Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Visualising time

December 22nd, 2007 by Graham Attwell


And now for something completely different. I am fascinated by the possibilities of using computers for vsualising complex data and – even more so – ideas (more on this soon). We have been messing with this in a couple of projects. And in the TT-Plus project on trainers we are lucky enough to be working with Camilla Torna from Icastic. She has done some wonderful work on ways of visualising time. And amongst all the intiutional christmas emails pouring in comes this great  slowing time new years greetings. As the email says: “Click on logo if you have 21 spare seconds. Enjoy 2008.” I can’t work out how to link the image to the flash content. So just click here.

Concentrating Community Minds

December 22nd, 2007 by Graham Attwell

One last post on the Eduspaces story and then it is time to move on. Much good has come form the whole event – howerver difficult it has been. Mark Pearson sums it up best in this post on the Eduspaces forum:

“We should look on the threat of Eduspaces closure as a gift. It has concentrated minds and made us focus on what we would like to give and receive from a close online community (in the narrow and broad sense). Managing an open system like Eduspaces is a thankless task at the best of times (think of all the postings where you see “I want” and a list of demands…) and I think that this resurrection will lead to a stronger and perhaps more united community spirit. The TakingITGlobal organisation are to be commended for stepping in and providing the means to continue this unique service.”

Sadly my posts seem to have upset Dave Tosh. I am sorry for that. One reason the discussion has been so difficult is the respect Dave, Misje and Ben have in the educational technology community. Curverider is not just another remote software company. Rightly or wrongly we regard then as part of our own and are proud of their achievements. Elgg remains important for all those wanting to experiment with new forms of learning using social software. I think many of us feel some guilt that we have not contributed more to the development of elgg and to the stewardship of the Eduspaces community. It has become clear that supporting and sustaining a community like Eduspaces involves a lot more that just hosting an instance of elgg or a similar platform.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the Eduspaces debate. We have to find new models for community development and sustainability. We have to find ways for communities to work together with developers to mutual benefit and understanding. We need better understandings of the interaction between global communities and local activities. And so on….

The discussions on the Eduspaces forum are addressing these issues. Hopefully they will not die down just because an immediate answer has been found to continuing with Eduspaces.

Eduspaces – learning from experience

December 21st, 2007 by Graham Attwell

It has certainly been interesting reporting on the Eduspaces developments over the week whilst travelling around. this will be a short post – am waiting at Vienna airport for my plane to be called.

I am pleased to be able to say some good seems to be coming out of all this.

First, fair play as we say in Wales to TakingITGlobal for recognising the need to develop a partnership with the community. Luke Walker, Director of Education Programmes says:

“As part of our new role in hosting, maintaining and improving the Eduspaces community, we’d like to set up an advisory board, consisting of active members of the community, determining together where we go from here. We’re new to this (Eduspaces) though: we’ve run advisory processes within our own communities before, but we don’t know what kind of systems and processes work best for all of you. So two questions:
1) What kinds of online advisory processes have any of you been part of or led in the past; what has worked well; what do we need to do to make sure where getting feedback from all the different groups of constituents involved in Educspaces?

2) How can we determine who our advisors in an open and transparent way?”

A promising start.

And in the UK there are moves to set up a community association of Higher Education elgg users. In anyone wants more information email Josie Fraser.

Meanwhile Brian Kelly is pursuing his interest in the general issues regarding outsourcing, sustainability, business models, etc. (See interview with him in which he calls for a policy debate on the issues associated with provision of Web
2.0 services).

So we are all learning – lets hope we come stronger out of all this.

Eduspaces crosses the pond to mystery new home

December 20th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Completely tied up in meetings so no time to comment at any length on what has been a somewhat traumatic and very instructive phase in the development of the community.

For those of you who have not been following, the story goes something like this. Open Source boyband lookalikes, Ben and Dave, develop innovative social software application called elgg, originally intended as an e-portfolio. Elgg quickly becomes popular, especially in the educational technology market. However popularity does not turn into hard cash for Curverider.

Slowly, over time, Curverider attract commercial contracts and gain funding from business angels. Obviously wanting to focus on the new business development Curverider announce they are to ditch eduspaces, their education platform and community.

The announcement causes uproar in the edublogosphere. Curverider make a brief statement but refuse to be drawn into any discourse. A number of offers to take over the network emerge. Curverider refuses to respond publicly. After five days it is announced by ‘news‘ – Curverider’s non de plume – that TakingITGlobal were taking over the network.

Members of the network are grateful for the support but non-plussed as to who TakingITGlobal are and why they have been chosen as inheritors of eduspaces.

As Steve Warburton says:

“It is good to have seen so many offers arrive within such a short space of time and from such a variety of sources. What lessons can the community learn from the experience? For me, this has been and continues to be a question about community governance models and I strongly feel the issues surrounding this still need to be voiced and thought through by the community particularly as it now seems likely that it is to be shifted to a new home.”

I totally agree with Steven. The resolution of the eduspaces debacle is almost more disturbing than its outset. A series of offers were made to host eduspaces – a number of them on the public discussion list. other requests for information were posted. There was no public response by Curverider. the community were not involved or even consulted in the process.

Good luck to TakingITGlobal. But why was TakingITGlobal chosen out of all the offers? What were the criteria for selection? I think the community has the right to know.

Longer term this should be a wake up call to the community. A new eduspaces community may arise. But this time the community has to develop forms of organisation. TakingITGlobal can be members of such a community. But they cannot be allowed to ‘own’ Eduspaces in the way Curverider did.

On trust and how communities are organised

December 18th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

The debate over the closure of eduspaces continues apace. And whilst the decision was originally largely accepted there is growing disquiet over the way on which the closure has been handled – see eduspaces discussion group.

Obviously much of the discussion centers on trying to find a solution to the problem with various offers being put forward.

More fundamental issues will have to be discussed once the short term problem is solved (or not as increasingly seems likely). For me the whole debacle raises major issues over how communities are organised.

Once it would have been relatively easy to answer this question. Face to face communities usually have at least some form of representative organisation – albeit elected, appointed or often self appointed.

It is not so simple with on-line communities. The nature of the eduspaces community needs further examination. A cursory examination suggest many of the groups on eduspaces had few members with little activity. Many of the blog entries, like my own may have been feed inputs from other blogs. So why does the edtech community feel so upset by the closure?

I suggest for two reasons. Curverider and elgg were not just another open source or social software provider. Elgg was seen as coming from our community and we were proud of it (and of Dave and Ben’s achievement). The closure – and especially the way the closure was handled feels like a betrayal in the trust we felt we had.

Secondly is the impact of the closure for those of us who have advocated the use of social software and open source in education. There will be an inevitable fallout in terms of trust of social software. That fallout may well extend to open source. In that regard, Curverider may have badly underestimated the damage they will suffer long term. Trust is not a commodity that can be bought. Inevitably many people are wondering about the future of elgg, which, like eduspaces, is reliant on the support of Curverider.

The eduspaces closure calls into question the way in which online communities are organised (or not) and the relationship between communities, social network providers and software developers. As far as I can see, eduspaces never had any form of community organisation. Curverider set it up and ‘gave’ it to the community. But of course with no organisation, Eduspaces was always the gift of Curverider, to give or to take away. The lack of any discussion between Curverider and the eduspaces community has been one of the most disturbing aspects of the whole affair. But it is a two way thing. With no community organisation there was no body who could engage with Curverider over the future direction of the platform.

The biggest lesson for me is that in future where communities are established, we have to develop ‘organised’ relations between software and service providers and community developers. This in turn may require a reappraisal of the way in which education organisations and communities relate to social software developments.

Hey Dude – where’s my (community) Data?

December 17th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Last year the Bazaar project held a seminar called Hey Dude – Where’s my Data. The title, somewhat ironically was coined by Dave Tosh. In the run up to the seminar we posed the following issues and questions:

“With Web 2.0, more and more people have their documents, products, personal details and photos stashed all over the internet – what issues does this raise for education?

The rise of commercial services:

With the use of free, commercial, centrally hosted, social software services rising in education some important issues arise; Who controls this data? Do users care that commercial services are mining their usage patterns and selling this to marketing companies? Is the nature of these ‘free’ services understood – yes users can come in and use the base system for free but often, in return, they are bombarded with advertising and their details/usage habits sold. However, does anyone really care? Perhaps convenience of service outweighs the perceived downsides.

As Bill Fitzgerald points out: “This type of commercial activity is sneaky – it is not apparently obvious to the user what is happening to their data and usage patterns, so often they will not thing about this.”

Is it wise to build up learning environments around these free-to-use tools? While it is unlikely some of the bigger services, such as Flickr, will shutdown – the terms of usage could certainly change, what happens if learners suddenly have to pay to access their content?

As Graham Atwell points out: “Yes Web 2 is great for allowing mash ups and integrating services to produce rich and interactive web sites. But the reliance on external services from mostly commercial companies does raise a whole series of issues. Can we trust these people with our data? will we still have access to this data in the future.? What is to stop them data mining for their own purposes?”

Is there an alternative?

Open Standards

Surely the way to approach this is to build educational tools based on open standards, not specific, commercial, services? This will remove any reliance on services like flickr or Then again, who would be responsible for building and maintaining these tools? Should institutions and perhaps government be responsible?

Open Source

The same issues arise – who is responsible for building, maintaining and paying for the service?

Where to store my data:

With the rise in popularity of ePortfolios many have asked what happens to an ePortfolio after the student has left the institution? What happens to this content – where are learners supposed to store it? Can they still access it?

At least one UK university is considering charging alumni for continued access to their ePortfolio – is this the correct approach?

Starting Points
To get you started here are some rough questions:

  • Data mining on commercial services, is this a problem?
  • Should institutions using commercial services worry about the user data being sold to advertising and marketing companies?
  • Is it not a risky strategy to rely on commercial services keeping their services ‘free’?
  • Does anyone really care? Some of these services are excellent so perhaps we should accept that their might be some downsides and instead concentrate on the pedagogical benefit they can offer?
  • Who would pay for something if it was not commercial service providers – the government? Would we trust that more? Would the services actually be as good?
  • What role should governments play, if any at all?
  • What is the role of institutions?
  • Security issues?
  • Ownership issues?”

The position papers and discussions from the seminar can be found on the project wiki. But whilst we saw the answers largeluy in individual ownership of data with backups etc and interoperability standards we missed teh issue of community. Individuals can transfer their data from Eduspaces with its impending closure. But at a technical level it is tricky to back up and restore comments. Moreover links to individual posts will be lost – as will the community context of the discussion. In other words communities may be more than a blog and whilst back ups and interoperability and standards may allow us to safeguard our individual data it does little for communities.

More thoughts on Eduspaces

December 17th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I have been pondering the implications of the demise of Eduspaces. I am not privy to the thinking or reasons why Curverider decided they could no longer support the service but it is not too difficult to understand some of what has happened. Moreover, the closure raises a number of issues of longer term significance.

Eduspaces was formerly Essentially when Elgg was launched was a space for people to try out Elgg. Because the Elgg developers, Ben and Dave, came from a background in education – and the original ideas behind elgg were developed through working on ePortfolios – the major take up was in education.

Elgg took off fast – it is a very good product – and Curverider was in a dilemma. Despite a successful product they had limited infrastructure and little income. Eventually they got organised and whilst remaining committed to supporting Elgg as free Open Source software, they turned their attention to developing commercial services to provide a stable basis for their work. All very sensible. Over time, Eduspaces was floated off as a separate community. Now it appears they feel unable to continue to support what is a very different community from their core development efforts.

The big issue for me is whether when a small company develops such a product and service, it should be supported by the publicly funded education community. Whilst s0me would say this is not a role for education organisations, education does support large vendors through buying their products. Why, just because software is free and open source, should no such support mechanism exist? Of course Curverider can apply for various grant fundings. Pontydysgu works in many funded projects. Yet these projects are short term and it is hard to make enough money to survive.

Why should the edcation community support services like Eduspaces? Many would say that it is not for the education community to host and provide such services – better to leave it to the private sector. In my view we should host such services because we need to support and develop communities. Eduspaces is not just Elgg. It is a (almost unique) world community of educators. This in turn raises a new problem. Educational institutions and organisations support students and researchers in their own institution and their own country. The very strength of Eduspaces becomes its weakness. Yet if we believe in learning through communities, through open knowledge exchange, through social networks, this process cannot be left to the private market. This is the learning arena of the future. If nothing else, we need to support communities like Eduspaces as an experiment in knowledge sharing and community development. Not as a subsidy for Elgg but as a service to the education and community. And such communities should not have borders, either institutional or based on nationality.

Eduspaces to shut down

December 16th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

It is very sad to see Eduspaces is shutting down from the 10th January. It is not a big surprise. It has been fairly openly known that Dave and Ben from Curverider wanted out. What is very disappointing that no-one stepped in to take the service over.

As Josie Fraser says “Eduspaces and the Curverider team have provided a really important service, and an even more important model for the international education sector – demonstrating how web 2.0 and social technologies can be used to support learning and teaching, and showing the world what a learner-centric system might look like.”

What I liked about Eduspaces was the mixture of different cultures and languages. Projects, conferences, communities are predominantly mono-lingual.  Eduspaces was an experiment in letting everybody speak their own language and then make sense of what they could. We need more of this. And we need more communal places for sharing ideas.

Anyway, the good news is that ELGG remains open source and Curverider remain committed to supporting ELGG. Thanks to Dave and Ben for all their work in the last and good luck in the future.

Show that you share – a first report

December 16th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

On Friday we organised the Bazaar project conference – Show that you Share – at the University of Utrecht.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed the conference – as I think did other participants. As with previous Bazaar project events, the conference was designed to be participant led.  And we wished to draw on the experiences and expertise of those attending to develop new ideas and knowledge. It will take a little time to draw out the different insights from the discussion. But for me what became very apparent was the link between social networking and Open Education Resources.

Whilst the Open Educational Resources movement continues to grow in terms of ideas and support, a number of major issues have not been answered.

  • What is the motivation for developing and sharing Open Educational Resources
  • How can we find  appropriate resources
  • How can we provide resources in a format which is easy to edit and adapt
  • How can we track the use of resources
  • How can we provide contextual metadata

Whilst much development work has gone into the creation of repository services, use of repositories in at best uneven. The long tail probably applies – most Open Educational Resources are available on local machines, local networks or little known servers.

What has perhaps not been probably considered is the influence of communities or social networkas as a major factor in resource sharing. People are happier to share if they know the community in which the resources are to be used and equally people are more trustful of resources if they come from a community of which they are a member. Yet resource repositories have focused on subject or discipline as the main way of finding and prioviding resopurces – there is seldom any focus on who created them for what purpose.

Refocusing on people and through people on practice could overcome many of the barriers listed above. This does not mean that resources would be limited to closed networks. Social software allows a transfer of trust and trust relations between people in different networks. But of course social software focuses on people  and and practice, rather than artefacts.  The Open Educational Resources movement has tended tofocus on the artefacts themselves, rather than people. If we could build on social software to provide social networking for resource creators and resource users, it might be we could take the OER movement a further step forward.

A deep puritan psychosis

December 13th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

Pretty active debate on the Capetown Declaration on Open Educational Resources.going on through the Unesco OER list server.

And it has featured one or two good side lines.

This contribution from Francis Muguet is brilliant:

“Another example of the deficiency of the English language has been the suppression of the thou/you distinction as the result of a deep puritan psychosis that has been implemented in the language, and that English mono-speakers are carrying unknowingly until now.

It appears that if English wants to fulfill its role of a worldwide communication language, it must accept to be enriched with words in relations to concepts it is unable to render properly and concisely.

The fact that a native English speaker would have to make an intellectual effort to understand the word libre (although libre seems an understandable adjective corresponding to liberty… ) is not an obstacle, in fact this would be a good thing.

A statement in this Capetown declaration concerning Linguistic Diversity (and the right for everyone to be able to get a basic education in his/her mother tongue) would have been welcome.

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    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!

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    The UK Ufi VocTech Trust are supporting the Association of Colleges to ensure colleges are supported to collectively overcome challenges to delivering online provision at scale. Over the course of the next few months, AoC will carry out research into colleges’ current capacity to enable high quality distance learning. Findings from the research will be used to create a post-Covid ed-tech strategy for the college sector.

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    The European Commission has published an annual report of the Erasmus+ programme in 2018. During that time the programme funded more than 23,500 projects and supported the mobility of over 850,00 students, of which 28,247 were involved in UK higher education projects, though only one third of these were UK students studying abroad while the remainder were EU students studying in the UK. The UK also sent 3,439 HE staff to teach or train abroad and received 4,970 staff from elsewhere in the EU.

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