Archive for the ‘learning 2.0’ Category

A new approach to conference reviewing

February 11th, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Preparations for the 4th International PLE Conference 2013 being held in Berlin, Germany together with a parallel event in Melbourne, Australia are well underway. the conference will take place on July 11 and 12 and the deadline for the call for submission of abstracts is March 4.

The PLE Conference intends to create a space for researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas, experiences and research around the development and implementation of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – including the design of environments and the sociological and educational issues that they raise.

More than that the PLe conference has always prided itself on innovatory approaches to design in terms of involving participants. This year will see the continuation of the unkeynotes, which Cristina Costa and myself discuss in the video above.

And this year sees another experiment in moving away from the traditional reviewing process to an approach based on ‘shepherding’ or mentoring.

The PLEconf web site explains the process.

1. The overall review process

The PLE 2013 review process is organised into three steps:

  • Step 1 (review before the conference): Submitted abstracts for full and short papers are peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) by screening their overall fit with the conference scope as well as the degree of innovation, technical quality, significance and clarity of contributions. As a guide, the extended abstract for a full paper should include the background of the study, the approach and methods employed in the work, the results and the conclusion, which should reflect on the successes and limitations of the work and future development.
  • Step 3 (shepherding) To enhance the participatory character of the PLE Conference the review process is based on the shepherding concept. This means that the authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit full versions of their papers for the conference and are offered support by shepherds (mentors) in the process of writing final full versions. Upon author’s consent, depending on the overall paper maturity, a mentor may be assigned to a paper to guide the process of preparing the manuscript. Shepherds are experienced authors who, non-anonymously, help the submitters by making suggestions for improvement. The submitters incorporate these improvements into their work over a few iterations, usually three, though this may vary from case to case. The aim of shepherding is to enhance the quality of the submissions and help authors qualify for publication in the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).
  • Step 2 (review after the conference): After the conference, the final manuscripts of short and full papers are submitted and peer-reviewed (double-blind peer-review) again to assess their quality for publication in a special issue of the scientific journal. All submissions will be published in electronic conference proceedings under a Creative Commons Licence. However, only best-quality papers will be considered for the Special Issue of the International Journal of Literacy and Technology (JLT).

2. The shepherding concept

Source: http://www.agnusday.org/strips/John10v22to30_2007.jpg

Where does shepherding come from? What is it about?
Shepherding for scientific reviewing started at Conferences on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP’s), a process aimed to help authors to improve their work using a non-anonymous reviewer (shepherd), guiding the author (sheep) on their way (report). The shepherds focus on the organization of the content and the format of articles. Shepherds therefore must be experts in their field and willing to help to improve the work of others. The focus of shepherding feedback is the text itself, there is no discussion of the projects or theories. The goal is to improve the papers for the second review after the shepherding process.

What is the value of shepherding?
Shepherding is now being used by several conference committees to help leverage the potential value of authors’ work by improving them considerably and thus better serving the community. This approach helps to develop more well-rounded articles. It is also an excellent opportunity for newer authors to improve their articles and to get in contact with the community.

What are the principles of shepherding?
Shepherds are experts in their field. The work is of the author. Shepherds advise authors during the process of writing. The person ultimately responsible for the article is the author (sheep). The underlying culture is a gift culture, so it is crucial that shepherds are willing to help authors to improve. The cycles of interaction between authors and shepherds based on Kelly (2008) are:

  • Author sends the first version of the manuscript to the shepherd and introduces the manuscript briefly in his/her own words;
  • Shepherds reply to authors, i.e. ask questions (e.g. What is the motivation for the paper? What do you want to achieve? Where can I help?) and provide initial feedback. Constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement are crucial for shepherding!
  • Authors improve the manuscript by answering the questions and incorporating the shepherd’s feedback.
  • Authors send improved manuscripts to shepherds and another cycle starts with the introduction of the new version (iterative cycle).

Testimonials from shepherds

“As a shepherd, I get great satisfaction helping authors communicate their ideas. A shepherd is not an editor. Shepherds don’t edit. Instead, through conversations, questions , and dialog a shepherd helps authors find their own voice and write compelling papers. I find shepherding to be a wonderful experience. That’s why I do it: to learn, to help grow communities, and to help people share their good ideas more clearly. It’s so rewarding!” Rebecca Wirfs-Brock (PLoP community)

“In my experience, when it is done well, shepherding results in an increased focus and clarity to the work. A good shepherd can help the sheep really bring out the important message of the work and make it much clearer to the reader. On occasion, the sheep gains additional insights into his own work. Note however, that I have seen some superficial shepherding, which resulted in only cosmetic improvements to the work. So it isn’t an automatic great improvement. It takes discipline to do a good job.” Neil Harrison (PLoP)

“Shepherds are individuals, with experience in writing, assigned to an author’s paper with the expressed interest in helping the author improve their paper or writing of any kind. The shepherding process is essentially a review process where the author gets to get feedback on how well the paper communicates the author’s ideas. The shepherd is able to then make suggestions on making the paper better or to assist with ways on helping the author clarify their ideas. Shepherding is about improving the paper itself, while the Shepherd maintains that the author is the one doing the writing. The shepherd can guide an author into a more mature understanding of his or her paper. The best shepherds are those that usually have a good understanding of the subject matter they are reviewing. The main goal of a shepherd is to help the author(s) to make the paper the best that it can be given the amount of “shepherding” time they have for the given venue the paper is to be presented at.” Joseph W. Yoder (PLoP community)

3. Shepherding at PLE 2013

Shepherding is an instrument to improve the quality of submissions, help authors connect with the scientific community and strengthen connections within the PLE community. Shepherds are mentors drawn from the Review Committee. Beside the intrinsic value and the insight into interesting papers, mentors will receive special recognition – shepherds will be featured on the special page and receive special badges rewarding their work. Also authors will vote for the best shepherd. The winners will be awarded at the PLE Conference 2013.

 

RadioActive Europe

January 14th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A lot of the work we do in Pontydysgu is sponsored by the European Commission through its various programmes for supporting life long learning and the use of technology for learning. this has its advantages and its downsides. It allows us to undertake work which would be too risky on a commercial basis. And it is great to develop partnerships with organisations in different European countries. On the other hand, communication can be tricky. It is time consuming to develop project proposals, the funding is increasingly highly competitive and it is sometimes hard to see why some projects are approved whilst others are not. And, the reporti8ng, especially the financial reporting is increasingly bureaucratic and time consuming. In reality, too, the funding is often not sufficient for the work we want to do and thus we end up subsidising the publicly funded projects with income from better paid private contracts.

Having said all that, I am delighted with the launch of our latests Lifelong Learning Project, RadioActive Europe. I will write again about what we hope to achieve from the project. But this, somewhat stilted Eurospeak text, comes from the summary in the application document. And if you might be interested in getting involved we cannot fund you, but will be very happy to share with you all our project development. Just add a comment here or email me.

This project will develop and implement a pan-European Internet Radio platform, incorporating Web 2.0 functionality, linked to innovative community based pedagogies to address themes of employability, inclusion and active citizenship in an original and exciting way. The Internet Radio will provide an innovative way to engage, retain and develop those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion, and its low-cost, extensibility and sustainability, compared with fm radio for example, is a key dimension in ensuring the success of this project.

Through actively developing, implementing and running the RadioActive station and its national channels, the target groups – of older schoolchildren, young people and other older people – will develop digital competencies and employability skills ‘in vivo’ that are relevant to the 21C workplace. These competencies and skills will be accredited to provide a platform to further education or employment related to the knowledge and creative and digital industries. To quote one of the UK Youth workers who will be involved in this project: ‘I can’t think of one young person who I work with who would not want to be involved’.

The consortium is led by the University of East London (UK), with other partners from Portugal (CIMJ), Germany (UKL), UK (Pontydysgu), Malta (KIC) and Romania (ODIP). We will fully interface with at least 10 National Organisations and 450-500 direct beneficiaries, who will broadcast or link with over 5000 listeners or web-site users.

The outcomes of the project will be: a transferable and reusable model for developing internet radio and social media initiatives to address exclusion; a robust internet radio and social media platform (RadioActive Europe) incorporating 5 national Channels; an extensive and sustainable network of users and user organisations maintained through a European Support Hub (ESH); and, measured improvements in individual and community developments that address exclusion.

 

Where are we going with Peronal Learning Environments?

November 26th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Linda Castaneda emailed me. “As I have already told you,  Jordi Adell and myself, are editing a book about PLEs in Spanish. It is not a commercial book, we are going to edit some hard copies for free and an open ebook in the Web. The idea is to offer an overview of PLE for teachers (as complete as possible), in plain, trying to explain what PLE means in general but, specially, what PLEs mean for formal education.

The idea is how understand better PLE and how PLE could transform education and the teachers practice…. in order to give a wider perspective, we would love to include a kind of “chapter of basics around the world” which include some “basic” texts (preferible blogposts), regarding some topics around pedagogical things around PLEs and emergent pedagogies from international relevant authors, even if those texts has been already published in English…

We think sometimes our teachers don’t have access to those texts because of the language, or because of the format (from our experience, school teachers are not usual blogsphere readers), or because of the context (they don’t understand  how include those texts ¡n their day to day needs. So we want to include some texts like this, translated into Spanish in order to  complete the PLE perspective we want to offer.

The question is we would love to include one of your texts (blogposts) on it. Something already published in a non problematic format (no journal papers  for Copy Right problems) that could give some light on the PLEs topic or better, on the Pedagogies around PLEs. In your case the “link with all the informal part would be great and crucial).”

And she offered me a beer and a good meal. How could I resist? I couldn’t find anything suitable that I had already written so I wrote this short text on Sunday.

PLEs and Hype cycles

Gartner has used hype cycles to characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles apply as much to educational technologies as they do to consumer products.

Yet the discussion and development of Personal Learning environments does not follow the normal hype cycle pattern. Although the idea has been in widespread use since 2004, there is a steady increase in research and development and in initiatives to implement PLEs in practice.

Perhaps this is because although the idea of PLEs can lead to the development of new technology applications, it is predominantly an approach to using technology for teaching and learning, rather than an educational technology per se. As such the developments of PLEs interact with both wider societal discussions around the future and purpose of education and with different pedagogical initiatives around Technology Enhanced Learning. This short article will look at these interactions.

The purpose and future of education

The debate over the purpose and future of education has spread beyond the educational community to enter mainstream political and social discourses. In part this is a product of the economic crisis and pressure for fiscal savings by national governments. It is also due to attempts by capitalism to open new markets through commodification and marketisation. This in turn has led to both movements to defend state funded education and to open access to learning. At a more fundamental level, the debate may reflect the growing dysfunctionality of education systems which were developed to meet the needs of an earlier form of industrial capitalism and no longer meet the perceived needs of late capitalism. And whilst in the past education systems, curricula and pedagogy were able to balance the needs of industry with the ideas and aspirations of educators, there is a growing tension as to the very purpose of education today.

Interestingly, Personal Learning Environments offer something to all sides in this debate. On the one hand they offer a tool to recognise learning from all contexts and to allow new and open approaches to pedagogy to develop the potential of every learner. On the other hand they can be used for lifelong and continuing learning to develop and improve employability, regardless of institutional arrangements.

Technology and learning
Of course, the rapid development and implementation of new technologies is impacting on education, as it is on all other sectors of society. Technology Enhanced Learning is not a new phenomenon. Both radio and television were extensively used for learning and web 1.0 offered widespread access to information. But these were essentially push technologies. Web 2.0 has opened up discourse and interactivity further blurring the roles of teacher and learner.  At the same time improved bandwidth has facilitated the production and sharing of multimedia challenging the primacy of print as a paradigm of education. Near ubiquitous access to the internet and the development of mobile devices means learning can take place almost anywhere. And social software has allowed the development of dispersed personal networks outside the school and the creative application of technology for learning in the classroom.

Research and development of PLEs

Given such developments, PLE research could almost be seen as a description and analysis of how people are using technology for learning, rather than as an idea as to how they might. Of course many young people use their personal networks on facebook to discuss their homework. Wikipedia is an increasingly universal reference point for information and knowledge and thousands of teachers, amongst other, contribute to it. And when we want to find out how to do something we often turn to crowdsourced video sites.

However PLE thinking goes further than this. The PLE movement is not based on a single artefact or thing or a simple pedagogic approach but represents diverse ways and perspectives on how we can change process and form of education and in particular as to how we can facilitate learning in multiple contexts.

As such the development of PLEs interacts with many different experiments, projects and initiatives with using technology for teaching and learning.

These include:

The design of new schools and learning spaces
The Telefonplan School, in Stockholm has been designed so children could work independently in opened-spaces while lounging, or go to “the village” to work on group-projects.Such open environments facilitate flexible learning and personal learning pathways. Other spaces such as libraries, museums and cultural centres are increasingly seen as learning environments.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
The fast growth in provision of Massive (and not so massive) Open Online Courses has been enabled by the use of Personal Learning Environments and even if some of the more institutionally driven MOOCs are quite traditional in form it is likely that students are using their online personal networks as a support for learning

Learning analytics
Although in its infancy, learning analytics could pathways for navigating and structuring learning through a Personal Learning Environment

The recognition of informal learning
The spread of Personal Learning Environments is leading to new initiatives to recognise informal learning and learning in different contexts. Such initiatives include the Mozilla Foundation’s Open Badges project

New Standards
The ADL sponsored Experience API is designed to allow learners to track and record their personal learning.

The use of social software and multimedia in the classroom
Teachers are increasingly bypassing the restrictions of Virtual Learning Environments to integrate social software and multimedia for creative and explorative learning in the classroom (see for example the work of the EU funded Taccle 2 project).

Shaping our Learning

Marshall McLuhan said “we shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” As a community we need to consciously shape our tools for learning, just as those tools shape the forms and learning which plays such a key role in our personal lives and in our society.

And of course the shape of those tools will inform the future design of our educational institutions and schools. PLEs are not just a tool but are an approach to how we develop and shape those tools.

This in turn will increasingly impact on the role of teachers as supporters and facilitators of learning. PLEs, along with other developments represent a move towards learners taking more responsibility for their learning. However for this to happen they will need support. It also raises the issue of what literacies learners need not just to access and evaluate information but to themselves shape their tools.

At the same time, the contexts in which we are learning are widening. Whilst we are developing an understanding of context in terms of location, through the use of mobile devices, we have still to fully understand different aspects of context including, perhaps critically, what we are trying to learn.

The debate over the role of educational institutions will continue. Our increasing understanding of the role of PLEs in learning can contribute to this debate. PLEs do not invalidate or diminish the role of institutions but can inform how we view institutionally based learning within wider communities, be they online or geographically based. PLEs may also help to overcome some of the tensions between the different purposes and directions for education in the coming years.

 

Seven things we have learned about MOOCs

November 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

With the explosion of interest in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), both in numbers of courses and students, and in press reporting on the rise of MOOCs, it is worth thinking about the significance of all this. Here is a short version of five things that we have learned – a longer version (possibly) to follow.

  1. There is a huge pent up demand for education. MOOCs provide free and flexible access tot hose who could not previously take part in education. That includes not only from poorer countries with a limited education infrastructure but also from rich countries. And whilst some of the demand my be due to people wishing to improve their qualification, for many others the main motivation is personal interest.
  2. After a long period when Technology Enhanced Learning was seen as a supplement to traditional systems or as only for more technologically confident learners, Technology Enhanced Learning is now part of the mainstream and for many learners may be the mode or context of learning of choice.
  3. Education is now a global industry. National borders are no longer a barrier to participation in on-line courses and universities are being forced into international alliances to deliver courses to a global student body. At the same time, investors see Technology Enhanced Learning as an opportunity to develop new markets and are pumping money in accordingly.
  4. There does not seem to be any confidence about what the future financial market is for MOOCs. Some institutional managers see it as an way of recruiting more paying students to their university, others talk of a future market in selling accreditation.
  5. The new so called X-MOOCs such as Udacity or Coursera offer little in terms of new or radical pedagogies. Instead they rely on relatively well established approaches to online learning. However, they may reflect the growing experience in developing online courses and the reduced cost and ease of production of videos and, for students, the ease of access through ubiquitous connectivity.
  6. MOOCs are disruptive to the traditional university model. However such disruption may be more from globalisation and the financial crisis than from the introduction of new technologies per se.
  7. Innovation comes from outside the institutions. Despite being ignored in the popular press, MOOCs were developed and pioneered by people such as Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier (See Stephen Downes’ MOOC blog for more). The so called c (connectivist) MOOCs were far more innovative in pedagogic approaches but the idea was taken over and adapted by the mainstream institutions once they had proved their viability and attraction.

 

 

Disruptive Education

October 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last Friday, Fred Garnett and I made presentations to the weekly virtual Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLC) organised by Cristina Costa and Chrissie Nerantzi from Salford University. The title of the conversation, which took place on the Blackboard Collaborate platform, was disruptive education.

Fred lives in London and I was also in London for meetings, so we decided to meet up at the Westminster Hub (more on that later this week). And it was great fun! Fred and me both shared our presentations and so it evolved into a genuine conversation. I don’t know about the others, but i learned a lot (including that there is nothing like face to face proximity for a real conversation. We both agreed that globalisation is probably more disruptive to educatio0n at the moment than the introduction of new technologies, which are only an enabling factor.

I will post my slides tomorrow (and a link to the recording which seems to be broken at the moment). Here are Fred’s slides – slightly changed after the session. I especially like his distinction between disruption applied to education, which he says needs

  • new distance learning resources
  • new business models
  • globalisation
  • competition
  • capitalism
  • You!

and disruption applied to learning, which needs:

  • critical pedagogies
  • new collaborations
  • human-scale
  • Per to peer
  • social
  • Us!

No ‘Team GB’ for education!

September 30th, 2012 by Jenny Hughes

The Wales Government has announced its plans to implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned earlier this year “Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in Digital Wales.”  We are quite excited that Wales is one of the pioneers in developing a whole-country strategy for the promotion of digital technologies in school classrooms – including advocating the widespread use of mobile devices, a shift to a PLE rather than MLE focus and the use of social software for learning.  There are one or two things we disagree with, such as the heavy emphasis on a ‘national’ collection of resources, but the rest of the report is exciting, forward thinking and realistic.  There is a serious commitment to mass staff development at all levels – surely the biggest barrier to take up of new technologies in the classroom – including defining a set of digital competences for teachers. This report also recommends that these competences (personal AND pedagogic) be compulsory in ITT courses.

The other section of the report which will cause major ripples is the chunk entitled “External conditions for success” which seem to us to identify all of the brick walls which teachers come up against and suggests that they should be dismantled. I am going to quote the report in full because it is music to the ears of most of us involved with e-learning in schools.

Universal take-up of digital opportunities assumes that:

  • all learning providers, and indeed all classrooms, can connect to the internet at sufficient speeds to enable efficient use of digital resources
  • interface equipment – whiteboards, PCs, tablets, mobile devices, etc. – are available widely enough within learning providers to give quick and easy access to resources. ‘Bring your own device’ solutions may be appropriate here
  • learners and teachers are not prevented from using resources by general restrictions imposed by local authorities or learning providers on certain types of hardware (e.g. smart phones), software (e.g. ‘apps’) or web resources (e.g. Facebook, YouTube or Twitter)
  • learners and their parents/carers have adequate access at home (and increasingly on mobile devices) to ensure that technology-enhanced learning in the classroom can be replicated and deepened outside the learning provider. 

LEAs, take note!!

The main vehicle for turning the report into reality will be an organisation called the ‘Hwb’ (no, not a funny way of spelling Hub, ‘hwb’ means to promote, push or inspire). Its remit will be to lead, promote and support the use of digital resources and technologies by learners and teachers across Wales and create and develop a national digital collection for learning and teaching in English and Welsh.  Both Pontydysgu and the Taccle2 project in Wales are committed to doing what we can to support the Hwb and will make sure that all our resources and experience in the field are freely available.

The driving force behind it all is Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education in Wales – with whose politics I usually disagree – but I am very happy to admit that he has come up trumps with this one!  He is knowledgable, committed and comes across as a genuinely enthusiastic technophile with an understanding of what education could look like in the future and a clear vision of how, in Wales, we are going to get there.  (“Just like Michael Gove!”, I hear my English colleagues say….).  I must admit, that even as a card-carrying member of a different party (byddwch chi’n dyfalu!), devolution has been all good in terms of education and we have had two excellent Ministers.   Look at the image on the top of this post and you may understand why we are looking forward to an increasing divergence and autonomy.  Team GB? No thanks!

 

 


 

Wales to encourage schools to make full use of social networking technologies

August 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell
Leighton Andrews, Wales Assembly Government Minister for Education and Skills, has announced an ambitious agenda in response to an independent review of digital classroom teaching. Of particular note is the commitment to “a new approach to the use of social networking technologies in education” through “encouraging schools to make full use of social technologies in order to engage learners and improve learning outcomes.”
Andrews says:

In previous years, local authorities have been asked to block access to social networking sites in schools, libraries and youth clubs, as a result of very understandable concerns about online predators, cyberbullying and the risk of disruption to classroom activities. However, this policy can have adverse effects. It deprives schools of access to tools and resources which might otherwise be used creatively and constructively in education both within and beyond the classroom. More importantly, it means that children are most likely to be using these sites outside the school, at home, or on mobile devices, in environments which may be unsupervised and where they have less access to informed guidance and support on how to stay safe online.
In 2008, Wales was the first country in the UK to introduce the teaching of safe and responsible use of the Internet into both the primary and secondary school curriculum. The underpinning approach was that we first teach children to use the Internet safely under supervision, and then help them to develop the skills and understanding they need to manage their own risk as they use the Internet independently. Enabling access to social networking sites in schools will be consistent with this approach, providing pupils with the opportunity to learn safe, responsible and considerate online behaviours in the context of supported educational activities. It will also help schools to include parents in these activities.”

We have long argued that blocking of social networking (and other web sites) in schools was a backward and futile step. Lets hope that other countries follow the lead of Wales.

Innovating Pedagogy

August 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The UK Open University have launched an interesting new series, Innovating Pedagogy. The series of reports is intended to explore new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.

Mike Sharples explains:

We wanted to distinguish our perspective from that of the EDUCAUSE Horizon reports, which start from a consideration of how technologies may influence education. I would argue that ours aren’t ‘technology-driven opportunities’, but are rather an exploring of new and emerging forms of teaching, learning and assessment in an age of technology. All innovations in education nowadays are framed in relation to technology, but that doesn’t mean they are ‘technology driven’. So, for example, personal inquiry learning is mediated and enhanced by technology, but not driven by it.

We had a long discussion over ‘pedagogies’. The problem is that there isn’t a word in English that means ‘the processes of teaching, learning and assessment’. I would argue that in current usage ‘pedagogy’ has broadened from a formal learning experience conducted by a teacher, as we have become more aware of the opportunities for peer learning, non-formal apprenticeship etc. See e.g. http://www.memidex.com/pedagogy+instr . The origin of the word isn’t ‘teacher’ but “slave who took children to and from school” We were careful to indicate in the Introduction our usage of the word: “By pedagogy we mean the theory and practice of teaching, learning, and assessment.” So, within that usage are practices that might contribute towards effective learning, such as creating and sharing annotations of textbooks.

The ten trends explored in the first report are:

Although the list may seem as little idiosyncratic, authors emphasise that the themes are often interlinked in practice. I wonder though, if there is something of a contradiction between Assessment for Learning and Learning Analytics?

I am also interested in the definition of rhizomatic learning: “supporting rhizomatic learning requires the creation of a context within which the curriculum and knowledge are constructed by members of a learning community and which can be reshaped in a dynamic manner in response to environmental conditions. The learning experience may build on social, conversational processes, as well as personal knowledge creation, linked into unbounded personal learning networks that merge formal and informal media.”

The MOOC debate

August 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There is an intense debate going on about MOOCs at the moment. As  Nellie Deutsch explains in an excellent post entitled Loveless MOOCs:

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) began with the idea of connecting for learning via personal learning environments (PLEs) using blogs, wikis, google groups, and Moodle. According to Wikipedia, the term MOOC is said to have started in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander “in response to an open online course designed and lead by George Siemens and Stephen Downes” (wikipedia). However, MOOCs have changed from the idea of connecting with others for learning to the more traditional content delivery format as demonstrated by Khan’s Academy, MIT’s and Standford.

Now a group of elite universities have launched their own MOOCs using Coursera (a proprietary course management system)  developed for the universities and with many other private and public educational institutions planning their own MOOCs the debate is underway.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens have characterised the difference as between C type MOOCs (C as in connectivism) and X type MOOCs (I am not sure what the X stands for). I am not sure this helps clarify things. Indeed, I think the term MOOC is now being used for almost any web based course and as such is losing any real meaning

So what are the differences.

The first is intent and motivation. The original MOOCs run by Siemens and Downes were designed to open up learning to all who wished to participate – thus the Open in the name. The business model – in as much as their was one – was based on a limited number of participants being enrolled as formal students in one of the sponsoring institutions. The new MOOCs appear to be driven by  the desire to charge for online courses, as a way of increasing enrolment on other formal courses or by charging for certification.

The latter has pedagogic implications.

Pamel McLean reports on her personal experience on her blog:

I’ve started my history of the Internet course with Coursera. I’m very interested to see how it works. It’s assessed, which I was not expecting, and find highly demotivating. I don’t really want to “master” the  cource materials.  I just want a familiarise  myself with what it covers, and how it does it.  However assessment and a final judgement of having passed or failed brings in all kinds of new dynamics. I feel a need to demonstrate to “the powers that be” that I’m not a failure, but I didn’t enrol in order to prove anything to them. I enrolled to take what I wanted from the course. Only a few hours in and I feel pushed towards jumping through hoops. I think they have only three categories “pass”, “fail” or “dropout”.

This is not the only pedagogic difference. Siemens and Downes based their MOOC on peer support through the use of social software and Web 2.0 technologies including Forums, Blogs and Twitter, webinars and internet radio. They also invited an impressive list of guest speakers who gave their time for free. Thus the model was based on peer and interactive learning through community connections, with links to participant activity being harvested and shared.

The new MOOCs are evidently not based on such a model. In fact they really just seem to be traditional on-line courses, albeit repackaged.

Furthermore, Downes and Siemens promoted the development of Personal Learning Environments with participants encouraged to develop their own learning environment including whatever applications they chose. This is very different to the closed world of Coursera technology.

I don’t agree with Nellie Deutsch’s assertion that the attitude the elite universities are choosing to take is “if you can’t join them, break them”. Instead I think they are trying to take what is clearly a successful and ground breaking innovation and trying to mold it to fit their own pedagogic and business models. But at the end of the day I don’t think what they are promoting are MOOCs, at least not as they were originally conceived.

Postscript: there are an increasing number of efforts to curate the MOOC debate – I particularly like Networked Learning – Learning Networks by Peter B Sloep which picks up well on the key issues under discussion.

 

Taccle 2 underway

May 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Many of you signed up on a form here for the first Taccle handbook, on using social software and web 2.0 for teaching and learning. The handbook was written for teachers wanting to introduce e-learning into their practice. There was also a series of training events for teachers based on the handbook. Both the handbook and the courses were rated highly by teachers and the handbook has been translated into some 8 or 9 languages and been reprinted in some countries

However,  feedback from readers and from course participants was that there were still ‘gaps’ that needed to be filled.

The gaps

First, although teachers across the subject range said they found the both the courses and the handbook useful for developing generic technical skills there were many who still found difficulty in translating that into specific learning activities within their subject area or sector.

Second, although many teachers, as a result of reading the handbook or attending the courses, now feel confident about designing learning objects or using web 2.0 applications, they are less confident about engaging pupils in producing and publishing their own. TACCLE 2 addresses these issues by providing a series of 5 supplementary handbooks (in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian) written in the same style as the original, around specific subjects.

What Taccle 2 will do

TACCLE 2 for teachers will provide:

  • 5 step-by-step guides to integrating ICT and e-learning in YOUR classroom: primary education, maths, science and technology, key competences, arts and culture and humanities.
  • practical materials and ideas customised for YOUR subject area and pupil age range
  • complementary training courses based on the handbook
  • access to web based materials for e-learning
  • opportunities to join a network of like-minded colleagues across Europe
  • a chance to join in and influence the work of the project as it develops
  • free download of the popular E-learning Handbook for Classroom Teachers produced by the Taccle 1 project
  • signposts to other banks of open educational resources for your subject

We will be publishing examples of some of the work as it is developed on this web site you can follow the development of the project on the Taccle 2 website.

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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!


    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


    Post-Covid ed-tech strategy

    The UK Ufi VocTech Trust are supporting the Association of Colleges to ensure colleges are supported to collectively overcome challenges to delivering online provision at scale. Over the course of the next few months, AoC will carry out research into colleges’ current capacity to enable high quality distance learning. Findings from the research will be used to create a post-Covid ed-tech strategy for the college sector.

    With colleges closed for most face-to-face delivery and almost 100% of provision now being delivered online, the Ufi says, learners will require online content and services that are sustainable, collective and accessible. To ensure no one is disadvantaged or left behind due to the crisis, this important work will contribute to supporting businesses to transform and upskilling and reskilling those out of work or furloughed.


    Erasmus+

    The European Commission has published an annual report of the Erasmus+ programme in 2018. During that time the programme funded more than 23,500 projects and supported the mobility of over 850,00 students, of which 28,247 were involved in UK higher education projects, though only one third of these were UK students studying abroad while the remainder were EU students studying in the UK. The UK also sent 3,439 HE staff to teach or train abroad and received 4,970 staff from elsewhere in the EU.


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