Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Digital Identity Matters

June 14th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Over the last two years I have been lucky to work on a project called Rhizome. Rhizome is a research and development project, funded by Eduserv, exploring the key social and technical elements that impact on the construction of online identities.

The Rhizome awareness report, published today and entitled ‘Digital Identity Matters’ highlights the issues we face when dealing with our online identities. It outlines the design pattern approach that has been used to help define a set of problems and their solutions that all relate to our understanding and use of a digital identity. The material is released as an open access resource and is aimed at contributing to a deeper understanding of digital identity and the impact it can have on the individual and those around them. It will be of relevance to anyone who uses the Internet to disclose personal information about themselves – be it purposefully through the use of social media tools or as a result of work-based professional activities. The report can be downloaded from the Rhizome project web site. The following text is an except from the introduction to the report.

“Our relationship with the Internet is changing. Mobile devices, wireless connectivity, and our increasing virtual presence across multiple social media services have all but collapsed the boundary between being online or offline. Together the virtual and the real form the seamless space in which many of us live out our daily lives. We fashion the self through social interaction, community and network affiliations, and here come to construct our identities as well as interpret the identity of others.
The ease with which individuals can now produce, reproduce and distribute digital content has powerfully shifted the ways in which we think about global connectedness, media access and distribution, social action and the production of knowledge.

Our ability to engage so readily with digital media and online networks is empowering but our resultant actions also make us vulnerable. We suffer the pressures of information overload, time management and, as we argue in this publication, the need to curate our increasingly visible digital lives. The Internet is not a set of static objects but a dynamic network of connected, interacting subjects.

How does our online visibility affect who we think we are and our ability to act with purpose and intent? How should we ethically respond to concerns about the impact of one person’s online behaviour upon the lives of others. These are two of the questions that are explored here.

We focus on a design pattern called ‘Putting Children First’ and two supporting case-stories that describe the dangers of using an online photo-sharing service. Together they illustrate the complexities of negotiating our responsibility to others when we are in the process of developing our own digital identities. This pattern offers a design solution for using social media in a thoughtful, literate and ethically responsible way.

One of the aims of this publication is to raise awareness and we hope you will distribute this material as widely as possible.”

Internet Radio workshop in Ohrid

June 11th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The Internet radio workshop at the Joint Technology Enhanced Learning Summer School in Ohrid, Macedonia was great fun. it was a decidedly hands on approach to learning!

The one and a half hour workshop preceded the broadcast of a 35 minute programme live from the Summer School. the first five minutes of the workshop was given over to an introduction of what internet radio is and what it might be good for in education. the next five minutes looked at the different tasks and roles in making a live programme – interviewers, sound technicians, floor director, vox pops interviewers etc. Then the 20 or so students who had turned up for the workshop split into four groups to discuss possible content for the programme. Twenty minutes later we came back together for an editorial meeting to discuss the content and storyboard the broadcast. We appointed participants to different role sin the programme. For those interested I provided a five minute introduction to the technology were were using. That left us 20 minutes or so for final preparations. And then it was 5,4,3,2,1, – “Welcome to the Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE for the Summer School in Ohrid……”

It was a shame there was no time for a follow up workshop. I would have liked to explore more the issues especially around participatory culture that internet radio raises. And also to discuss its potential use in education, particularly for professional development and for working with socially disadvantaged young people. Producing a programme like this also involves a wide range of skills, including interviewing skills, planning skills, teamwork and the ability to present ideas.

If you would be intereted in exploring how to use Internet radio workshops to develop these ideas or skills, please get in touch.

In the meantime thanks to all the Summer School participants for their enthusiasm and effort. And here is the podcast of the show…..

Research and Practice

June 9th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Sorry for lack of regular posts but I am at the JTEL summer school in Ohrid, Macedonia this week. It is an interesting event with some 50 students and 30 teachers taking part and bringing together researchers from technology and from education around a common theme. As usual I think there is too much emphasis on ‘chalk and talk’ (or rather Powerpoint and Talk), but changing that is a long term effort.

Listening to student presentations of their Doctoral research, I am struck by how much focus there is now on social networking and participation. This is a big change from even two years ago when there was much more focus on the use of Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments. But, I also wonder how much of this research links to the actual practice of learning. Some of the researchers seem unaware of the barrier to using social networks especially in school. And there seems limited awareness in the issues related to changing practice. I talked about this with one of the senior researchers who is teaching at the summer school. I said that whilst I was impressed with the degree of attention being paid to research methodologies, I was concerned the research projects were not being located the wider society. He disagreed with me. Her was concerned that not enough attention was paid to methodologies and felt that research should stand back from those wider societal concerns.

Research is important for Technology Enhnaced Learning. But I still feel it has to be linked to practice. I will return to this issue later this week.

The Sounds of the Summer with Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE

June 5th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Next week sees the launch of our summer sseason of the Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE internet radio shows. We are going to be braodcasting live from workshops and conferences throughout Europe.

The first show will be from the Joint Technology Enhanced Learning summer school in Ohrid, Macedonia. Together with Maria Perifanou, I am running a  workshop on Internet Radio in Education. And we will be broadcasting live on Wednesday 9th June at 1800, Central European Summer time, 1700 UK summer time. Just click in your browser on and the programme will stream through your MP3 player of choice.

This is what the workshop is about:

The workshop will focus on the use of internet radio in education. There will be three sections to the workshop: 1) An exploration of the use of media (and particularly internet radio and television) for learning and shared knowledge development
This will include looking at issues such as:
a) The appropriation of media
b) The change from passive media to interactive Web 2.0 supported media and the changing distinctions between broadcaster/program planner and listener/consumer.
c) How media such as radio can support the development of online communities
d) The use of media to bridge contexts and provide spaces for exploration and shared meaning making.
2) A practical hands on session on how to plan develop and broadcast live internet media. This will include storyboarding, interviewing, making jingles post processing and using the technology for live broadcasts.
3) The third session is planned to take place in a lunchtime or evening session. This will be a live 45 minute to one hour broadcast “Sounds of the Bazaar – Live from Ohrid”. It is hoped to involve all summer school participants in the broadcast. The broadcast will be publicised in advance through iTunes, Facebook, Twitter and other social software platforms. It is also intended to use the broadcast to link to other researchers in TEL from around the world not able to be at the summer school. The programme will be recorded and made available through the Summer School web site, the Mature project web site, the Pontydysgu web site and through iTunes.”

The second of the summer’s live shows will be from the PLE conference in Barcelona. We haven’t finalised the time yet but the programme will probably be in early evening on July 7 or 8 (or who knows, both). And in August we are planning a series of live shows from the European Conference on Educational Research in Helsinki. Full details will be available in a couple of weeks.

As always podcast recordings will be made available following the shows. But don’t miss out on the live fun. Tune in on Wednesday for the first of the Sounds of the Bazaar Summer 2010 special broadcasts live on internet radio.

Using Open Data for education

June 4th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I am excited by the possibility of using linked data to provide new services in education. The new UK government appears to be continuing the previous policy of releasing more government data through the excellent Unlocking Innovation web site, resulting from consultancy by Tim Berners Lee and Nick Shabolt (interestingly today the governement COINS database was opened up providing information on all central and local government spending – see Guardian newspaper web tool for exploring the data).

I have been looking at the possibility of using linked data for providing labour market information for careers advice and guidance. We are considering developing a demonstrator of this for use on a mobile device as part of the European funded Mature-IP project. This is a possible use case I have written for the project.

“Sarah is a Careers Personal Advisor. As part of her bob she visits schools to provide personalised careers guidance for young people. One young person she meets is interested in becoming an occupational therapist..

Sarah checks out in the Connexions knowledge database but discovers there is no relevant and up to date information on becoming an occupational therapist. She uses her mobile phone Careers application to seek information.

Sarah inputs the occupation and the post code of the client.

She is able to access an information sheet from the Jobs4You database about occupational therapy.

She can also see the average wage of occupational therapists both nationally and regionally through an API to the ASHE data available through the UK open government data site.

From  the LMS database she can find out the total number of occupational therapists employed in the UK and the trend in employment over the last ten years and can view the job vacancies as an occupational therapist reported to job centres in Kent over the past ten years. She also has access to a video about the job of an occupational therapist searching the iCould database.

The application tells her possible careers routes to be becoming an occupational therapist from information in the Jobs4U information sheets as well as local courses for occupational therapists using an API to the xcri course information standard.
Sarah is also aware that the national Health Service Careers web site also has information about associated careers and qualification routes. She uses her phone web browser to view that information.

Sarah reviews all the information she has accessed. She provides a short audio report on what she has found out and what she considers is the importance of the information for her client. She reviews the information once more and decides that it is ready to share. She checks with her online diary looking at possible times for a video meeting with her client. She presses share which formats the information in the form of a multi media package, including visualisations of the data, which is sent to her clients mobile phone and offers her client times for a meeting.

Finally Sarah adds key words to her report and uploads it an organisational knowledge based of information about different careers.”

The Future of Learning Environments (short version)

June 3rd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

In March I wrote a paper on ‘The Future of Learning Environments; for a publication from the IATEL conference held in Darmstadt last year. I have been asked to produce a short verion of the paper for translation to German. Here it is.

The Future of Learning Environments

1. Introduction

The present ‘industrial’ schooling system is fast becoming dysfunctional, neither providing the skills and competences required in our economies nor corresponding to the ways in which we are using the procedural and social aspects of technology for learning and developing and sharing knowledge.

One major impact of internet technologies has been to move access to learning and knowledge outside of institutional boundaries. The internet provides ready and often free access to a wealth of books, papers, videos, blogs, scientific research, news and opinion. It also provides access to expertise in the form of networks of people.

Schools and universities can no longer claim a monopoly as seats of learning or of knowledge. Such learning and knowledge now resides in distributed networks. Learning can take place in the home, in work or in the community as easily as within schools.

Technology is also challenging traditional expert contributed disciplinary knowledge as embodied in school curricula. The explosion of freely available sources of information has helped drive rapid expansion in the accessibility of the canon and in the range of knowledge available to learners. We are being forced to re-examine what constitutes knowledge and are moving from expert developed and sanctioned knowledge to collaborative forms of knowledge construction.

2. The challenge to traditional learning environments

The present north European schooling systems evolved from the needs of the industrial revolutions for a literate and numerate workforce. Besides the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed by the economy, schools also acted as a means of selection, to determine those who might progress to higher levels of learning or employment requiring more complex skills and knowledge.

The homogeneity of existing schooling systems and curricula is in stark contrast to the wealth of different learning pathways available through the internet. The internet offers the promise of Personal Learning Pathways, of personal and collaborative knowledge construction and meaning making through distributed communities.

The evolution of the school system can also be seen in terms of dominant media. Frieson and Hug (2009) argues that “the practices and institutions of education need to be understood in a frame of reference that is mediatic: “as a part of a media-ecological configuration of technologies specific to a particular age or era.” The school, he says is “a kind of separate, reflective, critical pedagogical “space,” isolated from the multiple sources of informational “noise” in an otherwise media-saturated lifeworld.” Thus, schooling systems have become isolated from the changing forms of learning and knowledge exchange facilitated by the internet.

3. How we use computers for learning

Web 2.0 applications and social software mark a change in our use of computers from consumption to creation. A series of studies and reports have provided rich evidence of the ways young people are using technology and the internet for socialising, communicating and for learning. Young people are increasingly using technology for creating and sharing multi media objects and for social networking. Such a process of creation, remixing and sharing is similar to Levi Struass’s (1962) idea of bricolage as a functioning of the logic of the concrete. Young people today are collecting their treasure to make their own meanings of objects they discover on the web. In contrast our education systems are based on specialised tools and materials.

Social networking is also increasingly a source of learning and the development and sharing of knowledge. A UK survey (McIntosh, 2008) has found the main use of the internet by young people, by far, is for learning: 57% use the net for homework, saying it provides more information than books. 15% use it for learning that is not ’school’. 40% use it to stay in touch with friends, 9% for entertainment such as YouTube.

A further survey into the use of technology for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises found few instances of the use of formal educational technologies (Attwell, 2007). But the study found the widespread everyday use of internet technologies for informal learning, utilizing a wide range of business and social software applications.

It is not just the material and functional character of the technologies which is important but the potential of the use of new technologies to contribute to a new “participatory culture” (Jenkins at al). “Participatory culture is emerging as the culture absorbs and responds to the explosion of new media technologies that make it possible for average consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content in powerful new ways.”

Thus we can see the ways in which technology and the internet is being used for constructing knowledge and meaning through bricolage and through developing and sharing content. This takes place through extended social networks which both serve for staying in touch with friends but also for seeking information and for learning in a participatory culture.

4. Personal Learning Environments

In education, technology has been used to maintain existing practices “by perpetuating the Industrial Era-inspired, assembly line notion that the semester-bound course is the naturally appropriate unit of instruction (Reigeluth, 1999).” Herrington, Reeves, and Oliver (2005) argue that course management software leads universities to “think they are in the information industry”.

This contrast to ”the authentic learning environments prompted by advances in cognitive and constructivist learning theories.” Socio-cultural theories of knowledge acquisition stress the importance of collaborative learning and ‘learning communities.’ Agostini et al. (2003) complain about the lack of support offered by many virtual learning environments (VLEs) for emerging communities of interest and the need to link with official organisational structures within which individuals are working. Ideally, VLEs should link knowledge assets with people, communities and informal knowledge (Agostini et al, 2003) and support the development of social networks for learning (Fischer, 1995). The idea of a personal learning space is taken further by Razavi and Iverson (2006) who suggest integrating weblogs, ePortfolios, and social networking functionality in this environment both for enhanced e-learning and knowledge management, and for developing communities of practice.

Based on these ideas of collaborative learning and social networks within communities of practice, the notion of Personal Learning Environments is being put forward as a new approach to the development of e-learning tools (Wilson et al, 2006) that are no longer focused on integrated learning platforms such as VLEs or course management systems. In contrast, these PLEs are made-up of a collection of loosely coupled tools, including Web 2.0 technologies, used for working, learning, reflection and collaboration with others. PLEs can be seen as the spaces in which people interact and communicate and whose ultimate result is learning and the development of collective know-how. A PLE can use social software for informal learning which is learner driven, problem-based and motivated by interest – not as a process triggered by a single learning provider, but as a continuing activity. Attwell. Barnes, Bimrose and Brown, (2008) say a PLE should be based on a set of tools to allow personal access to resources from multiple sources, and to support knowledge creation and communication. Whilst PLEs may be represented as technology, including applications and services, more important is the idea of supporting individual and group based learning in multiple contexts and of promoting learner autonomy and control. Conole (2008) suggests a personal working environment and mixture of institutional and self selected tools are increasingly becoming the norm. She says: “Research looking at how students are appropriating technologies points to similar changes in practice: students are mixing and matching different tools to meet their personal needs and preferences, not just relying on institutionally provided tools and indeed in some instances shunning them in favour of their own personal tools.”

5. Vygotsky and Personal Learning Environments

A Personal Learning Environment is developed from tools or artefacts. Vygotsky (1978) considered that all artefacts are culturally, historically and institutionally situated. “In a sense, then, there is no way not to be socioculturally situated when carrying out an action. Conversely there is no tool that is adequate to all tasks, and there is no universally appropriate form of cultural mediation. Even language, the ‘tool of tools’ is no exception to this rule”

Vygotsky developed the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which is the gap between “actual developmental level” which children can accomplish independently and the “potential developmental level” which children can accomplish when they are interacting with others who are more capable peers or adults.

In Vygotsky’s view, interactions with the social environment, including peer interaction and/or scaffolding, are important ways to facilitate individual cognitive growth and knowledge acquisition.

Vykotsky called teachers – or peers – who supported learning in the ZDP as the More Knowledgeable Other. “The MKO is anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the leaner particularly in regards to a specific task, concept or process. Traditionally the MKO is thought of as a teacher, an older adult or a peer” (Dahms et al, 2007). But the MKO can also be viewed as a learning object or social software which embodies and mediates learning at higher levels of knowledge about the topic being learned than the learner presently possesses.

The role of a Personal Learning Environment may be not only that of a tool to provide access to ‘More Knowledgeable Others’ but as part of a system to allow learners to link learning to performance in practice, though work processes. And taking a wider view of artefacts as including information or knowledge accessed through a PLE, reflection on action or performance may in turn generate new artefacts for others to use within a ZPD. Social media and particularly video present rich opportunities for the modelling of ways of completing a task, especially given the ability of using social networking software to support communities of practice. However, imitation alone may not be sufficient in the context of advanced knowledge work. Rather, refection is required both to understand more abstract models and at the same time to reapply models to particular contexts and instances of application in practice. Thus PLE tools need to be able to support the visualisation or representation of models and to promote reflection on their relevance and meaning in context.

Within this perspective a Personal Learning Environment could be seen as allowing the representation of knowledge, skills and prior learning and a set of tools for interaction with peers to accomplish further tasks. The PLE would be dynamic in that it would allow reflection on those task and further assist in the representation of prior knowledge, skills and experiences. In this context experiences are seen as representing performance or practice. Through access to external symbol systems (Clark, 1997) such as metadata, ontologies and taxonomies the internal learning can be transformed into externalised knowledge and become part of the scaffolding for others as a representation of a MKO within a Zone of Proximal Development. Such an approach to the design of a Personal Learning Environment can bring together the everyday evolving uses of social networks and social media with pedagogic theories to learning.

6. The Future of Learning Environments

The major impact of the uses of new technologies and social networking for learning is to move learning out of the institutions and into wider society. Institutions must rethink and recast their role as part of community and distributed networks supporting learning and collaborative knowledge development.. This is a two way process, not only schools reaching outwards, but also opening up to the community, distributed or otherwise, to join in collaborative learning processes.

The future development of technology looks likely to increase pressures for such change. Social networks and social networking practice is continuing to grow and is increasingly integrated in different areas of society and economy. At the same time new interfaces to computers and networks are likely to render the keyboard obsolescent, allowing the integration of computers and learning in everyday life and activity.  Personal Learning Pathways will guide and mediate progression through this expanded learning environment.


Agostini, A., Albolino, S., Michelis, G. D., Paoli, F. D., & Dondi, R. (2003). Stimulating knowledge discovery and sharing. Paper presented at the 2003 International ACM SIGGROUP conference on Supporting group work, Sanibel Island, Florida, USA.

Attwell  G.(ed) 2007, Searching, Lurking and the Zone of Proximal Development, e-learning in Small and Medium enterprises in Europe, Vienna, Navreme

Attwell G. Barnes S.A., Bimrose J. and Brown A, (forthcoming), Maturing Learning: Mashup Personal Learning Environments, CEUR Workshops proceedings, Aachen, Germany

Clark, A. (1997) Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. Cambridge, Massachusetts: A Bradford Book, The MIT Press

Conole G. (2008) “New Schemas for Mapping Pedagogies and Technologies”, in Ariadne Issue 56,

Dahms M, Geonnotti K, Passalacqua. D Schilk,N.J. Wetzel, A and Zulkowsky M The Educational Theory of Lev Vygotsky: an analysis

Fischer, M. D. (1995). Using computers in ethnographic fieldwork. In R. M. Lee (Ed.), Information Technology for the Social Scientist (pp. 110-128). London: UCL Press

Friesen N and Hug T (2009), The Mediatic Turn: Exploring Concepts for Media Pedagogy. In K. Lundby (Ed.). Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. New York: Peter Lang. Pp. 64-81. Online version available at:

Herrington, J., Reeves, T., and Oliver, R. (2005). Online learning as information delivery: Digital myopia. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 16(4): 353-67.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1962) La Pensée sauvage, Paris, English translation as The Savage Mind (Chicago, 1966)

McIntosh E (2008) Research Summary Series 1: How do people use the internet,, accessed June 1, 2010

Razavi, M. N., & Iverson, L. (2006). A grounded theory of information sharing behavior in a personal learning space. Paper presented at the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work, Banff, Alberta, Canada

Reigeluth, C. M. (1999b). What is instructional design theory and how is it changing? In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory. (pp. 5-29). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Wilson, S., Liber, O., Johnson, M., Beauvoir, P., Sharples, P., & Milligan, C. (2006). Personal learning environments challenging the dominant design of educational systems. Paper presented at the ECTEL Workshops 2006, Heraklion, Crete (1-4 October 2006)

Vygotsky L.(1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

What happens when educational transitions go wrong

June 2nd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The next in a series of case studies of young people in educational transitions. Yesterday we looked at Kat who although still not having secured her goal of studying for a doctorate in Zoology, was never the less successfully managing her life and learning.

Today we look at a contrasting case – Marie. Marie is struggling to complete her degree, has been rejected from a teacher training course and has little idea of what she wants to do. She is unable to move out from her parenets house as she is short of money. Not only does she not know what job to go for but she has liitle idea of how to find out. This is compounded by poor and limited advice from her university. As an end result her personal esteem is very low. As our meeting notes say “Not confident, no explanation of her failures, disoriented.”

Sadly people from different countries saw the case study as more of a typical perosna than a case on its own. In terms of impact on design of the proposed project platform it was suggested we need:

  • A space to bring learners together with experienced practitioners
  • Provision for online mentoring
  • A referral service to other professionals and resources

And the following Web 2.0 tools were suggested:

  • A diagnosis/self assessment tool
  • A tool to tell her what makes her happy
  • A tool to tell her what her interests are
  • Descriptions of  jobs and supporting videos
  • Tools to match your interests with a career

Case study: Marie

Motto: Good things come to those who wait.

Demographic and biographical Characteristics
Marie is 21 and female. She lives at home with her parents who are both teachers. She enjoys spending time with friends and is looking forward to getting her own house with her boyfriend as soon as she can afford to.
Educational and transitional pathways:

Marie is in the final term of her three year Graphic Design degree. She works as a volunteer in her local primary school every Wednesday afternoon teaching art. She thinks that she would like to become a primary school teacher but is open to alternative career suggestions. She recently applied for a position on the Graduate Teacher Placement scheme with full backing from the school but was unsuccessful. There are no PGCE courses in primary education locally and Marie is financially constrained to living with her parents whilst she is a student. She thinks that she will be able to get part time work in September as a classroom assistant in the school she has been volunteering in, the work is low paid and would not be sufficient to allow her to move away from the family home but might give her an advantage if she re-applies for the GTP course next year. In the meantime she is considering freelance work in illustration or design but does not have the computer skills, business knowledge or confidence to set up her own company or advertise her work on the internet.

Motivations and Strategies: Since having her GTP application rejected Marie’s confidence is low, she did not receive feedback from the application process so is unaware whether it was age, lack of experience, competition or that the panel thought she was unsuitable for a career in teaching which caused her to be rejected. She has since focussed her efforts on completing her degree but is unsure what to do next. Some of her ideas include sending samples of her work to publishers and creating artwork to sell on-line. In September she will be able to earn some money at the school but she wonders whether this is the best use of her time as she is not confident about re-applying for the GTP scheme. She does not feel that her computer abilities are good enough to enable her to find a job in the Graphic Design industry although she likes the idea of being self employed. Her university lecturer has suggested that she looks into designing media layouts for print and tv broadcasting but Marie is not sure how to get into this sort of career or if this type of job really exists.

Ad hoc learning scenarios
Despite the university holding computer workshops, Marie felt that the start level of the classes was already higher than she was confident with so she soon fell behind. Over the summer break, she invested in her own computer and spent time becoming familiar with the design software. She also called on her peers to teach her how to use different packages. In this way she built up her skills base to a level which allowed her to complete the course. She still avoids using design software as much as possible and uses her creativity to overcome her lack of knowledge. For example, rather than create a design on the computer she will draw it by hand and scan it then use the software to edit it.

Support Services used
Marie has received careers advice from the university but this was focused on careers in the graphic design industry. One of her university modules required her to produce a “creative” C.V., business card, letter-headed paper and compliments slip, all of which will be useful if she does pursue a career in Graphics. She has had little guidance about other careers and did not seem to be aware of the many careers services which already exist in the UK. She relies very heavily on her family and close friends for careers advice which is reflected by her interest in the teaching profession.

Learning type:
Self-directed learning: Marie will usually find her own way to do things, often spending longer than necessary perfecting computer skills or creating a solution to her problem which completely avoids using the skill she is lacking.
Peer learning: When she really cannot find a way around a problem, Marie will ask for help from her peers or family.

Information and Communication Technologies

Marie uses facebook to communicate with peers and discuss design projects. She uses Skype and msn to connect with friends and family and she occasionally emails her lecturers.

She says she would find it useful if she were to be put in contact with more experienced designers both those with their own businesses and those working for larger companies. Many of these tools already exist but she had never heard of networks such as “Linked In” nor seen any of the careers websites available. She would definitely benefit from being introduced to a wider range of web2.0 tools or at least being made aware of the possibilities. If she chooses to follow the self employment route she thinks that she would need to be able to create a simple website and advertise her products, some basic business knowledge would also be beneficial. These are all skills that could be learned on-line if she was pointed in the right direction.

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans!

June 1st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Yesterday I wrote about the perosna methodology we have been trying out in the European G8WAY project on educational transitions. At the recent project meeting in Bucharest we split into groups to look at some on the initial interviews which have been carried out. I presented two interviews, undertaken in the UK by Angela Rees from Pontydysgu.
We had been asked to look at the interviews and discuss:

  1. What is the most relevant learning event of the case?
  2. Is this learning event only relevant in its national context or there features common to different countries?
  3. How we can make use of this learning event in relation with:
  • Benefits for young people (What kind of support can we provide?)
  • What is the impact on the proposed project Web 2.0 platform?

In this post, I will present Kat. In our discussion we consiered Kat to be almost a persona in herself, with a little further analysis added to the case study. Kat is focused on what she wants to do and an accomplished self directed learner. She learns from courses, from different jobs she undertakes, from the internet from reading and from her own research. We noted that transition is becoming more and more a permanent or overlapping state. Kat is constantly learning and her life appears a long period of transition with shorter periods of more intense transition occuring from time to time.

In terms of the potential of Web 2.0 to support Kat in her transition she lacks web tools to present her knowledge, research and achievements. Kat also explains that she spends much time searching for potential PhD opportunities. It seems somewhat surprising that noone has thought to develop a portal to allow easy access to such opportunities (or have they?). Kat might also benefit from the provision of e-guidance or e-counselling.

The project partners felt the case study to be relevant for their own countries (Portugal, Greece and Sweden). In fact Kat might be seen as following the typical career of a modern international researcher!


Case Study

Motto: Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans!

Demographic and biographical Characteristics

Kat, 29, female, comes from a well educated background, she is currently living alone in rented accommodation in France. Kat finds herself moving house frequently between London, France, Spain and her family home in Newcastle in order to take advantage of short term work placements as they arise. She enjoys the arts, always has her nose in a book and has an extensive, global network of friends and acquaintances.


Educational and transitional pathways:

After graduating from her first degree in Zoology in 2003, Kat has been opportunistic in her method of finding field work, relying on contacts, friends of friends and recommendations.

“The issues I faced were gaining relevant experience to work in my chosen field, although that’s probably an issue specific to ecologists/biologists. I found it wasn’t too hard to get a job, but said jobs were little or no paid field assistant positions. My university lecturer helped me to find my first job, after that it was various contacts I made along the way. I’ve still not decided what I want to be when I grow up!”

This has lead her from the extremes of studying meercats in the Kalahari to birds on Skomer Island. Because of the nature of project work, Kat finds it difficult to find employment all year round. Her long term ambition is to study for a pHd and so lead her own research projects. With some fieldwork and research experience behind her Kat decided that the best way to pursue her dream was to return to Academia, she graduated with an MRes from Imperial College London in 2008 and has since been in a transition period waiting to be accepted onto a pHd. During this time she has been applying for pHd courses in her specialist area and working as an office temp in between taking on temporary research positions. She thought that the Masters level qualification combined with her research experience would give her an advantage in gaining a PhD placement.

Motivations and Strategies: Kat is quite particular about the type of research she wants to do, as such she has limited her search for a doctorate to universities which she perceives to be good. She also has a clear idea of the specific area in which she wants to work. She would rather wait to be accepted to study her own research proposal than compromise her ideals and spend four years working in an area that does not interest her, even if it would mean her being able to lead her own research sooner. She thinks that it is more beneficial to her to work on short term field work jobs in the meantime in order to make more contacts and keep her research experience current.

Ad hoc learning scenarios

The diverse nature of field work means that every six months or so, Kat embarks upon a new project and has to learn a new set of skills from scratch. Examples of this are identifying species of trees or birds, tracking, capturing, tagging and weighing animals, learning to use different laboratory management tools and data entry systems which are unique to the project. The work is very hands on, she says that it would not be possible to learn the skills as part of an on-line training course.

Support Services used

Lecturers and tutors on her first degree course passed on email addresses of researchers working in Kat’s areas of interest, from these few contacts she has built up her own network of potential employers and project supervisors.

Learning type:

Two main ways of learning are detectable:

Learning from practical experiences: Kat learns new skills on the job, now that she is becoming a more experienced researcher, she also finds herself supervising and teaching skills to the less experienced project workers.

Self-directed learning: Kat will find relevant research papers on the internet and also borrows books from the library. She also uses e-books, particularly when she is working outside of the UK.

Information and Communication Technologies

Much of Kat’s networking has been done via email, she also keeps in contact with colleagues via Skype. She uses websites to search for biology PhDs and field assistant positions.

“ I tended to use those websites more just for browsing to look for job adverts rather than creating a profile and finding people with similar interests. People with similar interests tend to be potential competitors for natural science-type jobs & PhDs which are a bit scarce, I imagine a facebook style network might inhibit a free and easy sharing of info and tips on jobs that you’ve seen.

Plus I really doubt that researchers or potential employers would take the trouble to search the site for good candidates. The nature of PhDs and field assistant jobs is that there are so many people wanting them, you just put the advert out there in New Scientist or wherever, then sit back and wait for the applications to flood in.”

She thinks that the most useful web tool would be something that pooled all of the jobs available onto one site,

“kind of like a temping agency who were in touch with every single Life Sciences university department and every ecological organisation in Europe, with details of jobs or field assistants required. You could go to them and say “I have these skills, I’m looking for paid/volunteer work, I’m available from this date” and they could place you in a suitable position. I doubt it’s feasible, as it would be an enormous undertaking but I, for one, would definitely sign up to such a thing. It would take away all the work and the hours and hours spent browsing online for positions.”

She does think that social networking could be useful particularly for putting new graduates in contact with established researchers, however she is very wary of networking with people in the same position as herself because of the fierce competition for jobs and placements.

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

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

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    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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