Archive for the ‘Open Learning’ 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.

 

Open Educational Resources

August 29th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

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.

Cities of Learning

June 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

posterPontydysgu’s Spanish organisation is part of the EU CONNECT project. Funded under the Erasmus Plus programme, the CONNECT project aims to leverage the impact of Learning Cities through building urban ecosystems of lifelong learning that harness the assets of European cities and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience for adult learners. The project application says: “In a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, connected learning for all citizens can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity; in particular when integrating both the potential of ubiquitous learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.”

Pontydysgu have been working on two main things. Firstly, we have been doing a field study on Russafa, an area of Valencia, looking at different opportunities for non formal and informal learning, as well as at formal adult learning provision. One of our main conclusions is the importance of public spaces for learning to take place. To this extent history, culture and context play an important role and not least climate: in Valencia many learning opportunities take place outdoors! Urban design is another key contextual factor.

Secondly, we have been undertaking a literature review. One of the most interesting documents we have come across is ‘Cities of Learning in the UK’ – a “prospectus” published by the RSA. Cities of Learning (CofL), they say “is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass engagement movement around learning and skills. It seeks to close gaps in opportunity and empower places to promote lifelong learning as core to their cultural and civic identity.”

“CofL can be a galvanising force for bringing people together with a city’s economic and social aspirations. It can open new sources of city leadership, learning potential and civic energy. Cities can both make visible and amplify nascent systems of learning – involving learners, institutions, employers, civil society and the voluntary and cultural sectors. Learners, especially those from underserved communities, can benefit from much greater access to the wealth of enrichment experiences and opportunities their city offers. By deepening social and civic connections, CofL can be a means to developing a sense of place, identity, mission, ambition – and learning.”

The Cities of Learning movement started in the USA but the Prospectus has been “adapted for UK.”

One thing I very much like about the CofL approach is the emphasis on place. As the RSA say “Learning systems – formal, non-formal, informal – are experienced by people in places and form a fundamental part of how they experience life within their neighbourhoods, communities, and towns and cities. They operate outside of the silos of traditional programmes, allowing organisations to work together to focus on shared outcomes rather than individual concerns.”

They go on to say that CofL “capitalise on crucial intangible factors that drive collective action, such as identity, heritage and community.” Certainly, from our research in Valencia we would concur – although I am not sure that heritage and community are intangible.

The Prospectus emphasises the widening participation and opportunity gap in society today.

It stresses the importance on non-cognitive as well as cognitive skills for future employment. Skills and calls for cities to develop learning pathways leading to Open Badges, recognizing learning or formal and informal learning experiences. Learning networks would incorporate a skills spine using both OECD core skills and competences as well as more locally developed learning needs. The report points to different Interest driven and destination driven learning pathways – destination driven meaning learning for employment. This seems to us too binary a division. Interest driven learning can often lead to skills for employment and vice versa. In reality people often cross over between different pathways.

Dense networks and relationships are seen to be central to the development of CofL with “anchor organisations” and “influential change makers” acting as “network hubs and stewards.” Three key factors are identified for developing CofL initiatives – leadership, networks and platform.

Although stressing the importance of networks and of community organisations, the examples provided seem to be driven by city governments. And the report also provides the example of a large employers overhauling their recruitment policy as driving change through their supply network, but there is no discussion of the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises who provide the majority of employment in cities like Valencia.

Cities are of course important but I do not see why the approach to learning in place based networks should not also include more dispersed population areas, including rural areas and towns in the south Wales valleys with different population structures.

One thing definitely welcome is that the technology plays an enabling function, supporting learning. Technology Enhanced Learning may have a weak link to place, but place is key to practice in learning.

Less welcome is the unnecessary emphasis on CofL as disruptive or as they call it a “quiet disruption.” Neither do I see Open Badges as a “disruption.” I can only see CofL and Open Badges as developing and extending traditional ideas of adult education.

The report also claims that CoFL challenges the fragmented rigid and centralised nature of public services. Certainly, education services have become fragmented but the major challenge is not that but is government austerity policies which have decimated adult education provision.

However, despite this, City of Learning is an exciting vision, and one I think which could spread beyond the RSA sponsored experiments and networks.

Autonomy and the importance of teachers

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

The technology industry spends millions trying to disrupt education. And one of their fantasies is that machines can replace teachers. I don’t think they can or should. On International Teachers day it seems appropriate to point again to the importance of well trained and supported teachers having teh autonomy to shape and support learning.

And by chance I found on Twitter today this excellent bog post, writing just about the need for autonomy.

@HeyMissSmith says:

I have watched with incredulity as the idea of scripted lessons and highly controlled curriculum content has grown. The idea that knowledge can be packaged nicely and given to teachers. That you can in some way control knowledge. That it is prepackaged food a teacher microwaves for her class (as per instructions). Not so. Knowledge when it meets a class of thirty individuals plus a (hopefully) excited teacher becomes something else; it becomes an ocean of possibilities. It becomes the universe, past, present and future. A skilled and enthusiastic teacher will take knowledge, and their class reactions to it and will shape the conversations. Steer children through the endless sparks and dead-ends they create with it. They will cover much ground, but what that ground is is not apparent until the class is in front of them.

What am I saying? That we have to trust teachers with knowledge.

Learning with the Open Web

August 15th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I don’t generally advertise conferences on this site. There are just too many and besides most of ridiculously expensive. But I am much taken by the Learning with / On the Open Web conference taking place in Coventry, UK on 25 October. The conference promotes itself as a  “One-day event celebrating the Open Web as a socio-technical ecosystem for teaching, learning, scholarly communication and public engagement!”

The organisers say “Join us to share, learn and participate in how the Open Web can be utilised in different educational contexts and why it is core to the development of digital literacies and critical pedagogy approaches.”

The Open Web is acknowledged as a loosely defined term that can be interpreted in different ways. However, the organisers are keen on contributions focusing on digital practices that involve the use of online technologies that are aligned with the founding principles of the World Wide Web (WWW), imagined by its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee as “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

Oh, and the conference is free. More details here.

Open Educational Practices

May 28th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Good presentation at Open Education Global Conference, April 24th, 2018 – based on a paper by Catherine Cronin & Iain MacLaren (2018), Open Praxis, 10(2). They define Open Educational Practices (OEP) as the Use/reuse/creation of OER and collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners. Open Educational Practices.

Catherine Cronin has also posted References and Links from the presentation in an open Google document.

Open Education

May 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell


According to OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

Thsi presentation by Lorna Cambell from her keynote at the FLOSS UK Spring Conference provides a great overview of the Open Education landscape. A transcript of her speech is available on her blog.

Open Leadership

March 9th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

mozilla

I like the open leadership map white paper released by the Mozilla Foundation. Mozilla say:

Open Leadership is the “how” of our work. It’s how we accomplish our work in communities, organizations, and projects. open leadership encompases the processes and resources we use to support Internet health for everyone’s benefit.

Open leaders “work open.” They work collaboratively, sharing the ownership of ideas, resources, and outcomes with contributors, while building powerful, diverse communities to support and direct projects and organizations. They also set the conditions for others to do the same, ensuring accountability, equity, and transparency in a project and its community.

Unlike the now familiar competency frameworks Mozilla poses their map as a process, based on design, build and empowerment.

This Open Leadership Map suggests areas of focus you can concentrate on during your open leadership journey to achieve these goals. To use the map, consider your objective(s) and look at the principles, actions, and embedded skills that might best help you reach your goals.

open leadership

Mozilla is presently is asking for peoples’ opinions and ideas about the map.

The open in MOOC must include the ability to create courses

March 14th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

However you view MOOCs, they have been a success in moving towards open education and in allowing thousands of people not enrolled in formal education programmes to take part in courses.

But in all the talk about open and MOOCs one issue worries me: access to platforms. Yes the best MOOCs and the better platforms encourage conversation between learners and even promote the idea of learners being facilitators. Yet the ability to create a MOOC is largely confined those in a commercial company or those in mainly Higher Education establishments. Increasingly MOOC platforms are only accessible to those who are part of one or another of the consortia which have emerged between different education institutions or those with money to pay into a private MOOC provider. OK, it is possible to hack a MOOC platform together with WordPress or to install Open edX. But it isn’t simple. The Emma project and platform have opened up possibilities to host MOOCs in Europe but I am not sure that this will continue to be supported after their EU funding runs out.

If we want truly open education, then we need to open up opportunities for creating and facilitating learning as well as participating in a programme. I still like Ivan Illich’s 1971 dream in Deschooling Society of a big computer which could send postcards to match those wanting to learn something with those willing to support them. And I see an open MOOC infrastructure as the way we might achieve this. Of course there are concerns over quality. but surely we can find ways of peer reviewing proposed courses and supporting course creators to achieve not only high quality but truly imaginative pedagogy approaches to learning through a MOOC. Quality is not just predicated on the cost of the video production.

I wonder if rather than the formation of big consortia, more democratic federation could be the way to go. It is disappointing to see that FutureLearn has announced that those students who fail to pay a fee (or as they put it, an ‘upgrade’ will no longer be able to access content following the end of a course. This is just one more reason why we need an open MOOC infrastructure or ecology if MOOCs are to be truly open.

What is Open?

January 28th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I love this. Lorna Campbell writes: “Another gem from The Cost of Freedom project, this time by Richard Goodman (@bulgenen), my partner in crime from the ALTC-2016 social media team.  I was chuffed to bits when Rich decided to write something for the project.  You can read his poem What is Open? here.

As part of disquiet Junto Project 0202 Text-to-Speech-to-Free Rich’s poem has also been recorded by Michel Banabila who created this amazingly atmospheric remix.”

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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.


    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.


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