Archive for the ‘learning 2.0’ Category

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. http://www.memidex.com/pedagogy+instr . 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.”

UK education minister calls for open source curriculum!

January 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The fundamental model of school education is still a teacher talking to a group of pupils. It has barely changed over the centuries, even since Plato established the earliest “akademia” in a shady olive grove in ancient Athens.

A Victorian schoolteacher could enter a 21st century classroom and feel completely at home. Whiteboards may have eliminated chalk dust, chairs may have migrated from rows to groups, but a teacher still stands in front of the class, talking, testing and questioning.

But that model won’t be the same in twenty years’ time. It may well be extinct in ten.

Technology is already bringing about a profound transformation in education, in ways that we can see before our very eyes and in others that we haven’t even dreamt of yet.

Nothing too remarkable here, and any regular reader of this blog will recognise similar ideas spouted on these pages. What is remarkable is the person who said it – the unpopular Minster of Education for England, Michael Gove, in a speech at the opening of BETT, the UK education technology exhibition.

This was a long awaited speech, given that Give has said little about educational technology since the Con-Dem coalition government came to power. In a speech which seemed to go down well with the ed-tech community on twitter but was criticised by teachers union leaders, Gove went on to say:

  • The present IT national curriculum for schools would be abolished leaving schools freedom to design their own curriculum. From September this year schools will be free to use the “amazing resources” that already exist and will exist on the web.
  • Games and interactive software can help pupils acquire complicated skills
  • He wants to see the introduction new courses of study in computer science
  • We should “look at the school curriculum in a new way, and consider how new technological platforms can help to create new curriculum materials in a much creative and collaborative way than in the past
  • Rather than concentrate on hardware procurement we should focus on improving initial teacher training and continual professional development for teachers in educational technology

Gove said three main things that technology can do for learning:

  • Disseminate knowledge incredibly widely.
  • Change the way teachers teach, with adaptive software personalising learning.
  • Allow teachers to assess pupils in more complex and sophisticated ways.

Gove went on to talk about an open-source curriculum saying:

Advances in technology should also make us think about the broader school curriculum in a new way.

In an open-source world, why should we accept that a curriculum is a single, static document? A statement of priorities frozen in time; a blunt instrument landing with a thunk on teachers’ desks and updated only centrally and only infrequently?

It all seems a bit too good to be true. And of course a lot depends on how these chnages mucght be implemented and vitally what support and funding is avaiable to schools.

A website – schooltech..org.uk – has been launched to discuss the new proposals. Bernadette Brooks
General Manager of Naace and Seb Schmoller Chief Executive, Association for Learning Technology (ALT) explained the reasons for the consultation:

The effective use of technology has great potential to support better teaching and learning, but there are important questions arising from the opportunities presented by new technologies. For example: how teachers can best develop the right skills; how learning is organised and delivered; and how education can be agile in adapting to new technology developments. This is an important opportunity to discuss and understand the implications.

The site contains, initially, some “stimulus questions” suggested by DFE, which can be discussed by the posting of comments. During March Naace and ALT will work together to produce a report which we will share with DFE that draws on the discussion that we hope will now ensue.

We hope that parents, teachers, technology developers and practitioners, policy people, researchers, students, people from industry and any others with an interest in and experience of this field will join the conversation.

You can add your ideas on the conusltation web site. Or of course you can just add a comment here :)  I will be coming back to some of the issues raised by Give’s announcement in further blog posts over the next week.

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    News Bites

    Online Educa Berlin

    Are you going to Online Educa Berlin 2014. As usual we will be there, with Sounds of the Bazaar, our internet radio station, broadcasting live from the Marlene bar on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 December. And as always, we are looking for people who would like to come on the programme. Tell us about your research or your project. tell us about cool new ideas and apps for learning. Or just come and blow off steam about something you feel strongly about. If you would like to pre-book a slot on the radio email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling us what you would like to talk about.


    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


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