Archive for the ‘online communities’ Category

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!!

Presence and Engagement

April 3rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Great video, found thanks to Mr T. The video looks at the role of the teacher in creating and sustaining a learning community, developing presence and fostering engahement.

The participatory web in the context of academic research : landscapes of change and conflicts

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A few weeks ago we reported that Cristina Costa had successfully completed her PhD. And now the thesis has been published on the web. You can access the document here. Below we reproduce the abstract.

“This thesis presents the results of a narrative inquiry study conducted in the context of Higher Education Institutions. The study aims to describe and foster understanding of the beliefs, perceptions, and felt constraints of ten academic researchers deeply involved in digital scholarship. Academic research, as one of the four categories of scholarship, is the focus of the analysis. The methods of data collection included in-depth online interviews, field notes, closed blog posts, and follow up dialogues via email and web-telephony. The literature review within this study presents a narrative on scholarship throughout the ages up to the current environment, highlighting the role of technology in assisting different forms of networking, communication, and dissemination of knowledge. It covers aspects of online participation and scholarship such as the open access movement, online networks and communities of practice that ultimately influence academic researchers’ sense of identity and their approaches to digital scholarship. The themes explored in the literature review had a crucial role in informing the interview guide that supported the narrative accounts of the research participants. However, the data collected uncovered a gap in knowledge not anticipated in the literature review, that of power relations between the individual and their institutions. Hence, an additional sociological research lens, that of Pierre Bourdieu, was adopted in order to complete the analysis of the data collected. There were three major stages of analysis: the construction of research narratives as a first pass analysis of the narrative inquiry, a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts, and a Bourdieuian analysis, supported by additional literature, that reveals the complexity of current academic practice in the context of the Participatory Web. This research set out to study the online practices of academic researchers in a changing environment and ended up examining the conflicts between modern and conservative approaches to research scholarship in the context of academic researchers’ practices. This study argues that the Participatory Web, in the context of academic research, can not only empower academic researchers but also place them in contention with traditional and persistent scholarly practice.”

 

Announcing Serennu ar sgeip

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I seem to have spent the last two weeks in meetings. Breakfast meetings, slype meetings, FlashMeeting, pub meetings (my favourite). Anyway one of the best of the meetings was with a team of students at HsKa – the technical university of Karlsruhe in Germany. The students have been working with us over the last five months on a project to develop a new platform called Serennu ar sgeip for school teachers to manage virtual presentations form people in different occupations to students in their class.

Today we had the final review presentation with the students and their teachers. And it was awesomely good – both the presentation and the platform. This is a teaser post. Both the teachers and members of the team have promised ot right up their experiences of the project to post on this blog. We will also talk about our perceptions of the project in a mini series which we will be running here. And of course we will tell you more about the platform based on wordpress and available under an open source license.

Congratulations to the HsKa team. We are looking forward to your reflections.

Technology Enhanced Learning, Dialogicality and Practice

August 21st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I like writing position papers! This is the second submission for the  Alpine Redezvous  workshop on the topic of TEL, the Crisis and the Response. This position paper is co-written with Dirk Stieglitz and Ilona Buchem.

We are aware of the increasing concerns about the commodification, monetarisation and privatization of education and academic labour. We also acknowledge the concern that the current mode of [neo-liberal] late-capitalism relies on “the continuous extension and validation of the infrastructure and the optimistic discourses of the new information technologies” (Hoofd, 2010)

However, rather than focus on concerns about the role of technology in the organisation and control of the educational infrastructure, in this position paper we which to examine the potential – and potential contradictions – of technology for learning. This in turn, leads to a focus on pedagogy, defined here as the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Technology is not pedagogically neutral – all technology enhances or hinders particular approaches to learning.

It is not hard to criticize the uses of educational technology in institutions. In its earlier phases technology was used to manage learners rather than facilitate learning. In its latter phase technology is being deployed both to commodify and monetarize knowledge (and the academic labour which produces such knowledge) and at the same time to sell education as just another consumer product (hence the present hype around so called learning analytics). Almost inevitably, attempts to develop an alternative ecology or milieu and an alternative pedagogy – such as MOOCs – are being absorbed by the dominant culture. Interestingly, in this regard, we can perceive the contradiction between an understanding of academic staff who wish to open up new horizons for learning to students with the concerns of the students who wish only to receive the necessary knowledge to achieve the credentials for which they believe they have paid. This in turn reinforces push technologies to support funnel delivery of learning objects to receivers (clients or customers). And despite the hype about the uses of technology by digital residents, repeated surveys have shown very limited use of social technologies by students to create, rather than consume digital artefacts and knowledge.

However, there is an alternative perspective. The almost indecent rush to commodify academic knowledge through the use of technology[1] may, to some extent, be driven by a realization that knowledge has escaped from the walled garden of the academy.

We would argue that the education systems grew in response to the needs of industrial capitalisms (in this respect it is informative to note that many Victorian schools in the UK were deigned to look like factories and were organised on a factory model). Despite the efforts of communities and organisations such as the Miners Hall, the Workers Educational Association and the Mechanics Institutes (and similar bodies and movements in other countries than the UK), access to education – and knowledge – was largely a monopoly of the education system, which in turn was ideologically driven by the needs of capitalist enterprises.

Despite the efforts of institutions and others – including publishers – to maintain control of knowledge, the internet allows an abundance of access to knowledge and learning, especially through informal and self managed learning. In a study we undertook of the use of information and communication for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in six countries in Europe, in 106 case studies we found only one instance of the use of ICT for formal learning. Yet we found numerous uses of technology for informal learning (although often the users did not recognize this as learning themselves). We found:

-       the web was the platform for learning

-       in most cases the managers did not know such learning was happening

-       there was more likelihood of learning taking place where people had more control of work processes

-       learning was sometimes driven by just in time needs stemming from the work but was often driven by learners’ interests

-       learners had little interest in formal accreditation or credentials and no interest in assessment

Such learning often took place through contacting friends or through participating in informal, online communities of practice. Support for learning was through peers or those who Vygotsky called a More Knowledgeable Other and learning was largely self-directed.

Learning was heavily contextual, depending on both the subject and level of learning, the nature of the problem or the culture of the community.

Through a combination of the physical workplace and subject based culture and the culture of the online interactions, users were making new meanings for their own practice. This chimes with Bakhtin’s reasoning that others or other meanings are required for any cultural category to generate meaning and reveal its depths.

“Contextual meaning is potentially infinite, but it can only be actualized when accompanied by another (other’s) meaning, if only by a question in the inner speech of the one who understands. Each time it must be accompanied by another contextual meaning in order to reveal new aspects of its own infinite nature (just as the word reveals its meanings only in context). (Bakhtin, 1986, pp. 145–146).”

Akkerman and Bakker suggest that boundary crossing and the understanding of learning as a process that involves multiple perspectives and multiple parties is “different from most theories on learning that, first, often focus on a vertical process of progression in knowledge or capabilities (of an individual, group, or organization) within a specific domain and, second, often do not address aspects of heterogeneity or multiplicity within this learning process.”

Akkerman and Bakker advance “four dialogical learning mechanisms of boundaries:

  1. identification, which is about coming to know what the diverse practices are about in relation to one another;
  2. coordination, which is about creating cooperative and routinised exchanges between practices;
  3. reflection, which is about expanding one’s perspectives on the practices; and,
  4. transformation, which is about collaboration and co-development of (new) practices.”

The interesting point here is the relation to practices, and to dialogical learning processes, as opposed to the reified and top down nature of knowledge acquisition through institutional online learning and traditional TEL.

We suggest that if the TEL community is to contribute towards a response to the crisis, that response requires a move from a focus on formal knowledge transmission through educational technology controlled by institutions, to a perspective of supporting community knowledge acquisition and self directed learning focused on practice.  It equally requires a change in developmental approaches with technology co-developed with the communities of practice. Interestingly, it could be argued that such a change, although explicitly opposed to the use of TEL to commodify formal education, would provide a better social and economic use of technology in existing economies.

References

Akkerman, S. F., & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81, 132-169, http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/0034654311404435v1?ijkey=4LKMx60v0wQzc&keytype=ref&siteid=sprer

Bakhtin, M. (1986). From notes made in 1970-71 (V. McGee, Trans.). In C. Emerson, & M. Holquist (Eds.), Speech genres & other late essays (pp. 132–158). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Hoofd, I. (2010), The accelerated university: Activist- academic alliances and the simulation of thought, in ephemera 2010 www.ephemeraweb.org volume 10(1): 7-24



[1] See for instance http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/coursera-hits-1-million-students-with-udacity-close-behind/38801 although it is notable that this trend differs in different countries and economies

Collaborative research and learning using everyday productivity and social software tools

February 6th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The main reason I have been so quiet on this blog in recent weeks has been the European bidding season.

Pontydysgu receives no regular funding and although we have some small consultancy contracts and do some teaching, the majority of our income is from project work. In the past, we had considerable funding from various UK agencies, this largely dried up with the onset of the recession and government cutbacks. This, we have become more reliant on funding from the European Union.

There are two main programmes for education and training in Europe, the European 7th Framework research programme and the Lifelong Learning Programme. The Research Framework funds larger projects than the LLL, but has historically been more competitive.

For both programmes, the application process is not straightforward, requiring completion of long forms and documents. In general both programmes are targeted towards innovation, however defined, and both tend to set priorities based on current EU policy directives. Both also require multinational project partnerships. Both have been on call recently – involving many hours of work to develop proposals.

In the past, the reality was that one or perhaps two partners would prepare the project requiring only limit input from other project members. And whilst this is still sometimes the case things are changing fast. For large and c0mplex projects especially in the Technology Enhanced Learning field expertise is needed from different disciplines and from people with different knowledge and skills.

Technology for distance communication and for research has allowed the dispersed and collaborative development of project proposals to become a reality. We have recently submitted a large scale proposal to the Research Framework IST  programme on learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. This project has some 16 partners drawn from I guess around ten countries. And whilst the input and hard work of the coordinator was central to the proposal, the work was undertaken collaboratively with many of the partners making a major input.

What tools did we use? Google docs were used for collaboratively producing earlier versions of our ideas. Doodle was important for setting dates for meetings. Flashmeeting was used extensively for fortnightly meetings of partners (in the latter stages of the proposal weekly or even daily meetings became the norm). Skype was also used for bilateral meetings. And Dropbox was used as a shared file repository. Dropbox proved to be a little problematic in producing somewhat confusing conflicted copies which then has to be edited together. But overall the system worked well. I think what is important is that the tools do exist. And we do not need any big research infrastructure, rather what is needed is the imagination to share through the use of everyday productivity and social software tools.

And it seems to me that if we are able to use such tools to develop a complex and collaboratively produced research proposal, the same tools can be used for collaboration between learners or for small businesses. The barrier is not so much usability fo the applications themselves, but a willingness, understanding and appreciation of how to collaborate!

Evaluation 2.0: How do we progress it?

October 11th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

Have been in Brussels for the last two days – speaking at 9th European Week of Regions and Cities organized by DG Regio and also taking the opportunity to join other sessions. My topic was Evaluation 2.0. Very encouraged by the positive feedback I’ve been getting all day both face-to-face and through twitter. I thought people would be generally resistant to the idea as it was fairly hard-hitting (and in fairness, some were horrified!) but far more have been interested and very positive, including quite a lot of Commission staff. However, the question now being asked by a number of them of them is “How do we progress this?” – meaning, specifically, in the context of the evaluation of Regional Policy and DG Regio intervention.

Evaluation 2.0 in Regional Policy evaluation
I don’t have any answers to this – in some ways, that’s not for me to decide! I have mostly used Evaluation 2.0 stuff in the evaluation of education projects not regional policy. And my recent experience of the Cohesion Fund, ERDF, IPA or any of the structural funds is minimal. However, the ideas are generic and if people think that there are some they could work with, that’s fine!

That said, here are some suggestions for moving things forward – some of them are mine, most have been mooted by various people who have come to talk to me today (and bought me lots of coffee!)

Suggestions for taking it forward

  • Set up a twitter hashtag #evaluation2.0. Well that’s easy but I don’t know how much traffic there would be as yet!
  • Set up a webpage providing information and discussion around Evaluation 2.0. More difficult – who does that and who keeps it updated? Maybe, instead, it is worth feeding in to the Evalsed site that DG Regio maintain, which currently provides information and support for their evaluators. I gather it is under the process of review – a good opportunity to make it more interactive, to make more use of multimedia and with space for users to create content as well as DG Regio!
  • Form a small working group or interest group – this could be formal or informal, stand alone or tied to their existing evaluation network. Either way, it needs to be open and accessible to people who are interested in developing new ideas and trying some stuff out rather than a representative ‘committee’.
  • Alternatively, set up an expert group to move some ideas forward.
  • Or how about a Diigo group?
  • Undertake some small-scale trials with specific tools – to see whether the ideas do cross over from the areas I work in to Regional Policy.
  • Run a couple of one-day training events on Evaluation 2.0 focusing on some real hands-on workshops for evaluators and evaluation unit staff rather than just on information giving.
  • Check out with people responsible for evaluation in other DGs whether there is an opportunity for some joint development (a novel idea!) Unlike other ‘perspectives’ it is not tied to content or any particular theoretical approach.
  • Think about developing some mobile phone apps for evaluators and stakeholders around content specific issues – I can easily think of 5 or 6 possibilities to support both counterfactual, quantitative approaches and theory-based qualitative approaches. Although the ideas are generic, customizing the content means evaluators would have something concrete to work with rather than just ideas.
  • Produce an easy-to-use handbook on evaluation 2.0 for evaluators / evaluation units who want practical information on how to do it.
  • Ring fence a small amount of funding to support one-off explorations into innovative practice and new ideas around evaluation.
  • Encourage the evaluation unit to demonstrate leadership in new approaches – for example, try streaming a live internet radio programme around the theme of evaluation (cheap and easy!); set up a multi-user blog for people to post work in progress and interesting observations of ongoing projects using a range of media as well as text-based major reports; make some podcasts of interviews with key players in the evaluation of Regional Policy; set up a wiki around evaluation rather than having to drill down through the various Commission websites; try locating projects using GPS data so that we can all see where the action is taking place! Keep a twitter stream going around questions and issues – make use of crowd sourcing!
  • Advertise the next European Evaluation Society biennial conference, in Helsinki, October 1st – 5th 2012 “Evaluation in the networked society: New concepts, New challenges, New solutions” (There you go Bob, I just did!)
  • Broaden the idea of Evaluation 2.0 and maybe get rid of the catchphrase! We are already using the power of the semantic web in evaluation to mash open and linked data, for example. Should we be now be talking about Evaluation 3.0?? Or should we find another name – Technology Enhanced Evaluation? We could have TEE parties instead of conferences – Europe’s answer to the American far right ; )

P.S. Message to the large numbers of English delegates at the conference

When you left Heathrow yesterday to come to Brussels, I do hope you waved to the English Rugby team arriving home from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

(Just as well this conference was not a week later or I’d have leave a similar message for the French delegates…..)

Serious Social Networking

January 24th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper points to a so called ‘backlash’ against social networking, expressed in a number of recent academic studies and books. And to an extent, I agree. I suspect the novelty factor has worn off. That does not mean social networking is dead, far from it. But it does mean we are slowly evolving an ecosystem of social networking and I am not sure that the Facebook model, driven by the desire to monetarise a huge user base will survive in the long term.

Instead I see two trends. With applications like Facebook, or whatever succeeds it, friends will return to being friends. People we know, people we want to socialise with, be it family and friends we see regularly face to face or friends in distributed networks.

The second will be the growth of social networks based on shared interests and shared practice. Of course this is nothing new. The early days of the web spawned many wonderful bulletin boards with graphics being based on the imaginative use of different text and fonts. Ning led to the explosion of community sites whilst it remained free. But now we are seeing the evolution of free and open source software providing powerful tools for supporting interest and practice based communities.

Cloudworks, developed by the UK Open University has now released an installable version of their platform. Buddypress seems to have developed a vibrant open source community of developers.And I am greatly impressed by QSDA, the Open Source Question and Answer System. Quora is all the hype now. But like so many of these systems, it will be overrun not so much by machine driven spam, but by the lack of a  shared community and purpose.

According to Ettiene Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions – mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.

Open Source networking tools can allow us to support that shared repertoire of communal resources. I am working on the development of open and linked data for careers guidance and counselling. it is a fairly steep learning curve for me in terms of understanding data. And one of the bests sites I have found is Tony Hirst’s Get the Data site, only launched a week ago and based on the QSDA software, but already providing a wealth if freely contributed ideas and knowledge.

it is this sort of development that seems to me to be the future for social networking.

Declaring our Learning

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I am ultra impressed by the idea behind the Declare-It web app. The site says

Declare-It is a tool that assists you in creating, tracking and being held accountable to your goals. For every declaration you make, Declare-It requires you to add supporters. Supporters are notified of your declaration and receive progress reports along your journey. If you start to fall off track, your supporters are sent an ALERT message. They can send you comments and even add incentives to help you stay motivated.

Sadly, Declare-It is a commercial site. Although it allows a ten day free trial, it then costs $9.99 per month. And I don’t honestly see enough people being prepared to pay that money for the site to gain critical mass. But the idea is simple enough and could easily be adopted or extended to other web tools.

Essentially all it is saying is that we set our own learning goals and targets and use our Personal Learning Networks for support. Then rather than just selecting friends to monitor our progress and receive alerts when we slip behind, as in the Declare-It app, we could select friends from our Personal Learning Network to support our learning and receive alerts when we achieve something or need collaboration.

Of course many of this will do that already using all kinds of different tools. My learning is work based, and most of this work is undertaken in collaboration with others – using email, forums or very often skype. Having said that I have  never really got on with any of the myriad task setting (lists) and tracking tools and astikll  tend to write my lists on the back of envelopes.

But rather than a separate web site like Declare-IT (which admittedly does have some Twitter and Facebook integration), I need some way of integrating Declare-It type functionality with my everyday workflow. A WordPress plug-in could be wonderful, particularly for project work.

Openess and Research

September 22nd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I attended the Elluminate session at #PLENK2010 this evening with a presentation by Martin Weller speaking about Research, Technology and Networks. It was heartening to see almost 100 participants log and participate in a very lively text discussion, even if fewer were willing to use the audio.
I think Martin is overly pessimistic about how social networking and social software is being used in research. Of course there are still barriers to be overcome, particularly the insistence by many institutions on traditional forms of scholarship and research as the basis for future career progression and for funding. And in a comment related to the Open University’s Social Learn, a project he previously led, he showed how business goals can impact against openness in research processes and innovation in products.
However, I am seeing a marked move twoards openess, collaboration and sharing in a number of the projects and networks in which I participate. Access to video conferences has facilitated more collaborative approaches to project reviews and to managing research tasks. Twitter, blogs and other social network applications have allowed us to share work in progress outside immediate project partnerships. And once more, social networks are allowing us to discover new colleagues and friends, outside our narrower institutional or project communities.
I am also convinced that the use of Cloud applications is going to have a major impact on the way we work. In Pontydysgu we have moved to Google Docs in the last month. And without consciously thinking about it, we are able to work together on research documents and even better to comment on each others work and ideas as a work in progress. This would never have happened through emailing drafts between colleagues.
Jen Hughes is working on ideas around Evaluation 2.0. This is also based on the idea of openness and the involvement of wider communities in evaluation processes. We hope to open out an evaluation in progress to all of you int he next week or so see what happens!

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    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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