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Personalised radio ciphers through augmented social media for the transformational learning of disadvantaged young people Andrew Ravenscroft, 1Graham Attwell, 2David Blagbrough and 1Dirk Stieglitz CASS School of Education and Communities, University of East London a.ravenscroft@uel.ac.uk 1Pontydusgu, 2Inspire! (Hackney Education Business Partnership) Abstract This paper describes a new approach to conceptualizing, designing and developing personalized and community-based approaches to informal learning with new media. It provides a new articulation of personalisation as cultural practice, linked to the work of Paulo Freire, leading to the technical reformulation of the concept of ciphers within a new pedagogical framework of participative edutainment. These new concepts and linkages are then applied to the problem of addressing the engagement, informal learning and employability of disadvantaged young people through internet radio and augmented social media within a pilot project called RadioActive. The paper describes the new rationale and pedagogical approach to design; the methodology for developing RadioActive platforms; the current platform; our current experiences within a pilot project; and, the broader implications for this and similar projects when we consider the reality of designing for lived culture. Keywords: radical pedagogy, internet radio, ciphers, social media, disadvantaged groups. Introduction: Designing personalized new media spaces to support transformational learning Relatively recent research into, and definitions of, Personalised Learning Environments (PLE) (e.g. van Harmalen, 2008) have proposed new technological configurations or learning design patterns. These typically harmonise individual learner agency and initiative with a developing ecology of open web services and tools. This is the PLE from an alternative learning technology perspective. Another and complementary way to view personalisation, that has a history beyond relatively recent technological developments, is to view personlisation as cultural practice. In this sense, personalisation is rooted in the deep matching and development of learners interests, experiences and motivations with their chosen informal or formal learning trajectories that may be realized through personalised technologies within particular cultural contexts. This is a psycho-social approach to personalisation and learning technology design and use, that conceives of learning as something that grows out from the learner, rather than something that is acquired from some pre-structured, external and imposed curricula. How this approach relates to current thinking on PLE design is given in the Section below. RadioActive and current thinking about PLE design Many accounts of the ongoing changes in education tend to be driven from a technologically determinist viewpoint. As Josephine Green (2005) points out given the Wests love affair with a rationalistic and technological approach, and contrary to historical evidence, too often attention and emphasis is given to the technological and economic aspects of change and

not to the social aspects. Taken to the extreme, a technological and economic determinism drives the assumption that the future will arise out of a continuum of technology roadmaps and market forces. Put simply: that technology and economics determines the future. However, contextualist approaches to the history of technology have emphasised the social dimension of technology implementation. Staudenmaier (1985) says a contextualist approach shows "the internal design of specific technologies as dynamically interacting with a complex of economic, political, and cultural factors" Such approaches emphasize the particularities of the social and historical conditions in which different technologies have developed (Pannabeker, 1995). Within education, Georgia Kontogiannopoulou-Polydorides (1996) has suggested the adoption of educational technology is shaped by and shapes the educational paradigm. She goes on to say The characteristics which lie in the core of what is named as educational paradigm are curriculum content, teachers discourse and teaching practices, and decision making processes. Thus technologies have developed which emphasize and perpetuate control and transmission models of education reinforcing what has previously been called the industrial model of education (Attwell, 2009). In the pedagogic sphere the development of virtual classrooms has tended towards supporting and even reinforcing traditional pedagogic approaches and teacher-learner relationships albeit whilst extending the potential for access to classroom based education. It is little surprise that a leading commercial educational technology platform is named Blackboard. The idea of the Personal Learning Environments arose in opposition to the Virtual Learning Environment. Although there are different definitions of PLEs and indeed different discourses (see Attwell, Buchem and Torres, 2011) a prevalent theme in research literature is a shifting in the nexus of control from teachers to learners. PLEs also initially tended to be seen in technical terms, as presaging the development of a new wave of educational software or learning platforms. And indeed the emergence of PLEs were themselves based on changing forms of interaction and design within the world wide web through the movement from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. But as Web 2.0 itself started enabling fundamental changes in forms of knowledge construction, moving from expert knowledge to rhizomatic knowledge (Cormier, 2009), the focus of PLE research also began to change. Instead of using educational technology, learners could expropriate social software for learning, mixing and remixing tools and applications to meet particular needs. Indeed the practice of designing the PLE could be seen as an outcome of learning in itself (Wild et al, 2008). As technology has ceased to be the primary focus in PLE research there have been new considerations and emphases related to the different contexts in which people learn. Early PLE research saw the importance of bringing together learning that is drawn from the community and the workplace as well as from education (Wilson et al, 2006). Some recent work (e.g Attwell, 2010, Pachler, 2010) has looked at the affordances of mobile devices and the development of a socio-cultural ecology for learning, based on the new possibilities for the relationship between learning in and across formal and formal contexts, between the classroom and other sites of learning. Such an ecology is based on the interplay between agency, cultural practices and structures. Along similar lines Hughes (2010) has drawn our attention to issues of legitimacy in personlised and informal learning. What forms and processes for learning are defined as legitimate and what outcomes are recognised? A number of researchers have drawn attention to the potential use of PLEs for informal learning and learning through interaction within Communities of Practice, but there are only limited accounts of practice. Amongst other contexts of learning identified by Hughes (2010) are a series of relations: the relationship between teachers and learners, the relationship between learners themselves,

the relationships between learners and technologies and the relationship between learners and the wider community. This thinking can be articulated within broader holistic pedagogical frameworks that fully appreciate the interrelationship between cognition, communication and community (Ravenscroft, 2004; Ravenscroft & Boyle, 2010 ), that have built upon classical social constructivist approaches (e.g. Vygotsky, 1978; Bahktin, 1993; Engestrom, 1995) but reformulated these perspectives in line with the features of learning in the digital age (Ravenscroft, Wegerif & Hartley, 2007; Ravenscroft 2011). In embracing this emphasis on relationships and the socio-cultural dimensions of learning we can propose that PLEs have the potential to change certain relationships, particularly through: a) The appropriation of technologies for learning; b) Changing roles for teachers in supporting and scaffolding learning;

c) The development of Personal Learning Networks or the support of peers as More


Knowledgably Others (Vygotsky, 1978); d) A shifting locus of learning from the institution to the real world. This position and these points, especially a, b and d, are particularly important when we are attempting to find technology-enabled ways to engage, retain and support the learning of disadvantaged people who are excluded, or at risk of exclusion, from traditional learning paths and trajectories. Arguably, this problem is most severe in the burgeoning numbers of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) throughout the UK and Europe. Addressing the needs of these growing communities requires new and radical approaches to learning, learning design and technology-enabled practice that are truly transformational in terms of life chances, and also transformative in Mezirows terms (1997). One foundation for a radical and technology-enabled pedagogy for disadvantaged groups is the groundbreaking work of Paulo Freire (1970). Applying Friere to PLE design: Technical reformulation of ciphers In Paulo Freire's seminal work "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" (Freire, 1970), he emphasized the importance of critical engagement in and analysis of broader societal cycles and their effects. One way to do this is through using lived culture, and praxis (action that is informed by values) as the foundational elements for developing circles that promote transformational learning. These ideas have recently been taken up within the non hierarchical, shared, creative, inclusive, safe and supported spaces called ciphers" - which have emerged from the urban youth culture particularly around hip hop music (Wiliams, 2009). This is also similar to the notion a jam, which was the inclusive cultural activity that powered the birth of hip hop in New York in the 1980s, a parallel we return to later. These ideas have recently been taken up within the ciphers" or inter-group dialogues used as a tool to problematise existing social relations and construct new social relations by teachers and researchers working with socially disadvantaged young people in inner cities in the USA. The work focused on hip hop culture (a music genre popular in many urban areas of the world) and historically the term cipher was the place within hip hop culture where MCs (Mic Controllers) would get together in a circle and initiate a freestyle construction of rhymes. The cipher was used as a means to promote the active and democratic co-construction of curricula between teachers and learners, thus moving curricula from expert control to the control of the community. The Critical Cultural Cipher project was designed to challenge the dominant middle class Eurocentric discourse of education in the USA. One way of rectifying the inadequacies of the education system in addressing students from different cultures was seen to be to incorporate elements of students lived culture in the curriculum thus acknowledging their

values and identities from outside school. The aim was to develop a Critical Pedagogical Framework that would empower the students, together with the teachers, to challenge marginalizing social contexts, ideologies, events, organizations, experiences, texts, subject matter, policies and discourses. (Williams, 2009). Important in this was the development of an identity that is consciously critical through learners acting as active agents who can take control of the construction of their own being. We are currently using this cipher concept as a metaphor for designing digitally enabled ciphers within RadioActive. This is a hybrid internet-radio and social media platform to support the transformational learning of disadvantaged young people. Critical to this is the appropriation of technologies as a form of expression of popular cultures and their use of technologies within those cultures to explore and develop a critical approach. This re-formulation of Freires (1970) seminal notion of developing a critical pedagogical framework in his work on literacy is an attempt to develop new critical literacies through the use of new media. Radio and disadvantaged or NEET young people: How is RadioActive different? There have been various initiatives that have used radio with disadvantaged, at risk and NEET young people such as Fundamental FM (a project supported by the youth services in Wandsworth, London, UK). But there is little literature on these initiatives that seem to come and go based on the availability of finding. These have often been difficult to sustain due to their reliance on significant funding for their running costs and inconsistent levels of commitment from usually voluntary staff. They also rely on the organizers behind the stations, that have typically broadcast in FM, selling the idea to a community. In RadioActive we aim to manage the challenge of sustaining the radio and social media platform through using low cost or Open Source technology, internet broadcasting (that does not require a licence like FM), and, as far as possible, growing the internet radio out of existing digital cultures and linking to existing networks of established community activities. This does not remove the need for direct recruitment, engagement and retention of young people, however, it significantly reduces the reliance on this as the only method to realize suitable levels of inclusion and participation. A new design methodology for developing socio-technical systems A key feature of our approach is to develop a design and development methodology that can be re-used adapted and configured to different contexts with similar broad challenges. It will do this through developing a design and development methodology linked to a software toolkit, or radio station in a box, allowing the approach to be up-scaled and replicated within different communities of young people. Central to the approach is the systematic examination of the existing digital practices and cultures of the target groups followed by physical and virtual interventions that recruit, facilitate and shape practices that are suitable for RadioActive. This means that we are designing learning within lived cultures and practices, not imposing learning practices and technologies into lived cultures. The methodology and platform is being co-designed and deployed with young people and their support actors (e.g. teachers, youth workers, parents) in London borough of Hackney. And it is aimed that during a replication and up-scaling phase the methodology and radio toolkit will be disseminated and supported to facilitate its re-use within other community contexts with similar and contrasting demographics, namely another London Borough (such as Tower Hamlets or Wandsworth) and the South Wales valleys. This approach extends the previous work of Ravenscroft et al., (2011) into designing socio-technical systems for knowledge workers in the digital workplace. In this previous work, the broad rationale was similar, to

view socio-technical design as an intervention within existing digitally-mediated practices and cultures, to solve particular problems, catalyse certain types of informal learning processes or realize new and more efficient collaborative learning processes. However, in these work-related contexts, such as Careers Advice, the practices and extrinsic motivations were explicit within the work environment and the knowledge workers were (obviously) highly digitally literate. In the RadioActive case, we need a refined approach that places greater emphases on linking personal interests, passions and existing digital behaviours to relatively open-ended and peformative practices. This requires that previous methodologies need to be extended to include a more extensive problematisation and recognition phase, and with a greater emphasis on harmonizing virtual and physical contexts and behaviours. Typical knowledge workers will have their broad activities and performance criteria mostly defined by their working contexts, and their roles in those contexts. In contrast the roles, activities and developmental trajectories of the young people in RadioActive will co-evolve with the performances and feedback within the RadioActive communities, that are a clear hybrid of the virtual and the real. The section below describes how we anticipate the organic growth and co-evolution of the RadioActive technology and community will be realized through a particular approach to social media design, that co-ordinates on the ground activities with evolving digital networks and technical developments. The RadioActive platform: tools and processes The radioactive platform has been designed to be as simple as possible to establish and maintain. We wish to focus on the pedagogy ands utilize technologies for developing critical literacies, rather than focus on technologies in themselves. Indeed radio has been around for many years. However in developing an internet radio platform, this opens the media for use jn community settings. The radio platform is based on an Icecast server with a streaming server allowing access to the stream through any online MP3 player. Input is provided through a portable mixing deck with remote radio microphones. Audio Hijack Pro software allows the signal to be channeled to the Icecast server on an Apple MacBook, meaning the whole radio station is portable rather than relying on a studio, or this is the radio station in a box concept. Other industry standard and open source software can be used for music mixing etc. Portable MP3 players are used for pre-recording interviews, music or features and can be edited using the Open Source Audacity program or Apple GarageBand. A key issue is developing an online social network around the radio programmes. In the past we have used a number of different platforms and social networking applications including Joomla, Wordpress and Buddypress. We have also established a presence on Facebook and iTunes and have used AudioBoo for short radio clips. Obviously there are other social networking applications which could be used. The main point is that the users, in the case of RadioActive socially disadvantaged people, take ownership of the platform and apps and that the look and feel of the different sites reflects their interests and cultures. In this sense any platform should be a perpetual beta with design and feel changing to reflect interests and activities through a co-design process. In terms of process, it is important that the project initiators (and authors) are not seen as the experts and that the young people are involved in every aspect of the development and design of the radio output. Our models are responsive and reflexive, and we anticipate a range of approaches from mentoring and apprenticeship to spotting and harnessing and promoting people, activities and assets. One aspect of the technical set-up is that it is simple to learn and manage. In previous projects we have usually found at least one person with transferable experience and an interest in the technology is sufficient to seed a radio project. Radioactive is using a cascade training process, with a workshop for Youth leaders who will then work directly with the young people. The workshops will focus as much on the process of media production and social networking as on the technology itself.

The RadioActive pilot The initial radio-social media platform is being co-designed with 14-19 year old, at risk and NEET young people and their related stakeholders (e.g. youth workers and community workers) in the London Borough of Hackney. Here, it is clear from the current interest and feedback that the going live aspect acts as a catalyst for community engagement and cohesion, linked to related social media activity. Put simply, the internet-radio gives a presence, real-time narrative and an energy that can complement and animate physical on the ground activities, to collectively drive participation, interaction and content creation This is an innovative and participative broadcasting model that combines Open Source or easily affordable technology to create the communities radio platform. Inspired by Web 2.0 trends, this deliberately fuses traditional distinctions between broadcaster/program planner and listener/consumer. The broad pedagogical notion is one of participative edutainment through using the RadioActive platform to offer and promote connections with, and the expression of a hard to reach community. Where this community will be engaged, retained and developed through a combination of innovative digital and established techniques, with the platform and performances as the hub that coordinates, reflects back and develops a hybrid of the virtual and the real of relevance and value to the community. Key in making and maintaining this connection (between the virtual and the real) is the cipher approach, which will ensure that RadioActive is a live entity that is constituted by the community and their activities, rather than the community being seen as a separate audience that is broadcast to. The central idea is that this radio cipher, and crucially, its attendant recruitment and engagement features, provides the space into which we can initially engage and retain NEETs, who will then be exposed to and participate in informal learning activities that lead to the development of skills and competencies that prepare them for further education, training or work. The open and yet structured cipher approach, allows for the initiation, orchestration, assistance and facilitation of activities by the support actors, who will have a particular role in ensuring that physical and virtual activities synchronise through the RadioActive hub. This will allow the young people to develop both soft and hard skills. The softer ones relate to personal expression, the development of self-confidence and selfesteem, and the development of collaborative working skills. The harder ones involve the development of concrete digital literacy, media production, communication and organizational skills, that can exploited in other education or employment related activities. Similarly, their artefacts and competencies are recorded (e.g. in an e-portfolio) or made public (e.g on the web) in ways that can be presented to potential educators or employers. This is greatly assisted through the accreditation of the RadioActive activities, performances and content through adapting existing programmes at the University of East London and Inspire! (the Hackney Enterprise and Business Partnership). The ambition for how RadioActive might work is given in the following section, demonstrating the interlinking of augmented social media, various forms of prompting or scaffolding and internet radio. A RadioActive Scenario: From rhyming to campaigning Imagine two NEET young people. They have low confidence and self-esteem but they are both enthusiasts of hip hop. Through their friends or support actors they become aware of RadioActive and a hip hop cipher linked to internet radio, and understand that here they can "do their own rhymes", practice them with others and eventually broadcast them either "live" or upload them to the internet. They enter the hip hop cipher where they are provided with media scaffolding, which structures their creative expression in writing rhymes (hip hop phrases) and putting these to beats: they can play them, re-play them, develop them and compare them with the rhymes of others. At this point, through online monitoring, one of their support workers, who is also

part of RadioActive, becomes aware of what they are doing and through using a persuasive script offers advice and encouragement to them to complete a short song and upload it to a live performance, and in parallel with this intelligent prompting "nudges" them towards this activity. Smart and semantic technologies then profile the NEETs and the semantics of the title of their song and also its content, and then recommend their participation in a scheduled live internet radio broadcasts, or "jams", along with other NEETs who have a similar or complimentary profile. The latter part of this program involves the NEETs explaining and reflecting on their songs, exploring joint concerns or interesting differences, and generally sharing their fears, worries and ambitions. They come to understand that they are "not alone", and, "can do something", and get involved with further joint activities to retain and extend their participation are suggested by the support actor and the RadioActive persuasion and recommendation components (i.e. further intelligent prompting). They are then prompted towards a campaigning cipher, that similarly provides the sort of personal and community scaffolding that allows them to launch an online campaign through twitter, that culminates in approaching a local councilor to perform a live radio debate on the issue that have been raised through the hip-hop cipher and resulting twitter campaign. Through the RadioActive hip-hop cipher, the NEETs have become engaged in expressing their concerns through developing digital literacies; developed self-confidence and selfawareness; collaboratively developed a greater understanding of their communities problems, their role within them and how they can be addressed; been retained in the RadioActive framework because it can facilitate their personal expression, link them with others who have similar concerns and interests and encourage and persuade them to further engage and develop through related follow on activities. And finally, through the resulting campaign, they have developed a collective voice that leads to affirmative action in their community. Discussion and implications: Design and lived culture As this is an ongoing pilot project, we will now reflect upon some broader ideas and implications that have fed into our thinking that are relevant to personalized, informal and community learning with digital technologies. Our approach represents a variation on a new approach to learning and learning technology design for socio-technical systems that was introduced by Ravenscroft et al., (2011). This conceives of design as intervention within existing digitally-mediated practices and cultures. The aim is to shape, catalyse and promote learning behaviours based on existing and emerging digital literacies. Orchestrating these literacies into meaningful, organized and purposeful digitally-mediated activity is the essence of RadioActive. But this is complex, as we cannot separate cultures from the curiosity, dreams and imagination of the individuals who constitute them or the and economic, social and political climate in which these cultures operate, emerge and evolve. Or, putting this another way, personal means personal, in terms of the importance of deep and relevant meaning making linked to tangible positive changes within our environment. To be concrete, RadioActive has meaning, purpose and relevance to its members because it taps into their key interests, passions, challenges and frustrations and channels these in ways that can lead to more active citizenship and voice, forms of creative expression and cultural participation, and, the development of soft and hard employability skills relevant to the Creative and Digital Industries (CDIs). We are also working with, perhaps less tangible, but similarly significant forces that influence learning and human behaviour and cultural development. There are clear historical parallels of emergent forms of creative cultural force and practice that emerge despite, or in opposition to, the constraints of the prevalent cultural or economic trends that we can draw upon. In a dialectical fashion, both positive emotions and forces, such as interest, excitement, enthusiasm, love and desire for social justice and more

negative ones such as frustration, marginalization, alienation and oppression can combine to release new, and often revolutionary, forms of cultural expression, practice and impact. For example, the depressed economic and social conditions in the late 1970s, and the related lack of hope and alienation of young people from poor backgrounds powered the punk and post-punk movement in the US and the UK. Young people turned their alienation upon itself, using music and music performance to create a new discourse that allowed them to express and participate in society in radical and unforeseen ways, because: Theres no point in asking Youll get no reply. Pretty Vacant, Sex Pistols, 1977 This was combined with an essential energy that could go nowhere except express itself through music in many situations: Hey ho lets go (*4), Blitzkreig Bop, the Ramones, 1976 Then later in the early eighties, a dangerous, depressed and broke New York fuelled the birth of Hip Hop: Its like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under, The Message, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, 1982 The latter has some very interesting parallels with RadioActive, as hip-hop developed the notion of a jam, that is a metaphor we consider in our Cipher concept. During jams the poor local communities brought together and shared equipment, records and ideas to create inclusive, free (and loud) community spaces and events. Using mixers and break-beats they made the new out of the old through improvisation, and unknowingly, created what is today the most widespread musical genre in the world. These jams, and eventually the records, videos and even films (such as Spike Lees Do the Right Thing) created and shaped a new global culture from beginnings with no money, no modern equipment and no broader institutional or commercial recognition. The magic was expressing and organizing previously unexposed lived culture through music and art. Of course, with RadioActive, we are not aiming to uncover and develop the next Hip Hop, we are simply pointing out that, somewhat ironically, an economic, social and political landscape now exists, that has stimulated widespread cultural expression and development in the past. Put simply, whilst we are realistic about the work that is involved to recruit, engage and retain disadvantaged young people, we are operating under conditions that have assisted in promoting inclusion, engagement and sustained development in the past, through embracing a reactionary spirit. The broader message is that, we propose that designing personalized, informal and community learning can be as much about working with, or possibly reacting to social and economic conditions and mechanisms of control, as it is about working with the right people and technologies. New media simply provide more ways to do these things, and do them more easily. Acknowledgements The authors are very grateful to colleagues with whom they co-developed the broad educational approach and digital cipher concept - Vania Dimitrova (University of Leeds), Christine Vanoirbeek (EPFL) and Liliane Esnault (Independent Consultant). We are also very grateful to Ergel Hassan, the Director of YOH, and the young people who are participating in this project.

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Conference themes addressed Theories and frameworks for Personal Learning Environments Supporting informal and contextual learning