Archive for the ‘learning’ Category

LL Theory Camp preparation takes off – Part Four: Providing theoretical insights into workplace learning

March 23rd, 2014 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts to this series  I have informed how that preparations of the Learning Layers (LL)  Theory Camp started (Part One, Part Two) and on our  reviewing of the heritage of the Work Process Knowledge network (Part Three). In this post I will focus on our efforts to give theoretical insights into Workplace Learning: Contexts, Processes and Outcomes. For this purpose we have created the following gDrive folder: https://drive.google.com/#folders/0B3HPtAul4vyHSzB0RzJIUnJwVTA.

Starting point

We found it important to prepare the theme ‘workplace learning’ for the theory camp although we did not have a single source but instead a wide range of theories and concepts to bring together. As already expressed by the Work Process Knowledge network (see my previous post), many research approaches tend to overemphasise the role of ‘informal learning’ and to belittle the potential of organised vocational education and training (VET). Also, we were concerned that much of the conceptual work on workplace learning in the context of VET provisions (in particular in the German dual system) is only available in German (or in very few translations in VET-specific antologies).

Interim products

In our sub-folder for Working Documents (see https://drive.google.com/#folders/0B02cXf0hbQH0R3Izb1JJWmVVYmc) we have produced the following overviews, input papers and synthesis articles (which all have the status of first drafts):

1) The overview Conceptualising Work Experience, Vocational professionalism and Workplace Learning – Overview on selected European research approachespresents a picture of European approaches that put into discussion work experience, comprehensiveness and connectivity in workplace learning. A set of selected articles outlines different positions at conceptual level – based on ‘connectivity’ and/or ‘Berufliuchkeit’ – and their implications to analysis of work process and curriculum development. (This overview refers to research dialogue between the Work Process Knowledge network and parallel research approaches.)

2) The input paper Learning in the work process – From Work psychology to Kompetenzwerkstatt  takes a closer look at the discussion on regulation on holistic actions and working tasks  from the perspective of work psychology and links this to the VET-specific approaches to shape holistic working and learning tasks (with reference to the ongoing project “Kompetenzwerkst@tt”.

 3) The input paper “Cooperation between Leaning Venues: Structure and impacttakes up several conceptual issues that arise from the institutional duality (or plurality) of learning venues in the German vocational education and training (VET). For the LL these are of particular importance since the gaps in cooperation and knowledge sharing are a particular stimulus for the co-design work under the agenda of Sharing Turbine.

4) The synthesis article: ” Workplace learning – Vocational knowledge – Working & Learning tasks covers most of themes mentioned above and puts them into a conceptual framework of VET research. It provides into the overarching concepts (‘workplace learning’ and ‘VET’) and into the pedagogic concepts ‘comprehensive action contexts’ and ‘holistic working tasks’. It continues with the themes ‘professional development’ and ‘social shaping’ (of work & technology) in the context of VET. Then, it draws consequences for the development of working & learning tasks and discusses the role of vocational knowledge processes. The article is concluded by a  reflection on the value of the culture of apprenticeship.

Working issues

As I have mentioned earlier, we have brought together contents from different sources as ingredients for a debate. The importance of these inputs for the LL project  lie in the fact that t we do not look merely at a simple, solitary process of  knowledge accumulation (as ‘banking’ ). Instead, the role of ‘work process knowledge’, contextual adjustment and ‘social shaping’ comes up all the time.
The LL project consortium has to perceive its developmental contribution in terms of research and development dialogue – instead of simple ‘technology push’. Thus, the usefulness of the apps and the SSS have to be discussed in the light of their contribution to vocational learning. The central questions are:

  • What aspects of work based learning and work process knowledge do the given apps and the social semantic server support and sustain?
  • Where are the restrictions, barriers and obstacles and how can we overcome them?

I think this is enough on this theme. We will keep working on them.

More posts to come …

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.

Do you need to lecture in a lecture?

October 20th, 2012 by Cristina Costa

Theme 2 of the TESS programme was focused on teaching. The idea was to answer 3 “wh” questions:

Who are we teaching?
What do we want learners to learn/achieve?
How do we want learners to learn/engage?

These 3 questions link back to the way people learn. And they are also related to our one teaching and learning philosophy. In this sense, the act of teaching is connected to our professional values and the principles we share regarding our teaching vocation. Hence, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what our role as educators is. Do we want to impart (static) knowledge [that’s an easy way to teach] or do we want learners to engage in a culture of knowing in which their activity/role is placed at the centre? This requires learners’ participation. Research does say that learners learn better when they are actively involved. This is due to the fact that participation is an act of belonging. We learn better when we are able to connect, physically and emotionally, to what we are learning. And isn’t learning a process of making connections between old and new information?

From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side

This leaves the educator with the responsibility of “animating” the classroom as part of the learning process, making it an engaging experience in which learners feel compelled to take part in. And this is probably our biggest challenge as educators, because it does require that we put that control back into the learning activity.

As part of that we looked at constructive alignment and the need to prepare our teaching sessions in such away that they promote effective learning.
In so doing, we need to be able to answer the 3 questions mentioned above. And those answers can be formalised by the development of clear and achievable intended learning outcomes (ILO) which aim to inform the structure of any given session we prepare as part of our teaching activity.
The learning outcomes – the what? – will then inform the how? in that we need to choose learning activities that may lead to the achievement of ILOs as well as the assessment (which we will explore in Theme 4)

We also looked how to write learning outcomes – these should make use of action verbs that lead the learner to demonstrate what they have learnt and achieved. We explored different types of verbs that help express different stages of the learning process, from the most simple stages such as identifying or following a simple procedure to the creation of something that reflects learning in a particular area. (a list of ILO verbs was provided for this activity)

Retention of Information

Photo by GCouros, Retention of Information, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The session ended with us sharing ideas about how we can teach small and large groups. Our discussions also aimed to demystify the assumptions that we cannot do active learning in a lecture slot, or for that matter, with large groups.
We should approach a lecture just like any other teaching opportunity. It aims to enable learners to learn and be involved in that learning experience. Hence, we should not focus on the meaning the word has acquired throughout the years given the experiences we have had as students ourselves. We should always personalise teaching to match our own convictions (philosophy). It should also take into account our understanding of how people learn and what the purpose of teaching really is! I believe teaching is a form of helping learners grow intellectually, of maturing their ideas… In facilitating that process educators’ grow too. Learning and teaching are not isolated activities. We are all learners and teachers. Understanding this dialectics enables us to understand our role better!

- How are you planning to put these ideas in practice?

- How hard is it to yield the control of the learning experience to the learner?

Resources:

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

Learning and teaching in laboratories

Short Guide: Postgraduate Demonstrators and Teachers *

Large & Small Group Teaching

 

* A big thanks to Dr Gemma Lace for letting me attend one of her lab session and share some literature with me.

#TESSGTAs: Theme 1 – Learning

October 6th, 2012 by Cristina Costa

This week I started working with the Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) that have just started their 3 year appointment as PhD students who also have teaching duties. I think that is a great way to experience a bit more of academia beyond the completion of a PhD.

As part of the “deal” GTAs get an introduction to Teaching and Learning. The TESS (Teaching Essentials) programme for GTAs comprises of 6 thematic workshops where we cover different aspects of teaching in Higher Education.

Theme 1 deals with Learning. This was the first time I run this session. I was pretty nervous because I did not know how it would be received. But I guess the result was not that bad.

I wanted to make it as dynamic a session as I could, and I also wanted to inspire a culture of “thinking together”. As such, I used two questions that would guide the entire session. The goal was to answer them by the end of the session. The questions were:

What is learning?

Where does learning happen?

Pretty obvious questions, you must think. Yet, as we start to think about them, we realise how complex the answers can be.

To kick start the workshop we discussed the key reading for that theme. We are reading the Teaching at University: A Guide for Postgraduates and Researchers by Morss and Murray. It is a light, yet informative reading; a good introduction to different concepts and research on teaching and learning in Higher Education. The book leans towards a (social) constructivist approach that suits me perfectly as I feel this is the best approach we can adopt for our teaching. Our knowledge needs to be scaffold, and what’s a better way to learn than to co-construct meaning by participating in the environment that influences our thinking.

We also talked about the writing of the teaching philosophies and how it is hard to transfer our thoughts about our teaching practice into writing. Yet, it is a very important exercise because it makes it clear what our convictions and beliefs about teaching are. And those will inform how we approach learning and consequently teach. At this point it was interesting to see how GTAs were not sure of whether they should have commented on each other’s blogposts or not. I guess it is hard at first to provide a critical comment to someone’s teaching philosophy. Yet, critical does not mean criticism. It is not about telling what people have done wrong or provide a negative comment; it’s rather about thinking together by sharing similar experiences and/or providing people with new perspectives that might make them think differently and thus complement their own ideas.

For the 2nd part of the session, we did a jigsaw with 4 different readings about learning from different perspectives. Again I took inspiration from my friend Ilene Alexander, who also pointed me in the direction of some very interesting texts, one of them regarding how the brain works.

The exercise consisted in having people working in groups of 4 with each group member reading a different text on different aspects of learning. The idea was to stitch the information of the 4 papers together into a narrative that encompassed different aspects of learning. It’s a long and complex exercise to digest and process new information. As usual it would have been nice to have had more time to develop this exercise, but I think we got some good discussions going on and in the end we were able to (start) answer(ing) the questions that guided this workshop.

Besides the terrible time management issues, I also felt that sometimes I talked for too long at some points. I think I need to refine my thoughts. Yet, I know I am lucky to be working with a group of GTAs that is very participative and keen to discuss things. This has helped my job a lot! ;-)

Next week, we will be talking about Teaching. The challenge is to connect what we have discussed about learning with the practice of teaching. I am working on a session that aspires to make those connections. I think it’s important we don’t treat these thematic workshops as isolated sessions but rather build on them so we get a more robust understanding of how we can empower our students with different approaches to teaching and learning.

I truly believe that in this day and age, our role as educators in a Higher Education setting is to make sure our students are able to build on their knowledge to develop new learning, i.e, make connections. And also that they become confident problem solvers by learning to be resourceful and develop new ways of interacting with the realities that challenge their practice and perceptions.

I wanted to show this video in class (recommended by Becci Jackson) but I didn’t get enough time to do so. I think it illustrates the point above very well.

So my questions about this week session are:

  • Did the dialogic approach used in this workshop suit your way of learning? Why/why not?
  • What aspects of last week session’s would you like me to improve (because they did not work for you)? Please provide examples.

This post was originally posted on the TESSGTA space.

Developing a response to youth unemployment

May 9th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Since I wrote my last article on ‘What is the answer to youth unemployment?‘, elections in Greece, France and Germany have seen a decisive rejection of European austerity politics. This is hardly surprising. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that ever deeper cuts and austerity, whilst ultimately cutting the real cost of labour and thus boosting corporate profits, are unlikely to boost growth, jobs or individual prosperity in any way.

The EU reaction has been to call for a new strategy for growth, although details of what that might entail are pretty hazy.

As I wrote in the previous article, one of the main results of the recession has been a massive increase in youth unemployment and, in particular, a substantial increase in graduate unemployment. At the same time companies are increasingly requiring work experience prior to employment resulting in increasing pressure for new graduates to undertake low paid of unpaid internships. Pretty clearly new policies are needed for education and training but there seems little public discussion of this, let alone of what such policies might be. The prevailing EU policy is more of the same and try harder.

To rethink policies for education and training requires looking back at how we got where we are now. And it requires looking at more than just education and training policy – we need to examine the relationship between education and training, labour market policy and economic policy. here I am going to look at just a few aspects of such policies and hope to develop this a little more in the next week or so.

For the last decade – or even longer – economic policy has been driven by a liberal free market approach. In turn labour market policy has similarly been based on deregulating labour markets and removing protection for workers (interestingly, Germany, the one country in Europe where the economy is growing, has probably one of the highest levels of labour market regulation). At a European level, education and training policy has been dominated by a drive to make qualifications more transparent and thus comparable in order to promote the mobility of labour. Employers have been given a greater role in determining the content and form of qualifications. Employability has become a key theme, with individuals being made responsible for keeping their knowledge and skills up to date, often as considerable personal expense. A number of countries have tried to liberalise education and training systems by reducing subsidies for public education and introducing individual voucher schemes.

At them same time the rather ridiculous EU Lisbon declaration, declared the aim to make the EU “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”, by 2010. Obviously this failed. But in line with such thinking most countries in Europe saw the way forward as moving from old fashioned vocational training to mass university education to cater for the demand for the thousands of new knowledge jobs. These jobs never materialised (except in countries such as the UK in the deregulated financial services sector which ultimately triggered the economic meltdown). As Wikipedia notes:

Much of the initial theorizing about the advent of a fundamentally new era in which economic activity is increasingly ‘abstract’, i.e., disconnected from land, labour, and physical capital (machines and industrial infrastructure) was associated with the ‘business management’ literature of the ‘new economy’ NASDAQ bubble, which collapsed in 2001 (but slowly recovered, albeit, in a leaner format, throughout the 2000s). This literature was initially known more for its hyperbole and faddishness than for its academic/empirical integrity.

In reality, many of the new degree courses were vocational in orientation – such as in the new Universities in the UK or in the Fachshule in Germany. These courses were either for new occupations – for instance in computing or simply replaced traditional vocational qualifications. It is arguable whether such a policy was financially sustainable or even desirable. It is certainly arguable whether an academic programme of learning is more effective for such subjects than traditional forms of work related learning.

To further policies associated with the obsession with the knowledge economy were the raising of the school leaving age and the so called lifelong learning policy. Longer schooling was needed, it was argued, to cope with the needs for higher levels of knowledge and skills for the knowledge rich jobs of the future. And lifelong learning was needed for the learning economies in which knowledge is the crucial resource and learning is the most important process.

At them same time the EU and national governments identified a number of key sectors which were felt to be crucial and which were then promoted through he education systems. In the late 1990s, there were dire predications of a massive shortage of computer programmers which never came to pass. And in the last five years or so EU and national governments have promoted the importance of STEM subjects – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths as key to the future of employment and economies. Such priorities were based on a business driven policy of skills-matching promoting the “involvement of businesses in forecasting skills needs, through an employers’ survey tool and qualitative studies on the skills needs of business” (EU New Skills, New Jobs policy).

It is clear such policies have failed  and exhorting governments and agencies to try harder will go nowhere. What is needed is a fundamental rethink. As Professor Phillip Brown points out, the Lisbon Strategy was based on the idea that the technological lead then enjoyed by advanced industrial economies would be maintained with an increasing polarisation between highly skilled and well paid jobs in those countries and low paid low skilled manufacturing jobs being undertaken in developing countries. For a variety of reasons, including rapid technology transfer and a massive expansion of public education systems in countries like China and India, this hasn’t happened.

Indeed it may be the very manufacturing sector which was downgraded by EU policy which is the future for jobs in Europe especially in Small and Medium enterprises. For all the talk of high tech, knowledge based jobs. The construction industry is the biggest industrial employer in Europe with 13,9 million operatives making up 6,6% of the total employment in EU27. In addition it has a substantial influence on other industries represented by a multiplier effect. According to a study by the European Commission, 1 person working in the construction industry is responsible for 2 further persons working in other sectors. Therefore, it is estimated that 41,7 million workers in the EU depend, directly or indirectly, on the construction sector. Out of the 3,1 million enterprises 95% are SMEs with fewer than 20 and 93% with fewer than 10 operatives (pdf file). And manufacturing makes up almost 25 percent of the German economy, as opposed to only 11 percent in the United States. German mittelstands – small, family-owned and mid-size manufacturing companies – are key to the manufacturing sector. Rather than relying on university graduates for skills and knowledge, the mittelsands tend to employ graduates from the Dual apprenticeship system.

Indeed, many countries are promoting apprenticeships as one way out of the present mess. The present English coalition government boasts of the increase in the number of apprenticeship places. But in truth most of these places are apprenticeships only in name. The supermarket chain, Morrisons is the largest apprenticeship provider in the UK with many apprenticeship consisting of short induction training courses. To deliver the skills and knowledge for workers in a manufacturing economy through apprenticeship requires high quality training and the active involvement of employers and train unions alike. Moreover it requires social (and financial) recognition fo the value of apprenticeships. that seems a long way away.

To overcome the present crisis of youth unemployment requires a series of radical and interlinked policy initiative involving economic and labour market policies rather than just tinkering with education and training curricula. At a macro econ0omic level it means developing manufacturing industry rather than merely relying on financial services and the high tech knowledge industry sector. It means making sure companies provide high quality training, rather than forcing individuals to be responsible for their own employability. It means making sure that those who have gained vocational qualifications have opportunities to use those skills and knowledge and are properly rewarded for their learning. It means freeing up capital for starting small companies. It means proper financing for vocational schools and providing alternatives to young people rather than just more school and expensive university courses. It means abandoning skills matching and planning for future societal skills needs.

In other words we have to abandon liberalisation and free market ideologies and to recognise that economies and employment are a social function. As such society has to plan for the future of employment and the provision of jobs for young people. Is this too much to ask?

 

 

Training and learning

December 21st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

This time of the year things are supposed to be quiet. Christmas parties and that kind of stuff. However at Pontydysgu its not like that this year – though a dare say we may stop for the odd mince pie and glass of mulled wine in the next few days.

We have been completing project reports and writing new proposals. And I have been traveling for the last five weeks. So there is plenty to update on this blog.

The week before last I was in Bucharest for the final conference of the PREZENT! project – aiming to increase participation in continuing training for those at risk in the labour market. The project has taken a series of actions over providing access information, and awareness about opportunities for continuing and lifelong learning in Romania.

And it turned out to be a very inter sting event. The conference organisers had produced a draft strategy on training in Romania and used the event for consultation prior to submitting the strategy to the education ministry. Although I was struggling to follow the debate (my Romanian being non existent) the strategy certainly seemed to have sparked off a considerable discussion.

Yet many of the issues were hardly new, or indeed unique to Romania. Delegates were concerned about business models and how training should be financed. Indeed, there seemed to be much support for the idea of a training levy on enterprises. Delegates were concerned about the quality and regulation of training. And delegates were concerned about professional development for training and particularly over the use of technology for training.

Personally I felt they were over optimistic about the potential impact of legislative change or even at getting legislation right. However this might reflect different cultures and certainly in the past there has been some evidence that Romanian governments have taken more interest in training than the UK (although that is not difficult!).

My contribution to the conference was mostly based on the use of technology to support informal learning. And although everyone was very polite and said how much they had enjoyed the presentation I am not sure they got it. Learning remains inextricably bound to formal training programmes usually linked to classroom or workshop delivery. Whilst there might be acknowledgement of the importance of informal learning it goes no further than that.

Possibly it is because trainers see no role for themselves in informal learning. however I have long held that informal learning does not happen by accident. Informal learning depends on rich learning environments be they in school or in the workplace. And informal learning depends on the ability to use that learning in work or in everyday life. For many their job does not provide either that richness in activities or in learning environment. For many the workplace is just a source of drudgery. And this could be the vital role trainers could take – in designing and developing rich learning environments. But I think for that we would require new ways of recognising learning based on learning processes rather than merely accrediting outcomes. And whilst education and training remains dominated by a discourse around competences that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

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.

The future of wikipedia in Italy in peril

October 5th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Italian language version of wikipedia has published the following open letter which we reproduce in full below. Comment seems unnecessary.

Dear reader,

at this time, the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced to actually delete it.

The Bill – Rules on Wiretapping etc., p. 24, paragraph 29, letter a) states that:

«For the Internet sites, including newspapers and periodicals delivered by telematic way, the statements or corrections are published, with the same graphic characteristics, the same access methodology to the site and the same visibility of the news which they refer.»

Over the past ten years, Wikipedia has become part of the daily habits of millions of web users looking for a neutral, free-content, and – above all – independent source of Knowledge. A new, huge multi-lingual encyclopedia, freely available to all, at any time, and free of charge.

Today, unfortunately, the very pillars on which Wikipedia has been built – neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents – are likely to be heavily compromised by paragraph 29 of a law proposal, also known as “DDL intercettazioni” (Wiretapping Act).

This proposal, which the Italian Parliament is currently debating, provides, among other things, a requirement to all websites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image.

Unfortunately, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge – the opinion of the person allegedly injured is all that is required, in order to impose such correction to any website.

Hence, anyone who feels offended by any content published on a blog, an online newspaper and, most likely, even on Wikipedia can directly request to publish a “corrected” version, aimed to contradict and disprove the allegedly harmful contents, regardless of the truthfulness of the information deemed as offensive, and its sources.

During all these years, the users of Wikipedia (and we want, once more, to point out that Wikipedia does not have an editorial staff) have always been available to review – and modify, if needed – any content deemed to be detrimental to anyone, without harm to the Project’s neutrality and independence. In the very rare instances it was not possible to reach a mutually satisfactory solution, the entire page has been removed.

The obligation to publish on our site the correction as is, provided by the named paragraph 29, without even the right to discuss and verify the claim, is an unacceptable restriction of the freedom and independence of Wikipedia, to the point of distorting the principles on which the Free Encyclopedia is based and this would bring to a paralysis of the “horizontal” method of access and editing, putting – in fact – an end to its existence as we have known until today.

It should be made more than clear that none of us wants to question safeguarding and protection of the reputation, honor and image of any party – but we also note that every Italian citizen is already protected in this respect by Article 595 of the Criminal Code, which punishes the crime of defamation.

With this announcement, we want to warn our readers against the risks arising from leaving to the arbitrary will of any party to enforce the alleged protection of its image and its reputation. Under such provisions, web users would be most probably led to cease dealing with certain topics or people, just to “avoid troubles”.

We want to be able to keep a free and open-to-all encyclopaedia, because our articles are also your articles – Wikipedia is already neutral, why neutralize it?

The users of Wikipedia

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 ….

Researching education and training: Notes on cultural approaches

April 29th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I have had several requests for this paper, co-written in 1990 with Jenny Hughes, and realised it was not available on the internet. So I have published it to Scribd.

The paper looks at comparative research in Vocational education and Training and the possible uses of cultural theory as a research methodology. This extract explains some of the thinking behind such an approach.

The focus of much comparative research has been the comparison of different paradigms in VET. Set against a common background of globalisation of the economy, the rise of multi-nationals and shared technologies, these paradigms show a marked convergence across Europe and there is a seductive similarity between, for example, work organisation paradigms, curriculum paradigms and research paradigms. This has increased the tendency to undertake ‘point to point’ comparisons across member states, often based on task or functional analysis. And yet the outcomes of such research, whilst providing descriptive data which empirically reinforces the notion of converging trends is often at odds with what VET researchers ‘know’ to be true and which the general populus assumes as ‘common sense’; that is, that there are major cultural differences leading to apparently inexplicable divergences of practice. The challenge for VET research is to construct more robust tools for analysis which can accommodate and reconcile both the convergences and divergences.

Much of the existing comparative research takes as its starting point a single VET paradigm and deconstructs that paradigm into its elements. Thus, ‘VET’ would be the highest level of a tree diagram and the paradigmatic sets under observation would be branches below it.  These  may be labelled, for example, `employment patterns’,  `new production methods’, `trainer training’, `cultural issues’, `curriculum’ and so on.  The elements or items within the paradigms would form the next level of branching. For example under `new production methods’ there might be elements labelled `Just-in Time’ or `island production’ or `co-makership’.  Under  employment patterns there may be `self employed’, `employed by SME’, `unemployed’ and so on. Each of these elements can also be subdivided into properties or descriptors (which are actually paradigms in themselves).  For example `unemployed’ could be expressed as ‘average length of unemployment’ or `number of unemployed males over 25’ or `average qualification level of unemployed women’ or whatever.   The  number and type of paradigmatic sets are similar across member states as are the items within each paradigm, hence the apparent  convergence. Much quantitative comparative research maps and compares element against like element looking for differences in properties across member states. Occasionally it compares paradigm with paradigm but work at this higher level of aggregation level is more often seen in collaborative research.

What is rarely taken into account is the syntax which exists between the paradigms, a syntax which is determined by the culture which generated it and is as culturally specific as the rules of grammar are language specific. The syntagmatic relationship (or syntagm) which defines the way in which one paradigm articulates with another is, for the most part, ignored but it is here that the divergences across member states are located.

What VET needs is a grammar capable of analysis at a systemic rather than structural level. It needs a grammar robust enough and sufficiently rigorous to challenge and provide a real alternative to both functional and structural analysis but sophisticated enough to examine the cultural realisation and cultural meaning of sectoral and regional differences, national identities, gender, class and language.

Thus the model should not take  `VET’ as a starting point for the tree diagram and then simply disaggregate it – with `the cultural dimension’ being a paradigm or even an element within several paradigms and the assumption that it lends itself to comparison as readily as unemployment figures.  Rather we should put ‘culture’ at the top of the tree diagram with VET being one (disaggregated) manifestation of that culture

Functionalist analyses break down VET into a series of components that, not only .fails to recognise their significance within societies and cultures, but renders comparisons less, rather than more, meaningful.  Stucturalist and post structuralist schools continue to pursue structures of likeness and contrast, differences played against similarities. It follows that if all the factors which determine VET culture are themselves different then the component parts of those features are bound to be different.

Given the role of culture on Vet and of VET itself within its cultural context, then it may be of value to access that corpus of knowledge and theory in the field of cultural studies. The next section of this paper will look at some different ideas drawn from cultural theory and examine their applicability for comparative VET studies.

New Culture Paper

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