Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Vocational biography design to support young unemployed people goes Europe

November 2nd, 2014 by Daniela Reimann

We just managed to tranfer the idea of enabling young unemployed people to visualize their vocational experience and biography using digital media to the European level. The research project “Show Your Own Gold (Acronym) develops, tests and evaluates „a European Concept to Visualize and Reflect One’s Vocational Biography Using Digital Media”. It is funded under the ERASMUS+ Key Action 2, Strategic Partnerships programm for 3 years (2014-2017), co-ordinated by IBP/KIT

EU_flag-Erasmus+

Aims and objectives
The project aims to develop a European concept for consultancy, including course design, to enable young, unemployed people to display their vocational biography. This is realized by producing media available on a multimedia-based online environment to visualise informally and formally acquired skills. The letter is realized by introducing media-based competence portfolios. Within the framework of the project, both the Internet-based competence portfolio as well as consultancy offered for the participants of vocational preparation courses will be developed in the form of an scientifically accompanied course. The course will be developed, realized with young people in the 6 countries and evaluated.

Project partners:
• Instituto Politécnico de Beja, Art and Multimedia Laboratory, Education Faculty, Beja, Portugal (Prof. Dr. Aldo Passarinho, Prof. Ana Sofia Velhinhu Sousa), Website

• PONTYDYSGU LTD, The Bridge To Learning, Wales, U.K. (director: Graham Attwell) Website

• SC AxA Consulting 99 SRL, a consultancy and training company providing high quality skills training programmes for corporate and industrial clients. (Liliana Voicu), Bucarest, Romania, Website

• UNIVERSITAT DE BARCELONA, Cultural Pedagogies, Faculty of Fine Arts, Esbrina Research Group – Subjectivitats i Entorns Educatius Contemporan“, dedicated to the study of the conditions and current changes in education in a world mediated by digital technologies and visual culture. (Prof. Dr. Fenando Hernandez, Prof. Dr. Juana Sancho-Gill, Rachel Fendler), Website

• Zavod NEFIKS Institut za promocijo in belezenje neformalno pridobljenega znanja/ aims to educate young people in different fields, persuading employers to consider non-formal education as a reference when getting a job.
Ljubljana, Slovenia (Alenka Blazinšek) Website

• Co-ordinator: Institute of Vocational and General Education at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT (Dr. Daniela Reimann, Prof. Dr. Martin Fischer, M.A. Kerstin Huber, M.A. Kristina Stoewe, Nadine Görg)

Summary
The project intends to make young unemployed people set up, reflect and visualize their individual vocational and educational biography, actively producing media available on a Web-based multimedia environment. Formally and informally acquired skills and competencies are visualized using a particular type of online portfolio developed in the project (by the partner PONTYDYSGU LTD). Within the framework of the project, both the Web-based multimedia environment as well as the consultancy of young people will be developed in the form of an accompanying course offered in each of the participating countries.

In the project, a consultancy concept with a specific scope of courses offered for the generation and reflection of appropriate media formats, such as video clips showing the young participants at the workplace, in work processes, at the company, during internships. Further interviews with the trainees and skilled workers of a branch, including images of their own work pieces and projects are to be provided.

The research design is based on several distinct research strategies:

1. A desk study (analysis, literature review) of the situation of vocational preparation organised and embedded in the VET system and the employment situation of young people in the partner countries. This is necessary in that no studies are at present available on the analysis of the integration of the concept of vocational biography design in vocational preparation in the participating countries;
2. The development of the course (curriculum design) and
3. Its’ application in vocational preparation, followed by
4. a set of in-depth group interviews and surveys with the social actors involved, such as trainees and trainers, accompanied by a series of transnational work meetings.

Dissemination
The results of the project will be clearly spelled out to be easily circulated and disseminated via an International Youth Panel, including the BIBB the German Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training, as well as social media in order to enhance their usability within the policy making process. The project aims to support EU and national policy makers for what concerns the development & implementation of new VET related policies towards a European concept of successful vocational biography design.

The interim project Web site can be accessed here

EU_flag-Erasmus+

The digital divide is shifting, but is it for the better?

October 30th, 2014 by Cristina Costa

Photo by Flickr ID Kelayc (CC)

A study published by Deursen and Dijk (2014) provides a new angle on the Digital Divide debate which has often been guilty of a binary classification of technology “haves and haves not” (p, 14).

Placed in the Dutch context the research reveals that individuals from all social classes are now making use of the web. This contradicts arguments that the digital divide is directly related to high levels of economic capital, or lack of it. This is likely to be a direct result of new-ish policies that aim to make technology and broadband increasingly more affordable in Europe. So, with the “technology fix” sorted, what else are we missing?

When it comes to digital practices (and digital habitus), the history of social class division seems to reproduce itself on the online world. The authors report that individuals from a lower socio-economic status (and unsurprisingly with less education under their belt) are more likely to access the web to play games or engage in social interactions, whilst individuals from upper classes (and with higher levels of education) use the web mainly to access information and seek (professional) development opportunities.

In short, the study reveals the expected: simply put, people from upper classes seem to be able to strategise their activities online better. This unquestionably puts them at an advantage when compared to the online activities carried out by individuals in lower classes. The distinction herein presented is punctuated by a difference of (and in) practice(s). This is nothing more than a reflection of the cultural capital individuals embody and which they carry with them to the online world.

And so, even though the digital divide may well be shifting to differences in usage, when it comes to differences in social class, the digital divide only seems to be getting wider. In part, this comes as no surprise. Individuals transport their habitus from one field to another. The advantage of one group in relation to another is no longer in the technology they possess, but rather in the embodied cultural capital they transfer from the offline world to the online world. All of a sudden, the idea of ubiquitous access to technology no longer seems to provide an answer to the digital divide phenomenon. But Bourdieu (1986) seems to know where the issue lies. He reminds us that:

To possess the machines, [they] only need economic capital; [but] to appropriate them and use them in accordance with their specific purpose [they] must have access to embodied cultural capital, either in person or by proxy.

 

So the question remains: how can we narrow the digital divide gap? Can the introduction of digital literacies in the curriculum be a step towards a solution?

 

References:

Bourdieu, P. (1986). Forms of Capital. In Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241–58). Greenwood Press.

Deursen, A. J. van, & Dijk, J. A. van. (2014). The digital divide shifts to differences in usage. New Media & Society, 16(3), 507–526.

 

The VETNET network goes global: Reflections on the IRN-VET Forum at ECER’14

September 10th, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few years all my blogs have been about the Learning Layers (LL) project – and for good reasons. Our ongoing project has kept us busy to that extent and we have learned a lot. This one, however, will report on our efforts to promote internationalisation of research in Vocational Education and Training (VET) world-wide. For this purpose we had a special event – the IRN-VET Forum – in the context of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER’14) in the beginning of September in Porto, Portugal.

Already during ECER 2009 ‘regional’ educational research associations like EERA (Europe), AERA (America) and their counterparts had created the World Educational Research Association (WERA) to promote internationalisation and mutual exchanges in educational research. In 2013 the WERA council organised a call for proposals to set up international research networks (IRN) under the auspices of WERA. This gave rise for our initiative “Internationalisation in VET research”.

As we had witnessed for a long while, the European research community in VET research had been able to consolidate itself well under the auspices of the VETNET network of EERA. The annual ECER conferences had become the key platform and the VETNET website was used for sharing papers and presentations. In 2013 major steps were taken forward to set up a journal for the VET research community. In this context some key actors of VETNET came to the conclusion that this journal should not be limited to Europe and that it would be important to set up a global network under WERA.

The proposal for WERA IRN-VET with the overarching theme “Internationalisation in VET research” was submitted and we were happy to have founding members from Europe, Asia, America, Australia and Africa. Very soon we received the notification that the proposal had been accepted and we were free to start with the founding activities. Although it had been relatively easy to get agreements from colleagues from different global regions, it was somewhat difficult to create patterns of cooperation and launch joint activities. Therefore, before having a constituting meeting, we agreed to organise a pilot session within the VETNET program at ECER’14 – the “IRN-VET Forum”.

In the VETNET programme the IRN-VET Forum was placed on the last conference day and as the first morning session (which is normally not the most popular slot). Also, some of the key initiators who had worked with me to prepare the proposal and the session could not attend due to clashes in their calendars. Yet, we were positively surprised to note that the session had over twenty participants who showed genuine interest in the talks on internationalisation.

Here some key points on the session:

  • I gave firstly a presentation on the founding steps of the WERA IRN-VET and on the key activities that we had outlined – International VET research review, Thematic sessions in ‘regional’ conferences, creating cooperation between VET teacher education programmes and PhD programmes and support for the new journal IJRVET.
  • Martin Mulder gave insights into the two pilot rounds of International VET research review that had organised 2012 and 2013 with his fellow colleagues in Wageningen University. He drew attention to the fact that it was difficult to keep the review process alive as a single-university initiative but that it would be highly interesting to keep it going on as a joint activity of a global network.
  • Marg Malloch and Len Cairns from Australia gave insights into the process called ‘destatalisation’ in their country. This concept refers to withdrawal of state in terms of privatisation and/or subventioning of alternative VET provisions at the expense of traditional VET providers (the TAFE colleges). Here the issue is, whether the weakening of state and the state-supported infrastructures is reflected in the quality and attractiveness of VET and what are the consequences in the labour market. The discussion drew attention to parallel developments as ‘deregulation’ in VET (e.g. regarding VET teacher education).
  • Lazaro Moreno gave insights into the national PhD programme in VET research that had been launched as a joint initiative of several Swedish initiatives. Here, the issue of internationalisation came into picture via different channels (access to literature, mobility and exchanges as well as internationalisation in one’s own home country).
  • Johanna Lasonen  (University of South Florida) was the discussant of the session. She encouraged further activities along these lines and drew attention to the need to pay attention to multilingualism, intercultural communication and intercultural integration

In the final part of the session I drew attention to some milestone events and we made some working agreements:

  • In the VETNET assembly within the ECER’14 the launch of the new journal IJRVET was announced publicly. The first issue is available online and the next ones are under preparation. This journal serves also the WERA IRN-VET.
  • In November the WERA has a focal meeting of the IRNs. By that time we have to finalise the founding regulations and the patterns of work for the IRN-VET. Also, in this context we shall discuss how to go on with the International VET research review.
  • In October there will be a regular meeting of the UNESCO UNEVOC-Centres. ITB has received an invitation due to its role in VETNET. This invitation will be taken as an opportunity to inform UNEVOC of the WERA IRN-VET.
  • When EERA launches the call for proposals for the ECER’15 in Budapest, we will launch a call for expressions of interest for a WERA IRN-VET Forum and/or for thematic Round Tables.

In this way the pilot event gave us further directions and impulses, how to strengthen our global cooperation.

To be continued …

 

 

 

User Stories and Persona

March 24th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I worked with Owen Grey on the slides for my presentation on ‘Developing Context and Work Based Mobile Learning in the Construction Sector’ at the Bristol Ideas in Mobile Learning symposium. And I included a series of Persona developed through early work in the Learning Layers project. Owen was not impressed – they are dreadful he said, they do not match reality. He was right and indeed I deleted the slide. But during my presentation, I stated my difficulty with Persona and this led to some discussions (to say nothing of tweets).

In the past I have been fond of persona as a working methodology. Indeed, I even wrote a guide to how to develop Persona for the EU G8way project. Here is an extract:

Identifying Personas

Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behaviour set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way (Wikipedia). Personas can be seen as tool or method for design. Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of users in order to help to guide decisions about a service, product or interaction space for a website.

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a real group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesised from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in one to two page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. Personas identify the user motivations, expectations and goals responsible for driving online behaviour, and bring users to life by giving them names, personalities and often a photo. (Calabria, 2004).

Personas can be based on research into users and should not be based purely on the creator’s imagination. By feeding in real data, research allows design teams to avoid generating stereotypical users that may bear no relation to the actual user’s reality.

Tina Calabria (2004) says personas are relatively quick to develop and replace the need to canvass the whole user community and spend months gathering user requirements and help avoid the trap of building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use.”

The problem is that all too often in synthesising data to produce a representation of a real group of users we do end up with a caricature. This is not just because creators rely purely on their imagination and fail to take account of the research. But (and I will talk more about this issue in a future blog post on Transdisciplinary Action Research), all too often the researcher or creator is just too far from the users to understand the meaning of the research. This distance can include class, geography, language (including domain language) culture and perhaps most critically (at least for the Learning layers project) occupation. And thus, rather than building what users ask for rather than what they will actually use, we build software that only a caricature would use.
That is not to say we should give up on developing Persona. Indeed, a later revision and rewriting of the Learning Layers Perosna was a great improvement. But I think we need to re-examine how we are developing perosna, how we combine them with other tools and approaches and what limitations there may be to their use.

Beyond Bulimic Learning Improving teaching in further education

March 15th, 2014 by Cristina Costa

Beyond Bulimic Learning Improving teaching in further education – Frank Coffield with Cristina Costa,Walter Müller and John Webber

So here is a new adventure. Last year Frank Coffield asked me if I’d be interested in submitting a book chapter for his new book as he felt he was missing a trick for not including a chapter on technology. I wrote an article on designing for context, using examples from my own practice to illustrate the points I wanted to make. The result was a text entitled Teaching and learning in context … with a little help from the web (slides for a presentation based on it can be found here)

The Book will be released in May. The launch will take place in the bookshop on the first level of the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H OAL on Wednesday 7 May between 6 and 8pm.

* seeing my name in print never ceases to surprise me! :-)

Developing and maintaining artefacts and knowledge

December 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Some of you will have noticed that this site was unavailable for a couple of days last week. When we investigated we found that the database on the server had become overloaded. And, although their may be other reasons, the major problem was that we were hosting some 15 sites, many of them ‘legacy’ European project sites. Furthermore because of issues with incompatible plug ins and the time involved, we had not managed to keep all the instances of WordPress, which hosts the sites, updated.

The European Commission requires us to maintain sites related to funded projects live for at least three years following the end of project funding. Given that most projects are of two to three years duration, this means the minimum time a site is up is five to six years. Yet the requirement masks a bigger problem. How do we preserve and build on the knowledge and ideas developed through project work – be it research or development.

Obviously we try to make sure that anything particularly important is included in the Pontydysgu site. And of course, many projects build on previous work. Most of our sites are archived by the Internet Archive. Reports and products are often published on social networking and Web 2.0 sites and can still be found there. Yet I cannot help thinking that many of the outcomes of useful and potentially important work undertaken by project funding are being lost over time. Perhaps the EU could itself do a better job of archiving and recording the work undertaken through its projects. In some areas, for instance around Open Educational Resources, there has been progress with the development of open repositories and in federating such knowledge stores.

However, many of the products of project work are probably ephemeral, or more important in the processes and interactions, than in the artefacts produced. And there needs to be some process by what knowledge, not only that on the internet, is allowed to gracefully degrade. The problem is that we do not really have any rubrics or processes for deciding what should be maintained and what should be allowed to degrade. Or indeed, if artefacts are important enough to maintain, how and in what spaces to do that.

We probably need yet another project to investigate these questions! Or, if anyone has a good answer, I would be very interested to hear from you.

Gold… for sale!

October 12th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

The current discussions surrounding Open Access have left me somehow perplexed, mainly because of the turn the debate has taken and which is, in my opinion, a major setback.

So to start with, I think it is useful to remind ourselves of the original purpose of Open Access and where it all started… because sometimes we lose sight of that initial purpose which, in this case, is so, so important.

The Open Access term was first used by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2001 to campaign for the accessibility of knowledge for a wider community. And in their website they explain the need for Open Access (OA) by stating that

By “open access” to [peer-reviewed research literature], we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

This because:

“scientists and scholars…publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment” and “without expectation of payment.” In addition, scholars typically participate in peer review as referees and editors without expectation of payment. Yet more often than not, access barriers to peer-reviewed research literature remain firmly in place, for the benefit of intermediaries rather than authors, referees, or editors, and at the expense of research, researchers, and research institutions.

So, in part OA came to value researchers’ work by giving it the potential of a much larger audience, and in part it came to do what is morally expected of public funded institutions, i.e, that the outcomes they produce benefit the public good.  But we all know that these ideas (Or are they ideals?) cannot be materialised from day to night when there are other (commercial) players involved in the game.

Around the 1960s/70s academic journals started to gain the attention of commercial scholarly publishers who began acquiring the already established, high-quality journals run by non-profit scholarly societies. With research journals published by commercial publishers, dissemination of academic work is inevitably impacted by the provision of knowledge as a commodity for sale. And this has become even more visible now with the struggle to implement OA and the different interpretations different players have of it.

Academia not only yielded the monopoly of knowledge dissemination to publishing houses, but they also supported, even if implicitly, the rather atypical business that publishing houses grew from it. If academic publishing was already a peculiar business before the emergence of the web, the fact that it persists now is even more extraordinary. Simply put, the business model of academic publications is one in which one pays to work, not only once, but twice, and now apparently perhaps even thrice! Institutions pay academics to write research papers that are published in journals which institutions also pay to have access to!! And now apparently there is also the added option of paying an additional fee to have the work of their academics made free online. And this is what the publishing houses are currently calling the Gold Route to Open Access.

This is not my interpretation of what the Gold Route OA option is, nor what BOIA’s statement hints at. However, I do recognise that the language used can lead to different interpretations. When  BOIA put forward two primary strategies for OA:

OA through repositories (also called “green OA”) and OA through journals (also called “gold OA”)

they did not specify what an OA journal should be. It is unclear from their statement if it should include a no-fee policy for authors or not. That has given publishing houses room to play. As such, their interpretation of Gold Route to OA includes a fee. It’s another gold mine for them; one I am not sure academia will be able to afford. And this is where I see institutions and researchers backing down from the OA Movement because it is costing them even more.

Maybe it is high time that academic institutions regained control of knowledge publication. Research funding bodies and researchers may want to support and campaign for no-fee open access journals (there are quite a few out there already, so why not exploit the web in that way and use our own time to free our own knowledge). Otherwise, I fear that the push for the current interpretation of “Gold Route OA” will generate a even wider gap between different research institutions given that their economic power is already so uneven.

Is all data research data?

September 30th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

In times when academia debates about the openness and transparency of academic work, and the processes associated with it, more questions than answers tend to be formulated.  And as it usually happens, different approaches often co-exist. There is nothing wrong with that. It is only natural when trying to make sense of the affordances that the web, as a space of participation and socialisation, provides. Nonetheless, the latests news on the openness of research publications leave me slightly concerned regarding the misunderstanding between the Open Access Gold Route and the Gold Mine publishing houses are trying to maintain with their take on Open Access. This will however be content for another post as this post relates to some still unripe reflections of mine on the topic of online research ethics. …although one could argue that paying to access publicly funded knowledge also touches on some ethics…!

The gate's unlocked!!!One of the big questions we are currently debating on twitter deals with the use of  data publicly available online. Given the current events regarding how governments are using information published online by their own citizens, we could conclude that no data is, or for that matter ever was, private! But as researchers interested in the prosumer phenomenon (online users who consume and produce content available on the web) a key issue arises when doing research online:

  • Can we use information that is publicly available online, i.e., that can be accessed without a password by any individual, for research purposes?
  • What ethics should we observe in this case?

Researching online data that is produced and made available online voluntarily, or involuntarily, by the regular citizen is so new, even to those in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), that we are still trying to make sense of how to go about this. Publications regarding this matter are still scare, and even those that I have had access to deal mainly with the issues of anonymity (Here is a recent example). A big issue indeed, especially in a time where participating online means to create an online digital footprint that not only allows information to be traced back to an individual; it also creates, to a certain extent, a (re)presentation of a given ‘self’, voluntarily or involuntarily… In TEL we call this “Digital Identities” (more on this in a forthcoming post).  Digital identities disclose personal, and sometimes private, information within the social environments that are created online and in which individuals interact, we assume, on their own will. But do they always do consciously of the publicness of the information they publish? Do they perceive their participation online as an form of creating and publishing information?

This then begs the question:

  • Is, can or should such information be automatically converted into research data? In other words are we, as researchers, entitled to use any data that is publicly available, even if we claim that it is only being used for research purposes?

My gut feeling is that no, we cannot! Just because the information is made publicly online and therefore accessible to use, I, as a researcher, am not entitled to use it without previously seeking and obtaining consent from its creator. This, obviously, generates more obstacles than those researchers would probably like to experience, but the truth is that collecting publicly available information without the consent of its producers does not seem right to me for the following reasons:

  1. We (people engaged in TEL) need to step outside of our own taken-for-granted understanding of online participation, and note that many people don’t realise, or at least have not given it considerate thought, that online communication can be public and that interaction online, by its very nature of written speech are more durable than equivalent forms of face-to-face interaction.
  2. Anonymity and confidentiality are topics that need to be discussed with the research participant independently of the type of information we want to use. Just because the content is there available to the world, it doesn’t mean it’s available for the take. That is invading the public sphere of an individual, if that makes any sense(!), because as it becomes research data we will be exposing (transferring even!) it to other public spaces.   of its owner.
  3. I truly believe that every research participants has the right to know he/she is one. This is not merely a courtesy on the part of the researcher, it is a right that they have! Content produced online, unless stated otherwise, belongs to its producer and should therefore be treated as such. (….maybe what we need is a creative commons license for research purposes! ]

Niessenbaum and Zimmer, amongst others, talk about contextual integrity, a theory that rejects the notion that information types fit into a rigid dichotomy of public or private.’ “Instead, there is potentially an indefinite variety of types of information that could feature in the informational norms of a given context, and whose categorization might shift from one context to another.” (Zimmer, 2008,  p.116)

Although I am very amenable to the argument of context, and that nothing is absolute, and everything is relative [getting philosophical now!], I think that the context of research practice begs for informed consent independently of the research data being publicly and privately available. In my opinion, converting online information into research data should always be an opt in, and not an opt out, activity involving those to whom the information belongs.

…but as usual, this is only my 2 cents and I look forward to other people’s views on this.

Is all data research data?

September 30th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

In times when academia debates about the openness and transparency of academic work, and the processes associated with it, more questions than answers tend to be formulated.  And as it usually happens, different approaches often co-exist. There is nothing wrong with that. It is only natural when trying to make sense of the affordances that the web, as a space of participation and socialisation, provides. Nonetheless, the latests news on the openness of research publications leave me slightly concerned regarding the misunderstanding between the Open Access Gold Route and the Gold Mine publishing houses are trying to maintain with their take on Open Access. This will however be content for another post as this post relates to some still unripe reflections of mine on the topic of online research ethics. …although one could argue that paying to access publicly funded knowledge also touches on some ethics…!

The gate's unlocked!!!One of the big questions we are currently debating on twitter deals with the use of  data publicly available online. Given the current events regarding how governments are using information published online by their own citizens, we could conclude that no data is, or for that matter ever was, private! But as researchers interested in the prosumer phenomenon (online users who consume and produce content available on the web) a key issue arises when doing research online:

  • Can we use information that is publicly available online, i.e., that can be accessed without a password by any individual, for research purposes?
  • What ethics should we observe in this case?

Researching online data that is produced and made available online voluntarily, or involuntarily, by the regular citizen is so new, even to those in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL), that we are still trying to make sense of how to go about this. Publications regarding this matter are still scare, and even those that I have had access to deal mainly with the issues of anonymity (Here is a recent example). A big issue indeed, especially in a time where participating online means to create an online digital footprint that not only allows information to be traced back to an individual; but also creates, to a certain extent, a (re)presentation of a given ‘self’, voluntarily or involuntarily… In TEL we call this “Digital Identities” (more on this in a forthcoming post).  Digital identities disclose personal, and sometimes private, information within the online social environments in which individuals interact, we assume, on their own accord. But are they always conscious of the publicness of the information they publish? Do they perceive their participation online as an form of creating and publishing information?

This then begs the question:

  • Is, can or should such information be automatically converted into research data? In other words, are we, as researchers, entitled to use any data that is publicly available, even if we claim that it is only being used for research purposes?

My gut feeling is that no, we cannot! Just because the information is publicly available online and therefore accessible to use, I, as a researcher, am not entitled to use it without previously seeking and obtaining consent from its creator. This, obviously, generates more obstacles than those researchers would probably like to experience, but the truth is that collecting publicly available information without the consent of its producers does not seem right to me for the following reasons:

  1. We (people engaged in TEL) need to step outside of our own taken-for-granted understanding of online participation, and note that many people don’t realise, or at least have not given it considerate thought, that online communication can be public and that interactions online, by its very nature of written speech are more durable than equivalent forms of face-to-face interaction.
  2. Anonymity and confidentiality are topics that need to be discussed with the research participant independently of the type of information we want to use. Just because the content is there available to the world, it doesn’t mean it’s available for the take. That is invading the public sphere of an individual, if that makes any sense(!), because as it becomes research data we will be exposing (transferring even!) it to other public spaces.
  3. I truly believe that every research participants has the right to know he/she is one. This is not merely a courtesy on the part of the researcher, it is a right that they have! Content produced online, unless stated otherwise, belongs to its producer and should therefore be treated as such. (….maybe what we need is a creative commons license for research purposes! ]

Niessenbaum, and Zimmer, amongst others, talk about contextual integrity, a theory that rejects the notion that information types fit into a rigid dichotomy of public or private.’ “Instead, there is potentially an indefinite variety of types of information that could feature in the informational norms of a given context, and whose categorization might shift from one context to another.” (Zimmer, 2008,  p.116)

Although I am very amenable to the argument of context, and that nothing is absolute, and everything is relative [getting philosophical now!], I think that the context of research practice begs for informed consent independently of the research data being publicly and privately available. In my opinion, converting online information into research data should always be an opt in, and not an opt out, activity involving those to whom the information belongs.

…but as usual, this is only my 2 cents and I look forward to other people’s views on this.

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.

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    Online Educa Berlin

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


    Consultation

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

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


    Social Tech Guide

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

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

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

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


    Code Academy expands

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

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

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

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

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


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