Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Personal Learning and Maturing Environments

April 29th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I’m in Karlsruhe in Germany at a three and a half day meeting of the European Mature project. The project is ambitious and brings together many partners from different countries. It also brings tother knowledge managements pecialists and computer scientits as well as eductional technicans. I can’t say I awlays understand what is being talked about – at the moment the talk about core ontologies for interlinking a knowledge bus and semantic wiki is a little over my head.

The MATURE project is examining knowledge maturing processes and developing and testing technology based tools to support those processes. The project is based on the idea that the agility of organizations has become the critical success factor for economic competitiveness. Agility requires that companies and their employees together learn and develop their competencies efficiently in order to improve productivity of knowledge work. Failures of organisation-driven approaches to technology-enhanced learning and the success of community-driven approaches in the spirit of Web 2.0 have shown that for that agility we need to leverage the intrinsic motivation of employees to engage in collaborative learning activities, and combine it with a new form of organisational support. For that purpose, MATURE conceives individual learning processes to be interlinked (the output of a learning process is input to others) in a knowledge-maturing process in which knowledge changes in nature. This knowledge can take the form of classical content in varying degrees of maturity, but also involves tasks and processes or semantic structures. The goal of MATURE is to understand this maturing process better, based on empirical studies, and to build tools and services to reduce maturing barriers.

One of the key outcomes of the MATURE project is to develop and test a Personal Learning and Maturing Environment (PLME), embedded into the working environment, enabling and encouraging the individual to engage in maturing activities within communities (both established and newly formed) and beyond. Whilst the idea of knowledge maturing is a little difficult to work with, the idea that a Personal Learning Environment (and learning) can be embedded in evereyday work processes greatly interests me.

Thsi is a lits of what we think the PLME shoudl be able to do:

  1. The PLME needs to support interchange and discourses with both formal and informal networks as well as the emergence of these in order to support sociofact maturing. These networks may form part of a wider organisational learning and knowledge maturing environment.
  2. The PLME should facilitate users in supporting the learning of others as a significant form of skills and knowledge development.
  3. The PLME should provide functionality to facilitate communities in developing collaboratively the tools, documents, routines, vocabulary and symbols that can carry the accumulated knowledge of the community.
  4. The PLME needs to support active and dynamic knowledge development processes through the socialization, externalization, combination and internalization of knowledge
  5. The PLME should support information and knowledge workers in the requirement to use different sources to obtain current and accurate information, to extracting and extrapolate key data and to interpret and manipulating that data in order to provide a service.
  6. The PLME should allow for the collection of loosely coupled tools, both to provide flexibility for the different needs of different contexts and communities and also to facilitate agile development to respond to needs as a when they emerge.
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Embedding technology innovation in practice

April 26th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

At the Jisc Institutional Innovation workshop last week we distributed a hand out on Institutional support criteria projects. Steve Warburton produced the handout based on a talk by Gwen van der Velden from the University of Bath  at the NGTiP conference in February entitled “Engaging the sector: An institutional perspective of raising awareness to embedding new and emerging technologies“. It provided valuable insights into the process of institutional embedding from a managerial perspective. We used the handout in a workshop about what the Jisc calls Benefits Realisation )Valorisation in European jargon. Benefits realsiation is about the dissemination, institional emebedding and cross instiotutional transfer of projects. The questions Gwen raised are pertinent to the BR programme and provide a rubric against which to evaluate elements of BR proposals but also may be of interest for a wider audience. The key issues that Gwen raised are detailed below:

Where is the buy-in? Where are you embedding your technology/innovation/practice?

  • Is it technology or practice?
  • Are you planning change or replacement?
  • Who initiates change?
  • Embedding in what? E.g. financial systems, staff practice (takes time)
  • Institutional ability to change depends on the nature of the institution and its’ ethos e.g. devolved, centralised,
  • Change agents – who drives change? Are you targeting the correct stakeholders?

When does embedding work?

  • Getting buy-in – sell the argument – give the tools for the need to change to be passed on
  • User engagement: user and provider
  • Embedding solutions, not enhancements
  • Create patronage
  • User-friendly presentation
  • Leverage institutional reputation – what are the competitors using?

Drivers for embracing technology

  • Students and incoming staff
  • Strategic agendas
  • Credible results
  • Technology wise institutional managers
  • Risky times call for risky solutions
  • Depending on middle managers – are not the key change agents (they will be the implementers) – go senior – see it as staff development

Convincing your stakeholders

  • What is your strapline?
  • Make sure you are not solving non-existent problems – need to define the problem
  • Why would I support you?
  • What problem you solve for you me?
  • What do managers want to hear – the management discourse – which is not the same as Web2.0 discourse 🙂
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Thoughts from Plymouth

April 25th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am extremely tired today – travelling from Bremen to Ilmenau for Educamp and back to Bremen, then on to Manchester for a Jisc conference and then to the Plymouth eLearning conference and now back to Bremen was a little overambitious I think.

But I have had some great conversations on the way. A longer reflection will require a little time and peace but here are some quick thoughts. The Educamp confernce was remarkable because of the participants. The largest group were teachers and this meant the conversation changed from the wonders of educational technology to effective teaching and learning. And it was the unconferecing format and the i9nformal approach which encouraged so much participation. Also, the fact that it was free. Teachers cannot afford the high registration costs that are charged by the ‘traditional’ elearning conferences such at Alt-C and Online Educa. And so these conferences become dominated by the educational technology community (in the case of Alt-cC) or the corporate elearning market (in the case of Online Educa). This is not to say that these communities have nothing to contribute. But the participation of teachers (and students) makes for a much richer discourse.

I presented a keynote in Plymouth. Steve Wheeler said i could be as controversial as I wished. In contrasting Learning pathways to traditional approaches to schooling based on curricula, I questioned the future of educations systems. One of my concerns with this approach, however, is the danger of exclusion. Whilst the introduction of universal education through the Taylorist schooling system was designed to meet the needs of the economies following the industrial revolutions, it did provide opportunities for learning for those previously denied access through income and class background. And moving beyond that industrial model of schooling which now increasingly looks very tired does endanger that right to education. However, the argument seems more complex to me. Although many working class kids have profited from access to school, the forms of organsiation and curriculum have also excluded or alienated others. Research suggests achievement is still class based and access to higher education is still problematic for those on low incomes. Furthermore, as learning moves beyond the institution and becomes distributed in the community through the use of new technologies, it is opportunities to participate in those wider forms of learning that is critical to equity in access to learning.

I will try to address this issue in subsequent blog posts. But now it is time for a break – I am off to watch the football!

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Some thoughts on Educamp09

April 21st, 2009 by Graham Attwell

As promised yesterday, some more thoughts on the Educamp09 conference held last weekend in Ilmenau in Germany.

The overwhelming memory is of the atmosphere and buzz around the event. much of the reason for this was the superb organisation. Just small things really – a selection of different coffee, cartons of juice available throughout the conference. Great lighting and sofas to sit on to chat. Good music -all that kind of thing.

Another thing was the tech. This was not just a conference – it was an event. Every session was streamed out live. The sessions with online presenters worked. Big screens projecting the twitter stream. Very cool.

A lot of this was because it was an unconference. Apart from the opening panel discussion and a couple of invited international speakers, all the sessions were negotiated on the Saturday morning. No abstracts, no agonising over whether papers would be accepted. And the programme was simply filled in on the spot on a computer and then projected all over the conference spaces. No fiddling around to find out what session was where (Alt-C take note). And it was run by a volunteer organisation relying on (probably too small) sponsorship for funding. No funding bodies to keep on board, no policy bodies who had to have their egos massaged. A conference for the community run by the community.

There were no fees (Alt-C, Educa On-line – take note again). One result of this is that the conference was accessible to students and to teachers. The largest grouping at Educamp were teachers. And that brings another perspective to discussions on technology. The teachers came to share their own experiences and to learn as part of their practice.

If course the confernce was aided by the growing buzz around Web 2.0 and learning in the German speaking countries. I personally suspect that this is helped by the previous relatively low level of technology adoption in education. there is less baggage in the form of legacy technologies to be overcome.

The buzzwords from the confernce were “Bildung Hacken“. What is that? It is a term coming out of the Hacking Education confernce held in New York on March 10. However, Bildung Hacken is not really a precise translation – it means more in German – anyone care to attempt a translation / explanation?

The next Educamp is planned for Graz, in November I think. I am planning to be there. But here is a thought. Why not a UK based Educamp – and if we were to hold it at the same time we could link the two conferences electronically.

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Podcast: Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from Educamp

April 20th, 2009 by Graham Attwell


EduCamp 2009 in Ilmenau was cool. Great people, wonderful atmosphere and engaging discussions.  I will be posting soon on the vent and what I saw as the major issues emerging from it. enough now to say that it was an event for EduHackers.

And of course Sounds of the Bazaar was there with a live Saturday lunchtime show. I think it was the best of the live shows we have done. Despite English being a second language for most particpants, they were queuing up to come on the programme. But don’t take my word for it. Listen yourself to the podcast below.

NB Thanks to all the production crew – Helen Keegan, Cristina Costa, Dirk Stieglitz together with myself, Graham Attwell. Thanks to to all the kind people from educamp which made this show so much fun to produce.

The music is by Cool Cavemen from their albums Raw und All Cool Hits. Youcan find more great Creative Commons music on

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Using your skills to the full?

April 15th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I have been thinking a lot about the commodification of education. And this job advert from the UK Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (what a mouthful!)  seems to sum it up for me – the bean counters approach to innovation.

“Using your skills to the full

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) is the sixth largest spending department in Whitehall with a budget of more than £20bn. Britain can only succeed in a rapidly changing world if we develop the skills of our people to the fullest possible extent, carry out world class research and scholarship, and apply the knowledge and skills to create an innovative and competitive economy. As part of our team, you will have a key role to play.
You’ll be responsible for producing the Departmental Estimates and documentation, the financial contribution to the DAR, the annual Country and Regional Analysis report to the Treasury and the monthly Departmental COINS returns to the Treasury. In addition, you’ll have the added challenge of maintaining data control as we make the transition from two financial systems to a new shared service provider in early 2010.”

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Web 2.0, edupunk and acting

April 14th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am a big fan of Mr. Downes. Usually I agree with what he says. But I think Stephen has called this one wrongly. In a comment in OL Daily on my post on last weeks open seminar on Edupunk Stephen says:

“In the 1980s, punk was replaced with what became known as New Wave. New Wave was a lot like punk, except that the artists were so dirty, untrustworthy, and disreputable. It represented, to many, the co-opetion [sic] of this movement. So when I read “Martin is seeking to open up the VLE and apply the ideas of edupunk in an institutional context [and not as] as subversive or a challenge to the establishment but rather as a way of enhancing the teaching and learning environment,” I want to call it N-Ed Wave or some such thing. Talking Heads. Human League. Soft Cell. Oh gawd. Say it ain’t so.”

I am not convinced about the movement from punk to New Wave. But as I said in my original article, we need to establish edupunk as having a meaning in its own right. The music analogy is getting stretched and has limited further purchase.

But coming back to Stephen’s comments about what Martin Ebner is doing, I disagree. Edupunk is about doing it yourself, about opening up educational technology to the users. And that can take many forms of activity. In a previous Evolve seminar on Personal Learning environments. In a CETIS presentation on Personal Learning and Web 2.0, Scott Wilson acknowledged the challenges posed by Web 2.0 to institutions. They could he siad, ignore, co-opt through embracing and extending or could invert though contributing and extending. Institutions should move:

  • From hosting to consultancy (HE no longer an ISP or corporate IT provider)
  • From closed to open ethos: on content, systems, processes
  • Adding value to the Internet, not duplicating functionality with added control mechanisms

Individuals could contribute:

  • Our information – data, research, publications, content via open web APIs
  • Our expertise
  • Our offerings and products
  • Our role as facilitators, guides, and trusted source

Martin Ebner is working within Graz University to contribute and extend the use of Web 2.0 for learning . And for me that is certainly within the Edupunk ‘tradition’. In a great post entitled ‘Learning to Love the term Edupunk‘, Frances Bell says she realises that that she has “missed a dimension that Chris Sessums captures in his response to a blog post on a previous Edupunk sessions

“Edupunk embodies this notion of educators as artists, those who intentionally trace and explore traditional boundaries and human expression. The edupunk meme signifies more than just a tart phrase pasted on the media landscape. To truly understand its meaning, you have to live it.”

That is really important, to capture the creative outlets that an edupunk approach offers to teachers and other learners.  I am prepared to live it, and am privileged to work with students in higher education who are negotiating challenging boundaries in learning, work and society.”

Jim Groom has also been posting a series of articles showing how the edupunk idea can be practised in education.

The disucssions on edupunk have the potential to evolve a new idea and vision of education and of the uses to technology for learning. That means not just talking but acting. Acting in collbaoration, acting as individual researchers and acting within institutions. As Frances Bell says: “Edupunk is only the beginning.”

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Edupunk won’t go away, Edupunk is here to stay

April 10th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

A silly term, a fad, middle aged white male educational technologists at play? Edupunk has been called all of those but it won’t go away. Why is that? Because edupunk defined by Jim Groom as ” An approach to teaching and learning practices that results from a do it yourself attitude….inventive teaching and inventive learning” sums up the direction in which many of us which to see technology used in education.

This week saw the final of the spring series of open web based seminars organised jointly by the UK Jisc funded Evolve network and the German EduCamp organisation. And, appropriately enough the subject was edupunk.

There were two very different takes on the edupunk movement by the presenters. Martin Ebner from Graz Univeristy started by quoting Antonio Fumero who said “It’s not about matching traditional models with existing tools any more; it’s about developing a brand new pedagogical modal and implementing the next generation web environment upon it. He contrasted the goals of creativity, individuality and collaboration to the “closed castle of the university.”

Martin said universities need edupunks. But rather than radical preaching, Graz has adopted a practical strategy of trying to open up the university VLE and learning support systems to allow students and staff to use their own tools for creating and consuming content. Martin said the “learning environment of the future has to support the individual learning needs of the learners….has to  support the lecturers as well and …has to consider the web as [a] communication and collaboration environment.”

Steven Wheeler from Plymouth University had a more radical approach – or at least he would have if his university network hadn’t closed him out of the Elluminate platform used for the seminar. On his blog he explained what he would have said:

  1. “Edupunk is a philosophy deeply rooted in the belief that educators can ‘do it themselves’, and use tools that are open, ‘free’ and non-proprietary. It’s a movement against the commoditization of learning and against corporate profiteering. It is not just about selecting open tools and technologies. It is also about the freedom to choose the methods of teaching that are open and student centred. I would even go as far as to claim that Edupunk teachers should be challenging the curricula they are required to teach, and especially the assessment methods that are imposed from on high. These are the structures that constrain education and stop learners from achieving their full potential.
  2. Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and in particular Learning Management Systems (LMSs) contribute toward restrictive practices in education and constrain both learner and teacher to operate within a model of learning that is institutionally beneficial, but does little for the learner themselves. VLEs are generally difficult to use, with far too much effort needed to be put into understanding how the system works, to the detriment of the time and effort spent actually learning.
  3. An exemplification of Edupunk philosophy is the rise of the personal learning environment (PLE) in which the learner selects his/her own tools and technologies to apply in formal and informal learning. Typical PLEs will incorporate a social networking service, reflective and collaborative tools, e-mail and a mobile device. I use a mashup of wiki (shell to aggregate all tools and provide a collaborative space), blogs (reflective tool and mind amplification space) and Twitter (microblog to update and inform and also to receive ideas and contact from others with a similar interest to me). I also use my wireless laptop and iPhone as communication/end tools.
  4. Edupunk is more than ‘do it yourself’. It is also a counterculture against corporate control and exploitation of learning, and brings the punk band (the teacher) closer to the audience (learner group). It is unashamedly anarchic and harks back to the concept of ‘deschooling society’ first proposed by Ivan Illich in the 1970s. Illich famously argued that we don’t need funnels (directional learning through institutional control) but webs (multi-directional, hyperlinked learning that can be tailored by the individual to her/his own needs). Rhizomatic approaches to learning fall into this kind of philosophy.”

This is interesting. Both Martin and Steve embrace the idea of edupunk. Both are supporting the introduction of Personal Learning Environments. But whilst Steve sees edupunk ” bricolage, anarchy and subversion and a challenge to the establishment” and the VLE as contributing to restrictive practices,  Martin is seeking to open up the VLE and apply the ideas of edupunk in an institutional context. He does not appear to see it as subversive or a challenge to the establishment but rather as a way of enhancing the teaching and learning environment.

Could it just be that the idea of edupunk is now becoming part of the mainstream and as it does different strategies will emerge? Is it also possible that edupunk is becoming a (valuable) concept in itself without the need to be viewed as an analogy to the punk music scene of the 1970s. I hope so.

If you want to listen to the debate the Elluminate replay of the seminar is available on line.

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The challenge for education

April 8th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am speaking at the Plymouth elearning conference on 23 and 24 April. Steve Wheeler asked me to produce a summary of my presentation for the conference publication.

This was a problem. Firstly, I am bad at writing summaries. Secondly, I never know quite what I will say until I say it. But finally I have sat down and written it. I quite like it. I think it provides a summary of the different ideas around which we are centring our work at Pontydysgu.

Social software, personal learning environment and the future of education

The presentation  will look at the impact of recent developments in social software and the possible impact on education.

The origins of the word curricula, coming from the Latin word    ‘currere’ – a running race, a course or career can be contrasted to the origins of the word learning coming from the old Gothic word ‘Gleis’, meaning to tack, to follow and to find a path, the Gothic ‘leis’ which means to know and the the old English ‘learnien’ – to get knowledge.

Our education systems and institutions have been based around the original idea of curriculum, with winners and losers, the
same starting point and same finish point for all participants and with progression being seen as
a straight line between the two. Above all our educational institutions have been developed around the idea of homogeneity.

Such an idea of homogeneity was reinforced by the first industrial revolutions which led to the expansion of a schooling system to develop the skills needed by the workforce in a production economy.

The introduction of social software allows the exploration of different  learning pathways, and learning through exploring, wandering and funding the way.  Social networking tools allow learners to make connections, to  take individual choices about the direction of their learning within personal learning networks. Learning is based on bricolage – on making creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are to hand, regardless of their original purpose.

Teachers and trainers have a new role as mentors and guides to scaffold and support learning.

In terms of the future development of educational technology we need tools to help explore pathways, develop connections and to take control of own learning. This is turn requires a greater degree of engagement between developers, educational technologists and practitioners.

Education systems need greater flexibility to provide learners with their own space, to work at their own speed and at their own level, to define their own knowledge areas and make their own connections. Institutions can take the first steps in this by unlocking their resources and opening up their VLEs, by providing more and different ways of accessing services and by focusing IT support on services rather than systems.

The emergence of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is an important  step in this respect. PLEs can provide tools to help learners make and sustain connections, to help learners organise, scaffold and take responsibility for their learning and to manage and handle learning content. PLEs can also provide tools for recording and representing and sharing the learning ‘bricolage’

The emergence of new patterns and forms of learning based on social software provide a great opportunity to extend learning opportunities and to embed learning in every day work and living. At the same time it poses a challenge to educations systems and institutions who no longer have a monopoly on knowledge development and transmission.

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Not Fit for Purpose: the national strategies for literacy considered as an endeavour in sharing knowledge

April 3rd, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I was sent an (unasked for) email about a new journal. Academic spam. But there was an article I was interested in. And so instead of consigning the email to my spam box (as I should have) I followed the link – only to get this message.


Aaah. Why bother sending me this information if it is not open for me to read. The policy of closed journals is one which has lasted too long. It is time for change </end rant>.

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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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    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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      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

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