Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

The changing world of work

October 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

As explained in my previous post, last week I visited the Hub Westminster in central London. The Hub is located on the first floor of New Zealand house, the New Zealand embassy near Piccadily.

The hub website explains

We believe there is no shortage of good ideas to solve the issues of our time. But there is an acute lack of collaboration and support structures to help make them happen. The HUB was founded to address this need.

We set out to create spaces that combine the best of a trusted community, innovation lab, business incubator and the comforts of home. Spaces with all the tools and trimmings needed to grow and develop innovative ventures for the world. But above all, spaces for meaningful encounters, exchange and inspiration, full of diverse people doing amazing things.

The idea has been spreading like wildfire and resulted in the emergence of a global movement. To date, there are 25+ open HUBs and many more in the making, from London to San Francisco, Johannesburg, Melbourne, Sao Paulo and Milan.

Not withstanding the hype, the Hub was impressive. It consists of a large open working space, with different small work areas, and different meeting areas. there must have been some 60 or 70 people there last Friday. some spaces seemed to be for particular teams, others were hot desking areas.

True, the tech area is very different to more traditional industrial and craft sectors. But it illustrated to me how work is changing. And although European Commission policy recognises the centrality of small enterprises for future employment and economic growth, I think they have been slower to think through the implications of this in social and education policy terms.

Probably the biggest problem for micro and small businesses remains access to capital. and for micro businesses without fixed assets, and with a business plan that is yet to show profits, banks may be even more unwilling to lend that to start ups in more traditional areas of the economy.

Equally such start up businesses are heavily reliant of skills and knowledge. yet the traditional education and training systems seem slow to adapt to new and growing areas of the economy and to the needs for higher level continuing learning than traditional qualifications structures provide.

If SMEs are to play such a key role they are going to need state support. The present EU policy seems to be based on reducing legislation and providing targeted help. Yet the ‘system for targeted help may be to inflexible and slow to meet real needs on the ground. I am also unconvinced that merely exempting SMEs from employment legislation is the right answer. Germany has some of the toughest employment legislation in Europe, yet has a record of thriving SMEs.

One of the issues may be the level of decision making and the forms that decision making takes. More transparency and social involvement in decision making processes could improve the quality of support for SMEs. equally there is a need for more localised economic planning. This, in turn, means better access to data and ideas for those responsible for such planning.

I am not arguing against private sector initiatives to support SMEs and job creation. But I would argue that the public sector has a key role to play and that we need more democratic and open processes if that support is to be effective.

Similarly, we need to re-look at social systems to see how they can be adapted to changing patterns fo work including access to food and recreation systems, transport, nursery provision and education and training.

 

 

Disruptive Education

October 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last Friday, Fred Garnett and I made presentations to the weekly virtual Teaching and Learning Conversations (TLC) organised by Cristina Costa and Chrissie Nerantzi from Salford University. The title of the conversation, which took place on the Blackboard Collaborate platform, was disruptive education.

Fred lives in London and I was also in London for meetings, so we decided to meet up at the Westminster Hub (more on that later this week). And it was great fun! Fred and me both shared our presentations and so it evolved into a genuine conversation. I don’t know about the others, but i learned a lot (including that there is nothing like face to face proximity for a real conversation. We both agreed that globalisation is probably more disruptive to educatio0n at the moment than the introduction of new technologies, which are only an enabling factor.

I will post my slides tomorrow (and a link to the recording which seems to be broken at the moment). Here are Fred’s slides – slightly changed after the session. I especially like his distinction between disruption applied to education, which he says needs

  • new distance learning resources
  • new business models
  • globalisation
  • competition
  • capitalism
  • You!

and disruption applied to learning, which needs:

  • critical pedagogies
  • new collaborations
  • human-scale
  • Per to peer
  • social
  • Us!

Policy, practice, economies and SMEs

October 24th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I spent the morning looking at EU policy on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It was pretty hard going – after list of different measures together with endless reviews (mainly asserting how successful the policies had been followed by announcements of new measures to deal with the things that had not worked).

But policies are important – especially in education and training and in areas of economic and social policy where markets alone are clearly failing – although it is difficult to think of any area where markets are succeeding! One of our first tasks under the Learning Layers project which starts on the 1st of November will be to undertake a macro level review of the environment in which SMEs in Europe operate. This will be background research to help us develop a User Engagement Model and Guidelines for best practice to inform the work in developing technologies to support informal learning in the medical and building and construction sectors.

Here are a few things I found out.

SMEs are important

Ninety nine percent of all European businesses are SMEs. They provide two out of three of the private sector jobs, contribute to more than half of the total value-added created by businesses in the EU and account for 99.8 per cent of non-financial enterprises in 2012, which equates to 20.7 million businesses.

The definition of an SME is policy driven

The EU definition of an SME has changed three times in the last twenty or so years. The European Commission currently  classifies medium sized enterprises as having less than 250 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 50 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 42 million. Small enterprises have less than 50 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 10 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 10 million, whilst micro SMEs have less than 10 employees and a turnover of less than Euro 2 million or a balance sheet total of less than Euro 2 million.

In reality the definition is designed to allow or block access to funding and other support to different sized organisations. It does not have any particular research significance.

There is limited academic research into SMEs

Despite the obvious economic importance of SMEs there is surprisingly little economic research. And much of what research there is seems to be based on unproven assumptions about for instance employment generation potential or intrinsic innovation.

SMEs and regulation

EU policy has focused on vertical measures designed to address a particular market failure and horizontal measures to improve the business environment. In recent years there has been a major push to exempt micro-enterprises from EU legislation or introduce special regimes so as to minimise the regulatory burden on them. Yet it is in the German speaking countries – those with higher levels of labour market regulation – that SMEs have been most successful during the economic crisis. And conversely in countries like Latvia which have highly deregulated economies SMEs have done very badly in the recession.

Work based learning and apprenticeship

At an overall policy level the EU has stressed the need for higher levels of qualifications and education and training as important tot he growth and competitiveness of SMEs, whilst introducing a common qualification framework to promote mobility. Until recently it has paid little attention to work based learning or apprenticeship. But once more – and of course there is no proven causal link – it is in those countries with strong apprenticeship systems that SMEs have been most successful.

More to follow ….

 

 

The problem – a major shortage of jobs

October 19th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

We are constantly being told that we have to improve our employability skills and qualifications for finding employment. Yet whilst more qualifications may help in getting a job, from a policy perspective if ignores the obvious. There is simply a shortage of work.

New research from the UK Joseph Rowntree Foundation explores the difficulty of job searching for young people seeking low-skilled work in three areas in England and Wales. Their overall finding is that the main problem for disadvantaged young people looking for work is fundamental – a major shortage of jobs.

Other key findings include:

  • Over two-thirds of applications (69%) received no response at all.
  • 78% of the jobs applied for paid under £7 an hour, while 54% offered the minimum wage. Only 24% of the vacancies offered full-time, daytime work.
  • In the weak labour market, 10 jobseekers chased every job compared to five jobseekers in the strong one.
  • Jobseekers who do not have high-speed internet at home are at a substantial disadvantage and can only search for jobs sporadically, rather than the daily basis that is required.
  • Applications sent a week after jobs were first advertised were half as likely to receive positive responses as those sent in the first three days.
  • The research found there was strong evidence that good-quality applicants from neighbourhoods with poor reputations were not more likely to be rejected by employers.
  • However, employers expressed a preference for local candidates with easy journeys to work.

Linkedin Endorsements

October 15th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There have been many discussions in the educational technology community about recommender systems. And there have been a number of projects attempting to develop systems to allow people to recommend or verify the skills and competences of other people.

Now Linkedin has jumped big time into this area. In fact Linkedin has long had a system for allowing people to provide a reference or recommendation for others. I wrote a recommendation for Josie Fraser for her work for Jisc as a ‘community architect’. But whilst some people – like Josie – have been fairly diligent in seeking recommendations, I suspect most people have never bothered. And the old recommendation system required some effort on the part of the person writing the reference. Writing more than 148 characters has long gone out of fashion in the days of Twitter and the Facebook like button.

So Linkedin have launched a new system to allow you to ‘endorse’ people. As far as I know, they have not published how it works. But it seems to be based on matching your self claimed skills and competences to others in your network and then asking them to endorse you.

It is an interesting development but I have serious doubts about its credibility. Will employers take such a one click system seriously, especially given that there is no requirement for you to actually know the prso0n you are endorsi9ng or to have any real expertise for whatever you are endorsing them? Or will we all end up trying to game the system to make our endorsements look more impressive?

Some years ago, the UK government decided that one way to increase peoples’ employability was to send unemployed people on a CV writing course and to help them produce a professional looking CV. The result of course was CV inflation with everyone havi8ng a great CV regardless of their real abilities to do a job. And I suspect that is what will happen with Linkedin endorsements. We will all end up endorsing each other and end up where we started.

Anyway I’m off now to endorse some of my friends.

What is happening with open data?

October 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

One of the better actions undertaken in the later days of the last UK Labour government was to embrace the open data movement. Following a campaign lead by Nigel Shadbolt and Tim Berners Lee and backed by the Guardian newspaper under the slogan (if I remember right) of  ‘Free our Data’, the governement agreed in pronciple that much of governement funded data should be placed in teh public domain and be freely reusable. The campain was sparked by plans to chanrge large fees for  access to mapping data produced by the publicly owned and funded Ordnance Survey agency.

A new website – data.gov.uk –  was set up as an access point for data and to allow developers to post links to tools and apps.

When Labour lost power to the new right wing Conservative- Liberal Democrat Coalition, many feared for the future of the initiative. Yet somewhat surprisingly the new Government embraced the Open Data movement, putting pressure on local governmental bodies to allow free access to their data. Partly this may have been due to a libertarian approach to more open government. However more important may have been research suggesting that there could be a major new market for private enterprises producing apps based on open data.

However such a vision seems to have been misplaced. A cursory examination of the apps page on the data.gov.uk web site suggests a steady stream of new apps. However many of these are of a relatively limited appeal or have mainly a research use. I selected an app at random from the app site and came up with ‘Accident Blackspots in England’ which provides a series of embeddable maps plotting accident rates per thousand registered vehicles in England using 2010 data from The Department of Transport.  I am sure this will be of use to planning specialists but is hardly the kind of thing people are going to pay for on an app store. There are also quite a few apps providing access to the league tables of pubic sector performance so beloved  previous labour gvernement – e.g school league tables. Once more probably not the most marketable of products.

The one category in which there has been some modest take off is in transport apps. However even here these are very much focused on the heavily poulated urban cities with little of use for more rural areas.

So what has gone wrong – if indeed anything has? Whilst it is very welcome that such data is being openly released and this is a boon for research, the truth is that only a very limited subset of data is going to be of general interest. And even within this subset, the differences in the way data is formatted and presented and the uncertainty of in what form future such data will be released, means that working with such open data is not simple – especially if developers wish to link different data sets. I doubt that a major market will emerge based on open public data. I believe that open data will fuel research and public service development. However apps providing access to services will continue to require public support, if only to clean and standardise data and provide a more advanced data service to app developers, rather than just access to raw data.

 

Digital Learning Congress

October 9th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu is pleased to support the Digital Learning Congress being held in Warsaw on 9th November. Maria Perifanou will be presenting our work in the Webquest2.0 project. The following press release explains what the conference is about.

Touch technologies, interactive mobile devices, extended reality, gamification and social media not only change the dimension of business communication, but also the approach to conveying and managing knowledge in a firm. The manner of acquiring information, sharing it and accumulating it has also undergone change. The time has come for business organisations to reflect on what modifications need to be introduced in the area of training and personnel development. How can we educate a new generation of employees who often work in scattered or mobile teams? How can we build a learning environment in an organisation? How can we effectively include new technological solutions for conveying and managing digital knowledge in a company?

You will find out the answers to these questions by participating in the Digital Learning Congress. The first Central European meeting of the technology-supported training industry will be held on 9 November 2012 in the Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw. Leading experts from European countries in the field of conveying and managing digital knowledge in companies will present the latest trends in development and practical application.

During the congress four thematic tracks (two of which will be transmitted online), meetings and displays will be held, during which it will be possible to get to know the practical application of technologies and techniques supporting the teaching process. By taking part in the event, you will be able to find out the results of implementing Knowledge Pills Methodology in companies, and of e-teaching of scattered teams (on the basis of the Collective Blended Learning Methodology).

The Congress’ leading themes will be education and knowledge management in companies by:

  • social interaction in e-learning,
  • using audio/video transmissions and recordings,
  • applying gamification in education,
  • using mobile devices.

The full Digital Learning Congress programme is available at http://dlcongress.pl.

Special guests include Steeve Weeler (Associate Professor of Learning Technology, UK), Gerry Griffin (Skill Pill, UK), Sebastian Walker (SlidePresenter, Germany), Filipe Carrera (Prestin, Portugal) and Allison Rossett – a leading American consultant in teaching, whom we shall be meeting in the form of an interactive webinar.

Among Polish experts, you will be able to meet Marek Hyla of the XY Learning Team, Igor Bielobradek of Deloitte, Piotr Drac of Way2learn, Sebastian Starzyński of PromoPlan, Krzysztof Kuczkowski of eHRP and many other “evangelists” of technology-supported training.

Participation in the event is free of charge. Registration takes place online at http://dlcongress.pl. The starting date for accepting registrations is 12 September 2012.

The organisers of the Digital Learning Congress are Nowoczesna Firma SA, the Management Observatory Foundation and partners of the Knowledge Pills Methodology and WebQuest for HRM projects. The congress came into being with the European Commission’s financial support under the Leonardo da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme.

Personal Knowledge Management: a Learning Layer?

October 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I like the ideas put forward by Harold Jarche on personal knowledge management (PKM) in the workplace. Jarche says the idea of personal knowledge management “questions our basic, Taylorist, assumptions about work; assumptions like:

  • JOB can be described as a series of competencies that can be “filled” by the best qualified person.
  • Somebody in a classroom, separate from the work environment, can “teach” you all you need to know.
  • The higher you are on the “org chart”, the more you know (one of the underlying premises of job competency models).”

Personal knowledge management, he says, ” is a framework that enables the re-integration of learning and work and can help to increase our potential for innovation.

Jarche puts forward a Seek-Sense-Share framework. “Seeking includes observation through effective filters and diverse sources of information. Sense-making starts with questioning our observations and includes experimenting, or probing (Probe-Sense-Respond). Sharing through our networks helps to develop better feedback loops.”

Such a framework corresponds with the aims of the Learning layers project, due to start on November 1st. through Learning layers we are attempting to develop technologies to support informal learning in clusters of Small and Medium Enterprises, initially in north Germany in the building and construction industries and in north east England in the medical profession. In my experience SMEs are far less convinced of the Taylorist assumptions about work than large companies. And certainly the managers I have been talking to are well aware of the challenge of how to embed learning in working practices and to redesign work environments to support learning. However it is not just in the design of workplaces that we make assumptions. Educational technology also has embodies a series of assumptions around learning – such as learning takes place through courses and learning is dependent on the transmission of ideas and practices form an expert to a novice.

Our idea in Learning layers is to develop lightweight apps which can be used in the work process and which support both working and learning. We see learning materials being generated through the work process and shared though networks of organisations.

In teh course of this we hope to reshape both workplace design and learning designs.

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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:

    Building apps (45%)
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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

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    Jobs in cyber security

    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.

    Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.


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