Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

What is the answer to youth unemployment?

April 30th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

According to the Guardian newspaper, Labour MP Hazel Blears, a member of a cross party parliamentary group of MPs looking at social mobility, says that seven out of 10 people get their next job from someone they know. She said “We need to ensure that young people from working-class backgrounds, whose parents don’t have the same exclusive networks as some in the City of London, are given the opportunities to achieve. This means ending unpaid internships and opening up opportunities as well as education and support.:

I am not quite sure what she means by opening up opportunities. But her claim that seven our of 10 people get their job from someone they know certainly rings true to anecdotal evidence. And although the UK has a national employment service, Job Centre Plus, a quick inspection shows that the jobs advertised tend be public sector or low paid and low skills jobs. There is no requirement in the UK to advertise jobs through government employment services and many of the higher paid jobs are advertised on different commercial online services.

One effect of the recession appears to be that whilst employers are not shedding jobs in the numbers feared (at least in soem countries), they are cutting back on employment by not employing young people.

Increasingly those companies who do take on young people are demanding work experience. Once more in the UK (regulations and practices vary across Europe) there has been an large increase in internship, especially for recent graduates. However, many of those posts are lowly paid if paid at all, restricting access to those who can afford to work for no pay and thus reinforcing the issues around social mobility (or lack of it). And once more, in reality the ‘best’ internships are going to those with contacts. Last year the Conservative party even auctioned an internship with a large accountancy company.

But however grim things may be in the UK, the situation in many European countries is much worse for young people. In Spain, youth unemployment is something like 55 per cent.

Last week I was at an EU Presidency conference which brought together ministers and civil servants responsible for employment and education and training policy from most EU countries (not my usual sort of conference, but they invited me as an ‘expert’ on new technologies). What soon became very apparent is that despite all the concern for what is happening, there were few if any ideas of what to do about it. It was very much business as usual but we have to try harder.

The most interesting contribution was a keynote presentation from Professor Phillip Brown from Cardiff University. He argues that the problem of equality of opportunity based on class,gender or race, has been see as “one of raising absolute standards of achievement to enable all to take advantage of new opportunities for skilled work which the globalisation of labour markets is seen to present (Reich 1991).” In his book ‘The Global Auction’, he argues that Western societies in particular have invested in human capital development, and individuals have taken on high levels of debt, on the understanding that both society as a whole and the individuals concerned will be well rewarded. But the “opportunity bargain” has not been kept.

Firstly it was based on assumption that the advanced industrial countries could grow richer through their lead in the use of advanced technology and a more highly skilled workforce, whilst other countries would rely on low paid jobs for cheap, mass production. That hasn’t  happened with countries like South Korea and China leapfrogging previous production modes and technologies. At the same time India and China are investing hugely in education, particularly in education in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). Secondly rather than see the rise of new well paid, knowledge based jobs in advanced countries, instead , he says we have seen a new wave of “digital taylorisation:.

In a review of the book Peter Wilby says:

Digital Taylorism makes jobs easier to export but, crucially, changes the nature of much professional work. Aspirant graduates face the prospect not only of lower wages, smaller pensions and less job security than their parents enjoyed but also of less satisfying careers. True, every profession and company will retain a cadre of thinkers and decision-makers at the top – perhaps 10% or 15% of the total – but the mass of employees, whether or not they hold high qualifications, will perform routine functions for modest wages. Only for those with elite qualifications from elite universities (not all in Europe or America) will education deliver the promised rewards.

Thus doing more of the same is not an option. Neither is trying to sit out the recession and hope everything will return to normal. At a policy level it is not enough just to tinker with education systems to try to turn out more people with degrees. We need to rethink the relationship between economy, labour market and education and training. Maybe the idea that manufacturing was somehow old fashioned and was being replaced by the knowledge economy was not so clever.

Babi Tech

April 25th, 2012 by Graham Attwell


Great idea from Angela Rees.

Angela says:

Purely because I thought it would be interesting and I don’t think it has been done already, I’m going to track my baby’s (and any other babies i can get my hands on!) developmental milestones – but rather than the block-stacking, finger-thumb-opposition kind I’m looking at the TV remote, mobile device, smart-phone, laptop sort of thing.

Now when I say track, I mean a mum style track, the occasional update when I get time off from scrubbing Weetabix off the wallpaper. I’m not obsessive enough to chart her daily progress and I don’t think that would be healthy for either of us.

To keep it interesting I’ll also blog about and review baby friendly apps and other baby techy stuff. If you know of something good or have something you’d like reviewing let me know. I’m a geek at heart!

I’d love to hear from anyone else who wants to share their baby’s technology milestones

 

Into the clouds (or not)?

April 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I love all the gadgets, widgets and services that social software can provide us. Google Fusi9on table sis wonderful for sharing and displaying data. Dropbox shares my files with others (and across my devices). Google docs is great for co-authoring and crowd sourcing ideas. And then there are Flickr, Diigo, Slideshare, Youtube,  Vimeo and all the rest. I have lost track of how many accounts I have created.

But – are there thunderstorms building in the clouds. Google managed to wipe out my account earlier this year when it wrongly linked two accounts together. And today I have had no email due to the stuttering Apple iCloud (Apple claim this is only effecting less than 1 % of users – it just seems that everyone i know with an Apple cloud account is part of that 1%).

And even the wonderful WordPress.com proved an nonviable solution for a recent web site due to the restrictions on embed codes.

I don’t buy into the argument that because these services are (sometimes) free we cannot complain. In one way or another we are paying for these services – be it through a fee or advertising or whatever. Google and Apple don’t just give things away. The free accounts are tied into their business strategy and at the end of the day their balance sheets.

I read a blog by Doug Belshaw the other day who was trying only to use paid for services. I don’t think that is the answer – paid for data and services can be just as insecure or unreliable than free ones. Come to think of it – Apple’s .mac and .me (paid for) services were always flaky. For web sites, we already host install on our own servers. But saying our own we are merely renting those servers (and one of them is in the cloud). I really don’t want the hassle of running an email server – and certainly don’t want to operate a streaming server.

So I really don’t know the answer to this issue. I think you just have to make judgements on a case by case – app by app – basis of what best does the job and what seems to be a decent service and who is providing reasonable Terms and Conditions of servce.

Challenging myths

April 18th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I read an interesting paper at the weekend that Sebastion Fiedler will be presenting at the  Open and Social Technologies for Networked Learning 2012 conference (OST’12) in Tallinn, Estonia. The paper,  “Challenging learning myths through intervention studies in formal higher education”, is co-authored with Terje from the Centre for Educational Technology at Tallinn University. The paper is based on research at Tallin University on Personal Learning Contracts for modeling Personal Learning Environments.

Essentially the researchers have been trying different pedagogical approaches to attempt to get students to take more responsibility for their learning. And quite often the students didn’t like it. Nothing new there. At least in the UK, lecturers frequently moan that students expect to be spoon fed and are not prepared to make the extra effort needed for deeper learning. And similarly students have often been seen to be skeptical about adopting social software for learning.

This has often been attributed to the impact of fee based, mass higher education with students concerned to ‘get the facts’ they need to get their grades and the increasingly overloaded curriculum. Indeed continuous assessment may have reulated more pressure to work to the tests.

However, Sebastionm considers the problem to be more deep rooted, talking about students ‘false myths’ about their own learning abilities. I am not sure that myth is quite the right word but can see that the culture of learning in schools and the ever more heavy assessment processes may mean students have little idea of how to manage their own learning, on an individual level and in collaboration with others. Sebastion suggests that when students are able to overcome these ‘myths’ they have about their own learning abilities, they are able to develop sophisticated Personal Learning Environments and cultivate Personal Learning Networks.

Interesting stuff and I look forward to the publication of the paper.

Open and Linked Data and Mediation

April 13th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There has been an explosion of interest in Open Data and the potential for linking data to produce new social apps. Yet despite all this attentions, and the growing access to data in some countries such as the UK, the development of new apps has been less than impressive.

Rather than full apps, probably the main use has been the development of interactive visualizations allowing users to explore different data sets and quick visualisations of different data sets. The Guardian newspaper data blog has led the way in the UK and in particular has shown the value of open journalism such as in this discussion on how they got the colours of the maps right.

But the development of more advanced apps has been slower. Probably the biggest take off has been around transport allowing real time timetable tracking etc. But even here the problem of the social purpose and use of data apps is an issue. take this compelling app from the German newspaper Suddeutsche . Its hows graphic representations of train journeys in Germany, providing information on each train’s itinerary and the details of any delay. There is also an interactive timeline, allowing you to watch previous days’ travel play out. Its fun. But I can’t really see that it is much use! Or take this app – available in various forms – using crowd sourced data to find the nearest post box in the UK. Do we really need it? Why not just ask somebody / anybody?

In education there are a number of apps for finding schools etc. But there is little use of open and linked data for learning.

We have been working with a number of organisations to produce open and linked data apps for use in careers guidance. There are now three iterations of what we variously call a TEBO (Technologically Enhanced Boundary Object) or Careers dashboard.

The first was a quick demonstrator which we built to see how it might work. The second works through an API to the Careers Wales beta web site. And the third – more technically advanced – iteration is a database and API developed for UKCES which is not publicly available at present.

One of issues being raised in this work is mediation. In general government / agencies seem to regard data as just standing on its own. Within the TEBO concept we always stressed the need for social mediation and had ideas for a number of ways in which this might happen using social software e.g Question and Answer applications.

In fact mediation takes place at a series of levels – including the selection of data originally collected, and the way data is selected for use and display within an application. Different people will need different apps for interrogating the same data. For instance our Careers Dashboard may have potential interest and use for:

  • Young people thinking about career choices;
  •  Young people applying to further or higher education, seeking an apprenticeship or employment;
  • Adults who are newly unemployed;
  •  Long term unemployed adults;
  •  Adults considering re-entering education and training (e.g. women returners);
  • Adults thinking about a change in career direction (e.g. mid-career changers);
  • Parents and carers supporting young people wishing to enter further education, vocational training or employment
  • Career professionals – careers teachers, careers advisers and subject teachers; and
  • Various others (e.g. educational planners and policymakers, professionals preparing funding applications, researchers).

However, mediation seems to be commonly understood as intervention and then posed as a dichotomy between non intervention or intervention or to put it another way – let end users access to data or only let professionals access to data. This seems to me a misunderstanding of both the potentials and limitations of the data but of the potentially rich ways in which mediation happens and the ways in which technologically can be used in such processes.

It would be interesting to look at mediation within physical communities and through extended web and social media based communities. It would also be interesting to link mediation to the potential quality of careers interventions (i.e. after mediation takes place.)

More to follow…..

 

 

 

 

What we’ve been doing

April 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

the last three months have been pretty hectic. So much that I have been somewhat lackadaisical in posting on this blog. Partly it has been due to the sheer volume of work and also traveling so much. For some reason I always find it difficult to blog when I am on the road. Another reason is that a lot of the work has been developmental and has naturally generated a series of notes and emails but little writing. Its time to make amends.

In this post I will give a short run down on what we have been up to. Over the next couple of weeks I will post in a bit more detail about the different projects and ideas. All the work shares a series of ideas in common:

  • The work is based on the ideas of open education and open data
  • The projects seek to enable practitioners to develop their own learning materials
  • Most of the project incorporate various elements of social software but more importantly seek to utilise social software functionality to develop a shared social dimension to learning and knowledge sharing
  • Most of the work supports both face to face and online learning. However we have been looking hard at how learning and knowledge development is socially mediated in different contexts.

Open Data

Over the last year we have been working with a series of ideas and applications for using open data for careers guidance. Supported by the Mature-IP project, by Careers Wales and Connexions Northumberland and more lately UKCES, we have been looking at how to use open data around Labour Market Information for careers advice and guidance. Needless to say, it has not proved as easy as we thought, raising a whole series of issues around target users, mediation,  and data sources, data reliability and data interpretation, amongst others.

We have encountered a series of technical issues but these can be overcome. More important is understanding the social uses of open data for learning and decision making which is much harder!

Webquests 2.o

The original idea of  Webquests was based around a series of questions designed to encourage learners to search for new meaning and deeper understanding using web based tools and resources. Although Webquests have been used for some time in schools and colleges, we have been working to adopt an updated Webquest 2.0 approach to the needs of learners in Small and Medium Enterprises. These inquiry–oriented activities take place in a Web 2.0–enhanced, social and interactive open learning environment (face to face and/or on–line) that combine at the same time collaborative learning with self–paced learning.

Once more, this work has posed a series of challenges. While we have been pretty successful in using webquests 2.0 with SMEs, it has proved harder to enable practitioners to develop their own online learning materials.

Work based learning

We have been continuing to explore how to use technology to support work based learning and in particular how to use mobile technologies to extend learning to different contexts in Small and Medium Enterprises. We are especially interested in focusing on work practices and how technology can be used to support informal learning and practice in the workplace, rather than the acquisition of more formal knowledge. In order to finance this work we have developed a number of funding applications entailing both background research and (more enjoyably) visits to different companies.

We are fairly confident that we will get support to take this work forward in the near future.

Social media and social empowerment

We have been looking at how to use social media and in particular internet radio, not for promoting social inclusion, but for giving a voice and opportunity for expression to those excluded form access to traditional education and media. Once more, we are confident that we will be able to launch a new initiative around this in the next couple of months.

We will be publishing more about this work over the next couple of weeks. If you are interested in any of these ideas or projects please get in touch.

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