Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The school run is an outdated anachronism

September 20th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

schoolrunIn two hours I will be off to join the students striking over climate change in Valencia. One of the schools which are taking part is in my street. Wednesday lunchtime I was sitting on the terrace opposite the school for an aperitif prior to lunch. Suddenly the street became chaotic, jammed with parents in cars and on motorbikes waiting to pick up their children. I suspect the same school students will be walking to the city centre for today’s demonstration. The school run seems an international phenomenon and one which putting a stop to is long overdue.

Ok if the school is in the middle of a rural area – although most countries seem to operate bus services for rural schools. But in a dense urban setting where most of the students live in easy walking distance and where there are good public transport services there really si no need to perpetuate this old fashioned tradition.

Pontydysgu supports the climate strike

September 17th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu staff will be supporting the climate strike on Friday 20 September. And later this year we will be launching a new project, CEYOU, aiming to support young people in developing the circular economy .

Understanding data about society

May 29th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I have often written about the problems in interpreting and making sense of data. I very much like an article ‘What drives anti-migrant attitudes‘ by and published on the Social Europe Site yesterday.

They analysed data from the European Social Survey (ESS)—a biannual survey of Europe’s societies and people’s attitudes since 2002and looking at how people think about migration and migrants. They say: “It is not the presence of migrants as such that generates anti-migrant sentiments: these are strongest in countries with very few migrants. Similarly, on an individual level there is a strong negative correlation between personal contact with migrants and attitudes.”

“The analysis of the data showed that more general societal processes are more likely to shape attitudes: the level of trust in one another and in state institutions, the perception of social cohesion and the feeling of safety in a direct (physical) and indirect (existential) sense. We found that individuals who rejected migrants, extremely and homogeneously, did not differ in demographic characteristics from the rest of the population. Where they did differ was in their subjective perceptions of control: to a much greater extent, they feel they have financial difficulties, are alienated from politics, lack trust and hold security-focused, individualistic values. All in all, people who feel politically disempowered, financially insecure and without social support are the most likely to become extremely negative towards migrants.”

The European Social survey is a time series survey. This allows comparison with earlier results. Messing and Sagvari found a similar pattern in looking at changing attitudes over time. Those countries in which people are more trusting of public institutions, and more satisfied with the performance of their governments, democratic institutions and national economies, are the most likely to be more accepting of migrants.

Working for Europe – Celebrating Europe – Part Three: The Europa-Fete in Bremen

May 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

I started a series of blog posts by mentioning that we celebrated the Europe-Day on Thursday, the 9th of May, here in Bremen. Then, In my first post I explained the background of the Europe-Day and then reflected on two periods of my career as a European researcher in vocational education and training (VET). In my second post I reflected on my encounters with expatriate communities and/or European initiatives in Thessaloniki (1995-2002) and Bremen (from 2005 on). Now it is time to get back to the celebration of the Europe-Day. Below I have selected some photos of the Europa-Fete at the central sqare (Marktplaz) of Bremen, surrounded by the old City Hall (Rathaus), the new City hall (Bürgerschaft), the churches and old buildungs.

Europa-Fete Bremen-1

Here the stage for performers (in front of the new City hall, to the left the St. Pete’s Cathedral)

Europa-Fete Bremen-4

Here cheerful and active expatriate Finns and Finland-friends with a Finnish flag …

Europa-Fete Bremen-7

… but representing the Bremen Lapland-initiative that focuses mainly on the Sami people on Russian territory.

Europa-Fete Bremen-9

And last but not least: The stand of the “Pulse of Europe” movement that has been active during the last few years. It has kept our European spirits up whatever has happened in the European politics.

I guess this is enough of this reporting. The next Pulse of Europe event will start in two hours. I need to get there in good time. But I will keep the European themes up while working and learning for Europe.

More blogs to come ...

The Circular Economy and Education

February 26th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Screenshot 2019-02-26 at 18.21.29Last week I spoke at a meeting – Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning – at the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting was hosted by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ as part of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning. Pontydysgu are partners in the project and I introduced briefly what we are doing.

The press release below gives a good summary of the event. But the main lesson for me was that there are a lot of people doing practical things (and policy initiatives) around the circular economy. And there are a lot of people in the education sector (not least of all students) wanting to do things around the environment and climate change.

The problem is that for some reason there is not a lot of communication going on between the two communities. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has produced some excellent and there have been a number of MOOCs, hosted mainly by Dutch and French organisations. But a lot of the learning materials available are focused on particular technical areas, rather than looking at the Circular Economy as a whole.

The CYCLE project is a start – aiming to develop an online competence centre for learning materials. But in reality the project is really too small when compared to what is needed.

I think the next step should be to attempt to develop a European Special Interest Group (SIG) on the circular economy and Education. Anyone interested?

Press Release

Brussels, Belgium. The event “Circular Economy Competences Making the Case for Lifelong Learning”, hosted on 19 February at the European Parliament by MEP Silvia Costa and organised by ACR+ in the framework of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, brought together key actors working on incorporating circular economy competences in education and lifelong learning.

The fully booked event was opened by MEP Silvia Costa, who stressed the importance of mainstreaming circular thinking in lifelong learning policies. The MEP also reported on the dialogue between the Parliament and the European Commission aimed at introducing recitals on climate change and sustainable development goals in the text of the next Erasmus+ 2021/2027 programme. Afterwards, Callum Blackburn from Zero Waste Scotland gave an introductory speech calling for international cooperation for circular economy education based on strategic partnerships that facilitate mutual learning.

The first thematic panel tackled the issue of circular thinking in education. Graham Atwell from Pontydysgu presented the e-learning platform that is currently being developed within the CYCLE project. The platform, which will be launched in May 2019, aims to collect training material on circular economy for adult educators. Sander Bos and Heleentje Swart from the Dutch Fryslan Region showed how governments and schools are already working together within the regional SPARK initiative to achieve a circular change in educational methods, practices and tools.

The second panel focused on how to upskill waste, repair and reuse industries. Fiona Craigintroduced the audience to the SWITCH Forum, a multi-partnership forum made up of organisations active across all the sub-sectors of resource management . The SWITCH Forum aims to support continuous improvement in education and training and in health and safety in this sector. Roberto Cerqueira from LIPOR presented the training programmes of the LIPOR Academy, which include circular economy as an area of knowledge.

The speakers of the last panel discussed the evolution of the labour market related to the circular economy and the skills that will be increasingly required for circular jobs. Lorenzo Barucca from Legambiente presented the key outcomes of a study carried out together with the University of Padova, about the main connections between innovative industries (Industry 4.0) and circular economy. Joke Dufourmont from Circle Economy presented the mapping of core and enabling circular jobs in the city of Amsterdam, reflecting on the technical and transversal competencies that underlie them.

The slides of the presentations made at the event are available on the ACR+ website.

Brexit fun?

February 21st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Brexit is not much fun (in fact its causing me a lot of stress. But at least here is something genuinely funny – with a fair bit of truth thrown in.

Breadlines

February 7th, 2019 by Graham Attwell


This poem by Matt Sowerby was the first prize winner in the  16-18 age category in the End Hunger UK challenge on Young Poets Network.

Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Cognitive Justice and Restorative Action

January 25th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

In reply to a comment by Cristina Costa on the Social Theory Applied Facebook site, Randolph Presisinger Kleine wrote “I recommend to get in touch with Prof. Catherine A. Odora Hopper. She’s one of the most influential thinkers in Africa. Some years ago she founded an African think tank, whose mission is to build a African paradigm, that shall overcome the shortcomings and pitfalls in Western social theory.” Randolph pointed to this video. It goes a long way to explaining my unease around strategies for overcoming teacher shortages in Sub Saharan Africa through the se of Technology Enhanced Learning. Nothing wring with that per se but are we just transporting knowledge paradigms not only from the rich countries, but from the tech industry in those countries?

AI Brain Drain?

September 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It is not often I read the Daily Telegraph. Not withstanding the politics, the paper only provides a short introduction for free with the rest of the content languishing behind a paywall. But I picked up this stub of an article through Twitter.

Britain faces an artificial intelligence “brain drain” as Silicon Valley raids its top universities for talent, data compiled by The Telegraph shows.

Around a third of leading machine learning and AI specialists who have left the UK’s top institutions are currently working at Silicon Valley tech firms.

More than a tenth have moved to North American universities and nearly a tenth are currently working for other smaller US companies. Meanwhile just one in seven have joined British start-ups.

The Telegraph surveyed 150 people who had gained either a postgraduate-level degree or had…..

The sample I think comes form just four universities so is possibly not reliable. But it possibly shows how unattractive working as a researcher in UK univeristies sis becoming compared to provate sector work abroad.

What is an algorithm?

September 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

There was an excellent article by Andrew Smith in the Guardian newspaper last week. ‘Franken-algorithms: the deadly consequences of unpredictable code’, examines issues with our “our new algorithmic reality and the “growing conjecture that current programming methods are no longer fit for purpose given the size, complexity and interdependency of the algorithmic systems we increasingly rely on.” “Between the “dumb” fixed algorithms and true AI lies the problematic halfway house we’ve already entered with scarcely a thought and almost no debate, much less agreement as to aims, ethics, safety, best practice”, Smith says.

I was particularly interested in the changing understandings of what an algorithm is.

In the original understanding of an algorithm, says Andrew Smith, “an algorithm is a small, simple thing; a rule used to automate the treatment of a piece of data. If a happens, then do b; if not, then do c. This is the “if/then/else” logic of classical computing. If a user claims to be 18, allow them into the website; if not, print “Sorry, you must be 18 to enter”. At core, computer programs are bundles of such algorithms.” However, “Recent years have seen a more portentous and ambiguous meaning emerge, with the word “algorithm” taken to mean any large, complex decision-making software system; any means of taking an array of input – of data – and assessing it quickly, according to a given set of criteria (or “rules”).”

And this, of course is a problem, especially where algorithms, even if published, are not in the least transparent and with machine learning, constantly evolving.

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    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.

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


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