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Catching up with Learning Layers fieldwork – Part Two: Fresh feedback on the use of Learning Toolbox

August 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

With my previous post I started a series of blog entries to catch up with the fieldwork of our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project. Because of my sick leave I felt the need to catch up with the recent fieldwork of the Construction pilot with the deployment of Learning Toolbox (LTB) – both in work-based learning and at construction sites.  With my first post I summarised where we ended up with the introduction of the LTB in our field activities earlier this year. With this second post I provide insights into fresh feedback on the use of LTB by construction sector apprentices.

The field visit of Markus Manhart (University of Innsbruck) to Bau-ABC

In the meantime our colleague Markus Manhart from the University of Innsbruck (UIBK) was on field visit at the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC in Rostrup to collect feedback on the use of LTB by apprentices and to interview their trainers. Markus has shared his results with us and I can only do justice to his good work by making his report available via this blog post.

Markus told that he organised two Focus Group sessions (focus on LTB) with six carpenter apprentices (project Holzbau) and had two interviews with their trainers (Bruns, Pape).  In addition he had three Focus Groups with altogether 14 apprentices from another trade (Baugeräteführer) on the use of video annotation tool AchSo. Since the use of mobile devices is restricted (or not allowed at all) during their working periods in construction companies, Markus asked them to reflect on their experiences with using the tools in Bau-ABC (from the initial introduction to present date). Below I give extracts from Markus’ reports (with next to original wording but to some extent edited by me – PK):

First finding: “Guiding replaces strict instructions”:

There is some evidence for a tool-supported change of the training patterns at Bau-ABC. In the past, apprentices and trainers had a rather hierarchical perception of training activities, characterised by limited  autonomy for learners (= apprentices). Trainers told what to do and apprentices expected to get detailed instructions. Using LTB (and also AchSo) is partly contributing to a change towards more autonomous learning. The trainers tend to give apprentices more room of manoeuvre how to prepare and implement their projects. Instead of strictly instructing them, trainers tend to take the role of ‘guides’ for the apprentices. However, the increase of autonomy seems to be dependent on many factors: characteristics of learners, type of learning materials and achieved knowledge. Finally, the interpretation of the trainers on their own role will influence greatly, how such change can occur.

Second finding: “From consuming to contributing”:

In the past, learning material was provided in a one-way communication from trainers to apprentices. Thus, apprentices were more consumers of learning materials and recipients of trainers’ knowledge. Now, the new tools (provided by the LL project) support a transition towards a peer-to-peer mode of treating learning materials and knowledge resources. However, in this context it is important to note that the asymmetry cannot be completely abolished. From the perspective of trainers it is clear that some learning materials and knowledge elements cannot be freely produced or acquired by apprentices. Also, the apprentices are aware of their limits in this respect.

What can be produced and shared in terms of peer-to-peer communication are problems with the apprentices’ projects or experiences with managing such projects (e.g. time management, planning work steps). What should not be produced and shared in such terms are instructions, how to perform project tasks (e.g. methods of how wooden beams should be prepared or constructed) and information on health and safety regulations (Arbeitssicherheit und Gesundheitsschutz).

Third finding: “Digital transformation”:

In the light of the two aspects mentioned above, apprentices and trainers have described several episodes as exemplary cases, how the LL tools contribute to changes in training and learning practices. These can be treated as indications on digital transformation in the training and learning culture of Bau-ABC. (Below I give a nutshell summary, more information can be obtained from Markus Manhart.)

Interestingly enough, in the light of these examples digital transformation does not appear as a fundamental change of training and learning pushed by the tools. Instead, it is perceived rather as meaningful changes of specific practices. Regarding meaningfulness the apprentices gave the example on their obligation to document their daily project progress and achieved results.

When working with paper- and pencil-based documentation the apprentices had several possibilities to cheat the trainers with their reports. In general, they could write down what the trainers would expect to get from them (even when this wouldn’t quite correspond with the reality). Thus, if a task has taken a whole day, they could report having completed it in three hours. Or they could omit mentioning problems they had encountered with project tasks in their reports. In practice their trainers would not always be in the position to monitor their work very thoroughly. In such cases, the marks given on their performance would not reflect the actual performance of the apprentices. This deficit in controlling would favour the ones inclined to cheat at the expense of the more honest apprentices.

When documenting the work with project tasks with videos, the apprentices provide a true picture of situations, activities and results. This makes it possible for the trainers to assess, if the task was performed adequately. Thus, they are better informed on what grounds they can give the marks. In this way the changing pattern of reporting on apprentices’ projects serves as an example, how the use of digital tools in the interaction between trainers and learners enhances the apprentices’ commitment and motivation to appropriate task completion.

– – –

I hope I have done justice to Markus’ text and conveyed the message he intended. To me his findings are important clues for our conceptual interpretation on digital transformation in workplace learning – as demonstrated in the context of the training centre Bau-ABC. In my next post I will discuss our recent efforts to promote the use of LTB in craft trade companies in the construction sector.

More blogs to come … 

My journey with the VETNET network – Epilogue: The (rocky) road to ECER 16 in Dublin

August 16th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my five latest posts I have written a series of blogs on my journey with ECER conferences and the VETNET network. In these posts I have discussed the development of the network from its earliest origins in the beginning of 1990s up to present date. These blogs are my contribution to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) 2016 and to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of VETNET – the European Vocational Education and Training Research Network.  Unfortunately I have to stay out of ECER because of health issues, but these posts may serve as building blocks for the collective memory. In this epilogue I shift the emphasis from the past to the preparation of the forthcoming conference with some final remarks.

From ECER 2005 (Dublin) to ECER 2016 (Dublin) – Ten/eleven years after

My first remark is related to the preparation of the VETNET Opening colloquium. Interestingly enough, the VETNET  organisers have invited once again James Wickham as a keynote speaker (he had this ro le also in ECER 2005). To me this was a very good choice. In 2005 made interesting comparisons between ‘the European dream’ and ‘the American mirage’ as leading ideas for European training and labour market policies. Now he has chosen the heading “Always the first cut – vocational education and training in the Irish crisis”. It would be interesting to see, what kind of links he might make between his earlier analyses and those on the present crisis.

Communities, networking and web tools

My second remark is related to the way in which we discussed in ECER 2005 on the role of research communities (in regional initiatives) and on the support provided by social networking and web tools. At that time we were dependent on very early stage of web technologies and related possibilities for social networking. At that stage the interaction between researchers, tool developers and practitioners was far more complicated (and the chances for participative design were far more limited). Now, our experiences with the Learning Layers project (and with the online tools of the VETNET network and the IJRVET journal) open new horizons.

Visibility of VET research

Finally I would like to make a point on the visibility of VET research – both within the EERA community and at a more general level. In both respects the VETNET network was in 2005 still in the process of making its case. The subsequent years of stabilisation, consolidation and new initiatives have clearly given more visibility to VETNET and European VET research in the context of ECER and the EERA community. And in particular the launch of the journal IJRVET and its success have brought the public visibility of European and international VET research to a new level.

– – –

I guess this is enough food for thought for those who are on the (rocky) road to ECER 2016 in Dublin. It is a pity that I cannot join them. But I will keep in touch and then catch up with the news. I am looking forward to that.

More blogs to come …



New stacks for new users of the Learning Toolbox – Two cases in Bau-ABC

June 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blogs I have reported on the pilot activities of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project in the intermediate training centre for construction sector Bau-ABC. Therefore, I have focused on the intermediate part of apprentice training (between learning in the companies and in vocational schools) carried out in the training halls and outdoor training areas of Bau-ABC. In this post I focus on efforts to open up the use of the integrative toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB) for other users. This was the aim of our teamwork in Bau-ABC this morning. Below I report on the creation of new stacks for LTB that take explicitly into account wider range of users than the current groups of apprentices.

Stack to promote awareness on Health and Safety in construction sector

Already in February  we had our first talks with the Health and Safety specialist (Sicherheitsfachkraft) of Bau-ABC, Thomas Weerts, on the prospect of using LTB for thus special area (see my blog of the 22nd of February). Already at that time we gathered several ideas, how to make essential reference materials and practical tools accessible for users with the help of the functionality of LTB. Now we had found time to put these ideas into practice.

Firstly, we considered it important that this stack should not be exclusively for trainers and apprentices in Bau-ABC. Therefore, we named it as ‘Health and Safety in construction sector’ (Arbeitssicherheit in construction sector).  Thus, it should also be relevant for  in-company trainers (betriebliche Ausbilder) and shop stewards for health and safety (Sicherheitsbeauftragten).

Secondly, the first collection of materials provides links to web-based reference materials of Berufsgenossenschaften (public trade-specific bodies for hazard prevention and social insurance in industry and crafts & trades). In addition, this collection provides links to their mobile apps and to compendia that are available as CD-ROMs in companies and training centres.

Thirdly, another collection provides links to tools with which individual users assess health and safety risks in the context of work tasks (Gefährdungsbeurteilung). In apprentice training this is a mandatory task and it is supported by special worksheets provided by the respective Berufsgenossenschaften. (In the near future these will probably be transformed into mobile apps – which could then pave wider use for such tools beyond the initial training.)

The points above can be summarised quickly. Yet, it requires a special effort to decide, what kind or resources can be made available with different tiles and how to support the work of users with such resources. At the moment we stopped after having produced the welcome message and two collection tiles with the above mentioned resources. Thomas had made a good start and was prepared to continue with the next steps that would bring more interactivity into picture. Here, the prior work with trade-specific stacks (e.g. for carpenters, bricklayers and well-builders) could give some clues, how to integrate special tools and apps to this theme.

Stack to support learning and social integration of apprentices from foreign countries

Parallel to the work with the above mentioned stack Melanie Campbell was preparing a stack for a European mobility scheme. Bau-ABC is coordinating for the North-German construction industries and craft trades the Mobi Pro EU project that promotes mobility of trainees and apprentices from South-European countries – mainly from Spain – to get trained in German companies within the dual system. The first cohort of apprentices has already spent over a year and a new one is coming in a short while. As the experience has shown, the newcomers face many open questions and challenges – not only in their working and learning processes but even more regarding their socio-cultural integration and well-being. Here, the functionality of LTB could provide an easier access to information – but also communication channels between the apprentices and their peers of earlier cohorts.

With these thoughts coming up in our discussion Melanie started to give shape to the stack of the Mobi Pro EU project. After the welcoming message she started to prepare placeholder tiles for different kinds of information resources (general, domain-specific and local) to be accessed and for communication channels to be provided (different groups and chat channels). At the moment the format is still in the process of making, but it provides a possibility for involving different parties in further steps of the design process.

– – –

I end my report here – at the point when we ended our joint session. Both Melanie and Thomas will work further with these stacks and involve other colleagues as well. I am looking forward to the next steps.

More blogs to come …


Online disinhibition and the ethics of researching groups on Facebook

April 19th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

There seems to be a whole spate of papers, blogs and reports published lately around MOOCs, Learning Analytics and the use of Labour Market Information. One possibly reason is that it takes some time for more considered research to be commissioned, written and published around emerging themes and technologies in teaching and learning. Anyway I’ve spent an interesting time reading at least some of these latest offerings and will try to write up some notes on what (I think) they are saying and mean.

One report I particular liked is ‘A murky business: navigating the ethics of educational
research in Facebook groups” by Tony Coughlan and Leigh-Anne Perryman. The article, published in the European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, is based on a reflection of their own experiences of researching in Facebook. And as they point out any consideration of ethical practices will almost inevitably run foul of Facebook’s Terms and Condition of Service.

Not withstanding that issue, they summarise the problems as “whether/how to gain informed consent in a public setting; the need to navigate online disinhibition and confessional activity; the need to address the ethical challenges involved in triangulating data collected from social media settings with data available from other sources; the need to consider the potential impact on individual research participants and entire online communities of reporting research findings, especially when published reports are open access; and, finally, the use of visual evidence and its anonymisation.”

Although obviously the use of social networks and Facebook in particular raise their own issues, many of the considerations are more widely applicable to Learning Analytics approaches, especially to using discourse analysis and Social Network Analytics> This discussion came up at the recent EmployID project review meeting. The project is developing a  number of tools and approaches to Workplace Learning Analytics and one idea was that we should attempt to develop a Code of Practice for Learning Analytics in the workplace, similar to the work by Jisc who have published a Code of Practice for Learning Analytics in UK educational institutions.

As an aside, I particularly liked the section on “confessional’ activity’ and ‘online disinhibition’ based on work by Suler (2004) who identified six factors as prompting people to self-disclose online more frequently or intensely than they would in person:

  • Dissociative anonymity – the fact that ‘when people have the opportunity to separate their actions online from their in-person lifestyle and identity, they feel less vulnerable about self-disclosing and acting out’;

  • Invisibility – overlapping, but extending beyond anonymity, physical invisibility ‘amplifies the disinhibition effect’ as ‘people don’t have to worry about how they look or sound when they type a message’ nor about ‘howothers look or sound in response to what they say’;

  • Asynchronicity – not having to immediately deal with someone else’s reaction to something you’ve said online;

  • Solipsistic introjection – the sense that one’s mind has become merged with the mind of the person with whom one is communicating online, leading to the creation of imagined ‘characters’ for these people and a consequent feeling that online communication is taking place in one’s head, again leading to disinhibition;

  • Dissociative imagination – a consciously or unconscious feeling that the imaginary characters “created” through solipsistic interjection exist in a‘make-believe dimension, separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world’ (Suler, 2004 p.323).

  • The minimization of authority (for people who do actually have some) due to the absence of visual cues such as dress, body language and environmental context, which can lead people to misbehave online.

Suler, J. (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect. In CyberPsychology & Behaviour,
7(3), (pp. 321-326). Available from [Accessed 10 September 2014]

Training Day in Bau-ABC – Part Two: How to work with the Learning Toolbox?

May 15th, 2015 by Pekka Kamarainen

This post continues the reports on the recent highlight event of our EU-funded Learning Layers (LL) project and its construction sector pilot in North Germany – the Training Days of the training centre Bau-ABC (that took place on Monday and Tuesday this week). On Monday the LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu organised three workshop sessions to present the Learning Toolbox (LTB) and to plan further pilot activities with LTB in Bau-ABC. In my previous post I gave an overview on the event as such and on our contributions. In this post I will focus on the issues that were raised and on the results of different sessions and working groups.

1. General issues to be taken into account

Already after the general presentations we were confronted by several issues that we need to consider when preparing the actual pilot activities with LTB to be used with mobile devices:

  • Officially the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the training centres – mainly because the use of them is perceived as distraction. When using their smartphones, the apprentices seem to have their attention elsewhere than in their working and learning tasks. Even if the trainers can see that these devices can be used to support work and learning, there is a need to get others convinced.
  • Use of mobile devices is often a safety risk in traffic and in working life – therefore, many companies have prohibited the use of mobile devices at construction sites (or allowed only the site manager/ supervisor to use one). These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • Video recordings from working and training contexts need to pay attention to specific sensitivity issues – are these recordings documenting good or bad practice, is the behaviour of the people appropriate, are the videos showing something that is confidential … These issues need to be reflected in the code of conduct for users.
  • From the pedagogic point of view use of multimedia and web can support different types of learning behaviour: a) It can lead to ‘light learning’ that uses quick searches and quick documenting solutions that seem to give appropriate answers (without paving the way to adequate understanding of the problems and the solutions). b) Or it can lead to ‘smart learning’ in which digital media and web resources are used as illustrations that give insights into problems, solutions and understanding of appropriate practice.

These introductory discussions brought us (once again) to the picture that the use of mobile devices, digital media and web resources has to be introduced in a work- and context-adjusted way.

2. The first workshop on initial training: picking exemplary themes for particular occupations

In the first workshop session we had groups that represented the following occupations/occupational fields: concrete builders (one group), carpenters and indoor builders (one group), road builders and pipeline builders (one group). Each of these groups had as their starting point a specific project for apprentices in the respective occupation. The trainers were looking for ways to introduce Learning Toolbox into the project work. In this session the groups had somewhat different concerns and interests:

a) The group of concrete builders (Betonbauer) was concerned of the lack of written instructions for older techniques to build frames for concrete constructs. Currently, most of the frames for concrete builders are standardised and often pre-fabricated. Thus, the transfer of craftsmen’s know-how on building special-shaped frames is not supported by up-to-date learning materials. This could be compensated by video recordings that are edited into digital learning materials.

b) The group of carpenters (Zimmerer) listed several points in which the use of digital media and access to web were found useful, starting form general health and safety instructions, access to drawings, QR codes referring to appropriate tools, Barcode scanner that refers to materials, tools for documentation of learning achievements.

c) The group of road builders and pipeline builders (Strassenbauer, Rohrleitungsbauer) discussed the possibilities to link drawings, photos and DIN norms to each other, creative ways to introduce technical terminology, creative ways to control learning gains and smart ways to use videos for presenting essential ‘tricks of the trade’.

As a common point of interest the groups of the first workshop session drew attention to differentiated communication channels (messages to all vs. bilateral communication between apprentice and trainer), collecting examples of good practice to be presented to all and on differentiated ways to document learning progress at different stages of apprentice training.

3. The second workshop on initial training: developing core themes for groups of occupations

In the second workshop session the parallel groups consisted of mutually linked occupations or occupational fields and the participants had selected integrative ‘core projects’ in which they explored the use of digital media and web resources:

d) The group of well-builders and tunnel-builders (Brunnenbauer, Spezialtiefbauer) had chosen a project task on disassembling, maintenance & testing and assembling of pumps used in their trades. Here the discussion focused on the uses of digital media to visualize the processes, to draw attention to key concepts and to safety precautions. Here, a critical issue was, how to guide the work with video recording so that the documents are appropriate for the project and for the apprentices’ learning processes.

e) The group representing occupations in metal and machine techniques (Metall- und Maschinentechnik, Baugerätetechnik) had also selected a project that drew attention to the core knowledge of all these occupations – producing a threaded plate according to technical drawing (Herstellen einer Gewindeplatte gemäß Zeichnung). The group discussed different phases of the project and then drew attention to points of intervention with digital media and web tools (e.g. digital access to references, producing user-generated learning contents with apprentices, using QR-codes to demonstrate health and safety risks and using digital tools and apps to simulate use of real tools plus to discuss quality criteria and tolerances).

f) The group of road-builders, bricklayers and plasterers (Strassenbauer, Maurer, Fliesenleger) had also selected an integrative project – building a parking place for vehicles transporting disabled people (Behindertenparkplatz). Here the discussion focused on the special challenges of such task (e.g. search for information on the requirements, making the scattered information accessible for the groups of construction workers, using special techniques for constructing adequate slopes and surfaces, documentation of the work and simulation of the final inspection and acceptance of the work by public authorities).

Here, the groups focused on integrating the use of digital media and web resources into the logic of the selected projects.

4. The workshop on continuing training: identifying uses for LTB and other tools/apps promoted by LL project

The final workshop focused on the usability of the Learning Toolbox and other LL tools in the continuing training schemes. Here, the basic problem was that we could not rely on similar projects as in the initial training. Secondly, we were still demonstrating tools that were not yet finalised. And thirdly, most of the participants were only getting familiarised with the LL project on the whole. Finally, we were discussing issues that can partly be implemented as spin-offs and by-effects of the LL project work in the initial training, but partly require major spin-out activities.  Yet, given these limitations the participants could make several points for further discussion alongside the pilot activities in apprentice training.

5. Next steps to be taken

I think this is as much as I can say about the workshops and on the way the prepared us for working with the Learning Toolbox. We saw (once again) that the trainers are willing to start working with it. We also noticed, that we (the accompanying LL teams of ITB and Pontydysgu) need to join them when the domain-specific piloting with LTB applications will start. There are several technical, practical and pedagogic issues coming up in that phase. So, we are looking forward to a new collaborative phase in the fieldwork with Bau-ABC trainers.

More blogs to come …

Rethinking blogging

November 12th, 2014 by Graham Attwell


I used to post on this blog almost every day. Lately I haven’t been posting much. I am not worrying too much about it, but have been thinking about why.

I think it is largely to do with changes in my work. In the past, I was primarily a researcher, working on all manner of reports and projects, mostly in the field of elearning and knowledge development. My primary mode of work was desk research: in other words I read a lot. I can remember twenty years ago when I first moved to Bremen in Germany I used to travel about once every four months to the University of Surrey at Guildford (which was the easiest UK university to get to from Gatwick airport). I would spend thirty pounds on a photocopying card, spend an entire day in the university archives and travel back with photocopies of 60 or 70 research papers. I kept these for years before I realised I never looked at them. By 2000 of course, access to research was moving to the web. One of the big changes this heralded was the arrival of grey literature. Interestingly this term which was much used at the time, seems to have gone out of fashion, as it has slowly become accepted that web based materials of all kinds have at least some validity in the research process. So called grey literature gave access to a wider range of thinking and ideas than could be gained from official journal papers alone, although the debate over how to measure quality is far from resolved.

And to bring this up to date, the emergence of Open Educational Resources, Open Journals and specialist networks like the excellent ResearchGate, have increased the discoverability of research ideas and findings.

I used to enjoy the research work. And it was easy to blog. There would always be something in a paper, on a web site, in a network to comment on. I wrote a lot about Personal Learning Networks, a popular subject at the time, and through speaking at conferences and seminars got new ideas for more blog posts. But there were some frustrations to this work. Although we talked a lot about PLEs and the like, it was hard to see much evidence in practice. Our ideas were often just that: ideas which had at best limited evaluation and implementation in the field. Most frustratingly, few of the projects were

A tale of two conferences

September 19th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

In the first week of September, I attended two conferences – the Association for Learning Technology Conference (ALT-C) at Warwick University in the UK and the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) hosted by Porto University in Portugal.

I guess there were some 500 people at ALT-C. Most seemed to be juggling two devices online at most times. And there were literally thousands of tweets using the Alt-C hashtag. the ECER conference was mush bigger with over 2600 registered delegates. I didn’t see too many onine. And there were very few tweets using the ECER hashtag. It was suggested to me this was because a singly hashtag is too broad to encompass the woide range of topics covered in ECER’s different networks. But I don;t think that was the reason. Although for those of us working with technology, online immersion has become a way of life, the culture of educational researchers has not yet embraced such an idea. Of course most – if not all 0 educational researchers are computer literate and of course teh internet is a key tool for accessing documents and for communication. But for most that is it.

A personal reality check

The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

May 8th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Its several years since I have been to the AltC conference in the UK. And I have missed the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues workings in Technology Enhanced Learning in the UK. One reason I have not been going to the conference is it usually takes place in September, the high season of conferences, and there always seem to be clashes with something else. The main reason is simple though – the cost. With a conference fee of something over £500 excluding accommodation and travel, without a sponsor it is pretty hard to justify so much expenditure. The saddest thing about that cost is I suspect it excludes many young and emerging researchers, unable to meet the fee from their own pocket and with institutions increasingly limiting conference expenditure. My daughter tells me that, albeit in a different field, her university provides her conferences fees of just £500 a year!

Anyway, this year I am lucky enough to have a project to pay and have submitted, together with my colleagues working on the project the following abstract. You can find out more about the LMIforAll project at

The challenges of open data: emerging technology to support learner journeys

Authors: Attwell, G., Barnes, S-A., Bimrose, J., Elferink, R., Rustemeier, P. & Wilson, R.


People make important decisions about their participation in the labour market every year. This extends from pupils in schools, to students in Further and Higher education institutions and individuals at every stage of their career and learning journeys. Whether these individuals are in transition from education and/or training, in employment and wishing to up-skill, re-skill or change their career, or whether they are outside the labour market wishing to re-enter, high quality and impartial labour market information (LMI) is crucial to effective career decision-making. LMI is at the heart of UK Government reforms of careers service provision.

Linking and opening up careers focussed LMI to optimise access to, and use of, core national data sources is one approach to improving that provision as well as supporting the Open Data policy agenda (see HM Government, 2012). Careers focussed LMI can be used to support people make better decisions about learning and work and improve the efficiency of labour markets by helping match supply with demand, and helping institutions in planning future course provision. A major project, funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, is underway led by a team of data experts at the Institute for Employment Research (University of Warwick) with developers and technologists from Pontydysgu and Raycom designing, developing and delivering a careers LMI webportal, known as LMI for All.

The presentation will focus on the challenge of collaborating and collecting evidence at scale between institutions and the social and technological design and development of the database. The database is accessed through an open API, which will be explored during the presentation. Through open competition developers, including students in FE, have been encouraged to develop their own applications based on the data. Early adopters and developers have developed targeted applications and websites that present LMI in a more engaging way, which are targeted at specific audiences with contrasting needs. The web portal is innovative, as it seeks to link and open up careers focused LMI with the intention of optimising access to, and use of, core national data sources that can be used to support individuals make better decisions about learning and work. It has already won an award from the Open Data Institute. The presentation will highlight some of the big data and technological challenges the project has addressed. It will also look at how to organise collaboration between institutions and organisations in sharing data to provide new services in education and training. Targeted participants include developers and stakeholders from a range of educational and learning settings. The session will be interactive with participants able to test out the API, provide feedback and view applications.


HM Government (2012). Open Data White Paper: Unleashing the Potential. Norwich: TSO.

Storytelling with cartoons

February 13th, 2014 by Angela Rees

Always on the lookout for practical ways to use technology in the classroom, Pontydysgu were scoping out new ideas at Bett 2014.

We liked the new Lego storytelling kit. One set gives you a tray of Lego bits, there are minifigs, cats, frogs, brooms, Christmas trees and more.  You also get a book of lesson plans and ides and the accompanying software. There’s also a spinner to help choose a genre or character for storytelling inspiration.  The idea is that children work in groups to tell a story, each group has a kit with enough lego bits to recreate the same scene 5 times only each one is slightly different as their stories progress.  They then take photos of their scenes and upload them to a computer where they can drag and drop the photos into a comic strip style template, add backgrounds and captions and print their story.

The software is nice and simple to use, the lego kit has been carefully selected for optimum storyline coverage and it has the lego brand – guaranteed to spark some interest in even the most reluctant of storytellers.

Now, here at Pontydysgu we like a good idea, but what we like even more is a free idea.  So in the tradition of those catwalk-fashion at highstreet-prices magazine articles I bring you “BETT on a budget”


To create your own comic strip you will need;

A collection of small-world-play or dolls house characters and accessories.

A camera/ webcam/ cameraphone with the ability to transfer your photos to a computer.

Internet access.

An app or web based tool for comic strip creation using photographs.

Here are some I’ve been trying out this week;

Web based

Toondoo – Free- You need to create account but it is easy to do. Upload photos, edit, cut shapes out and save, then go to  cartoon creator, choose comic strip layout and you can put your own images into a cartoon, choose layout template, drag and drop backgrounds and cliparts, callouts and thought bubbles to create a story.


Lego Storystarter software – for creating comics, and other styles Newspaper, old manuscript £107.99 inc VAT (the whole kit based on a class of 30 is £779.99 in VAT)

Comic Life – Cost £11.99 for a single user license or £1,049 for a site license.

Apps for iOS/Android

Comic touch – Free – From the creators of comic life this App cartoonises one photo at a time with no comic strip mode so you would have to print them and reassemble into a comic strip or download the pictures after editing and then use a different tool to put your story together.



Protected: test del me

August 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

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    News Bites

    Peer Review

    According to the Guardian, research conducted with more than 6,300 authors of journal articles, peer reviewers and journal editors revealed that over two-thirds of researchers who have never peer reviewed a paper would like to. Of that group (drawn from the full range of subject areas) more than 60% said they would like the option to attend a workshop or formal training on peer reviewing. At the same time, over two-thirds of journal editors told the researchers that it is difficult to find reviewers

    Teachers and overtime

    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.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”

    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.

    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at

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