Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Three: Reflections on using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

November 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I mentioned that the next one to be completed would be Report3 on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). This week I have worked on this report. I have had the great pleasure to have my ITB colleague Jan Naumann with me as an expert in this matter and as a co-author. So, the best thing for me to do was to explore with him different contexts of vocational education and training in which he has been working with OER. Below I present the conclusions of our report.

Conclusions: Using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

Here it is worthwhile to note that this report has not the aim to give a comprehensive overview on Open Educational Resources (OER) that may have relevance for vocational education and training (VET). Such a task would no longer be manageable. Currently there is such a richness of OER – also ones that address explicitly the field of VET. As a contrast, this report has provided insights into exemplary cases of using OER to enhance vocational teaching/learning arrangements and to empower vocational learners.

Also, concerning the range of occupational fields that these cases cover, the report is far from comprehensive. Yet, when looking more closely at the cases, there is a pattern variance and a gradual shift from rather simple cases to more complex vocational teaching/learning arrangements. In a similar way the degree of using OER grows from elementary engagement to specific interventions and to more complex incorporation of OER into vocational learning culture.

In a nutshell the key messages of the above-presented cases can be summarised in the following way:

  • Rather simple and elementary vocational learning exercises can be transformed into creative learning projects. This is the case, when the learners are challenged to think, what they can achieve with the results (products) they produce. The first case in which the learners produce their own tools underlines this point. Individual teachers who create such learning projects can become producers of OER.
  • Hitherto separate subject areas and learning projects can be linked to each other with the help of OER. This may happen with the help of hands-on exercises using Open Resources and quiz exercises using OER. The second case of integrated learning paths underlines this point.
  • Neighbouring occupations can be brought together with the help of OER to work with a joint learning project if it is sufficiently challenging and interesting to all parties involved. The third case with an integrated working and learning project with robotics serves as a demonstration.
  • Vocational learning arrangements can be made attractive to apprentices and to trainees in pre-vocational education (also with socially disadvantaged background). The fourth case with the complex teaching-learning arrangement around organising a series of Go-kart races provides an example of this. Here, by organising learners as occupational teams and bringing the contributions of teams to a common effort the learners worked for a common goal. This was facilitated by manifold use of OER and by documenting the whole concept as OER.

Altogether, the cases are selected examples and they do not provide evidence that the use of OER as such would guarantee successful learning. Yet, they have given insights into the prospect of shaping of vocational teaching/learning arrangements as creative learning spaces.

I guess that this is enough of our report on the use of OER. What remains to be done for the project is a final report on shaping continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers. There I need to highlight the challenges, ideas and ways forward that have been discussed in the previous four reports.

More blogs to come …

AI needs diversity

November 6th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

As promised another AI post. One of the issues we are looking at in our project on AI and education is that of ethics. It seems to me that the tech companies have set up all kinds of ethical frameworks but I am not sure about the ethics! they seem to be trying to allay fears that the robots will take over: this is not a fear I share. I am far ore worried about what humans will do with AI. In that respect I very much like this TEDxWarwick talk by Kriti Sharma.

She says AI algorithms make important decisions about you all the time — like how much you should pay for car insurance or whether or not you get that job interview. But what happens when these machines are built with human bias coded into their systems? Kriti Sharma explores how the lack of diversity in tech is creeping into our AI, offering three ways we can start making more ethical algorithms.I wonder too, how much the lack of diversity in educational technology is holding back opportunities for learning

AI, education and training and the future of work

November 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Last week was the first meeting of a new Erasmus Plus project entitled ‘Improving skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of Artificial Intelligence’. The project, led by the University of Bremen has partners frm the UK (Pontydysgu), Lithuania, Greece and Italy.

Kick off meetings are usually rather dull – with an understandable emphasis on rules and regulation, reporting and so on. Not this one. Everyone came prepared with ideas of their own on how we can address such a broad and important subject. And to our collective surprise I think, we had a remarkable degree of agreement on ways forward. I will write more about this(much more) in the coming days. For the moment here is my opening presentation to the project. A lot of the ideas come from the excellent book, “Artificial Intelligence in Education, Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning” by the Center for Curriculum Redesign which as the website promises, “immerses the reader in a discussion on what to teach students in the era of AI and examines how AI is already demanding much needed updates to the school curriculum, including modernizing its content, focusing on core concepts, and embedding interdisciplinary themes and competencies with the end goal of making learning more enjoyable and useful in students’ lives. The second part of the book dives into the history of AI in education, its techniques and applications –including the way AI can help teachers be more effective, and finishes on a reflection about the social aspects of AI. This book is a must-read for educators and policy-makers who want to prepare schools to face the uncertainties of the future and keep them relevant.”

Improving the skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of Artificial Intelligence

October 11th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu are partners in a new project on Artificial Intelligence and vocational Education and Training, starting this month. The project will last for two years and is funded through the EU Erasmus Plus programme. It is coordinated by the Institut Technik und Bildung at the University of Bremen and includes partners from Greece, Italy and Lithuania.

Below is a description of the project. There is also a short form to sign up for project newsletters and if your organisation is interested, to join the project as associate partners.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be defined as a computer system that has been designed to interact with the world in ways we think of as human and intelligent. Ample data, cheap computing and AI algorithms mean technology can learn very quickly. The transformative power of AI cuts across all economic and social sectors, including education. UNESCO says AI has the potential to accelerate the process of achieving the global education goals through reducing barriers to accessing learning, automating management processes, and optimizing methods in order to improve learning outcomes. Education will be profoundly transformed by AI.Teaching tools, ways of learning, access to knowledge, and teacher training will be revolutionized.

A recent European Joint Research Council policy foresight report suggests that “in the next years AI will change learning, teaching, and education. The speed of technological change will be very fast, and it will create high pressure to transform educational practices, institutions, and policies.” They say it is therefore important to understand the potential impact of AI on learning, teaching, and education, as well as on policy development.

AI is particularly important for vocational education and training as it promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. There have been a series of reports attempting to predict the future impact of AI on employment, producing varying estimates of the number of jobs vulnerable to automation as well as new jobs which will be created. But the greatest implications for VET lies in the changing tasks and roles within jobs, requiring changes in initial and continuing training, for those in work as well as those seeking employment. Cooperative robotics offers new work designs and job scenarios for occupations avoiding repetitive work tasks. This will require changes in existing VET
content, new programmes such as the design of AI systems in different sectors, and adaptation to
new ways of cooperative work with AI.

If teachers are to prepare young people for this new world of work, and to excite young people to engage with careers in designing and building future AI ecosystems, then VET teachers and trainers themselves require training to understand the impact of AI and the new needs of their students. There is an urgent need for young people to be equipped with a knowledge about AI, meaning the need for educators to be similarly equipped is imperative. This requires cooperation between policy makers, organisations involved in teacher training, vocational schools and occupational sector organisations, including social partners.

For VET teachers and trainers there are many possible uses of AI including new opportunities for adapting learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment, analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in guidance for learners. AI systems can provide diagnostic data to learners so that they can reflect on their metacognitive approaches and areas in need of development. New pedagogical possibilities include learning companions based on affective computing and emotion AI. AI systems can help in interpreting
activities undertaken in VET, linking theoretical and practice-based learning.

AI can be a key technology in the modernisation of VET by providing new opportunities for adapting
learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment, analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in guidance for learners. The project will promote open innovative methods and pedagogies and develop learning materials, tools and actions in the form of Open Educational Resources that support the effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide initial training and continued professional development for VET teachers and trainers in Artificial Intelligence. The project will extend the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators, a reference framework tool for implementing regional and national tools and training programmes to include AI.

The project will seek to support VET teachers and trainers in extending and adapting open curriculum models for incorporating AI in vocational education and training. Furthermore, the project will develop an Open Massive Open Online Course in AI in education in English and German, open to all teachers and trainers in VET in Europe. The course materials will be freely available for other organisations to use for professional development.

The realisation of the potential of AI for VET requires the involvement of European teachers and trainers in designing solutions to the key educational challenges facing VET. Technologists alone cannot design effective AI solutions. The implications of AI for VET curriculum and for teaching and training in schools and the workplace are profound and educators must engage in discussing what needs to change as a matter of urgency

 

 

 

Reading on screen and on paper

September 1st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Do you read books and papers on screen or do you prefer paper. I am conflicted. I used to have an old Kindle but gave it up because I am no fan of Amazon. And I used to read books on firstly an ipad and latterly an Tesco Huddle tablet – both now sadly deceased.

Like many (at least if the sales figures are to be believed) I have returned to reading books on paper, although I read a lot of papers and such like on my computer, only occasionally being bothered to print them out. But is preferring to physical books a cultural feel good factor or does it really make a difference to comprehension and learning?

An article in the Hechinger Report reports on research by Virginia Clinton, an Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota who “compiled results from 33 high-quality studies that tested students’ comprehension after they were randomly assigned to read on a screen or on paper and found that her students might be right.”

The studies showed that students of all ages, from elementary school to college, tend to absorb more when they’re reading on paper than on screens, particularly when it comes to nonfiction material.

However the benefit was small – a little more than  a fifth of a standard deviation and there is an important caveat in that the studies that Clinton included in her analysis didn’t allow students to use the add on tools that digital texts can potentially offer.

My feeling is that this is a case of horses for courses. Work undertaken by Pontydysgu suggested that ebooks had an important motivational aspect for slow to learn readers in primary school. Not only could they look up the meaning fo different words but when they had read for a certain amount of time they were allowed to listen to the rest of teh story on the audio transcription. And there is little doubt that e-books offer a cost effective way of providing access to books for learners.

But it would be nice to see some further well designed research in this area.

 

Learning, education outcomes and socioeconomic class

August 30th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have long known that educational outcomes are heavily influenced by social class. But little has been done to try to understand how social class affects learning. In that respect the article by Lien Pham on ‘How socioeconomic background makes a difference in education outcomes‘ is very welcome.

Pham notes that although “PISA publishes its PISA context assessment framework to supplement its regular international PISA testing of reading, maths and science”, ” these are just snapshots rather than an analysis of the impact of students’ background characteristics on their participation in these processes, or whether the educational system, schooling processes and classroom practices may favour certain groups over others” and “they do not help to shed light on how and why some students perform better than others.”

Pham says “In order to truly understand what is happening with inequality I believe we have to recognise the implicit social relationships and social structures in the schooling processes that position students in different vantage points.”

Pham goes on to look at what PISA says about students’ family backgrounds, student ethnicity and polices to improve educational inequality, adding his own comments and analysis. His overall conclusion is that reducing inequality neds more than just access to economic resources

We need to deeply understand students’ “real” opportunities within our systems of education. I believe we need to look more closely at what students can reasonably do (or not do) with those resources given their backgrounds and situations.

Resources are important, but just because a school has a wide variety of resources doesn’t mean all of its students will benefit from those equally.

I am arguing that policy attention to improve educational inequality should place student agency and diversity at the forefront, rather than focussing on resources with the assumption that all students will be able to access them in similar ways with similar outcomes.

You can read more in his paper: Capital and capabilities in education: Re-examining Australia’s 2015 PISA performance and context assessment framework

 

 

Preparing for forthcoming TACCLE project meetings

August 24th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I wrote about preparing for the forthcoming ECER 2019 (beginning of September in Hamburg). For a conference of educational researchers one needs to work with research papers and related presentations – that is obvious. However, later in the Autumn I will have two TACCLE project meetings for which I have had to prepare from another perspective. The two parallel TACCLE projects are working to promote digital competences of practitioners. The TACCLE-VET project focuses directly on teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). The TACCLE-CPD project shapes models for continuing professional development (CPD) in different educational sectors (general education, adult education, VET). I have been working only in the latter project – but as responsible for the sector of VET. Now, at this point, it is high time to share experiences between the two projects and to present some interim results for the neighbouring project.

To be sure, I have worked a lot and produced a lot. That all has contributed to the research paper, powerpoint presentation and ePoster (as a wider digital resource). BUT now it is necessary to prepare materials that support continuing professional development of practitioners – teachers and trainersand related planning in their organisations. Indeed,  I have written of  challenges with digital learning culture and on different innovation paths – that all gives food for thought. But now it is not just about delivering text and presenting it in attractive packages. What is also needed, is the inspiration and encouragement to take new challenges and try something hitherto unknown. And it is this spirit that I hope that we can grasp from our predecessor projects – the earlier TACCLE projects and the Learning Layers – and their training activities. Below I want to illustrate this with two videos.

Training in TACCLE3 project – Brussels meets Dillingen

The video “Unplugged coding in Dillingen” gives an impression, how three TACCLE trainers engaged the participants during their training visit. With such an approach the working with digital tools is brought into lived practice. (Many thanks to Angela Gerrard for sharing this video! And our deepest respects to Jenny Hughes who played an important role in this event as well!)

Putting digital competences into practice after Multimedia training – the Carpenters’ blog takes off

The other video demonstrates, how a full-time vocational trainer (working in a training centre of construction sector) made rapid use of his newly acquired digital competences. In a couple of weeks after the training session he had developed a remarkable resource base powered by a WordPress blog. In the Learning Layers project this was a major step forward in developing digital learning culture.

 

In both videos we can sense the joy of learning and of becoming owner of one’s new competences. In the Learning Layers project this interim phase was crucial to push the co-design process further – to the phase in which the Learning Toolbox (LTB) became a toolset for trainers and learners.

It is this creative spirit that we want to promote with our projects. Let us see what we can achieve in the coming time.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Yo quiero estudiar espanol

July 9th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Last year my new year resolution was to learn Spanish. It didn’t work out. I signed up for 10 private lessons in a local language school, doing one or two one hour lessons a week. Although I got on well with the teacher the course was not for me. It was based on Spanish grammar with weekly progression, regardless of whether or not I had understood the previous weeks lesson. The vocabulary to learn seemed to be an outcome of the grammar lesson to be tackled. I gave up after six lessons.

This year’s new year resolution is to learn Spanish. I am well motivated, given that I live most of the time in Spain. My goals are to be able to have a conversation with people I meet in the street and to be able to read the local newspaper. This time I have signed up on DuoLingo. And I love it.

DuoLingo introduces small chicks of grammar and new words at a time. And then you have to practice it endlessly, with short ‘units’ taking around two or three minutes to complete. If you make a mistake you repeat the exercise until you get it right.

One of the criticisms of DuoLingo is it provides little formal help or explanation of grammar. But I find myself more engaged in trying to work out the grammar rather than just reading about it. DuoLingo provides some gamification. XP points which are collected from the completion of each exercise can be exchanged in the ‘store’. This doesn’t greatly interest me, although I will have a go at the ‘flirting in Spanish’ unit that can be unlocked for 30 ‘lingots’ (the DuoLingo ‘currency’). The second gamification feature is ‘sprints’ – the number of days in a row you achieve your personally set target for learning. This is strangely compelling and certainly supports the idea that learning at least a little every day is central to language learning. The third feature is a leader board. There are five levels of leader boards with 50 leaners on each board and a competition lasting a week with relegation for the bottom ten and promotion for the top ten. It is not so much the competition which interest me (although I am surprised how competitive I am) but the visible presence of other people which is most valuable. We know learning is a social activity. We know the advantages of online learning – particularly for me the ability to go at your own pace, to go back to practice and probably most of all the flexibility in when you learn. But learning on your own can be a lonely and dispiriting experience. Just seeing my 50 co-leaners on the leader board and watching their progression breaks that isolation.

I will keep you updated on my progress. But now back to my language learning – I am doing a ‘module’ called school at the moment. Yo quiero estudiar espanol.

Finding strategies to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers – Part One: The Four-Step Model of TACCLE4-CPD

June 4th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my recent posts I have reported of my fieldwork for our EU-funded TACCLE4-CPD project. The aim of this project is to develop training models and pedagogic approaches to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in different educational sectors. In my blog posts I have mainly emphasised the specific characteristics of my work that focuses on the field of vocational education and training (VET). With this series of posts I will try to link my work to the general framework of the project and to the work of other partners in other educational sectors (general education, adult education) and with school-based learning. The starting point is provided by the Four-Step Model that was developed in the recent project meeting in Bucharest (in which I couldn’t participate). In this first post I will present the outline of the model (as it was explained to me afterwards) and how it can be applied in schools and adult education providers. In the subsequent blogs I will discuss, how the model can be adapted to the field of VET and to my recent findings in the fieldwork.

The Four-Step Model for finding/developing strategies to promote digital competences

The Four-Step Model for finding/developing strategies was shaped in the project meeting in Bucharest, when the TACCLE4-CPD partners had workshops with interested schools. When analysing the experiences of the workshops the partners came up with the model that is visualised below.

Four-Step Model of TACCLE4-CPD

Figure 1: The Four-Step Model for finding/developing strategies to promote digital competences in educational contexts (credit to Graham Attwell and Angela Gerrard)

As we see, the left hand side presents the process steps with key questions and related options, how to proceed. In the middle we see the reference materials that can be used in the process. And on the right hand side we see the underlying questions that clarify, where the questions and answers lead us.

My interpretation of the four-step model (as it stands now)

As I read this model, it speaks out to school managers, educational authorities and curriculum developers. They are challenged to consider, whether their organisation(s) is/are following a policy for promoting digital competences. In this respect they are advised to inform themselves of the European DigCompOrg frameworks (prepared by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Union). In the next phase they are challenged to consider their strategic approach in terms of action plans and needs analyses. Here they are advised to have a closer look at the DigComgEdu framework (also by JRC) for specifying their strategic orientation. Then, in the next phases the model invites to discuss, how continuing professional development (CPD) can be organised and delivered. Here the model refers to  earlier TACCLE resources (Routemap) and to the new Handbook that is being prepared for the TACCLE4-CPD.

As I see it, this model suits very well school-based educational contexts. However, when we discuss the field of VET, we are dealing with a more complex policy environment and institutional/organisational landscape. Moreover, we are dealing with diversity of learning venues (schools, enterprises, intermediate training centres) and with domain-specific characteristics (different occupational fields, different production and service contexts). Therefore, it is appropriate to discuss the Four-Step Model in the light of these challenges. That is the task for my next blog post in this series.

More blogs to come …

Student Experience Roadmap – what it means for teacher development

May 29th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Earlier this week the UK Jisc  launched the Jisc NUS roadmap (pdf) designed to support students, course representatives, and union and guild representatives to work with their institution on improving student digital experiences.

Jisc say “Informed by extensive research into learners’ experiences and expectations of technology, the roadmap has been updated following over 77,500 student responses to Jisc’s digital experience insights survey, gathered over three years.

The roadmap – which has been updated from a benchmarking tool Jisc previously developed with the National Union of Students (NUS) and The Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) – is now freely available online. It enables institutions to identify gaps in their digital provision, while allowing students to compare their digital experiences to others’.”

The roadmap focuses on ‘Good Practice Principles’ which has four levels of progression: First steps, Developing, Developed and Outstanding. Whilst obviously focused on wider aspects of the student experience, one section covers teachers, with the good practice principle being that “Teaching staff are confident users of digital technologies and media.” Students were asked “What one thing would improve the quality of your digital learning and teaching?”  They were further asked to “rate your digital learning and teaching overall” and in a more open question “When digital technologies are used on my course…”

First steps were:

  • Training available for teaching staff in all core systems such as the virtual learning environment, assessment systems and lecture capture
  • E-learning specialist staff are available to support teaching staff
  • All teaching staff can use inclass digital technologies and audio visual equipment
  • All teaching staff can upload content to the VLE and use an online submission and grading system

Developing were:

  • A technology enhanced learning (TEL) or e-learning strategy with goals for teaching staff development
  • There is a growing cohort of teaching staff with digital expertise, supported by elearning specialists
  • All teaching staff can use the specialist academic/professional technologies of their subject area
  • Workshops are available to support the development of digital teaching skills

Developed were:

  • All teaching staff can design digital activities suitable to their subject area and student needs
  • Local e-learning staff or staff digital champions support digital approaches at the course or subject level
  • Staff share digital teaching ‘know how’ via one or more communities of practice
  • Dedicated funding and staff support for digital innovation projects

Developed were:

  • Teaching staff have time allocated to develop, practice and evaluate digital approaches
  • Specific rewards and career pathways for digital teaching expertise and innovation
  • Teachers and students work in partnership to develop new digital approaches
  • There are excellent digital teaching and learning projects that have been recognised outside the organisation