Archive for the ‘education 2.0’ Category

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.

Aim:

  • 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.

Hours of fun and Singing Fingers on the Taccle Web site

June 11th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Jenny Hughes was in Bremen last week and showed me some of her favourite apps on the wonderful Taccle web site. Although the site aims at providing practical ideas for teachers in using technology in the classroom, it is also a great resource for anyone interested in technology for teaching and learning and particularly rich in mobile apps.

We found a number of broken links and looked at installing a WordPress plugin to check for these. In the end we concluded the plugins seemed to have too high a processing load and instead used  free application called Integrity which worked like a charm. We also discovered that the Taccle site has over 2500 external links!

The other technical / design feature which interests me is the metadata / category system. This has undergone a series of revamps and I think gets in pretty much right now.

Anyway here is  one of my current favourite apps featured on the site – Singing Fingers, created at MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten.

Make a sound while moving your finger to record a sound-drawing. Touch the drawing you just made to play the sound back: forward, backward, sideways, or any way. That’s it! Singing Fingers Basic ExplanationSinging Fingers lets you see music, hear colors, and re-see everyday sounds for the beautiful playground that they are. Singing Fingers lowers the floor to let beginners play with sound as if it was finger paint, and raises the roof by letting advanced DJs break out of the grooves of the records into a world where sounds take any shape you give them. Your own fingers are like the needles that play the sounds back. Just like records and tape recorders were breakthroughs in simplicity and power, Singing Fingers has no complex buttons, menus, or rules. One simple medium, one simple touch of the finger, millions of possibilities.How it Works

While you drag your finger across the screen, your voice or any other sounds nearby are turned into colors on the musical canvas. The pitch of the sound is translated into a color, while the loudness of the sound determines the size. If you start on a blank white space you are recording. If you start on a colored space you are replaying. Use up to five fingers to play back many sounds at the same time, forwards, backwards or sideways.

Making Instruments, Telling Stories, Performing, Exploring, and Drawing Pictures

Tap the keys of a piano or sing a scale while dragging your finger on the screen, and you’ll have just drawn your first playable musical instrument. Tell a story while drawing the story on the screen. Explore a sound in the world, like rain or thunder, visually and see what it sounds like forwards and backwards. Use your voice as the “paint” to draw a picture. Laughter and yelling gives dozens of colors, Scribbling with Singing Fingerswhile whistling a note can give you a specific color.

Cross-Sensory Creative Thinking

When you holler out and move your finger around on the screen, Singing Fingers turns the sounds into a concrete visual object. By transforming the pitch of the sound to a color and smearing it across the screen, people can learn to “see music” and “hear colors.” What is sometimes referred to as “synesthesia” or “cross sensory thinking” becomes an everyday part of playing with sounds. One of the goals of the people behind Singing Fingers is to help people to see the invisible and re-see the everyday world as the beautiful playground that life is.The Next Evolution of Sound Recording and Remixing

A long time ago, only advanced technicians with handmade machines could record sounds. Exciting advancements like record players and tape recorders meant more people could play and record sounds, while cultural revolutions like scratching records and making summer mix tapes meant more people were mixing and remixing music. Computers have opened up many new ways to play with sounds, but none have been as huge a leap for DJ Recordpeople’s expressiveness as we would hope for: iPods let you play music, complex software lets you mix it together, and simple programs let you record sounds, but where is the big leap forward? We see Singing Fingers as a step toward the next big cultural transformation, putting all the power of recording, playing back, and remixing, literally at the tip of the finger for the most improvisational, fluid, sound interface we could come up with. Singing Fingers lowers the floor to let children play with sound as if it was finger paint, and raises the roof by letting advanced DJs break out of the grooves of the records into a world where sounds take any shape you give them and your fingers are like the needles that play the sounds back, with as fine control as your hand will allow. The scratching of records, the recording of tapes, the visualization of the graphics equalizer, and the remixing power of computers, in one little app that takes seconds to learn and years to master.

Interface Simplicity Lightning and Birds
Just like record players and tape recorders were simple and powerful new ways to work with sounds, Singing Fingers simply gives you a blank page. To manipulate sounds you only need your fingers to smear them onto the page and to play them back. No complex buttons, menus, or rules. In fact, to record, play back, and remix sounds there are zero buttons or menus (the buttons are only for file manipulation: saving, loading, and getting a new one). One simple medium, one simple touch of the finger, millions of possibilities.

 

Reaching out to Developers

May 27th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

One of the things I am working on in the Learning layers project is user engagement.

Learning Layers is based on user centred design model, involving end users and organisations in developing solutions to promote both formal and informal learning using technology in clusters consisting of:

  • Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • Regional Education and research institutions; typically upper secondary level and tertiary level)
  • regional authorities, national and European – policymakers responsible for incentive systems for regional growth and innovation, and for developing policies and initiatives for initial and continuing vocational education and training
  • Investors, banks, investment funds, business angels, public bodies- funding and supporting innovation.

Engaging with users and involving them in design of new solutions is also part of the research strategy. Layers researchers obtain research data from the interaction with users in the design based research model.

I am basing the strategy on a model of open innovation and will publish more about our ideas on this over the next few days. One of the things is to move away from the traditional project approach of dissemination of the end results to potential users and stakeholders to a model based on active participation – and on an architecture of participation. We have produced a table of different stakeholders in the project and are trying to understand from what direction their interest might come, what they want to get out of the project and what active contribution they might make.

Based on this we are putting forward a number of concrete initiatives the project can take over the next three and a half years.

One such idea is Layers PBL, standing for Layers Problem Based Learning, Practice Based Learning or Project Based learning depending in your way of looking at it (I see it as all three). This involves connecting outwards to engage with student groups, who in computing or business ICT are often required to undertake a one semester programme undertaking a real project in conjunction with companies.

We have piloted this approach with a team of students from HsKA, the Technical University of Karlsruhe. They are working on an idea for an app based on talks we had with a doctor at a Layers meeting held in Bradford earlier this year. The idea is that in their limited free time (in the car between appointments and meetings) users can reply to a series of questions on their phone. They can move between questions through a voice command and the app will communicate with a webs interface to produce a transcript of their answers which can then be edited and downloaded. The web interface also allows people to build their own (scaffolded) sequence of questions – which we call a stack – and to share them with other users if they wish. They can also rate different stacks.

So far it is going pretty well. The web interface is pretty much finished and they are now developing the mobile interface. The students are using SCRUM programming with weekly sprints. We usually meet online for about 20 minutes a week for them to present their progress and for us to provide feedback.

Last week I talked with Chris Whitehead who ia programmer with Tribal, another partner in the Layers project. Chris has helped develop m-learning. a content development tool for mobiles. And he suggested that we could link the app being developed by the Karlsruhe students (code named Reflect) to the m-learning application. I talked about this to Andreas Vratny, one of the Karlsruhe lead developers, on Friday. And hey presto, by Sunday we had an API and an OAuth system to allow single log in to the two systems.

The present version of the app is being developed for the Android operating system. We will release it on the Pontydysgu site as soon as it is ready, as well as on the Android store. If it catches on we will try to port it to iOS. And we are thinking about extending our development activities to further universities with a the development of a Layers Design Library to support developers. If anyone is interested please get in touch.

 

Taccle2 on track

May 20th, 2013 by Jenny Hughes

We are really excited about the Taccle 2 project – 5 hard copy handbooks and a website bursting with practical ideas on how to use web 2.0 apps and other e-learning tools in your classroom.

The project has reached its half way mark and we are so far on target. The E-learning handbook for Primary Teachers has just come back from the layout artist and is in its final proof reading stage. (There is a temporary version available if you want to take a look)

The E-learning handbook for STEM teachers is waiting for the layout artist to make it look pretty and the E-learning for Humanities is in its draft version. This will be available on the site within the next week.

The next book, E-learning for Creative and Performing Arts has just been started – we are still at the stage of collecting ideas but they are coming in thick and fast. The final book, E-learnig for Core Skills 14-19 is at the planning stage. All books will be ready for printing by April 2014.

Meanwhile, check out Taccle2 website It has 280 posts at the moment and our rough estimate is that there are well over a thousand ideas that can be navigated by subject, age, software, language, format and more. Even better, judging from the number of visitors who return and the number of contributions and comments, there is a growing community around the Taccle2 site which will expand rapidly once the Taccle2 training starts next month.

Please come and join us and spread the word – tried and tested ideas for using technology in the classroom, created by teachers for teachers. No theory, no research just inspiration!

PS you can also follow us on Twitter #taccle or on the Taccle2  Diigo group or on Scoop.it – so no excuses!!

A new approach to conference reviewing

February 11th, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Preparations for the 4th International PLE Conference 2013 being held in Berlin, Germany together with a parallel event in Melbourne, Australia are well underway. the conference will take place on July 11 and 12 and the deadline for the call for submission of abstracts is March 4.

The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

More than that the PLe conference has always prided itself on innovatory approaches to design in terms of involving participants. This year will see the continuation of the unkeynotes, which Cristina Costa and myself discuss in the video above.

And this year sees another experiment in moving away from the traditional reviewing process to an approach based on ‘shepherding’ or mentoring.

The PLEconf web site explains the process.

1. The overall review process

The PLE 2013 review process is organised into three steps:

  • Step 1 (review before the conference): Submitted abstracts for full and short papers are peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) by screening their overall fit with the conference scope as well as the degree of innovation, technical quality, significance and clarity of contributions. As a guide, the extended abstract for a full paper should include the background of the study, the approach and methods employed in the work, the results and the conclusion, which should reflect on the successes and limitations of the work and future development.
  • Step 3 (shepherding) To enhance the participatory character of the PLE Conference the review process is based on the shepherding concept. This means that the authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit full versions of their papers for the conference and are offered support by shepherds (mentors) in the process of writing final full versions. Upon author’s consent, depending on the overall paper maturity, a mentor may be assigned to a paper to guide the process of preparing the manuscript. Shepherds are experienced authors who, non-anonymously, help the submitters by making suggestions for improvement. The submitters incorporate these improvements into their work over a few iterations, usually three, though this may vary from case to case. The aim of shepherding is to enhance the quality of the submissions and help authors qualify for publication in the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).
  • Step 2 (review after the conference): After the conference, the final manuscripts of short and full papers are submitted and peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) again to assess their quality for publication in a special issue of the scientific journal. All submissions will be published in electronic conference proceedings under a Creative Commons Licence. However, only best-quality papers will be considered for the Special Issue of the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).

2. The shepherding concept

Source: http://www.agnusday.org/strips/John10v22to30_2007.jpg

Where does shepherding come from? What is it about?
Shepherding for scientific reviewing started at Conferences on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP’s), a process aimed to help authors to improve their work using a non-anonymous reviewer (shepherd), guiding the author (sheep) on their way (report). The shepherds focus on the organization of the content and the format of articles. Shepherds therefore must be experts in their field and willing to help to improve the work of others. The focus of shepherding feedback is the text itself, there is no discussion of the projects or theories. The goal is to improve the papers for the second review after the shepherding process.

What is the value of shepherding?
Shepherding is now being used by several conference committees to help leverage the potential value of authors’ work by improving them considerably and thus better serving the community. This approach helps to develop more well-rounded articles. It is also an excellent opportunity for newer authors to improve their articles and to get in contact with the community.

What are the principles of shepherding?
Shepherds are experts in their field. The work is of the author. Shepherds advise authors during the process of writing. The person ultimately responsible for the article is the author (sheep). The underlying culture is a gift culture, so it is crucial that shepherds are willing to help authors to improve. The cycles of interaction between authors and shepherds based on Kelly (2008) are:

  • Author sends the first version of the manuscript to the shepherd and introduces the manuscript briefly in his/her own words;
  • Shepherds reply to authors, i.e. ask questions (e.g. What is the motivation for the paper? What do you want to achieve? Where can I help?) and provide initial feedback. Constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement are crucial for shepherding!
  • Authors improve the manuscript by answering the questions and incorporating the shepherd’s feedback.
  • Authors send improved manuscripts to shepherds and another cycle starts with the introduction of the new version (iterative cycle).

Testimonials from shepherds

“As a shepherd, I get great satisfaction helping authors communicate their ideas. A shepherd is not an editor. Shepherds don’t edit. Instead, through conversations, questions , and dialog a shepherd helps authors find their own voice and write compelling papers. I find shepherding to be a wonderful experience. That’s why I do it: to learn, to help grow communities, and to help people share their good ideas more clearly. It’s so rewarding!” Rebecca Wirfs-Brock (PLoP community)

“In my experience, when it is done well, shepherding results in an increased focus and clarity to the work. A good shepherd can help the sheep really bring out the important message of the work and make it much clearer to the reader. On occasion, the sheep gains additional insights into his own work. Note however, that I have seen some superficial shepherding, which resulted in only cosmetic improvements to the work. So it isn’t an automatic great improvement. It takes discipline to do a good job.” Neil Harrison (PLoP)

“Shepherds are individuals, with experience in writing, assigned to an author’s paper with the expressed interest in helping the author improve their paper or writing of any kind. The shepherding process is essentially a review process where the author gets to get feedback on how well the paper communicates the author’s ideas. The shepherd is able to then make suggestions on making the paper better or to assist with ways on helping the author clarify their ideas. Shepherding is about improving the paper itself, while the Shepherd maintains that the author is the one doing the writing. The shepherd can guide an author into a more mature understanding of his or her paper. The best shepherds are those that usually have a good understanding of the subject matter they are reviewing. The main goal of a shepherd is to help the author(s) to make the paper the best that it can be given the amount of “shepherding” time they have for the given venue the paper is to be presented at.” Joseph W. Yoder (PLoP community)

3. Shepherding at PLE 2013

Shepherding is an instrument to improve the quality of submissions, help authors connect with the scientific community and strengthen connections within the PLE community. Shepherds are mentors drawn from the Review Committee. Beside the intrinsic value and the insight into interesting papers, mentors will receive special recognition – shepherds will be featured on the special page and receive special badges rewarding their work. Also authors will vote for the best shepherd. The winners will be awarded at the PLE Conference 2013.

 

Issues in developing and implementing e-Portfolios

February 7th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Diagramme: @lee74 (some rights reserved) http://www.flickr.com/photos/lee8/7164889790/

One of the issues driving the adoption of technology for learning in organisations – particularly in sectors and occupations such as teaching and the medial sector – is the need to show continuing professional development as a requirement for continuing registration.

Many organisations are looking to some form of e-Portfolio to meet this need. Yet there is a tension between the use of e-portfolios to record and reflect on learning, as a tools for learning itself and as a means to assessment.

A recently published study, (lif)e-Portfolio: a framework for implementation (PDF downlaod) by Lee D Ballantyne, from Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (ESOL) , examines some of these issues.

Ballantyne says:

There has been much recent discussion (e.g. Barrett, 2009; JISC, 2012d) concerning the dichotomy of e-portfolios which have the primary purpose of learning versus those which have the primary purpose of assessment. E-portfolio systems developed specifically for assessment purposes often forgo key elements of the learner-centred e-portfolio: social tools, longevity, and personalisation. By contrast, e- portfolios primarily for learning often lack the award-specific structure and reporting tools required for assessment (see Appendix II). A suitable e-portfolio solution must take into consideration the backwash of assessment and that ―from the students‘ point of view assessment always defines the actual curriculum‖ (Ramsden, 1992, p 187), and when the purpose of an e-portfolio changes from a learning tool to summative assessment it becomes ―something that is done to them rather than something they WANT to maintain as a lifelong learning tool‖ (Barrett, 2004a). There is a clear link between an assessment purpose and lack of engagement (Tosh et al., 2005) and yet CIE and ESOL both have stakeholder groups (teachers and trainee teachers) who straddle both learner (professional development) and candidate (teaching awards). The main challenge is to convey the value of the whole e-portfolio to all stakeholders; to find the right balance between assessment-driven (institution-centric) requirements and learner-driven (user-centric) requirements; and to achieve a level of standardisation yet allow for personalisation and creativity (Barrett, 2009). This unprecedented link between teaching, learning and high stakes assessment is fundamentally disruptive: pedagogically, organisationally and technologically (Baume cited Taylor & Gill, 2006, p 4; Cambridge, 2012; Eynon cited Shada et al., 2011. p 75), and planning for successful implementation is critical (JISC, 2012e; Joyes et al., 2010; Meyer & Latham, 2008; Shada at el., 2011).

Learning Layers: supporting the emergence of innovation clusters

February 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

My colleague Pekka from the University of Bremen has posted a series of useful reports on this site about the Application Partner Days, held as part of the Learning Layers project, funded by the European Commission IST programme.

Learning layers is aiming to increase the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe, particularly through the use of mobile devices for informal learning in two ‘industry clusters, in the north German construction industry and in the medical sector in north east England.

Obviously such a project faces a number of challenges, given the slow take up of technology enhanced learning in SMEs. The Application Partner Days are designed to bring developers and researchers together with potential end users in organisations in the two sectors. And prior to the Application partner Days in north Germany, we also spent two days visiting companies and organisations in the sector responsible for education and training and for policy development in this area.

Rather than repeat Pekka’s excellent summary of the proceedings, I will offer a few observations, based on my own attempts to make sense of all we saw and of our discussions.

Firstly there is a perception that there are barriers to introducing technology for learning in small enterprises. But most people we spoke to were overwhelmingly positive about the potential especially of mobile devices. Although it was felt there may be some individual resistance, due to lack of familiarity or fears over privacy, in general it was felt that mobile devices would be easily accepted, especially by younger workers. Indeed, some people we talked to felt that introducing technology could make the construction industry more attractive and help overcome recruitment problems. The big driver for this seems to be the increasing everyday use of internet enabled phones. And  flat rate data contracts mean more workers are prepared to use the ir own device for work purposes.

The issue of sharing between enterprises is more problematic. Some seem willing to share data, others less so. My impression is that this is a new situation where companies are undecided on the implications of sharing. And, of course there are worries over privacy and security, particularly and understandably in the medical sector. Interestingly, I was talking last weekend with someone responsible for the introduction of mobile devices in a major agency in the UK. One of their key requirements is that data is not held in the USA, due to fears over US security policies.

During the different workshop and focus group sessions we held in the Application Partner Days, we sought to gather ideas for applications which could be useful within the SMEs. A number of these =focused on better communication and information flows. The boundary between applications that support learning and those supporting communication and information exchange is becoming blurred. Better information provision can support informal learning but this may not be an automatic process.

Even though the Learning Layers project has relatively generous funding support from the European Commission, there are of course limits to what we can do. Even with the increasing functionality of Software Development Kits and frameworks, development takes time and resources. How do we decide what developments we wish to prioritise. And at the same time there is an avalanche of commercial applications being made available for both Apple and Android operating systems.

One answer may be to develop interlinked physical and on-line ‘Demonstration Centres’ which can bring together both relevant commercial Applications with apps produced through the Layers project.

A second approach may to to focus on boundary points. Obviously the medical and construction sectors both contain workers from different occupations organised through various structures and networks. These I would characterise as Communities of Practice. It is where innovations – both technical and social – occur that innovation occurs and new cluster emerge transcending the boundaries between traditional Communities of Practice and occupations and challenging existing occupational practices. It may be that it is at these points that the need for learning and new forms of collaborative working are at there greatest. Of course much of this learning is informal. And if the boundary points offer opportunities for the emergence of new innovation clusters, they may also serve to frustrate innovation where learning is impeded by existing organisational and occupational practices.

Lets try and provide a couple of examples to make this discussion a little less abstract! In the construction industry we can see a series of emergent innovation networks in the area of green or ecological construction. these involve collaboration by workers from different occupations using new materials, or old materials in new ways and developing new practices. Similarly, the use of Programmable Logic Controllers is crossing boundaries between programming and electrical installation. In the medical industry, we are looking at new practices and forms of organisation for supporting those with diabetes.

If we focus resources on such emergent practices, the result might be both to stimulate economic and social sustainability for small enterprises, to promote sustainable growth and the generation of new employment and at the same time support the development of knowledge maturing and informal learning within and between Communities of Practice.

Lastly but not least. The Learning layers project will run for four years and is keen to involve organisations and researchers interested in our work. You can sign up on the Layers website to become part of a Stakeholder Network, giving enhanced access to the work and to the applications being developed.

 

 

Diversity and Divide in TEL: the case for Personal Learning Environments

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Crisi-tunity

 危机 – wēijī is the Chinese word for “crisis”. It comprises the symbols 危 wēi (danger) and 机 jī (opportunity)

Next week I had planned to be at the Alpine Rendezvous in France, at a workshop entitled ‘Technology Enhanced Learning: crisis and response’.

The aims of the workshop are to:

  • discuss the relationships between TEL and varieties of change, discontinuity and dislocation we observe in the wider world;
  • explore how communities and research traditions involved in TEL can learn from each other, particularly to bring about more open, participative, emancipatory and fluid models of TEL;
  • consider and shape a research agenda for TEL that will allow relevant, rigorous and useful responses on the part of educational organisations and actors to the various discontinuities we have identified.

As specific outcomes we will have:

  • contributed to a clearer and more politically engaged formulation of the Grand Challenges for TEL as part of the ARV process;
  • clarified, refined and challenged our own ideas, leading to a special issue or publication.

The ever indefatigable Ilona Buchem and myself had submitted an abstract called ‘Diversity and TEL: the case for Personal Learning Environments. Sadly I have managed to double book myself and cannot go to the workshop. But Ilona will be there and she has just updated our position paper (reproduced below). And I hope the workshop will be the start of something longer term, where we can explore the social impact of TEL and how it can develop a response to the ongoing social and economic crisis.

Abstract

In this position paper, we discuss whether current TEL promotes diversity or divide and the current barriers in promoting diversity in TEL. We discuss these issues based on the example of Personal Learning Environments (PLE), which is as an approach to TEL aiming at empowering learners to use diverse technological tools suited to their own needs and connecting with other learners through building Personal Learning Networks. We argue that this approach to TEL promotes diversity through boundary-crossing and responding to the diverse needs and prerequisites that each individual learner brings in. At the same time we discuss how the PLE approach challenges current educational practices and what tensions arise when Personal Learning Environments are implemented in educational institutions.

Dangers

How can and should TEL address the numerous challenges of our times, such as economic, demographic, environmental and social challenges? One of the most straightforward contributions of TEL would be to address persisting educational inequalities across age groups, which are often determined by such factors as socio-economic background, geographic location, native language, race, ethnicity, health and gender. Shouldn’t TEL be aiming at providing all people with affordable opportunities to learn and connect with others, with open access to resources, with options of choosing how, when and where they want to learn, with support to learn when no other support is given, taking into account different educational expectations, desires, and dispositions? This may sound utopian, but the penalties for ignoring the challenge of educational disparities are immense, and pose danger on employment, mobility and social cohesion.

Divide

To provide equal opportunities of participation in an increasingly global and increasingly digital world, diminishing digital divide should become the visible agenda of TEL. The digital divide cannot be discussed only as a gap between technology haves and have-nots. Below the inequalities in access and usage, there is also a problem of a divide between contexts, domains and communities that different learners operate in. Following Gorski (2005) in his postulate for a significant paradigm shift in framing digital divide, digital inequalities have to considered from the perspective of larger educational and social inequalities:

As such, we must keep at the fore of the digital divide discussion the fact that the groups most disfranchised by it are the same groups historically and currently disfranchised by curricular and pedagogical practices, evaluation and assessment, school counseling, and all other aspects of education (and society at large).

Innovation

The need for empowered learners as citizens engaging in cross-boundary, problem-solving has been advocated as a necessary means for social innovation. It is through boundary-crossing or bridging the divides that individual and sociocultural differences can become a resource. However, mainstream TEL has not fully recognised the opportunity of boundary crossing and engaging diverse learners in collective action related to solving real life problems. Much of TEL is developed to fit the prevailing educational paradigm, focusing on ever more efficient management of learning and more reliable methods of assessment rather than encouraging learners to explore diverse ideas, experiment with diverse formats or build bridges to diverse communities.

Diversity

Can promoting diversity through TEL be a response to crisis? Certainly, in view of the growing complexity of societal, environmental and economic challenges and the ever increasing amount of information and communication possibilities, diversity may raise new questions, challenges and concerns. However, both research and practice provide evidence that diversity, in terms of individual or group attributes as well as in terms of different content, resources and tools provides valuable opportunities for intellectual engagement, personal growth and the development of novel solutions. How can we promote diversity through TEL? One possible approach would be to grant “access” to learning while at the same time broadening the meaning of “access” beyond physical access and usage rates to include access to an array of media and choices, access to support and encouragement, access to inclusive content and experiences (Gorski, 2005).

Personal Learning Environments

Personal Learning Environments, as an approach to TEL, focus on the learner-controlled and learner-led uses of technologies for learning with no centralised control over tools, information or interactions. This strong focus on autonomous, literate learners as agents and decision-makers taking control and claiming ownership of their learning environments is of course in contrast with regulated and planned processes at schools and universities, demanding radical changes in the prevailing educational paradigm. TEL, based on the Personal Learning Environments approach, vests learners with control over learning processes and outcomes, including planing, content, interactions, resources and assessment. In this way, the PLE approach challenges not only the prevailing educational paradigm, but also TEL approaches inspired by this paradigm, such as Learning Management Systems and pre-programmed, locked-down systems, such as some types of video games or mobile apps, which place learners in the role of recipients and consumers of systems devised by others, while failing to foster both generativity and boundary-crossing.

Boundary-crossing

Such pre-programmed, quality-controlled and locked-down approaches to TEL have led to “walled gardens in cyberspace”, isolating different learners and learning contexts, posing external constraints on what learners can do in such environments in terms of activities, resources and tools. Alternatively, learner-controlled uses of technologies, as embodied in the Personal Learning Environments approach, have facilitated boundary crossing and merging multiple learning contexts, domains and communities. The postulate of boundary-crossing through the PLE approach has a human and technological dimension. On one hand, the PLE approach calls for learners to claim and make use of ownership and control over their learning environment, exerting agency in terms of the human capacity to make choices and uses those choices in real world interactions. On the other hand, the PLE approach calls for openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems.

Attributes

PLE-triangle

With learner ownership, control and agency combined with openness, decentralisation, connectivity and permeability of technological systems being the core attributes of the PLE approach to TEL, diversity becomes natural (Buchem, Attwell, Torres, 2011). The PLE approach promotes diversity of social interactions, diversity of learning contexts and diversity of learning practices. Personal Learning Environments entail diverse people and communities coming together, diverse technology tools and platforms used and combined by learners, diverse content production and consumption modes, diverse access points and modes of learning.

Conflicts

However, diversity promoted by the PLE approach is a source of conflict when PLEs and other systems interact. Specifically, tensions arise at the points traditionally considered as legitimate divides in the education system including TEL, for example (a) private vs. public access, (b) course members vs. non-members, (c) disciplinary knowledge vs. practice-based knowledge, (d) formal vs. informal learning context, (e) expert vs. novice, (f) individual vs. collective practice, (g) assessment vs. reflection, (h) planning vs. implementation, or (i) standards vs. innovation.

Opportunities

We argue that challenging these presumably legitimate boundaries in TEL as postulated by the PLE approach is a way to innovation which may bring viable responses to the crises.

Literature

Buchem, I., Attwell, G., Torres, R. (2011). Understanding Personal Learning Environments: Literature review and synthesis through the Activity Theory lens. pp. 1-33. Proceedings of the The PLE Conference 2011.

Gorski, P. (2005). Education equity and the digital divide. Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education Journal, 13(1), 3-45.

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    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.

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    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:

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    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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