Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Open Journals

August 29th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

The end of September sees the annual European Conference on Educational Research in Vienna (ECER). For many years now, I have supported the Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET) which forms a constituent section of the European Educational Research Association, the organisers of ECER.

Whilst VETNET has been extremely successful in organising around the conference, its attempts to form a stronger community of practice have been hampered by the lack of activities between conferences. One long discussed aim is to launch a research journal. Many hours of work have been taken up in drawing up proposals and negotiating with publishers, with little result. For some years now, I have been arguing for a web based open journal. Whilst some have seen the potential of such a development, the majority of researchers within the vocational and education training community have remained wedded to the traditional publisher led model, mainly, I think, feeling that the academic standing of a journal can only be secured through publisher involvement.

In that regard, I am delighted to read in OLDaily (welcome back from holidays, Stephen) of  the launch of AISHE-J (The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) which has just launched volume 1 number 1. “It is an open-access, peer-reviewed, journal of scholarly research into Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.” Here’s the RSS Feed. The first issue includes an article from Phil Race on assessment as learning and Kate Day on learning environments.

Open Journal do not imply any less quality than traditional closed print journals. The more examples there are of such journals, the more the sceptics will be convinced. VETNET take note!

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The VLE is dead

August 27th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

More Alt-C conference fun. The incomparable James Clay has organised a deabte at the Alt-C confernce entitled the VLE is dead! And I am speaking at it! Guess my view (in fact i seem to recall speaking on the same subject six years ago at a meeting in Denmark where my opponent was the CEO of a company producing a then little known VLE called Fronter!).

Here is the line up (as told by James):

“Josie introduces the session and the ways in which the audience can contribute. I would like to take a poll at this stage too and some initial comments from the audience.

The first panel member, Steve Wheeler, will argue that many VLEs are not fit for purpose, and masquerade as solutions for the management of online learning. Some are little more than glorified
e-mail systems. They will argue that VLEs provide a negative experience for learners.

The second member of the panel, Graham Attwell, believes that the VLE is dead and that the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the solution to the needs of diverse learners. PLEs provide
opportunities for learners, offering users the ability to develop their own spaces in which to reflect on their learning.

The third panel member, James Clay, however, believes that the VLE is not yet dead as a concept, but can be the starting point of a journey for many learners. Creating an online environment involving multiple tools that provides for an enhanced experience for learners can involve a VLE as a hub or centre.

The fourth panel member, Nick Sharratt, argues for the concept of the institutional VLE as essentially sound. VLEs provide a stable, reliable, self-contained and safe environment in which all teaching and learning activities can be conducted. It provides the best environment for the variety of learners within institutions.

This then leaves forty minutes for discussion and online interaction.

Each member of the panel offers a final thought and we have a final vote.”

Th session takes place from 1340 – 1500 UK summer time on Tuesday 8 September. I bet you are all wishing you take part but cursing the Alt C fees. but you can, and for free. The whole event will be streamed live and you can take part through Twitter. As soon as I have details I will post them on this site But put it in your diary now.

And remember : the VLE is dead! Vote early and vote often.

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Are we still getting e-learning wrong – how can we get it ‘right’?

August 25th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I have written many posts about what I consider wrong with approaches to e-learning based on attempts to ‘manage’ learning through Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments. I have also written about the promise of alternative approaches based on Web 2.0, social software and Personal Learning Environments.

But are we still getting e-learning wrong? Not the technology but what we are trying to use ot for and with whom.

As with most technological innovation, first attempts at implementation tend to mimic previous social paradigms. This the idea of the virtual classroom and the on-line university. Teaching and learning  through technology have changed with the idea of blended learning and the increasing integration of technologies within curricular and pedagogic  approaches. But the main thrust of use of technology for learning remains the delivery of ‘traditional; curricula or bodies of knowledge to translational students groups – albeit extended through distance learning to a wider student cohort.

I have long thought that the transformative potential of Technology Enhanced Learning is the ability to support explorative (I am desperately trying to avoid that vague ‘constructivist’ word?) learning for anyone, anywhere. And, in a developmental perspective, the most interesting work may be the use of technology for supporting work based learning and informal learning outside traditional courses. In this respect, it is interested to see the increasing interest of projects funded under the European Commission Research programme and Education and Training programme in competence based approaches to education and training.

However, this approach remains problematic. attempts to develop standardised  taxonomies of competence tend to ignore the importance of context, especially or work based learning and Continuing Professional Development. Recently, I have been involved in a number fo projects looking at how we can use internet based technologies ot support learning, knowledge development and knowledge maturing for Careers Advice, Information and Guidance practitioners in the UK. Of course, ‘training’ is important for such a group of knowledge workers. But even more important is the ability to learn, everyday from the work they carry out, both individually and collectively. Within the Mature-IP project we have developed an approach to knowledge maturing aiming at the development and implementation of tools for Personal Learning and for Organisational learning. In reality it has proved difficult to separate out the two. Individual learning rests of more collective learning processes, within a community of practice, and equally organisational learning is largely dependent on the individual learning of the practitioners. it is possible to look at the roles and tasks carried out by Careers professionals and then to develop tools to assist in carrying out such tasks. such an approach has the merit of supporting everyday work, thus meaning that potentially learning is integrated within the work process. However, there is no guarantee that merely using technologies for task management results in significant learning and knowledge development at either individual or organisational level.

One answer appears to be to integrate more social software functionality into platforms and tools designed to support learning. this autumn, we will launch two platforms: one for policy makers within the careers field based on a mash up of WordPress and the excellent Open University Cloudworks software, and the other a professional development site for careers practitioners based on Buddypress. with both we are attempting to encourage and facilitate peer group learning based on social interaction.

Whether or not these approaches will be successful remains to be seen. But, overall, I am convinced that such projects are key to developing a more transformational direction to the use of technology for learning. In undertaking this work we are lucky to have the support of the Mature-IP project which allows a more focused examination of teh relation between theories and practice in learning and the development of Technology Enhanced Learning tools and platforms. One issue that has become apparent is that research into Technology Enhanced Learning is truly inter-disciplinary – needing at a very least a bringing together of expertise in pedagogy, education, organisational learning, work sciences, design and psychology as well as computer science. Such interdisciplinary research provides a challenge in terms of methodologies.

Projects like Mature-IP and the JISC funded Emerge project offer the basis for rethinking what we are doing with e-learning – and perhaps even for getting it ‘right’ this time round.

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Sustaining Communities

August 22nd, 2009 by Graham Attwell

My two week break from blogging is over so it is back to normal service!

And with September fast approaching it is time to turn to the conference season. This year I have limited myself to just three conferences from the many goodies on offer. I will be at the Alt-C conference in Manchester, UK, from 8 to 10 September, at the Second World Congress on the Information Society in Crete from 16 – 18 September and at the European Conference on Education Research from the 28th to the 30th.

As ever we are hoping to organise a few fringe events and experiment with different media. Alt – C features the wonderful F-Alt (Fringe Alt for the uninitiated). This is a free unconferencing series of events, organised through a wiki. And for ECER in Vienna we are hoping to run a series of internet radio programmes under the Sounds of the Bazaar series (more details soon).

That is the ‘unofficial’ stuff. Now on to the official things – papers, symposia and the like. I have tried to develop a series of linked papers / contributions for these events (I am not sure whether it will work) around the themes of Web 2.0, digital identities and Personal Learning Environments.  For the first of the events, Alt C, I am making a presentation as part of the project team from the now finished Jisc Emerge support project. Here is an excerpt from our proposal entitled ‘Emerging practice and institutional change symposium: a user-centred, learning technology R&D support-community network’:

“Questions for institutions are to what extent are they comfortable with ceding certain amounts of control to individuals and to new communities?

For individuals the principal issues are to what extent do they subordinate their autonomy and self-direction to communities, how much do they subordinate and to which communities?

This symposium argues these questions from four perspectives:
– R&D programme support
– Community development
– Social networking applications and platforms
– Shifting centres of control

There will be four short presentations from each of these different perspectives. Each presentation will conclude with a series of open questions and will be followed by opportunities for questions and contributions from participants.  Participants will be invited to consider how these issues impact on their practice and the practice of their institutions.”

I am speaking about Social networking applications and platforms and in the next couple of days will post some thoughts on that theme in this blog. If you are interested in participating in the symposium but are not attending the conference we are planning to ustream the event and to invite questions through Twitter. Watch this space for full details.

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Bernd Baumgartl

August 20th, 2009 by Graham Attwell


I returned from holiday to learn the sad news of the death of my friend and colleague, Bernd Baumgartl.

I have worked with Bernd for over ten years on a number of different projects. Bernd was always a pleasure to work with, creative and inventive, free thinking and always concerned to support and help others.

When I first met Bernd he was working for the European Training Foundation in Italy. Soon after he left the ETF to found Navreme, based in Vienna. I became good friends with Bernd and stayed many times at his flat in Vienna. We would often stay up late at night, drinking and talking and I came to look forward to my trips to Vienna. We did not agree about everything – Bernd and me wasted many happy hours debating the merits of private universities! But above all it was Bernd’s humanity, inquisitiveness and love of life which was so appealing about him.

His death has come as a shock. I knew he was ill but when we last talked by skype he seemed to be getting better. We talked about his wedding to Uschi in June and he told me how happy he was and how much in love he was.

Words seem so inadequate…Bernd will be sorely missed by all who knew and worked with him. To Uschi and Bernd’s family and colleagues ..we are thinking of you.

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Online conference on Innovation in Training Practice

August 6th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Last year Pontydysgu organised the first online conference on the training of trainers as part of our work with the Network for Trainers in Europe. Some seventy participants joined the conference from twenty-six different countries.

This year on 9 and 10 November we are organising a follow up conference on “Innovation in Training Practice.” The conference if free and open to all those interested n the subject. An online enrollment form will be made avaiable in the next two weeks. In the meantime we have put out a call for particpation. Wales Wide Web readers will be very welcome to take part.


About the Network

The European Commission funded Network to Support Trainers in Europe examines the role of trainers by looking at different aspects of training practice and policy. A key objective is to foster exchange between training practitioners, researchers, policy makers and stakeholder institutions. Topics that the Network addresses include trainers’ work, skills, status, professional profile, the recognition of their work and trainers’ continuing professional development.

While the Network seeks to establish support structures for trainers in different European countries, we also have created an on-line platform to link different initiatives, studies and activities on trainers at the European and international level. The platform provides access to research results and recent developments in policy and practice as well as practical tools for practitioners and the training of trainers. A communication forum for practitioners, researchers, managers and policy makers is also available.
In 2008 a main activity of the Network was an online conference which involved some 70 participants. Given that this conference was highly successful, we wish to build on this with a second online conference this year.

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, researchers, managers and policy makers.

About the conference

The conference will take place on through the internet. 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.

Conference themes

The conference will be organised around four themes.

Theme 1 – Innovations in Work-based Learning for VET Teachers and Trainers

Work-based learning is seen as being based on practice and supporting the development of applied work practice knowledge. Against classroom-based training it tends to be more authentic and situated and may be more cost-effective in contributing to production processes. Issues to be explored in this session include:

  • How can the work environment be organised to support work-based learning?
  • What are the pedagogic approaches to work-based learning?
  • What role does work process knowledge play in the context of work-based learning?
  • How can the curriculum be organised to support work-based learning?

Theme 2: Equality and Diversity: Innovations in training practice for socially disadvantaged groups

The provision of training for socially disadvantaged groups is a high priority for the European Commission and for many European governments. Social disadvantage may have a wide variety of meanings – including gender, ethnicity, the long-term unemployed, ex prisoners, refugees etc. Targeted provision for these groups is usually focused on social inclusion within education and training or within the workforce. Issues to be explored in this session include:

  • Approaches to mainstreaming for socially disadvantaged groups;
  • Innovative pedagogic approaches to training targeted at socially disadvantaged groups;
  • Innovative institutional arrangements for the training for socially disadvantaged groups;
  • Recognising prior learning and achievement for socially disadvantaged groups;

Theme 3: Technology Enhanced Learning / ICT for innovation and training practice

e-Learning is increasingly impacting on training. Larger enterprises are developing in-house e-learning programmes for employees. The internet is increasingly being used for informal learning. Internet-based tools offer opportunities for accessing learning in the workplace and for communication. E-portfolios can be used to record and reflect on learning. Web 2.0 tools offer opportunities to develop customised multi-media materials to support training. Issues to be explored in this session include:

  • What is the impact of e-learning on training and the activities of trainers?
  • How can we best use e-learning to support trainers?
  • How can we encourage and recognise informal internet based learning?
  • What is the impact of social software and Web 2.0 on training and learning?

Theme 4: Innovations in company-based training

The present high rate of change in processes and products and technology implementation is driving a focus on lifelong learning and company-based training. This can take different forms including formal courses, on the job learning, coaching and Technology Enhanced Learning and includes both initial and continuing vocational training. There is also increasing interest in informal learning in companies and in the recognition of informal learning. Competence development and frameworks for competence development are another theme which has attracted much debate over the past period. Issues to be explored in this session include:

  • Innovative learning arrangements in companies;
  • Developing learning rich or learning conducive working environments;
  • Fostering and facilitating informal learning in companies;
  • Developing strategies for competence development and organisational learning within companies.

Conference Structure

The conference will take place over two days. On each day there will be two formal sessions, one for each of the themes. Each session will last for about two hours, allowing four presentations of 15 minutes each, with 15 minutes of discussion.

The live sessions will utilise on-line e-conferencing software, allowing video and audio presentations and feedback from participants. Sessions will be recorded and made available for later viewing. Papers will be made available to participants in advance and the conference will also provide opportunities for asynchronous text-based discussion.

There will also be an parallel on-line exhibition. Details of this will be the subject of a later call.

Call for participation

We invite ideas from people who are interested in contributing to the conference. We are especially interested in supporting contributions from those who have not presented before at an online conference. Support will be available for participants in developing their presentations and in using the online conference platform. We are open to different formats for the sessions. We are not requiring a formal abstract but would like to here your ideas on what you might wish to present and any ideas you have on how you might do this.

Ideas for participation might include (but are not limited to):

  • Informal conversations
  • Workshops
  • Petcha-kutcha
  • Showcasing examples of practice, artefacts, handbooks etc.
  • Videos about practice or projects
  • Research, papers

Please email your ideas to Cristina Costa cristinacost [at] gmail [dot] com and/or to Graham Attwell graham10 [at] mac [dot] com to discuss your ideas.


October 4 – Deadline for submission of ideas
October 20 – notification of results of review

More information

If you would like more information you can access the Network’s web site at You can also email the project coordinator Simone Kirpal – kirpal [at] uni-bremen [dot] de– or the conference organiser Graham Attwell – graham10 [at] mac [dot] com. Registration details and further information about the conference will be available on the platform shortly.

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European Commission reports on the Information Society

August 5th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I spent Monday in Riga developing a tender application to the European Commission on Enterprise 2.0. I am getting increasingly interested in the use of social software and Web 2.0 in enterprises and in particular the use of such applications for informal learning and knowledge development or – as it is coming to be called – knowledge maturing,. One important aspect of this is economic modelling and I think we have had too little cross over and collaboration between economists and researchers inTtechnology Enhanced Learning. Thus I was delighted to be working with Stockholm School of Economics in Riga and BICEPs from Riga in developing the application.

All too ofetn technology is een as a good thing in itself. In this blog I have often questioned the social aspects of introdcuing new technologies – sadly I have no expertise in the economic area. I think all these aspects are of particualr importance when it comes to policy and to detemining what sort of policy interventions are necessary with regard to stimulating and / or regulating the introduction of potentially disruptive technologies for the ways in which we live, learn, work and play.

Anyway hot on the heels of my musings in Latvia comes today the release of the snappily titled “Commission Staff Working Document. Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Europe’s Digital Competitiveness Report. Volume 1: i2010 — Annual Information Society Report 2009 – Benchmarking i2010: Trends and main achievements.”

The report is accompanyed by the usual press release and executive summary full of policy hyperbole about the wonders of new technologies to overcome the recession. Europe, they say, “can advance even further as a generation of “digitally savvy” young Europeans becomes a strong market driver for growth and innovation. Building on the potential of the digital economy is essential for Europe’s sustainable recovery from the economic crisis.” But forget the political spin – there is a wealth of research and information in the 111 pages of the staff working paper.

I have had no time to read the full report – I am took busy working on my tender applciation – but here are a few key exerpts which caught my eye on a quick scroll through.

On use of the internet by young people

“Young people are active users of the internet as the main channel for information and communication purposes. “Digital natives”, i.e. people between 16 and 34, and especially those aged 16 to 24, most of them students, stand out as the most regular, intensive users of internet advanced services.

There is an evident, profound break with previous generations in the attitude towards the use of internet services. This is linked to the level of internet and informatics skills. The percentage of young people with medium internet skills is twice as much the European average (for all individuals aged 16-74) and the number of individuals aged 16 to 24 with IT skills obtained through formalised educational institution is three times higher than the average.

On average 43% of EU population accessed the Internet everyday or almost every day. However, this percentage increases more than 20 p.p. when it comes to people aged 16-24, with 66% of them accessing the internet everyday. In the most advanced countries, around 90% of young people connect on a daily basis. With the exception of Romania and Cyprus, in all countries the percentage of young people connecting to the internet everyday is higher than the average of the whole EU population. The difference between the whole EU population and the youngest users is about 23 p.p.. This difference lessens in the most advanced countries to about 18 p.p., but can be more than twice as much in the less advanced countries (Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal).

It is also worth noting that differences between countries are reduced when the 16-24 age group is taken as a reference. Besides the most developed countries, young people in Latvia, Portugal or Poland have similar frequency of use as in the UK, Germany or Belgium.”

On social particpation:

“The 2008 evidence above suggests that Internet use is associated with increased likelihood that users engage in civic activities (participation in social organizations23) within similar social backgrounds. While about half of internet users reported their participation in social activities, only a third of non-internet users did so. Similarly, frequent internet use is associated with higher levels of generalised trust.

The cross-sectional data used in the analysis do not allow concluding that the internet has a one way enhancing effect on social resources, as this can work the other way around too. Those with less social resources may be the ones who have fewer motivations or opportunities for using ICT and those who are rich in social resources might be more motivated for using the internet more frequently. In fact, most of the available analyses on the digital divide do suggest that the interrelation is one of reciprocal amplification.”

On business use of the internet:

“ICT benefits for businesses are normally expected to materialise through processes efficiency, innovation and market potential. Evidence shows that enterprises perceive ICT more as a tool for boosting productivity and reducing costs, rather than an instrument for increasing the number of reachable customers and the related turnover of the enterprises. This is consistent with findings on ICT take-up which show that applications aiming at increasing the enterprise internal efficiency are more widespread with respect to those enabling e-commerce. Similarly, only a minority of businesses consider ICT an enabler for the rollout of new products/services. Finally, large enterprises tend to be more positive when assessing the impact of ICT with respect to SMEs.”

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    News Bites

    Racial bias in algorithms

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

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

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

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

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

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

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    Quality Training

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

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    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!

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    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      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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  • RT @EUDigitalEdu Are you wondering what is the Digital Education Action Plan and how it will help all of us in #education? Join us NOW to find out & participate in the discussion with us! 👉… #EUDigitalEducation #DEAP @LibrariesEU

    About 6 days ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via TweetDeck

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