Archive for the ‘digital revolution’ Category

Digital Scholarship

April 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I have recently had a series of conversations with Cristina Costa on ideas around digital scholarship (we might even publish something together on this in the future!). And by luck I found this interesting presentation by Cristobal Cobo Romaní. The presnetation is based on a paper he has written. Cristobal says on his blog: “Widespread access to digital technologies has enabled digital scholars to access, create, share, and disseminate academic contents in innovative and diversified ways. Today academic teams in different places can collaborate in virtual environments by conducting scholarly work on the Internet. Two relevant dimensions that have been deeply affected by the emergence of digital scholarship are new facets of knowledge generation (wikis, e-science, online education, distributed R&D, open innovation, open science, peer-based production, online encyclopedias, user generated content) and new models of knowledge circulation and distribution (e-journals, open repositories, open licenses, academic podcasting initiatives, etc.).:

PISA vs Politics

November 4th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

After a particularly tedious week and the prospect of a working weekend, Friday afternoon did not promise a lot. However, the last thing in the electronic in-tray today was to have a look at the entries for a competition Pontydysgu is sponsoring as part of the Learning About Politics project.

The competition was aimed at 8-14 year olds and asked them to write a story using any combination of digital media

“The theme for your story should be on a political event that has happened – or is currently happening – in Wales.
We are not just interested in the facts but on your opinions and impressions. For example, how do you feel about the event you are describing? Who do you agree with and why? What have been the consequences of the event you have chosen?”

Suddenly life got a lot better! The black and white world of education that I seem to have lived in for the last few weeks was in brilliant technicolour. The stories were variously funny, poignant, angry, persuasive and insightful. All of them were well researched, referenced, technically at a level that would put many class teachers to shame and above all, they entertained me and taught me a whole lot I didn’t know. Surely the definition of a good learning experience!

(And by the time I had settled down with a glass of wine and a cigarette, the learning environment seemed pretty good as well).

The thing that cheered me up the most was that these kids had opinions – well argued, well expressed and authentic. I was pretty rubbish at history (Was? ‘Am’ actually! More maths and physics, me…) but short of those exam questions which always started “Compare and contrast….” or “What arguments would you use to support …something ” I don’t ever remember being allowed to have a ‘real’ opinion on anything historical, still less encouraged to express them if I did. Especially not in primary school – I think I was doing post-grad before I earned that privilege.

Which brings me on to my main point! There is a great public panic at the moment about Wales’s performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) because they are two beans behind somewhere or other, half a Brownie point below an average or a nanopoint lower than last time. Puhlease!!

I am not being dismissive from a point of total ignorance here – some years ago I worked on the PISA statistics and the methodology for several months; I even remember doing a keynote presentation at European Conference for Education Research on PISA . Nor am I suggesting that standards do not matter. What I am saying is that the ‘Ain’t it awful’ media frenzy generated by the Smartie counting exercise that is PISA – and the politicians’ heavy-handed response – does a huge disservice to this generation of feisty, articulate and confident kids. And to the amazing generation of teachers that scaffold their learning.

Working in Pontydysgu, being a teacher trainer and a very active school governor means that I spend a lot of time in classrooms and my contention is that 99% of teachers are doing a fantastic job under pretty rubbish conditions. (Did I say this in a previous post? Yes? Well I don’t care – it needs to be shouted from the roof tops).

So what am I going to do about it? Firstly, I am tempted to rewrite the newspaper headlines showing that Welsh education is improving and is better than ‘average’. A claim I could easily back-up by a different manipulation of the PISA figures. Secondly, I could point out that the PISA survey takes place every four years but that changes at the lower age ranges – such as the introduction of the new 3-7 yr old Foundation Phase in Wales (which is awesome) will not impact on PISA results for another nine years so knee-jerk changes to ‘fix’ things seem a bit premature. Thirdly, I could argue that putting so much store on paper-based testing in Reading, Maths and Science as the measure of success of ‘a broad and balanced curriculum’ and ‘pupil-centred, experiential learning’ is a bit of an oxymoron. Fourthly, I could remind our government that Wales led the way on getting rid of SATs and league tables on the very valid grounds that comparisons are unfair because they are not comparing like with like. They funded research which showed standardised testing to be unhelpful, demotivating and did nothing to improve performance. So on a local and national level they don’t work – do they suddenly work on an international one? Or maybe I should become a politician and take on the establishment in the debating chamber – but Hey! I’ve just found there’s a whole new generation of politically astute, sussed and sorted 10year olds who are going to do that much better than I could. Fifteen years from now, it’s going to be move over Minister! Leighton Andrews – ‘your’ education system has much to be proud of.

P.S. I might put some of the entries on the Pontydysgu website over the next few weeks so that you can see for yourself. Any teacher interested in getting their kids to write and publish political stories too, have a look at the Learning About Politics website and get back to us.

Evaluation 2.0 – the Slidecast

August 2nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Late last year Jenny Hughes made a keynote presentation on Evaluation 2.0 for the UK Evaluation society. And pretty quickly we were getting requests for the paper of the presentation and the presentation slides. The problem is that we have not yet got round to writing the paper. And Jen, like me uses most of her canvas space for pictures not bullet points on her slides. This makes the presentation much more attractive but it is difficult sometimes to gleam the meaning from the pictures alone.

So we decided we would make a slidecast of the presentation. But, half way through, we realised it wasn’t working. Lacking an audience and just speaking to the slides, it was coming over as stilted and horribly dry. So we started again and changed the format. rather than seeing it as a straightforward presentation, Jen and I just chatted about the central ideas. I think it works pretty well.

We started from the question of what is Web2.0.Jen says “At its simplest, it’s about using social software at all stages of the evaluation process in order to make it more open, more transparent and more accessible to a wider range of stakeholder.” But editing the slidecast I realised we had talked a lot more than about evaluation. This chat really deals with Web 2.0 and the different ways we are developing and sharing knowledge, the differences between expert knowledge and crows sourced knowledge and new roles for teachers, trainers and evaluators resulting from the changing uses of social media.

Digital Transformations with Internet Radio

July 22nd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. I have been travelling, firstly in Wales, then London, on to the PLE conference In Southampton, from there back to London, Bremen and then on to Porto where I am now. This has left me with a serious backlog of posts which I will try to get on topof next week.

I am in Porto for the Gary Chapman International School on Digital Transformations. The school, according to the web site, is for advanced students and emerging professionals, social entrepreneurs, and activists from around the world with an interest in digital technology and the enrichment of civil society. It aims to explore the potential for digital media to empower citizens, strengthen communities, and contribute to a more vibrant civil society.

I am still not quite sure what is really being meant by digital transformations. Indeed, I am not vven sure that we are not overly focusing on technologies, whilst lacking a shared vision of how we want society to develop. But I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with so many talented epople from different disciplines, interests and cultures.

Togther with Cristina Costa, I was invited to join the ‘faculty’ for the school. And they told us that they welcomed novel and active approaches to the one and a half hours allocated for each faculty memmber to present their work. So Cristina and I pooled  our time and instead of a formal presentation ran a workshop on using internet radio. Particpants had two and a half hours working in groups to plan their slots, followed by a half hour live internet radio broadcast. It turned out to be great fun. We were not really sure how such a workshop would work with a large group of people with so much expertise in different fields. But what was very encouraging was the intense discussions the workshop tasks provoked around the meanings of the different apsects of digital transformations and how much the participants enjoyed the event (at least they told us they did!).

Many thanks to eveyone who took part. Special thanks to audio engineer Rui Silva who agreed at very short notice to support us and ended up running a workshop himself om the techncial side of internet radio. Rui also did the post processing for the podcast version posted here.

Education, the knowledge society and employment

March 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

An important article in the Guardian newspaper entitled “The awful truth: education won’t start the west getting poorer”. The article challenges a number of assertions which seem to have become accepted ‘facts’ over the last few years.

Anyone who has written proposals for the European Commission will know the mantra of the Lisbon Agreement. By the year 2010 Europe will be the most advanced knowledge economy of the year. Now quietly forgotten , this bombastic policy goal was based on a number of unproved assumptions. First was the nature of the economy itself. Yes, we may have a greater proportion of knowledge as capital in the production process than in previous times and the numbers involved in service industries have increased but the capitalist economies remain relaint on production as the primary source of wealth and indeed of employment.

And whilst the number of occupations and jobs requiring higher skills and knowledge levels has increased, there remain many low skilled jobs, especially in the growing services sector.

There were two main ways Europe was to achieve its preeminent status in world economies. The first was through implementing ever higher levels of technology. Once more the link between technology, productivity and economic growth are contestable and difficult to measure. technology can increase productivity and lead to growth. however, there have been a number fo studies showing that the implementation of new technologies has actually reduced productivity, at least in the short term. And if technology merely reduces the workforce, this can inhibit economic growth and stability.

There has also been a long running assumption that higher levevls of education and qualification will also lead to higher productivity and higher wage levels. Botha re unproven. And as the data quoted in the Guardian shows real wage levels in teh UK are actually falling.

In fact it is some of those occupations lauded as the jobs of the future that pay rates have fallen most dramatically in comparative terms. Computer programmers pay has been steadily falling for the last five years in the UK.

The Guardian also points out how so called knowledge jobs are being deskilled “They are being chopped up, codified and digitised. Every high street once had bank managers who used their discretion and local knowledge to decide which customers should receive loans. Now software does the job. Human judgment is reduced to a minimum, which explains why loan applicants are often denied because of some tiny, long-forgotten overdue payment.”

The Guardian quotes Brown, Lauder and Ashton who call this “digital Taylorism”, after Frederick Winslow Taylor who invented “scientific management” to improve industrial efficiency.”

And of course with Globalisation and new forms of communciation many of these jobs are simply being shifted or outsourced to workers in other countries, especially to lower wage economies. At the same time, countries such as India and China are rapidly expanding their education systems, with a dramatic growth in science and technology graduates.

In many ways this is a perfect storm, hence the title of the Guardian article. it certaibly adds focrce to teh growing debate about the Purpose of Education abd challenges the idea that educations hould merely focus on so called employability skills. Secondly it may lead us to rethink what sort of jobs we want in society? I am interested in the survival of the craft sector in gemrany, depsite the assumption in the UK that such jobs had no future. Indeed its eems that thsoe countries with strong apprenticeship systems, valuaing handicraft and applied skills and knowledge may be better placed for the future than thiose such as UK which went down the road of developing a mass higher education system for the knowledge society.

Don’t blame the technology!

March 29th, 2010 by Cristina Costa
Sometimes I wonder why people want to use technology in their practice. Is it because it’s a recognised trend in their professional sphere/discipline? Is it because others are doing it? Is it because it makes them look cool and modern? …maybe it is a bit of all…? And in a way they are all plausible answers. [...]
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    News Bites

    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    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.”


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  • Citing Hegel, Agnes Heller states that 'Philosophy is our time construed in concepts' [Philosophie ist unsere Zeit in Begriffen aufgefasst] Watch her lecture on Hannah Arendts Platz in spätmoderne Denke [Hannah Arendt's place in late modern thinking] youtube.com/watch?v=vgsU1J…

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