Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Edupunk will never die

September 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Edupunk will never die. From latest edition of Wired mag as posted by edupunk pioneer Jim Groom.

Learning requires readiness, preparedness and motivation

September 25th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Please don’t groan at yet another post on Personal Learning Environments. Well – I hope not becuase there are a few more in the pipeline. Why am I so focused. Besides my interest in how to change what I see as a grossly unfair and non-functional education system, because I am a partner on the EU funded Mature project which seeks to use PLEs to foster knowledge maturation.And I am using this blog as a jotting pad for confused ideas!

The problem with much of the debate for me, is that it is focused on hwo we use PLEs in education – or more narrowly in higher education. As such it is about replacing VLEs, letting go of control, providing services etc. Indeed we spend much of our time defining PLEs by what they are not! But what about those not in education – or at least those for whom formal learning is a episodic event? And what about using PLEs in the workplace? There has been very little dicussion around these issues and yet I think this may be where the real power of PLEs lies. Of couse everyone has their own PLE – if we take the widest sense of an enevironment in which we learn and if we accept that all working environments foster or constrain learning to a different extent. So one issue is simply how to design learning conducive working environments. But in a study we have undertaken for the Mature project (not yet available) we found that individuals have highly idiosyncratic ways of developing, managing and sharing knowledge, ranging from post-it notes and carrier bags to PDAs and voice recorders. On the one hand they are concious of their need for information and knowledge, on the other hand spend little time considering just how they meet such a need. And of course ICT comfidence and competence varies greatly.

We face a number of challenges in introducing PLEs for these knowledge rich workers. To what extent do we want to challenge the personal strategies people already have – especially if they are working for them? How can PLE tools be made to integrate within the working environment? At a more funadamental level what are these tools? What added value will they produce?

Yes – we can develop a range of services – calenders, access to research and resources and can provide these in flexible and multiple formats. But services alone do not mean learning. Much of the present learning is informal and much comes out of involvement in multiple networks – both organisational and personal. How can we build on the power of networks to enhance learning?

What is necessary for learning to take place? In a recent skype channel chat Jenny Hughes suggested that learning depends on readiness, preparedness and motivation. Readiness, she said, is about prerequisite skills and knowledge and physical and intellectual and emotional state or stage of development; preparedness is about having the time, the technology, the environment etc. and motivation is will or desire. If there are opportunties for informal learning in everyday work, then a PLE can assist in the preparedness for learning but can do little for readiness for motivation.

To be continued……

To learn – to find and follow a track

September 24th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Jenny Hughes has been undertaking the thankless task of trying to edit (or more to rewrite) an article of mine on Personal Learning Environments as part of a handbook for teachers for the Taccle project.

I am intrigued by her reference ot the orgins of the words ‘curriculum’ and ‘learning’ in this excerpt from the draft:

“Traditionally, knowledge has been conceived of something possed by ‘experts’ . The formal education curriculum is based on the idea that learning can be neatly and conveniently divided into subject areas which in turn are based on traditional university disciplines.  The people who have the knowledge (the teachers) are accorded higher status than those that do not (the learners) and although all good teachers maintain that they learn a lot from their pupils, the passage of information is conceived as being one-way. There are desgnated places (schools) where learning officially takes place, where learning is tested and  which control access to the next stage or level of learning

The new technologies have challenged this status quo.  The explosion of freely available sources of information has increased the range of knowledge available to people and has made it accessible when and where they want it, in bite sized chunks that do not necessarily form a coherent subject discipline.

We are moving from the idea of knowledge being developed and controlled by experts to collaborative knowledge construction which can be facilitated by the use of social software, as we describe above. Even more importantly, we are starting to rethink what qualifies as ‘knowledge’.  Instead of the ‘curriculum’ being defined by experts, communities of people interested in the same things – or even just by being part of a community – are acting as a curriculum.

Interestingly, the word curriculum comes from the latin ‘currere’, which means to run or race and ‘curriculum’ was a race or racecourse. It is easy to see how this was adopted to describe a learning course which had a starting point, travelled along a straight route and reached a finishing point with competitors battling with each other to finish first or to be the best.

Maybe for the first time learning has stopped being a race course. Conversely ‘to learn’ originally meant ‘to find and follow a track’  and this seems to sum up rather well the current shift in emphasis from formal curriculum to informal learning.

This changing model requires not only different approaches but different technologies and implicit is the change from an institutional approach to learning to a more learner centred approach.”

e-learning is so much more than word documents

September 24th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Quick rant.This sort of thing worries me greatly:

“The award winning, patent pending, software “Metamorphosis” is a world first! It converts a Microsoft Word text document into a fully fledged elearning course with assessments in minutes.

This development process is fully automated. It includes the insertion of text relevant graphics on each page. The library contains 25,000 images and can be expanded. Voice and video clips can be added as well.

Every kind of course assessment is possible. Multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks, completing of paragraphs and part identification on an image are some of the possible assessment types.

The files will be ready for deployment as a standalone, LAN based, web based course or as an addition to your LMS.”

Now anything which makes for easy authoring is very important in that it faciliatates teachers and trainers creating their own e-learning material. But the idea that e-learning materials comprise of a word document with some pictures and simple tests added is exactly what we are fighting against and just what makes so much e-learning boring and a turn off for learners. And for that matter we could do with less of the award winning, patent pending, world first hyperbole.

PLEs – a social and political issue

September 23rd, 2008 by Graham Attwell

Great Evolve seminar on Personal Learning Environments last night (you can see the recording here – if this link fails click here and go to Monday 22). What came through clearly was that PLEs are primariy a social and political issue. As I write this Scott Wilson who presented at the seminar has just twittered “scottbw PLE – Its quite tricky keeping the social and technical interventions both in focus at the same time.” But that is exactly what we have to do. A focus on the technical without taking up the social and politcial will fail. I would go even further to say it is the social and polictical fcus of what we wish to achieve in modelling a new vision of our education and learning systems which should be driving technicl development. I see so many technical presentations which leave me wondering – ‘so what’. And as Francis Bell rightly said last night we need to evaluate and understand the impact of previous generations of technology implementation on education and learning. But I also think many of us are hiding behind technology and failing to express our true wishes which are to reshape the way we learn in our societies.

Now may be the time to open such a debate. The PLE discussions have been instrumental in revealing many of the systemic tensions in education and traning provision. Now we need to start to articulate a new agenda and to consider how we can shape techncial development to support such a vision.

F-Alt – a quick (if belated) reflection

September 22nd, 2008 by Graham Attwell

So much seems to have been written about F-Alt – the fringe conference organised at ALT-C this year – that it almost pointless to say more (see links on the F-Alt wiki and on the #FAlt08 Twemes page). But I would like to add some words about the learning processes.

First of all the organisation. F-Alt did not have any formal organising body in the normal sense. But it did have organsiation and leadership in the sense that individuals took responsibility for doing things. This relied on a high degree of community and of trust and possibly refects the emergence of a community of practice aorund the use of ICT for learning which has perhaps been lacking before. Maintaining community openess and willingness to remain emergent are challenges for the future.

Th technologies worked pretty well. The Wet Paint wiki offers a quick way to develop a collaborative organising platform. Twitter was pretty useful for getting the word out although it would have been better if Twemes had been restored earlier and we had been able to publicise our tag.

The big success fo me was the format. Running short, sharp and issue focused sessions – no speakers were allowed more than three minutes – allowed both a focus n those topics particpants wanted to discuss and also, critically, highly participative events. None of us knew the venue in advance and we expropriated public spaces. Whilst this did pose problems in terms of people knowing where events would be and in somewhat distractive background noise levels (30 of us discussed e-Portolfios around a poolt table in the corner of a pub!) it also kept us focused on the wider conference and communiy environment in which we are working. Perhps there is a learning lesson for organsers of ‘official’ confernces. There are plenty of formats other than the stand and tell – or stand and powerpoint – followed by three or four questions. Lets try and innovate. I would also like to see experiments with ‘blended conferences’ where presentations can take place online and face to face sessions used to discuss, debate and challenge around the issues and possibly produce new resources and outcomes.

I am sure that others will replicate the sucess of F-Alt and we will see more such fringe happenings in the future. This raises the question of the relationship between conference organisers and the fringe. In many ways F-Alt was all the better for being not associated officially with Alt-C. But, I believe F-Alt provided added value to the conference and thus such events should be encouraged by confernce organisers. But raher than endorsing or officially supporting such Fringe activities, better could be to provide open spaces where such activities might take place. In other words, to accept that unconferencing is what is says and is not part of the conference, but a useful, complimentary and parallel activity. As such it could be good if conference organisers were to provide times and spaces where such activities could take place – not just for F-Alt bu for anyone with a burning issue to discuss.

Short selling teachers

September 19th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

A truly frightening post in the Guardian. Are these the sort of people we want teaching our kids? Mind, short selling on qualifications could be sort of fun!
“Teaching may be high on the list of career options being pondered by sacked finance workers, new figures suggest. Inquiries about teacher training programmes have soared since the start of the credit crisis, according to the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA), which hopes to entice redundant bankers into the classroom.
The number of people inquiring about becoming a teacher has risen by almost 34% since March, said the TDA. From March to September last year its website received 758,308 unique web hits; the same period this year saw 1,018,580. And the number of people registering an interest in changing career to become a teacher has also risen – by 13% year on year, the TDA said.
The organisation said it believes both graduates and career changers are seeking more secure career paths in the wake of financial instability.”

Cracks are opening in the system

September 19th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

One of the first of a series of ctach up posts from the last two weeks of wall to wall conferences and meetings.

For a long time I have been complaining at the ludicrous policies that ban students from using small powerful mobile computers – yes telephones. And now – in the UK at least – there does seem to be some movement. Remarkably, this article is from the online version of the Daily Mail – which as UK readers will appreciate is not normally a fan of anything progressive!

“Children should be allowed to use their mobile phones in class because they can serve as ‘learning aids’, a study claims today.

Academics are calling on schools to rethink bans on phone handsets after trials suggested that functions such as calculators, stopwatches and email can be ‘educational’………

During a nine-month experiment involving classes aged 14 to 16, pupils either used their own mobiles in lessons or the new generation of ‘ smartphones’ which allow internet connection.

They were used to create short films, set homework reminders, record a teacher reading a poem and time experiments with the phones’ stopwatches.

The smartphones also allowed pupils to access revision websites, log into the school email system, or transfer electronic files between school and home.

The study by researchers at Nottingham University involved 331 pupils in schools in Cambridgeshire, West Berkshire and Nottingham……

‘After their hands-on experience, almost all pupils said they had enjoyed the project and felt more motivated.’

One teacher told researchers that students like mobiles and they know how to use them.

‘Using this technology gives them more freedom to express themselves without needing to be constantly supervised,’ the teacher said. ……..

Dr Hartnell-Young said: ‘While the eventual aim should be to lift blanket bans on phones, we do not recommend immediate, whole-school change.

‘Instead we believe that teachers, students and the wider community should work together to develop policies that will enable this powerful new learning tool to be used safely.'”

A good start but the reactions to the artcile on the web site were far from progressive. Whether this refelcts where teachers or at or just mirrors the Daily Mail readership is hard to say:

“Mobile phones will be used for “learning”? Does that follow on from the Internet not being used for downloading porn or computers not being used for playing games? Flimsy research from a bunch of nutters who want to look hip and with it.

– Maggie, Oxford, 4/9/2008 4:09″

“Appalling idea. People are completely ruled by their mobiles. It will cause more bullying and stealing of popular phones. Leave mobile phones at home.

– Sue, Southampton, 4/9/2008 7:49″

“Whoever came up with this waste of money study – needs to be sacked. Where did they get their information from – a text message?

– Don, UK, 4/9/2008 8:03″

And so on. But it is a crack in the system and cracks can be widened. Whilst on the subject of mobiles there is a great post on the Blog of Proximal Development about the Teachers Without Borders ICT Workshop in Capetown.  Konrad Glogowski quotes a teacher saying “I understand what you mean about engagement. When my students ask me, ‘Miss, what does this word mean?’ I tell them to take out their cell phones and find out for themselves. I want them not to always ask me.”

Seems teachers in the UK have some catching up to do!

Open seminar on Personal Learning Environments – Monday

September 19th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

The Open Seminar Sessions @ EVOLVE are back! ;-)

This Month is about Personal Learning Environments. Hopefully a lot of food for thought here!!

This month our guest speaker is Scott Wilson from CETIS UK, who will share some thoughts about Personal Learning Environments

The idea of a PLE (Personal Learning Environments) is that learners can configure different services and tools to develop their own learning environment, bringing together informal learning from the home, the workplace as well as more formal provision by education institutions. The PLE is controlled by the learner and as well as offering an environment for accessing different information and knowledge allows access to web based publishing and other opportunities for creating content and expressing and exchanging ideas. The idea behind the PLE is to harness the power and potential of social software and web 2.0 applications for learning.

The session will take place in September, 22 2008 at 1800 UK time (please check your time here)

We will meet in Elluminate meeting, which you can access here. [ This is an open meeting. Attendee(s) don’t require a password to join, even if requested to do so. Just type your name]

Online conference on training of trainers

September 15th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I left AltC early last Thursday morning to travel to Leiden in the Netherlands for a meeting of the Eurtrainer porject. Eurtrainer is developing a network for trainers in Europe and together with Cristina Costa and Dirk Stieglitz, I am organising an online confernce on the training of trainers on November 5 and 6. The conference is free and you can register online on the Trainers in Europe web site.

Anyway here is the main conference blurb.

First International on-line conference – 5-6 November 2008

The Network to Support Trainers in Europe is launching its first annual on-line conference on “the Training of Trainers” on 5 and 6 November, 2008. The confernce is co-sponsored by the Jisc funded Evolve network.

Who is the conference for?
The conference is for all those interested in the training and professional development of teachers and trainers. This includes teachers, trainers, tutors, researchers, managers and policy makers and other interested individuals.

About the conference
The conference will take place through the internet using the Elluminate conference tool. We hope this will not only reduce the carbon footprint of our activities, but will allow wide participation by those who might not be able to travel. The conference will utilise simple web-based tools and will be accessible by anyone with an internet connection and a web browser. For those of you not used to presenting on the internet, we will provide full technical support and a short pre-conference training course.

To find out more go to the conference technology page.

Conference themes
The conference will be organised around four themes:

  • Theme 1 – The changing role of trainers in learning
  • Theme 2: E-learning for trainers
  • Theme 3: Work-based learning
  • Theme 4: Support for the professional development of trainers

Go the the conference themes page to find out more.


Speakers include:

Professor Alan Felstead and Nick Jewson, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK

Professor Alison Fuller, School of Education, University of Southampton, UK

Professor Alan Brown, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, UK

George Roberts, Oxford Brooks University, UK

Barry Nyhan, Ireland

Seija Mahlamäki-Kultanen and Anita Eskola-Kronqvist, HAMK, Finland.

Eduardo Figueira, Academus, Portugal

Simone Kirpal, Institut Technik und Bildung, Univeristy of Bremen, Germany

John Pallister, Wolsingham School

Cristina Costa, Pontydysgu, UK

Doris Beer, Germany

Vance Stevens, Abu Dubai

Carla Arena et al – United States, Japan, Ukraine, Argentina and the UK

Anne Fox, Denmark

Regina Lamscheck Nielsen, DEL, Denmark

Linda Castañeda, University of Murcia, Spain

Titles and abstracts for the presentations can be found on the programme page. Presentations will be 15 minutes allowing 15 minutes for discussion.


There will also be an on-line exhibition. Go to the exhibition page for details of how you can participate.


The conference is free. However, we would ask you to please register for the conference in advance as places are limited. Please go to the registration page. It is possible to register for one or more of the four seperate conference sessions.

More information
For more information email the project coordinator Simone Kirpal – kirpal or the conference organiser Graham Attwell – graham10

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