Archive for the ‘Reflection’ 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 …

 

 

 

 

REFLECT: Community-Driven Scaffolding for Voice-enabled Reflection on the Go

August 16th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Together with my colleagues, Christine Kunzmann, Andreas P. Schmidt, Graham Attwell1, Elizabeth Chan2, Marius Heinemann-Grüder, Jenny Hughes, Wenlin Lan2, Andreas Vratny and Andreas Heberle, we have produced a short paper for the forthcoming ARTEL workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Technology-Enhanced Learning at the ECTEL conference.

The paper explains the thinking behind the Reflect App which we hope to launch as a Beta next week.

Abstract

REFLECT is a mobile app that promotes a regular reflective routine. It is voice-based so that it can be used, e.g., while driving a car or in similar situations. The reflection session is scaffolded through decks of questions that can be configured by the other and shared with others, who in turn can reuse the questions.

Introduction

Reflective learning is seen as one of the key activity for workplace learning that is most neglected because of time pressure in everyday business. This particularly ap- plies to General Practitioners (GPs) who are on a tight schedule between slots for consultation and home visits. From the need to make learning activities traceable for re-certification, there is, however, an interest from doctors to reflect on learning experiences and to follow-up on learning opportunities arising from everyday practice. Key approach is to create reflection opportunities by utilizing time slots like when driving in the car from/to a home visit, or commuting.

Concept

The key idea behind REFLECT is that reflection support is based on voice interactions, which allows for hands-free operation. Users can record their reflection sessions, and the system transcribes it and sends it to them via e-mail for further processing, e.g., for including in a personal note-taking or task management tool, or a personal portfolio for future reference.

But reflection also needs scaffolding, particularly if it is supposed to take place embedded into working processes like in between home visits. This is achieved through recording the reflection session in the form of a structured interview along a deck of questions. The app reads the question (via text-to- speech) and then records the user’s responses. Via special voice commands (e.g., “next question”), the user can skip questions.

Useful questions for reflection cannot be pre- defined by the app designer, as they are situation- dependent (reflecting on the day/last patient, reflection on a longer period of time, reflecting after a training session) and there is no general knowledge about (i) which situations are relevant, and (ii) which questions are useful for which type of user. Therefore the app is complemented by a web-based interface that allows for choosing decks of questions that have been shared by others, for rating their usefulness, and – as soon as the learning becomes more confident and experienced in reflective practice to define own new questions and to share them with others.

This results in a lightweight and community-driven approach to scaffolding reflection, which also provides the opportunity for maturing the collective knowledge how to best structure such reflection sessions.

System

The system consists of an app to be installed on a smartphone or tablet (the current version requires Android 4.1 or higher – other systems are planned), and a web-based backend. The app allows for choosing a deck of questions, reads the questions to the user and transcribes the responses of the user and reacts voice commands. Towards that end, the Google Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text APIs are used. While this voice recognition does not deliver 100% accuracy, first tests have shown that under realistic conditions (e.g., in a car) the system produces a sufficient of quality of the resulting transcript to be useful for the user.

The backend is based on PHP, and users the Bootstrap framework. It gives the user the possibility to configure decks of questions, share them with others, use shared questions from others and rate them.

The app will be available from the Google Play Store and from the Pontydysgu website.

Outlook

As part of the Learning Layers project, this app is planned to be evaluated with a larger number of users as part of General Practitioners’ everyday work practice. Further- more, it is planned to complement the Android app with an iOS solution to cover the different types of smartphones used by the target group.

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

Reflect – an App for recording ideas and learning

July 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Reflect is a free Android App for phones and tablets developed by students from Hochschule Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences) for Pontydysgu as part of the Learning Layers Project.

The app is presently in closed beta but will be open for use by everyone in August 2013. If you would like more details please email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

We demoed the App at a workshop jointly hosted by the UK National Health Service developers network Handi and the Learning Layers project in Bradford last month and share here the report we produced on the feedback.

Aim:

  • To elicit user feedback from developers and healthcare professionals
  • Evaluate potential of the App

Background and Key Idea:

The original idea came from talking with a doctor in the UK at a Learning layers workshop. He explained how little time he had to reflect on his ongoing learning. The most time he had, he told us, was when he was in his car between meetings and visiting patients.

The Reflect App was originally designed to make the recording of learning, both formal and informal, easy.

The App is voice controlled and translates voice recordings into text.

Users can build a ‘stack’ of questions by typing them into a simple form on a web interface. Then they can use an Android Phone App which reads them the questions. They can skip to the next question, resubmit their answer or ask for help. The answers are automatically converted to text and can be downloaded to their own computer or tablet.

What we hoped to learn:

We were concerned to get feedback about:

a)    The general idea and potential interest in the app

b)    Usability and UI

c)    Ideas for further development

Feedback from developers and healthcare professionals:

Negative feedback:

  • GPs are concerned about the level of security, regarding sensitive data.
  • Developers were concerned about quality of voice recognition and difficulties with background noise

Questions that were raised:

  • What is the maximum recording time?
  • Where does the voice recognition processing take place?
  • Is an off-line mode possible?
  • could Reflect be integrated into other systems (e.g. NHS)
  • What are business models for future sustainability?

Positive feedback and further potential:

  • Reflect could be a good tool to report back the first impressions on meetings
  • A future approach could be to develop an APi to allow use with other systems
  • Domains for groups to work together
  • Reflect could be used for research purposes e.g surveys
  • Learning tasks could be created for students (microanalysis)
  • Link to Evernote
  • Reflect provides strong support for scaffolding learning

Suggested Business Models:

  • Advertising
  • Premium domain accounts
  • Develop market ins tacks of questions for different occupations / domain and license under revenue sharing model

What Next?

We are continuing to test the App on a closed beta and are working on an open beta release for Reflect.

We are hoping to get further developer support for:

a)    Exploring off line potential

b)    Developing a API

c)    Porting to iOS

Evaluation of the activity:

From our point of view we were delighted with the critical and positive feedback. We especially noted the concern from external developers that there is a strong business model and suggest that this should be noted by other Learning layers development teams / design groups.

The workshop was very well organised. Whilst it would have been useful to have more health care professionals, the opportunity for engagement with so many developers and with commercial companies was extremely valuable.

Mobile work based Personal Learning Environments

July 8th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

This week is my favourite annual conference – the Personal Learning Environments Conference. And tomorrow I am off to Berlin, where the conference is being held at the Beuth University. The deadline for full papers was last weekend – so I am might relieved to have at least got a first draft of it out by today. It is co-authored with my colleagues Ludger Deitmer and Lars Heinemann from the University of Bremen and is based on work we are doing under the Learning layers project, seeking to develop and up-scale the use of apps for informal learning in the construction and health sectors. The paper focuses on the nature of knowledge used within work processes – what we call work process knowledge and how we can develop co-design processes to support work based learning.

The introduction is posted below and you can download a PDF copy of the full paper.

Introduction

While Technology Enhanced learning (TEL), Personal Learning Environments and the use of mobile devices have been suggested as a means to address the challenge of supporting learning at the workplace, their potential has not yet been fully realized. Despite much theoretical research in the use of mobile devices for work based learning there are still few compelling example of effective practice. Where there are case studies of both mobile devices and PLEs supporting work based learning, these tend to remain isolated with limitations on upscaling or wider adoption.

A critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concluded that most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the idea of direct instruction. TEL initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard trainer / learner relationship and a reliance on formal and to some extent standardized course material and curricula.

However research suggests that (not only) in SMEs much learning takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices.

In the past few years, emerging technologies (such as mobile devices or social networks) have rapidly spread into all areas of our life. However, while employees in SMEs increasingly use these technologies for private purposes and to a lesser extent for information seeking and informal learning, enterprises have not generally recognized the potential of such technologies for supporting learning.

As a consequence, the use of these emerging technologies and support for Personal Learning Environments have not been systematically taken up as a sustainable learning strategy that is integrated with other forms of learning at the workplace.

Sharing Turbine

April 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Project websites are usually pretty dire. A short piece about the project taken from the project application, a list of partners, news updates of meetings and links to downloadable products.

And that was how we started our website with the Learning Layers project. However, we soon realised that this would not suffice. Our aim is to dramatically scale up the use of technology to support informal learning in Small and Medium Enterprises. To do that we need a forward facing web site -something we can show off to SME managers and be proud of. But that in turn requires content which they will understand and engage with. That is a much trickier part. We need more of a newspaper or journal type website than a traditional project site. This has led to a lot of discussions and we haven’t got all the issues resolved yet. But one thing we have done is moved to an editorial model where instead of having a web site moderator we have an editor. His role is to commission content from the different partners in the project.

And I have been messing around with how to write about project development in a way that it is understandable to those without an advanced knowledge of the technologies, processes and ideas that we are developing.

Here is my first attempt – about one of the design ideas we are pursuing codenamed ‘Sharing Turbine’.

“The Learning Layers project aims to develop a number of new applications to support informal learning in the workplace.  In the first stages of the project we are working with Small and Medium Enterprises in the Construction sector in north Germany and in the healthcare sector in north England.

We are aware that for any applications to gain widespread take up, we have to work closely with managers and workers from the industries. Therefore, we have adopted a user centred design process for iterative development.

What does this mean? We started out with a series of interviews with a wide variety of people from the sector. In construction e gave now made over 50 interviews, looking at work organisation, learning and peoples present use and attitudes towards technology. This was followed up with what we called Application Partner Days in both the UK and Germany, where we visited the workplaces and held a series of workshop activities with different practitioners.

The third stage in the development process was a two-day design workshop held in Helsinki. Building on the ideas from the interviews and visits we started to sketch out a series of design ideas for new mobile applications. The working groups for the four design ideas that emerged at the workshop brought together researchers, developers and industry practitioners.

Since then, the working groups have continued to meet online and are using a wiki to develop the design ideas.

Each of the design ideas has been given a working name. The idea for the Sharing Turbine design idea came from the construction industry but we hope it may also be of use in the health sector.

Apprentices in the construction industry in Germany learn their trade in three different locations: vocational schools, on the job in companies and in a training centre. At the north German training centre – Bau ABC – they undertake a series of practical projects. These last from o0ne to three days and may involve working individually or as a team. They are given project briefing sheets and save the report of their work on paper which is collected in a white ring bound folder. This has a number of practical disadvantages. Obviously paper folders do not last well on a building site. And although they can use photographs in the report on their work, the folders are predominantly text based. The use of multi media could allow much more detailed and rich reporting. It could also allow a richer representation of the different physical objects and tools used in construction. In fact one of the reason that elearning has been slow to take off in the workplace may be just this issue of how to combine learning through digital media with the physical nature of much work activity.

So the first idea behind Sharing turbine is to transform the present folders produced at the training centre into an electronic portfolio. This would also have the advantage of making it much easier to update the task sheets. Trainees could use a variety of different media directly from heir phones including audio, photos and video.

However the idea behind Sharing turbine goes much further. One of the aims of the Learning Layers project is to capture informal learning. Obviously when apprentices are working in their companies much of this informal learning takes place on the building site. And if they were able to use mobile devices and multi-media learning on the site could be linked to the skills and knowledge gained at the training centre. The portfolio could also become a resource both for dealing with practical problems occurring when undergoing training, but also after they have qualified. At the same time they can be linked to personal social networks, both as a means of sharing learning and knowledge, but also as a human resource for getting help and advice.

The German so called Dual System is rightly admired in Europe for providing high quality apprentice training> one of its bedrocks is combining practical training on the job with theory gained from block period in vocational schools. However, in practice it often proves difficult to link the different phases of training. Sharing turbine could be a critical tool in allowing these different phases of training to be brought together.

The use of Learning Analytics, a process of recording and analyzing learning as it happens – could also allow apprentices and trainers to understand what learning has happened and what new learning is needed – and to develop and refine curricula and training and learning opportunities and processes.

At the moment the Sharing Turbine working group is at the phase of developing wireframes. Wireframes are graphic mock ups of applications. They can be developed rapidly and used in design workshops to test and refine ideas, prior to programming prototypes.

In the next month workshops are planned with companies to get feedback from apprentices and skilled workers. These are not confined to project partners. If you are interested in our work and would like to contribute please get in touch.”

Linking mobile learning to real world artefacts and tools

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

More on work based mobile learning.

One of the major problems with Technology Enhanced Mobile Learning has been the split between the digital and analogue worlds. The digital world enables all kinds of personal interactions and interactions with digital artefacts. Some things are easier to digitalise than others. So books, diagrammes, audio, video can all easily be transmitted through digital media. But some artefacts are more difficult to capture in digital media – for instance a hammer, a saw, an earthmover. Of course it is possible to simulate some of these things – for instance flying an aircraft.

It is much more problematic to capture the haptics of using a hammer. Thus Technology Enhanced Learning has tended to focus on cognitive processes of learning. When it comes to practice we tell learners they should use their computers to assist in the process of reflection. That is fine but it is not enough. Many areas of work require real world interactions with both people and with physical artefacts. And I think that is why Technology Enhanced Learning has made only a limited inroad into work based learning and for that matter into learning in Small and Medium Enterprises.

The importance of tools and physical artefacts should not be underestimated. Artefacts are closely linked to practice. Wenger (1998) points out that amongst other features a Community of Practice is defined by “what capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.”

There are different approaches we can take to integrating physical artefacts with applications and technology for learning (and in a further post I will outline some ideas). At a more abstract level I think we have to progress beyond seeing technology (like Learning Management Systems) as a container for learning into using mobile technologies as a tool for working and learning. In other words mobile technologies themselves become an artefact, on the same level as other work tools. We also need to look at integrating learning with the increasingly sophisticated data that many machines and artefacts produce – data that at the moment often exists in a silo.  Of course that means integrating learning in the work process, and bringing together digital work tools with digital learning tools. That learning needs to be scaffolded seems obvious. But the scaffolding should move seamlessly between the use of digital devices and interactions with real life objects.

And that again requires co-design approaches, involving potential suers from the start in designing and developing learning processes and applications. Learning layers is making good progress with this and I am increasingly confident that the project can transcend the divide between the physical and digital worlds.

Reflective learning environments

February 12th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Reflection is a thing pedagogic researchers and Technology Enhanced Learning developers talk about a lot. To little end I sometimes think. It can be a bit of a black box.

Peter Papas says: “Over the last few years I’ve led many teachers and administrators on classroom walkthroughs designed to foster a collegial conversation about teaching and learning. The walkthroughs served as roving Socratic seminars and a catalyst for reflection. But reflection can be a challenging endeavor. It’s not something that’s fostered in school – typically someone else tells you how you’re doing! At best, students can narrate what they did, but have trouble thinking abstractly about their learning – patterns, connections and progress. Likewise teachers and principals need encouragement and opportunities to think more reflectively about their craft.

In an effort to help schools become more reflective learning environments, I’ve developed this “Taxonomy of Reflection.” – modeled on Bloom’s approach.

Open Learning Analytics or Architectures for Open Curricula?

February 12th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

George Siemen’s latest post, based on his talk at TEDxEdmonton, makes for interesting reading.

George says:

Classrooms were a wonderful technological invention. They enabled learning to scale so that education was not only the domain of society’s elites. Classrooms made it (economically) possible to educate all citizens. And it is a model that worked quite well.

(Un)fortunately things change. Technological advancement, coupled with rapid growth of information, global connectedness, and new opportunities for people to self-organized without a mediating organization, reveals the fatal flaw of classrooms: slow-developing knowledge can be captured and rendered as curriculum, then be taught, and then be assessed. Things breakdown when knowledge growth is explosive. Rapidly developing knowledge and context requires equally adaptive knowledge institutions. Today’s educational institutions serve a context that no longer exists and its (the institution’s) legacy is restricting innovation.

George calls for the development of an open learning analytics architecture based on the idea that: “Knowing how schools and universities are spinning the dials and levers of content and learning – an activity that ripples decades into the future – is an ethical and more imperative for educators, parents, and students.”

I am not opposed to what he is saying, although I note Frances Bell’s comment about privacy of personal data. But I am unsure that such an architecture really would improve teaching and learning – and especially learning.

As George himself notes, the driving force behind the changes in teaching and learning that we are seeing today is the access afforded by new technology to learning outside the institution. Such access has largely rendered irrelevant the old distinctions between formal, non formal and informal learning. OK – there is still an issue in that accreditation is largely controlled by institutions who naturally place much emphasis on learning which takes place within their (controlled and sanctioned) domain. yet even this is being challenged by developments such as Mozilla’s Open Badges project.

Educational technology has played only a limited role in extending learning. In reality we have provided access to educational technology to those already within the system. But the adoption of social and business software for learning – as recognised in the idea of the Personal Learning Environment – and the similar adaption of these technologies for teaching and learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – have moved us beyond the practice of merely replicating traditional classroom architectures and processes in technology.

However there remain a series of problematic issues. Perhaps foremost is the failure to develop open curricula – or, better put, to rethink the role of curricula for self-organized learning.

For better or worse, curricula traditionally played a role in scaffolding learning – guiding learners through a series of activities to develop skills and knowledge. These activities were graded, building on previously acquired knowledge in developing a personal knowledge base which could link constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall structure or purpose.

As Peter Pappas points out in his blog on ‘A Taxonomy of Reflection’, this in turn allows the development of what Bloom calls ‘Higher Order Reflection’ – enabling learners to combine or reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure.

Vygostsky recognised the importance of a ‘More Knowledgeable Other’ in supporting reflection in learning through a Zone of Peripheral Development. Such an idea is reflected in the development of Personal Learning Networks, often utilising social software.

Yet the curricula issue remains – and especially the issue of how we combine and reorganise elements of learning into new patterns and structure without the support of formal curricula. This is the more so since traditional subject boundaries are breaking down. Present technology support for this process is very limited. Traditional hierarchical folder structures have been supplemented by keywords and with some effort learners may be able to develop their own taxonomies based on metadata. But the process remains difficult.

So – if we are to go down the path of developing new open architectures – my priority would be for an open architecture of curricula. Such a curricula would play a dual role in supporting self organised learning for individuals but also at the same time supporting emergent rhizomatic curricula at a social level.

 

Digital literacy, stewarding and reflection

May 27th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The explosion of powerful, innovative and free to use social software has transformed the potential approaches to using technology for teaching and learning. Long gone are the days when e-learning meant logging on to a Blackboard system. However, this reliance on commercial providers, for many of whom education is not a major part of their business plan, has its downside.

Data security is obviously an issue, although I suspect most commercial providers systems are more secure than the average school or university. More seriously services may cease to be provided for free, overrun by intrusive advertising, or even cease operating. At some point or other, all companies, even Twitter will be looking to generate revenue. In Twitters case this seems to be through the introduction of new features like email notification that many of us do not want, to probably provide a new outlet for advertising.

What is the answer? Providing such services in-house seems a tall order, although some universities, see SAPO Campus, are attempting to develop social software as part of an approach to Personal Learning Environments. The problem here though is that many social software services depend on scale to provide real traction as a learning tool. Furthermore, it is doubtful as to whether institutions can continue to provide access and services, long after students have finished a course.

For some time we have been talking about the importance of learners being able to manage their own digital identity. Perhaps it is time this idea was extended to students learning how to steward their content, be it micro blogs, photos, video or other online content. The growing availability of cheap cloud based storage may make this task easier. But there may be a pedagogic gain to be made from looking more carefully at stewarding. Stewarding would involve thinking about what is important and what is not, and the interlinking between different aspects of online activity and artefacts. In other words it would involve reflection. And reflection on learning, whilst almost universally advocated as a learning strategy, has been far less easy to foster in practice.

Working, learning and playing in Personal Learning Environments

May 31st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I have been invited to deliver a keynote presentation at the PLE 2010 conference in July in Barcelona. And the organising committee has asked each of the keynote speakers – the others are Alec Couros, Ismael Peña Lopez and Jordi  Adell to make a short video or slidecast about their presentation. So here is my contribution – hope you like it.

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