Archive for the ‘learning 2.0’ Category

Flipping Something out of Nothing

October 25th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education from sam seidel on Vimeo.

I had the pleasure to present alongside Mike Neary and Joss Winn at the Mobility Shifts conference in New York. They are working on the idea of students as producers. This theme is also taken up in this excellent video, which looks at the theme of students as producers within hip hop culture.

Open Badges, assessment and Open Education

August 25th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I have spent some time this morning thinking about the Mozilla Open Badges and assessment project, spurred on by the study group set up by Doug Belshaw to think about the potential of the scheme. And the more I think about it, the more I am convinced of its potential as perhaps one of the most significant developments in the move towards Open Education. First though a brief recap for those of you who have not already heard about the project.

The Open Badges framework, say the project developers, is designed to allow any learner to collect badges from multiple sites, tied to a single identity, and then share them out across various sites — from their personal blog or web site to social networking profiles. The infrastructure needs to be open to allow anyone to issue badges, and for each learner to carry the badges with them across the web and other contexts.

Now some of the issues. I am still concerned of attempts to establish taxonomies, be it those of hierarchy in terms of award structures or those of different forms of ability / competence / skill (pick your own terminology). Such undertakings have bedeviled attempts to introduce new forms of recognition and I worry that those coming more from the educational technology world may not realise the pitfalls of taxonomies and levels.

Secondly is the issue of credibility. There is a two fold danger here. One is that the badges will only be adopted for achievements in areas / subjects / domains presently outside ‘official’ accreditation schemes and thus will be marginalised. There is also a danger that in the desire to gain recognition, badges will be effectively benchmarked against present accreditation programmes (e.g. university modules / degrees) and thus become subject to all the existing restrictions of such accreditation.

And thirdly, as the project roils towards a full release, there may be pressures for restricting badge issuers to existing accreditation bodies, and concentrating on the technological infrastructure, rather than rethinking practices in assessment.

Lets look at some of the characteristics of any assessment system:

  • Reliability

Reliability is a measure of consistency. A robust assessment system should be reliable, that is, it should yield the same results irrespective of who is conducting it or the environmental conditions under which it is taking place. Intra-tester reliability simply means that if the same assessor is looking at your work his or her judgement should be consistent and not influenced by, for example, another assessment they might have undertaken! Inter-tester reliability means that if two different assessors were given exactly the same evidence and so on, their conclusions should also be the same. Extra-tester reliability means that the assessors conclusions should not be influenced by extraneous circumstances, which should have no bearing on the evidence.

  • Validity

Validity is a measure of ‘appropriateness’ or ‘fitness for purpose’. There are three sorts of validity. Face validity implies a match between what is being evaluated or tested and how that is being done. For example, if you are evaluating how well someone can bake a cake or drive a car, then you would probably want them to actually do it rather than write an essay about it! Content validity means that what you are testing is actually relevant, meaningful and appropriate and there is a match between what the learner is setting out to do and what is being assessed. If an assessment system has predictive validity it means that the results are still likely to hold true even under conditions that are different from the test conditions. For example, performance evaluation of airline pilots who are trained to cope with emergency situations on a simulator must be very high on predictive validity.

  • Replicability

Ideally an assessment should be carried out and documented in a way which is transparent and which allows the assessment to be replicated by others to achieve the same outcomes. Some ‘subjectivist’ approaches to evaluation would disagree, however.

  • Transferability

Although each assessment is looking at a particular set of outcomes, a good assessment system is one that could be adapted for similar outcomes or could be extended easily to new learning.  Transferability is about the shelf-life of the assessment and also about maximising its usefulness.

  • Credibility

People actually have to believe in the assessment! It needs to be authentic, honest, transparent and ethical. If people question the rigour of the assessment process, doubt the results or challenge the validity of the conclusions, the assessment loses credibility and is not worth doing.

  • Practicality

This means simply that however sophisticated and technically sound the assessment is, if it takes too much of people’s time or costs too much or is cumbersome to use or the products are inappropriate then it is not a good evaluation!

Pretty obviously there is going to be a trade off between different factors. It is possible to design extremely sophisticated assessments which have a high degree of validity. However, such assessment may be extremely time consuming and thus not practical. The introduction of multiple tests through e-learning platforms is cheap and easy to produce. However they often lack face validity, especially for vocational skills and work based learning.

Lets try to make this discussion more concrete by focusing on one of the Learning Badges pilot assessments at the School of Webcraft.

OpenStreetMapper Badge Challenge

Description: The OpenStreetMapper badge recognizes the ability of the user to edit OpenStreetMap wherever satellite imagery is available in Potlatch 2.

Assessment Type: PEER – any peer can review the work and vote. The badge will be issued with 3 YES votes.

Assessment Details:

OpenStreetMap.org is essentially a Wikipedia site for maps. OpenStreetMap benefits from real-time collaboration from thousands of global volunteers, and it is easy to join. Satellite images are available in most parts of the world.

P2PU has a basic overview of what OpenStreetMap is, and how to make edits in Potlatch 2 (Flash required). This isn’t the default editor, so please read “An OpenStretMap How-To“:

Your core tasks are:

  1. Register with OpenStreetMap and create a username. On your user page, accessible at this link , change your editor to Potlatch 2.
  2. On OpenStreetMap.org, search and find a place near you. Find an area where a restaurant, school, or gas station is unmapped, or could use more information. Click ‘Edit’ on the top of the map. You can click one of the icons, drag it onto the map, and release to make it stick.
  3. To create a new road, park, or other 2D shape, simply click to add points. Click other points on the map where there are intersections. Use the Escape to finish editing.
  4. To verify your work, go to edit your point of interest, click Advanced at the bottom of the editor to add custom tags to this point, and add the tag ‘p2pu’. Make its value be your P2PU username so we can connect the account posting on this page to the one posting on OpenStreetMap.
  5. Submit a link to your OpenStreetMap edit history. Fill in the blank in the following link with your OpenStreetMap username http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/____/edits

You can also apply for the Humanitarian Mapper badge: http://badges.p2pu.org/questions/132/humanitarian-mapper-badge-challenge

Assessment Rubric:

  1. Created OpenStreetMap username
  2. Performed point-of-interest edit
  3. Edited a road, park, or other way
  4. Added the tag p2pu and the value [username] to the point-of-interest edit
  5. Submitted link to OpenStreetMap edit history or user page to show what edits were made

NOTE for those assessing the submitted work. Please compare the work to the rubric above and vote YES if the submitted work meets the requirements (and leave a comment to justify your vote) or NO if the submitted work does not meet the rubric requirements (and leave a comment of constructive feedback on how to improve the work)

CC-BY-SA JavaScript Basic Badge used as template5.

Pretty clearly this assessment scores well on validity and also looks to be reliable. The template could easily be transferred as indeed it has in the pilot. It is also very practical. However, much of this is due to the nature of the subject being assessed – it is much easier to use computers for assessing practical tasks which involve the use of computers than it is for tasks which do not!

This leaves the issue of credibility. I have to admit  know nothing about the School of Webcraft, neither do I know who were the assessors for this pilot. But it would seem that instead of relying on external bodies in the form of examination boards and assessment agencies to provide credibility (deserved for otherwise), if the assessment process is integrated within communities of practice – and indeed assessment tasks such as the one given above could become a shared artefact of that community – then then the Badge could gain credibility. And this seems a much better way of buidli9ng credibility than trying to negotiate complicated arrangements that n number of badges at n level would be recognized as a degree or other ‘traditional’ qualification equivalent.

But lets return to some of the general issues around assessment again.

So far most of the discussions about the Badges project seem to be focused on summative assessment. But there is considerable research evidence that formative assessment is critical for learning. Formative assessment can be seen as

“all those activities undertaken by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes ‘formative assessment’ when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet the needs.”

Black and Williams (1998)

And that is there the Badges project could come of age. One of the major problems with Personal Learning Environments is the difficulties learners have in scaffolding their own learning. The development of formative assessment to provide (on-line) feedback to learners could help them develop their personal learning plans and facilitate or mediate community involvement in that learning.Furthermore a series of tasks based assessments could guide learners through what Vygotsky called the Zone of Proximal Development (and incidentally in Vygotsky’s terms assessors would act as Significantly Knowledgeable Others).

In these terms the badges project has the potential not only to support learning taking place outside the classroom but to build a significant infrastructure or ecology to support learning that takes place anywhere, regardless of enrollment on traditional (face to face or distance) educational programmes.

In a second article in the next few days I will provide an example of how this could work.

Open Educational Resources, Reuse and Sharing

June 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I participated in a workshop on Open Educational Resources at the EDEN2011 conference in Dublin last week. OER was high on the agenda at the conference, referred to by a number of the keynote speakers and also the subject of several papers and workshops.

the workshop I attended was organised by the OPAL project. OPAL – the Open Education Quality Initiative – funded by the EU and supported by UNESCO – is attempting to develop a guide and benchmarks on open educational practices. It is focused on institutional change and the guideline is designed as a maturity model which allows organisations to position themselves according to the degree of maturity for each of a number o individual dimensions of open educational practices identified by the project.

The discussion at the workshop was lively and interesting. One focus was the language of the guide with participants feeling that more still needed to be done to explain what OERs and open educational practices were.

Grainne Conole in her introduction to the workshop had posed a series of questions including why there appears to be so limited reuse of resources and secondly how we can guarantee quality.

I am not so convinced by the assumptions here. the idea that there is limited reuse of resources is based on the lack of posting of amended resources to OER repositories. But that doesn’t mean they are not being used. I suspect many, many teachers do use OERs and naturally edit and change them to suit their own practice (although the prevalent PDF file format does not make that easy). However it is not part of their culture to repost the changed version to a repository. Does this matter? On the one hand not if OERs are being created and used – although obviously institutions, authors and funders would like to know what impact their work is having. One the other hand one of the ideas behind OERs was to create an ecology of learning materials with use, reuse and sharing playing a key role,. But I suspect benchmarks will not help us in this. The main issue is the culture of sharing. Even here I don’t think there are major obstacles. However we need workflows and spaces which make the sharing as easy and natural as sharing music.

And here is the rub. Whilst I guess most people share music it is often illegal. And one participant in the workshop raised the issue we never dare talk about. The problem, he said, is that teachers constantly download, change and reuse educational resources. they rarely check the license conditions. If it is on the web it is fair gain. And in telling people they should only use resources licensed for free use, we are in danger of being seen as the internet cops – telling people what they cannot do rather than helping them use resources for learning.

That is a big question. I like the approach of OPAL to open educational practices. But I am not so sure about benchmarking and maturity models (what senior manager is going to admit that their organisation lags behind?). Instead I think we need to continue very basic work on making it easier for teachers to produce OERs and share them. It will take time, but even over the last five years there has been massive progress.

And I wonder if we need to open a wider political debate on the efficacy or educational resources which are not open and who benefits form such practices.

Pedagogic Approaches to using Technology for Learning – Literature Review

May 31st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

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

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

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

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

The literature review is intended to

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

Pedagogical Appraches for Using Technology Literature Review January 11 FINAL 1

Beyond blended learning- towards a fluid discourse of educational conversations

April 25th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Steve Wheeler has written an interesting bog post, which deserves unpacking and discussing.

Steve says:

Blended learning (in the established, traditional sense) means a mix of learning activities that involved students learning both in the classroom, and at a distance from the classroom, usually mediated through technology. I am claiming that this type of blended learning – in concept at least – is now outmoded because the boundaries between local and remote have now been substantially blurred.

I think I would largely agree with him although I am not so sure it is due to the blurring of the boundary between local and remote. Reading older papers on technology enhanced learning, there was great emphasis placed on the divide between synchronous and asynchronous communication and how to provide a proper ‘mix’ of technologies facilatating such modes. Today we flip between different modes without thinking about it. Take Skype – if I text someone they may reply straight away or may reply the next day. I may have a series of short episodic conversations with a colleague throughout the day. I may switch from text to audio or video for parts of these conversations. They may be one to one or we may invite others to participants for particular parts of the conversation. Instead of a divide between synchronous or asynchronous communication, tools now support multi modal communication and multi modal learning.

Steve goes on to say:

The new blend is to blur formal and informal learning

Of this I am less convinced. I am in a few problems here because I have often written myself about informal learning. But in truth I am unconvinced of the value of the concept. Indeed there is little agreement even on what the terms formal, informal and non-formal learning mean. If you are interested in this debate there is an excellent literature review by Colley, Hodkinson and Malcom who explore different definitions and uses of the terms. I have tended to use the idea of informal learning in two ways – to refer to learning which takes place outside the formal education system or to learning which takes place in the absence of formal teaching. The problem with the first use of the term is that it refers only to what it is not, rather than to what it is. And in the case of the second, it tends to ignore the influence of what Vykotsly called a More Knowledgeable Other. The More Knowledgeable Other is anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, particularly in regards to a specific task, concept or process – a friend, a peer, a colleague, who can support the scaffolding of  learning. Technology is playing a significant role in blurring boundaries here. If I read Steve Wheeler’s article, think about it and write my own ideas then surely I am learning, and in this case Steve is playing the part of the More Knowledgeable Other in guiding my thinking. Recently one of my computers was overheating. I searched for and found a web site telling me at what temperature the Northbridge chip should be running (it was running much hotter). I then found a YouTube video showing me how to take my computer apart and clean the filters. Is this formal or informal learning? Do I have scaffolding and guidance in my learning? I would suggest I do.

Even more problematic is Steve’s idea of “informal technology”. I think this may just be careless use of terminology. Of course technologies are not informal or formal. However what is certainly true is that most young people today own various technology based devices, which can be used or as John Cook calls it “appropriated” for learning. And as we move towards near ubiquitous connectivity, at least in richer countries, then these devices provide constant access to all kinds of learning – including contact to those with more knowledge than we have. It is interesting to note that most of this learning takes place in the absence of purpose built education technology, rather we appropriate applications designed for business or enterprise use or for entertainment, for learning.

I think more useful than setting a dichotomy between the formal and the informal is to explore the different relationships and contexts in which learning takes place. Last year Jenny Hughes and I made a slidecast called Critical Literacies, Pragmatics and Education as part of a Critical Literacies course being run by Rita Kop and Stephen Downes as part of their ongoing research project on Personal Learning Environments.

In this we referred to the relationships in which learning take place. These include the relationships between learners and teachers, between the learners themselves and between the learners and the wider community.

We went on to look at context. Obviously this includes place or physical context, which could be described as the learning domain. This might be a school or college, the workplace or at home. Important here is the distance between the different domains. Sometimes this distance will be short (say in the case of an apprenticeship involving workplace and school based study), but sometimes there may be a quite broad seperation between the different domains.

A second context is the social, cultural and political environment in which earning takes place. A third – and to my mind critical – context is the idea of what is legitimate learning – what is learnt and how it is learnt. Obviously this involves the idea of control.

Especially important is the context of how we recognise achievement – how outcomes are defined, what value is placed on learning, by whom and how.

We also raised the idea of discourses – the sum total of the conversations around education. In the past, we suggested, education has tended to be a top down discourse with prescribed and structured strategies  for learning. This is changing and now leaners may be more likely to start from practice without a predetermined strategy for learning.

Thus relations and context or learning are becoming fluid and are contently changing. Technology is playing a major role in these changing relationships and contexts. Such a fluid discourse inevitably leads to conflict with an educational structure based on top down educational discourses.

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

April 1st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I agree with Donald when he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the event – what are the lessons from organising the Bremen Mobile Learning Conference?

March 30th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Just a few quick comments about the Mobile Learning Conference Bremen, which took place last week. By all accounts it was a big success – at least if the feedback from participants is to be believed. And I enjoyed it greatly.We had about one hundred delegates – from 19 different countries according to Judith Seipold. What were the lessons for the future?

1. The conference theme – ‘Mobile Learning: Crossing boundaries in convergent environments; allowed us to look at learning from a  number of different perspectives including from pedagogy, the arts and entertainment as well as from technology. As learning is embedded in ever wider contexts these perspectives can provide us with a richer and wider perspective on our work.

2. The venue is important. Although it raised some eyebrows when we said we were holding the conference in a youth hostel – the deign and location of the building – allowing different interlinked spaces with lots of light and right by the river (with a sun terrace) – facilitated informal discussions and learning linking the formal presentations and workshops with that valued ‘out of conference’ time.

3. Conferences do not need to be so expensive. We only charged 50 Euro per delegate and provided free access to students. How did we do it? Firstly the youth hostel gave us an excellent deal – considerably cheaper, I suspect, than we would have been charged by purpose built conference venues or by universities. And it was a no frills conference – no gala dinner and no free iPads. We managed all the administration ourselves using free or open source software – EasyChair, Twitter, Google forms etc. (The most tricky bit was negotiating with PayPal which took for ever).We begged and borrowed equipment.

Ok it was a bit touch and go – we haven’t paid everything yet but my guess is we will make a profit of about 45 Euro. But if we can do it so can others – the cost of conferences at the moment excludes many people resulting in a poorer discussion.

3. We encouraged multiple formats including workshops and demonstrations. the poster sessions was particularly good. And although the multiple strands meant some of the sessions were quite small it was those sessions which in my experience were the most interesting.

I think we still have some way to go in integrating unconferencing sessions properly in the agenda. Unconferencing takes a lot of organization and facilitation. But perhaps we should stop thinking about a dichotomy between conferencing and unconferencing and look at how we can encourage the maximum involvement and participation in all of our work.

4. We have got some sort of record of our conference on Cloudworks. But that took a lot of work and we need to look again at how we can pull together diverse information sources from the different places – slideshare, twitter, blogs etc which people use to show their work and ideas. This links back to the idea of how we amplify conferences and events.

5. We had a relatively small local organising committee. This has pros and cons. On the good side this allowed us to work together informally and intensely. On the down side it resulted in a few individuals ending up with a lot of work. We also had recruited a lot of reviewers prior to the conference which spread out the time consuming work of reviewing proposals. And we were extremely lucky to be able to draw on support from students from the local university who did this work for free as part of their studies.

And people are already asking about next years conference. I think we should do it again. But one suggestion is we might stick with the Crossing Boundaries theme but move on with the technology. After all mobiles are not alone in crossing those boundaries!

Three dimensions of a Personal Learning Environment

November 24th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

First a warning. This is the beginning of an idea but by no means fully tho0ught out.It comes from a discussion with Jenny Hughes last week, when we were talking about the future direction of work on Personal Learning Environments.

Jenny came up with three ‘dimensions’ of a PLE – intra-personal, inter-personal and extra personal which I presented at the #TICEDUCA2010 conference in Lisbon

The first – intra-personal – describes the spaces we use to work on our own. This includes the different software we use and the different physical spaces we work in. It is possibel that our intra personal spaces will look quite different – reflecting both our ways of thinking and our preferred ways of working. one interesting aspect of the intra personal learning environment is the importance of aesthetics – including the look and ‘feel’ of the environment. And whilst many of the3 developers I work with undertake usability standards, I do not think they really ever consider aesthetics.

The third dimension – extra personal – refers to the things we do out in the web – to our publications, to blogs like this, to the videos we post – to the things we share with others.

But perhaps the most interesting is dimension is the intra-personal learning environment. This is the shared spaces we use to collaborate and work with others. All too often such spaces are imposed – by teachers or by project coordinators or those responsible for web site development. And all too often they fail – because users have no ownership of those spaces. In other words the spaces are not seen or felt of as part of a PLE. How can this be overcome? Quite simply the inter-personal space needs to be negotiated – to develop spaces and ways of working that everyone can feel comfortable with. Of course this may mean compromises but it is through the process of negotiation that such compromises will emerge.

The problem may be that the PLE has come to be overly associated with personalisation rather than negotiation and ownership and too little attention has been paid to collaboration and social learning. I think it would also be interesting to look at how ideas and knowledge emerge – or as the Mature project would say – how Knowledge matures. In developing ideas and knowledge I suspect we use all three dimensions of our Personal Learning Environment – with new ideas emerging say from reading something in the extra PLE, moving ideas back to the intra PLE for thinking and working and developing and then sharing and working with others in the (negotiated) inter Personal Learning Environment. Of course in practice it will be more complex than this. But i would like to see how these processes work in the real world – although I suspect it would be a methodologically challenging piece of research to carry out. Anyone any ideas?

Research on Mobile Learning

November 18th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

A quick summary of some of the recent research on mobile learning.

Mobile devices are becoming ever more important due in main to their ubiquity. The number of mobile phone subscribers will increase to five billion people this year thanks to the growth of smartphones in developed nations and mobile services in poor nations, according to the United Nations (2010).

Industry predictions are that the sales of smart phones, able to access internet services, will surpass that of ;ordinary’ mobile phones by March, 2011. Added to this is the rapid development and take up of all kinds of different mobile devices, ranging from tablets such as the iPad and book readers such as the Kindle.

Although in an early phase, the potential of these devices for teaching and learning is being recognised (indeed so much is being written, it is hard to keep up to date with the research)
Alan Livingston, writing in Educause Quarterly (2009) says:

“The past decade has witnessed two revolutions in comunication technology. The first — the Internet revolution — has changed everything in higher education. The second — the mobile phone revolution — has changed nothing. We’re vaguely aware that our students have mobile phones (and annoyed when they forget to turn them off in class), but it hasn’t occurred to us that the fact they have these devices might have anything to do with our effort to provide them with educational experiences and services.

HELLO? as our students sometimes say when trying to communicate with someone who’s being particularly obtuse. Mobile phone usage among our students has become virtually universal. Isn’t it time for us to stop ignoring and start taking advantage of this fact?”

The definition and scope of mobile learning is central to the debate over the pedagogic use of such devices.
According to MoLeNet, mobile learning can be broadly defined as “the exploitation of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning.”

The London Mobile Learning Group (LMLG) have been working on conceptualising pedagogies for mobile learning.

“Mobile learning – as we understand it is not about delivering content to mobile devices but instead about the processes of coming to know and being able to operate successfully in and across, new and ever changing contexts and learning spaces.m And, if it is about understanding and knowing how to utilise our everyday life-worlds as learning spaces. Therefore in case it needs to be stated explicitly, mobile learning is not primarily about technology (Pachler, Bachmair and Cook, 2010, p6)

The London Mobile Learning group have developed the idea of a “social-cultural ecology of mobile devices” based on the  triangular relationship between structures, cultural practices ad the agency within which they conceptualise the use of mobile devices.

In this approach they say “learning is understood as the process of coming to know and being able to operate successfully in and across ever changing contexts and learning spaces as well as understanding and knowing how to utilise our everyday life worlds as learning spaces. It is viewed as a process of meaning making through communication / conversation across multiple contexts among people within a triangle of social structures, cultural practices and agency as well as an augmentation of the inner, conceptual and outer semiotic resources – increasingly with and through mobile devices.” (Pachler, 2010)

Socio-semantic tools including language, material artefacts and technology mediate the actions of learners as they seek to augment their conceptual resources.

John Cook (UK) develops the idea of mobile phones as mediating tools within augmented contexts for development further through a re-conceptualisation of Vygotsky’s notion of a zone for proximal development as “responsive situations for development’ in recognition of the socio-cultural, economic and technological conditions of the early 21st century.” (Cook, 2010)

Other writers have looked at mobile devices as offering a pedagogy for the social inclusion of at risk groups or people socially marginalised.. Margrit Boeck (2010) says mobile devices are:

  • making learners mobile so that they are able to expand their horizons
  • engaging learners on their own ground and addressing them as people who are learners already and as knowledge makers;
  • according them full recognition in their position and achievements in their lives; as well as of their position as learners and makers of knowledge. In this context,learning means being mobile, being able to change.

Reporting on a symposium on m-learning, Laurillard (2007) reports Geoff Stead as arguing that mobile learning is important for access, personalisation, engagement and inclusion providing learners with control over learning, ownership, and the ability to demand things, and thus meeting the rights of the learner.

Naeve (2005) points to the ability of mobile learning to support more learner centric interest oriented and knowledge pulling types of learning architectures. The traditional educational architectures are based on teacher-centric, curriculum-oriented, knowledge-push. The new demands are largely concerned with a shift along all of these. (Naeve, 2010).

Diana Laurillard (2007) has highlighted the mobility of digital technologies in providing “opportunities for new forms of learning because they change the nature of the physical relations between teachers, learners, and the objects of learning.”  (p1).

Nial Winters (2007) suggests we have to address three mobilities in mobile learning – learners, technology objects, and information – and the objects can be differentiated by being in:

  • regional space – 3-dimensional physical space;
  • network space – the social space of participants and technologies; or
  • fluid space – learners, relations, and the object of learning.

At a practical level there are many discussions, often in social media such as community web sites or blogs suggesting how mobile devices can be used in teaching and learning (see for example Hughes, (2010, a). Hughes (2010, b) also provides a useful summary of the arguments for and against the use of mobile devices in the classroom.

The presenters at a 2006 Kaleidoscope Convergence Workshop on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, entitled ‘Inquiry Learning and Mobile Learning’ collectively offered a wide range of learning activities that could be supported through mobile digital tools and environments (Laurillard, 2007):

  • exploring – real physical environments linked to digital guides;
  • investigating – real physical environments linked to digital guides;
  • discussing – with peers, synchronously or asynchronously, audio or text;
  • recording, capturing data – sounds, images, videos, text, locations;
  • building, making, modelling – using captured data and digital tools;
  • sharing – captured data, digital products of building and modelling;
  • testing – the products built, against others’ products, others’ comments or real physical environments;
  • adapting – the products developed, in light of feedback from tests or comments; and
  • reflecting – guided by digital collaborative software, using shared products, test results, and comments

There is a growing body of research over the use of mobile devices for work based learning. Sharples et al, (2005) say “Just as learning is now regarded as a situated and collaborative activity (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989), occurring wherever people, individually or collectively, have problems to solve or knowledge to share, so mobile networked technology enables people to communicate regardless of their location.” (p5).

Liz Kolb (2010) links the use of technologies for learning to the way we communicate, not just in education but in the world of work: “…many are still shying away from this new literacy (even dismissing it as a negative form of communication). Knowing that text messaging is fast becoming the #1 form of communication reminds me that it will also be an important literacy for the 21st century job force.”

Winters, (2007) points to the potential of mobile devices for learning in the workplace to: enable knowledge building by learners in different contexts. and to enable learners to construct understandings. Mobile technology, he says often changes the pattern of learning and work activity.

Naeve (2010) also points out that mobile devices can link learning to knowledge management.

“At the same time, within most organisations, new demands are being placed on effective and efficient knowledge management. Promoting the creation and sharing of knowledge in order to assure the right person with the right knowledge in the right place at the right time for the right cost is the overall aim of these demands.” (Naeve, 2010).
Attwell (2010) has pointed to the potential of mobile devices for developmental learning in the workplace. This allows the bringing together of learning from different context and domains, including the informal learning which is developed through work processes. He outlines the design of a “Work Based Mobile Learning Environment” (WoMBLE).

Perhaps the greatest impact of mobile devices may be in changing the relationship between institutional or classroom based learning and learning in a wider society. Steve Wheeler, in his presentation on Web 3.0. The Way Forward? (2010) says that whilst in the past we have brought the world into the classroom in the future we will bring the classroom into the world.

References

Attwell, G. (2010). Work0based mobile learning environments: contributing to a socio-cultural ecology of mobile learning, in Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning in the context of transformation. Special Issue of International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning

Boeck, M. (2010). Mobile Learning, digital literacies, information habitus and at risk social groups, in Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning in the context of transformation. Special Issue of International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning

Cook, J. (2010). Mobile phones as mediating tools within augmented contexts for development. in Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning in the context of transformation. Special Issue of International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning

Kolb, L. (2010). From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning. http://www.cellphonesinlearning.com/.
Laurillard, D. (2007). Pedagogical forms for mobile learning, in: Pachler, N. (ed) (2007) Mobile learning: towards a research agenda. London: WLE Centre, IoE

Livingston, A. (2009). The Revolution No One Noticed: Mobile Phones and Multimobile Services in Higher Education. Educause Quarterly, 32(1).

Naeve, A. (2010). Opportunistic (l)earning in the mobile knowledge society, in Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning in the context of transformation. Special Issue of International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning

Pachler, N., Bachmair, B., & Cook, J. (2010). Mobile Learning. Structures, Agency, Practices. New York USA: Springer.

Pachler, N. (2010). Guest editorial, in Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning in the context of transformation. Special Issue of International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning

Sharples, M. Taylor, J. Vavoula, G. (2005). Towards a Theory of Mobile Learning

Winters, N. (2007) What is mobile learning? In M. Sharples (Ed.), Big issues in mobile learning (pp. 7–11): LSRI University of Nottingham

What are Educational Institutions for?

November 12th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I don’t normally post press releases on this blog. But I think the ideas in this preview of the keynote presentation at the forthcoming UK Jisc online conference is important and deserves wider dissemination. The text is based on a podcast which can be found on the Jisc web site.

“We need to re-engage civil society in a debate about educational purpose.  These are the powerful words of Professor Keri Facer, keynote speaker at the forthcoming JISC innovating e-learning conference. According to her, we need to stop using qualifications as a proxy for a debate about educational success – “how many people need to get up to Level Two skills, how many people need degrees” – and instead start really thinking about the  competencies, skills and attributes students may need to thrive in uncertain times.

In the context of the row over HE funding the UK has neglected the fundamental question about what institutions are for and instead has focused simply on the issue about how to pay for universities as they currently exist.  Facer puts this in the context of the uncontested idea of the knowledge economy which has dominated the discussions about the future of socio-technological change. “For me the critical issue is that we have been working with one idea of the future for nearly twenty years.  The idea of the knowledge economy seems to imply that if only we make sure everybody is educated enough and ensure that they have enough technological skills then we will have a future where everybody will be economically secure.  I think this is contestable when we look at some of the economical and environmental developments that are likely to come about in the next ten years.  If we look carefully at the lived reality of a future ‘knowledge economy’, for example, it may be one of radical polarisation, inequality and injustice.  This is not necessarily an empowering future. As educators we need to start thinking about the other sorts of futures we may want to support our students to create and inhabit.” Facer encourages the audience to start imagining different futures and to examine the kinds of future lives that are offered by this widespread discourse of the knowledge economy.

She urges universities in their governance to be much more closely tied to the needs and aspirations of their communities and to set in place mechanisms for engagement in real debates about how to build sustainable economies. “If we want to imagine different futures we need to create the right kinds of spaces to be able to debate those, public spaces where people are equipped to get into a serious debate about the sorts of socio-technological trajectories that we will be looking at over the next ten to twenty years.”

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    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.


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    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.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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