Archive for the ‘educational shift’ Category

Changing Paradigms

March 4th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I can’t think how we missed this video before. Anyway many thanks to Owen for suggesting it. This RSA Animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. You can watch the lecture in full here.

Emerging consensus in england around teaching computing in school?

November 4th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Willard Foxton is an investigative journalist and television producer. According to his profile in the right learning UK Daily Telegraph newspaper “he writes on skulduggery wherever he finds it, especially in the world of technology.”

Two weeks ago Foxton achieved something few online reporters can claim. He received 897 comments on an article entitled “The Government wants to teach all children how to code. Here’s why it’s a stupid idea.” And almost all opposed him!

Foxton wrote:

My Telegraph Blogs colleague Jack Rivlin is looking for a developer, and is frustrated because he can’t find one in Shoreditch. Jack is the perfect poster child for why our kids can’t code – he’s a normal person, rather than an exceptionally dull weirdo, like the bulk of developers.

I’m all for people to learning to code – I wrote a piece arguing we should teach it in prisons earlier this year – but I think we need to be aware of its limitations. Coding is a niche, mechanical skill, a bit like plumbing or car repair.

As a subject, it only appeals to a limited set of people – the aforementioned dull weirdos.

As you can imagine, there were many incensed replies. But what is interesting is that there would now appear to be a consensus, at least from those who read the Daily Telegraph technology pages, that programming is a subject that should be taught in schools. And I doubt that such a consensus existed a few years ago. Of course there remain challenges for the English target of introducing the subject from next year, not least in curriculum development and in professional development and support for teachers. But teaching 5-7 year old kids key ideas like understanding the definition of an algorithm  as well as being able to “create and debug a simple computer program” is no longer seen as the crazed imagination of a weirdo!

No ‘Team GB’ for education!

September 30th, 2012 by Jenny Hughes

The Wales Government has announced its plans to implement the recommendations of a report it commissioned earlier this year “Find it, make it, use it, share it: learning in Digital Wales.”  We are quite excited that Wales is one of the pioneers in developing a whole-country strategy for the promotion of digital technologies in school classrooms – including advocating the widespread use of mobile devices, a shift to a PLE rather than MLE focus and the use of social software for learning.  There are one or two things we disagree with, such as the heavy emphasis on a ‘national’ collection of resources, but the rest of the report is exciting, forward thinking and realistic.  There is a serious commitment to mass staff development at all levels – surely the biggest barrier to take up of new technologies in the classroom – including defining a set of digital competences for teachers. This report also recommends that these competences (personal AND pedagogic) be compulsory in ITT courses.

The other section of the report which will cause major ripples is the chunk entitled “External conditions for success” which seem to us to identify all of the brick walls which teachers come up against and suggests that they should be dismantled. I am going to quote the report in full because it is music to the ears of most of us involved with e-learning in schools.

Universal take-up of digital opportunities assumes that:

  • all learning providers, and indeed all classrooms, can connect to the internet at sufficient speeds to enable efficient use of digital resources
  • interface equipment – whiteboards, PCs, tablets, mobile devices, etc. – are available widely enough within learning providers to give quick and easy access to resources. ‘Bring your own device’ solutions may be appropriate here
  • learners and teachers are not prevented from using resources by general restrictions imposed by local authorities or learning providers on certain types of hardware (e.g. smart phones), software (e.g. ‘apps’) or web resources (e.g. Facebook, YouTube or Twitter)
  • learners and their parents/carers have adequate access at home (and increasingly on mobile devices) to ensure that technology-enhanced learning in the classroom can be replicated and deepened outside the learning provider. 

LEAs, take note!!

The main vehicle for turning the report into reality will be an organisation called the ‘Hwb’ (no, not a funny way of spelling Hub, ‘hwb’ means to promote, push or inspire). Its remit will be to lead, promote and support the use of digital resources and technologies by learners and teachers across Wales and create and develop a national digital collection for learning and teaching in English and Welsh.  Both Pontydysgu and the Taccle2 project in Wales are committed to doing what we can to support the Hwb and will make sure that all our resources and experience in the field are freely available.

The driving force behind it all is Leighton Andrews, the Minister for Education in Wales – with whose politics I usually disagree – but I am very happy to admit that he has come up trumps with this one!  He is knowledgable, committed and comes across as a genuinely enthusiastic technophile with an understanding of what education could look like in the future and a clear vision of how, in Wales, we are going to get there.  (“Just like Michael Gove!”, I hear my English colleagues say….).  I must admit, that even as a card-carrying member of a different party (byddwch chi’n dyfalu!), devolution has been all good in terms of education and we have had two excellent Ministers.   Look at the image on the top of this post and you may understand why we are looking forward to an increasing divergence and autonomy.  Team GB? No thanks!

 

 


 

The Great Disruption?

September 12th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

This years meme at ed-tech conferences is disruption. There seems to be two opposing discourses. One says that education is not in a period of disruption – rather that the system is evolving to take account of the possibilities that technology offers for teaching and learning.

The other says we are entering a period of disruption with the existing system fundamentally unable to respond to needs and that the take up of technology will lead to fundamental change. The rush to deliver and accredit MOOCs is seen as the tipping point.

I think both sides are wrong. Firstly there are massive differences in different countries. Whilst there is little doubt of the speed of change, uncertainty and even disruption in the US and UK higher education sectors, in Germany and the Netherlands, for example, life seems to be going on as before.

What this suggest to me is that it is not technology as such that is the major factor in disruption. Rather it is social and ideological drivers which are leading to the more apocalyptic scenarios. We probably have reached a tipping point in that the use of technology for learning is becoming mainstream. And the availability of high quality learning opportunities outside the classroom means that educational institutions can know longer claim a monopoly on learning or knowledge. Equally the power of smart phones is opening up new contexts for learning. Of course these developments will lead to changes – particularly in pedagogy – within institutions.

But the promise of such developments is to extend education to all who wish to learn, rather t5han the present minority who are able to access higher education.

But this i9s a political and social decision. Technology can be used in many different ways – for good and for bad, In the US and in the UK the technology argument is being used as part of an ideological drive to extend the remit of capital to include education – in other words to privatise education. And of course the new private institutions will be  driven primarily by the need to make a profit – rather than by pedagogical imperatives.

Lets look again at MOOCs. the early MOOCs – now known as c-MOOCs – were developed by people like Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier and Jim Groom. The idea of massive open online courses was not to make money. Quite the reverse : they were struggling to find models to sustain the programmes. They were motivated by the idea of new pedagogical approaches to using technology for learning.

Now MOOCs have been picked up by the mainstream system. Coursera is an international consortium of elite universities using a proprietary platform to deliver free online courses. Apart from their use of video these courses are somewhat traditional in their pedagogic approach. At last weeks EFQUEL conference, Jeff Haywood, Vice Principal of Knowledge Management at Edinburgh university, a founder member of the Coursera consortium, was quite explicit about their interest in MOOCs. We are there to make money, he said. And if we do not make money within four years we will close the MOOCs down (it is worth reading Audrey Watters extremely amusing account of the education session at the TECHCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco earlier this week).

Same technology – but very different pedagogic approach and motivation. So it is not technology per se which is the driving force behind the great disruption. Rather it is the economic crisis and political and ideological responses to that crisis. As a society should we be retaining free education and investing in education as a response to the fall in productivity and high levels of unemployment. Or should be be seeking to cut back by privatising education? That is the real debate.

 

Changing the Language of Learning

January 2nd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I am not going to provide any list of posts / apps or anything else to mark the new year. The lists are getting on my nerves. What constitutes ‘best’ anyway? I rather wonder if making lists has become a substitute for thinking? I would provide some thoughts on trends for 2012 except I not really sure what will happen. Technology is changing too fast and too unpredictably. Education economy and politics seem wrapped in a slow waltz which is also totally unpredictable in its outcomes. Indeed it may be that people and the actions of people will be more important than technology in determining the course of educational development over the next period. Or lets hope so.

But I will add a wish (not a wish list :) ) for 2012. My wish is that we can get rid of all those letters in from of ‘learning’. ‘e’ ,’i', ‘m’, ‘b’ and all the rest of them. I even wonder if the term ‘informal learning’ (one I am probably overly fond of using) is of much use any more.

I suspect these terms came about because we wished to signify learning by the technologies being deployed – and to a lesser extent the design of learning with technology. Yet as technology has become increasingly ubiquitous the terms have ceased to have any meaning. We don’t talk about ‘b-learning’ to refer to reading a book nor ‘c-learning’ to refer to learning in a classroom.

So lets just return to that old word – ‘learning’ – and use it to mean all the different ways in which people learn and all the different artefacts that they use in the learning process. Lest move from instructional design to designing for learning. Lets try and support learning in all the contexts in which it takes place. And lets try and support learning for everyone – not just those privileged to be enrolled on a programme in an educational institution.

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.

Changing Education Paradigms

July 19th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

Great graphics from Ken Robinson on the changing face of education

Loved this video – especially the stop motion animation. Content remarkably similar to a few Pontydysgu presentations. Ah well! Great minds ….

Disruptive technologies and the social shaping of our futures

January 6th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

There is an interesting debate taking place on Steve Wheeler’s blog about disruptive technologies. Steve says:

Disruptive technologies are those that change the market and in most cases replace an existing technology. They are characterised by their capability to do so over a relatively short period of time. Some are known as ‘killer applications’ because they completely wipe out the opposition due to their placement in the market, their greater appeal, availability and lower price, to name just a few of the key factors.

Welcome though the debate is I think it is overly simplistic and veers towards technological determinism. Technology progress is seen as an inevitable and to take on a life of its own in terms of social impact. In counter to this there is a long tradition or research and thinking, especially in The Nordic countries and in Germany which sees technology as being ‘socially shaped;. Researchers such as Engestrom, through activity theory, have seen technology as a mediating factor within a human activity system. German researchers have referred to the idea of ‘Gestaltung;, a difficult word to translate, but variously used to refer to ‘social shaping’ or ‘design’. Technology is designed by humans and has social impact. In the area of vocational education, researchers form the University of Bremen have pointed to the interaction between ‘competence is use’ (Beruf – another almost impossible term to translate) and work organisation in shaping the use of technology. This is an excerpt from a paper called “The social shaping of work and technology as a guiding principle for vocational education and training” which totherw ith Gerld Heidegger I wrote around 200) and was subsequently, published by CEDEFOP, I think.

Social shaping and the perspective of an open future

An important counter-argument against the shaping approach challenges the supposition of the possibility of influencing production technology as well as the concomitant work organisation.

Very often, and currently again with increasing intensity, technical change, or technical innovations, are thought to be determined solely by the progress of knowledge within the technological and natural sciences. Such a technological determinism would signify that only the most effective path existed for the development of production technology, for technical progress, and it would also determine the path to be taken to the future of work. Such a view is one-sided, as has been shown from historical studies (Kuby, 1980; Hellige, 1984; Noble, 1984). If one looks at technical development, one sees there were situations with forks in the road in the past where development could have taken different directions. The development of technology is also a social process (Bijker et al., 1990). In other words, technology is influenced by social conditions, both in its application and in its inner principles. As far as applications are concerned, this topic was discussed some time ago (Cooley, 1980). It seems apparent that the economic conditions of capitalism have influenced the specific way of applying technology in the production process. And this is, of course, still the case. But relating only to this would mean maintaining an economic determinism. There are, however, other societal influences that have tended to be consistently overlooked in recent discussions. According to the view of the authors cited above, that which can be considered to be a ‘successful’ technical solution – there is no ‘right’ one, though there are a lot of wrong ones – depends on cultural parameters; that means, it is also influenced by the form of human social life.

Hellige (1984) in particular introduced the concept of ‘horizons of technological problem solving’ which vary during historical development. This means that the engineers themselves take into consideration only the restricted set of criteria which lies inside their horizon of thinking. This horizon, however, varies according to ‘industrial culture’ (Ruth & Rauner, 1991). If the shaping of technology aims at really new solutions it is necessary to overcome these boundaries. Here non-experts can show considerable imagination because they are less influenced by the ‘normal’ thinking of the community of engineers. Therefore, devising new technical ‘outlooks’ might well be possible in secondary education. At the very least, future skilled workers should be able to discuss certain aspects of technology with the engineers. The same should be true for the participation of persons as non-experts in general discussions regarding technological policies.
Speaking within the scope of a more theoretical orientation, the development of technology not only owes a debt to a ‘material’ logic, ‘techno-logic’, but at the same time to the opposite element of social ‘development logic’, with this the former forms a ‘dialectical unit’. One cannot refer to social ‘development logic’ until one also assumes an ‘inner logic’ of development for social conditions. But, on the other hand, in the social field the unforeseen is a daily experience.

According to Luhmann (1984), this can be attributed to a basic condition of human communication, ‘double contingency’. In the case of communication between two people, this means that ‘each of them knows that each of them knows that one can also act differently’.
Technology in its interaction with chance results in a partially predetermined, partially unforeseeable progress that can be termed technical change. Accordingly, the interaction of social development logic with ‘contingency’ leads to social change. The latter takes place on a less spectacular, though no less profound scale than the former, especially since it is a question of interpretation whether one attaches greater weight to the persistent or to the changing aspects. This becomes plain particularly for the goal of social shaping of work and technology. Rauner & Martin (1988) interpreted socially shaped technology as a unity of the elements of that which is technically feasible and that which is socially desirable, as a regulative principle at any rate. That which will be feasible is, even in the case of technology, not that much a question of forecasts; because there, too, is great uncertainty concerning the change in this field. Therefore scenario pictures of the future can mislead. Just think of some of the grotesquely exaggerated forecasts of the past, prepared by ‘scientific futurology’.

What is desirable, however? The answer is the subject of controversy and will probably remain so. Is it, at the same time, that which is reasonable? And what is then the latter? An attempt will have to be made to obtain, as has been said, compromises between different wishes (Romanyshyn, 1989). This does not mean harmonious assent, but rather a restructured dissent which has to be discussed and disputed over; from there on, one should hope, one would become able – to some extent – to act jointly. For the task of shaping work and technology this perspective does not allow for objectively valid criteria. Instead teaching should aim at developing orientations for deciding on different alternatives, and to enable young people to develop their own orientations.

The point we were trying to make is that vocational educatio0n should provide young people with the ability themselves to shape technologies for the future. Such ideas are not a long way from recent work by Ceri Facer looking at the future of education. Ceri says:

The developments in remote interactions and in disaggregation of content from institution; the rise of the personal ‘cloud‘; the diagnostic potential of genetic and neuro-science; the ageing population; all of these, when combined with different social, political and cultural values lead to very different pedagogies, curriculum, institutional arrangements and cultural dispositions towards learners.

She suggests that

the coming two decades may see a significant shift away from the equation of ‘learning‘ with ‘educational institutions‘ that emerged with industrialisation, toward a more mixed, diverse and complex learning landscape which sees formal and informal learning taking place across a wide range of different sites and institutions.

Rather than try to develop a single blueprint for dealing with change we should rather develop a resilient education system based on diversity to deal with the different challenges of an uncertain future. But such diversity

will emerge only if educators, researchers and communities are empowered to develop localised or novel responses to socio-technical change – including developing new approaches to curriculum, to assessment, to the workforce and governance, as well as to pedagogy.

Thus rather than view technology as inevitable and to wait to see what disruption it brings we have the ability to shape its future. But this in turn depends  on reshaping our education systems and pedagogies to empower both educators and worker to themselves co-determine their futures.

The Culture of our Institutions

October 31st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Great stuff from Ken Robinson in this RSA Animate production. Central to Ken’s argument is that school is modelled on the basis on Enlightenment thinking and industrial production system organisation. For many this culture is not conducive to learning!

Found via @grahamBM in the latest edition of the Graham Attwell Daily.

Changing the ways we teach and learn

May 18th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I am towards the end of a long series of meetings, hence the limited posts on this site of late. Whilst the meetings have involved far too much travel (and I wonder if some could have been better done by video), they have allowed me the privilege of meeting and talking to many interesting, motivated and talented teachers, researchers and developers from all over Europe.

Here is just a few reflections on the discussions I have had.

Compared to even two years ago, there seems to be increasing interest and understanding by teachers of the potential of using the the web for learning and especially of using Web 2.0 and social software applications. Especially there appears to be an understanding of supporting learners in constructing their own meanings and understandings, rather than passively consuming materials. Although this may be because many of those I have met are involved in projects, teachers seem more confident about their own learning and about developing their own learning materials. And there is a real excitement about the potential of using multimedia for learning, once more not just consuming but creating audio and video.

This may be just the people I mix with, but many teachers also seem to understand the Learning Management Systems and Virtual Learning Environments are for managing students, rather than providing an active tool for learning.

All this ids important. For years researchers have been saying that a major barrier to the uptake of e-learning has been the attitude of teachers, based on their lack of understanding of the technologies and their poteial for learning. I am not sure if this is true, but I think there is a change underway.

However, there remain very real barriers. Many teachers, whilst aware of the possibilities of new media, say the education system makes it difficult for them to change existing tecahing and learning practice. The reasons vary but include lack of infrastructure, lack of understanding and support from management, an overly prescriptive curriculum, lack of time, and rigid and individualistic assessment practices.

I would see these as real tensions. Teachers are increasingly adapting to the way learners are using new technologies in their daily life. And for the first time we are seeing generations of teachers who themselves have grown up with the internet. Yet still education systems are remarkably conservative and remarkably resilient to changes in society.

This leads to discussions about change. Can teachers themselves initiate such change bottom up through introducing new technologies and pedagogies in their own practice. Can we drive change through modernising teacher training? How effective are projects in embedding change? How about ‘innovation champions’? Can we persuade managements of the potential new ways of tecahing and learning offer? How effective is lobbying for changes in policy – for top down driven innovation.

I suspect the answer is all of these.But I think we have to move beyond the change management idea. This is not going to be an orderly change from ‘old’ policy and practice to a shiny new world of technology enhanced learning. It will be messy. the problem is not the modernisation of schools, but rather that our schooling systems are increasingly dysfunctional within our society and increasingly irrelevant to the way many young people communicate and develop understandings and meanings.

But I still tend to think changes in teaching and learning may come from outside the education systems. It has always seemed odd to me that most research, development and resources in the use of technology for learning have been focused on those already in education – in other words giving more to those that had. The greatest potential of Technology Enhanced Learning is to open up learning to everyone in our societies – to socially disadvantaged people, to different age groups, to those in work and those unemployed. And it is here that we are possibly more free for institutional inertia to experiment and to innovate, to develop new pedagogic approaches and new patterns of playing, working and learning.

In time who knows – the educational establishment may learn from the practice of learning outside the school.

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    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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