Archive for the ‘participation’ Category

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 4: Implications for accompanying research)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In the previous postings to this series of blogs I have characterised the transition phase that we (ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC) are going through with our fieldwork for the Learning Layers (LL) project.  I have firstly given a general overview (part 1), then looked at the particpative workshops (part 2) and then at the ongoing design work and planning of training concepts (part 3). In this final article I put into discussion some thoughts on the role of accompanying research (Begleitforschung) in such a transition phase.

As I see it, the tasks taken up in the Rapid Turbine initiative give rise to a complex research agenda, in which pedagogic challenges and socio-technical design processes become interlinked with each other. In this context research work and development work are interacting with each other as mutually complementing contributions to a participative development co-process with the users – firstly with trainers and  apprentices. Later on the process will also involve  also skilled workers and  company representatives from construction sector as well as vocational school teachers.

Instead of seeing the R&D processes as linear and expert-driven processes in which the users are seen as informants (in the beginning) and as testers of prototypes and pre-final solutions (at the end), the Rapid Turbine is being shaped on a participative and iterative process. In such a process the design workshops and learning events serve that purpose of raising the users’ awareness on possible solutions and their own capacity to contribute. At the same time the researchers have the opportunity to analyse, how the growing awareness of emerging solutions makes it possible for the users to change their own working and learning culture. Parallel to this the designers get new insights into key issues concerning the acceptability and possible benefits of the proposed solutions.

Below some key questions are formulated for such R&D dialogue, in which researchers, developers and users are challenged to find the turning points that help to overcome obstacles and to make the proposed solutions work in practice:

  1. How can potential users’ attitudes to mobile technologies, web tools and apps/services be changed in the course of pilot activities. Is it possible to overcome general rejection or mere leisure-time oriented consumerism and stimulate creative use to support working and learning?
  2. How can the use of such technologies, tools and apps/services help to bring the real working life closer to the learning situations in training centre? How can impulses and innovations be shared in such a way that they enrich working and learning culture?
  3. How can wider access to information and learning resources be linked to better understanding on the uses and quality of information? How can use of internet and new media help the users to assess their own learning and professional growth (what they can do and what they can’)?
  4. How can improved access to information and communication resources and media from different locations be utilised to make communication and knowledge sharing across the organisation more effective (as support for working and learning)?
  5. How can improved possibilities to record and analyse learning experiences at work to support professional development of individuals and knowledge sharing in organisations?

As has been indicated above, such questions cannot be answered a priori on the basis of purely observational research. Instead, the answers have to be found in the context of the participative process – with reference to trials and errors in different phases. Therefore, the research work has to be carried out as accompanying research that takes into account the open options, intervening factors and the actors’ choices in the pilot activities.

So, the researchers have to work  in the participative process and have an insight into changing circumstances, different interests, optional choices and new technical possibilities that come into picture during the work. This is what accompanying research has to conceptualise and analyse in such processes while working together with the developers and users.

And the story goes on …

PS. This posting (as the other three of the same series) has focused mainly on the cooperation of ITB, Pontydygu and Bau ABC with focus on the Rapid Turbine initiative. At the same time other members of ITB team have been working with other technical partners and the application partner NNB/Agentur with focus on the design idea Captus for the ecological construction work. As I have not been involved in the recent events, I have not been able to cover these developments.

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 2: Participative workshops)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my introductory statement to this series of blog postings I indicated that we – the ITB team together with our colleagues in Pontydysgu and our are application partner Bau ABC) are  going through a transition phase in our fieldwork. Roughly, this transition can be characterised as a  shift from preparatory measures to active collaboration in participative co-design work. This might seem a bit bold statement but I think this is exactly what we are experiencing at the moment.

Looking back at our workshop reports and my early blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL) project, I see that we were  mapping the grounds for forthcoming pilot activities. During the winter months (before the Design Conference) and the Easter break we had collected quite a lot of interview materials and made several field visits. In this phase we were getting insights into the work of individual company representatives and full-time trainers of Bau ABC. This material was used for the initial User Stories for the Application Partner Days and for the Design Conference of the . In Bremen we tried to group this material into contextual maps – to identify emerging  design ideas. (Later on some of the ITB colleagues have produced summaries of the interviews and coded it with MAXQDA.)

After the Design Conference in March our key question was, how to get the initial design ideas well grounded in the working and learning contexts of our application partners. We felt the need to get a better and wider understanding on the working and learning contexts of apprentices (both at their companies and at the training centre Bau ABC). We also wanted to get a better picture how they were using mobile devices and web technologies – in particular as support for working and learning. For this purpose we firstly organised a conversational workshop and then some storyboard workshops. With the help of these workshops we got more holistic pictures of the working days of apprentices in companies and in Bau ABC. Furthermore, we got a glimpse of some trade-specific problem situations or challenges and ideas, what role mobile technologies, web tools and software solutions may play. Also, some ideas were raised for context-specific apps.

With the trainers of Bau ABC we also had a storyboard exercise to illustrate their working day alongside apprentices’ projects. Then, during later working visits  we have continued to review the results of apprentices’ workshops but on top of that we have had further discussion on the points of intervention for the first year pilot activities. With these discussions we have got more comprehensive picture of needs to facilitate training and learning processes (with the help of digital media and web) and of the limits of current software solutions and web applications. Moreover, in these sessions the colleagues from Bau ABC have increasingly worked as a local LL team with regular cooperation with researchers from ITB and developers from Pontydysgu. (In this context we have also identified some spin-off initiatives for which we need to find additional resources.)

In this way we are reaching thew phase in which the workshops need to include demonstrations of emerging tools, applications and web designs. Then, the workshops could give focused feedback of the usability or shortcomings of the tentative solutions and/or the possibilities to use complementary apps and solutions. This has further implications for the development process, for supporting training activities and for our research agenda.

To be continued …

PS. With this series of blog postings I am focusing more closely on our cooperation with Bau ABC in the context of the Rapid Turbine initiative. This doesn’t imply that our work with our other application partners would have gone quiet. On the contrary – quite a lot of steps forward have been taken by in the fieldwork and design processes of the Captus team that focuses on the ecological construction work (represented by NNB/Agentur in Verden). However, since I have not been present in these events, I am not in the position to give detailed reports. PK

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 1: Transitions on many fronts)

August 25th, 2013 by Pekka Kamarainen

Quite some time has passed since my latest blog postings on the Learning Layers (LL)  project. This doesn’t mean that the project would have gone quiet or that there would not have been anything interesting going on in the fieldwork. On the contrary – there were a lot of activities going on before the holiday break and the same has been the case after the holiday break. Thus, we (from the ITB team) have had to put a lot of effort to get the events and the activities and events documented with internal notes and reports. At the same time our Pontydysgu colleagues have been busy with development work and with documenting their work processes. (See the recent blog postings on Rapid Turbine and Reflect by Graham Attwell and his colleagues on the Wales-Wide-Web.)

Looking back at the my earlier postings from May and June I see a gradual transition in the way that we have worked. In our workshops and joint meetings with apprentices, company representatives and trainers we were looking for possibilities to launch participative design processes. We were working with storyboards and user journeys, getting insights into critical situations or everyday life innovations in which use of digital media and web can play a role. In the interviews, working meetings and reflection sessions we got feedback on the uses of web tools and applications by professionals in construction sector.  This all has been very valuable for getting a better understanding, how to get participative co-design processes working. (And we are not necessarily saturated with such material yet.)

However, from a certain point on our work started to have other characteristics. The collaboration of ITB, Pontydysgu and Bau ABC started to focus more closely on using digital media and web resources in selected working and learning projects. This was the step forward from the overarching design idea “Sharing Turbine”  – digitalisation of the White Folder (see the earlier blog of Graham) and the related training/learning processes. Whilst this overarching perspective needs to be kept on the agenda, it was necessary to start more focused pilot activities on the ground. For this purpose a particular area of construction work was chosen, – building pipelines for water supply and sewage (Rohrleitungsbau). This initiative was named “Rapid Turbine” to emphasise that it is a quicker pioneering exercise within the larger agenda.

With the following blog postings I try to give some insights into our recent fieldwork activities during the period that we have been working with the Rapid Turbine initiative and with complementary activities. My own impression is that we have been going through a transition from preparatory measures towards a real participative co-design process. Indications of such transition can be seen in our workshops with apprentices and trainers, in the design work itself and in related preparation of training models and in the rethinking of our research agendas in the LL project.

I think this is enough for an opening statement. There are a lot of issues to take up in the forthcoming postings.

To be continued …

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

 

The real voice of young London

May 3rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Radioactive 101 is the internet Radio station set up through the Nominet Trust funded Radioactive project and the EU funded Radioactive Europe project. Pontydysgu are proud to be a partner in both projects which aim to give a voice to people excluded from access to mainstream media though Internet radio.

Tonight sees another in the series of broadcasts from Dragon Hall, a youth centre in central London.

Dragon Hall invites you to join their next Radioactive 101 broadcast, happening this Friday (May 3rd) between 19.30 and 20.30pm (GMT). The theme for this will be young people’s participation, with our presenters, interviewers, reviewers, performers and musicians showing that there is more to them than lying on the sofa playing Xbox.

In addition to the material from young people in Covent Garden & Holborn, our friends at The Squad have pre-recorded a ‘live’ showcase event especially for this show. Expect drama, music and chat. Oh and lots of laughing!

We are also really proud to include some guests from abroad- two German young women who worked at Dragon Hall for 2 weeks on work experience and another mixed Swiss/ German group who were just visiting the sights. Both groups talk about their experiences of London and how it differs to back home.

Finally, we are pleased to be hosting some young people from our Radioactive 101 partner YOH in Hackney. They will be talking about their experiences of Further Education, as well as an insightful piece on alcohol.

So we hope you are free to listen and support the real voice of young London.

To listen to the show just go to http://uk2.internet-radio.com:30432/live.m3u in your web browser and the stream should open in your MP3 player of choice (e.g. iTunes).

A new approach to conference reviewing

February 11th, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Preparations for the 4th International PLE Conference 2013 being held in Berlin, Germany together with a parallel event in Melbourne, Australia are well underway. the conference will take place on July 11 and 12 and the deadline for the call for submission of abstracts is March 4.

The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

More than that the PLe conference has always prided itself on innovatory approaches to design in terms of involving participants. This year will see the continuation of the unkeynotes, which Cristina Costa and myself discuss in the video above.

And this year sees another experiment in moving away from the traditional reviewing process to an approach based on ‘shepherding’ or mentoring.

The PLEconf web site explains the process.

1. The overall review process

The PLE 2013 review process is organised into three steps:

  • Step 1 (review before the conference): Submitted abstracts for full and short papers are peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) by screening their overall fit with the conference scope as well as the degree of innovation, technical quality, significance and clarity of contributions. As a guide, the extended abstract for a full paper should include the background of the study, the approach and methods employed in the work, the results and the conclusion, which should reflect on the successes and limitations of the work and future development.
  • Step 3 (shepherding) To enhance the participatory character of the PLE Conference the review process is based on the shepherding concept. This means that the authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit full versions of their papers for the conference and are offered support by shepherds (mentors) in the process of writing final full versions. Upon author’s consent, depending on the overall paper maturity, a mentor may be assigned to a paper to guide the process of preparing the manuscript. Shepherds are experienced authors who, non-anonymously, help the submitters by making suggestions for improvement. The submitters incorporate these improvements into their work over a few iterations, usually three, though this may vary from case to case. The aim of shepherding is to enhance the quality of the submissions and help authors qualify for publication in the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).
  • Step 2 (review after the conference): After the conference, the final manuscripts of short and full papers are submitted and peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) again to assess their quality for publication in a special issue of the scientific journal. All submissions will be published in electronic conference proceedings under a Creative Commons Licence. However, only best-quality papers will be considered for the Special Issue of the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).

2. The shepherding concept

Source: http://www.agnusday.org/strips/John10v22to30_2007.jpg

Where does shepherding come from? What is it about?
Shepherding for scientific reviewing started at Conferences on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP’s), a process aimed to help authors to improve their work using a non-anonymous reviewer (shepherd), guiding the author (sheep) on their way (report). The shepherds focus on the organization of the content and the format of articles. Shepherds therefore must be experts in their field and willing to help to improve the work of others. The focus of shepherding feedback is the text itself, there is no discussion of the projects or theories. The goal is to improve the papers for the second review after the shepherding process.

What is the value of shepherding?
Shepherding is now being used by several conference committees to help leverage the potential value of authors’ work by improving them considerably and thus better serving the community. This approach helps to develop more well-rounded articles. It is also an excellent opportunity for newer authors to improve their articles and to get in contact with the community.

What are the principles of shepherding?
Shepherds are experts in their field. The work is of the author. Shepherds advise authors during the process of writing. The person ultimately responsible for the article is the author (sheep). The underlying culture is a gift culture, so it is crucial that shepherds are willing to help authors to improve. The cycles of interaction between authors and shepherds based on Kelly (2008) are:

  • Author sends the first version of the manuscript to the shepherd and introduces the manuscript briefly in his/her own words;
  • Shepherds reply to authors, i.e. ask questions (e.g. What is the motivation for the paper? What do you want to achieve? Where can I help?) and provide initial feedback. Constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement are crucial for shepherding!
  • Authors improve the manuscript by answering the questions and incorporating the shepherd’s feedback.
  • Authors send improved manuscripts to shepherds and another cycle starts with the introduction of the new version (iterative cycle).

Testimonials from shepherds

“As a shepherd, I get great satisfaction helping authors communicate their ideas. A shepherd is not an editor. Shepherds don’t edit. Instead, through conversations, questions , and dialog a shepherd helps authors find their own voice and write compelling papers. I find shepherding to be a wonderful experience. That’s why I do it: to learn, to help grow communities, and to help people share their good ideas more clearly. It’s so rewarding!” Rebecca Wirfs-Brock (PLoP community)

“In my experience, when it is done well, shepherding results in an increased focus and clarity to the work. A good shepherd can help the sheep really bring out the important message of the work and make it much clearer to the reader. On occasion, the sheep gains additional insights into his own work. Note however, that I have seen some superficial shepherding, which resulted in only cosmetic improvements to the work. So it isn’t an automatic great improvement. It takes discipline to do a good job.” Neil Harrison (PLoP)

“Shepherds are individuals, with experience in writing, assigned to an author’s paper with the expressed interest in helping the author improve their paper or writing of any kind. The shepherding process is essentially a review process where the author gets to get feedback on how well the paper communicates the author’s ideas. The shepherd is able to then make suggestions on making the paper better or to assist with ways on helping the author clarify their ideas. Shepherding is about improving the paper itself, while the Shepherd maintains that the author is the one doing the writing. The shepherd can guide an author into a more mature understanding of his or her paper. The best shepherds are those that usually have a good understanding of the subject matter they are reviewing. The main goal of a shepherd is to help the author(s) to make the paper the best that it can be given the amount of “shepherding” time they have for the given venue the paper is to be presented at.” Joseph W. Yoder (PLoP community)

3. Shepherding at PLE 2013

Shepherding is an instrument to improve the quality of submissions, help authors connect with the scientific community and strengthen connections within the PLE community. Shepherds are mentors drawn from the Review Committee. Beside the intrinsic value and the insight into interesting papers, mentors will receive special recognition – shepherds will be featured on the special page and receive special badges rewarding their work. Also authors will vote for the best shepherd. The winners will be awarded at the PLE Conference 2013.

 

The Pedagogy of Deception

July 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell


Great talk by Helen Keegan about curiosity and the pedagogy of deception (AKA lying). Don’t miss it. Helen is one of the best people I know for talking to in the pub but, if you want the official stuff, the blurb says:”her research focuses on digital culture, digital identity and literacy, and the interplay between formal and informal learning.”

PISA vs Politics

November 4th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

After a particularly tedious week and the prospect of a working weekend, Friday afternoon did not promise a lot. However, the last thing in the electronic in-tray today was to have a look at the entries for a competition Pontydysgu is sponsoring as part of the Learning About Politics project.

The competition was aimed at 8-14 year olds and asked them to write a story using any combination of digital media

“The theme for your story should be on a political event that has happened – or is currently happening – in Wales.
We are not just interested in the facts but on your opinions and impressions. For example, how do you feel about the event you are describing? Who do you agree with and why? What have been the consequences of the event you have chosen?”

Suddenly life got a lot better! The black and white world of education that I seem to have lived in for the last few weeks was in brilliant technicolour. The stories were variously funny, poignant, angry, persuasive and insightful. All of them were well researched, referenced, technically at a level that would put many class teachers to shame and above all, they entertained me and taught me a whole lot I didn’t know. Surely the definition of a good learning experience!

(And by the time I had settled down with a glass of wine and a cigarette, the learning environment seemed pretty good as well).

The thing that cheered me up the most was that these kids had opinions – well argued, well expressed and authentic. I was pretty rubbish at history (Was? ‘Am’ actually! More maths and physics, me…) but short of those exam questions which always started “Compare and contrast….” or “What arguments would you use to support …something ” I don’t ever remember being allowed to have a ‘real’ opinion on anything historical, still less encouraged to express them if I did. Especially not in primary school – I think I was doing post-grad before I earned that privilege.

Which brings me on to my main point! There is a great public panic at the moment about Wales’s performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) because they are two beans behind somewhere or other, half a Brownie point below an average or a nanopoint lower than last time. Puhlease!!

I am not being dismissive from a point of total ignorance here – some years ago I worked on the PISA statistics and the methodology for several months; I even remember doing a keynote presentation at European Conference for Education Research on PISA . Nor am I suggesting that standards do not matter. What I am saying is that the ‘Ain’t it awful’ media frenzy generated by the Smartie counting exercise that is PISA – and the politicians’ heavy-handed response – does a huge disservice to this generation of feisty, articulate and confident kids. And to the amazing generation of teachers that scaffold their learning.

Working in Pontydysgu, being a teacher trainer and a very active school governor means that I spend a lot of time in classrooms and my contention is that 99% of teachers are doing a fantastic job under pretty rubbish conditions. (Did I say this in a previous post? Yes? Well I don’t care – it needs to be shouted from the roof tops).

So what am I going to do about it? Firstly, I am tempted to rewrite the newspaper headlines showing that Welsh education is improving and is better than ‘average’. A claim I could easily back-up by a different manipulation of the PISA figures. Secondly, I could point out that the PISA survey takes place every four years but that changes at the lower age ranges – such as the introduction of the new 3-7 yr old Foundation Phase in Wales (which is awesome) will not impact on PISA results for another nine years so knee-jerk changes to ‘fix’ things seem a bit premature. Thirdly, I could argue that putting so much store on paper-based testing in Reading, Maths and Science as the measure of success of ‘a broad and balanced curriculum’ and ‘pupil-centred, experiential learning’ is a bit of an oxymoron. Fourthly, I could remind our government that Wales led the way on getting rid of SATs and league tables on the very valid grounds that comparisons are unfair because they are not comparing like with like. They funded research which showed standardised testing to be unhelpful, demotivating and did nothing to improve performance. So on a local and national level they don’t work – do they suddenly work on an international one? Or maybe I should become a politician and take on the establishment in the debating chamber – but Hey! I’ve just found there’s a whole new generation of politically astute, sussed and sorted 10year olds who are going to do that much better than I could. Fifteen years from now, it’s going to be move over Minister! Leighton Andrews – ‘your’ education system has much to be proud of.

P.S. I might put some of the entries on the Pontydysgu website over the next few weeks so that you can see for yourself. Any teacher interested in getting their kids to write and publish political stories too, have a look at the Learning About Politics website and get back to us.

Disruptive technologies and the social shaping of our futures

January 6th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

There is an interesting debate taking place on Steve Wheeler’s blog about disruptive technologies. Steve says:

Disruptive technologies are those that change the market and in most cases replace an existing technology. They are characterised by their capability to do so over a relatively short period of time. Some are known as ‘killer applications’ because they completely wipe out the opposition due to their placement in the market, their greater appeal, availability and lower price, to name just a few of the key factors.

Welcome though the debate is I think it is overly simplistic and veers towards technological determinism. Technology progress is seen as an inevitable and to take on a life of its own in terms of social impact. In counter to this there is a long tradition or research and thinking, especially in The Nordic countries and in Germany which sees technology as being ‘socially shaped;. Researchers such as Engestrom, through activity theory, have seen technology as a mediating factor within a human activity system. German researchers have referred to the idea of ‘Gestaltung;, a difficult word to translate, but variously used to refer to ‘social shaping’ or ‘design’. Technology is designed by humans and has social impact. In the area of vocational education, researchers form the University of Bremen have pointed to the interaction between ‘competence is use’ (Beruf – another almost impossible term to translate) and work organisation in shaping the use of technology. This is an excerpt from a paper called “The social shaping of work and technology as a guiding principle for vocational education and training” which totherw ith Gerld Heidegger I wrote around 200) and was subsequently, published by CEDEFOP, I think.

Social shaping and the perspective of an open future

An important counter-argument against the shaping approach challenges the supposition of the possibility of influencing production technology as well as the concomitant work organisation.

Very often, and currently again with increasing intensity, technical change, or technical innovations, are thought to be determined solely by the progress of knowledge within the technological and natural sciences. Such a technological determinism would signify that only the most effective path existed for the development of production technology, for technical progress, and it would also determine the path to be taken to the future of work. Such a view is one-sided, as has been shown from historical studies (Kuby, 1980; Hellige, 1984; Noble, 1984). If one looks at technical development, one sees there were situations with forks in the road in the past where development could have taken different directions. The development of technology is also a social process (Bijker et al., 1990). In other words, technology is influenced by social conditions, both in its application and in its inner principles. As far as applications are concerned, this topic was discussed some time ago (Cooley, 1980). It seems apparent that the economic conditions of capitalism have influenced the specific way of applying technology in the production process. And this is, of course, still the case. But relating only to this would mean maintaining an economic determinism. There are, however, other societal influences that have tended to be consistently overlooked in recent discussions. According to the view of the authors cited above, that which can be considered to be a ‘successful’ technical solution – there is no ‘right’ one, though there are a lot of wrong ones – depends on cultural parameters; that means, it is also influenced by the form of human social life.

Hellige (1984) in particular introduced the concept of ‘horizons of technological problem solving’ which vary during historical development. This means that the engineers themselves take into consideration only the restricted set of criteria which lies inside their horizon of thinking. This horizon, however, varies according to ‘industrial culture’ (Ruth & Rauner, 1991). If the shaping of technology aims at really new solutions it is necessary to overcome these boundaries. Here non-experts can show considerable imagination because they are less influenced by the ‘normal’ thinking of the community of engineers. Therefore, devising new technical ‘outlooks’ might well be possible in secondary education. At the very least, future skilled workers should be able to discuss certain aspects of technology with the engineers. The same should be true for the participation of persons as non-experts in general discussions regarding technological policies.
Speaking within the scope of a more theoretical orientation, the development of technology not only owes a debt to a ‘material’ logic, ‘techno-logic’, but at the same time to the opposite element of social ‘development logic’, with this the former forms a ‘dialectical unit’. One cannot refer to social ‘development logic’ until one also assumes an ‘inner logic’ of development for social conditions. But, on the other hand, in the social field the unforeseen is a daily experience.

According to Luhmann (1984), this can be attributed to a basic condition of human communication, ‘double contingency’. In the case of communication between two people, this means that ‘each of them knows that each of them knows that one can also act differently’.
Technology in its interaction with chance results in a partially predetermined, partially unforeseeable progress that can be termed technical change. Accordingly, the interaction of social development logic with ‘contingency’ leads to social change. The latter takes place on a less spectacular, though no less profound scale than the former, especially since it is a question of interpretation whether one attaches greater weight to the persistent or to the changing aspects. This becomes plain particularly for the goal of social shaping of work and technology. Rauner & Martin (1988) interpreted socially shaped technology as a unity of the elements of that which is technically feasible and that which is socially desirable, as a regulative principle at any rate. That which will be feasible is, even in the case of technology, not that much a question of forecasts; because there, too, is great uncertainty concerning the change in this field. Therefore scenario pictures of the future can mislead. Just think of some of the grotesquely exaggerated forecasts of the past, prepared by ‘scientific futurology’.

What is desirable, however? The answer is the subject of controversy and will probably remain so. Is it, at the same time, that which is reasonable? And what is then the latter? An attempt will have to be made to obtain, as has been said, compromises between different wishes (Romanyshyn, 1989). This does not mean harmonious assent, but rather a restructured dissent which has to be discussed and disputed over; from there on, one should hope, one would become able – to some extent – to act jointly. For the task of shaping work and technology this perspective does not allow for objectively valid criteria. Instead teaching should aim at developing orientations for deciding on different alternatives, and to enable young people to develop their own orientations.

The point we were trying to make is that vocational educatio0n should provide young people with the ability themselves to shape technologies for the future. Such ideas are not a long way from recent work by Ceri Facer looking at the future of education. Ceri says:

The developments in remote interactions and in disaggregation of content from institution; the rise of the personal ‘cloud‘; the diagnostic potential of genetic and neuro-science; the ageing population; all of these, when combined with different social, political and cultural values lead to very different pedagogies, curriculum, institutional arrangements and cultural dispositions towards learners.

She suggests that

the coming two decades may see a significant shift away from the equation of ‘learning‘ with ‘educational institutions‘ that emerged with industrialisation, toward a more mixed, diverse and complex learning landscape which sees formal and informal learning taking place across a wide range of different sites and institutions.

Rather than try to develop a single blueprint for dealing with change we should rather develop a resilient education system based on diversity to deal with the different challenges of an uncertain future. But such diversity

will emerge only if educators, researchers and communities are empowered to develop localised or novel responses to socio-technical change – including developing new approaches to curriculum, to assessment, to the workforce and governance, as well as to pedagogy.

Thus rather than view technology as inevitable and to wait to see what disruption it brings we have the ability to shape its future. But this in turn depends  on reshaping our education systems and pedagogies to empower both educators and worker to themselves co-determine their futures.

Solidarity with the students

November 13th, 2010 by Jenny Hughes


Graham and I have just got back to Germany after a meeting of the Politics project team in Cardiff. We were following Wednesday’s demonstrations against the proposed hike in university fees live on TV at Cardiff airport – both of us getting very excited and cheering a lot.

The occupation of the Conservative Party headquarters in London was an impressive piece of collective action so to all those involved in the organisation and to all those that turned up on the day, a message of support from Pontydysgu!

However, it did make me wonder how we ever used to do all this without mobile phones, computers or social networking media. Apart from using print media, I seem to remember a lot of organising time spent in public telephone boxes pressing button A and button B. In fact, one of my early ICT competences was learning how to tap the receiver rest up and down to mimic the operation of the dial in order to save the 4d (less than 2p) it cost.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the Online EDUCA Berlin 2013

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 5th and the 6th of December. Both times it will start at 11.00 CET and will go on for about 40 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 LIVE Radio.

    The podcast of the first show on the 5th is here: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 Podcast 5th Dec.

    Here is the second show as a podcast: SoB Online EDUCA 2013 Podcast 6th Dec.

    News Bites

    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


    Open Badges

    A new nationwide Open Badges initiative has been launched by DigitalMe in the UK. Badge the UK has been developed to help organisations and businesses recognise young people’s skills and achievements online.

    Supported by the Nominet Trust, the Badge the UK initiative is designed to support young people in successfully making the transition between schools and employment using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to capture and share skills across the web.

    At the recent launch event at Mozilla’s London HQ Lord Knight emphasised the “disruptive potential” of Open Badges within the current Education system. At a time of record levels of skills shortages and unemployment amongst young people all speakers stressed need for a new way to encourage and recognise learning which lead to further training and ultimately employment opportunities. Badge the UK is designed to help organisations and businesses see the value in using Mozilla Open Badges as a new way to recognise skills and achievement and and connect them to real world training and employment opportunities.

    You can find more information on the DigitalMe web site.


    Twitter feed

    Apologies for the broken Twitter feeds on this page. It seems Twitter have once more changed their APi, breaking our WordPress plug-in. It isn’t the first time and we will have to find another work around. Super tech, Dirk is on the case and we hope normal service will be resumed soon.


    MOOCs and beyond

    A special issue of the online journal eLearning Papers has been released entitled MOOCs and beyond. Editors Yishay Mor and Tapio Koshkinen say the issue brings together in-depth research and examples from the field to generate debate within this emerging research area.

    They continue: “Many of us seem to believe that MOOCs are finally delivering some of the technology-enabled change in education that we have been waiting nearly two decades for.

    This issue aims to shed light on the way MOOCs affect education institutions and learners. Which teaching and learning strategies can be used to improve the MOOC learning experience? How do MOOCs fit into today’s pedagogical landscape; and could they provide a viable model for developing countries?

    We must also look closely at their potential impact on education structures. With the expansion of xMOOC platforms connected to different university networks—like Coursera, Udacity, edX, or the newly launched European Futurelearn—a central question is: what is their role in the education system and especially in higher education?”


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

  • Twitter

  • Sounds of the Bazaar AudioBoo

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Upcoming Events

      There are no events.
  • Categories