Archive for the ‘learningtechnologies’ Category

Learning Layers – What are we learning in the current phase of our fieldwork? (Part 2: Bau ABC)

June 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I indicated that our current phase of fieldwork is preparing the grounds for participative co-design processes “for the users, with the users and by the users”. So far, we have had quite a lot of activities with the training centre Bau ABC and made also a lot of experiences with different workshops. Here, the blessing for us has been that we have had a chance to have joint workshops with groups of apprentices (during their stay at the centre) and with full-time trainers (at the time slots when apprentices have been working independently with their projects). Below some remarks on our workshops and on our learning experiences about their ways of making the workshops their events in which they address their own issues, concerns and initiatives.

Firstly, on the workshop concepts with which we worked: We firstly had conversational workshops with one group of apprentices (from different trades) in the morning and with a group of full-time trainers (Lehrwerkmeister) in the initial training plus the coordinator of continuing vocational training programmes. These workshops were supported by some pre-given guiding questions (Leitfragen) but they were run as relatively free conversation to let the participants address their issues with their own accents and their own voice. As a result, the apprentices spoke very freely of what they saw a needs and possibilities for improvement regarding the training in the centre (vis-a-vis advanced practice in the companies). They also emphasised their interest to have joint projects with apprentices from  neighbouring trades. The trainers gave positive comments on the views expressed by apprentices – however, they drew attention to rather inflexible boundary conditions for accommodating the apprentices’ training periods in the centre. Thus, there is very little room for manoeuvre for meeting the wishes of apprentices re joint projects or more flexible timing of periods in companies and in the centre. In addition, the trainers started giving thoughts, how they could use digital media and web appsa more effectively in informing themselves of new developments in the trade and on advanced practice in companies. Here, it seemed that something that was discussed in initial training was already in practice in the continuing vocational training activities.

In the next phase we organised a storyboard workshop that was based on group work to make storyboards of exemplary working days of apprentices (in the morning) and trainers (in the afternoon). The two parallel groups of apprentices had different tasks: one was invited to portray a day in the training centre whilst the other was asked to portray a day in the company and in the construction site. The group that worked with a day in the centre presented a spatial journey with drawings of different locations  at the Bau ABC sites and only after completing this started to give thoughts on eventual problems and how they could be taken into account in the phase of giving instructions. The group that focused on working at construction site portrayed the work flow (and the daily journey) from the company office to the site, setting the site and carrying through the process (drilling the holes for the well to be built) and in completing the task. Here, the apprentices drew attention to eventual obstacles and needs to star again or to give up if no water is found. Thus, they highlighted key problems in the work process – in which however the availability of web tools made very little difference. At the end of this session the joint plenary discussion started top trigger ideas of new apps to extend the learning effect and to draw attention to good practice  (e.g. the Maurer-App) and comments on the (limited) usability of existing apps.

The trainers gave very positive comments on the storyboards of apprentices and gave some thoughts of the possible usability of existing apps as a basis for the proposed Maurer-App. In their own group work phase they presented two parallel storyboards of trainers work at the centre. One story focused on a relatively homogeneous group of apprentices in the initial training whilst the other illustrated the growing complexity when there are apprentices from different phases of their training and eventual visiting groups in continuing training (with visiting trainers) to be supported at the same time. Altogether, the storyboards drew much more attention to the complex social and organisational processes to be managed alongside the key training functions  (instruction, supervision, monitoring, assessing and giving feedback). In the plenary sessions a lot of thoughts were given on the possibilities to offload the trainers with digital solutions in the assessment and in giving feedback. A major issue was the access to norms, standards and regulations in which context new copyright problems had emerged. As a result, a list of several design ideas and issues was drafted to be included into the workshop report (to take into account the issues arising from initial and continuing training).

Here I have emphasised the workshop dynamics rather than particular ‘results’ to be listed as apps or solutions that would have attracted most attention. In the preparation phase our colleagues suggested different techniques to get feedback on particular ‘use cases’ or wireframes drafted on the drawing boards elsewhere. As I have illustrated it above, when the users got control of their workshops, they addressed concerns, how to improve their working and learning processes on the whole. When getting their messages into discussion we then could use  some time to illustrate some of the use cases and emerging wireframes as possible responses to their concerns. In this context the powerpoint slides and the presentation of Martin Bachl (Hochschule Karlsruhe) worked very well.

As I understand it, we are going through similar collaborative learning processes as the earlier Work and Technology projects that couldn’t successfully transplant new technologies into companies as ‘gifts that fall  from Mt Olympus that are parachuted upon users’ but had to discover the possible needs for innovations and benefits for users in iterative processes that took their own time. Yet, after these experiences we have the feeling the we are making progress.

To be continued …

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

Taccle2 on track

May 20th, 2013 by Jenny Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Involving users and scaling up applications for learning

March 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I am spending a lot of time working on the Learning Layers project at the moment. There are two interlinked areas on which I have been thinking. The first is design processes – more particularly how we can develop a user centred or co-design process. And the second is how we can scale the uptake of applications and approaches to learning with technology to significant numbers of users.

the two are interlinked, I think, because if we involve users in every part of the design process, we have a reasonable chance of developing software which is relevant to users. However, having said that, we are realising that different users have very different interests. We are working in two main sectors – or industrial clusters – in the construction sector and in the health sector. Motivations and restrains on the use of technologies for learning vary greatly between the two sectors. In the construction sector there seems a general desire to use technology both to improve the image of the sector – and thus attract new trainees – and to update and improve the quality of both initial and continuing learning. In the medical sector, there is probably more concern on how to update learning and knowledge in a situation where time and opportunity for formal learning is very limited. But interestingly, attitudes towards technology also varies greatly between individuals, even in the same workplace.

The original EU specification for the project is that we focus on sectors where the take up of technology for learning has been limited and is lagging behind. This may be a misconception. In truth in both sectors we are finding plenty of examples of learning practice using technology. But we are also finding many examples where there is little use of technology and even where access to social networks or the use of mobile devices is banned. I suspect that we would find a similar pattern in other sectors. So challenge number one is how we involve workers in the codesign process. Should we focus on those who are enthusiastic – as early adapters – or should we try to involve those more sceptical about the potential of technology to support learning in the workplace?

Challenge number two is around the target to upscale to involve significant numbers of users. Although the project is targeted at workers in Small and Medium Enterprises, and we have a number fo these involved as partners in the project, it is clear that we will have to involve industry organisations in the upscaling. the original application was based on the idea of industrial clusters. There is a great deal of research on such clusters, which I will talk about more in a future article. Enough to say, that we are encountering different forms of organisations which bring together different SMEs. These include industrial clusters, usually around innovation such as the use of green technology in construction. But they may also include different networks and communities of practice which may be more or less fomalised. For instance, in Bremen the Electro Innung brings together over 120 SMEs in the electrical sector of the construction trade. It forms part of the structure of craft chambers through which craft trade companies in Germany are organised. And Communities of Practice can cut across more traditional organisations.

At the moment we are working on a User Engagement plan and looking at the potential interests of different stakeholders in the Learning layers project. The intention is that once we have such a plan we can work out a strategy for interacting with these organisations and for taking forward the user centred design process.

Interestingly Google searches on user engagement produce little of interest, mainly being driven by the concerns of social software companies to gain and retain more users. Hover changing the search string to stakeholder engagement yields far richer results. There seems a valuable tradition of research and development by economic and social development organisations and aid organisations seeking to consult with and involve users in various projects. In particular the Stakeholder Engagement toolkit (from which the diagramme above is taken), produced by the European funded REVIT project, provides a wealth of practical ideas.

I would welcome any feedback and ideas readers have found useful around both user centred design and user engagement.

Learning Layers: supporting the emergence of innovation clusters

February 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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…..

 

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    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.

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    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.”


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

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    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.

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    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.

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