My recent posts have been reports on my efforts to catch up with debates in EdTech communities and with recent pilots with MOOCs. I made use of a relatively quiet period in our work for the Learning Layers (LL) project to read what Graham Attwell has recently written on these issues. (With quiet I don’t mean that we would have had nothing to do. My point was that we have been more occupied with preparatory tasks – not much to blog about them.)
Now it seems that I have to move on to the actual preparation of the forthcoming Design Conference. Therefore, I have to postpone my further reading to some other time. At this point I make only few comments and notes for myself what to read next.
1. Changing concepts – changing perspectives
It strikes me that in the long run several changes in terminology in EdTech (and before EdTech became a big number) have paved the way from teaching-centred to learning-oriented approaches. Just thinking the changes from ‘distance teaching’ to ‘distance learning’, ‘remote learning’ and finally to ‘open distance learning’. In the beginning phase ‘eLearning’ was hyped as an alternative paradigm – the new promising mainstream to push into periphery the traditional academic teaching and learning culture. Gradually the initiatives with ‘eLearning in practice’ have brought into picture far more realistic approaches (with emphasis on technology enhanced learning TEL).
A similar transition seems to have taken place in the debates on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) vs. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). As Graham put it a quote that I have picked from his earlier blog: “At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community.”
To me, the above repeated quote might be also the key to understand adequately the potential of MOOCs. I have the impression that the early phase of the MOOCs has been misused or misinterpreted to create a picture of a renaissance of e-teaching (by global missionaries) in the form of massively open online courses. What I see coming up in the newer blogs is increasingly a picture of scalable learning opportunities via which professional communities reach new dimensions. If I have understood it correctly, the initiative LangMOOC is looking for opportunities to develop language support practices for transnational cooperation activities. To me, the pilots in the employment services point to a similar direction. But I am eager to learn from those who are involved.
2. What should I/we look more closely
Even with the risk that I will not have that much time I will list some blog articles that I should try to go through in the coming time. I have sadly neglected a most valuable resource – the blog Wilfred Rubens over Technology Enhanced Learning – but with these issues I must catch up with some topics. My priority issues will be the following ones (published quite recently but to the very point I want to catch up with):
Vormen van e-learning (February 25th 2015)
Here Wilfred gives a differentiated view on different forms of e-learning (I think he identifies 11 variants).
Nieuwe EMMA MOOCS van start #EUMOOCS (February 27th 2015)
Here Wilfred gives insights into European cooperation intiatives to develop MOOCs.
Hoe lerenden binnen MOOCS opereren? (March 2nd 2015)
Here Wilfred reports on a study that has analysed the activities of learners of MOOCs.
So let us see when I get to deepen my understanding of MOOCs and similar learning arrangements that transform the perspective from ‘courses’ to social learning in professional communities.
More blogs to come …
I’m not normally a big fan of keynote speeches. But I greatly enjoyed Audrey Waters presentation at Alt C 2014. According to the video blurb: “What does it mean to create intelligent machines? What does it mean to create intelligent teaching machines? What does this mean in turn when we talk about using these technologies to create intelligent humans? A romp through literature and the cultural history of ed-tech to talk about teaching machines and monsters.” And I love a good romp.
Ten days ago I had an email from Alexander Mikroyannidis from the UK Open University. “Together with some colleagues from the EU project ROLE (http://www.role-project.eu)” he said, “I’m preparing a book to be published by Springer. It will be entitled “Personal Learning Environments in Practice” and it will present the results of applying PLEs in different test-beds in the project.
For each chapter, we have invited an external expert to provide a 2-page commentary that will also be published in the book. Would you be available to write such a commentary for the chapter that describes the vision of the project?”
How could I refuse? And here is my contribution:
Research and development in learning technologies is a fast moving field. Ideas and trends emerge, peak and die away as attention moves to the latest new thing. At the time of writing MOOCs dominate the discourse. Yet the developments around Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) have not gone away. It could be argued that the development and adoption of PLEs is not so much driven the educational technology community but by the way people (and not just students) are using technology for learning in their everyday lives.
Even when Learning Management Systems were in their prime, there was evidence of serious issues in their use. Teachers tended to use such environments as an extended file storage system; forums and discussion spaces were frequently under populated. In other words such systems were used for managing learning, rather than for learning itself. Learners expropriated and adapted consumer and productivity applications for their learning. Such trends became more pronounced with the emergence of Web 2.0 and social software. Social networking applications in particular, allowed the development of personal learning networks. Rather than go to the institutionally sanctioned LMS or VLE, learners communicated through Facebook or Whats App. PLNs were not longer limited to class or course cohorts but encompassed wider social and learning networks. Wikipedia has emerged as a major open resource for learning.
As mobile technologies have become increasingly powerful and, at least in some countries, internet access has become increasingly ubiquitous, learners use their own devices for learning and are not confined to institutional facilities. Regardless of trends in educational technology theory and research, learners are developing and using their own Personal Learning Environments.
At the same time, the ongoing rapid developments in technologies are changing forms of knowledge development and leading to pressures for lifelong learning. Universities and educational institutions can no longer preserve a monopoly on knowledge. Notwithstanding their continuing hold on accreditation, institutions are no longer the only providers of learning, a move seen in the heart-searching by universities as to their mission and role.
Such changes are reflected in the growing movement towards open learning, be it in the form of MOOCs or in the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources. The popularity of MOOCs has revealed a vast pent up demand for learning and at least in the form of the c-MOOCs has speeded the adoption of PLEs. MOOCs are in their infancy and we can expect the rapid emergence of other forms of open learning or open education in the next few years.
Learning is becoming multi-episodic, with people moving in and out of courses and programmes. More importantly the forms and sources of learning are increasingly varied with people combining participation in face-to-face courses, online and blended learning programmes and self directed and peer supported learning using different internet technologies.
These changes are reflected in discussion over pedagogy and digital literacies. It is no longer enough to be computer literate. Learners need to be able to direct and manage their own learning, formal and informal, regardless of form and source. In conjunction with More Knowledge Others (Vygotsky, 1978) they need to scaffold their own learning and to develop a personal knowledge base. At the same time as the dominance of official accreditation wanes, they need to be able to record and present their learning achievement. Personal Learning Environments are merely tools to allow this to happen.
All this leads to the issue of the role of educational technology researchers and developers. In research terms we need to understand more not just about how people use technology or learning but how they construct a personal knowledge base, how they access different resources for learning, including people and how knowledge is exchanged and developed.
At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community. It can be argued that whilst most educational technology development has focused on supporting learners already engaged in educational programmes and institutions, the major potential of technology and particularly of Personal Learning Environments is for the majority of people not enrolled on formal educational programmes. Not all workplaces or for that matter communities offer a rich environment or learning. Yet there is vast untapped potential in such environments, particularly for the development and sharing of the tacit knowledge and work process knowledge required in many tasks and occupations. PLE tools can help people learning in formal and informal contexts, scaffold their learning and develop a personal learning knowledge base or portfolio.
At both pedagogic and technical levels, context provides a major challenge. Whilst mobile technologies recognise the context of place (through GPS), other and perhaps more important aspects of context are less well supported. This includes time – how is what I learned at one time linked to something I learned later? It includes purpose – why am I trying to learn something? It includes the physical environment around me, including people. And of course it includes the social and semantic links between places, environments, people and objects.
The challenge is to develop flexible applications and tools to enhance peoples’ PLEs and which can recognise context, can support people in scaffolding their learning and develop their own Personal Learning Networks and enhance their ability to direct their own learning and the learning of their peers.
Two major European funded projects, ROLE and Learning Layers are attempting to develop such applications. They both have the potential to make major inroads into the challenges outlined in this short paper.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I am signed up for a MOOC on Digital Curation. I will post each assignment on the Wales wide Web as well as in the course forum. This weeks assignment is to introduce ourselves. And I though I had better explain what I was doing lurking in a community of expert librarians, museum staff and the rest.
“I work for Pontydysgu, a small company based in Pontypridd in Wales. Most of our work focuses on the use of new technologies for learning in a range of different contexts including in primary schools, in the community and in work. I am especially interested in informal learning and how informal learning can lead to knowledge development and sharing.
One of the projects we are currently involved in s called Employ-ID. Funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Research Programme it is looking at the chafing professional identities of worker in Public Employment services in Europe and how new technologies can be used for professional development for instance through online coaching.
We are planning to run a series of MOCCs as part of this project and the project partners have agreed themselves to do a MOOC as part of our won learning project.
So why did I choose to do a course of digital curation? I have spent a lot of time working on the development of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Open Educational Resources are resources for learning and teaching that are open to use. But resources means not only content and materials but also tools for content creation and sharing as well as intellectual property licenses for using these resources freely and openly.
Open Educational Resources include: Open courseware and content; Open software tools; Open material for e-learning capacity building of faculty staff; Repositories of learning objects; Free educational courses. C Central to the idea of Open Educational Resources is not only should they be freely available for use but teachers should be able to themselves edit and change these resources to meet their needs and the needs of learner.
It strikes me that many of the digital objects being grated by participants in this course could be a very rick source of learning. more than that it also seems that many of the issues in digital cur action are very similar to those sound OERs – for example
And finally I think that the best answers to these questions may come through an interdisciplinary dialogue. So I am looking forward to learning from you!”
In case you missed it first time round, the PLE 2014 Conference has issues a second call for contributions. The new deadline for the submission of extended abstracts: April 1, 2014. The theme of the conference is Beyond formal: emergent practices for living, learning and working.
PLE 2014 – the 5th International Conference on Personal Learning Environments – will take place in Tallinn, Estonia, from July 16th to 18th with a preceding “pacific” event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from June 25th to 27th.
The PLE Conference intends to create an engaging, conversational, and innovative meeting space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences, and research around PLE related themes.
The conference invites contributions in the format of “academic papers” or “alternative session proposals”. However, authors of both types of contributions will be asked to communicate their research and ideas within session formats that look to avoid the traditional 15 minute presentation.
The 5th Edition of the PLE conference aims to move beyond discussions about definitions to explore emergent practices for living, learning and working in relation to PLEs and the new understandings and underlying needs that arise around these practices in our contemporary society. Delegates are invited to submit their ideas, research and/or practice under the topics listed below.
Topics include (but are not limited to)…
I don’t know quite what to think about the Open Education Challenge. It is good that the European Commission is working to support start up companies in education and especially interesting to note the impressive list of people available to help mentor new start ups. However, 20 companies hardly represents a critical mass and secondly I am not sure that the trudging successful applicants for twelve weeks around “successive European cities: Barcelona, Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki| is the best way to do things.
And although the project is running under the new EU Open Education strap line, it is a bit hard to see just what is open about it (apart from anyone can apply). Worrying is the language of the web site: Europe will be the leading education market for years to come. Is this just another step to using technology to privatise and marketise education? True the talk is of transforming education, not disrupting it. But i am not quite sure what they mean by “All projects are welcome; the only condition is that they must contribute to transforming education.”
I am much impressed with Martin Weller’s blog on the The dangerous appeal of the Silicon Valley narrative. He argues that the popular discourse around MOOCs conforms to the silicon valley narrative, proposing a revolution and disruption. He quotes Clay Shirky as saying “Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC)”. It also suggests that the commercial, external provider will be the force of change, stating that “and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup”. Martin Weller goes on to say MOOCs “were established as separate companies outside of higher education, thus providing interest around business models and potential profits by disrupting the sector. This heady mix proved too irresistible for many technology or education journalists.”
So where does the EU Open Education initiative fit in terms of different discourses. Is it a project aiming at opening up education and developing new pedagogies or is it a market orientated initiative aiming to develop the Silicon Valley discourse in Europe?
It is nearly the end of November and time for Pontydysgu’s annual trip to Online Educa Berlin. And as usual, together with our friends form the University of Koblenz) we will be presenting our Internet Radio show, the Sounds of the Bazaar, live from the conference.
Sounds of the Bazaar will go out on Thursday 5th of December and Friday 6th December at 1100 – 1140 Central European Time. As usual we will present all the best from Online Educa, including interviews with speakers and participants and visitors and reflecting on this years developments and trends in the use of technology for learning.
There are different ways you can get involved. If you are coming to Online Educa we would love to interview you live on the show. Just email me Graham Attwell at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling me what you would like to talk about. Or come along to find us at our planning meeting from around 1400 on Wednesday 4th in the Marlene Bar. Or just turn up for the broadcast – once more by the Marlene Bar – and we will try to fit you in. If you aren’t lucky enough to be coming to the conference in Berlin, then be sure to tune into our programmes.
The address of our live stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31022/live.m3u. Open this in your internet browser and it should stream from your MP3 player of choice (e.g. iTunes). And we will tell you how you can get in touch with us to ask your own questions or give us feedback on the broadcasts.
This year we have a special extra programme. RadioActive Europe is a European Commission funded project 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. Along with the project coordinators, the University of East London and the University of Koblenz, we will be presenting the project on the European Commission stand that Online Educa. As part of our presentation , we will, of course be broadcasting a live radio show. We will be talking live to the different project partners and exploring their work with different groups through RadioActive Europe. At the same time we will be featuring short clips from broadcasts for each of the project partner countries – in the UK, Germany, Portugal. Romania and Malta.
And once more we would love to hear from you. The programme will go out from 1215 to 1300 CET on Thursday 4th December from the EU stand at the conference. Once more if you are not able to be in Berlin tune onto the programme live. The address for the radio stream is http://uk2.internet-radio.com:31244/live.m3u.
If you cannot listen n live, podcasts from the programmes will be available on the RadioActive101 web site, the Pontydysgu web site and Online Educa following the conference.
Look forward to talking to you all – face to face or live on internet radio – next week.
One of the frustrations with the Personal Learning Environments conferences has been the time it has taken us to publish papers after the conference. This year we tied up with e_learning Papers who publish an electronic journal on the European Commission Open Education Europa portal. And I am delighted to say they have just published a special edition of the journal on PLEs, edited by Ilona Buchem and Tapia Toskinen.
The foreword to the edition is included in full below together with links to the different papers.
“The proliferation of learning innovations such as personal devices, granular and distributed applications, services, and resources, requires the learner to develop his or her own strategies for managing the various information streams and tools to support learning. Such strategies are necessary not only in educational settings, but basically in any life situation which can become a moment or an episode of learning. Digital and non-digital building blocks can be individually combined by learners in their own Personal Learning Environment (PLEs).
More of an approach or strategy than a specific learning platform, a PLE is created by learners in the process of designing and organising their own learning, as opposed to following pre-arranged learning paths. In this way, PLEs are distinctly learner-centred and foster autonomous learning. PLEs are by no means isolated; they are interconnected in a digital ecosystem of media, tools and services. Instead of asking learners to navigate within one monolithic environment, PLEs act as a gateway to an open and connected learning experience. This approach marks a shift towards a model of learning in which learners draw connections from a pool of digital and non-digital building blocks, aggregating, mixing and combining them into unique constellations as part of learning.
While emphasizing the active role of a learner, the PLE approach implies that learning is not located in a specific time and place, but is an ongoing, ubiquitous and multi-episodic process. As PLEs allow the collocation of diverse learning activities, tools, and resources, contexts permeate and learning becomes connected. In this sense, PLEs challenge some dominant paradigms in education and in the traditional understanding of borders, be it in view of learning places, educational roles or institutional policies.
This special issue builds on the current PLE discussion and focuses on crossing the boundaries of learning contexts. It features some emerging practices, including the construction of PLEs as part of an augmented localised learning experience with mobile devices; PLEs as an approach to supporting learning through work practice; and using gamification and open badges as part of the PLE approach. The findings and insights of the articles in this issue demonstrate the rich contribution of the PLE approach to the opening up of education.”
Personal Learning Environments in Smart Cities: Current Approaches and Future Scenarios
Author(s): Ilona Buchem, Mar Pérez-Sanagustín
There has been lots of interest today in the announcement that Wales has become one of the first nations to agree to make university course material publicly available so that academics do not have to create their lectures from scratch.
According the The Times Higher Education Supplement: “Vice-chancellors from the country’s eight universities were expected to commit from 19 September to the principles of the open educational resources movement, which makes materials freely available online.”
Also welcome is that the Welsh government is to fund workshops to help staff learn how to use the resources, to be hosted on institutional web servers but accessible through a portal.
However there do appear to be some limitations to the agreement. “It’s up to each university to determine what they want to make available,” Professor Mulholland explained. Some would give away “significant elements” of their courses, while others could give away “very little” in the beginning. Furthermore, the resources would consist “mostly lecture notes and course materials.”
In the fast changing context of higher education, a move to share e-learning content would be an even more welcome step.
The future of libraries
The NMC Horizon Project, an ongoing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry has released its library edition. Six key trends, six significant challenges, and six important developments in technology are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, giving library leaders and staff, they say, a valuable guide for strategic technology planning.
The NMC Horizon Report > 2015 Library Edition identifies “Increasing Value of the User Experience” and “Prioritization of Mobile Content and Delivery” as short-term impact trends driving changes in academic and research libraries over the next one to two years. The “Evolving Nature of the Scholarly Record” and “Increasing Focus on Research Data Management” are mid-term impact trends expected to accelerate technology use in the next three to five years; and “Increasing Accessibility of Research Content” and “Rethinking Library Spaces” are long-term impact trends, anticipated to impact libraries for the next five years or more.
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.
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.”
Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.
We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2014. See the info above. The stream URL is http://uk2.internet-radio.com/tunein.php/soundsofbazaar/playlist.pls