Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

What do you want your PLE to be able to do?

June 29th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I am working on a couple of new papers on Personal Learning Environments. And getting asked by developers what we want them to produce as a PLE. Nota n easy question – in fact I am not sure it is the right question! But here are a few things I think I want my PLE to be able to do.

Access / search

One of the major things we use computers for learning for is accessing and searching information and knowledge. Whilst Google has greatly improved searching it is far form perfect. We need to be able to search inside documents in a way we cannot at the moment. And of course we need to be able to access and search our own computers and possibly those of our peer network. We need to be able to search inside audio and video, which is as yet problematic. And perhaps most importantly we need to be able to find people. Accessing and searching poses many challenges for developers. At present at a relatively simple level of educational repositories we are uncertain as to whether federated search or harvesting offers the best approach.
Aggregate and scaffold
A second use of a Personal Learning Environment could be for aggregating the outcomes of our activity – be it searches for documents, or other media, be it people or be it our own work. Aggregation is more than simply producing a database or of ‘learning objects’. Aggregation should allow us to bring information and knowledge together in a meaningful way. At the same time such a process of aggregation should assist us in scaffolding our knowledge, both in terms of growing on existing knowledge but also in terms of compromising what we know to accommodate the new.

Another possible use of a Personal Learning Environment is to manipulate or rearrange knowledge artefacts. This could be at the simple level of editing text or adding a note or tag. However with the use of different forms of media it may involve more extensive repurposing of such objects. Such repurposing may be for use within a personal knowledge base or may be for (re) publishing or sharing with others.

Another reason for manipulating media artefacts may be to render them usable within different environments and contexts.
A PLE should be a place to analyse knowledge. This might involve the use of different tools. Alternatively, or additionally, it might involve the functionality to render information, knowledge and data in forms to allow analysis. It might also include the functionality to share and collaborate in analyses and to compare the results of such analysis with the research of others.
A simple and obvious function for a PLE is to store data and artefacts. However, that storage function may not be so easy as at first thought with an increasing use of different storage media including external drives and web storage. Whilst some data and artefacts may be stored in a personal repository it may be that others will be stored within shared areas.
Reflection is a central activity in developing learning. Reflection is particularly critical in an information rich (or information overload) environment. Reflection involves questioning, challenging and seeking clarification and forming and defending opinions and supporting or challenging the opinions of others. A PLE could provide (micro) tools for supporting these processes.
We all have a need to present our ideas, learning and knowledge in different ways and for different purposes. It may be that we merely wish to present some work in progress for feedback from others. We may also wish to present parts of our work for a seminar or for a job application. A PLE could offer the functionality to select and summarise ideas and learning and develop a presentation in different formats according to need. Some forms of presentation may be unique instances – for example a presentation at a conference, others may be more recursive e.g a C.V. Tool also need to take into account that presentation may involve different media.
The representation of learning and knowledge within a PLE may be seen as a more complex functionality of presentation. Whilst a presentation will draw directly on artefacts within the PLE, a representation will attempt to show the underpinning knowledge structures of such artefacts. A PLE could include tools for visualisation and tools which allow the structures of the knowledge to be shown in a dynamic way. They might also allow the dynamic re-rendering of such structures either through the interrelationship of the artefacts and the underpinning knowledge structures.   The representation of knowledge might be an individual activity but might also form part of a wider community activity


That a personal Learning Environment should support individuals in sharing their learning and knowledge almost goes without saying. However, what is shared, when and with whom is far more complex. Tools could be developed, for example, which allow sharing to be the property of any particular artefact. A PLE might also include tools to facilitate collaborative work and collaborative work flows.
Network and people
Networks lie at the heart of a Personal Learning Environment. A PLE might be defined at a personal or individual node in a networked collaborative learning environment. It must be emphasised that a PE is not a document management system (although of course documents may be part of a PLE). PLE tools might allow social representation of networks and networking interchange. Such tools might also allow social association between people, knowledge and artefacts.

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More on hairdressing – a question?

June 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We have a tracking plug in giving us basic stats about who is reading this blog. I’ve never worried too much about how many read it – after all it is my personal space – but I am more interested in the community apsects of trying to build the Pontydysgu web site.

In the last few weeks the numbers of unique visitors and the number of page hits have risen quite dramatically. All very gratifying – people like what we are doing. Maybe – I am getting suspicious.

The stats package tells us which are the most popular stories. As you would expect there are usually the latest posts, things like PLEs feature highly and then there is a very long tail. But for the past three weeks one post above all has dominated the lists. It is called “Hairdressing and Serious Games“. It is an OK post. I wrote it at a conference. It was more for me an excercise to improve my ‘live’ blogging than anything else. It links to a page which allows no access to the game it refers to. So, what is going on? Is the edublogospere being invaded by wanabe hairdressers? Are there hairdressing harvesting robots crawling the web? Or what? Anyone have any ideas? Or any ideas how I can solve this mystery of the hairdressing hits? Or should I just go to the hairdressing companies for advertising?

Funny – haven’t been to a hairdressers for years :).

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Anyone interested in sharing bandwidth?

June 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Yesterdays Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE was pretty popular. According to the stats we had 97 listeners. The problem is that the stats also show that we had quite a few people who were unable to connect becuase we had run out of bandwith (we also had a bandwidth problem from our studio which I will come on to in a bit).

How does the bandwidth work. We broadcast from Bremen in Germany using a DSL connection. We feed to the Community Media Association in Sheffield, UK. They have a commercial operation who sell us bandwidth. Bandwidth for streaming is not cheap. We presently have enough bandwidth for up to 100 listeners at 56kps. We would like to increase this to 200 but can’t really justify the expenditure at present. But we actually buy the bandwidth on a 24/7 basis. And we only use it for 2 hours a month. There is a pretty strong case for bandwidth sharing here. So – if you would like to use our spare badwidth for broadcasting something to do with learning please get in touch. It is a crying shame to see it there unused. And if anyone woudl be interested in coming in with some money we could all benefit from a better service. Just email me on graham10 [at] mac [dot] com. Whilst on the subject if anyone needs help in how to do live streaming radio do drop us a line. However, we use Macs – we do not know the setup for PCs or Linux.

Now for the dedicated techy reader here was our local bandwidth problem. Our present upload capacity is 24kps. This is enough for our stream and for a skype connection. But for yesterdays feature on Cwmglas School I was trying to bring in my colleague Jenny Hughes via a skype to skype line and the school through skype to telephone. And that was just too much. The result is that the stream kept rebuffering. After the show we got on to our ISP website and found we could treble our bandwidth with a package which costs less than we are paying at the moment. The ISP had upgraded their service but not told us and we had to apply on line for the new package. It may be worth you checking whether you can do this – I dare say ISPs are the smae the world over.

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Emerging Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE June – users telling stories

June 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

The podcast version of Emerging Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE summer special. This edition was produced for the Jisc Emerge conference on Exploring User 2.0: the shape of future users. The conference day theme was digital storytelling so we thought we would talk to users – old and young and from across Europe.

First up in the show is an all too short talk with kids from the computer club at Cwmglas primary school, Swansea. Sadly we ran out of bandwidth and had to curtail the talk but I have arranged to go back to make a podcast shwo at the school in a couple of weeks. And make sure you visit their brilliant website. (NB we are trebling our bandwidth next week).

Next up is John Pallister, who teaches IT in a secondary school talking about his discovery of Web 2.0 tools and his increasing fascination with the on-line world.

John is followed by Guenter Behan from Graz in Austria exoplaining the ideas behind the European funded Aposdle project.

Asley Healey from Glasgow in Scotland tells us about her research into communities of practice.

And Leila Gray – an 83 year old computer fan from Blackwood in Wales explains how she uses Web 2.0 applications. Leila was so good we have invited her to become our resident Sounds of the Bazaar Techno-granny (more about that soon).

And to wrap up taodays programme Margarita Perez Garcia reads us a poem in Spanish.

What a show. And between each item we have great music form an album called Cien Anos Despues by Magnolia Chile available free under a Creative Commons license from the Jamendo web site.

Enjoy. You are listening to Emerging Sounds of the Bazaar – the Sounds of the Summer.

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Old man gets lost in another world

June 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A brilliant guest post from my esteemed friend John Pallister.

“I dropped into a bar last night, well actually I listened in to some folks talking about where they were going to go and I decide to have a look there. I lurked around in a corner for a while, then sat down at the bar and watched. It was a bit strange, the bar did not have a barman, it looked to be a help-yourself establishment. People, who I have to admit did look a bit strange, were helping themselves to some strange things and seemed to enjoy jumping around a lot. They all appeared to know each other and were chatting about some music that was playing in the background. I attempted a bit of chit chat, although my natural reserved stopped me from dancing on the bar. As usual, I very quickly cleared the bar with everyone whizzing off with some feeble excuse about having to build a tower! I wandered a bit and got lost. I ended up in an adult area with a scantily clad Avatar jumping around in front of me and singing. Now that does not often happen to me often, was I dreaming? How could a grown man, who has a thousand and one real interests, find himself wandering around in a virtual world?

During the past two years I have been on quite a steep learning curve. The need, as a partner in the MOSEP project, to collaborate with colleagues from across Europe forced me to master Skype; Net-meeting; Eluminate Live; Media Wiki; blogging; social bookmarking and collaborative writing etc. I became engaged in a number of social networks and got into the habit of following people who had similar interests. I soon realised that it did not really matter if, having contributed something to a discussion, forum or a Blog, you did not receive a response. I realised that the vast majority of people were lurkers and that people were in fact reading what I was writing and occasionally, were using it to help them with their thinking. So there was a reason for me to participate and contribute. I also found that writing things down did in fact help to move my own thinking forward. I began to follow and contribute to communities, setting up a group and most recently experimenting with micro-blogging.

In the process of following the Jisc Emerge community I ended up in Second Life last night. I teleported to a Bar on the Emerge Island. I had to apply all of my Functional ICT skills to master the Second Life interface, I did not really practice my Functional English skills but I did listen to others demonstrating their skills, with one person showing that she recognised her responsibility to move a discussion forward, attempting to engage me in the discussion by employing a range of techniques. The exploding Harveywallbanger was a new one to me! I listened to people agreeing how they would work as a team; reflecting on their own strengths; developing a shared understanding of what it was that they were going to work together to achieve; reflecting on their personal strengths and weaknesses and how they might contribute to the work of the team; etc. I was watching people, in a virtual world practising and developing their Functional and Personal Learning and Thinking skills. Had I managed to keep up with them, I am sure that I would have witnessed more as they built the Tower, although I suspect that they went on to a disco – ‘magic dance ball’?

I am beginning to see more and more potential in these environments for learning – but a bit like Twitter I am overcapacity!

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Digital Story Telling – the podcast

June 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

An unexpected bonus here – an interview with Helen Beetham about Digital story telling. The story about the interview will follow!

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Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE tomorrow

June 24th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Been away from the blog for a few days – too much travel. But we are back with another LIVE Sounds of the Bazaar internet radio broadcast. The programme will go out LIVE tomorrow (Wednesday) at 1415 Central European Summer Time (13.15 BST). Interviews, features, music, poetry and more. Guests include John Pallister from Wolsingham School, Gunter Beham from the EU APOSLE project, the kids from Cwmglas primary school in Swansea and Nicola Witton and Scott Wilson from the Emerge ARGOSI project.

Please try and join us for some summer fun. You can listen to the programme by going to in your browser. The programme should stream form your MP3 player of choice.

We will have a chat room operating alongside the programme – go to The chat will be hosted by Cristina Costa.

And if you would like to come on the programme just drop me an email – graham10 [at] mac [dot] com or skype me. Look forward to talking to you all tomorrow.

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Rhizomatic learning, ubiquitous computing, mobile devices and Personal Learning Environments

June 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I,m working on a new paper on PLEs. I’m finding the idea of Rhizomatic learning extremely useful. Here is an extract from the paper.

‘Technologies are changing fast and our use of technologies is changing faster. In looking to the future it may be worth returning ot the them of rhizomatic learning (Cormier, 2008). Dave Cormier says the rhizome is a botanical metaphor. “A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat. In the rhizomatic view, knowledge can only be negotiated, and the contextual, collaborative learning experience shared by constructivist and connectivist pedagogies is a social as well as a personal knowledge-creation process with mutable goals and constantly negotiated premises.”
Such social processes in the use of technology for learning and knowledge creation have been seen in a conference and a summer school which I have recently attended. In both, we created a tweme for the event, a mash up of delicious, twitter and flickr based on a common tab. In neither case did we pre-announce the use of the tweme, neither was the use of the particular technology officially prescribed nor indeed endorsed by the event organizers. However the use of the tweme for knowledge sharing was adopted organically by participants and became the main means of ICT based communication and sharing. In one case the conference organizers had established their own NetVibes site for the mash up of blogs; however by the second day they recognized what was happening and emailed participants to inform them that the tweme was “ the main channel for information” going on to say “Please have a look on it because the freshest and the hottest information can be found only from there.”

One interesting effect of the use of twitter and twemes was to facilitate the unplanned participation of researchers and practitioners from all over the world in the vents and a consequent wider and open dialogue than the original programme and curriculum design had envisaged. The curriculum was being increasingly developed by the community and the community extended to include participants who were not present face to face.

The technological development facilitating such change was the availability of connectivity and the use of different devices. In fact at the first conference connectivity was problematic. The wireless network became overloaded. Nevertheless, participants found ways of communicating, using other mobile phones or a skype to twitter interface which required less bandwidth than a browser. Those with access to neither simply recorded their observations and rushed off to find better bandwidth in the coffee break.

The agenda and curricula of the vents became extended through participants negotiating topics they wished to explore through the ongoing discourse and organising ‘unconferencing’ events outside the main programme.

Such experiences may point the way to how personal learning environments will evolve in the future. The PLE will not be one application running on the desktop or in a web browser. Rather, it will be multiple applications running on may different devices. It is also important to understand that learners will use different devices in different contexts and for different purposes. The PLE will be based on networks of people with whom learners interact, they may adapt a particular tool for communication and interaction in a particular context but then cease to sue that tool when that context has passed. In previous projects linked to mobile learning we have tended to focus on how to transmit standardised learning materials and applications to different platforms and devices.

The PLE will be comprised of not only all the software tools, applications and services we use for learning but the different devices we use to communicate and share knowledge.

This if knowledge seen as resting in connections and learning bases on those connections then PLE may be sum of devices plus use of those devices for learning. Another way to view the PLE is to see it as the summation of connections we make in a nodal learning network. This includes, of course, face-to-face interactions both in terms of participation in learning programmes and events but also one to one and informal interactions and an ongoing process of reflection and sense making of such interactions. Learning and learning environments become synonymous with the identity of the leaner, both the self perceived identity and the learner as others perceive them.

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Themes, Memes, Twemes

June 16th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I am in Ohrid in Macedonia for the European Summer School on Technology Enhanced Learning & Knowledge Management 2008. As ever it is a pleasure to meet colleagues from all over Europe, and particularly from Eastern Europe. And the school is alo interesting in that it brings together researchers from a series of large scale European funded research projects. What are the themes of the school. It is a bit difficult to say at the moment.

One issue that a number of projects seem to be wrestling with is how to represent knowledge. There is the by now familiar debate about taxonomies, ontologies and tagging. I have a concern as to how much useful software is being created. To soem extent this is a tension within research projects which are both attempting to undertake fundamental research and at the same time involve users.

Anyway, as in Salzburg Cristina and I have created a tweme (a mash up of twitter, delicious and flickr) for the summer school. You can follow our tweme here. Feel free to participate. The tag is #scohrid.

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Open On-line Seminar – Mentoring and 21st Century Skills

June 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

For those of you old enough to remember, the Yippie leader, Jerry Rubin, once said “Do it!”. And at the start of this year we at Pontydysgu resolved that was what we were going to do. We cannot research Web 2.0 and social software tools for learning without doing it. IN May we launched Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE with a regular monthly broadcast Emerging Mondays. We are planning a new publishing venture (watch this space). And we have launched a regular monthly Open on-line seminar series through the Evolve community.

The next Evolve seminar is on Friday 20 June at 13.00 British Summer Time, 14.00 Central European Summer Time.

Evolve is a Community project which aims at organizing a series of Open International on-line events and seminars to:

•Provide a space for participant driven discussion and debate
• Promote critical inquiry and discourse
• Allow for the presentation of ideas in progress
• Share expertise, ideas and future thinking around common research agendas

All documents and products from the events will be published as Open Educational Resources.

This month we will focus on Mentoring and 21st Century Skills. Anne Fox will lead us on this topic with her Keynote Presentation (further information here: ). Interesting conversations and discussions will certainly emerge from it.

Do share your thoughts and experiences about this theme, and of course tag it (evolvejisc) ! 😉

Your contributions are invaluable to keep this community going. We want to learn from you!

The synchronous event will take place in June 20 at 1200 GMT (For other time zones please check here: ).

The Venue for the presentation is in Elluminate – (no password required)


We will also be hosting a topical activity around the June topic. See how to get involved here.

And if you still haven’t got your own freefolio spot on the Evolve platform, there is still time to do so. You just need to create an account! 😉

We hope you join us. This is will be a great chance to network, to get to know what other people are doing, and also to share your work and ideas.

If you have any questions, suggestions, problems logging in, etc please don’t hesitate to contact us

Pontydysgu’s work centres on developing and supporting an open community around the use of ICT for learning. The Evolve seminars are a step in that direction.

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    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.

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    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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    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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    Graduate Jobs

    As reported by WONKHE, a survey of 1,200 final year students conducted by Prospects in the UK found that 29 per cent have lost their jobs, and 26 per cent have lost internships, while 28 per cent have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded. 47 per cent of finalists are considering postgraduate study, and 29 per cent are considering making a career change. Not surprisingly, the majority feel negative about their future careers, with 83 per cent reporting a loss of motivation and 82 per cent saying they feel disconnected from employers

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