Archive for the ‘online learning’ Category

Learning Layers has given new emphasis on Development Projects

March 22nd, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

The last event of the Learning Layers (LL) project  in the year 2013 of which I blogged was the Y1 Review meeting in Barcelona. One of the measures with which we have responded to the feedback of reviewers has been the shift of emphasis from overarching Design Ideas to more specific Development Projects. This shift of emphasis was already discussed during the Y1 Review meeting, but it really took off during the preparation of the LL consortium meeting in Innsbruck (that took place in February).

What has this shift of emphasis meant to us:

Firstly, it has provided us an opportunity consider, to what extent the co-design processes are going on with an overarching agenda (of the original Design Teams set up in March 2013) or whether they have moved to more differentiated processes.

Secondly, it has provided us an opportunity to give shape for sub-initiatives or complementary initiatives that may play a role in different contexts.

Thirdly, it has provided us an opportunity to reconsider, in what ways we share experiences and knowledge on co-design activities.

Here it is not necessary to give a comprehensive account on call changes or to go into very specific details. Yet, I can give some examples of the changes that have occurred with reference to the above mentioned reorientations:

1) In the Design Team “Sharing Turbine” the original idea was the digitisation of the White Folder (learning and working resource of the apprentices in Bau ABC). In the current phase the work has differentiated to several parallel Development Project:

1a) The Development Project “Learning Toolbox” is developing a toolbox of mobile apps and resources that supports the work with the White Folder (and paves the way for digitisation of documents and reports).

1b) The Development Project “Multimedia/ Web 2.0  Training “ is giving shape for the training activities that have been piloted with the staff of Bau ABC (and are to be supported by online learning).

1c) The Development Project “Baubildung.net” is developing a platform for professional networking platform for construction sector. This platform will also provide the basis for online learning in the context of the above mentioned training activities.

2) The Development Project “Reflect app” (that was initially developed with support of an affiliated students’ project) is being developed further by the LL project. The audio-based app that helps the users to record their learning experiences and learning gains (and convert them into documents) will be piloted both in healthcare and in construction sector.

3) The flashmeetings of Design Teams have to some extent given way for more comprehensive design forums of the two sectors healthcare and construction sector.

As we are talking of recent changes in dynamic processes, it is not yet the time to conclude, to what extent the Development Projects have shaped the daily work of the LL project. Yet, we can already see that the picture of the LL project is getting more networked and more colourful.

More posts to come …

 

 

 

 

Learning Layers – What are we achieving with our fieldwork of Year 1 (Part 3: Training activities)

December 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my first post to this series of blogs I raised he question: What are we achieving with the fieldwork activities of Year 1 in the Learning Layers (LL) project?  In my previous posts I gave an account on the developments in the co-design activities of the LL design team Sharing Turbine (mainly taking place in Bau ABC).

In this post I will complement the picture with a similar account on training activities in the construction sector during the year 1 of LL project. Here again, I will focus mainly on training activities that have started to take shape in Bau ABC (but not exclusively on the host organisation). Concerning the development of training activities  I would formulate the following thesis:

In the training activities of the year 1 we have shifted the emphasis from ad hoc training measures towards a more comprehensive (but transparent) approach. This gives the participants a broad overview of web tools and enables quick trials. This helps them to select their own priorities and make their own plans for further learning and utilisation in their own area.

Looking back at April and May 2013, when we started the early pilots training activities, I have to admit that we were rather cautious . We had good reasons for this, since the co-design activities were only in the beginning phase and we indeed tried to avoid over-ambitious openings. Yet, we understood that we need to develop some kind of project-specific training initiatives to improve our user-skills in web and multimedia (jointly).

So, the ITB team prepared a Webinar for NNB/Agentur to support firstly the staff and later on the network members in ecological construction work. Also, some demonstration sessions with basic applications (e.g. Bosch app, Evernote) were organised with interested craft trade companies. Moreover, some agreements were reached with training providers for craft trade companies to support their training events. However, these initiatives did not raise a wide interest. We were still at the advent of linking training activities to co-design initiatives and to active utilisation of new tools.

The next step in developing training initiatives was taken in an ad hoc meeting in June 2013 (organised alongside the consortium meeting in Graz). One of the ideas put into discussion by this meeting was to organise Do-it-yourself workshops in Bau ABC to create users’ own apps. During the summer months this idea was reworked towards a Multimedia Training approach. The First Multimedia Workshop (moderated by Jenny Hughes from Pontydysgu) provided an orientation to different ways to create apps or to use services and tools in a customised and user-adapted way. This workshop had already a strong hands-on emphasis but it mainly served the purpose to outline the learning pathways forward.

The Second Multimedia Workshop in November (also moderated by Jenny Hughes) was already planned as the second in a series to be continued. This workshop consisted of several short sessions during which the participants trained with similar tasks but using somewhat different software in different groups. The programme started with easier exercises (setting up individual twitter accounts, making word clouds with wordle etc.). Then the participants prepared glogsters ands padlets to present text and multimedia content on the same page. Then cartoons, animations and videos were used to present task implementation in construction work (measurement). In the next phase several other applications were demonstrated with the help of the website of TACCLE2 project (that promotes multimedia competences of teachers and gives advice to develop their own web contents). In the final phase the participants trained with WordPress and developed their own blogs to bring together results of the previous sessions.

In the concluding session the participants (including the director of Bau ABC) committed themselves to continue with a series of such workshops. Pontydysgu volunteered to install a dedicated WordPress site for the training and provide links to relevant contents on the TACCLE2 website. In addition Pontydysgu volunteered to shape the training programme as small modules with tutorials and tasks that support self-organised learning. The participants agreed to continue independently with the proposed tools and to prepare for the next workshop their individual plans for further learning and for domain-specific use of tools.

In a flashmeeting for planning the Y2 activities this development of the training approach was given a new dimension when the participants of the meeting saw the continuation as a joint opportunity to develop wider participation. Also, the development of the WordPress site and modules was seen as a strategy for outreach to craft trade companies and for shaping customised training packages.

I think this is as far as I can follow the development of the training concept for construction sector. As I see it, this process has moved from smaller opening steps towards a collaborative and participative shaping of a training programme that can be scaled up in the coming years. Also, my impression is that the first steps have been paved by such ‘user engagement’ that leads to empowerment of learners and capacity building in the organisations involved.

However, this is not the whole story of the process dynamics (of “growing together”, of “hatching out” and of reaching out beyond the initial pilot contexts. Although I may have limited possibilities to report on other supporting activities, it is appropriate to bring them also into the picture by a concluding blog post.

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 kind of transition phase are we going through in our fieldwork (Part 3: Design process and training activities)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the first  post of this series of blogs I indicated that we (the ITB team together with our Pontydysgu colleagues and the application partner Bau ABC)  are going through a transitional phase in our fieldwork for the Learning Layers  (LL) project. In the second post I looked back at the shifts of emphasis that had characterised our field visits and workshops in Bau ABC since the first ones in winter to the latest ones before and after the summer holiday break. In both postings I made the point that we had moved from preparatory measures to work in the context of a participative design process. In this posting it is time to consider the implications of such process for the design activities themselves and for the necessary training activities to be planned and carried out.

In principle, there has been an implicit agreement among the LL partner that our project is not a “technology push” project. Neither have we seen our application partners as clients in the supermarket – making choices between ready-made solutions that are on the shelf. Instead, the emphasis has been put on participative co-design processes. Yet, it has been quite a challenge to get such processes take off in the domains and in the locations where we want to carry out pilot activities.

In the case of the Rapid Turbine initiative Graham Attwell has given some insights into the first steps of the design work, into the plans to produce videos (the helmet camera) and into conceptual challenges (“closing the gap”). Much of this design work is still on the way and the demonstrators are yet to come. However, we already know that much of the messages of trainers and apprentices have been taken on board. The important thing is that the Pontydysgu colleagues try to provide real support for completing working and learning tasks without dropping the idea of self-organised learning. Thus, the web tools and the software solutions are there to enhance the learners’ awareness of their own learning. At the end of the exercise, the apprentices should have a picture what they can do, what the cannot do yet and what challenges they can meet in the next phase. This is being discussed between developers, trainers and us, the accompanying researchers.

This has also implications for getting the forthcoming Rapid Turbine designs work together with existing applications and software solutions (such as the Reflect application for the LL project and the software for the assessment procedures in Bau ABC). In this way the support for project-based learning of apprentices would be linked to a tool that enables audio recording of learners’ reports and trainers’ feedback – and to the assessment processes. This, as we understand, will take some time and requires further efforts in the design process.

Parallel to this we have made progress in our discussions, how to give shape for training activities that would support the Rapid Turbine initiative and enhance the general media literacy of trainers and apprentices. Whilst the design work and the discussion on appropriate workshops were firstly taking off as two different things, they seem to be getting closer to each other. It is obvious that the design of the Rapid Turbine gives rise to specific training activities. These can be seen as one part of a wider range of training options to be considered together with the application partners. Here, we are pleased to be able to share experiences with the EU-funded TACCLE projects that have a long experiences with such workshops for teachers to help them produce user-generated web content.

Here I need to stress that both the design work for Rapid Turbine and the development of the training concepts are at an early stage. Yet, we are carrying out this work via joint working meetings in which different parties are actively engaged. This, to me, is already aq good sign and I am looking for the next steps that are taken very soon.

To be continued …

PS. I have written this blog posting just before a series of working meetings with several LL partners and stakeholders that will bring these issues (and wider issues) further. As I will not be present in all these activities and since I will be travelling some time afterwards, it may take some time before we get updates. PK

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

 

Overcoming the academic media divide

June 27th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

If I was paid for the number of times i have heard researchers / teachers / lecturers / managers saying they discourage / ban / mark down students from using Wikipedia I would be a rich man (and I am not!). The reasons vary. The usual one is that Wikipedia is unreliable because it is crowdsourced. Another is that they want students to use ‘proper’ sources. Yet another is that Wikipedia makes life too simple.

Anyway the divide between academia and Wikipedia seems to be narrowing. In a welcome press statement, the UK universities based JISC announce:

Jisc and Wikimedia UK are collaborating on a project to bring the academic world and Wikipedia closer together. This will create opportunities for researchers, educators, and the general public to contribute to the world’s freely available knowledge.

They go on to say:

This is a national project, based at the University of Bristol. It will train experts in their workplaces and also run ‘editathon’ events which will be open to the public. Dr Martin Poulter, who is a Wikipedia editor as well as a professional creator of educational materials in the university, will be an ambassador between the two communities. This will include working with Jisc’s communities to identify specific topics for development.

Learning Layers – What are we learning in the current phase of our fieldwork? (Part 3: SMEs in craft trade)

June 8th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

My previous post informed of the fieldwork activities that we had arranged with the training centre Bau ABC. In this context the construction companies were addressed in an indirect way – via apprentices who were reflecting on their working and learning experiences in the companies (and looking for new solutions). In this post I shift the emphasis from the training context to cooperation with SMEs – directly or via their network organisation (in this case the NNB/ Agentur).

In the case of Bau ABC we had a relatively easy start with the workshops. It is no major problem for training centres to involve their learners and staff members in such workshops in the course of their normal weekly schedule. However, it requires more effort from SMEs to participate in similar events (either as their own event or as a joint event hosted by trade guild or a networking agency – such as the NNB/ Agentu). Therefore, it has been necessary to find ways to present design ideas of the Learning layers (LL) project for them in such a way that they would see the benefit for them and commit themselves to the necessary preparatory events. Here our colleagues Joanna Burchert and Werner Müller as well as Tobias Funke from NNB/ Agentur have had to work hard to find ways forward. Here some remarks from an observer’s point of view. Joanna and Werner have spent the last week on a course in Verden and deepened their insights in the topic ‘ecological construction work’ and into the community. Thus, they will soon have quite a lot of fresh  first hand information to report.

Shortly after the LL Design Conference Tobias Funke raised the issue that the NNB/Agentur should develop a specific offering – a Webinar – to inform its own staff and member companies of possible uses of web applications and services that could be immediately useful. Werner and Joanna from the ITB team started to work together with this concept and agreed to take the role of trainers (to get themselves into a development-oriented dialogue with the participants). This webinar was thought to be a preparatory step to a presence workshop in which the participants could test the applications and try to customise them for their own context. However, the Webinar turned out to be an internal training event – and as such a useful one – but with no participants from the member SMEs. The planned presence workshop had to be postponed and instead a working session was organised to see how the SMEs could be approached with more targeted and customised offerings.

Without going into details it is worthwhile to mention that in our direct contacts with SMEs we have had somewhat similar experiences. It has not been easy to find an obvious way to open the discussion and design processes on other LL design ideas (although there is much good will). It is becoming clearer to us that the befits that we might be able to demonstrate in optimising work processes may lead to non-trivial issues about redistributing decision-making powers and responsibilities of risks. Thus, well-meant interventions to work processes may have problematic side-effects on the business processes. Furthermore, these issues tend to be perceived in a different light in different companies.

What we tend to see as the way forward is to develop similar exercises as the storyboard workshop in Bau ABC for apprentices and/or skilled workers in interested companies. Here the challenge is harder – the mapping of problems, hurdles and communication gaps in the process of work is though similar but the search for possible solutions may be more demanding in a mini-workshop or individual exercise. Therefore, we see it necessary to continue the interviews with company representatives and the harvesting of existing interview material.

Here, the picture is incomplete and may change soon in the light of newer information. However, the message is the same: our efforts to bring the use of ICT- and web-based tools and apps to the everyday practice of SMEs are not just simple measures of introducing new tools for those who are interested. The processes of accessing information, sharing knowledge and managing communication are very closely linked to business processes and to (re)distributing roles, powers and responsibilities. The SMEs need to get convinced that it is worthwhile taking the path that brings changes alongside developmental steps. We need to work and learn with the SMEs to see the benefits together with them.

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!!

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.

Learning Analytics

September 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Hi Graham, writes Tess Pajaron from the Australian Open Colleges, “My name is Tess and I am an avid reader of your blog. I read an article you did about online learning and Technology Integration in the Classroom and I thought that you can make use of this infographic that we just developed.  You can check it out here: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/learning-analytics-infographic/.

Please do let me know what you think. And if you can feature it on your blog, I’d be really thrilled! :D”

Its a good infographic and I am happy to feature it. Personally I am somewhat sceptical about learning analytics, but others in Pontydsygu are keener and we certainly want to find out more. And we are always happy to feature reader submitted content (as long as you are not a bot!).

Great Design

June 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Design matters! And one of the problems with educational technology is that developers ignore design. Interfaces are unimportant, they say. It can be sorted after we get the coding debugged. they do not generally understand when users complain that the Alpha is hard to navigate and is not attractive.

I know because I have been there.  We try our best but none of us in Pontydysgu are specialist graphic designers. One of the problems is that project funding rarely (if ever) includes a budget for graphic design. Life is getting easier because of the more advanced templates for platforms like WordPress but even these need customisation. And lets face it, 90 per cent of Moodle sites look soooo boring.

So it is refreshing when a well designed educational technology web site comes out. So congratulations to Jisc TechDis who have just released a new Toolbox.

The technology section of the site explains:

The word technology is a simple way of describing tools to help us do things. These tools can be computers or tablets, but could just as easily be a mobile phone or even an ebook reader.

All types of technology can be changed and adapted to make them just right for you. This could be changing the size of the font on a screen or having the text read out loud. You may prefer to plan your work using mind mapping software or to record your thoughts as a video. Whatever you choose you can set it up in the way which is the best for you.

This section contains a large number of ideas to help you adapt the technology you use everyday. It covers both Windows and Mac computers as well as using mobile devices and tablets.

And it looks fantastic.

Disruptive technology being used to justify privatisation

November 15th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

That technology is a disruptive element in education is hardly a new idea. What perhaps is new is that the disruption is becoming a subject of debate in the popular press and by bloggers outside education technology.

And in the process the debate is being mightily confused, perhaps deliberately. Take, for example, the recent blog entitled ‘Why online education is ready for disruption, now‘, written by online journalist  Courtney Boyd Myers about a talk by Clayton Christensen, who quotes an article by Alvin Tofflers “The Third Wave” at Edutopia.

Tofflers says:

The schools of today are essentially custodial: They’re taking care of kids in work hours that are essentially nine to five — when the whole society was assumed to work. Clearly, that’s changing in our society. So should the timing. We’re individualizing time; we’re personalizing time. We’re not having everyone arrive at the same time, leave at the same time. Why should kids arrive at the same time and leave at the same time?

So far so good. The article goes 0n to document the rise of online education in the USA. And then this is used to slag off Harvard as making no investment in making its teaching better in comparison tot he university of Phoenix, which it claims is investing 200m dollars a year in improving teaching.

Phoenix is always quoted in these articles. And certainly the number of students passing through the university is impressive. According to Advertsing Age:

The school heaps more than $100 million a year into measured media alone and is a highly efficient marketing machine that spends more each year than Cheerios or Tide.

In a field where most old-line universities spend a few million a year at best, the University of Phoenix is an anomaly for its approach to both education and marketing. It’s the country’s largest private university, with more than 400,000 students and 230 campus and learning-center locations. Its parent, Apollo Group, posted more than $3.1 billion in revenue during fiscal 2008 (Phoenix represents about 95% of Apollo’s net revenue).

In the interview Chrsitensen goes on to compare teachers with the Luddite movement in the UK, popularly regarded as a metaphor for resisting technology. What is not pointed out was that the Luddites were protesting aginst lack of jobs due tot he introduction iof technology, not against technology itself.

The article continues:

The rise of online education could effectively render terrible teachers redundant, while bolstering the careers of talented educators. There’s a word for this; it’s progress

How these terrible teachers are identified is not clear, or indeed why they are so terrible, nor indeed for the assertion “Human beings with the best education tend to do the best in the marketplace.”

However that word ‘marketplace’ is revealing. The privatisation of education is being presented as progress, as inevitable progress driven by disruptive technologies. Its a lie. And is not good for anybody, except for advertising agencies and private corporations.

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    News Bites

    Online Educa Berlin

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


    Consultation

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

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


    Social Tech Guide

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

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

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

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


    Code Academy expands

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

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

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

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

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


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