Archive for the ‘learning city’ Category

Productivity, innovation, learning and ‘Place’

September 3rd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Fig 7Antiguo-cauce-del-río-Turia-3The UK Centre for Cities has been undertaking a lot of interesting research on the future of cities. In a recent article on their website, they look at ‘why place matters when thinking about productivity. Productivity has been persistently low in the UK and the article discusses “‘Place’, one of the pillars of productivity identified by the Government’s Industrial Strategy” and how it interacts with the other four pillars – ‘People’, ‘Ideas’, ‘Business Environment and ‘Infrastructure’.

Perhaps not surprisingly they find that. city centres offer inherent advantages to some businesses compared to those offered by rural areas. They also draw on previous research in finding that “broadly speaking, density is good for innovation…. the proximity of researchers to each other through co-location improves quality of output. Our work also finds that jobs in city centres are more productive than their counterparts elsewhere” although this preference is not universal.

Infrastructure’ , they say, “is the pillar where the impact of ‘place’ is the most obvious. Proliferation of public transport systems is the most efficient solution to get people around in dense city centres where as a private car is the best way to travel in the countryside.”

However it is the people pillar that I find most interesting and where I disagree with the article. “For the ‘people’ pillar, ‘place’ is indiscriminate – skill levels are the biggest determinant of outcomes everywhere.” The research has been taking place as part of the government drive to develop Local Industrial Strategies in England. Yet I do not think ‘place’ can be reduced to providing skills training courses. Our work in the EU funded CONNECT project suggests that as important, if not more so, is the promotion of opportunities for learning, through networks of different organizations including both the public and private sectors. Such organisations embrace cultural and social activities and adult education as well as formal skills training. And especially in dense cities like Valencia or Athens informal learning taking place in public spaces is critical. Such public spaces are frequently under pressure  from developers and policies need to be developed to preserve and extend such places. Thus any policy which looks at productivity and skills needs to take a wider viewpoint and in relation to cities, consider how public places play a role in sharing knowledge and developing social innovation.

 

CONNECTed Learning

September 26th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

With Brexit looming like a big black cloud over us, Pontydysgu have established a second organisation based in Valencia in Spain. And we are happy to have started our first project at the start of September. Pontydysgu SL are partners in an Erasmus Plus project called CONNECT, coordinated by the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Here we give the ‘official’ summary of the project; in a follow uppost I will discuss some of the wider issues the project raises.

CONNECT is designed to facilitate access to upskilling pathways.  The overall objectives of the project are a) to build and pilot an urban ecosystem of lifelong learning, that helps to leverage the educational impact of European learning cities and b) to develop a learner-centered approach to learning, which harnesses the assets of a city and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience. At the heart of CONNECT lies a digital learning hub, which by citizens can be used to set up personal learning projects and share their learning journey with the local community. The role of CONNECT is to build and facilitate access to networks that can support a person’s learning  goals and career development over a lifetime.

CONNECT builds on the assumption, that in a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, networks can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity in particular for those who are distant from learning or disadvantaged. Learners who have peers and mentors who share their interests, can make a better connection from learning outcomes to real world opportunities. Moreover, it has been demonstrated, that education works best when it connects with and builds on other initiatives, like community issues, and when it links learning to opportunity creation, like jobs and skills needed by the wider community. Last but not least the project aims at facilitating access to upskilling pathways by encouraging learners to develop a sense of ownership for their learning, along with a change of attitudes towards learning, so habits of lifelong learning can take route.

Moreover, CONNECT builds on the assumption that the outcomes and impact of adult education in the digital age can be significantly improved, when shifted from siloed to open learning architectures, from consumptive to participatory learning and, from institutions to learning in networks. The project supports this shift by encouraging adult educators to take on new roles, such as becoming facilitators of personal learning projects and brokers of learning within networks. CONNECT will guide adult educators on their way to the digital learning society, and equip them with the skills needed in order to guide and support the adult learners of the future. CONNECT in this sense extends and develops educators’ competences on the effective use of ICT.

CONNECT supports the open education and innovative practices in a digital era by building city-wide digital platforms, that enable adult learners to set up personal learning projects based on their passions and interests;  build connections with learning that appears across multiple contexts of the city; collect, mix and remix local learning resources and, with the help of peers and facilitators leverage their skills and competences; share learning outcomes with others, get feedback and ideas for improvement and gain recognition of their learning.

Ubiquitous technologies nowadays allow for learning anywhere and any time, which causes a shift from education to learning in open learning architectures. Moreover, learning which was previously based on consumption of information now shifts to participatory learning. Learning happens best when it is rich in social connections, especially when it is peer-based and organized around learners’ interests, enabling them to create as well as consume information. Finally, learning in institutions shifts to learning in networks. In the digital age, the fundamental operating and delivery systems are networks, not institutions, which are one node of many on a person’s network of learning opportunities. People learn across institutions, so an entire learning network must be supported.

However, while the Internet over the past decades has put the focus on distance education and on collaboration among people that are geographically distributed, CONNECT seeks to bring again into the picture local issues, recognizing the critical role of technology-enhanced learning, supporting not only interactions with others around the world, but also and, perhaps more importantly, with people and organisations nearby.

CONNECT brings together 7 partners from 5 EU member states, who contribute to the project through profound expertise on learning cities and regions, community development, neighbourhood learning, local education management, lifelong learning development and technology-enhanced learning.

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    Innovation is male dominated?

    Times Higher Education reports that in the UK only one in 10 university spin-out companies has a female founder, analysis suggests. And these companies are much less likely to attract investment too, raising concerns that innovation is becoming too male-dominated.


    Open Educational Resources

    BYU researcher John Hilton has published a new study on OER, student efficacy, and user perceptions – a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Looking at sixteen efficacy and twenty perception studies involving over 120,000 students or faculty, the study’s results suggest that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes when using OER while saving a significant amount of money, and that the majority of faculty and students who’ve used OER had a positive experience and would do so again.


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    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.


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