Archive for the ‘learning 2.0’ Category

Disruptive Education

October 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last Friday, Fred Garnett and I made presentations to the weekly virtual Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLC) organised by Cristina Costa and Chrissie Nerantzi from Salford University. The title of the conversation, which took place on the Blackboard Collaborate platform, was disruptive education.

Fred lives in London and I was also in London for meetings, so we decided to meet up at the Westminster Hub (more on that later this week). And it was great fun! Fred and me both shared our presentations and so it evolved into a genuine conversation. I don’t know about the others, but i learned a lot (including that there is nothing like face to face proximity for a real conversation. We both agreed that globalisation is probably more disruptive to educatio0n at the moment than the introduction of new technologies, which are only an enabling factor.

I will post my slides tomorrow (and a link to the recording which seems to be broken at the moment). Here are Fred’s slides – slightly changed after the session. I especially like his distinction between disruption applied to education, which he says needs

  • new distance learning resources
  • new business models
  • globalisation
  • competition
  • capitalism
  • You!

and disruption applied to learning, which needs:

  • critical pedagogies
  • new collaborations
  • human-scale
  • Per to peer
  • social
  • Us!

No ‘Team GB’ for education!

September 30th, 2012 by Jenny Hughes

The Wales Government has announced its plans to implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned earlier this year “Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in Digital Wales.”  We are quite excited that Wales is one of the pioneers in developing a whole-country strategy for the promotion of digital technologies in school classrooms – including advocating the widespread use of mobile devices, a shift to a PLE rather than MLE focus and the use of social software for learning.  There are one or two things we disagree with, such as the heavy emphasis on a ‘national’ collection of resources, but the rest of the report is exciting, forward thinking and realistic.  There is a serious commitment to mass staff development at all levels – surely the biggest barrier to take up of new technologies in the classroom – including defining a set of digital competences for teachers. This report also recommends that these competences (personal AND pedagogic) be compulsory in ITT courses.

The other section of the report which will cause major ripples is the chunk entitled “External conditions for success” which seem to us to identify all of the brick walls which teachers come up against and suggests that they should be dismantled. I am going to quote the report in full because it is music to the ears of most of us involved with e-learning in schools.

Universal take-up of digital opportunities assumes that:

  • all learning providers, and indeed all classrooms, can connect to the internet at sufficient speeds to enable efficient use of digital resources
  • interface equipment – whiteboards, PCs, tablets, mobile devices, etc. – are available widely enough within learning providers to give quick and easy access to resources. ‘Bring your own device’ solutions may be appropriate here
  • learners and teachers are not prevented from using resources by general restrictions imposed by local authorities or learning providers on certain types of hardware (e.g. smart phones), software (e.g. ‘apps’) or web resources (e.g. Facebook, YouTube or Twitter)
  • learners and their parents/carers have adequate access at home (and increasingly on mobile devices) to ensure that technology-enhanced learning in the classroom can be replicated and deepened outside the learning provider. 

LEAs, take note!!

The main vehicle for turning the report into reality will be an organisation called the ‘Hwb’ (no, not a funny way of spelling Hub, ‘hwb’ means to promote, push or inspire). Its remit will be to lead, promote and support the use of digital resources and technologies by learners and teachers across Wales and create and develop a national digital collection for learning and teaching in English and Welsh.  Both Pontydysgu and the Taccle2 project in Wales are committed to doing what we can to support the Hwb and will make sure that all our resources and experience in the field are freely available.

The driving force behind it all is Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education in Wales – with whose politics I usually disagree – but I am very happy to admit that he has come up trumps with this one!  He is knowledgable, committed and comes across as a genuinely enthusiastic technophile with an understanding of what education could look like in the future and a clear vision of how, in Wales, we are going to get there.  (“Just like Michael Gove!”, I hear my English colleagues say….).  I must admit, that even as a card-carrying member of a different party (byddwch chi’n dyfalu!), devolution has been all good in terms of education and we have had two excellent Ministers.   Look at the image on the top of this post and you may understand why we are looking forward to an increasing divergence and autonomy.  Team GB? No thanks!




Wales to encourage schools to make full use of social networking technologies

August 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell
Leighton Andrews, Wales Assembly Government Minister for Education and Skills, has announced an ambitious agenda in response to an independent review of digital classroom teaching. Of particular note is the commitment to “a new approach to the use of social networking technologies in education” through “encouraging schools to make full use of social technologies in order to engage learners and improve learning outcomes.”
Andrews says:

In previous years, local authorities have been asked to block access to social networking sites in schools, libraries and youth clubs, as a result of very understandable concerns about online predators, cyberbullying and the risk of disruption to classroom activities. However, this policy can have adverse effects. It deprives schools of access to tools and resources which might otherwise be used creatively and constructively in education both within and beyond the classroom. More importantly, it means that children are most likely to be using these sites outside the school, at home, or on mobile devices, in environments which may be unsupervised and where they have less access to informed guidance and support on how to stay safe online.
In 2008, Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce the teaching of safe and responsible use of the Internet into both the primary and secondary school curriculum. The underpinning approach was that we first teach children to use the Internet safely under supervision, and then help them to develop the skills and understanding they need to manage their own risk as they use the Internet independently. Enabling access to social networking sites in schools will be consistent with this approach, providing pupils with the opportunity to learn safe, responsible and considerate online behaviours in the context of supported educational activities. It will also help schools to include parents in these activities.”

We have long argued that blocking of social networking (and other web sites) in schools was a backward and futile step. Lets hope that other countries follow the lead of Wales.

Innovating Pedagogy

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The UK Open University have launched an interesting new series, Innovating Pedagogy. The series of reports is intended to explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.

Mike Sharples explains:

We wanted to distinguish our perspective from that of the EDUCAUSE Horizon reports, which start from a consideration of how technologies may influence education. I would argue that ours aren’t ‘technology-driven opportunities’, but are rather an exploring of new and emerging forms of teaching, learning and assessment in an age of technology. All innovations in education nowadays are framed in relation to technology, but that doesn’t mean they are ‘technology driven’. So, for example, personal inquiry learning is mediated and enhanced by technology, but not driven by it.

We had a long discussion over ‘pedagogies’. The problem is that there isn’t a word in English that means ‘the processes of teaching, learning and assessment’. I would argue that in current usage ‘pedagogy’ has broadened from a formal learning experience conducted by a teacher, as we have become more aware of the opportunities for peer learning, non-formal apprenticeship etc. See e.g. . The origin of the word isn’t ‘teacher’ but “slave who took children to and from school” We were careful to indicate in the Introduction our usage of the word: “By pedagogy we mean the theory and practice of teaching, learning, and assessment.” So, within that usage are practices that might contribute towards effective learning, such as creating and sharing annotations of textbooks.

The ten trends explored in the first report are:

Although the list may seem as little idiosyncratic, authors emphasise that the themes are often interlinked in practice. I wonder though, if there is something of a contradiction between Assessment for Learning and Learning Analytics?

I am also interested in the definition of rhizomatic learning: “supporting rhizomatic learning requires the creation of a context within which the curriculum and knowledge are constructed by members of a learning community and which can be reshaped in a dynamic manner in response to environmental conditions. The learning experience may build on social, conversational processes, as well as personal knowledge creation, linked into unbounded personal learning networks that merge formal and informal media.”

The MOOC debate

August 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There is an intense debate going on about MOOCs at the moment. As  Nellie Deutsch explains in an excellent post entitled Loveless MOOCs:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) began with the idea of connecting for learning via personal learning environments (PLEs) using blogs, wikis, google groups, and Moodle. According to Wikipedia, the term MOOC is said to have started in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander “in response to an open online course designed and lead by George Siemens and Stephen Downes” (wikipedia). However, MOOCs have changed from the idea of connecting with others for learning to the more traditional content delivery format as demonstrated by Khan’s Academy, MIT’s and Standford.

Now a group of elite universities have launched their own MOOCs using Coursera (a proprietary course management system)  developed for the universities and with many other private and public educational institutions planning their own MOOCs the debate is underway.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens have characterised the difference as between C type MOOCs (C as in connectivism) and X type MOOCs (I am not sure what the X stands for). I am not sure this helps clarify things. Indeed, I think the term MOOC is now being used for almost any web based course and as such is losing any real meaning

So what are the differences.

The first is intent and motivation. The original MOOCs run by Siemens and Downes were designed to open up learning to all who wished to participate – thus the Open in the name. The business model – in as much as their was one – was based on a limited number of participants being enrolled as formal students in one of the sponsoring institutions. The new MOOCs appear to be driven by  the desire to charge for online courses, as a way of increasing enrolment on other formal courses or by charging for certification.

The latter has pedagogic implications.

Pamel McLean reports on her personal experience on her blog:

I’ve started my history of the Internet course with Coursera. I’m very interested to see how it works. It’s assessed, which I was not expecting, and find highly demotivating. I don’t really want to “master” the  cource materials.  I just want a familiarise  myself with what it covers, and how it does it.  However assessment and a final judgement of having passed or failed brings in all kinds of new dynamics. I feel a need to demonstrate to “the powers that be” that I’m not a failure, but I didn’t enrol in order to prove anything to them. I enrolled to take what I wanted from the course. Only a few hours in and I feel pushed towards jumping through hoops. I think they have only three categories “pass”, “fail” or “dropout”.

This is not the only pedagogic difference. Siemens and Downes based their MOOC on peer support through the use of social software and Web 2.0 technologies including Forums, Blogs and Twitter, webinars and internet radio. They also invited an impressive list of guest speakers who gave their time for free. Thus the model was based on peer and interactive learning through community connections, with links to participant activity being harvested and shared.

The new MOOCs are evidently not based on such a model. In fact they really just seem to be traditional on-line courses, albeit repackaged.

Furthermore, Downes and Siemens promoted the development of Personal Learning Environments with participants encouraged to develop their own learning environment including whatever applications they chose. This is very different to the closed world of Coursera technology.

I don’t agree with Nellie Deutsch’s assertion that the attitude the elite universities are choosing to take is “if you can’t join them, break them”. Instead I think they are trying to take what is clearly a successful and ground breaking innovation and trying to mold it to fit their own pedagogic and business models. But at the end of the day I don’t think what they are promoting are MOOCs, at least not as they were originally conceived.

Postscript: there are an increasing number of efforts to curate the MOOC debate – I particularly like Networked Learning – Learning Networks by Peter B Sloep which picks up well on the key issues under discussion.


Taccle 2 underway

May 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Many of you signed up on a form here for the first Taccle handbook, on using social software and web 2.0 for teaching and learning. The handbook was written for teachers wanting to introduce e-learning into their practice. There was also a series of training events for teachers based on the handbook. Both the handbook and the courses were rated highly by teachers and the handbook has been translated into some 8 or 9 languages and been reprinted in some countries

However,  feedback from readers and from course participants was that there were still ‘gaps’ that needed to be filled.

The gaps

First, although teachers across the subject range said they found the both the courses and the handbook useful for developing generic technical skills there were many who still found difficulty in translating that into specific learning activities within their subject area or sector.

Second, although many teachers, as a result of reading the handbook or attending the courses, now feel confident about designing learning objects or using web 2.0 applications, they are less confident about engaging pupils in producing and publishing their own. TACCLE 2 addresses these issues by providing a series of 5 supplementary handbooks (in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian) written in the same style as the original, around specific subjects.

What Taccle 2 will do

TACCLE 2 for teachers will provide:

  • 5 step-by-step guides to integrating ICT and e-learning in YOUR classroom: primary education, maths, science and technology, key competences, arts and culture and humanities.
  • practical materials and ideas customised for YOUR subject area and pupil age range
  • complementary training courses based on the handbook
  • access to web based materials for e-learning
  • opportunities to join a network of like-minded colleagues across Europe
  • a chance to join in and influence the work of the project as it develops
  • free download of the popular E-learning Handbook for Classroom Teachers produced by the Taccle 1 project
  • signposts to other banks of open educational resources for your subject

We will be publishing examples of some of the work as it is developed on this web site you can follow the development of the project on the Taccle 2 website.

Vision of a Mobile Learning Environment

May 16th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I am delighted to have been invited to evaluate the MOLE project proof of concept application and tools. The project involves 22 countries from around the world working together to build a platform independent set of tools aimed at learning collaboration and information sharing on mobile devices for aid workers.

I am particularly interested as the sort of tools they are talking about in the video are very similar to the tools I hope we will be building and testing in the Learning layers project, due to start later this year.

Restart Education

March 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the Imaginarium in Romania, an event organised as part of the Restart Education campaign in that country. Restart Education is a partnership between the Romanian American Foundation, TechSoup, CROS and Microsoft, and according to their website “creates a framework for innovation in learning and education – harnessing the power of technology to develop new ‘user’ centric tools for Romanian education. ”

The website goes on to explain their motivation for the project.

Education and the approach to pedagogy are in need of constant innovation and reinvention to keep up with an accelerating pace of change.  The world is shifting from a paradigm based on memorization to valuing abilities to synthesize available data and collaboration.  Thankfully, the tools of the information age that demand new approaches also provide systems for collaboration and consumer led development; offering the opportunity to answer the question of ‘what will make education more relevant and valuable in real time?.’

The event was designed as a mixture between an unconference, a workshop and a game with some 100 participants, mostly young people.

The first session was devoted to exploring a model for the future of education developed by the CROS NGO. In the second session the groups or ‘tribes’ brainstormed ideas for new applications to support learning. That resulted in some 169 ideas which were then grouped and on the second day participants further developed their ideas and made a short pitch around them. At that point I sadly had to leave to catch a plane but I gather there was going to be a vote with the most successful ideas receiving development and marketing support.

I was relying on interpreters so may not have fully understood all of the ideas. Some seemed to struggle to advance their thinking outside present assessment and classroom paradigm but a  number seemed very promising. And most encouraging was the enthusiasm of the participants who had given up a weekend to0 attend the event. I would love to see this model repeated elsewhere and also was left wondering how to get peopel to truly explore more radical models for education.

The organisers had invited Leonard Turtin from Summerhill School, myself, Fred Garnet and Cosmin Alexandru to make short inputs, I guess to try to promote an alternative vision for education.

Clearly this was just the beginning of a longer process and I hope to be able to keep in touch with the development. many thanks for CROS for inviting me (I will write another post on the remarkable structure and activities of the student NGOs in Romania and thanks to to all the people with whom I had such stimulating discussions. I don’t know about the Romanian participants but I came away awed and inspired by the energy and vision of what could be. Now the question is how to realise those ideas.

You can find out more on the Restart Education Facebook page and on Fred Garnett’s blog which he set up for the event.

Raspberry Pi released

February 27th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There seems to be a real buzz developing about the release of the Raspberry Pi computer. This  QR code poster nwas developed by Jonas Butz, a high school student from Germany. But before I go on to look at what the Raspberry Pi is, lest explain why I think it is so important.

There has been a long debate in the UK on what kids should be taught about computers. fairly obviously the ‘old’ curriculum which all too often focused on the ability to use things like spreadsheets or worse still Powerpoint was inadequate and failed to interest many students.

I don’t think the latest government policy of introducing a GCSE (the single subject qualifications students take at around 16 years old) in computing science is really the answer (even with a focus on programming).

I am still worried about how we can move from the idea of digital literacies to critical literacies (although I guess this depend a little on how you define these terms.

And I increasingly feel we should be able to teach kids how not just to hack software and to have a critical understanding of the role of digital technologies in society but also to be able to hack the hardware itself. Steve Jobs always talked about Apple’s aim to be at the interface of engineering and the liberal arts. But in many ways Apple’s closed infrastructure and its obsession with locking down devices (to the extent of even using special screws which cannot be removed without Apple tools) has stopped young people being able to explore hardware and try out their own hardware solutions. Surely hacking hardware is the best way of learning engineering and at the same time thinking about what role technology might play in our societies.

So I am excited by the launch of the credit card sized Raspberry Pi computer which it seems is now shipping at a price of 25 dollars for model A and 35 dollars for model B. OK this is without a keyboard, mouse, monitor or case. But, in my experience, the first thing geek kids do is remove the case from their computer!

This video talks about the Fedora Linux release which is being recommended for the Raspberry Pi.

The ‘About us‘ section of the Raspberry Pi website is modest (take note Apple – and, for that matter, OLPC) in explaining their ambition:

We don’t claim to have all the answers. We don’t think that the Raspberry Pi is a fix to all of the world’s computing issues; we do believe that we can be a catalyst. We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we’re doing. We want to break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families can’t use the internet. We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children. We think that 2012 is going to be a very exciting year.

Play, emergent curricula, serendipity and opportunity

January 21st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

In a blog post about the BETT show in London I complained that there was little evidence about using technology for teaching and learning. And that is why I like this presentation by Helen Keegan. Whilst she looks at a whole series of web and social networking tools the whole focus is on real life use. I particularly like her advice on slide 32 – “Leave space in the course to allow space for play, emergent curricula, serendipity and opportunity.”

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    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

    Talking about ‘European’ MOOCs

    The European EMMA project is launching a  webinar series. The first is on Tuesday 17 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15:00 CET.

    They say: “In this first webinar we will explore new trends in European MOOCs. Rosanna de Rosa, from UNINA, will present the philosophy and challenges behind the EMMA EU project and MOOC platform developed with the idea of accommodating diversity through multilingualism. Darco Jansen, from EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), will talk about Europe’s response to MOOC opportunities. His presentation will highlight the main difference with the U.S. and discuss the consequences for didactical and pedagogical approaches regarding the different contexts.

    OER – update 2

    Open Education Europa has compiled and is releasing today as open data the analytical list of European Repositories of Open Educational Resources (OER).

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    • European OER Portals and Repositories
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    • Larger Repositories rather than very specific ones
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    • Collaborative OER production initiatives (LeMill, RVP.CZ Portal,, KlasCement”)

    OER – update 1

    From the Universidad a Distancia de Madrid (UDIMA) – Madrid Open University – we are pleased to present the European Research Network of Open Educational Resources (ERNOER), a collaborative space in which more than fifty internationally educational institutions and prestigious universities are involved which can be accessed through the following link:

    The entire educational community can benefit in this web repository of more than three hundred image banks, two hundred fifty audio file repositories, two hundred and fifty video resources and more than three hundred programs and applications that can be used in education.

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