Archive for the ‘technologies’ Category

What is happening with Learning Analytics?

April 7th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I seem to be spending a lot of time looking at the potential of various technologies for supporting learning at work. I am not talking here about Virtual Learning Environments. In the construction industry we are looking at how mobile devices can be used to support learning and knowledge sharing between the different contexts of the vocational school, the industrial training centre and the workplace. And through the Employ-ID project we are looking at how to support continuing professional development for workers in public employment organisations across Europe.

None of these is particularly easy. Pedagogically we looking at things like co0counselling and at MOOCs for professional development. And another target on our horizon is Learning Analytics. Like so many things in technology advanced learning, Learning Analytics launched with a big fanfare, then seems to haver sunk under the surface. I was excited by the potential of using data to support learning and wanted to get in there. But there seems to be a problem. Like so often, rather than looking to use the power of Learning Analytics to support learners and learning, institutions have hijacked the application as a learning management tool. Top of the list for UK universities at least is how to reduce drop out rates (since this effects their funding). Rather than look at the effectiveness of teaching and learning, they are more interested in the efficiency of their approach (once more to save money).

So we are back where we have been so many times. We have tools with a great potential to support learners, but institutional managerialism has taken over the agenda. But perhaps I am being overly pessimistic and looking for information in the wrong places. If anyone can point me to examples of how to use Learning Analytics to support real learning please post below.

NB. Another issue concerning me is how to tell users what data we are collecting and how we are using it. Once more, does anyone have any pointers to good practice in this respect

 

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.

Aumented Reality, practice and performace

March 12th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Last week I went to the Bristol Mobile Ideas in Mobile Learning Symposium (programme and links here). I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Just a general point before I get to the specifics. I am increasingly bored with large conferences where you sit passively listening to string of paper inputs – good bad or indifferent – and then perhaps get to ask one or two questions. Smaller events such as the Bristol symposium, allow a real discussion and best of all, continued debate in breaks and in the evening. This is the kind of event which promotes learning!

I made a presentation on the Learning Toolbox mobile application we are developing for the Learning Layers project in the penultimate session of the symposium. I followed an intriguing presentation by Daniel Spikol on Using Augmented Reality, Artistic Research and Mobile Phones to Explore Practice-based Learning (see video above). Daniel has been working with Dance groups in Sweden, using the Aurasma Augmented Reality app for recording and augmenting dance performances. At first sight that would seem a long way from my work on developing an app for apprentices in the construction industry. But there were many links. Amongst other things Daniel made two key points which I could relate to. One was the need for continuing and iterative development in the use of apps (and here it was interesting that they had used an existing application, rather than trying to develop their own code). Second was the use of technology in capturing and representing physical performance. And in terms of work based learning, that is exactly what we are trying to do (and struggling with) in using mobile devices. In this regard I am interested in the ideas about practice.  Practice is related to competence and qualification and includes cognitive, affective, personal and social factors (trying to find citation for this). In terms of learning (and using technology for learning) practice based activities – whether based on formal or informal learning – are:

  • Purposeful
  • Heavily influenced by context
  • Often result in changes in behaviour
  • Sequenced in terms of developing a personal knowledge base
  • Social – involving shared community knowledge

Returning to Daniel’s questions, the challenge is how we can design and shape technology to augment practice.

 

 

 

It’s my web! A ten week course to teach the basics of web design

January 6th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

One of our current interests at Pontydysgu is teaching children to code. Jen Hughes has been doings some great work producing and testing floor cards for use with primary school children to learn how to create basic algorithms (for more on her work see the Taccle 2 site). The Mozilla Foundation is also working on this and over Christmas published ‘Its my Web!’ – a ten week course to teach the basics of web design. I guess this is aimed at 10 year olds and above and it looks pretty good.

I’d be interested to hear about other resources for all age groups.

Below is the introduction to the Mozilla course.

The Web is a good place to begin learning about how technology works, and fundamental ICT concepts such as programming. It is everywhere and familiar, easy to learn compared to other programming platforms, and there is a lot of help available due to the Web’s largely free and open nature. This course will aim to teach children some background information on how the web works and why the web is so interesting, the basic fundamentals of HTML (the language used to structure data on the Web) and CSS basics (the language used to style and layout the Web), possibly then moving on to some more advanced CSS and JavaScript (the web’s main programming/logic language) if there is time.

via It’s my web! A ten week course to teach the basics of web design.

Managing data and managing projects

September 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I’m sure I have written about this before but it is worth retelling. I first coordinated a multi country, multi partner European project in 1995. And for the first six months as well as ending emails, all project communications were sent by post. After six months I announced I was stopping the printed postal versions and would only communicate via telephone or email. Several of the partners protested, most of them the more advanced users who had Apple computers and who feared incomparability with Windows generated data.

Over the years software and systems have evolved and so has the way we run these projects. For many years we used to write in the box entitled innovation that we would hold regular video conferences. We never did because the software never worked. Skype and other applications like FlashMeeting changed all that. Indeed, sometimes it seems like we spend all our time in online meetings.

The recent big development has been the widespread use of Cloud storage. Although some projects set up repositories using various protocols, the reality is most partners could not access or use such applications. Then along came Dropbox. But even with extra storage for introducing new users, our Dropbox free storage rapidly filled up. Some of us paid for premium accounts but unless all project partners, and more important their institutions agreed, this was of limited value.

With the Learning Layers project we started out using Dropbox this worked pretty well, apart for Dropbox’s tendency to create conflicted versions. But as free storage ran out it was decided to move to Google Drive. Although Google Drive only provides limited free storage, it only counts documents you have added, rather than including document shared with you.

At the same time we started experimenting with all kinds of other cloud and social software applications – Pinterest, Diigo, Flipboard and so on. The result – we have more shared data and more active collaboration than ever before but it is all pretty chaotic. The traditional folder and file structures and naming conventions don’t really work in an intensively collaborative and active work environment without  lot of disciple and agreement users.

Of course we do have various paid for project management systems like Basecamp and also the excellent free Trello. The former I find over structured (but that;s just me). I think Trello is great but it is hard to get other partners to use it.

I am not sure what the answer is or where we will move next. There is growing unease about the security of our data and I guess in future people may be persuaded to pay for the Cloud – especially if applications are simple to use. Or maybe we will all migrate to the new free services – mainly form China offering huge amounts of free storage.

How to make multimedia learning materials for the construction industry

August 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

by Graham Attwell, Owen Gray and Martina Luebbing

We wrote in an earlier post about the Rapid Turbine app which we are developing through the Learning Layers project. Rapid Turbine is a prototype demonstrator, designed to show the potential of mobile devices to support learning by apprentices in the north German construction industry training centre, Bau ABC. Apprentices at Bau ABC learn through undertaking a series of practical projects, detailed in a paper based White Folder.

The task sheets are used both outlining the tasks to be undertaken, the tools required, materials and health and safety concerns etc and for recording learning. Through developing a mobile app it is intended to make updating 0of tasks easier but most importantly to allow closer links between the learning apprentices undertake in the training centre, with their courses in vocational schools and with their work undertaken on construction sites.

The task we are developing for the prototype is called Rohrleitungsbau (pipe and sewer laying). Our main aims are to test the pedagogic approach and design of the app and to develop a work flow so that trainers can themselves produce mobile learning materials.

One of the key aims for the Learning Layers project is to encourage the development of peer produced learning materials. Peers might be apprentices themselves or trainers in the training centres. We are aware that a major barrier to the take up of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises is the high cost of buying or commissioning the production of learning materials. Furthermore we are aware of the need for vocational expertise in the development of these learning materials, expertise we do not have as researchers and developers.

Although it is beginning to change, most traditional e-learning has been very heavily text dependent. This is not really suited to practical and wok based learning, especially using the mobile devices which can allow apprentices to access learning materials directly in the training centre or workplace.

Therefore we are keen to videos into the app related to the different tasks being undertaken. Once more, fairly obviously the trainers are the best people to make these videos. Originally we had thought of going to Bau ABC and filming these videos ourselves. But this would have been very time consuming and is not really sustainable. Our next thought was to use wearable video devices and we experimented with prototype smart glasses with video capacity. However, the quality was not great and the controls were difficult to use.

So our latest solution is to use an Go Pro camera, attached to a construction site safety helmet. The cameras are reasonably easy to use and importantly, having originally been designed for recording extreme sports,  are extremely rugged, and with the cover fitted, water proof and dust proof. They can also be controlled through a Wireless based phone app. We need more work to find out what makes a good short learning video to be accessed on a mobile device. We’re starting out trying to make a series of handy tips, based one each task, but will review this as we go. And we are encouraged that some of the trainers have already been making their own videos using an ipad. I suspect they will have more ideas than us.

The helmet mounted camera will be delivered to the training centre tomorrow and as soon as we have some videos we will shared them on this site.

LMI for All API released

June 9th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I have written periodic updates on the work we have been doing for the UKCES on open data, developing an open API to provide access to Labour Market Information. Although the APi is specifically targeted towards careers guidance organisations and towards end users looking for data to help in careers choices, in the longer term it may be of interest to others involved in labour market analysis and planning and for those working in economic, education and social planning.

The project has had to overcome a number of barriers, especially around the issues of disclosure, confidentiality and statistical reliability. The first public release of the API is now available. The following text is based on an email sent to interested individuals and organisations. Get in touch if you would like more information or would like to develop applications based on the API.

The screenshot above is of one of the ten applications developed at a hack day organised by one of our partners in the project, Rewired State. You can see all ten on their website.

The first pilot release of LMI for All is now available and to send you some details about this. Although this is a pilot version, it is fully functional and it would be great if you could test it as a pilot and let us know what is working well and what needs to be improved.

The main LMI for All site is at http://www.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This contains information about LMI for All and how it can be used.

The APi web explorer for developers can be accessed at http://api.lmiforall.org.uk/.  The APi is currently open for you to test and explore the potential for  development. If you wish to deploy the APi in your web site or application please email us at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com and we will supply you with an APi key.

For technical details and details about the data go to our wiki at http://collab.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This includes all the documentation including details about what data LMI for All includes and how this can be used.  There is also a frequently asked questions section.

Ongoing feedback from your organisation is an important part of the ongoing development of this data tool because we want to ensure that future improvements to LMI for All are based on feedback from people who have used it. To enable us to integrate this feedback into the development process, if you use LMI for All we will want to contact you about every four to six months to ask how things are progressing with the data tool. Additionally, to help with the promotion and roll out of LMI for All towards the end of the development period (second half of 2014), we may ask you for your permission to showcase particular LMI applications that your organisation chooses to develop.

If you have any questions, or need any further help, please use the FAQ space initially. However, if you have any specific questions which cannot be answered here, please use the LMI for All email address lmiforall [at] ukces [dot] org [dot] uk.

 

Where do you go to for your research?

May 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I remember back in the mid 1990s, when I was first employed as a researcher at the University of Bremen, I used to travel every three months to Surrey university, whi9ch at the time had the easiest university library to reach from Bremen.I would run a series of searches on their computerised reference system, collect together a pile of journals and then buy a photocopying card to frantically copy all the articles i might need for the next couple of months. Fortunately this was in the days before airlines restricted baggage weight, so i could copy all I could carry.

Time have changed.  Most researchers I know rely on online sources these days. Despite attempts by some publishers to prevent open access, many authors place a pre-publication copy of their work online anyway. This is merely anecdotal. But  a new survey (pdf downland) by the UK Jisc covers a range of areas from how academics discover and stay abreast of research, to their teaching of undergraduates, how they choose research topics and publication channels, to their views on learned societies and university libraries, and their collections.

The survey comes up with some interesting findings. According to Jisc the “Overarching themes are an increasing reliance on the Internet for their research and publishing activities and the strong role that openness is playing in their work.” They go on to say key findings include:

  • Access limitations – While 86% of respondents report relying on their college or university library collections and subscriptions, 49% indicated that they would often like to use journal articles that are not in those collections.
  • Use of open resources – If researchers can’t find the resources or information they need through their university library, 90% of respondents often or occasionally look online for a freely available version.
  • The Internet as starting point – 40% of researchers surveyed said that when beginning a project they start by searching the Internet for relevant materials, with only 2% visiting the physical library as a first port of call.
  • Following one’s peers – The findings suggest that the majority of researchers track the work of colleagues and leading researchers as a way of keeping up to date with developments in their field.
  • Emergence of e-publications – The findings show that e-journals have largely replaced physical usage for research, but that contrasting views exist on replacement of print by e-publications, where print still holds importance within the Humanities and Social Sciences and for in-depth reading in general.

But these are just the headlines. it is well worth delving into the full report, based on over 3000 respondents.

Researchers were asked “Typically, when you are conducting academic research, which of these five starting points do you use to begin locating information for your research?”

Although there were variation between researchers form different disciplines (as noted above) some 40 per cent replied general purpose search engine on the internet or world wide web. About 25 per cent use a specific electronic research resource/computer database, up to 20 per cent their online library catalogue, 18 or so per cent a national or international catalogue or database, while less than 10 per cent physically visit their library.

That is a massive change in a relatively short time period. I will try to read the report thoroughl;y in the next few days and work out what it all means!

Does Google Glass have a serious potential?

May 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The whole debate over Google Glass is a bit of a puzzle. There is certainly plenty of coverage of the initial limited public trails. The tech press is generally in raptures, perhaps because they have at last an innovative new toy to play with (or at least to dream of playing with).

The popular press has run a series of rather contrived stories about how Glass can give you headahes, is dangerous for drivers, is a threat to privacy and how users are showing no respect to others etc. etc. Oh, and someone comes up with an unsupported (and probably non working) plug in that takes a photo when you wink and gets aches of coverage.

What there seems to be no discussion of is the potential for serious applications for Glass. We are looking hard at the possibilities of wearable computers for vocational education and training. We haven’t got our hands on a prototype from Google (we aren’t rich or famous enough). But there are other manufacturers who have already released production versions of glasses with similar if more limited functionality and we hope to be trying these out at Bau ABC, a construction industry training centre in North Germany. I am especially interested in the potential for informal learning.

And there are a whole series of research groups looking at the potential of Glass like products in the medical field.

It would be nice to think that Google would be working with such research. But instead its policy of releasing a number to “Glass Explorers” who pay 1500 dollars each for the privilege looks more like a publicity stunt than any serious attempt at research.

 

Ubiquitous connectivity?

April 15th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I’ve spent a couple of days last week in Dublin at a conference on Big Data. Or rather, I spent a couple of days in Dublin trying to get access to data over the internet.

At the conference, held at the quite upmarket conference centre at headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Croke Park, it was the usual story. You can imagine the conversation.

Conference organiser: Will you be able to provide us with wireless internet for all our participants?

Conference Centre staff: How many people do you expect at your conference?

Conference organiser: About 200

Conference centre staff: Yes that is no problem

Conference organiser: Are you sure?

Conference centre staff:  Yes, we have had many conferences with more people than that and have had no problems

 

Except that of those other conferences perhaps 30 per cent were on line. And at tech conferences we usually have 98 per cent on line and most with two or even three devices.

So time after time, the wireless fails at ed-tech events. I don’t know what can be done about it, other than get internet access written into contracts with penalty clauses if it is not delivered.

In face free wireless access is pretty good in Dublin. However the quality of that access is pretty bad. Limited bandwidth and intermittent connectivity. I suspect this is the future, as more and more people require free wireless and enterprises feel forced to provide this to remain competitive. In London pretty much every pub and café offers free access. But as more and more devices go online the infrastructure will start to squeak and bandwidth may actually decline. I hope I’m wrong. I still think connectivity should be seen as basic infrastructure and can’t really imagine that it is efficient to have so many companies fighting for business in the main urban centres whilst in Wales some areas cannot even receive a G3 signal let alone wireless internet.

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

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

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    News Bites

    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


    Open Badges

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

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

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

    You can find more information on the DigitalMe web site.


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


    MOOCs and beyond

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

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

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

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


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