Archive for the ‘education 2.0’ Category

The future of Workplace Learning

June 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I very much like this presentation by Jane Hart. I fully concur with the ways she says people are using technology for learning and with her suggestions about how companies should be supporting them. However, my problem is that most organisations are way behind such an agenda and in many cases, citing needs for data protection etc., actively hindering such developments, even when proposed by L&D professionals.

PLE Special Edition

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

OK – the ed-tech world moves on to its latest craze. But Personal Learning Environments have not gone away as the new call for papers for the PLE Conference 2015 (Special Edition) makes clear:

Since the emergence of the term Personal Learning Environments (PLE) in the scientific discussion around the year 2004 in Oxford, PLE have become a field of research that has opened up great opportunities for reflection on almost all important aspects of education and learning with technology at all levels; from the study and development of tools, interaction processes among participants, cognitive mechanisms of individual learning, learning in groups and networked learning; life long learning; personal learning networks; even organizational learning environments, and so on.

In these years, the discussion has also transcended the traditional boundaries of academia and has been amplified in both the forms and contexts in which it takes place. The communities created around the concept and practices of PLE, have been responsive not only in the reflections on the realities concerning to learning, but also to the way in which these reflections are made.

Therefore, in this particular special issue supported by the PLE Conference community and its reflections during 2015, we would like to have a compilation of the current state of the field, papers that allow readers to have a vision of what are the most topical ideas and practices around the PLE nowadays, but with a clear vision of where the analysis is headed.

Find the full details here.

Stagnation or innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning?

January 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Just a quick note following up on my blog of yesterday noting the lack of new ideas in the exhibition at Online Educa Berlin. Today I read an interesting article entitled “Caputalism: Will Capitalism Die?” by Robert Misik on the Social Europe blog. Most of the article, as the title implies is given over to an analysis of the lack of growth and “secular stagnation” in western economies.

Misik says that “despite superficial impressions, the past 15 years may have produced practically no more genuinely productive innovations.” He quotes the economist Robert J Gordon who says:“Invention since 2000 has centered on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter, and more capable, but do not fundamentally change labour productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motor cars, or indoor plumbing changed it.”

And that seems to sum up much of the developments in Technology Enhanced Learning. Whilst in the 1990s and the first years of this century there was something of an explosion in innovative uses of technology for learning through mainly the development of Virtual Learning Environments, since then genuine innovation has stalled, as least through the ed tech industry. Games based learning, Learning Analytics, mobile learning, MOOCs are all interesting but they do not, to paraphrase Gordon, fundamentally change education and learning, still less pedagogy. As Phil Hill says: “Didn’t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?”

Misik speculates on the slow emergence of a new economy in which “more decentralized, self-managed firms, co-operatives and initiatives play a gradually more important role – so that, in the end, a mixed economy emerges composed of private companies, state enterprises and co-operatives and alternative economic bodies.” And that may be the way forward to for Technology Enhanced Learning, where the behemoths of the Ed Tech world play a lesser role, where governments continue to invest in innovation in teaching and learning with technology in education, where the importance of state involvement in education is recognised and where smaller more agile private sector enterprises become partners in developing new initiatives and pedagogic approaches to learning. Its nice to be optimistic!

Intelligent machines or intelligent humans? Herebe monsters!

September 16th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I’m not normally a big fan of keynote speeches. But I greatly enjoyed Audrey Waters presentation at Alt C 2014. According to the video blurb: “What does it mean to create intelligent machines? What does it mean to create intelligent teaching machines? What does this mean in turn when we talk about using these technologies to create intelligent humans? A romp through literature and the cultural history of ed-tech to talk about teaching machines and monsters.” And I love a good romp.

Personal Learning Environments, Self Directed Learning and Context

June 15th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Ten days ago I had an email from Alexander Mikroyannidis from the UK Open University. “Together with some colleagues from the EU project ROLE (” he said, “I’m preparing a book to be published by Springer. It will be entitled “Personal Learning Environments in Practice” and it will present the results of applying PLEs in different test-beds in the project.

For each chapter, we have invited an external expert to provide a 2-page commentary that will also be published in the book. Would you be available to write such a commentary for the chapter that describes the vision of the project?”

How could I refuse? And here is my contribution:

Research and development in learning technologies is a fast moving field.  Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away.  It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology community but by the way people (and not just students) are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.

Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself.  Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning. Such trends became more pronounced with the emergence of Web 2.0 and social software. Social networking applications in particular, allowed the development of personal learning networks. Rather than go to the institutionally sanctioned LMS or VLE, learners communicated through Facebook or Whats App. PLNs were not longer limited to class or course cohorts but encompassed wider social and learning networks. Wikipedia has emerged as a major open resource for learning.

As mobile technologies have become increasingly powerful and, at least in some countries, internet access has become increasingly ubiquitous, learners use their own devices for learning and are not confined to institutional facilities. Regardless of trends in educational technology theory and research, learners are developing and using their own Personal Learning Environments.

At the same time, the ongoing rapid developments in technologies are changing forms of knowledge development and leading to pressures for lifelong learning. Universities and educational institutions can no longer preserve a monopoly on knowledge. Notwithstanding their continuing hold on accreditation, institutions are no longer the only providers of learning, a move seen in the heart-searching by universities as to their mission and role.

Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.

Learning is becoming multi-episodic, with people moving in and out of courses and programmes. More importantly the forms and sources of learning are increasingly varied with people combining participation in face-to-face courses, online and blended learning programmes and self directed and peer supported learning using different internet technologies.

These changes are reflected in discussion over pedagogy and digital literacies. It is no longer enough to be computer literate. Learners need to be able to direct and manage their own learning, formal and informal, regardless of form and source. In conjunction with More Knowledge Others (Vygotsky, 1978) they need to scaffold their own learning and to develop a personal knowledge base. At the same time as the dominance of official accreditation wanes, they need to be able to record and present their learning achievement. Personal Learning Environments are merely tools to allow this to happen.

All this leads to the issue of the role of educational technology researchers and developers. In research terms we need to understand more not just about how people use technology or learning but how they construct a personal knowledge base, how they access different resources for learning, including people and how knowledge is exchanged and developed.

At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes. Not all workplaces or for that matter communities offer a rich environment or learning. Yet there is vast untapped potential in such environments, particularly for the development and sharing of the tacit knowledge and work process knowledge required in many tasks and occupations. PLE tools can help people learning in formal and informal contexts, scaffold their learning and develop a personal learning knowledge base or portfolio.

At both pedagogic and technical levels, context provides a major challenge. Whilst mobile technologies recognise the context of place (through GPS), other and perhaps more important aspects of context are less well supported. This includes time – how is what I learned at one time linked to something I learned later? It includes purpose – why am I trying to learn something? It includes the physical environment around me, including people. And of course it includes the social and semantic links between places, environments, people and objects.

The challenge is to develop flexible applications and tools to enhance peoples’ PLEs and which can recognise context, can support people in scaffolding their learning and develop their own Personal Learning Networks and enhance their ability to direct their own learning and the learning of their peers.

Two major European funded projects, ROLE and Learning Layers are attempting to develop such applications. They both have the potential to make major inroads into the challenges outlined in this short paper.


Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.




Using technology to support informal learning in SMEs

June 11th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Last week was the deadline for submissions to the Online Educa Berlin 2014 conference. I like Online Educa. If nothing else, it is a great end of year opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends from around the world. And it is also a great opportunity to engage in wider dialogues around the work we are doing. Online Educa has for some years been experimenting with the format of sessions and attempting to introduce more interaction, rather than just slides and talk. This year they are limiting presenters to just five slides. And they have asked everyone submitting a proposal to send  short video describing their proposed session.

So here is my video. It is based on the work we are doing in the EU funded Learning Layers project, developing and implementing technologies for informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises.

Aumented Reality, practice and performace

March 12th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Last week I went to the Bristol Mobile Ideas in Mobile Learning Symposium (programme and links here). I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Just a general point before I get to the specifics. I am increasingly bored with large conferences where you sit passively listening to string of paper inputs – good bad or indifferent – and then perhaps get to ask one or two questions. Smaller events such as the Bristol symposium, allow a real discussion and best of all, continued debate in breaks and in the evening. This is the kind of event which promotes learning!

I made a presentation on the Learning Toolbox mobile application we are developing for the Learning Layers project in the penultimate session of the symposium. I followed an intriguing presentation by Daniel Spikol on Using Augmented Reality, Artistic Research and Mobile Phones to Explore Practice-based Learning (see video above). Daniel has been working with Dance groups in Sweden, using the Aurasma Augmented Reality app for recording and augmenting dance performances. At first sight that would seem a long way from my work on developing an app for apprentices in the construction industry. But there were many links. Amongst other things Daniel made two key points which I could relate to. One was the need for continuing and iterative development in the use of apps (and here it was interesting that they had used an existing application, rather than trying to develop their own code). Second was the use of technology in capturing and representing physical performance. And in terms of work based learning, that is exactly what we are trying to do (and struggling with) in using mobile devices. In this regard I am interested in the ideas about practice.  Practice is related to competence and qualification and includes cognitive, affective, personal and social factors (trying to find citation for this). In terms of learning (and using technology for learning) practice based activities – whether based on formal or informal learning – are:

  • Purposeful
  • Heavily influenced by context
  • Often result in changes in behaviour
  • Sequenced in terms of developing a personal knowledge base
  • Social – involving shared community knowledge

Returning to Daniel’s questions, the challenge is how we can design and shape technology to augment practice.




Changing Paradigms

March 4th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I can’t think how we missed this video before. Anyway many thanks to Owen for suggesting it. This RSA Animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. You can watch the lecture in full here.

Shiny technology and social media

February 3rd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Last weekend I went to the British Educational technology (BETT) show in London. If nothing else, the sheer numbers of exhibitors and visitors show how educational technology has become a big business. I am afraid such events are not my favourite. There was many, many shiny displays of stunning technology and I suspect, if I had had the patience to explore, many great ideas for new approaches to teaching and learning. However, I found the latter tended to get hidden behind the ever increasing size of the big screens. I was also struck by how much of the kit supplied could be developed or put together much cheaper by the determined hacker- teacher. Anyway a couple of hours wandering and I was exhibitioned out. So I turned my attention to the wide range of supporting events. I ended up an a couple of sessions in the Technology in Higher Education Summit.

One of these was a panel session on Incorporating Social Media into the Learning Space, advertised as “A group of educators will discuss how content creation from different social platforms has impacted on student learning. Looking at how these institutions have exploited…” It featured my old fried, Helen Keegan, along with Sue Beckingham and Stuart Miller, both of whom I have long followed on Twitter but never met face to face.

The session was well attended and the panellists did a great job of outlining ways in which social media could be used, particularly for enhancing the skills and employability of students. Yet, I felt frustrated that they had not gone far enough in explaining the potential of such media to transform the teaching and learning experience and particularly in developing and fostering creativity and innovation. Unfortunately I tweeted this, and was taken to task by some of my Twitter followers for basically not understanding where universities and university teachers were at in understanding and using new media. And, looking back, they were right. Helen, Sue and Stuart have much more experience than me in the UK university sector and had pitched their talks well for their audience. Yet, this still leaves me frustrated. If so much money is being spent on educational tech, why are we still having to teach teachers how to use Social Media within the Learning Space. Social software is hardly a new phenomenon. And at the end of the day, in an age of austerity – particularly in educati0on – incorporating social media is a lot cheaper than buying ever more complicated shiny gadgets!

Reflect – an App for recording ideas and learning

July 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Reflect is a free Android App for phones and tablets developed by students from Hochschule Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences) for Pontydysgu as part of the Learning Layers Project.

The app is presently in closed beta but will be open for use by everyone in August 2013. If you would like more details please email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

We demoed the App at a workshop jointly hosted by the UK National Health Service developers network Handi and the Learning Layers project in Bradford last month and share here the report we produced on the feedback.


  • To elicit user feedback from developers and healthcare professionals
  • Evaluate potential of the App

Background and Key Idea:

The original idea came from talking with a doctor in the UK at a Learning layers workshop. He explained how little time he had to reflect on his ongoing learning. The most time he had, he told us, was when he was in his car between meetings and visiting patients.

The Reflect App was originally designed to make the recording of learning, both formal and informal, easy.

The App is voice controlled and translates voice recordings into text.

Users can build a ‘stack’ of questions by typing them into a simple form on a web interface. Then they can use an Android Phone App which reads them the questions. They can skip to the next question, resubmit their answer or ask for help. The answers are automatically converted to text and can be downloaded to their own computer or tablet.

What we hoped to learn:

We were concerned to get feedback about:

a)    The general idea and potential interest in the app

b)    Usability and UI

c)    Ideas for further development

Feedback from developers and healthcare professionals:

Negative feedback:

  • GPs are concerned about the level of security, regarding sensitive data.
  • Developers were concerned about quality of voice recognition and difficulties with background noise

Questions that were raised:

  • What is the maximum recording time?
  • Where does the voice recognition processing take place?
  • Is an off-line mode possible?
  • could Reflect be integrated into other systems (e.g. NHS)
  • What are business models for future sustainability?

Positive feedback and further potential:

  • Reflect could be a good tool to report back the first impressions on meetings
  • A future approach could be to develop an APi to allow use with other systems
  • Domains for groups to work together
  • Reflect could be used for research purposes e.g surveys
  • Learning tasks could be created for students (microanalysis)
  • Link to Evernote
  • Reflect provides strong support for scaffolding learning

Suggested Business Models:

  • Advertising
  • Premium domain accounts
  • Develop market ins tacks of questions for different occupations / domain and license under revenue sharing model

What Next?

We are continuing to test the App on a closed beta and are working on an open beta release for Reflect.

We are hoping to get further developer support for:

a)    Exploring off line potential

b)    Developing a API

c)    Porting to iOS

Evaluation of the activity:

From our point of view we were delighted with the critical and positive feedback. We especially noted the concern from external developers that there is a strong business model and suggest that this should be noted by other Learning layers development teams / design groups.

The workshop was very well organised. Whilst it would have been useful to have more health care professionals, the opportunity for engagement with so many developers and with commercial companies was extremely valuable.

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    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers

    Teachers and overtime

    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”

    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.

    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at

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