Archive for the ‘web 2.0’ Category

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

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

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

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

 

Scaffolding learning with and about technology

September 24th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last week we were in Cadiz at the European Conference on Educational Research. Amongst other things, we produced three live half hour radio programmes and I will upload the podcast copies in the next two days.

Today we had an online meeting of the UK Nominet Trust funded RadioActive project. This is a great new project, using Internet radio to work with young people in Hackney in London. the idea is for them to produce their own programmes, about whatever topics interest them. And in the course of the project we hope they will learn a series of different skills and competences, including interviewing, multimedia, producing and editing music etc.

The grant included funding for equipment, which we bought at the start of the work. Of course, we wanted to make sure we had all the equipment we might need in the course of the two year project (we will post this up soon in case anyone is interested). We adopted a cascade model for training, with Pontydysgu running a two day workshop for youth workers who would be working with the young people. Of course we wanted to show the best that could be done wit such equipment, using wireless microphones, a portable mixing deck and an Apple computer to broadcast a half hour radi0 programme. Although I was not there, by all accounts the workshop was a great success.

The idea was the youth workers would follow up by running their own workshops with young people. But as sometimes happens, contracting issues crept in to delay the live launch. And by the time we were ready for working directly with young people, the youth workers were not confident about using our advanced ‘outside broadcast’ radio set up.

Although we had taken a lot of trouble to design the workshop to scaffold the learning process around skills and competences such as interviewing and designing and producing media, in the course of today’s meeting it became apparent that we had failed to scaffold the learning around the technology.

This afternoon I did a one hour on line training session (using Skype) for one of the project staff. Instead of setting up the mixing deck and wireless microphones, we started simple, using just a USB microphone plugged directly into a computer and focusing on a number of simple first steps:

We did 3 things:

  1. We used GarageBand to record and edit a short voice input (if there had been more people this could have been an interview)
  2. We made a simple jingle mixing a GarageBand loop with a voice over
  3. We downloaded a Creative Commons licensed track from jamendo.com and edited it in Garageband to make our intro music for a programme.

We exported all of these to iTunes and then dragged them onto Soundboard. Sadly we did not have the server settings for Nicecast but if we did we could have then instantly broadcast a programme.

Now I am thinking how we can build a series of activities which both scaffold the content of what we are doing but also scaffold the technology which we use.

Of course I should have done this when we started, but I think it is indicative of a wider problem. We have been working in several projects using Web2.0 technology and social software with teachers and trainers. I think we can get over excited about the possibilities such applications offer. Then instead of focusing on the subject or topic of the learning, learning about the technology overwhelms everything else. I had a conversation with Jenny Hughes some time ago about this and she suggested (if I remember correctly) that we have a develop a dual system of scaffolding – one for the subject and a second for the technology. Of course these two scaffolds will overlap at some point.

I have seen a number of attempts to develop schema or even applications which suggest the best software or apps for any particular learning task but am unconvinced they work or even that this approach is possible. In most cases there will be many different technologies which could be used. I am far more impressed by the format and structure adapted by the Taccle2 project, in which Pontydysgu are a partner. This project focuses directly on teaching and learning and the technology is an enabling factor, rather than the ’50 great apps for learning’ approach so prevalent today.

i will write more on this but would be interested in any feedback / ideas.

 

 

Learning Analytics

September 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Hi Graham, writes Tess Pajaron from the Australian Open Colleges, “My name is Tess and I am an avid reader of your blog. I read an article you did about online learning and Technology Integration in the Classroom and I thought that you can make use of this infographic that we just developed.  You can check it out here: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/learning-analytics-infographic/.

Please do let me know what you think. And if you can feature it on your blog, I’d be really thrilled! :D”

Its a good infographic and I am happy to feature it. Personally I am somewhat sceptical about learning analytics, but others in Pontydsygu are keener and we certainly want to find out more. And we are always happy to feature reader submitted content (as long as you are not a bot!).

Wales to encourage schools to make full use of social networking technologies

August 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell
Leighton Andrews, Wales Assembly Government Minister for Education and Skills, has announced an ambitious agenda in response to an independent review of digital classroom teaching. Of particular note is the commitment to “a new approach to the use of social networking technologies in education” through “encouraging schools to make full use of social technologies in order to engage learners and improve learning outcomes.”
Andrews says:

In previous years, local authorities have been asked to block access to social networking sites in schools, libraries and youth clubs, as a result of very understandable concerns about online predators, cyberbullying and the risk of disruption to classroom activities. However, this policy can have adverse effects. It deprives schools of access to tools and resources which might otherwise be used creatively and constructively in education both within and beyond the classroom. More importantly, it means that children are most likely to be using these sites outside the school, at home, or on mobile devices, in environments which may be unsupervised and where they have less access to informed guidance and support on how to stay safe online.
In 2008, Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce the teaching of safe and responsible use of the Internet into both the primary and secondary school curriculum. The underpinning approach was that we first teach children to use the Internet safely under supervision, and then help them to develop the skills and understanding they need to manage their own risk as they use the Internet independently. Enabling access to social networking sites in schools will be consistent with this approach, providing pupils with the opportunity to learn safe, responsible and considerate online behaviours in the context of supported educational activities. It will also help schools to include parents in these activities.”

We have long argued that blocking of social networking (and other web sites) in schools was a backward and futile step. Lets hope that other countries follow the lead of Wales.

Great Design

June 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Design matters! And one of the problems with educational technology is that developers ignore design. Interfaces are unimportant, they say. It can be sorted after we get the coding debugged. they do not generally understand when users complain that the Alpha is hard to navigate and is not attractive.

I know because I have been there.  We try our best but none of us in Pontydysgu are specialist graphic designers. One of the problems is that project funding rarely (if ever) includes a budget for graphic design. Life is getting easier because of the more advanced templates for platforms like WordPress but even these need customisation. And lets face it, 90 per cent of Moodle sites look soooo boring.

So it is refreshing when a well designed educational technology web site comes out. So congratulations to Jisc TechDis who have just released a new Toolbox.

The technology section of the site explains:

The word technology is a simple way of describing tools to help us do things. These tools can be computers or tablets, but could just as easily be a mobile phone or even an ebook reader.

All types of technology can be changed and adapted to make them just right for you. This could be changing the size of the font on a screen or having the text read out loud. You may prefer to plan your work using mind mapping software or to record your thoughts as a video. Whatever you choose you can set it up in the way which is the best for you.

This section contains a large number of ideas to help you adapt the technology you use everyday. It covers both Windows and Mac computers as well as using mobile devices and tablets.

And it looks fantastic.

Social Learning Glue

June 7th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There is nothing revolutionary in this presentation by Matthew Leingang. But it shows how easy it is to glue together Backboard, Facebook and Twitter as a social learning platform. And I like the way the slides tell their own story and form an picture book instruction manual.

Happy birthday icould

November 7th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

What a difference the Creative Commons License makes.

According to the icould web site:  “icould gives you the inside story of how careers work. The icould storytellers relate, in their own words, their real life career journeys. There are over a thousand easy to search,varied and unique career videos as well as hundreds of written articles. From telecoms engineers to police officers, from landscape gardeners to web designers, from engine drivers to zookeepers; they talk about what they do, what it’s like, how they came to be where are and their hopes for the future.”

The service has just celebrated its second birthday. A email from Director, Dave Arnold says:

Happy birthday to icould! We launched icould two years ago this week and although we are still in our infancy, we are growing well and becoming better known. We’ve doubled the visitor numbers to icould.com in the past year and also now have icould content streamed on key sites such as Guardian Careers, Career Wales, Skills Development Scotland, TES and the Frog schools learning platform, extending icould’s reach to millions of young people across the UK.

We’ve continued to add to our career videos and written content, with recent additions featuring advice on student finances and more practical tips for getting a first job. We’ve also created a new ‘Focus On’ area, designed to demystify certain sectors and types of work, exploring all the jobs and career possibilities within that theme.  These Focus On areas consist of around eight to ten new video stories, new written content, competitions and specific guidance on training opportunities and company information.

Focus On Music was the first new area on icould.com sponsored by BlackBerry.  Launched over the Summer, it looks at careers of people behind the stars in the music industry. Focus On Music profiles the unseen heroes behind a music star, for example Jesse J’s choreographer and music video director and Tinnie Tempah’s publicist and photographer. We wanted to show that you don’t have to be behind the microphone to have a successful career in the music industry and hopefully we give young people an insight into the breadth of careers within the industry. This area was launched in July and has attracted considerable media attention as well as several successful partnerships, one with the iconic NME which has resulted in an icould user being offered a work taster experience with the Editor. We have also created some new free teaching resources to complement this new initiative.

……..

We’ve recently launched the next area, a Focus On Finance sponsored by Standard Life, which looks at the range of careers and skills needed in the Financial sector, proving that you don’t have to be an expert with numbers to work in finance!  We have a number of other areas in the pipeline, including a Focus on Media, which will launch in the New Year.

We continue to listen and respond to your feedback and are currently undertaking further research on the usage of icould.com to inform future developments.  We really appreciate your input, so please keep your comments and suggestions coming in.”

Obviously icould is on a roll. But lets use the Wayback machine to take us back to spring, 2009. I don’ t know, but I suspect that at that time iCould was struggling to make much impact. And here is one of the major reasons why. The Terms and Conditions of use at that time stated:

“Use of the icould website

Unless otherwise stated, icould owns the intellectual property rights in the website and material on the website. All these intellectual property rights are reserved.

Unless otherwise stated, you are entitled to use the icould website for personal use in any way, providing you do not reproduce any of the information as your own and/or seek to profit from it. Personal use constitutes viewing the icould website online and printing pages and/or documents for review offline.

If you wish to reproduce any materials accessible on the icould website including information, graphics, images and other design elements in printed or electronic form, you must obtain written permission first. Please use the contact details at the bottom of this page if you need to obtain permission.

Linking to the icould website is permitted, although displaying our pages within a frame of another website is not as this constitutes reproducing our content as your own.”

Now let’s forward to the present day. Under Terms and Conditions we find the following statement:

“…..we give permission to use the contents of the Site on a creative commons licence which can be found at:

Attribution-Non-commercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

This licence gives you permission to broadcast icould.com pages over the school network or use them on a whiteboard in a classroom.  You can circulate articles, use the worksheets and so on. This applies in any education or training context.

In simple terms:

  • You can copy, distribute, transmit the work and display the material with the exclusion of full length versions[i] of stories.
  • You may create derivative works with the exclusion of full length versions of stories.

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution: You must give icould credit and make clear the resources come from icould.com.
  • Non-commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes or make any charge for the work.
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to the Creative Commons licence.

This means you could, for instance, create electronic worksheets or create electronic careers posters or include them in an e-portfolio or personal learning environment.”

Not only that, but icould provides an API key to make it easy for developers to incorporate icould materials in their own sites.

There is a lesson here for developers and content providers and indeed for many education and learning projects. Few of us have the clout to make it on our own. But through allowing use of our materials and projects we can build impact on a vastly greater scale. And whilst going creative commons closes off some business models it opens up others.

Congratulations to icould for opening up their content. And happy birthday. Lets hope they continue building on the success they are presently enjoying.

Mobility Shifts

October 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I was in New York last Friday presenting at a panels session at the Mobility Shifts Conference on In, Against and beyond the Institution. The panel was chaired by Mike Neary and comprised of myself, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Joss Winn. Somewhat surprisingly to me some 15 people turned up despite it being scheduled at se4ven o’clock on a Friday evening.

Joss presented the  Student as Producer project which re-imagines students role in the design, development, and critique of the curriculum. The process of teaching learning is decoupled from traditional power relationships so students become an integral part of the governance of an institution rather than solely its customer (there is a paper available on this written by Joss together with Mike Neary.

Richard considered how students and teachers might dissolve the symbolic power of the University into the actual, existing reality of protest, in order to engage with a process of transformation (for more see his blog).

Josie talked about the transformative aspects of digital literacy. And I looked at changing pedagogies in work based learning and developmental competence – the capacity of the individual to acquire and demonstrate the capacity to act on a task and the wider work environment in order to adapt, act and shape (design) it.

All good stuff. I found some of the ideas hard – and we certainly did not reach any conclusions. But the very fact that we are having such discussions – and the renewed interest in critical pedagogy – is testimony both of the crisis which pervades our univeristies and the growing opposition and questioning of the purpose and organisation of education including the role of researchers and teachers. To that extent I think the title – In, Against and Beyond – is helpful in linking the attempts to transform practices and roles within universities to growing protest movements outside the institutions – including the many initiatives – particularly in the UK – to explore alternative structures to the established universities.

More on this when I am less tired. in the meantime Doug Belshaw has written a  series of excellent blogs talking about some of the many wide ranging discussions which took place at Mobility Shifts.

Can we trust the Cloud?

October 11th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

More and more of our data is being incorporated within Cloud services. Universities and other educational institutions are increasingly outsourcing services to cloud providers. But can we trust the cloud?

I am not convinced. Pontydysgu uses a number of different could services, most notably Google, Dropbox and Apple and there is no doubt that these services allow us a high degree of organisational flexibility and functionality for work in a distributed community. We do not pay for the Google or Apple services (although it could be argued that Apple services are paid through hardware) although we do pay for extended storage on dropbox.

I actually have (or rather had) four google accounts. My main account was tied to my mac (.me) email address. I additionally have a gmail account which I use as a backup email service. Somewhere down the way I created a Pontydysgu organisation account. And some time in the apst for soem reeason I couldn’t access anything so I set up yet another googlemail account (that was a mistake) …..although I instantly forgot I had got it.

But it was that account which caused me problems. Somehow that appears to havegot corss linked to my .mac account. If someone sent me access to a document on the .mac address google wa sautomatically changing that to my now dormant and throw-away gmail account. My Youtube account was beinga utomattcially linked in against it. And so on.

So idecided to simlify thigs. i would just erase the unwanted and unused account. That was easy. But at the same time it deletedmy main .mac account. How I have no idea. But everything was gone. I tried tehGoogel account recovery process but with little hope. The questions were impossible. I did not know teh eyar I had set up diffferent Google services let alone the month or day. And so it turned out – I had an auto email saying they were nable to restore my account beacuse they could not validate that I was who I said I was ands was tyeh owner fo the account.

OK – I gave in and setup the account again. Forthunately my amails were on anotheraccount. I lostmy feed readerbut it needed pruneing anyway. I lost access to about 200 docuemnts although once more only about eight or ten were in current use and I had backups of teh rest. Oh – and I lost access to 500 or so followers on Google plus.

None of this too much of a tragedy. But it has made me think agin about the cloud. If Google can screw up accounts then so can anyone else. And so whilst Cloud services can be very useful, i think I want to keep backups of my data on my computer for the moment.

What is Evaluation 2.0?

October 4th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Graham Attwell interviews Jenny Hughes about Evaluation 2.0

Just what is Evaluation 2.0?

Evaluation 2.0 is a set of ideas about evaluation that Pontydysgu are developing. At its simplest, it’s about using social software at all stages of the evaluation process in order to make evaluation more open, more transparent and more accessible to a wider range of stakeholders. At a theoretical level, we are trying to push forward and build on Guba and Lincoln’s ideas around 4th generation evaluation which is a constructivist approach incorporating key ideas around negotiation, multiple realities and stakeholder engagement. But this is the first part of the journey – ultimately, I believe that e-technologies are going to revolutionise the way we think about and practice evaluation.

In what way do you think this is going to happen?

Firstly, the use of social media gives stakeholders a real voice – irrespective of where they are located.  Stakeholders can create and publish evaluation content. For example, in the past I might carry out some interviews as part of an evaluation. Sometimes I recorded it, sometimes I just made notes. Then I would try and interpret it and draw some conclusions about what it meant.  Now I set up a web page for each evaluation and I podcast the interviews using audio or video and put them on the site. (Obviously this has to be negotiated with the interviewee but so far, no one has raised any objections.) There is the usual comment box so any stakeholder with access to the site can respond to the interview, add their interpretations, agree or disagree with my conclusions and so on.

Secondly, I think it is challenging our perceptions of who are evaluators.  Everyone is now an evaluator. Think of the software that you use every day for on-line shopping from Amazon or Ebay or any big chain store. If I want to buy a particular product I check out what other people have said about it, how many of them said it and how many stars it has been given. These are called recommender systems and I think they will have a big impact in evaluation. We have moved from the paradigm of the ‘expert’ collecting and analyzing data into a world of crowd sourcing – harnessing the potential of mass data collection and interpretation.

Thirdly, the explosion of Web 2.0 applications has provided us with a whole new range of evaluation tools that open up new methodological possibilities or make the old ones more efficient.  For example, if I am at the stage of formulating and refining the evaluation questions – I put it out as a call on Twitter.  It’s amazing how restricting evaluation questions to 140 characters can sharpen them up!

I did an evaluation of a community capacity building project in an inner city area recently and spent quite a long time before I went to the first meeting walking around the streets, checking out the community facilities, the state of the housing, local amenities and so on, to get a ‘feel’ for the area – except I did it on Google Earth and with street-view on Google maps.  There are about 20 or so other applications I use a lot in evaluation but maybe they will have to wait for another edition!

Fourthly, I think the potential of Web 2.0 changes the way we can visualize and present data.  Why are we still writing long and indigestible text-based evaluation reports? Increasingly clients are preferring short, sharp evaluation ‘articles’ on maybe one outcome of an evaluation which they can find on a ‘newsy’ evaluation webpage – with hyperlinks to more detailed information or raw data or back up evidence if they want to check it out.  We can also create ‘chunks’ of evaluation reporting and repurpose them in different ways for different stakeholders or they can be localized for different cultures – for example, I have started doing executive summaries as downloadable podcasts.  I think evaluation 2.0 is about creating a much wider range of evaluation products.

Following on from that, I think Evaluation 2.0 breaks down the formative-summative divide and notions of ‘the mid-term report’ or ‘the ex-ante report’.  Evaluation 2.0 is continuous, it is dynamic and it is interactive.  For example, I use Googledocs with all my clients – I add them as readers and editors on all the folders that relate to their evaluations. At any time of the day or night they can see work in progress and add their comments. I keep their evaluation website up to date so they get evaluation information as soon as it is available.

So do you think all evaluators will have to move down this road or will there always be a place for evaluators using more established methods?

Personally, I think massive change is inevitable. Apart from anything else, our clients of the future will be the digital natives – they will expect it.

There will always be a role for the evaluator but that role will be transformed and the skills will be different. I think a key job for the specialist evaluator will be designing the algorithms that underpin the evaluation. The evaluator will also need to be the creative director – they will need skills in informatics, in visualizing and presenting information, the creative skills to write blogs and wikis. They will need networking skills to set up and facilitate online communities of practice around different stakeholder groups and the ability to repurpose evaluation objects.

The rules of engagement are also changing – in the past you engaged with a client, now you engage with a community.  We also have to think how stakeholder created content might change our ideas about copyright, confidentiality, ownership, authorship.

So do you think evaluators as we know them will become extinct!!

Well, as Mark Halper said

“Dinosaurs were highly successful and lasted a long time. They never went away. They became smaller, faster, and more agile, and now we call them birds.”

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    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.


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    About 3 hours ago from Graham Attwell's Twitter via Tweetbot for Mac

  • RT @FCChristie Interested in careers research? Then please join us. Excellent programme of speakers and workshops! Speakers including @rhordosy @ScurryTracy @pigironjoe @CiaranBurkeSoc twitter.com/agcas/status/1…

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