Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

e-Portfolios work – according to Becta

February 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

An email from popular Pontydysgu guest blogger, Martin Owen.

‘In relation to our discussion about what e-portfolios are, I came across this in a recently published report on how UK Further Education students use ICT.
“Even fewer were required to use e-portfolios (20%). However, those using them overwhelmingly found them helpful: 9 out of ten of users (89%) agreed it helped them see if they were meeting their course objectives and 86% agreed it helped improve the quality of their work.” (Executive Summary: Use of e-learning)

Data was collected for this survey during a 20 minute scripted conversation with 4000 students. The interviewers defined e-portfolios as: On some courses, learners are required to maintain a computer-based portfolio of evidence, showing how they’ve achieved their course objectives. These are known as “e-portfolios”. (Appendix B Section E)

The full report is online on the Becta web site

Thanks Martin for this. I haven’t had time to read the report myself but will look at it over the weekend and post something more on Monday.

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Blended learning – more than a couple of words

February 27th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

To be honest, when the term ‘Blended Learning’ first appeared I was somewhat underwhelmed. It seemed to me rather silly. After all most learning is blended. We use different media and mix together learning from different sources. And equally what teaching does not mix together different activities and media. I used to train trainers in the pre-computer age. I remember much of our time was spent on widening the repertoire of what we called – I think – teaching methods. These included such things as brainstorming, card sorts, fish bowl sessions, action learnings sets fifty ideas for ice breakers – and so on. We also spent a lot of time looking at why you would use a particular approach for a particular group at a particular time. So what was new about Blended Learning?

In some ways I haven’t changed my views. But it does seem that the use of the term Blended Learning has changed. Today it is being used as a catch phrase for focusing on the pedagogy of e-learning, rather than the technology. And it is being used to break the stranglehold of the instructional design approach to learning. That can only be for the good. Yesterday I received an invitation to join the Ning group on Blended Learning. I haven’t had much time to explore the group so far, but it does seem a lively and stimulating discussion area, focusing on the learning rather than the gadgets. If that is all that Blended Learning has brought us, it is a big step forward.

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Sounds of the Bazaar 18

February 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

The first of the new series of Sounds of the Bazaar. In this new series we will be experimenting with our programme formats. We will be publishing a series of short podcasts around particular issues in learning and technology. And we will be podcasting as series of podcasts focused on practice. What makes some programmes so compelling and some so dull. Is it down to the technology? Is it a matter of following an instructional design manual? Is it the skills and personality of the teacher? How can social software and web 2.0 be used for learning.The first of the series features a dialogue with Helen Keegan (you can see her official profile here). Helen is a researcher and lecturer at Salford University in Manchester, UK. She has just designed and delivered a new module in advanced multimedia for audio and video students in their final year course at the University. And it certainly seems to have got that wow factor. What is Helen’s secret:

  • contextualisation
  • authenticity
  • situatedness
  • motivation
  • identification

We are going to produce a series of case study support materials around this podcast. Watch this blog for more details. As ever thanks to Dirk Stieglitz for his sterling work on the audio. The interview with Helen was recorded in a hotel in Halle and was not the easiest file to work with. Again we found the music for this volume on the great site Jamendo. This time we featuring the artist Antony Raijekov with his album Jazz U. Thanks to all those musicians who release their music under a Creative Commons license.

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The Blackboard Case – turning learning into private property

February 24th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I hoped I would never have to write the word ‘Blackboard’ on this blog again. But the news that Blackboard have won their US court case claiming patent infringement against the Canadian D2L platform cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. For readers new to the blogoshere, Blackboard, the once market leading e-learning vendor, some one and a half years ago obtained a patent claiming they had invented the use of computers for learning (and just about everything else). That the patent is patently 🙂 absurd is of no matter, nether that it is being challenged. As Stephen Downes reports: “The East Texas jury managed to wrap up deliberations in an afternoon and get away for the weekend with a judgement of $3.1 million in favour of Blackboard. The reaction across the web was generally one of dismay, though there were some mitigating factors: first, the settlement was much less than Blackboard as wasking, second, the verdict did not include an injunction against sales of Desire2Learn software, and third, the patent is still under review by the U.S. ”

The issue of patents is not going to go away, even if the review subsequently revokes the Blackboard patent. Ofc ourse as Stephen says the USA uses patent laws to “supplement tariffs and trade restrictions” whilst preaching open trade when it suits them. And it is not just Blackabord that is doing this – in fact it is perhaps surprising no major e-learningc ompany has tried it on before. Only this week Apple applied for a patent for automatically creating customized podcast mashups from various podcasts. The patent filed talks of: “Improved techniques to facilitate generation, management and delivery of personalized media items for users are disclosed. Users are able to influence or control content within a media item being personalized. In one embodiment, personalized media items are podcasts. Users are able to influence or control the content in or with a podcast. In other words, a podcast can be created in accordance with a user’s needs or specifications so that the content within a podcast is customized or personalized for the user.” How the hell can Apple claim a patent for audio mash ups.

And on Friday the Guardian newspaper reported the UK government “is to consult on legislation to punish internet service providers if they fail to take action against the illegal downloading of music, films and TV programmes.

The culture secretary, Andy Burnham, made the proposal to crack down on illegal downloading today as part of a wide-ranging strategy paper designed to support the UK’s creative industries.”

Writing in the same newspaper a day earlier Cory Doctorow explains ” the phrase “intellectual property” is, at root, a dangerous euphemism that leads us to all sorts of faulty reasoning about knowledge. Faulty ideas about knowledge are troublesome at the best of times, but they’re deadly to any country trying to make a transition to a “knowledge economy”.Fundamentally, the stuff we call “intellectual property” is just knowledge – ideas, words, tunes, blueprints, identifiers, secrets, databases. ”

Doctorow goes on to say: “Copyright – with all its quirks, exceptions and carve outs – was, for centuries, a legal regime that attempted to address the unique characteristics of knowledge, rather than pretending to be just another set of rules for the governance of property. The legacy of 40 years of “property talk” is an endless war between intractable positions of ownership, theft and fair dealing.

If we’re going to achieve a lasting peace in the knowledge wars, it’s time to set property aside, time to start recognising that knowledge – valuable, precious, expensive knowledge – isn’t owned. Can’t be owned. The state should regulate our relative interests in the ephemeral realm of thought, but that regulation must be about knowledge, not a clumsy remake of the property system.”

I am not so sure how the state is able to do this. One thing is for sure. All the legislation in the world is not going to pursude young people that music is just a commodity to be bought and sold according tot he rules of copyright. And the ISPs know it. My take – which I have probably written on this blog before – is that capitalism is trying to extend the notion of provate goods into the sphere of ideas. Just as technology makes it easier for us to express ourselves and to make things for oursleves, capitalism tries ot take that right away – and if they can’t stop it happening – they are dammed sure they want a curt of the action.

The Blackboard affair is just another round in this fight. It ultimately represents an attempt to privatise our rights to education and our rights to learning, to turn the means an tools for developing knowledge into a private commodity.

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Your help needed for Taccle

February 20th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Those of you looking at our project page might have noticed a project called Taccle. Taccle stands for Teachers’ Aids on creating Content for Learning Environments. We would like to ask you to help with the project by filling in a short web based questionnaire. There are links to different language versions of the questionnaire at the bottom of this post. But, first you may want to know a bit more about Taccle (or if you wish – just scroll to the links at the bottom).

What is TACCLE?

The Taccle project helps teachers to develop their own e-learning materials.

It provides :

  • step by step guidance in teacher friendly ‘how-to-do-it’ handbook
  • practical training to develop skills you can use in your own classrooms
  • a web site packed with information

Who is it for?

The Taccle project is designed by teachers for teachers and caters for those with only basic computer skills and limited technical support.

The handbook and the training are geared to the needs of the classroom teacher but teacher trainers, ICT support staff and resource centre staff my find them useful too!

It provides both practical support for teachers who want a ‘hands on experience’ and also help and information for teachers who just want to find out about e-learning.


Information and Communication Technologies are being increasingly used to create richer learning environments.

In all sectors of education from primary schools to adult education, in schools for pupils with special education needs and in colleges and universities, technologies are being used across the curriculum to enhance students’ experiences.

However, technology is not enough. The creation of high quality content is essential if the potential of ‘e-learning’ is to be realised in a way that stimulates and fosters Life Long Learning. It is important to train teachers how to design and develop their own content and generate learning materials that can help their own students and can also be freely exchanged with others. This is the aim of the TACCLE project.

What exactly will TACCLE do?

  • Train teachers to create content for electronic learning environments in the context of an e-learning course
  • Enable teachers to identify and decide which ICT tools and content are most useful for particular purposes.
  • Teach teachers how to create learning objects taking into account information design, web standards, usability criteria and reusability (text, images, animations, audio, video) and which enable active, interactive and cooperative learning processes.
  • Enhance the quality of e-learning environments in education by training teachers how to use them effectively and by creating resources to help them do so.
  • Stimulate new approaches in teacher training related to the concept of lifelong learning, knowledge sharing and peer learning.
  • Encourage teachers to share the developed content with their using existing repositories.

The first step in our work is undertaking a survey of teacher training needs for creating e-learning materials. We would be very grateful if you could assist in our work by filling in the survey. It will take about five minutes to complete.

1. English Language Version

2. Dutch Langauge Version

3. Spanish Language Version

4. German Language Version

5. Italian Language Version

Please visit the Taccle website. the handbook is being created on a wiki. If you are inetrested in contributingplease email me.

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Freefolio roadmap

February 19th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

freefolio logo

There seems to be quite a bit of interest in Freefolio, the WordPress based Social e-portfolio we have been developing together with our partners Raycom.

We have put together a roadmap for further development over the next six or so months. If you have ideas for what else should be on the roadmapo please do get in touch. And if you would like to join the development effort that would be most welcome. We are aware that we have slipped in our target of releasing an installable but we have not forgotten.

1. Developing a repository

Integrate a proper (standards based) lightweight document repository for uploading, storing and accessing different digital artefacts (e.g. documents, etc.).

The repository will allow users to store different objects, including text, audio, photographs and video, to access and annotate those objects and to report on their wok in different presentation formats.

Users will be able to share access to their work with those they choose.

The repository will conform to technical standards and will allow users to copy their work to portable media, if they wish. This will facilitate interoperability with other portfolios and learning applications.

For instance if a leaner progresses to university they will be able to transfer their work including multimedia objects.

2. Reporting views, building blocks

Develop a system module for allowing users to present achievements – should be flexible and allow multiple ‘views’. The module will provide templates to allow users to easily present different views of their work for different purposes, for instance for supporting job applications, for applications for further courses or as part of their curriculum activities. The templates will provide structures to assist learners in developing their presentations. Users will be able to choose different objects form the portfolio to form part of the presentations.

Different presentations can be stored within the portfolio or exported to portable media.

Once more users will be able to control with whom they share their presentations.

3. Improvements to profile

Develop system to allow administrator control of profile template.

Also examine feasibility of making links between different people with same interests/goals in the user profile.

The development of the profile template will make it easy for administrators to customise the template for different installations of the portfolio. The ab9lity to automatically link people with similar interests of similar learning goals will facilitate peer group learning and the development of groupwork. The system will allow learners to find materials and posts relevant to their personal and learning interests of their learning.

4. Improvements to the Personal Development Profile (PDP)

Develop reusable template for PDP process. Allow reviewing and reporting on progress towards goals. Allow view of goals and progress over time.

The further development of the Personal Development Profile will allow users to easily view their progress over time, to reflect on that progress and to develop a record. This will assist in developing learners’ abilities for planning and evaluation.

5. Improve groups functionality

Make it easier to form on the fly groups for sharing and collective activities. his will make it possible to develop working areas for different groups of learners, for instance for undertaking shared projects. Work undertaken in groups may be used as part of the presentations as in 2 above.

5. Styling, choice of styles

Allow users choice of style/design.

Research has shown the importance to learners of being able to give their portfolios their own look and feel. We will develop a number of different styles for users to choose from and will facilitate those who are able in developing their own styles.

6. Scaling

Further develop administrative systems to allow easier install and scaling for multiple group use.
Develop an installable version of Freefolio which may in future be installed on clients systems if they wish.

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Levi-Strauss, Bricolage and eLearning 2.0

February 18th, 2008 by Graham Attwell


Some time ago I read the transcript of a speech by John Seely Brown on Learning, Working and Playing in the digital Age. In the speech Seely Brown talked about how young people used the web as bricolage.

I have cited this in quite a few papers. Jenny Hughes was reviewing one of the papers for me and objected to my citing the idea of bricolage to Seely Brown. Bricolage, she said, was a key idea in Levi- Strauss’s thinking amongst. I had fogotten about this but Jenny had not. She gave me a copy of a book called “Introducing Levi Strauus and Structural Anthropology” by Boris Wiseman and Judy Groves. It is a great book and it has pictures and cartoons – I love these easy introduction books. And indeed there is a section on bricolage:

“To describe the functioning of the logic of the concrete – the essence of a pensee sauvage – Levi-Strauss usesd an unusual analogy. The logic of the concrete he says is the mental equivalent of bricolage – intellectual D.I.Y.

Levi-Strauss’s notion of briclolage has many different applications for all of those from anthropologists to literary critics and philosophers, who have recognised themselves in his portrait of the bricoleur and drawn their own lessons from it.

Levi-Strauss contrasts the work of the bricoleur to that of the engineer, and uses this opposition to characterise the two modes of understanding which underlie, repsoectively, primitive science and modern science.

At the same time, he also applies his concept of bricolage to myth, thus opening up the whole question of its specific reference to an understanding of the processes of artistic creation.

This is how the bricoleur works.

Unlike the engineer who creates specialised tools and materials for each new project that he embarks upon, the bricoleur work with materials that are always second hand.

In as much as he must make do with whatever is at hand, an element of chance always enters into the work of the bricoleur.

Levi Strauss draws two analogies with myth. First, considered in its genesis, myth, like bricolage, is an assembly of disparate elements: it creates structures (i.e. narratives) out of events.

Second, myths are always constructed out of the disarticulated elements of the social discourses of the past. In this too they resemble bricolage.

The bricoleur is in possession of a stock of objects (a “treasure”). These possess “meaning” in as much as they are bound together by a set of possible relationships, one of which is concretized by the bricoleur’s choice”.

I have been increasingly interested in unearthing alternative design principles to that of instructional design. It seems to me Levi-Strauss has written the definitive guide to using Web 2.0 and learning. I have an aspiration – to be a true bricoleur.

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Putting learners in control of their data

February 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell


The issue of data ownership and control is becoming a regular theme on this blog. Witness my rant against the UK governments development of am electronic database to track every teenager from the age of 14, recording their personal details, every exam result and exclusions. The database is intended to include a CV.

I had an interesting talk with Margarita Perez-Garcia last Friday. Margarita led the European Kite project. Rather than providing a centralised database for a CV, outside the control of the leaner, the Kite project has developed a plug in version ofht eEuropean CV format. The project has developed the plug in for three systems – WordPress, Elgg and Dotclear. It is available under a GPL lisence and is compatable e with the HR-XML standard.

I think this is a great project. Why?

  • It puts learners in control of their own data
  • It is useful – data only needs to be added once and users can decide what data is displayed in any particular instance
  • It is based on a ‘bottom up’ approach to standards (using what works)
  • It is not difficult to see how the work could be further extended
  • and – of course – it is open source.

One of the reasons I like this so much is that it is a European project which has produced something useful. The sowfatre can be downloaded from the labs.Libre tracker.

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Using technology to police learners

February 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

They don’t make life easy for us do they? I have spent a lot of time trying to persuade people of the liberating potential of technology for learning and then along comes the UK government with this proposal. I can see no educational merit whatsoever in the database. This is all about managing people, not supporting learning. The only bright side is the UK government have never delivered on any of their large scale IT schemes – there seems little reason to thing they will do so this time.

From the Guardian newspaper:

“The government has devised an electronic database to track every teenager from the age of 14, recording their personal details, every exam result and exclusions….The database will be accessible to employers, teachers and training agencies, and will include an online CV. The record will be permanent.
Gemma Tumelty, president of the National Union of Students, said: “We are concerned about the track records of the government on maintaining and safeguarding data. We are also worried about routes of progression – should every slap on the wrist at school count against you for ever? Why should an exclusion matter 10 years on? Surely everyone is allowed a few mistakes. We would worry this would turn into a national ID card.”

A spokesman for the University and College Union said: “The government’s track record of dealing with complex ID systems is far from impressive. We have all done things at school that we are not proud of, but we do not expect them to hold us back permanently in life and nor should they. Such a scheme would not seem to fit with the government’s stated aim of giving everybody a second, third or fourth chance when it comes to education.”

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How can we represent the community better on this web site?

February 12th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We are constantly thinking of ways to improve this web site. We know we still have some parts to finish – notably the publications. And we have been working on that for the last couple of weeks.

But the bit which has been bothering us is how to represent work in progress. We finally decided we would create two separate sections for publications and research. But we are not a traditional university type research organisation sitting for hours behind closed doors penning a new masterpiece. Most of our work involves close collaboration with others. And as webmeister Dirk pointed out, there is little opportunity for others to contribute to the site at the moment. Neither does the site sufficiently show off the work going on in the community.

So we are now working on a research zone for the site which will not only give access to our own work, but will highlight work by others. How will we do this? We are not quite sure. But it will feature feeds from Stephen Downes’ edublogger list, from Delicious, CiteULike, Slideshare and other social networking applications. We are looking at how we can use yahoo pipes to mash it all up.

And we are investigating how to migrate the site to WordPress MultiUser. With MU we can use the structured blogging forms developed for Freefolio to offer all those who have created an account on the site (with which you can do little at the moment) the opportunity to add content themselves. We are thinking about opening up a reviews section, recommended applications, an events section and more. OK – it is going to take a couple of days. But if you have any ideas on anything you would like to contribute to this web site please get in touch or better still just leave a comment. We especially would welcome ideas on how we can make the site more representative of the community at large.

Oh – one other thing. We manage the content through the categories. the list is getting horribly long. We should have probably split between categories for content management and used a keyword plug in to manage the kind of content. But it is a bit late for that. Does anyone know how we can manage the category list beeter? Can we split it in two? Are there any plug ins?

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    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.

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    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.

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    News from 1994

    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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  • @C_Goodfellow_ Congratulations Claire. I mean, Dr Claire .🤗 I'll be raising a glass to you tonight x🥂

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