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Working and Learning Spaces

September 14th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

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Here is the first of the series on working places as learning spaces, produced for the Institute of Education in London as a contribution to the  Lifelong Learning Hub (ASEM LLL Hub) international network.

I work for a small research and development company called Pontydysgu, based in Pontypridd in Wales. We have something like 14 employees, most of us part time, and living in Wales, England, Germany and Spain. Although we have two offices, in Pontypridd and in Bremen, Germany, most of us work from home. We make extensive use of technologies for day to day communication (that will be the subject of another picture).

I have two of what the Germans call ‘home offices’ in my two homes in Spain and Germany. I suppose these are the nearest I have to a ‘traditional’ working space.

The offices serve a number of purposes. One of the big advantages of working from home is that it does not take long to get to work (in one of my previous jobs I was travelling nearly three hours every day, to and from my official workplace). But there are downsides. One is that I am not careful I can end up working very long hours – another is that it is hard to get away from the work. At least with an office it is possible to escape form the clutter of work instruments and tools – papers, files, computer equipment, printers, stationary and so on. Secondly, the office provides a place to flee to avoid disturbing other people in my flat.

Neither office is really ideal – nor am I quite sure what an ideal office would look like. Certainly in summer both suffer from a surfeit of sunlight! But at least in my larger Bremen office, I have an old sofa and an Ikea chair for when I get fed up at sitting at the desk.

The big problem with an office I think – and this applies just as much if not more to working in an institutional environment – is social isolation. I used to work in an institution in the university in Bremen. It was a modern architect designed, environmentally friendly building. It certainly was not the breeze blog and concrete UK researchers have had to get used to. And in terms of learning probably one of the worst places I have worked. The blinds went up and down automatically according the not so intelligent decisions of the central computer. Lights were automatic too. In evenings if you did not move enough you were plunged into darkness. But worst was that although everyone had =very nice offices, the building had been designed without any social spaces (apart from two small kitchens). And it is in those (informal) social spaces where learning takes place.

There are similar downsides to working at home despite the ease of telecommunications. But I frequently move around the flat to different rooms and there is usually some kind of everyday social interaction, certainly with the environment, often with other people. Indeed, I noticed that in both of my offices I have a large computer screen but I rarely plug them in, preferring instead the mobility of a 11inch laptop. I have never really got used to playing music while I work (although I wish I had). But frequent social interaction somehow makes a working place more human and that interaction in turn helps social learning in one way or another. I think it is connectivity – being connected from the world of research and development to the wider world outside us.

 

 

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    News Bites

    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%)
    Creating Games (43%)
    Virtual reality (38%)
    Coding computer languages (34%)
    Artificial intelligence (28%)


    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.


    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.


    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

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