Archive for the ‘Social networking’ Category

How trade unionists are using the Internet

April 2nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The results of the annual Labour Start survey of trade union use of the internet are interesting. The summary of results from the 3000 trade unionists who answered the survey found:

  • More and more of you use tablets and smartphones – though your unions haven’t tended to keep up, with very few of them creating applications specifically designed for small screens.
  • Very large numbers of you are using social networks other than Facebook – most notably Google+ and LinkedIn.  But your unions, which have been pretty good about using Facebook and Twitter, have largely ignored those other networks.
  • While most of you seem pretty happy with how your unions now use the net, large numbers of you don’t actually know if your unions are creating videos or smartphone apps.
  • We asked people what they most wanted to see on union websites and here are the top three: tips on workers’ rights, training for activists, and describing working conditions in companies

To read a much more detailed account of the results, click here to download the PDF file.

Where we work and how we collaborate

March 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

This is the first of a new mini series of articles on the impact of technologies on how we work. I started thinking about it after Yahoo announced they were ending the practice of employees being able to work from home. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo! and that starts with physically being together.” Mayer has said the change in policy was necessary to foster more collaboration among employees and restore Yahoo’s competitiveness. A number of other companies have since followed suit.

I think Yahoo has got it completely wrong. When I first started work, working from home was virtually unknown, except for consultants or university researchers. The first signs of things changing came with the invention of telecottages, enabling internet access at a time when connectivity was slow, expensive and tenuous. With the availability of cheap and reliable bandwidth and apps, home working took off rapidly. I might be wrong, but my suspicion is that not only did organisations save on infrastructure costs – imagine what would happen if every university employee turned up on the same day, but with the blurring between home life and the word of work, many employees actually worked longer hours. Years ago Saturday and Sunday working or working in the evening incurred time and a half or double pay, that has long since gone.

In many occupations, work is changing rapidly especially because of the use of video, conferencing and networking applications. This includes not only research but occupations in sectors like construction. But coming back to the Yahoo decision the point is not whether people are at home or at work but how they are working. I used to work physically in a university but would rarely see others, individuals spent all day locked away ion their offices with closed doors. Equally, I now work from home and probably spend much too much of my time discussing with others on skype or in conference calls.

Developing collaboration, quality and innovation depend on work organisation. Technology is disrupting work organisation, both allowing new ways of working and challenging how we are used to doing things. This requires far more subtle interventions that just requiring employees to clock on at a set time in a set place each day. And to a considerable extent we are all still struggling to realise the most effective forms of collaboration. Research is lagging behind practice. So Yahoo needs to look at the process of collaboration within their organisation and the culture of the organisation. Maybe they are doing this but it doesn’t appear to be from their press releases. Rather than focus on where people work, they need to look at how the work is organised including how learning takes place at both a individual and organisational level. This is much harder but much more effective in the long term.

 

Was Google Wave just ahead of its time?

February 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Remember Google wave? As Wiikipedia explains Google Wave is a web-based computing platform and communications protocol designed to merge key features of communications media such as email, instant messaging, wikis, and social networking.Communications using the system can be synchronous or asynchronous. Software extensions provide contextual spelling and grammar checking, automated language translation,[3] and other features.

Initially released only to developers, a preview release of Google Wave was extended to 100,000 users in September 2009, each allowed to invite additional users. Google accepted most requests submitted starting November 29, 2009, soon after the September extended release of the technical preview. On May 19, 2010, Google Wave was released to the general public.

However Wave proved to be short lived. On August 4, 2010, Google announced the suspension of stand-alone Wave development and development was handed over to the Apache Software Foundation which started to develop a server-based product called Wave in a Box.

What went wrong? Certainly Wave felt clunky to use and was not always particularly reliable. The interface felt crowded and sometimes confusing. But I think the main problem was that we just didn’t get the idea. Now only three years on, it might have been so different. Just within one project I am working on, Learning Layers, we are using Flash Meeting and skype for regular synchronous communication, Doodle polls to set up meetings, dropbox to share files, Diigo to share bookmarks, Google docs for collaborative writing, to say nothing of the project internal media wiki site and the public wordpress based web site. And of course a list serve which bombards us with ever more email. We all complain that communication is not good enough and simultaneously that we have too much communication.

In reality communication has moved from being episodic, where email replaced snailmail and online meetings replaced face to face – to a stream. Managing that stream is problematic. And that, I think, was what Wave was designed to do. Sadly it was ahead of its time. Come back Wave, all is forgiven.

The participatory web in the context of academic research : landscapes of change and conflicts

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A few weeks ago we reported that Cristina Costa had successfully completed her PhD. And now the thesis has been published on the web. You can access the document here. Below we reproduce the abstract.

“This thesis presents the results of a narrative inquiry study conducted in the context of Higher Education Institutions. The study aims to describe and foster understanding of the beliefs, perceptions, and felt constraints of ten academic researchers deeply involved in digital scholarship. Academic research, as one of the four categories of scholarship, is the focus of the analysis. The methods of data collection included in-depth online interviews, field notes, closed blog posts, and follow up dialogues via email and web-telephony. The literature review within this study presents a narrative on scholarship throughout the ages up to the current environment, highlighting the role of technology in assisting different forms of networking, communication, and dissemination of knowledge. It covers aspects of online participation and scholarship such as the open access movement, online networks and communities of practice that ultimately influence academic researchers’ sense of identity and their approaches to digital scholarship. The themes explored in the literature review had a crucial role in informing the interview guide that supported the narrative accounts of the research participants. However, the data collected uncovered a gap in knowledge not anticipated in the literature review, that of power relations between the individual and their institutions. Hence, an additional sociological research lens, that of Pierre Bourdieu, was adopted in order to complete the analysis of the data collected. There were three major stages of analysis: the construction of research narratives as a first pass analysis of the narrative inquiry, a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts, and a Bourdieuian analysis, supported by additional literature, that reveals the complexity of current academic practice in the context of the Participatory Web. This research set out to study the online practices of academic researchers in a changing environment and ended up examining the conflicts between modern and conservative approaches to research scholarship in the context of academic researchers’ practices. This study argues that the Participatory Web, in the context of academic research, can not only empower academic researchers but also place them in contention with traditional and persistent scholarly practice.”

 

Using web 2.0 and social media in European projects

December 20th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, UK from Web2LLP on Vimeo.

There is growing interest in how to use social media in European research and development projects. The Web2LLP project aims to improve web strategies and maximise the social media presence of lifelong learning projects. Their web site explains they provide “personalised support and training (a week-long face-to-face course and free webinars), and shares best-practices and resources.”

One of those resources is a video gallery including interviews with project managers who have used social media in European Commision sponsored Lifelong Learning Programme projects.

And when Maria Perifanou asked me for an interview how could I refuse. I talked to Maria about how we used social media in the G8WAY project. The G8WAY project was based on the idea that the growing availability of web 2.0 allows for bridging the present gap between the structures developed to support students in mastering today’s educational transition and their formulation in an institutional perspective through learner centered and connective approaches, with a chance to more effectively manage educational transition.  “G8WAY  developed web 2.0 enhanced learning environments, to enable learners to reflect and develop their creativity potentials and transitional skills in the light of their own and others’ learning experience, made visible through a variety of media sets and PLE tools, each of them designed to meet the requirements of transition envisaged, and all of which are mapped into one single pedagogy framework.”

PLE Conference 2013

November 27th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The Call for Papers for the PLE Conference 2013 is out!  The PLE Conference 2013 will be held in Berlin & Melbourne 10-12 July 2013 around the theme of: Personal Learning Environments: Learning and Diversity in Cities of the Future.

According to the PLE website: “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.

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are an approach to Technology- Enhanced Learning based on the principles of learner autonomy and empowerment. PLEs include methods, tools, communities, and services constituting individual learning infrastructures or ecosystems which learners use to direct their own learning and pursue their educational goals. This represents a shift away from the traditional model of learning based on knowledge transfer towards a model of learning based on knowledge construction where learners draw connections from a growing pool of online and offline resources to plan, organise, engage in, reflect on and evaluate their learning and development. By focusing on the enhancing learning of individual, yet interconnected learners, the PLE approach encompasses a diversity of learners, tools, perspectives and knowledge.

So far Personal Learning Environments have been designed and implemented in formal and informal learning contexts, such as school and higher education, work-based learning and in-company training, and in continuing education. The potential of Personal Learning Environments for crossing the boundaries of traditional learning contexts, connecting diverse communities and infrastructures has not been fully realised. Therefore, the 4th PLE Conference in 2013 aims at taking the discussion on Personal Learning Environments a step forward, providing a new impulse for PLE research and development.

The theme for the conference is learning and diversity in cities of the future. In view of the “Smart City” concept and the key priorities for research and innovation expressed in the EU Horizon 2020 framework, innovative, sustainable and inclusive solutions become crucial not only in terms of future and emerging technologies but first and foremost in terms of (i) human knowledge and skills, (ii) diverse and inclusive communities, as well as (iii) learning and knowledge networks. Hence, new forms of connected, interdisciplinary learning and cross-boundary cooperation are seen to play a critical role in the development of creative solutions and in the intelligent exploitation of networked urban infrastructures. In smart urban spaces, people, organisations and objects become interconnected by means of new technologies and media, forging new patterns of cooperation, production, research and innovation.

As smart cities we understand smart urban spaces in the sense of Michael de Certeau, i.e. “practiced places”, places which are transformed and constituted by dynamic and diverse elements (“a tour is different than a map”). From this perspective the following questions emerge:

What shapes can Personal Learning Environments take to support diversity, cross-boundary learning and interdisciplinary transformation of urban spaces? How can we design and implement Personal Learning Environments as part of highly interconnected social and technological infrastructures of smart cities? What technology-enhanced scenarios can be envisaged to enhance learning and diversity in cities of the future?

For more information about the Call for Papers including submission themes, formats, important dates and guidelines for submissions, go the the PLE conference web site pages: ‘Call for Papers‘ and ‘Important Dates‘.”

The changing world of work

October 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

As explained in my previous post, last week I visited the Hub Westminster in central London. The Hub is located on the first floor of New Zealand house, the New Zealand embassy near Piccadily.

The hub website explains

We believe there is no shortage of good ideas to solve the issues of our time. But there is an acute lack of collaboration and support structures to help make them happen. The HUB was founded to address this need.

We set out to create spaces that combine the best of a trusted community, innovation lab, business incubator and the comforts of home. Spaces with all the tools and trimmings needed to grow and develop innovative ventures for the world. But above all, spaces for meaningful encounters, exchange and inspiration, full of diverse people doing amazing things.

The idea has been spreading like wildfire and resulted in the emergence of a global movement. To date, there are 25+ open HUBs and many more in the making, from London to San Francisco, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Sao Paulo and Milan.

Not withstanding the hype, the Hub was impressive. It consists of a large open working space, with different small work areas, and different meeting areas. there must have been some 60 or 70 people there last Friday. some spaces seemed to be for particular teams, others were hot desking areas.

True, the tech area is very different to more traditional industrial and craft sectors. But it illustrated to me how work is changing. And although European Commission policy recognises the centrality of small enterprises for future employment and economic growth, I think they have been slower to think through the implications of this in social and education policy terms.

Probably the biggest problem for micro and small businesses remains access to capital. and for micro businesses without fixed assets, and with a business plan that is yet to show profits, banks may be even more unwilling to lend that to start ups in more traditional areas of the economy.

Equally such start up businesses are heavily reliant of skills and knowledge. yet the traditional education and training systems seem slow to adapt to new and growing areas of the economy and to the needs for higher level continuing learning than traditional qualifications structures provide.

If SMEs are to play such a key role they are going to need state support. The present EU policy seems to be based on reducing legislation and providing targeted help. Yet the ‘system for targeted help may be to inflexible and slow to meet real needs on the ground. I am also unconvinced that merely exempting SMEs from employment legislation is the right answer. Germany has some of the toughest employment legislation in Europe, yet has a record of thriving SMEs.

One of the issues may be the level of decision making and the forms that decision making takes. More transparency and social involvement in decision making processes could improve the quality of support for SMEs. equally there is a need for more localised economic planning. This, in turn, means better access to data and ideas for those responsible for such planning.

I am not arguing against private sector initiatives to support SMEs and job creation. But I would argue that the public sector has a key role to play and that we need more democratic and open processes if that support is to be effective.

Similarly, we need to re-look at social systems to see how they can be adapted to changing patterns fo work including access to food and recreation systems, transport, nursery provision and education and training.

 

 

Linkedin Endorsements

October 15th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There have been many discussions in the educational technology community about recommender systems. And there have been a number of projects attempting to develop systems to allow people to recommend or verify the skills and competences of other people.

Now Linkedin has jumped big time into this area. In fact Linkedin has long had a system for allowing people to provide a reference or recommendation for others. I wrote a recommendation for Josie Fraser for her work for Jisc as a ‘community architect’. But whilst some people – like Josie – have been fairly diligent in seeking recommendations, I suspect most people have never bothered. And the old recommendation system required some effort on the part of the person writing the reference. Writing more than 148 characters has long gone out of fashion in the days of Twitter and the Facebook like button.

So Linkedin have launched a new system to allow you to ‘endorse’ people. As far as I know, they have not published how it works. But it seems to be based on matching your self claimed skills and competences to others in your network and then asking them to endorse you.

It is an interesting development but I have serious doubts about its credibility. Will employers take such a one click system seriously, especially given that there is no requirement for you to actually know the prso0n you are endorsi9ng or to have any real expertise for whatever you are endorsing them? Or will we all end up trying to game the system to make our endorsements look more impressive?

Some years ago, the UK government decided that one way to increase peoples’ employability was to send unemployed people on a CV writing course and to help them produce a professional looking CV. The result of course was CV inflation with everyone havi8ng a great CV regardless of their real abilities to do a job. And I suspect that is what will happen with Linkedin endorsements. We will all end up endorsing each other and end up where we started.

Anyway I’m off now to endorse some of my friends.

Personal Knowledge Management: a Learning Layer?

October 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I like the ideas put forward by Harold Jarche on personal knowledge management (PKM) in the workplace. Jarche says the idea of personal knowledge management “questions our basic, Taylorist, assumptions about work; assumptions like:

  • JOB can be described as a series of competencies that can be “filled” by the best qualified person.
  • Somebody in a classroom, separate from the work environment, can “teach” you all you need to know.
  • The higher you are on the “org chart”, the more you know (one of the underlying premises of job competency models).”

Personal knowledge management, he says, ” is a framework that enables the re-integration of learning and work and can help to increase our potential for innovation.

Jarche puts forward a Seek-Sense-Share framework. “Seeking includes observation through effective filters and diverse sources of information. Sense-making starts with questioning our observations and includes experimenting, or probing (Probe-Sense-Respond). Sharing through our networks helps to develop better feedback loops.”

Such a framework corresponds with the aims of the Learning layers project, due to start on November 1st. through Learning layers we are attempting to develop technologies to support informal learning in clusters of Small and Medium Enterprises, initially in north Germany in the building and construction industries and in north east England in the medical profession. In my experience SMEs are far less convinced of the Taylorist assumptions about work than large companies. And certainly the managers I have been talking to are well aware of the challenge of how to embed learning in working practices and to redesign work environments to support learning. However it is not just in the design of workplaces that we make assumptions. Educational technology also has embodies a series of assumptions around learning – such as learning takes place through courses and learning is dependent on the transmission of ideas and practices form an expert to a novice.

Our idea in Learning layers is to develop lightweight apps which can be used in the work process and which support both working and learning. We see learning materials being generated through the work process and shared though networks of organisations.

In teh course of this we hope to reshape both workplace design and learning designs.

Who owns the e-Portfolio?

September 4th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Over the years I have had a fair bit of interest, in this diagramme, produced in a paper for the the e-Portfolio conference in Cambridge in 2005.

I has some discussion about it with Gemma Tur at the PLE2012 Conference in Aveiro. And now Gemma, who is writing her doctoral dissertation in ePortfolios, has written to me to remind me of our discussion. Gemma says:

I thought I could add that eportfolios built with web 2.0 tools may have another process which is based on networking. Cambridge (2009, 2010) argues about the construction of two selves, the networked self and the symphonic self. The first is about documenting learning quickly, in everyday life, taking brief notes with short and quick reflection, sharing and networking. The second is about presenting learning, reorganizing learning, linking learning evidence, with longer and more profound reflection… no networking in this final stage, as it is an inner process

As I am working with learning eportfolios, with web 2.0 tools, networking is a learning process for my students. Therefore, they are building their networked self.

So, if I argue networking is an eportofolio process of web 2.0 eportfolios, who owns the process? Looking at your article and your illustration, I thought it could be a process owned by both the learner and the external world. If networking is a process of sharing, visiting, linking, connecting, commenting, does it mean that it involves both the learner and the audience? this is what I thought before you told me that it is the learner’s process for sure.

So do you think that definitely I should argue that it is only owned by the learner? Then although it could need someone else to comment and connect, in fact, the act of networking is the student’s responsibility? is this the reason why you think that?, do you think I should argue it is owned by the learner?

These are interesting discussion impacting on wider areas than ePortfolios. In particular I think the issue of control is important to the emerging MOOC discussion.

Returning to Gemma’s questions – although I have not read the paper – I don’t think I agree with Cambridge’s idea of he networked self and the symphonic self – at least in this context. I think that networking becomes more important when presenting learning, reorganizing learning, linking learning evidence, and longer and more profound reflection. these processes are inherently social and therefore take place in a social environment.

However it is interesting that social networking was hardly on the radar as a learning process in 2005. And when I referred to the ‘external world’ I was thinking about external organisations – qualification and governmental bodies, trade unions and employers rather than broad social networks. Probably the diagramme needs completely redrawing to reflect the advent and importance of Personal Learning Networks.

However, despite the fact that personal social networks exist in the external world (the ‘audience’), I think the owner of the process is the learner. AZnd I would return again to Ilona Buchems study of the psychological ownership of Personal learning Environments. Ilona says:

One of most interesting outcomes of the study was the relation between control and ownership. The results show that while perceived control of intangible aspects of a learning environment (such as being able to determine the subject matter or access rights) has a much larger impact on the feeling of ownership of a learning environment than perceived control of tangible aspects (such as being able to choose the technology).

Personal Learning Networks are possibly the most important of the intangible aspects of a learning environment. The development of PLEs (which I would argue come out of the ePortfolio debate) and the connectivist MOOCs are shifting control from the educational institutions to the elearners and possibly more important from institutions to wider communities of practice and learning. Whilst up to now, institutions have been able to keep some elements of control (and monopoly through verifying, moderating, accrediting and certifying learning, that is now being challenged by a range of factors including open online courses, new organisations such as the Social Science Centre in Lincoln in the UK and Open Badges.

Such a trend will almost inevitably continue as technology affords ever wider access to resources and learning. The issue of power and control is however unlikely to go away but will appear in different forms in the future.

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    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

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    Talking about ‘European’ MOOCs

    The European EMMA project is launching a  webinar series. The first is on Tuesday 17 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15:00 CET.

    They say: “In this first webinar we will explore new trends in European MOOCs. Rosanna de Rosa, from UNINA, will present the philosophy and challenges behind the EMMA EU project and MOOC platform developed with the idea of accommodating diversity through multilingualism. Darco Jansen, from EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), will talk about Europe’s response to MOOC opportunities. His presentation will highlight the main difference with the U.S. and discuss the consequences for didactical and pedagogical approaches regarding the different contexts.


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