Archive for the ‘Jo Blog’ Category

Travel Blog

May 22nd, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

I’ve been working for Pontydysgu for 6 months now, and as of Saturday I have a whole 6 weeks off!! However much I would enjoy spending this watching the tv and eating, I have been allowed this time off to travel South East Asia. With the current issues in Bangkok where my first night is based this could be interesting. This may seem like a stupid idea, but in fact measures are being taken to ensure the hotel is safe and my choice was an escort to the hotel and being in the company of a group for my first night in Asia, or arriving evening time alone in Cambodia. So Thailand won. Anyway the point is I intend to blog whilst I am away and Graham suggested that I leave this on the Pontydysgu site. I can’t promise it will be exciting or that it will necessarily always be well written but if you are interested in traveling Asia, maybe you will find it interesting.

Who are the Experts?

May 22nd, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

Whilst working for Pontydysgu I have done many jobs that are not expected of someone my age, and level of education. Being 18 and yet to do my degree, to be amongst professors and people in the higher levels of the degree system should have seemed intimidating. But in some ways I found it to be the opposite. My age meant that I had few in the field to compete with, in that I had something different to bring to the table, a younger perspective. This isn’t always relevant and in many practical and age unrelated situations this perspective wasn’t helpful. However when working in areas to do with teaching, internships, or careers guidance, I found myself in an odd position. In the mind set of a student being given an insight to that of a teacher.
This here raises the question, when in this situation does my lack of qualifications cease to be relevant? Is in fact my experience actually a valuable asset to such situations, in that it is probably closer to that of the target group?
I like to think so. However I think the key message here is not to be drawn from my lack of qualifications, but my individual insight. It shows the value of users being involved in development processes and being given a chance to play a larger role in their own fate. In fact I think often the role of expert is not considered widely enough. In teacher, student situations the teacher is considered an expert in the teaching process. However the student is also a direct participant in this process and therefore I believe can also be given the title ‘expert’. When reaching this point in my thinking, having progressed a long way from my own lack of qualifications, I found myself reassessing the teacher to learner dynamic or even user to provider.
Throughout my experience of school, the teacher held the power and the key to learning. However is this right? Should learning be more of a two way process and contain a more balanced dialogue? In the narrower context of school I have difficulty seeing how this teacher learner balance can be created. However when looking towards the concept of Personal Learning Environments this sort of relationship is implied, in the act of students leading the learning and a teacher, or to quote Vygotsky, More Knowledgable Other (allowing the teacher to be a peer or resource), providing the support.
To get back to the wider concept of users, I think it is important to consider the role of the user in decision making processes, such as in the European Projects in which I have been participating as a member of Pontydysgu. The user, in my point of view, has an ‘expert’ opinion to provide. Equal to that of people that have worked in the field for years. This give and take between users and the group, that for the sake of ease I will call, providers, is so important because they both have separate strengths to offer. That of the user being particularly essential when the field of work is one that is fast changing and therefore fresh perspectives are constantly necessary eg. technology.
In this type of working environment hierarchical thinking falls down, as hierarchies based on amount of experience become confused, experience itself becoming relevant in quality rather than quantity. Therefore it is necessary for both providers and users to be treated as having equal, but different levels of knowledge in whatever field the focus happens to be on.
From talking to Cheryl Turner from NIACE I understand that this is a consideration within the adult education circles. However from my experience, within the institutional settings of schools I think there is some way to go before this is recognised and the word expert isn’t considered on a hierarchical basis and amount of experience isn’t the main factor defining level of experience.

What motivates learning?

May 14th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

I found this video on Cool Infographics which is always worth looking at for interesting videos and data representations. It is an illustration of a presentation by Dan Pink created by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. The video discusses research on what motivates people, and provides some interesting results.

2010 UK Elections

May 7th, 2010 by Jo Turner-Attwell

Whilst researching for the Politics project I came across some wordles from the US election of speeches from Obama and McCain. So I made my own from the speeches of Clegg, Cameron and Labour at their party conferences in late 2009. Here were the results.

Labour: Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown's speech to Labour Conference 2009

Conservative: David Cameron

David Cameron's speech- The Tory leader's conference address in full 2009

Liberal Democrats: Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg- Liberal Democrat leader's speech 2009

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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