Graham Attwell’s PLE Slideshare Presentations

I’ve just come across these two slideshare hosted presentations by Graham Attwell of Pontydysgu that parallel some of my own thinking regarding institutional approaches to learning and Personal Learning Environments (PLE). I thought it would be useful to embed them here. (There is a little overlap with some of the slides.) I really like what Graham is doing and what he has to say, so I often find useful information in his blog.

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Experiment and discussion

I’ve recently written a couple of blog post that are receive a bit of attention, the first was about the changing role of education and the second about Nurphy a new online service for conversations. I’ve decided to see if I can combine then by asking question about one on the other and seeing what happens. It’s a bit of an experiment really.

So, here goes. I’ve posted the following up as a conversation that anyone can join, once registered with Nurphy. Will people be willing to sign up for an untested service at this early stage? I’ll find out. The conversation starts here.

Whatever, I’d still like people’s opinions about the following.

Is the rise of the Professional Amateur Pro-Am, the increase in open educational resources (OER), personal learning environments (PLE), and greater significance of informal learning and research going to lead to a move away from an emphasis on institutional, formal learning?

As people are able to continually express their skills, abilities and achievements via social media, will formalized accreditation, with potentially out-dated assessment systems, be less relevant?

Or are formal learning and research institutions able to adapt quickly enough to the new requirements of society?

Open research – Professional Amateurs – Science in Action

I recently wrote a post that touched upon openness of and elitism in education. I just wanted to express a few more quick thoughts on this, though it is something I intend to return to with a more in-depth look at open education and resources.

I feel the elitism of universities doesn’t lie with who is allowed to become a students, it is more related to the fact that resources are securely tied up within universities making those resources inaccessible to the majority. Resources in this context could be books or journals (hard copies or online with paid for institutional subscriptions), the academic discourse, the talents of faculty, the research equipment and facilities, past Ph.D. theses, etc. In addition, it relates to the subjects and specific topics that are deemed to be worthy of teaching or researching, or what the funders deem so.

Universities deal in the currency of degrees, a passport in society. Why in times of recession, such as at present, should it be that otherwise capable individuals are denied their chance of a degree passport because the government puts a squeeze on the number of places available in order to balance the books? A further point is the question of assessment, and is it really a useful measure, or is the ongoing presentation of someone’s work, either within a university or indeed outside it (informal learning), a better reflection of their capabilities and abilities? Indeed, evidence is beginning to accumulate indicating that those who present their work using social media place themselves in a more advantageous position for employment. And shouldn’t publicly funded research be in the public domain anyway? I’ve previously written about Open Notebook Science.

I can envisage how much of this could be opened up to greater access, but I was having a problem with scientific equipment and facilities and how that might be liberated.

There have been some interesting examples where institution based science projects have reached out to the public for assistance. There was SETI were you signed up and your computer were utilized while it was on (and you weren’t using it) to process data to search for extra-terrestrial life. Then I recall a project were public volunteers were called for to look for new astronomical bodies in tens of thousands of photographs of space; these were provided online and after doing a test to see how accurately you could assess the images you could process the live data. It was discovered that humans were much better at seeing differences in the data than if the processing was done electronically with image recognition.

Therefore, in a rather detached way people were participating in scientific research.

However, I then heard the repeat of the Friday 25 September Science in Action programme* on BBC World Service at 4:32GMT on Sunday morning. (Sometimes I’m awake in the night or wake up early.) Listen to the programme. The significant part where this blog post is concerned is the DIYbio article. The article talked about people who are undertaking scientific research, bio-engineering in this case, in their own homes using inexpensive equipment, some bought secondhand on Ebay(R) for a fraction of its cost new to a research lab. They are able to design and create new biological parts, devices and systems. Integral to this approach is the support from online communities, DIYbio.org for example, sometimes with professionals voluntarily assisting these communities.

Clay Shirky has talked about the increase in mass amateurization, without being amateurish. This is the breaking down of the dichotomy between ‘experts’ and amateurs, with the creation of a new category – the Professional Amateurs or Pro-Ams. Charles Leadbeater in his book We-Think talks about how mass creativity has seen sites including Wikipedia and Youtube, and the Linux operating system rise in prominence and signal a shift in the way we and society can organise ourselves; participation becoming the key element.

All of this, for me raises the question, “Are universities, education systems and society more generally getting ready for the future of learning and research?”

* This particular programme doesn’t seem to be archived, though you can usually listen to the previous two recent episodes, so I guess you’ve probably got a couple of week to hear it before the link is broken.

Process or product – assessment and HE institutions

Following a private (DM) discussion on Twitter with @evestirling the following occurred to me.

If the product of students’ work is to be assessed then it’s appropriate for the HE institution to set the assessment environment and medium.

If process is the important factor, then the students should be allowed to work in whatever environment and media they want, and the institutions need to adapt their assessment processes to accommodate. The control should be with the student in the form of a PLE; not the HE institution.

Comments are very welcome on this.