Using web 2.0 and social media in European projects

Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, UK from Web2LLP on Vimeo.

There is growing interest in how to use social media in European research and development projects. The Web2LLP project aims to improve web strategies and maximise the social media presence of lifelong learning projects. Their web site explains they provide “personalised support and training (a week-long face-to-face course and free webinars), and shares best-practices and resources.”

One of those resources is a video gallery including interviews with project managers who have used social media in European Commision sponsored Lifelong Learning Programme projects.

And when Maria Perifanou asked me for an interview how could I refuse. I talked to Maria about how we used social media in the G8WAY project. The G8WAY project was based on the idea that the growing availability of web 2.0 allows for bridging the present gap between the structures developed to support students in mastering today’s educational transition and their formulation in an institutional perspective through learner centered and connective approaches, with a chance to more effectively manage educational transition.  “G8WAY  developed web 2.0 enhanced learning environments, to enable learners to reflect and develop their creativity potentials and transitional skills in the light of their own and others’ learning experience, made visible through a variety of media sets and PLE tools, each of them designed to meet the requirements of transition envisaged, and all of which are mapped into one single pedagogy framework.”

Who owns the e-Portfolio?

Over the years I have had a fair bit of interest, in this diagramme, produced in a paper for the the e-Portfolio conference in Cambridge in 2005.

I has some discussion about it with Gemma Tur at the PLE2012 Conference in Aveiro. And now Gemma, who is writing her doctoral dissertation in ePortfolios, has written to me to remind me of our discussion. Gemma says:

I thought I could add that eportfolios built with web 2.0 tools may have another process which is based on networking. Cambridge (2009, 2010) argues about the construction of two selves, the networked self and the symphonic self. The first is about documenting learning quickly, in everyday life, taking brief notes with short and quick reflection, sharing and networking. The second is about presenting learning, reorganizing learning, linking learning evidence, with longer and more profound reflection… no networking in this final stage, as it is an inner process

As I am working with learning eportfolios, with web 2.0 tools, networking is a learning process for my students. Therefore, they are building their networked self.

So, if I argue networking is an eportofolio process of web 2.0 eportfolios, who owns the process? Looking at your article and your illustration, I thought it could be a process owned by both the learner and the external world. If networking is a process of sharing, visiting, linking, connecting, commenting, does it mean that it involves both the learner and the audience? this is what I thought before you told me that it is the learner’s process for sure.

So do you think that definitely I should argue that it is only owned by the learner? Then although it could need someone else to comment and connect, in fact, the act of networking is the student’s responsibility? is this the reason why you think that?, do you think I should argue it is owned by the learner?

These are interesting discussion impacting on wider areas than ePortfolios. In particular I think the issue of control is important to the emerging MOOC discussion.

Returning to Gemma’s questions – although I have not read the paper – I don’t think I agree with Cambridge’s idea of he networked self and the symphonic self – at least in this context. I think that networking becomes more important when presenting learning, reorganizing learning, linking learning evidence, and longer and more profound reflection. these processes are inherently social and therefore take place in a social environment.

However it is interesting that social networking was hardly on the radar as a learning process in 2005. And when I referred to the ‘external world’ I was thinking about external organisations – qualification and governmental bodies, trade unions and employers rather than broad social networks. Probably the diagramme needs completely redrawing to reflect the advent and importance of Personal Learning Networks.

However, despite the fact that personal social networks exist in the external world (the ‘audience’), I think the owner of the process is the learner. AZnd I would return again to Ilona Buchems study of the psychological ownership of Personal learning Environments. Ilona says:

One of most interesting outcomes of the study was the relation between control and ownership. The results show that while perceived control of intangible aspects of a learning environment (such as being able to determine the subject matter or access rights) has a much larger impact on the feeling of ownership of a learning environment than perceived control of tangible aspects (such as being able to choose the technology).

Personal Learning Networks are possibly the most important of the intangible aspects of a learning environment. The development of PLEs (which I would argue come out of the ePortfolio debate) and the connectivist MOOCs are shifting control from the educational institutions to the elearners and possibly more important from institutions to wider communities of practice and learning. Whilst up to now, institutions have been able to keep some elements of control (and monopoly through verifying, moderating, accrediting and certifying learning, that is now being challenged by a range of factors including open online courses, new organisations such as the Social Science Centre in Lincoln in the UK and Open Badges.

Such a trend will almost inevitably continue as technology affords ever wider access to resources and learning. The issue of power and control is however unlikely to go away but will appear in different forms in the future.

How to classify and search careers resources?

More news from the excellent icould web site which “gives you the inside story of how careers work. The icould storytellers relate, in their own words, their real life career journeys. There are over a thousand easy to search,varied and unique career videos as well as hundreds of written articles. From telecoms engineers to police officers, from landscape gardeners to web designers, from engine drivers to zookeepers; they talk about what they do, what it’s like, how they came to be where are and their hopes for the future.”

the problem with any such site is how to classify information and even more so how to make it searchable. Yes tag clouds help. And of course you can search by keywords. But when we are talking about careers (and many other topics – for example Open Educational Resources) it is not so easy. On the one hand there is the need to make specific information easily accessible, on the other hand the aim to let people explore options they might not have thought of. And of course much depends on qualification requirements. My own very limited research found that most young people do not go to official careers resources but just enter search words into Google – with very variable results.Furthermore, they seemed to have a limited ability to judge the varci8ty or authority of search returns.

A press release from icould Director, David Arnold says:

In response to a major piece of user testing and feedback earlier in the year, conducted for us by the International Centre for Guidance Studies at the University of Derby, we have completely revised our homepage, changed the structure of our content and made our functionality more explicit.  This will make it easier for our users to personalise icould content, search out what is important to them and find what they need to inspire the next step on their career journey.  As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for further improvements and are grateful for your links, tweets, likes and recommendations.

I tested their new search wizard which asks users

  1. What types of job are you interested in?
  2. What subjects do you study, or enjoy most?
  3. What type of company would you like to work for?
  4. What kind of working lifestyle would suit you best?
  5. What qualifications do you have?

It came up with probably too many results. but they were genuinely career directions I might have been interested in. And I far prefer this broader exploratory approach to many of the very dubious psychometric tools on the market, which seem to provide all kinds of strange results based on algorithms which make a lot of assumptions around our lives and interests which might or might not be true.

 

 

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

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.

The right to work

When I was at school, I never had a Saturday job, or even a paper round, although many of my friends did. My parents were afraid that working would interfere with my education. But I did work in the summer holidays and after leaving school worked for a year before going to university. And I think I learned as much working as I ever did at school. Indeed, the importance of work experience was shown up in our European funded G8WAY project on school to work and university to work transitions.

The Guardian newspaper has drawn attention to a study by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) on part time jobs.

The study found that “the proportion of teenagers combining part-time jobs with school or college has slumped from 40% in the 1990s to around 20% now, according to a government agency. Latest figures show that 260,000 teenagers have a Saturday job compared with 435,000 in 1997.”

UKCES say that there are multiple reasons for this. “The trend is not just recession-related but the result of an increasing expectation that young people should stay on at school, as well as a dwindling number of Saturday jobs, according to the report. Many of the jobs that young people do, such as bar work, are in long-term decline, and are forecast to stagnate or decline further over the next decade.”

The lack of opportunity for paid work is preventing young people becoming independent and in many of the case studies we undertook through the G8WAY project, resulting in considerable family tensions.

And there is an irony here. At the very time young people are being denied the right to work, employers are increasingly demanding work experience, as a precursor to employment. The result is that many young people are being forced to undertaken internships, either at a low pay rate or even without pay. That such internships exist, suggest that there are jobs. It is just employers do not want to pay.