Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Free and open access

January 29th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Wow – this is brilliant.

From a press release from JISC:

Worldwide call for free and open access to European research results

Over 10,000 individuals sign petition to European Commission to guarantee public access to publicly funded research

January 29th 2007. Nobel laureates Harold Varmus and Rich Roberts are among the more than ten thousand concerned researchers, senior academics, lecturers, librarians, and citizens from across Europe and around the world who are signing an internet petition calling on the European Commission to adopt polices to guarantee free public access to research results and maximise the worldwide visibility of European research.

Organisations too are lending their support, with the most senior representatives from over 500 education, research and cultural organisations in the world adding their weight to the petition, including CERN, the UK’s Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Italian Rector’s Conference, the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts & Sciences (KNAW) and the Swiss Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences (SAGW), alongside the petition’s sponsors, SPARC Europe, JISC, the SURF Foundation, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Danish Electronic Research Library (DEFF).

The petition calls on the EC to formally endorse the recommendations outlined in the EC-commissioned Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets of Europe.  Published in early 2006, the study made a number of important recommendations to help ensure the widest possible readership for scholarly articles.  In particular, the first recommendation called for ‘Guaranteed public access to publicly-funded research results shortly after publication’.

The EC will host a meeting in Brussels in February to discuss its position regarding widening access and the petition is intended to convey the overwhelming level of public support for the recommendations of the EC study.Â

JISC Executive Secretary Dr Malcolm Read, said: ‘Maximising public investment in European research and making more widely available its outputs are key priorities for the European Union as it seeks to enhance the global standing of European research and compete in a global market. JISC is proud to be sponsoring a petition which seeks these vital goals and which has already attracted such widespread support.’Â

One of the petition’s signatories, Richard J Roberts, Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine in 1993, said: “Open access to the published scientific literature is one of the most desirable goals of our current scientific enterprise. Since most science is supported by taxpayers it is unreasonable that they should not have immediate and free access to the results of that research. Furthermore, for the research community the literature is our lifeblood. By impeding access through subscriptions and then fragmenting the literature among many different publishers, with no central source, we have allowed the commercial sector to impede progress. It is high time that we rethought the model and made sure that everyone had equal and unimpeded access to the whole literature. How can we do cutting edge research if we don’t know where the cutting edge is?”

The petition is available at:

Ask me a question!

January 29th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Got a very nice email this morning from Elina Jokisalo from the elearningeuropa eLearning Papers editorial team.

“Dear Mr. Attwell”. she says.


“I want to thank you once again for your article that you wrote for eLearning Papers. In fact, also the readers are appreciating it since your paper is the most read and most downloaded among the ones in the latest number! Related to this, I was wondering if you were interested to do a User Generated Interview with us on the portal elearningeuropa.


Let me explain briefly User Generated Interview (UGI): you would be our selected interviewee and readers could post their questions. When the time for sending questions is ended we would gather the questions and send them to you. You would then have 3-4 weeks time to answer the questions. After that your answers will be published in a form of an interview. ….

So basically your involvement would require answering the questions that the readers make…..


Since the article is so popular I thought that readers might want to “interview” and set some questions to you as well about personal learning environments. Please let me know how you would feel about this. Many thanks for your time!.”

Of course I am delighted to answer any questions. If you want to ask a question go the the participation area on the elearningeuropa site (NB. to see the question form you have to be logged in).

2007 – the year of the on-line conference?

January 26th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Everyone’s at it – predicting the trends for 2007 and dissing everyone else’s predictions. I’m not going to predict much – I always get it wrong anyway. But I will predict one thing – this will be the year the on/line conference really comes into its won as a serious alternative to face to face conferences. Much to be applauded – it is environmentally sensible and allows discussions with peers from all over the world.

The only downside to me is that the on-line conferences are more demanding in terms of concentration and commitment. But that may be no bad thing.

Anyway I’ signed up for the following (free) conference – posting it here in case any of you lot out there might be interested.

Connectivism Online Conference

The evolution of teaching and learning is accelerated with technology. After several decades of duplicating classroom functionality with technology, new opportunities now exist to alter the spaces and structures of knowledge to align with both needs of learners today, and affordances of new tools and processes.

Yet our understanding of the impact on teaching and learning trails behind rapidly forming trends. What are critical trends? How does technology influence learning? Is learning fundamentally different today than when most prominent views of learning were first formulated (under the broad umbrellas of cognitivism, behaviourism, and constructivism)? Have the last 15 years of web, technology, and social trends altered the act of learning? How is knowledge itself, in a digital era, related to learning?

Connectivism Online Conference is an open online forum exploring how learning has been impacted by ongoing changes. The conference will run from February 2 – 9, 2007.

Key themes will include: trends in K-12 sector, trends in higher education, research and net pedagogy, technological and societal trends, and connective knowledge and connectivism.

Confirmed presenters include:

You can find out more and register at the conference web site.

Competence, taxonomies and learning technologies

January 24th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

The educational techies are getting interested in competence. Why? I’m not sure – I suspect it might be a funding thing.

But last week I was at an EU IST programme funded Ten Competence project meeting in Manchester. It was a pretty good conference with some thought provoking contributions. But i was fairly horrified at the lack of understanding of what competence was. It ranged from “well we aren’t really interested but we had to say we were to get the money’ to the ‘we found this thing called Blooms taxonomy – thats what all educationalists use’.

Now i am not particularly worried that people have different conceptions of competence (more on that in a moment). But i am seriously concerned if educational technologists and particularly systems designers think competence can easily be reduced to a simple hierarchically defined taxonomy. It reminds me of all those developers who claimed that their applications were pedagogically neutral.

One of the problems is that many of the education technology developers, in Europe at least, come from Higher Education. One of them actually said in manchester that the idea of competence in new in education. Well, new it might be for universities. But in vocational education and training we have been working with concepts about competence for many years,

Anyway, I am in Luxembourg at the moment for a review meeting of the IST programme iCamp project (I.m one of the reviewers). Although I must admit I don’t follow exactly what the project is trying to develop, it is very impressive in that it does have a strong pedagogic underpinning. And in the first project deliverable, by Sebastian Fiedler and Barbara Kieslinger (2006) I found an excellent discussion around the nature and meaning of competence.

“It is important to note”, they say,

that the concept of competence is a theoretical construct that refers to a human potentiality for action or its underlying dispositions. Theoretical constructs of this kind can, and indeed are, used for a variety of descriptive and/or explanatory purposes. This variability is clearly reflected in the current literature on competencies and its apparent lack of coherence and precision.

Competencies acquisition and advancement | iCamp

They go on to say:

Like the more traditional concept of ability, competence conceptualizations are generally referring to an individual’s potentiality for action in a range of challenging situations. It is thus a concept that foremost indicates a precondition for future problem solving and coping (including the use of adequate tools) in a particular area of action…….This is where the old notion of qualification that is based on requirements analysis oriented in the past and on the acquisition and performance of standardized procedural skills and factual knowledge clearly shows its limits.

Competencies acquisition and advancement | iCamp

The problem in their formulation seems to be that they divide the potentiality to act from subject based learning. In part that is just because of the problematic nature of the traditional taxonomies of learning based on subject disciplines and their increasing irrelevance to how we apply and structure knowledge in the modern world. Nevertheless it provides a good starting point for considering how competence might be encapsulated in learning software. I would contend that it cannot be codified through a hierarchical taxonomy, but rather requires the provision of tools to enable learners to themselves scaffold their learning and reflexively discover and describe their own competence.

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Rethinking authenticity

January 22nd, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I read a lot of journal and conference papers – its part of my job. And just occasionally, you read one and think ‘wow, this is so cool’.

So, I am recommending the following paper to you – ‘Authenticity in Learning: Transactional Learning in Virtual Communities‘ by Karen Barton, Patricia McKellar and Paul Maharg.

The context for their work is law education but the ideas in the paper apply to any sphere of learning. The first part of the paper looks at the idea of authenticity. I was particularly taken by a quote from Barab, Squire & Dueber (2000) who say “authenticity lies ‘not in the learner, the task or the environment, but in the dynamic interactions among these various components […] authenticity is manifest in the flow itself, and is not an objective feature of any one component in isolation”.

They go on to describe the environment they have designed for providing simulations of legal practice.

They suggest that “if we focus on creating carefully-designed simulation tasks along the lines of what I shall call ‘transactional learning’ and create flexible, sensitive software instruments by which students can express themselves and carry out that task-based learning, then we become involved in creating an environment where students can begin to comprehend through active learning the complexity of a professional legal task or transaction.

They also define transactional learning based on their practice as:

  • Transactional learning is active learning

    Transactional learning is based on doing legal transactions.

    Transactional learning involves reflection on learning.

    Transactional learning is based on collaborative learning.

    Transactional learning requires holistic or process learning.

Students work in groups of four, forming virtual legal companies. Particularly important is that assessment is based on the performance of the company, not of individual students, with members of the company responsible for agreeing on the work to be submitted.

The only slight disappointment with the paper is the conclusion, which talks about change management. I’m not saying change management is not important, but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the paper.

Great stuff – make sure you read this. And thanks to Al Harris who forwarded me a copy.

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Social Software, Personal Learning Environments and Lifelong Competence Development

January 18th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Bit of  strange title, but this is my presentation to last weeks Ten Competence project conference in Manchester.

The conference itself was extremely interesting and I will be adding a couple of entries over various contributions in the next few days.

Meanwhile back to my presentation. I have talked before about how school is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the way people are learning in todays society. This extends beyond issues of pedagogy and includes both curriculum and the way we organise our education systems. In the paper and presentation characterise it as an “industrial model of schooling”.

Whilst new approaches to learning using social software and seeking to recognise informal learning are welcome and necessary, I am sceptical that such model projects can be generalised within the present system. Indeed, the evidence of many, many innovative projects is that without project funding and special dispensation for innovation, they cannot be sustained beyond the lifetime of the project.

The answer is not ‘better projects’ but a thorough going reform of our education systems, indeed a new understanding of the role and process of learning in our societies. Above all we need to deschool society. OK, I know that this may be unpopular or unpalatable for most politicians. But someone, sooner or later, is going to have to address the issue.

In the meantime researchers have a key role, not just in pointing out that the schooling system is breaking down, but in developing radical, agile and pedagogically attractive models for learning within society and provoking a wider debate on the role of learning. Click on the image below to download a PDF version of the presentation – if you would like another format please get in touch.


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Second Life goes Open Source

January 8th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Before Christmas I wrote a couple of posts which were raising doubts about the use of Second Life in education.

Git lots of comments – mainly adverse. I thought this was a bit unfair because the reason I had written the posts was just because I do find the SL environment interesting and think it may have great potential in the future. (Tomorrow I will write another article on why the development of games and immersive environments in education is so slow).

However, getting back to the point, one of those replying to my original mail claimed that Linden Labs was planning to make the SL software available as Open source. I was sceptical but it is true. The client end software is now available under the GPL license.

Its an interesting move. The client is not the easiest interface to use and there can be little doubt Linden will benefit greatly from having OS programmers work on the software.

But it also opens up some intriguing alternatives with even Linden talking of parallel virtual worlds. According to a CNN story, IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward open source from a Linden employee.

“They have the right thought,” he says, “which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for, let’s say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others.”

The point here is that although Linden Labs are providing access to a test server grid, they are not Open Sourcing the server end. But then again in may be possible to develop alternative server end applications fro sat a surgeon learning a new procedure using the OS SL client software.

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e-Bidding 2.0

January 6th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu Logo

As some of you will know, I work for an independent research institute called Pontydydgu (Welsh for the Bridge to Learning). That’s our logo above.

Much of Pontydysgu’s work is research and development in the use of new technologies for learning and for knowledge development and sharing, especially though communities of practice, although we are also working on informal learning, teacher training, regional economic development, social inclusion and more general projects in vocational education and training.

Whilst we undertake some consultancy work, the bulk of our funding is grant aided. By coincidence, there are a considerable number of funding programmes issuing calls for proposal in the first part of this year. These include:

  1. The EU Framework 7 programme
  2. The EU Lifelong Learning Programme
  3. The Hewlett Foundation
  4. Eduserve
  5. FurtureLab

Pontydysgu has limited resources – there are just four of us working for the organisation at present – but we have ideas beyond our resources!

Usually organisations keep their project ideas secret. But in the sprit of Web 2.0 and in a conviction that collaboration lies at the heart of innovation and development I am sharing the list of ideas for projects that we are currently thinking on.

If you are interested with collaborating with us on any of these ideas please do get in touch.

  1. Open Content. This would be a proposal for developing a community of practice around the production of Open Content involving four or five clusters of vocational schools in Europe.
  2. Ebloggers Europa. This would be a proposal to extend the work of Edubloggers in the UK to establish a European Community.
  3. Virtual exchange. This project would invlove the development of an  immersive environment for virtual exchange visits.
  4. Social citizenship. This project would utilise immersive environments for learning about citizenship.
  5. Supporting open content and open source software in education
  6. Migration in Europe.
  7. Developing communities of practice. This would focus on the use of ICT to support distributed communities of practice.
  8. Culture and the use of ICT. This would look at the cultural issues involved in the adoption,development and (re) use of open content.
  9. Quality and open content – developing a distributed metadata approach to quality issues with open content.
  10. Peer assessment. developing systems and practice in peer assessment
  11. Personal Learning environments. Developing and piloting the use of Personal Leng environments in education and training.

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Describing Learning

January 4th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Happy new year to you all.

I have spent a number of days over Christmas editing videos from the raw film of a workshop we ran in Germany last year as part of the European funded ASSIPA project. The workshop was on self evaluation and was heavily experiential in design.

It’s not easy editing video of real teaching -  there are lots of interruptions and the like, and people coughing and sneezing in the background. On the other hand it is authentic and avoids the dangers of those horribly patronising ‘now I’m going to teach you something’ videos.

I will post a page somewhere giving access ot all the videos an to the learning materials – all of which is available under a Creative Commons License.

The video featured in this blog – “Dimensions of Facilitator Style – is based on the work of John Heron and James Kiltie from the Institute for the Development of Human Potential at University of Guildford, UK in 1970s. they came up with the following way of classifying teaching or facilitator styles:

Directive        ——————————————–    non-directive

(how things are done)

Structured        ——————————————–    unstructured

(what is done)

Cathartic        ——————————————–    non-cathartic

(extent to which facilitator takes emotional responsibility)

Catalytic        ——————————————–    non-catalytic

(extent to which facilitator manipulates the pace + pitch)

Interpretive    ——————————————–    non-interpretive

(extent to which facilitator is responsible for ‘sense making’)

Disclosing     ——————————————–    non-disclosing

(extent to which personal identity and values of facilitator are visible and affect the intervention)

Confronting    ——————————————-   non-confronting

(degree to which illegitimate values, meanings etc are made explicit)

(prescriptive    ——————————————-    descriptive)

(determining range of legitimate meanings)

Now, I think this is pretty cool and in another of the series of videos – – we try using it in practice.

But what really interests me is the potential for describing learning. Because, welcome as the recent interest and focus on informal learning is – the division between formal and informal learning is just too crude and insensitive to help us greatly in understanding learning.  Over Christmas I started  working with Jenny Hughes – who is featured in the videos – on adopting the Dimensions of Facilitator Styles as a tool for  analysing learning. I’m meeting Jenny in Portugal next week and I hope we can find some time to take this work a little further.

I would welcoem anyones thoughts on this – and if you would like to know more about the videos or learning materails just drop me an email.

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