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Do we need educational software?

April 6th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

In a reply to my post last week on Donald Clark’s article about ePortfolios Ben Werdmuller said “From reflection, to privacy, to institutional feedback and portability, these are all things that the wider web is working on, and it makes no sense at all for the elearning sector to be tackling them on their own – except for the worst kind of closed business motivations.” And I think he is right.

For some time now I have been questioning the idea of educational technology – of technology development specifically focused on education. That is not to say there is no place for research on the use of technology for learning – nor of implementation of insubstantiations of technology specifically in a learning context. But the educational technology community can only be the poorer for developing ideas and applications based on use cases posited in a silo – outside of the rest of the world.

Indeed, I would suggest that the reason this came about was because of a focus on control and management of learning – and thus on replicating and reinforcing institutional practices, rather than supporting the learning process itself. Whilst institutional practice may be quite particular and confined to the educational sector, learning processes take place throughout society. If we start designing for learning, their is nothing in the use cases of those designs which separates them from the home or from work or the wider community.

And if we take our main focus as design for learning, then we have a far greater chance of developing technologies which can transform learning, rather than reinforcing the class and technology divides which inhibit access to education.

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    Learning about technology

    According to the University Technical Colleges web site, new research released of 11 to 17-year-olds, commissioned by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the charity which promotes and supports University Technical Colleges (UTCs), reveals that over a third (36%) have no opportunity to learn about the latest technology in the classroom and over two thirds (67%) admit that they have not had the opportunity even to discuss a new tech or app idea with a teacher.

    When asked about the tech skills they would like to learn the top five were:

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    MOOC providers in 2016

    According to Class Central a quarter of the new MOOC users  in 2016 came from regional MOOC providers such as  XuetangX (China) and Miríada X (Latin America).

    They list the top five MOOC providers by registered users:

    1. Coursera – 23 million
    2. edX – 10 million
    3. XuetangX – 6 million
    4. FutureLearn – 5.3 million
    5. Udacity – 4 million

    XuetangX burst onto this list making it the only non-English MOOC platform in top five.

    In 2016, 2,600+ new courses (vs. 1800 last year) were announced, taking the total number of courses to 6,850 from over 700 universities.


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    In a new fact sheet the Tech Partnership reveals that UK cyber workforce has grown by 160% in the five years to 2016. 58,000 people now work in cyber security, up from 22,000 in 2011, and they command an average salary of over £57,000 a year – 15% higher than tech specialists as a whole, and up 7% on last year. Just under half of the cyber workforce is employed in the digital industries, while banking accounts for one in five, and the public sector for 12%.


    Number students outside EU falls in UK

    Times Higher Education reports the number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

    Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

    Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

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