Archive for the ‘TEL’ Category

LL Consortium meeting in Innsbruck – Part Three: Presenting exploitation initiatives

February 8th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project had its consortium meeting in Innsbruck.  In the previous posts I discussed firstly the ‘warm-up’ event with  Austrian clusters/ networks and secondly our project meeting and its general results. In this post I will discuss the results of the exploitation sessions (presentations and bilateral talks).

1. The setup of the exploitation sessions

As I had indicated in the previous post, we had firstly a general introduction to the exploitation model that served as a reference model. We also agreed to work towards a jointly agreed ‘exploitation manifesto’ that helps us to settle the IPR issues. With this preparation the partners were invited to present their exploitation plans and/or intentions. A major part of the session was dedicated to the presentations of partners (or groups of partners), altogether 15. Then, on the next day we had a special session for bilateral or trilateral ‘matchmaking talks’ (on the basis of expressions of interests indicated during the first session).

2. Contributions of the Construction sector partners

2a) The presentation of ITB/Pont (Bremen) & Bau-ABC teams highlighted firstly some key questions for the LL project and then a further challenge for follow-up activities. It also gave an overview on tools and services developed so far. Based on this background the presentation drew then attention to two kinds of emerging R&D projects:

  • The DigiProB project as a spin-off from LL in the context of Continuing Vocational Training (CVT). The technical challenge is to reuse/repurpose an integrative toolset to support Personal Learning Environments of CVT participants. The social challenge is to support individual learners (who are learning alongside work) with the aim to demonstrate with work-related projects that they have acquired higher (managerial) qualifications in construction sector.
  • The “Bauen 4.0″ has been selected as a recognised cluster initiative and is invited to submit specific project proposals. One of the initiatives discussed in the cluster meetings is a project for incorporating know-how on Building Information Modelling (BIM) to the CVT schemes for advanced construction craftsmen in carpentry and woodwork (Holzbau). Here we see a chance to make use of LL tools.

Alongside these examples we presented two cases in which the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox can be brought into collaboration and exchanges with third party software/services (who were affiliated with construction sector stakeholders).

  • Pontydysgu had been contacted by Construction Excellence Wales, Construction Industry Training Board and a consortium of four FE colleges with interests in the Learning Toolbox. In particular there was an interest to link the LTB with the e-learning environment that had been developed by the FE colleges for construction sector apprentices.
  • Bau-ABC had been contacted by a new company that continues the prior work of a company that had been producing handbooks for well-builders. The new company focuses on developing mobile apps and digital contents. This company will launch its products during February 2016 and is already making contacts with key players in domain-specific education and training.

 2b) The presentation of Bau-ABC: The Bau-ABC team had prepared a separate presentation in which they brought forward their interests in further development and promotion of LTB. In this respect the presentation summarised the immediate benefits for individual users (urgencies for developers), the benefits for Bau-ABC as training provider and multiplier and the prospects for cooperation between Bau-ABC and the developers of LTB and related LL tools and services. In this way Bau-ABC outlined the working perspectives with which it positions itself on the “Exploitation map” to be drawn later.

3. The bilateral talks

After the presentation session our requests for bilateral talks with other presenters (with eventual topics to be discussed) were collected. Then a similar ‘world café’ session was organised as in the warm-up event. We had four tables for rotation but this time no fixed ‘table hosts’. Instead, we were rotating with uneven opportunities for the talks. In some sessions we participated as wider groups, in some sessions as individuals. At some point we were interrupted by fire alarm and the whole building was evacuated to an outdoor meeting point. (The fire was put out promptly, the fire brigade just needed to check the situation and that the smoke was properly ventilated. Yet, this all took that much time that we couldn’t properly complete the session.)

At this point it is not necessary to report on all bilateral talks in which I/we were involved. Some of them focused on very specific questions and very particular interests. Some were talks on emerging ideas for future projects that need further conversations. In addition – due to the interruption – we didn’t have a chance for some talks that we had on our list. Therefore, it have prepared a list of topics for further talks to be continued at a later date:

  • ‘Cross-sectoral’ talks on the uses of LTB (and other LL tools) taking into account prior work with nurse education and nurse education networks in Germany and England.
  • ‘Cross-institutional’ talks on the use of LTB and other LL tools/services to support problem-, project- and practice-based learning in vocational education and training (VET) and/or Vocational Higher Education (notably in Germany, Estonia and Austria).
  • ‘Cross-curricular’ talks on the use of LTB and other LL tools in the activities of vocational teacher education/ training the trainers (notably in Germany and in Austria, e.g. the partners of the pre-event).
  • ‘Sustainability’ talks with LTB developers on their new organisational initiative and the role of R&D initiatives.
  • ‘Scalability’ talks on the experience with the ‘Theme Room’ training in Bau-ABC to adapt the approach for multiplier activities. (These talks will be based  on the involvement of the initial contributors and other interested parties).

I think this is enough of these sessions. Due to our tight schedules we couldn’t be present in the final sessions of the meeting. But we are sure that there results will be discussed in several follow-up meetings. Given, that we are entering an intensive period of fieldwork, we need to keep the exploitation issues on our agendas.

More blogs to come …

 

Start of year 2016 with Learning Layers – Part 1: Catching up with ITB/Pont team

January 20th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

This year I had a longer winter break, so I have started my working year with our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the middle of January. As a consequence, my first working days have been filled with catch-up meetings in the local and regional contexts and as video-conferences at the level of our European project. I try to sum up the results, challenges and impressions with a series of blogs. In the first one I give a brief report on the first meeting of our local LL team involving colleagues from ITB and Pontydysgu. (A more detailed report is available in the Learning Layers Google Drive document https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lgL4hCjkaRZnrY17E0swQcvxWqR7XvrkmaK2fnUhh_s.)

In our first joint meeting of this year we started with a situation assessment on the piloting with the Learning Toolbox (LTB). My colleagues had taken some time to test the latest version and discovered several points that needed improvement. They had reported them with Trello cards and with an e-mail to the LTB developers – which were well received as precise feedback that is being taken up. On the whole, we are happy that both Android and iOS versions are available. Yet, the fundamental challenge is to introduce interactive communication channels and group functionality. These are the key requirements of the users in training centres and construction companies. Since our main application partner Bau-ABC is now hosting short-term continuing vocational training (CVT) schemes in January and February, there is some time before the apprentices will return, Yet, we (the developers and we as the facilitators) need to get ready to start active piloting in March. We were happy to note that we have a German version of LTB Manual (thanks to Jaanika Hirv from TLU) and an English translation (thanks to Martina Lübbing from Pont). Yet, we need to do more work with training to support the roll-out. (For this purpose we had scheduled a working meeting with Bau-ABC for the next day, see my next blog).

Our second major point was the situation assessment, where we stand with the acquisition of follow-up projects to Learning Layers. Here, several things had happened by the end of the year and were in process in the beginning of the year. Firstly, the pending final assessment on the Learning Layers follow-up project in CVT (support for work-related training and learning of general construction site managers – Geprüfte Polier) is being prepared. Also, the estimated start time has been announced (provided that the assessment is positive). Secondly, the recently approved cluster initiative “Bauen 4.0″ (Construction 4.0) has been approved and the consortium (involving among others Bau-ABC and ITB) has been invited to submit a set of mutually linked project proposals that focus on digital transformation in construction sector (including consequences for training). Thirdly, we have started the preparation of a project proposal for Horizon 2020, Topic “Technologies for Learning and Skills” (taking into account the work of the ITB-project Kompetenzwerkst@tt and of Learning Layers). In addition to this, we (ITB) have been invited as partners to some other proposals that may have a role in the follow-up of the LL project.

In addition to this we discussed about participation in forthcoming conferences and (related) publication plans. Both of these topics will be taken up more systematically in our next meeting.

I think this is enough of our first meeting. On the next day we had a working meeting with Bau-ABC.

More blogs to come …

 

What is the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities?

January 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I like Cristina Costa’s blog, “Is technology changing learning habit(u)s?” (and not only because she cited me). Cristina says how her study on students’ digital practices shows how students’ learning habitus (their histories/experiences with education) have not changed that much in the formal setting, even when they are presented with new pedagogical approaches. It is not so much an issue of their digital competence but an issue that the informal uses of technology do not simply transfer into formal contexts.

Students, she says, “have a feeling for the ‘academic game’ and do their best to adjust to the field’s rules in order to succeed in it.” It seems to me their was always something of a game in academia and especially in undergraduate education. Even in the early 1970s we had well developed strategies for getting through exams (for instance I undertook a rather more in depth study of past exam questions than I did of the overall curriculum and it worked well for me).

But there are more profound contradictions in today’s higher education system. On the one hand universities are supposed to be about education and learning – as expressed through Humboldt’s idea of Allgemeine Bildung—or well-rounded education—to ensure that each person might seek to realize the human potentialities that he possessed as a unique individual or more modern appeals for a broad liberal education (unless such an education can be seen as improving their employability). On the other hand in the UK students are paying substantial fees for a system designed to provide them with a qualification to realise the so called graduate wage premium in the world of work. In such a situation it is little wonder that students are reluctant to participate in the innovative pedagogies – described by Cristina as  Freirean and Deweyan type of pedagogical approaches – designed for them to explore ideas and knowledge – quite simply they want the knowledge and skills they need to pass the exams and thus justify the expenditure. In this situation students will readily adopt productivity apps – office tools, citation databases, revision apps etc – and of course will use technology for social purposes and entertainment. But I am afraid asking them to use social software for learning within the political and social habit(u)s of present day universities may be going to far.

Thinking about Practice and Design

January 13th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Sometimes writing reports for European projects can be a chore. Long, boring and nobody reads them. At the moment I am writing sections for the EmployID project second annual report. Instead of writing individual work package reports, as is the normal convention, we are writing a single report in the form of a book. And that provides more incentive to get it right. Plus the sections I am writing are all difficult – social learning, Learning Analytics and Labour Market Information tools, but are making me think. So I am quite enjoying it – I think. This last two weeks I have been working on design – or more specifically design for learning. How can we develop designs for tools to support informal learning in public service organisations. I am going to publish here a short series of posts outlining the way I am thinking. I am not sure if this stuff is write but would appreciate any feedback. The first post, today is about practice. Tomorrow I iwll look at the idea of Design Patterns and follow that up on Friday with a draft of a design pattern for Labour market Information tools.

Social Learning

EmployID aims to support and facilitate the learning process of Public Employment Services (PES) practitioners in their professional identity transformation process. The aims of the project are born out of a recognition that to perform successfully in their job they need to acquire
a set of new and transversal skills, develop additional competencies, as well as embed a professional culture
 of continuous improvement. However it is unlikely that training programmes will be able to provide sufficient opportunities for all staff in public employment services, particularly in a period f rapid change in the nature and delivery of such services and in a period with intense pressure on public expenditures. Therefore the EmployID project aims to promote, develop and support the efficient use of technologies to provide advanced coaching, reflection and networking services through social learning. The idea of social learning is that people learn through observing others behaviour, attitudes and outcomes of these behaviours, “Most human behaviour is learned observationally through modelling from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviours are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action” (Bandura, 1977). Facilitation is seen as playing a key role in structuring learning and identity transformation activities and to support networking in personal networks, teams and organisational networks, as well as cross-organisational dialogue.

Proposals and initiatives to utilise new technology for learning and professional development in organisations is hardly new. However, a critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concluded that most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the idea of direct instruction. Technology Enhanced Learning initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard trainer / learner relationship and a reliance on formal and to some extent standardised course material and curricula.

Research suggests that much learning that takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Attwell 2007; Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is both highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices and is inherently social in its nature.

To succeed in supporting identity transformation it is not enough merely to develop or deploy technologies which support training and information transmission. Rather, EmployID needs to develop approaches and pedagogies which can support social facilitation services within PES organisations and which empower individuals to engage in peer learning and facilitation around their own practices.

Although there is much research around the use of technology for learning, far less attention has been paid to informal learning and facilitation processes in the workplace. Research around social practice has largely remained the preserve of social science with different approaches based on structuralism, phenomenology and intersubjectivism amongst others. In his paper on theories of social practice, Reckwitz (2002) draws attention to the dual meaning of the English word practice in German.

“Practice’ (Praxis) in the singular represents merely an emphatic term to describe the whole of human action (in contrast to ‘theory’ and mere thinking). ‘Practices’ in the sense of the theory of social practices, however, is something else. A ‘practice’ (Praktik) is a routinized type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one other: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background know- ledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational knowledge. A practice – a way of cooking, of consuming, of working, of investigating, of taking care of oneself or of others, etc. – forms so to speak a ‘block’ whose existence necessarily depends on the existence and specific inter-connectedness of these elements, and which cannot be reduced to any one of these single elements.

Likewise, a practice represents a pattern which can be filled out by a multitude of single and often unique actions reproducing the practice (a certain way of consuming goods can be filled out by plenty of actual acts of consumption). The single individual – as a bodily and mental agent – then acts as the ‘carrier’ (Träger) of a practice – and, in fact, of many different practices which need not be coordinated with one another. Thus, she or he is not only a carrier of patterns of bodily behaviour, but also of certain routinized ways of understanding, knowing how and desiring. (pp249-250)”

In this understanding knowledge is more complex than ‘knowing that’. It embraces ways of understanding, knowing how, ways of wanting and of feeling that are linked to each other within a practice.

In seeking to support facilitation within public employment services a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed.

Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

1.     Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;

2.     Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);

3.     Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;

4.     Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediat9ing group learning about clients or projects in progress.

Among informal learning processes that Eraut lists are participation in group processes, consultations, problem solving, trying things out and working with clients. Working alongside others is important in allowing “people to observe and listen to others at work and to participate in activities; and hence to learn some new practices and new perspectives, to become aware of different kinds of knowledge and expertise, and to gain some sense of other people’s tacit knowledge.”

Tackling challenging tasks and roles requires on-the job learning and, if well- supported and successful, leads to increased motivation and confidence.

 

According to De Laat (2012) informal learning in the workplace is often described as observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation (Marsick and Watkins, 1990). Boud and Hager (2012) argue that learning is a normal part of working and professional development should be placed in a social context where professionals work and learn together, changing and innovating both their professional practice as well as their professional identity.

De Laat (2012) argues that we need to find a new balance between formal and informal learning and provide opportunities for what Fuller and Unwin (2003) call expansive ‐ as opposed to restrictive learning ‐ through developing an organisational culture that values and supports learning and by so doing, opens doors to various opportunities for professional development. Informal professional development through engagement in social learning spaces can enable participation, construction and ‘becoming’ (De Laat, 2012).

Lave and Wenger (1991) also stress the importance of both practice and the social nature of learning in their conception of Communities of Practice.  Interestingly for them, collective learning results in practices that reflect both the pursuit of our enterprises and the attendant social relations. “These practices are thus the property of a kind of community created over time by the sustained pursuit of a shared enterprise. It makes sense, therefore to call these kinds of communities communities of practice.”

“Communities of Practice are important to the functioning of any organisations, but they become crucial to those that recognise knowledge as a key asset. An effective organisation comprises a constellation of interconnected CoPs, each dealing with specific aspects of the company’s competency, from the peculiarities of a long standing client, to manufacturing safety, to esoteric technical inventions. Knowledge is created, shared. organised, revised, and passed on within and among these communities.” (Wenger, 1998).

Connecting people in parallel, across disciplines, roles and departments of the business, is fundamentally different from connecting people in project teams or interest groups. Although the nature and composition of these communities varies members are brought together by joining in common activities and by ‘what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities’

According to Wenger (1998), a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions:

·      What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.

·      How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.

·      What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

A number of issues emerge in studies of attempts to develop communities of practice. One is a tendency to build a platform and ‘declare’ the existence of a community of practice, rather than supporting emergence and therefore ownership. The second is to fail to recognise that such a process of emergence is continuous and ongoing. A third is to conflate organisational structures with communities and to focus on the organisational nature of the community rather than the routines and artefacts that define the capability of practices.

In a similar way social learning is not something which can be done to people. Instead an approach to social learning has to be based on facilitation of social learning processes with organisations and within Communities of Practice. Such facilitation needs to relate to the social practices of people. Murphy (2004) has conceptualized collaboration as a continuum of processes, and developed an instrument with six stages for the purpose of identifying and measuring online asynchronous collaboration: “(1) social presence (2) articulating individual perspectives (3) accommodating or reflecting the perspectives of others (4) co-constructing shared perspectives and meanings (5) building shared goals and purposes, and (6) producing shared artefacts.” However, these six stages can also serve as a template for social learning processes and inform the work of EmployID in developing tools which can facilitate social learning.

References

Attwell, G. (ed.) (2007). Searching, Lurking and the Zone of Proximal Development. E-Learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in Europe, Vol.5, Navreme Publications, Vienna

Attwell, G. & Baumgartl, B. (Eds.) (2009): Creating Learning Spaces: Training and Professional Development for Trainers. Vol.9, Navreme Publications, Vienna

Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Boud, D. & Hager, P. (2012). Re-thinking continuing professional development through changing metaphors and location in professional practice. Studies in Continuing Education, 34(1),17-30

De Laat, M. (2012) Enabling professional development networks: How connected are you?, Open University of the Netherlands, Hagen

Eraut, M. (2000) Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work, British Journal of Educational Psychology (2000), 70, 113–136

Fuller, A., & Unwin, L. (2003). Learning as apprentices in the contemporary UK workplace: Creating and managing expansive and restrictive participation. Journal of Education and Work, 16(4), 407-42

Gumbrecht, H. U. (Ed.) (1988) Materialität der Kommunikation. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.

Hart, J. (2011) Learning is more than Social Learning, http://www.elearningcouncil.com/content/social-media-learning-more-social- learning-jane-hart, retrieved 5 July, 2012

Kittler, F. (1985) Aufschreibesysteme 1800/1900. München: Fink.

Kraiger, K. (2008). Transforming Our Models of Learning and Development: Web- Based Instruction as Enabler of Third-Generation Instruction. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1(4), 454-467. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9434.2008.00086.x

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press,

Marsick, V. J., & Watkins, K. (1990).Informal and Incidental Learning in the Workplace.London: Routledge

Murphy, E. (2004). Recognizing and promoting collaboration in an online asynchronous discussion. British Journal of Educational Technology, 35(4), 421-431.

Onstenk, J. (1997) Lerend leren werken: Brede vakbekwaamheid en de integratie van leren, werken en innovere

Reckwitz A (2002) Toward a Theory of Social Practices, European Journal of Social Theory 2002 5: 243

Tennant, M. (1999) ‘Is learning transferable?’ in D. Boud and J. Garrick (eds.) Understanding Learning at Work, London: Routledge.

Wenger, E. (1999), Communities of Practice. Learning, meaning and identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Wenger, E. (1998) ‘Communities of Practice. Learning as a social system’, Systems Thinker,

 

Stagnation or innovation in Technology Enhanced Learning?

January 12th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Just a quick note following up on my blog of yesterday noting the lack of new ideas in the exhibition at Online Educa Berlin. Today I read an interesting article entitled “Caputalism: Will Capitalism Die?” by Robert Misik on the Social Europe blog. Most of the article, as the title implies is given over to an analysis of the lack of growth and “secular stagnation” in western economies.

Misik says that “despite superficial impressions, the past 15 years may have produced practically no more genuinely productive innovations.” He quotes the economist Robert J Gordon who says:“Invention since 2000 has centered on entertainment and communication devices that are smaller, smarter, and more capable, but do not fundamentally change labour productivity or the standard of living in the way that electric light, motor cars, or indoor plumbing changed it.”

And that seems to sum up much of the developments in Technology Enhanced Learning. Whilst in the 1990s and the first years of this century there was something of an explosion in innovative uses of technology for learning through mainly the development of Virtual Learning Environments, since then genuine innovation has stalled, as least through the ed tech industry. Games based learning, Learning Analytics, mobile learning, MOOCs are all interesting but they do not, to paraphrase Gordon, fundamentally change education and learning, still less pedagogy. As Phil Hill says: “Didn’t we have bigger dreams for instructional technology?”

Misik speculates on the slow emergence of a new economy in which “more decentralized, self-managed firms, co-operatives and initiatives play a gradually more important role – so that, in the end, a mixed economy emerges composed of private companies, state enterprises and co-operatives and alternative economic bodies.” And that may be the way forward to for Technology Enhanced Learning, where the behemoths of the Ed Tech world play a lesser role, where governments continue to invest in innovation in teaching and learning with technology in education, where the importance of state involvement in education is recognised and where smaller more agile private sector enterprises become partners in developing new initiatives and pedagogic approaches to learning. Its nice to be optimistic!

Changing perspectives on VLEs/PLEs, eLearning and MOOCs

March 4th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

My recent posts have been reports on my efforts to catch up with debates in EdTech communities and with recent pilots with MOOCs. I made use of a relatively quiet period in our work for the Learning Layers (LL) project to read what Graham Attwell has recently written on these issues. (With quiet I don’t mean that we would have had nothing to do. My point was that we have been more occupied with preparatory tasks – not much to blog about them.)

Now it seems that I have to move on to the actual preparation of the forthcoming Design Conference. Therefore, I have to postpone my further reading to some other time. At this point I make only few comments and notes for myself what to read next.

1. Changing concepts – changing perspectives

It strikes me that in the long run several changes in terminology in EdTech (and before EdTech became a big number) have paved the way from teaching-centred to learning-oriented approaches. Just thinking the changes from ‘distance teaching’ to ‘distance learning’, ‘remote learning’ and finally to ‘open distance learning’. In the beginning phase ‘eLearning’ was hyped as an alternative paradigm – the new promising mainstream to push into periphery the traditional academic teaching and learning culture. Gradually the initiatives with ‘eLearning in practice’ have brought into picture far more realistic approaches (with emphasis on technology enhanced learning TEL).

A similar transition seems to have taken place in the debates on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) vs. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). As Graham put it a quote that I have picked from his earlier blog: “At a development level, there is little point in trying to develop a new PLE to replace the VLE. Instead we need to provide flexible tools which can enhance existing technologies and learning provision, be it formal courses and curricula or informal learning in the workplace or in the community.”

To me, the above repeated quote might be also the key to understand adequately the potential of MOOCs. I have the impression that the early phase of the MOOCs has been misused or misinterpreted to create a picture of a renaissance of e-teaching (by global missionaries) in the form of massively open online courses. What I see coming up in the newer blogs is increasingly a picture of scalable learning opportunities via which professional communities reach new dimensions. If I have understood it correctly, the initiative LangMOOC is looking for opportunities to develop language support practices for transnational cooperation activities. To me, the pilots in the employment services point to a similar direction. But I am eager to learn from those who are involved.

2. What should I/we look more closely

Even with the risk that I will not have that much time I will list some blog articles that I should try to go through in the coming time. I have sadly neglected a most valuable resource – the blog Wilfred Rubens over Technology Enhanced Learning – but with these issues I must catch up with some topics. My priority issues will be the following ones (published quite recently but to the very point I want to catch up with):

Vormen van e-learning (February 25th 2015)

Here Wilfred gives a differentiated view on different forms of e-learning (I think he identifies 11 variants).

Nieuwe EMMA MOOCS van start #EUMOOCS (February 27th 2015)

Here Wilfred gives insights into European cooperation intiatives to develop MOOCs.

Hoe lerenden binnen MOOCS opereren? (March 2nd 2015)

Here Wilfred reports on a study that has analysed the activities of learners of MOOCs.

So let us see when I get to deepen my understanding of MOOCs and similar learning arrangements that transform the perspective from ‘courses’ to social learning in professional communities.

More blogs to come …

3 practical ideas for using ICT in STEM teaching – How Science Works

February 26th, 2015 by Angela Rees

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 21.54.01

Over the coming weeks I’m going to share some practical ideas from the Taccle2 Handbooks on e-learning for teachers of Primary, STEM, Humanities, Creative and Performing Arts and Key Skills.  Here are some ideas for exploring How Science Works.

Ask your students to 
create a social networking profile for a scientist on MySpace explaining their discoveries. Find a list of scientists and see our Einstein page for inspiration.  Get each person in the class to add a Facebook profile for a famous scientist – who would their ‘friends’ be? What would their favourite books or music be? What sort of conversations or arguments would they have with each other? (it’s more fun if you assume that they they can communicate over time as well!)

Find present day scientists on Linked-In or academia.edu or MyExperiment.  What research are they doing right now? Create a class blog where students can record what they have learned and use the comments to discuss who was the most important scientist in history.

Talking of debates, check out aMap to start an argument.  Students follow the on-screen instructions in order to join an existing argument or start a new argument. They’ll have to provide an email address, name and location but you can use the same email for multiple users. They are prompted to add reasons and supporting evidence for their argument.  When they have finished they get an embeddable mind map which others can reply to by creating their own “argument map”.  See the Taccle2 blog for an example.

All of the Taccle2 handbooks are available to download for free from the Taccle2 website.

Exciting and inspiring students

December 2nd, 2014 by Graham Attwell


Loving this video. Veritasium points out the history of hype around successive technologies and media. One common factor is that in each phase the end of the need for teachers is predicted, Teachers have a vital role to play, say Veritasium, in guiding social processes of learning and exciting and inspiring students. The use of technology for learning is not a revolution but an evolution and teachers have a vital role to play in using technology for learning.

Summer of Innovation, business models and culture

November 28th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

On Wednesday I attended the JISC Summer of innovation event at Reading University. This was a showcase for projects undertaken in summer 2014. Jisc is running an elevator system, selecting some 20 student projects a year who each get £5000 in funding. The format of the competition, says Jisc, “allows students to get full credit for their ideas, and have an ongoing role into their development. As well as showcasing the results of this work the event was designed to seek partners to work with to develop the ideas further.

Each of the project made a short pitch to those attending. And there was ample time to go around the presentation stands for demos and talks with developers. The projects were on the whole very impressive. It almost seems unfair to pick anyone out, but since I was on the lookout for projects I might want to work with further, then my pick of the bunch has to be evaloop. Evaloop developed by Shanghavi and Thiemo Fetzer, both postgraduates at LSE, have developed a mobile app which provides teachers or trainers with an easy way to collect feedback from students. According to the LSE web site “Amar and Thiemo have ten years of teaching experience between them which helped them to identify the difficulty of getting timely feedback in a cost effective way and to create ‘evaloop’.”

As a whole, the products looked pretty cool and you could see at least some of the picking up traction. Talking to the students, though, I was less convinced about the sustainability and business plans. Most had formed companies and were putting forward subscription models. All assured me that their services scaled technically and they probably do. But when I asked them how their company scaled socially they looked at me blankly. I asked a number whether they expected to be selling the same subscriptions to the same applications in two or three years time. This seemed reasonable since I was talking to a bunch of young, ambitious, clever entrepreneurs – or would be entrepreneurs. They admitted they had not thought about that. And although many were seeking to sell subscription services to universities, they did not really seem to know who might have the power to sign up to such a package.

Only Evaloop seem to have considered the Open Source Model. And I guess that is part of the present culture of software development. Apps are not released as open source, instead the business approach is to provide paid for services or at best a premium model. I think that is a shame, since, working with a wider community, many of these projects could make a real difference and get significant take up. However, I suppose another way to look at it is that if say only two projects go on to develop as viable products or services and sustainable enterprises, that has to be seen as a success, especially given the very limited pump priming funding from Jisc. I’ve signed up with five or six of the projects to get future updates, in addition to planning a trial of evaloop. And I will keep readers here in the loop on any updates. In the meantime check out the projects on the Jisc Summer of Innovation website.

Sustaining learning

September 23rd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I am in Tallinn in Estonia experiencing an early reminder of how cold and wet north European winters can be. I am here for a consortium meeting of the EU sponsored Learning layers project. Consortium meetings in these large projects can have a considerable number of participants, some 50 researchers and application partners attended the last meeting in Bad Zwischenahn in Germany.

Tomorrow am am helping organise a two and half hour workshop with the perhaps not particualrly sexy title of Sustainability, Scalability & Replicability. Whats it all about?  The problem is that far too many projects – esepcially in the area of technology enhanced learning – fail to develop finished products. And even those that do usually fail to get ream traction around such products let alone work out how to sustain the development. We don’t want that to happen with Learning layers. We think we are well on the way to developing tools which can support informal learning and provide learning support to thousands of people in the workplace. But of course there are issues. We do not have the money to do everything we want to. Sometimes our software designs seem hopelessly ambitious. And the research universities in the project may not have any interest in trying to sustain product development, once EU funding for research has ended.

So those are the issues we want to explore in the workshop looking at the progression from a research project to a full product, working out who are the stakeholders and developing an initial business pitch for how future development can be sustained. Watch this blog for what we discover.

 

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