn’t too hard to get a job, but said jobs were little or no paid field assistant positions. My university lecturer helped me to find my first job, after that it was various contacts I made along the way. I’ve still not decided what I want to be when I grow up!”

This has lead her from the extremes of studying meercats in the Kalahari to birds on Skomer Island. Because of the nature of project work, Kat finds it difficult to find employment all year round. Her long term ambition is to study for a pHd and so lead her own research projects. With some fieldwork and research experience behind her Kat decided that the best way to pursue her dream was to return to Academia, she graduated with an MRes from Imperial College London in 2008 and has since been in a transition period waiting to be accepted onto a pHd. During this time she has been applying for pHd courses in her specialist area and working as an office temp in between taking on temporary research positions. She thought that the Masters level qualification combined with her research experience would give her an advantage in gaining a PhD placement.

Motivations and Strategies: Kat is quite particular about the type of research she wants to do, as such she has limited her search for a doctorate to universities which she perceives to be good. She also has a clear idea of the specific area in which she wants to work. She would rather wait to be accepted to study her own research proposal than compromise her ideals and spend four years working in an area that does not interest her, even if it would mean her being able to lead her own research sooner. She thinks that it is more beneficial to her to work on short term field work jobs in the meantime in order to make more contacts and keep her research experience current.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

The diverse nature of field work means that every six months or so, Kat embarks upon a new project and has to learn a new set of skills from scratch. Examples of this are identifying species of trees or birds, tracking, capturing, tagging and weighing animals, learning to use different laboratory management tools and data entry systems which are unique to the project. The work is very hands on, she says that it would not be possible to learn the skills as part of an on-line training course.

Support Services used

Lecturers and tutors on her first degree course passed on email addresses of researchers working in Kat’s areas of interest, from these few contacts she has built up her own network of potential employers and project supervisors.

Learning type:

Two main ways of learning are detectable:

Learning from practical experiences: Kat learns new skills on the job, now that she is becoming a more experienced researcher, she also finds herself supervising and teaching skills to the less experienced project workers.

Self-directed learning: Kat will find relevant research papers on the internet and also borrows books from the library. She also uses e-books, particularly when she is working outside of the UK.

Information and Communication Technologies

Much of Kat’s networking has been done via email, she also keeps in contact with colleagues via Skype. She uses websites to search for biology PhDs and field assistant positions.

“ I tended to use those websites more just for browsing to look for job adverts rather than creating a profile and finding people with similar interests. People with similar interests tend to be potential competitors for natural science-type jobs & PhDs which are a bit scarce, I imagine a facebook style network might inhibit a free and easy sharing of info and tips on jobs that you’ve seen.

Plus I really doubt that researchers or potential employers would take the trouble to search the site for good candidates. The nature of PhDs and field assistant jobs is that there are so many people wanting them, you just put the advert out there in New Scientist or wherever, then sit back and wait for the applications to flood in.”

She thinks that the most useful web tool would be something that pooled all of the jobs available onto one site,

“kind of like a temping agency who were in touch with every single Life Sciences university department and every ecological organisation in Europe, with details of jobs or field assistants required. You could go to them and say “I have these skills, I’m looking for paid/volunteer work, I’m available from this date” and they could place you in a suitable position. I doubt it’s feasible, as it would be an enormous undertaking but I, for one, would definitely sign up to such a thing. It would take away all the work and the hours and hours spent browsing online for positions.”

She does think that social networking could be useful particularly for putting new graduates in contact with established researchers, however she is very wary of networking with people in the same position as herself because of the fierce competition for jobs and placements.

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