Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

August 28th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Sort of like that saying. I don’t have much time ot post here – am constantly traveling – but will make a few quick commnets from the road (as an aside – countries like Estonia put other countries to shame when it comes to intrenet access – free fast wireless access is available almost everywhere).

Maybe it is juts the people i am talking too, buut there seems to be growing appreciation of the importance of informal learning and learning acquired in the workplace. At the same time I am slightly concerned that this appreciation for workplace and informal learning is being counterposed to formal training and qualifications. In this respect I think people are mixing up the schooling system and formal learning. Yes – I completely agree that our formal schooling system is out of date, frequently ineffective and promotes formal accreditation at the expense of learning. Putting it simply there are better ways to learn – and the money spent of formal schooling could be much more effectively deployed elsewhere.

But this is not to say there is no place for formal training and learning and for qualifications. Qualifications can play an important regulatory role – both for quality and in terms of preventing employer exploitation. Moreover such qualifications can prove aspirational – especially for young people. Yes – there are many issues around curriculum (I will return to this issue in a further post). Formal learning and training can provide a structure for learning. And formal learning and qualifications are not in opposition to informal learning – the two can go together.

I think there are problems in a fast changing economy as employment and work tasks and roles are fast changing. There is no guarantee that training for one particular occupation will guarantee employment in ten years time. Yet, all the empirical surveys we have carried out show that those who have undergone a formal training programme – regardless of subject – are more likely to participate in on-going learning in the future. Thus, even though the link between qualifications and employment may be weakening (especially in liberal market economies such as the UK) there remains a macro economic benefit to the provision of formal learning opportunities.

More from John Pallister on e-Portfolios

August 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Joehn Pallisetr is a UK based teacher who is enthusiastic about e-Portfolios. He blogs now on a group he has set up on Google. If you are interetsted in e-portfolios I recommend that you join.

Here is his latest post:

“Things still seem to be at the confusion stage it terms of what schools ‘must do’ and what learners ‘must have’. It would be a real shame if we were just to go for the minimum when we have the opportunity to harness the technology and media to provide our learner with something that can really help them. To simply provide them with some text based templates to fill-in, is unlikely to inspire them or
support their thinking, development and progression.

At this stage it might be worth sharing some of the experiences that led us to introduce ePortfolios. Ten years ago we were looking for some way for our Year 12 students to evidence the ‘deliver a short presentation’ requirement of the Level 3, Key Skills Communication Unit. We introduced a requirement for all Year 12 students to deliver a formal presentation, to an external panel, about their career plans.

This required them to research their options, discussing them with their Tutors, careers advisors and parents. We built on this over the years and five years ago introduced a 30 minute end of review
interview for all Year 12 students. This interview was originally introduced to provide opportunities for students to evidence Improving Own Learning and Performance, Level 2 Key Skills. We expected, in the
first 2 years, students to bring their Progress File into the interview. The interview was set up as a competency based interview [some questions etc given in].

We wanted to provide students with more appropriate ways to store andpresent evidence of their learning, achievements and planning; we developed and introduced ePortfolios.

We soon recognised that although the ePortfolio itself was really useful, it was the ePortfolio process that was even more valuable.

I came at things from a Personal Development Planning angle and this has influenced my thinking on ePortfolios.

So why have I rambled on?  Simply to encourage people to interpret the‘P’ in ILP, as ‘Process’. It then links in with Assessment For Learning; Development Planning; PLTs and of course, the ePortfolio Process. The ‘P’ as ‘Plan’ can be very easy to produce; very easy for the learner to ‘tick off’ as done; easy for schools to present to others to suggest that learners have done the job, but, the important bit, the process can be easily forgotten.”

Consultation paper on a Framework for the Professional Development of Trainers

August 26th, 2008 by Graham Attwell
Training of Trainers

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: training trainers)

As promised more on the Training of Trainers. The presentation is based on research we are undertaling through the TTplus project. The  project aims to support and improve the continuing professional development of trainers and has been examining the context in which training takes place in enterprises and the effectiveness of  present policies and provision for the training of trainers.

The project is developing a framework for the continuing professional development of trainers and examining different measures and mechanism for implementing the professional development framework.

The research undertaken by the project showed that the number of trainers in Europe has increased. These ‘trainers’ include full time trainers, people with a formal training responsibility and all those for whom supporting the learning of others is part of their job. It also concluded that many of these people do not have effective or adequate access to continuing professional development opportunities or support or recognition for their own learning.

It is clear that if the standards of training are to be raised, improving the training of trainers must be a priority.  However, given the heterogeneous nature of the group and the range of sectors and occupations in which they work, it is difficult to see how this could be standardised, or indeed whether it is desirable to do so.  Certainly some sort of common framework would have advantages. It would provide a degree of coherence to what is a very fragmented field. It would increase the visibility of trainer training and in so doing, increase awareness. It could also stimulate the establishment of communities of practice between trainers.

The TT-Plus project has the objective of designing a framework for professional development for trainers in Europe. One approach to this is to develop an accreditation framework. Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which an organisations’ services and operations are examined by a third-party accrediting agency to determine if applicable standards are met. Should the facility meet the accrediting agency’s standards, the facility receives accredited status from the accrediting agency. Such accreditation often takes the form of a ‘kitemark’ or quality mark designed to show that the organization has met the standards.

The challenges in designing an accreditation system for trainers are three-fold:

Firstly, how can a framework reflect the TTPlus project research findings and be –

  • Inclusive enough to accommodate the diversity of people labeled ‘trainers’ and the diversity of contexts in which they work.
  • An instrument for improving the quality of practice
  • A process to improve and increase access to training opportunities for trainers

Secondly, how can a framework incorporate the best features of previous approaches whilst minimising their disadvantages. Specifically how can a framework:

  • Identify ‘gaps’ in organizational or individual trainer  ‘performance’ AND simultaneously facilitate the learning necessary to close the gaps
  • Provide recognition and reward for both individuals and organisations.
  • Be relevant and sensitive to a range of occupational identities

Thirdly, how can a single framework be flexible enough to allow sectoral, local, regional and national variation whilst still maintaining transnational coherence and a shared European approach?

In short, how can standards be improved without standardization?

The project has produced a consultation paper outlining a possible solution based on a set of common or shared elements and another set of elements where there are choices or divergences to be made at country, organizational or individual level.

The paper elaborates on six ‘components’ of the frameworktogether with linking mechanisms.

  • A set of principles
  • A set of standards
  • An infrastructure
  • Processes and mechanisms for applying them and documentation.
  • Tools and materials to help those engaged in the process
  • Exemplars of evidence

The full consultation document can be downloaded here – Framework for the Professional Development of Trainers.. If you are involved in the training of trainers – or are just interested in te topic we would like to hear your views on the Framework

Training trainers

August 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Last week i took an all to short four day holiday in Romania. But this week sadly it is back to business. And tomorrow I am off to Jyväskylä for the EARLI conference. Wednesday evening I travel to Kuressaari in Estonia for a meeting of the b-learning project. And Friday it is back to Bremen. Phew! In fact I did not plan such a schedule –  I managed to double book myself.

Anyway in Jyväskylä I am presenting a paper from the TT-Plus project on the training of trainers. The paper is officially co-authored between myself and Pekka Kamarainen – although I have to say he has done most of the work. Given my limited input, I feel able to say that I think this is a very good paper. The abstract is below and if you are interested you can download the full paper. I will also post my presentation slides for both meetings as soon as I have finished them.

In search for common ground: Starting points for analysing the professional situation of trainers in six European countries

“This paper gives an account on the working hypotheses of the European cooperation project TTplus (“A framework for continuing professional development of trainers”) concerning the diversity of training cultures and on the distribution of training functions. Then, the paper examines some methodological starting points for analysing the European training cultures with the help of sociological concepts like  ‘contextual images’ (Ritsert, Bracher) or e-portfolio -related concepts like ‘use cases’ (Rees-Jones). Based on these grounded reflections the paper provides justification for the ‘controlled but explorative’ research strategy (Bracher) that was applied in the empirical studies. In this context the paper discusses the role of concepts like ‘instances of good practice’, ‘instances of change’ and ‘instances of innovation’ for the research approach of the project. In the concluding reflections the paper discusses the relevance of such a research approach for European knowledge development into the professional development of trainers.”

Download the full paper here

Freefolio – a social e-portfolio

August 19th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A quick update on developments with Freefolio.

Regular readers may remember that Freefolio is a ‘social’ eportfolio being developed by Pontydysgu and our partners, Raycom. Freefolio is based on WordPress MU and includes a serie sof plug ins for gorup management, structured blogging, aggregation and so on. Why a ‘social’ e-Portfolio. Becuase our primary aim is to support learning and we see learning as a social process.

the development of Freefolio is currently beings upported by Kent and Medway Connexions service.

This week we demoed the latest release whcih includes numerous improvements over the previous version. These include amongst others:

  1. Easier account creation
  2. Greatly simplified and redesigned backend user area
  3. Fully customisable dashboard
  4. Greater user controlled widgets
  5. Full multi media integration through media centre
  6. Bringing together of all personal data – profile, settings and CV on one tab
  7. Provision of many templates for user choice – some of which allow considerable customisation
  8. Replacement of spam karma by less intrusive spam filter
  9. Greater code modularization allowing easier future updating and customisation.
  10. Full integration of structured blogging templates in wordpress ‘write’ section.

We are working on the group functionality and are planning a presentation module plug in.

In the past we have provided access to a demonstration site for those interested in Freefolio. our first site got hacked down by robots registering accounts. We changed the account creation system to block bots, but then encountered probelms with real (well, brainless but human) registering accounts to spam their wares. Weare planning a new demo site with the new release as soon as we have found someone to moderate the site.

In the meantime if you would like to know more just email me.

What do we use to communicate?

August 17th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Last week I undertook two days of interviews with staff from a large educational service company in the UK. The interviews formed part of a series of enthnographic studies being undertaken by the Mature project to look at how information and knowledge are developed within organisations. Obviously communciation is a key part of this and we talked to workers at all levels of the organisation how they communictaed, about what and with who.

I suppose I should not have been surprised by the results but I was. The main means of communication is email. Everone used email on a daily basis for communciating about all kinds of things – including when soemone brought cake into a district office. There appeared to be no policy on what should be communicated – it being left up to individuals to decide what should be emailed to who. And although most epople said they found i quite hard keeping up with the volume of emails all were adamant that it was critical to their work.

I guess it would be possible to move a lot of this traffic to another platform – an intranet or wiki – although there is a temptation not to tinker with soemthing which is not broken. But n or discussions on learning platforms, PLEs and the rest, I think we have fogotten how important email is to peoples’ informal learning and work.

Finding out about trainers – your help needed

August 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I woudl be very grateful for your help in filling in a survey (yes I know – another one :)) It will take about ten minutes and has been developed by the Network for Trainers in Europe in which Pontydysgu is a partner.

The Network of Trainers in Europe is a European Commission sponsored project aiming to:

  • Provide an opportunity for exchanging experiences and knowledge though an easy to use web portal. Enable policy makers, managers and trainers to access ideas, materials and opportunities for professional development.
  • Undertake a small-scale survey of the work of trainers and their professional support.
  • Provide access to research and ideas through the organisation of workshops and on-line conferences.
  • Enhance the quality of support for trainers by sharing effective practice.
  • Stimulate new approaches to the training of trainers related to the concept of lifelong learning, knowledge sharing and peer learning.
  • Encourage researchers and trainers to share information and materials based on practical experience.
  • Bring together research and practice from different projects and initiatives throughout Europe.will implement a survey on the work, situation, qualification and status of VET trainers in the 32 European countries.

The survey is designed as a a tool to assess the situation of trainers and project future trends as well as recruitment and qualification needs.

It is available as an on-line version in English, French, German, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

The English language version can be accessed here. For other versions please go to the survey page on the network web site.

Join us at the Fringe

August 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Josie and Scott have been putting some work into the F-Alt 2008 events – the Fringe at the ALT 2008 conference (please note this is not associated in any way with the official conference etc).

Why have a fringe? Well my personal take on it – given there is no offical organising committee – is that we want to build on those out of session happenings which always seem the highlight of conferences. And I want – selfishly – a quickk fure consultation with colleagues – on he issues which are bothering me in my work. Hence I have signed up for th e-Portfolio WTF session – see proposed session below. I am increasingly caught between the dilemmas of trying to provide structured ePortfolio spaces whilst learners are usning all kind sof different social software to discuss and presnet their work. I hope to get other peoples ideas on this. And I like the idea of quick fire sessions. And of sessions being participant organised and led. Social software and especially Twitter has great potential for letting us do this.

And I don’t think that the humour on the F-Alt wiki should take away from the serious nature of such discussions. Serious fun is one of our memes at the moment – and one i take seriously :). Sessions are being scheduled outside the main conference times – we do no want to take away form thse who are presneting in official paper sessions. So if you are coming to Alt-C – ad are looking for some serious fun, please sign up on the wiki. Better still offfer to moderate or speak at a session.

The line up to date:

  • e-Portfolios: WTF?

Facilitator: Josie Fraser
Speakers: Graham Attwell

  • Learning Objects: WTF?
Facilitator: Scott Wilson
  • Second Life: WTF?

Facilitator: Nicola Whitton
Speakers: Scott Wilson

  • Edupunk: WTF?

Facilitator: Graham Attwell


  • Microblogging WTF?

Facilitator: Su White
Josie Fraser

  • Not not re-thinking the Digital Divide

but thinking about the digital divide, using gender as a lens

Facilitator: Josie Fraser

Speakers: Frances Bell, Helen Whitehead

PLEs – Designing for Change

August 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Yesterday I read “Designing for Change: Mash-Up Personal Learning Environments” by Fridolin Wild, Felix Mödritscher and Steinn Sigurdarson, who are working on the EU funded iCamp project. Thi is interesting stuff.
At the core of their arguement is the idea that “by establishing a learning environment, i.e. a network of people, artefacts, and tools (consciously or unconsciously) involved in learning activities, is part of the learning outcomes, not an instructional condition.”

They go on to look at AI and adaptive approaches to learning environments.

“Adaptive (educational) hypermedia technologies all differ”, they say, but “they share one characteristic: they deal primarily with the navigation through content, i.e. the represented domain specific knowledge. Information processing and knowledge construction activities are not in the focus of these approaches. Consequently, they do not treat environments as learning outcomes and they cannot support learning environment design.”

Their approach goes beyond personalisation.

“Considering the learning environment not only a condition for but also an outcome of learning, moves the learning environment further away from being a monolithic platform which is personalisable or customisable by learners (‘easy to use’) and heading towards providing an open set of learning tools, an unrestricted number of actors, and an open corpus of artefacts, either pre-existing or created by the learning process – freely combinable and utilisable by learners within their learning activities (‘easy to develop’). ”

They go on to explain a set of tools beng piloted by the iCamp project:

“In this section we describe the development of a technological framework enabling learners to build up their own personal learning environments by composing web-based tools into a single user experience, get involved in collaborative activities, share their designs with peers (for ‘best practice’ or ‘best of breed’ emergence), and adapt their designs to reflect their experience of the learning process. This framework is meant to be a generic platform for end-user development of personal learning environments taking into account the paradigm shift from expert-driven personalisation of learning to a design for emergence method for building a personal learning environment.”

The tools and platform they have developed are based on a learner interaction scripting language (LISL) leading to a Mash-UP Personal Learning Environment (MUPPLE). I do not fully understand how the platform works (does it require users to understand the scripting language?) but it appears to be based on users describing a set of activities they wish to undertake. These activities then allow them to access a set of tools to undertake those activities. The focus on activities rather than tasks seems to me interesting.

I very much like the idea that the learning platform is seen as an outcome of learning and think the approach has great potential. I woudl be interested to hear what others think of the approach. I hope to get a look at the platform and will report back.

Visualising data

August 9th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I’m having a happy afternoon playing with differents ervices for visualising data. I am looking at ways of showing data for use in careers counselling. I have created a very simple data set of employment by SOC rates in Kent in the UK. My first tries are using the IBM alphaworks tool which has the merit of being very simple to use.

Here is a matrix chart:

and this is a bubble chart:

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