Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

Learning Layers – What have we learned during Application Partner Days in Bremen (Part 4)

February 1st, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

I hereby complete my reporting on the Application Partner Days (APDs) of the Learning Layers (LL) project that were organised this week in Bremen and in the neighbouring areas. My two previous posts gave an overview on the site visits to the training centre area of Bau ABC (Rostrup) and to the premises of Agentur für nachhaltiges Bauen (Verden). I also reported on the workshop events that were organised in the context of these site visits. This blog article focuses on the issues that were raised and observations that were made during the talks in these workshops. As the digestion of  the rich documented material will take some time, I only want to provide a bridging step to further analyses and conclusions.

Below I will sum up some issues and remarks across the discussions during both on-site visits:

1. Who were the ‘users’ whom we met and/or whose interests and problems were discussed?

At the Bau ABC the ITB team members had earlier met senior trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) of the Bau ABC staff and got some of their views documented in the “User stories”. Now these persons were already ‘old acquaintances’ when participating in the event. However, this time there was an opportunity to widen the circle and to engage several senior craftsmen who were completing their continuing training to become certified team leaders/on-site supervisors (Werkpolierer). In a similar way the spectrum of trades was widened to cover different fields of construction work (including the building of houses, construction of roads and the special construction areas of borehole builders).

At the Agentur the ITB team had mainly talked with architects and on the core activities of the Agentur and the supporting network on ecological construction work. Now the workshops set the accent to outreach activities towards craft trade companies (represented by two entrepreneurs) and to apprentices (discussed as a major target group for the forthcoming  exhibition).

 2. What kinds of problems and challenges brought ICT and Web into picture?

On both site visits the discussion was triggered by coordination problems and communication problems at different construction sites. Various examples were presented of gaps of information, gaps of communication, lack of shared information and hurdles in knowledge sharing. Much of this could be helped with simple apps (which were also becoming widely used), some problems appeared to be more deeply rooted into divisions of labour, hierarchies and to cultural boundaries between different trades and companies involved.

3. How are these issues related to learning and knowledge development?

Firstly,  some of discussions might have seemed to be somewhat remote of the theme “learning”. However, in a closer analysis it is possible to discover different instances of learning or instances of professional development when the construction specialists addressed needs for ICT and web support (or proposed possible solutions). Here, it was possible to observe a movement from passive expectations to participative co-development and co-design.

Secondly, it is worthwhile to consider, to what extent is use of web and digital media embedded into the working and learning culture of construction sector. At the moment some of the main documentation is still paper-based and the transition is only taking place (e.g. the apprentices white folders are paper-based and some of the software solutions for planners have not really made a breakthrough). Here, issues of trust and practical benefit are very present.

Thirdly, it is worthwhile to consider the cooperation culture at the construction sites and between different parties involved. The traditional mode of thinking and working emphasised the division of labour (each party being responsible of their task) whilst nowadays new holistic solutions (package offers) may change the picture.

4. What can be considered as “hot issues” or factors that keep the discussion going on?

 Firstly, it is obvious that the construction industry and trade want to attract new workforce and to influence the public image of construction work as low-tech area. Secondly, in many special areas the high risks with costly equipment require more attention to risk management by different parties. Thirdly, trainers have a major concern in improving the quality of training in safety issues and to raise awareness of safety risks (e.g. using video simulations and intelligent games). Fourthly, young professionals who are working their way through via vocational progression routes are interested in acting as change agents (and in being recognised as such).

After all these remarks I find it appropriate to bring my reporting to an end at this point. As I mentioned above, I am not suggesting any conclusions for the LL project but making some remarks that help us to step to the next phase of work.

The discussion will be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What have we learned during Application Partner Days in Bremen (Part 3)

January 31st, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

I am continuing my reports of field visits that took place this week as a part of the Application Partner Days (APDs) of the Learning Layers (LL) project. This blog article focuses on the visit to the premises  of Agentur für Nachhaltiges Bauen and its sister organisations in Verden (South-East of Bremen).

As we have been informed in the project, the Agentur is part of an organisational grouping that is based in Verden and has formed a joint network to promote ecological (sustainable) construction work. Currently this grouping runs an activity centre (Ökozentrum) which provides room for craft trade companies, architect office and joint training facilities. In the year 2014 the network will have a major exhibition building that is currently under construction. The initial buildings were originally used by the German army and they have been reshaped and repurposed for training activities. The new buildings are already demonstration cases for using strawball material for constructing walls. The exhibition building is a demonstration case for wood construction with five storeys.

After a tour round the premises the hosts brought us to a seminar room and organised a major ‘carousel’ workshop. The participants were allocated to four topic tables in which a network member (or two) took the role of hosting the discussion. Each group had a large sheet of paper to make notes (or to add to the notes of the previous group) and sticker dots to mark priority areas for further discussion. After 25 minutes the groups rotated between the hosts. Altogether we managed to complete three sessions in each topic table.

The topic tables were based on the following issues:

  • Meister Manfred (Entrepreneur in carpentry and woodwork) hosted a topic table in which he informed of the development of an iPad app for his company to inform their cost calculation program of the time needed for specific jobs at the construction site. This input (supported by a parallel case of another entrepreneur) triggered a discussion on other uses of iPad (or other tablet PCs) at construction sites.
  • Architect Enno (Director of the Agentur and co-founder of the network) hosted a table in which he informed of everday life experiences about lack of knowledge sharing between contractors (entrepreneurs) and their staff (craftsmen who do the job). This input (supported by the visualisation of the user story) triggered a discussion on simple applications that would be helpful to overcome such gaps of communication.
  • Architect Ute (Member of the network) hosted a table in which she informed of the plans for the opening exhibition during the inauguration of the new building. The idea is to provide a “learning exhibition” that makes good use of live experience on site, of effective web demonstrations and active contact with different target groups (to serve them better on site and via web). This input triggered a discussion of  various groups and different needs or interests to be catered for.
  • Project managers Melanie (Bau ABC) and Tobias (Agentur) hosted a table in which they facilitated discussion on knowledge sharing, collaboration and networking in craft trades. They presented inputs on different regions and on different groupings with which they have cooperated. These triggered a discussion on factors that restrict or increase willingness to cooperation (“business as usual” or “competitive advantage with holistic solutions”).

After three rotations the carousel was finished with a brief plenary that had to be stopped abruptly because of time constraints. Yet, the discussions were kicked alive and the issues were there.

To be continued …

Acknowledgements. This work is supported by the European Commission under the FP7 project LAYERS (no. 318209), http://www.learning-layers.eu.

Learning Layers – What have we learned during Application Partner Days in Bremen (Part 2)

January 31st, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am preparing brief reports of field visits that took place this week as a part of the Application Partner Days (APDs) of the Learning Layers (LL) project. This blog article focuses on the visit to the training centre area of Bau ABC in Rostrup (West of Bremen).

As we have been informed in the project, Bau ABC is one of the two major training centres set up by the umbrella organisation of building and construction sector in North Germany (Bauindustrieverband Niedersachsen-Bremen) and it is run as an operative arm of a support association for training in building and construction sector (Verein zur Berufsförderung der Bauwirtschaft Nord e.V.). The training centre Bau ABC in the municipality of Rostrup covers a wide range of occupational fields including initial VET (Erstausbildung), continuing training (Weiterbildung), training of Master Craftsmen (Meisterschulung) and other measures to support professional development of construction specialists.

During our tour round the premises of Bau ABC we had the chance to look firstly at the workshops of carpenters (Zimmerer), concrete builders (Betonbauer), and metal workers (Metaller). In  outdoor areas we saw the training sites for groundwork builders (Erdebauer),  road builders (Strassenbauer) and borehole builders (Brunnenbauer). Then, in the next workshops we had a chance to inform ourselves more of the training of borehole builders (Brunnenbauer) and of bricklayers (Maurer). Finally we saw the special areas for security training with focus on occupational hazards that are related to explosions.

The afternoon program of the visit consisted of two parallel sessions. One session was organised as a Focus Group involving some of the research partners and a number of trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) and participants in advanced training programs from Bau ABC. This group focused on the User Stories and tried to get further insights into workplace learning and uses of new technologies. Parallel to this session there was a small ‘carousel’ workshop in which some of the technical partners hosted small tables and participants from construction sector rotated between the tables.

The technical partner teams  (Graz, Tribal, Aalto and Karlsruhe/Pontydysgu) had made their own preparations for a dialogue session. Bau ABC had provided exemplars of apprentices’ and trainees’ working and learning tasks. Based on these inputs (and on some use stories) the technical partners informed themselves of problems or challenges in construction work and workplace learning. Then the discussion geared towards looking for possible solutions – uses of technology, uses of software and uses of networks and web resources.

At the end of the day all participants had experienced manifold discussions and the participants from Bau ABC had done their best to feed in inputs, ideas and experiences. So, there was much food for thought to be digested.

To be continued …

 

RadioActive Europe

January 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A lot of the work we do in Pontydysgu is sponsored by the European Commission through its various programmes for supporting life long learning and the use of technology for learning. this has its advantages and its downsides. It allows us to undertake work which would be too risky on a commercial basis. And it is great to develop partnerships with organisations in different European countries. On the other hand, communication can be tricky. It is time consuming to develop project proposals, the funding is increasingly highly competitive and it is sometimes hard to see why some projects are approved whilst others are not. And, the reporti8ng, especially the financial reporting is increasingly bureaucratic and time consuming. In reality, too, the funding is often not sufficient for the work we want to do and thus we end up subsidising the publicly funded projects with income from better paid private contracts.

Having said all that, I am delighted with the launch of our latests Lifelong Learning Project, RadioActive Europe. I will write again about what we hope to achieve from the project. But this, somewhat stilted Eurospeak text, comes from the summary in the application document. And if you might be interested in getting involved we cannot fund you, but will be very happy to share with you all our project development. Just add a comment here or email me.

This project will develop and implement a pan-European Internet Radio platform, incorporating Web 2.0 functionality, linked to innovative community based pedagogies to address themes of employability, inclusion and active citizenship in an original and exciting way. The Internet Radio will provide an innovative way to engage, retain and develop those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion, and its low-cost, extensibility and sustainability, compared with fm radio for example, is a key dimension in ensuring the success of this project.

Through actively developing, implementing and running the RadioActive station and its national channels, the target groups – of older schoolchildren, young people and other older people – will develop digital competencies and employability skills ‘in vivo’ that are relevant to the 21C workplace. These competencies and skills will be accredited to provide a platform to further education or employment related to the knowledge and creative and digital industries. To quote one of the UK Youth workers who will be involved in this project: ‘I can’t think of one young person who I work with who would not want to be involved’.

The consortium is led by the University of East London (UK), with other partners from Portugal (CIMJ), Germany (UKL), UK (Pontydysgu), Malta (KIC) and Romania (ODIP). We will fully interface with at least 10 National Organisations and 450-500 direct beneficiaries, who will broadcast or link with over 5000 listeners or web-site users.

The outcomes of the project will be: a transferable and reusable model for developing internet radio and social media initiatives to address exclusion; a robust internet radio and social media platform (RadioActive Europe) incorporating 5 national Channels; an extensive and sustainable network of users and user organisations maintained through a European Support Hub (ESH); and, measured improvements in individual and community developments that address exclusion.

 

What do you use your phone for?

July 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to be invited to speak at a seminar in Teneriffe. And despite the short time I spent on the island, I met some wonderful people full of great ideas. But one thing did go wrong. i left my mobile phone in a restaurant. It was found the next day. But postal services from Teneriffe to Germany are it seems rather slow and it took three weeks to reach me.

Three weeks without my phone was interesting. I do not view myself as a heavy user of either phones (I mainly use skype for talking to people) or of the different services provided on an Android Smartphones (a Samsung S2). Indeed since there are only three or four people with whom I have regular phone conversations i could not see the lack of my phone for three or so weeks as a real problem.

How wrong I was. The first problem I hit was the lack of an alarm clock. Of course I~ used to have several clocks but I got rid of those several years ago. Who needs a clock when you have a phone. And in fact I found my hand kept straying into my pocket to get out my phone to find out the time. I used to have a watch. But who needs a watch when you have a mobile phone.

The absence of Apps was not really a problem. And neither was lack of access to programs like Google Maps. the truth is these are mots useful when traveling and because of the high cost fo data for roving in Europe I tend to turn data packet transfers off when out of Germany. This problem is slowly being overcome by the availability of high speed and free wifi, although even wifi can be expensive in some hotels.

But I really missed the mobile when I was traveling. The entire workflow of traveling with a phone is completely different than when not having one. Not just to be able to use the Deutsch Bahn to check up on late trains although that is useful. But more how and where to meet people. We have taken for granted that we just text or phone somebody when we arrive to arrange when to meet. Without a phone all this has to be scheduled in advance. Where to meet, when to meet, what to do if one of us is late etc. I suppose prior to mobile days we must have done this. But I seem to have forgotten how (perhaps that is what the meeting place signs are for at stations and airports!).

I think it is important to understand the different ways in which we are using mobile devices in our daily living and work and particularly how they form part of the workflow in work processes. Because if we want to embed learning within the work process and to use technology to support learning, these may be the critical points in which learning can play a role and that technology can support. And we need learning apps that can adapt to changes in the work flow as work processes change and we change the way we use technology to support those work processes.

 

Layering Personal Learning Environments

May 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Continuing  the mini series around PLEs.

In 2008 I wrote:

Early proponents of Personal Learning Environments have tended to divide between those who see Personal learning Environments as a concept and those who have focused on PLEs as an application or set of applications. To a considerable extent this is a false dichotomy.

If it is accepted that the PLE involves the use of Information and Communication technologies then it necessarily involves applications. On the other hand any learning technology, however designed and despite overt statements to the contrary, inevitably facilitates or hiders different approaches to learning and knowledge construction. In other words all educational technology contains or supports an implicit pedagogic approach.

The issue is not a concept or an application but rather the processes of researching and designing technological and pedagogical approaches. The move to a leaner centred approach to pedagogy and a community based approach to knowledge construction and curriculum requires new approaches to research and design.

I think that still holds up four years on. But there is a problem. Most of the research and design activities into PLEs have taken place within the context of academic education and particularly in Universities. Universities have in general a long established and fairly entrenched pedagogic model. Faced with such a model, PLE designers and researchers have tended to see the introduction of a PLE either as a place to record the outcomes of learning – essentially as an e-Portolio, albeit socially enhanced – or as an additional online space linking the institution with the outside world. There is nothing wrong with either approach (and I appreciate that we now realise that many students may struggle with technology). However such approaches have limited us to the potential of PLEs.

Perhaps the most interesting research and design approach has been the advent of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses. As with any innovation the word MOOC is now morphing to describe a variety of developments in online learning. But what has been interesting is that essentially participants are expected to set up their own PLE, and to be responsible both for their own learning and for the learning of their peers.

I have been lurking around the Change 2011 MOOC – the self styled mother of all MOOCs  – which comes to an end this week. Change 2011 provides an automated Daily Newsletter aggregating blogs and tweets around the course.

And reading the newsletters and digging into so0me of the course blogs their appears  to be a fall of in participation and activity during the course . That is perhaps not surprising. Change 2011 was a long course. And one of the attractions of open and free courses like this is that people can dip in and out as they wish.

Yet I still see motivation as an issue. And this issue is also raised in a number of research papers talking about PLEs in higher education. Of course that may merely refect student expectations. In the UK with rising fees, students expect to be taught – and somewhat depressingly some evidence suggests that what they want to be taught is just that knowledge they need to pass an exam.

In my 2008 paper I talked about the move to a leaner centred approach to pedagogy and a community based approach to knowledge construction and curriculum. It could be argued that the Change MOOC reflects a community of practice and that community is structuring its own learning and knowledge. But I would be interested in seeing the potential of using PLEs in wider communities outside the higher education sector. And here the question of motivation and support becomes more critical. Learners will need considerable help in scaffolding their learning. Of course such scaffolding can be supported technologically. But teachers and trainers also have a key role in scaffolding learning and building on previous attainment and knowledge to accomplish new learning and competence through involvement in engaging and doable tasks that are not a simple answer to a question but involve problem solving, judgement, analysis, or synthesis (Starr, 2000).

Put simply, I do not think that PLEs as we have presently developed them provide enough support for scaffolding. I am not sure of the answer to this issue. But I think we need research and development designs that build on learning in communities of practice and particularly that look at scaffolding knowledge in different domains and in particular in domains that involve a relationship between knowledge and practice. In this respect we may need to look more closely at learning episodes and at the use of physical objects for learning. This approach has been adopted by the Learning layers project, currently being negotiated with the European Commission. “Learning Layers aims to develop a set of modular and flexible technological layers for supporting workplace practices in SMEs that unlock peer production and scaffold learning in networks of SMEs, thereby bridging the gap between scaling and adaptation to personal needs. By building on recent advances in contextualised learning, these layers provide a meaningful learning context when people interact with people, digital and physical artefacts for their informal learning, thus making learning faster and more effective. Building on mobile learning research, the project aims to situate learning into physical work places and practices to support situated, faster and more meaningful learning. Learning Layers provide a shared conceptual foundation, independent of the tools people use and the context they are in.”

Thus rather than seeing a PLE as a containers or connections- or even as a pedagogical approach – PLEs might be seen instead as a flexible process to scaffold individual and community  learning and knowledge development. And of course, with powerful mobile devices that learning can take place in contexts where knowledge is applied, rather than as pure knowledge abstracted from its application.

More to come…..

 

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.

Changing the Language of Learning

January 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I am not going to provide any list of posts / apps or anything else to mark the new year. The lists are getting on my nerves. What constitutes ‘best’ anyway? I rather wonder if making lists has become a substitute for thinking? I would provide some thoughts on trends for 2012 except I not really sure what will happen. Technology is changing too fast and too unpredictably. Education economy and politics seem wrapped in a slow waltz which is also totally unpredictable in its outcomes. Indeed it may be that people and the actions of people will be more important than technology in determining the course of educational development over the next period. Or lets hope so.

But I will add a wish (not a wish list :) ) for 2012. My wish is that we can get rid of all those letters in from of ‘learning’. ‘e’ ,’i', ‘m’, ‘b’ and all the rest of them. I even wonder if the term ‘informal learning’ (one I am probably overly fond of using) is of much use any more.

I suspect these terms came about because we wished to signify learning by the technologies being deployed – and to a lesser extent the design of learning with technology. Yet as technology has become increasingly ubiquitous the terms have ceased to have any meaning. We don’t talk about ‘b-learning’ to refer to reading a book nor ‘c-learning’ to refer to learning in a classroom.

So lets just return to that old word – ‘learning’ – and use it to mean all the different ways in which people learn and all the different artefacts that they use in the learning process. Lest move from instructional design to designing for learning. Lets try and support learning in all the contexts in which it takes place. And lets try and support learning for everyone – not just those privileged to be enrolled on a programme in an educational institution.

What we are working on

August 30th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Here is a quick update on some current work at Pontydysgu. With funding from the European Lifelong Learning Programme G8WAY project and the European Research Framework Mature-IP project, and working with a growing community of partners, we have been developing a series of Web 2.0 tools to support careers guidance. At the moment we are developing a  new web site which will give full access to these tools and applications, as well as to research about the use of Web 2.0 and social software for careers information, advice and guidance. Below is a summary of these tools. If you are interested in finding out more about any of these tools or about our approach to using technology to support careers guidance please get in touch.

Labour Market Visualisation Tools

We are developing tools and applications for visualising Labour Market Information in order to provide young people with an informed basis for decision making around career directions and to support the careers guidance professionals who advise young people. This work has been undertaken in conjunction with the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and Careers Wales.

RadioActive

RadioActive is a project using internet radio to assist young people, particularly those from a NEETS (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) background in developing decision making and communication skills. This approach focuses on informal learning and the development of communities of practice through the use of new technologies. The approach is being piloted in conjunction with the University of East London, Yoh, a Hackney based youth agency, and Inspire!, the Education Business Partnership for the London Borough of Hackney.

Storiboard

Storiboard is a Web 2.0 tool for storytelling. In the first year of the G8WAY project we found that storytelling is a powerful tool for developing and reflection on careers biographies. Storiboard allows young people to use multimedia including video, audio and graphics to tell their careers stories and aspirations. It is initially being tested  through using the original stories collected in year one of the project and will then be piloted with UK based careers services.

Webquests

We are developing a series of Web 2.0 webquests designed to support professional development for Careers Guidance professionals. The first two are on the use of the internet for Careers Guidance and on careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Along with our technical partners, Raycom, we are developing a lightweight repository which combined with the Storiboard interface, will provide for easy editing and development of Webquests.

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!

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    News Bites

    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.


    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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