Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Academic Archers: abstract for the 2019 conference

May 18th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Archers Logo Wheat Colour Long.jpgFor years, Jenny Hughes and I have been promising ourselves to submit a paper for the Academic Archers Conference. And this year we have finally got our act together. You can read the short abstract below. But first, for non UK readers what is the Archers? According to Wikipedia:

The Archers is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera. The British production, which has aired over 18,600 episodes, is broadcast on Radio 4, the BBC‘s main spoken-word channel. Originally billed as an everyday story of country folk, it is now described as a contemporary drama in a rural setting.

Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4’s most listened-to non-news programme. With over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.

The Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community with The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. The web site (which includes videos from the 2018 conference) explains: “As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field if you will, of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, are values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’.”

And so on to our abstract:

Education and careers in the Archers viewed through the lens of gender and class

The paper will explore attitudes to education and educational participation and achievement in The Archers through the lens of gender and class.

There has never been a teacher in the cast of the Archers. The nearest is Jim, but as a retired Classics professor, he is something of a parody. Does the Archers have a problem with education?

Attitudes to education and to the choice of future career are largely determined by class. There’s the split between the cathedral school and the state school. Shula and Elizabeth’s kids attend the Cathedral school, the Brookfield children the other. Ruari is so precious he is a boarder – too good for the Cathedral school?

Higher education remains a relative rarity in Ambridge. Phoebe, Alice and Pip are the exceptions, although the Fairbrother’s rugby playing background suggests they too may have attended university. Apprenticeships are for the less academically able, such as Johnny.

Parental background largely accounts for choice of career. Few offspring have flown the nest to a completely new occupation. Indeed, it is notable that Ambridge still lacks a single person working in Information Technology.

And what of children with SLD? The only child with Down’s Syndrome was ‘removed’ from Ambridge to the big city to better meet her educational needs despite educational policy promoting integration in local, mainstream schools?

The question is to what extent The Archers reflects changing attitudes to education in rural areas of the UK and continuing divisions through class and gender?

About the authors

Both Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell are lifelong Archers listeners. They work for Pontydysgu, an educational research organisation based in Pontypridd. Their research includes the training of teachers, the use of technology in the classroom and careers education.

Coding for the young (and not so young)

May 16th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It is encouraging to see more courses being developed for young people to learn to code. The latest comes from the Technical University of Graz who are s starting a MOOC about coding with kids (in English) using Pocket Code in June.

The course is designed for children and young people (age group 10-14 years) as well as teachers of all subjects. The main content includes creating your own games, interactive animations and apps with Pocket Code. At first, the structure and functionality of the app get presented. The participants learn how to use basic programming concepts such as conditionals, variables, events or parallelism. It is up to the children whether they take the course on their own or together with their parents.

Free registration is now open.

Coming soon – Pontydysgu.eu

May 15th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

We are well under way redesigning the Pontydysgu website. It is not so easy.

According to the archive the present site was launched in September, 2006. The WordPress site superseded on an older blog, the Wales Wide Web which was based on Plone and was itself three years old. We managed at that time to manually download at least some of the old post and reload them to the new WordPress site. WordPress was very different in 2006. It was still primarily a blogging site and to create a more magazine look, we had to manually code the different pages using post categories. According to the dashboard there are now 2330 posts, 93 pages and goodness knows how many links and images as well as multimedia files hosted on Pontdysgu.org. And Akismet claims it “has protected your site from 1,509,125 spam comments already”!

For the new site, we have chosen to use the WordPress Sense theme, preserving the magazine look. Sense seems more of a framework than a theme, with huge amount of functionality, which we are trying to get our heads around. We have designed on paper a new structure fr the site which will hopefully make it easier to find things. Once we have the menus in place we can begin the process of migrating old content to the site. Although WordPress supports XML export and input that does not really solve the problem. As I said before we used categories or allocating posts to different pages. But was also used categories as well categories. And there are now over 120 of them. There is a plugin to convert categories to tags, which is what the non-navigational categories more properly are. But we still somehow have to try at least semi automatically to get the old content onto the new navigation structures.

We also need to move the attachments and pictures over to the new site. And I guess we should take the opportunity to check for broken links and try to repair the. I am betting there will be a lot by now – many of which will be due to sites no longer existing.

Of course some of our plugins have aged over time. Our podcasts are supported by Podpress which no longer seems to be supported. So all those will need moving to a more modern plugin.

And so it goes on. We don’t have a release date yet, but I would like to get something up and running in the early summer. We will keep you updated with progress and will shout for help if we get stuck!

Proxies, learning, deschooling society and annotation

May 11th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Ivan_Illich_drawingSipping a glass of wine on the terrace last night, I thought about writing an article about proxies. I’ve become a bit obsessed about proxies, ever since looking at the way Learning Analytics seems to so often equate learning with achievement in examinations.

But then by chance this morning I ended up looking at the text of Ivan Illich’s 1969 publication ‘Deschooling Society‘. And I found in the first chapter Illich talks about about how we “confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.

He goes on to say pupils’ “imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.”

This seems an apposite comment on how the use and analysis of big data is being developed in the present period.

I stumbled on the Illich quote from a Twitter link to an exercise on the CLMOOC lets be creative together website. They ask “What would Ivan Illich think about CLMOOC?” and go on to suggest “we find activities like this all the more enjoyable and enriching when a variety of voices join the conversation. So this is an open invitation to the internet to join us as we use Hypothes.is to annotate an online copy of Deschooling Society together.”

I have not seen Hypothes.is before but it looks pretty nifty. I have never understood just why collective annotation has never quite taken off. It seems to me a great format for sharing and developing knowledge together. And I think Illich would have liked it.

Living in an Algorithmic World

May 4th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

This video is from Danah Boyd’s opening keynote for the re:publica 18 conference. Although it is an hour long it is well worth watching. Danah says “Algorithmic technologies that rely on data don’t necessarily support a social world that many of us want to live in. We must grapple with the biases embedded in and manipulation of these systems, particularly when so many parts of society are dependent on sociotechnical systems.” That goes for education just as much as any other part of the social world.

Managing meetings

May 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

There’s been a bit of a debate in social media on how to run successful meetings. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon seems to have kicked it off. According to the Guardian newspaper “Bezos told the audience at the George W Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, he has banned the PowerPoint presentations that dominate most commercial meetings. Instead, some poor devil must spend a week or more preparing “a six-page, narratively structured memo” full of “real sentences” rather than bullet points. Everyone else must then spend the first half-hour of the meeting silently – and publicly – pondering it, before moving on to a debate. Bezos calls this “a kind of study hall””

The Guardian went on to document a number of fairly bizarre ideas for how to make meetings more productive. One thing everyone seems to agree on is we spend too much time in meetings. In my view the real problem is online meetings. Online has simply made meetings too easy. At the same time, it has cut down on the need for so many face to face meetings – although some may not think that is much of an advantage.

I think there are a number of rules – for both face to face and online meetings. None are particularly new or profound. The first is to prepare meetings well. That means providing an agenda in advance – and anything people need to read or know before the meeting. The second and perhaps most important is have an active facilitator who chairs the meeting. The facilitator needs to keep things moving, make sure people stick to agreed timings, try to encourage constructive engagement and make sure everyone has a chance to contribute and to actively summarise discussions.

This is especially so with online meetings which lack the physical cues we rely on in face to face encounters. In face to face meetings we often turn up early (for the coffee) and have a chance to chat with other participants. That social action is critical but is hard (but not impossible) to reproduce on line. Closure is a particularly tricky issue online, with discussions having a horrible tendency to meander around in circles.

Finally – and this is what I am not so good at – make sure someone is keeping good notes of the meeting and try to get the conclusions out before everyone forgets what the discussion was about.

One of the problems is that there is little if any recognition of how important the facilitator is and subsequently few opportunities for training. There is often training in how to use a piece of technology, a community platform, a learning platform or an online meeting application. There is seldom training in how to facilitate its effective use in practice.

The Guardian reports Professor André Spicer from Cass Business School at City, University of London as saying: “The death of the long lunch is a tragedy for businesses.” “Many organisations had lunch together in cafeterias where everyone stopped and ate together and talked.” We lack long lunches together on line and for that matter coffee breaks. We need to find new ways of encouraging the social interactions which are so important for sharing knowledge and developing networks.

Peer Production

May 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I don’t normally publish new journal releases – there are simply to many. But I very much like the approach of the  special issue of the Journal of Peer Production on CITY.

According to their email, it showcases a wide variety of case studies in cities from different geographies of the Global North and Global South namely Barcelona, Berlin, Brisbane, Brussels, Ciudad Juárez, Dhaka, Genoa, London, Melbourne, Milan, New York, Paris, Rosario.Some of those case studies focus more on peer production technologies and others more on the social and political processes on the ground, all with different research methodologies and approaches. They invite us to reflect  on various forms of peer production of knowledge and representation of the city as a commons, where technology should be considered as both a tool (infrastructure) and a contested space. They look at challenges of governance focusing on citizen-driven models of peer production in the city where local governments are called to be in dialogue and build synergies with different stakeholder communities. They use participatory and collaborative methods to collect their data following co-creative research approaches. They are transdisciplinary as much as interdisciplinary in both the methodological and theoretical approaches taken by contributors who merge together urban studies, architecture, informatics, political and social sciences, and ethnography to name a few. The authors collaborated directly – as activists or through their research with other activists, communities and/or stakeholders- giving voice to all those involved in the making and sharing of those projects

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Demonstrating the Value of Community Development Approaches

May 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

This is a video of a conference I spoke at in Dublin in April organised by the Clondalkin Community Alcohol and Drugs Task Force. The conference followed the publication of a research report which said said power has been removed from affected areas and centralised at government level, where the system is “utterly disconnected” from the needs of people and communities. The research team was led by Aileen O’Gorman, a senior lecturer in Alcohol and Drug Studies at the University of West Scotland, and formerly of UCD.

The report said austerity “exacerbated” the problem by cutting funding to education, health, housing and welfare supports, local drug task- forces as well as community and voluntary groups.

A article about the report in the Irish Examiner newspaper said:

The study, commissioned by the Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force, said that drug-related ‘harms’ consistently cluster in communities marked by poverty and social inequality.

“The origins of poverty and inequality do not arise from the actions of people or communities, they derive from the politics, policies and structural violence of the state,” said the report.

It said drug policy in Ireland has become focused on addressing “individual drug using behaviour” and drug-related crime rather than the underlying issues of poverty and inequality and even less attention is paid to the outcomes of policy.

“The austerity policies introduced in the wake of the great recession have exacerbated the existing structural deficiencies in our society by cutting funding to education, health, housing, and welfare supports and to the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces and community, voluntary and statutory services that support vulnerable groups,” the study said.

It said that policies have resulted in a “drawing back of power from communities” and a recentralisation of power within government administration.

The conference focused on Reclaiming Community Development as an Effective Response to Drug Harms, Policy Harms, Poverty and Inequality and my presentation was entitled ‘Measuring Outcomes and Demonstrating
the Value of Community Development Approaches’.

Trust and Recommender Systems

April 25th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

One of my favourite social network applications (if it can be called that) is Paper.li. Paper.li is not really a social network but an aggregater,  running across your twitter contacts and serving up a daily newspaper type summary. How the algorithm works is not transparent. But given I have no time to read every Tweet I receive it fulfils a purpose – at least for me.

Two stories in my feed –  rather feebly entitled the Graham Attwell Daily – struck my attention today. One is a link to a longish report by the Pew Internet Center on ‘The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade‘. I am saving that one to read and comment on tomorrow.

The second was a link to an article on Search Engine Land about a report yesterday in The Washington Post that “found that the buying of fake reviews by merchants hoping to boost sales of their products is a widespread problem on Amazon. According to the report:

[F]or some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews . . .

Many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook, where sellers seek shoppers on dozens of networks, including Amazon Review Club and Amazon Reviewers Group, to give glowing feedback in exchange for money or other compensation. The practice artificially inflates the ranking of thousands of products, experts say, misleading consumers.

The Post says “many of these fraudulent reviews originate on Facebook.” Accordingly, fake review solicitation becomes another variation on the “fake news” problem for the company.”

I use reviews a lot for booking hotels and finding restaurants. And I find my trust in these reviews is sinking fast. I am not sure how much it is due to people deliberately gaming the system. I think a lot of it may be due to the very different desires and perceptions of people when they go out for a meal. Different people look fro different things from a meal out, like different food and different environments. My very unscientific research shows quite pronounced differences in restaurant reviews on Trip  Adviser between people from different countries, and from tourists and local residents. I have resorted to the old way of finding somewhere to eat – to walk around, to look in the window and look in the window. And I am much more likely to trust recommendations from friends than from Trip Adviser, Yelp, Google or teh like.

I am  not sure what if any implications for the Fate of Online Trust in the next decade. But it probably means something.

Peer production and open peer review

April 13th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I get a lot of notifications about various journal publications. Most are not particularly interesting and in reality, are what might be called academic spam. But I was interested recently to get an email telling me of the publication of a a new edition of the Journal of Peer Production. The Journal says their focus is on

peer production as a mode of commons-based and oriented production in which participation is voluntary and predicated on the self-selection of tasks. Notable examples are the collaborative development of Free Software projects and of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

Through the analysis of the forms, operations, and contradictions of peer producing communities in contemporary capitalist society, the journal aims to open up new perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change.

The latest addition of the journal showcases a wide variety of case studies in cities from different geographies of the Global North and Global South namely Barcelona, Berlin, Brisbane, Brussels, Ciudad Juárez, Dhaka, Genoa, London, Melbourne, Milan, New York, Paris, Rosario.

But what particularly interested me was the jounal’s review procedure:

There are eight case study research papers which have been peer-reviewed and revised through the particularly transparent review process of JoPP (i.e. for each of the peer-reviewed papers the originally submitted version, the reviews and the final feedback of reviewers on the revised version are made public) and four experimental contributions that have been reviewed by the special issue editors. The experimental pieces follow a less rigorous and more playful format, an interview with commentary, a dialogue, a call for participation, and an open-ended online article. They all invite us, the readers, to follow up their stories in dedicated online venues, or even in face-to-face meetings, and participate in the form of peer production that they advocate for.

I am not sure about the “less rigorous and more playful” format (and am not sure that this is a necessary trade off). But for some time now, I have been arguing in favour of a more open (and transparent) review procedure. Personally, I would welcome the opportunity for more dialogue around reviews I have written. I think this could be implemented without abandoning the process of blind reviews. And making reviews open would also provide valuable learning materials for reviewers. Sometimes I really doubt my own judgement when undertaking reviews. Just seeing the reviews in the Journal of Peer Production have made me more confident about the quality of feedback I provide for authors.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


    Robots to help learning

    The TES reports on a project that uses robots to help children in hospital take part in lessons and return to school has received funding from the UK Department for Education.

    TES says “The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

    Under the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will be placed in schools and AP providers around the country to allow virtual lessons.

    The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

    Controlling the robot remotely via an iPad, the child can see and hear their teacher and classmates, rotating the robot’s head to get a 360-degree view of the class.

    It is hoped the scheme will help children in hospital to feel less isolated and return to school more smoothly.”


    Gutenburg

    According to developer Gary Pendergast, WordPress 5, Gutenberg, is nearing release.

    Pendergast says: “As the WordPress community, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future of web development. By drawing on the past experiences of WordPress, the boundless variety and creativity found in the WordPress ecosystem, and modern practices that we can adopt from many different places in the wider software world, we can create a future defined by its simplicity, its user friendliness, and its diversity.”


    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


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    RT @benwerd Why did Lenin only drink chamomile tea? Because all proper tea is theft. #NationalTellAJokeDay #theonlyjokeiknow #igrewupinengland

    About 14 hours ago from Graham Attwell's Twitter via Tweetbot for Mac

  • RT @socialtheoryapp 'Emancipatory movements must have a populist dimension'. (Also one the role of 99% feminism) by Nancy Fraser politicalcritique.org/opinion…' title='http://politicalcritique.org/opinion/2017/emancipatory-movements-must-have-a-populist-dimension-an-interview-with-nancy-fraser/' class='rtw_url_link'>politicalcritique.org/opinion… politicalcritique.org/opinion…' title='http://politicalcritique.org/opinion/2017/emancipatory-movements-must-have-a-populist-dimension-an-interview-with-nancy-fraser/' class='rtw_url_link'>politicalcritique.org/opinion…

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