Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

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

Field visit in the region with a group from Namibia – Part Two: Getting ideas for future-oriented training

April 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I reported of a field visit to regional training provider organisations with a prominent delegation from Namibia. I joined the group partly because I needed to arrange meetings with vocational teachers and trainers from both organisations. With the help of these meetings I wanted to revisit the materials from the training activities of the EU-funded Learning Layers project (2012-2016). My aim is to develop with a future-oriented training concept for promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in vocational education and training (VET).  With the trainers in the training centre Bau-ABC I can refer to our shared experience in implementing training schemes during the Learning Layers project and to the introduction of the digital toolset Learning Toolbox (LTB). With teachers of BBS Wildeshausen I was interested of other pedagogic solutions and of the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). These all should be taken on board when preparing the support materials for developing continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of VET.

When listening to the contributions of the teachers and trainers during the field visit I got more and more convinced that such materials should not be shaped as overarching ‘encyclopedia’ of digital tools, web resources and mobile apps. Also, I understood that the materials should not be written in the style of cookbooks with ready-made recipes. Instead, they should be well-selected and contextualised exemplary stories that inspire the readers to find their own solutions.  And these solutions should give a picture, how to use appropriate toolsets and web resources for the respective vocational learning environment. Also, these materials should open the perspective to using digital tools and web resources from the initial steps to first strategic choices and to wider use of tools, resources and complex teaching-learning arrangements.

From this perspective I started to outline an updated and extended training model based on the “Theme Room” metaphor that we used in the Learning Layers project. The ‘theme room’ can refer to a physical space or to a virtual space that has been made available for a selected theme and for a flexible time frame. Once the participants have completed the learning tasks and checked themselves out, the theme rooms can be furnished with other themes. That was the original idea.

Below, inspired by the impulses from the field visits I would like to outline a rough draft for an updated “Theme Room” structure:

Theme Room 1 – Entrance lobby: Getting used to work with some basic digital tools and apps – with the aim to make use of them in one’s own teaching or training activities.

Theme Room 2 – Starting points for working with integrative digital toolsets: Brief introductions to integrative toolsets that are appropriate in vocational learning contexts – such as the Learning Toolbox or the Kompetenzwerkstatt toolsets.

Theme Room 3 – Using enriching web apps and platforms: Working with apps, tools and platforms that help to make learning tasks more inspiring and challenging – such as the toolsets provided by Go Conqr and H5P platforms.

Theme Room 4 – Working with complex teaching-learning arrangements: Insights into learners’ projects that involve construction of new tools/devices or manufacturing of new products that can be used in learning contexts.

Theme room 5 – Using the digital toolset “Learning Toolbox” to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the use of Learning Toolboox as an instrument for delivering training and for promoting self-organised learning.

Theme room 6 – Using the digital toolset “Kompetenzwerkstatt” to support vocational education and training processes: Insights into different Kompetenzwerkstatt tools that raise learners’ awareness of their progress in vocational learning.

Theme room 7 – Using Open Educational Resources (OER) to support vocational learning processes: Insights into the work of OER-communities (and support agencies) and into their services.


Theme Room n – Workshops on the options for digital transformation in one’s own domain: Whilst enhancing one’s own digital competences in the context of vocational learning tasks or project, it is necessary to keep an eye on the big picture of transformations in entire production and services processes & networks.

I guess this is enough for a rough structure. As I said, this should not be seen as a basis for a ‘cookbook’ or for a ‘product catalogue’ but as an introduction to explorative learning in order to find one’s own solutions and in order keep oneself on track with new developments. This is the challenge – there is work to be done in the meetings with teachers and trainers.

More blogs to come …

Field visit in the region with a group from Namibia – Part One: Fresh impressions from the field

April 12th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

This week our institute – Institut Technik & Bildung (ITB) of the University of Bremen – has hosted a study visit of a prominent delegation from Namibia. This study visit is part of a cooperation process that has been started with smaller steps and now there is an ongoing discussion, how to deepen the cooperation. As I have not been involved in these discussions I leave it to my colleagues and to the Namibian authorities to find the bast ways forward.

As a part of their program the delegation visited on Tuesday two interesting organisations in the nearby region. With the training centre Bau-ABC I had had active cooperation for many years in the EU-funded Learning Layers project. But in the follow-up phase I had only had a chance to make some occasional visits. As a contrast, I had not visited the vocational school BBS Wildeshausen before. Instead, I had had several conversations with one of the teachers who is also working in several projects of our institute. By joining the study visit group on Tuesday I had a chance to catch up with newer developments in Bau-ABC and to get live impressions from BBS Wildeshausen (of which I knew only via our talks in Bremen). Below, I will give a brief account of the visits in both places. In my next post I will outline some conclusions for my work in the ongoing EU-funded project TACCLE4-CPD.

Visiting the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup

At the training centre Bau-ABC Rostrup the delegation was interested in finding out, how such an intermediate (industry-supported) training centre has been embedded into the dual system of vocational education and training (VET). Here, the representatives of host organisation were able to give a picture of the mutual agreement of the Social Partners (employers’ confederations and trade unions) that such an intermediate learning venue was necessary in the construction sector. Likewise, they could explain funding arrangements and the organisational setting via which the industry and the craft trade companies were supporting the training centre. In addition, the visitors got a picture of the role of the training centre at different phases of apprentice training. Finally, the visitors got insights into the continuing vocational training (CVT) that provide a vocational progression route to managerial qualifications in the construction sector.

During our round tour at the workshops and outdoor training areas we could see, how the pedagogic ideas were put into practice.  We got impressions of apprentice training via holistic occupational work processes, of learners’ rotation from major learning areas to supporting areas and of the patterns of self-organised learning. In particular we had a chance to see, how a digital toolset (the Learning Toolbox) was used in delivering instructions and collecting apprentices’ project reports. Here we could see that  results of the EU-funded Learning Layers project were actually used to support training.

Visiting the vocational school BBS Wildeshausen

The second part of the visit was somewhat different, because only some teachers of the BBS Wildeshausen were present (the school holiday period had already started). Yet, we had a good possibility visit the integrated vocational learning facilities of different occupations. In Wildeshausen the school architecture had abolished the separation of classrooms, workshops and laboratories and instead provided integrated spaces. This was already a great support for integrating theoretical and practical learning. Yet, the major innovations that were presented to us were in the pedagogic sphere.

When describing the learners’ projects the teachers drew attention to the role of real occupational tasks and to controlling the quality by the learners themselves. Moreover, some projects engaged the learners in constructing devices that were needed in their training or in manufacturing products that could be used in the training. In the agricultural and automotive workshops we saw vehicles that had been constructed by nearby industries to make the functioning of the machinery more transparent (and to give easier access for diagnostic measures and repair work.

I guess this is enough of the observations during the field visit. The visitors from Namibia were very impressed and inspired. Since they were in a process to start new cooperation activities, the visit gave a lot of food for thought. As for me, I had joined them to make appointments with Bau-ABC trainers and teachers in BBS-Wildeshausen to discuss the next phase of my work in the TACCLE4-CPD project. And in this respect this was a very productive and helpful field visit. I will discuss my ideas and interim conclusions in my next post.

More blogs to come …

AI and vocational education and training

March 7th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I have been working on writing a proposal on Artificial Intelligence and teh training of teachers and trainers in Vocational Education and Training. So I’ve spent a few days chasing up on research on th subject. I can’t say a lot of it impresses me – there is a lot of vague marketing and business stuff out there which shows not much insight into education.

One blog post I did like was by Rose Luckin, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies, University College London Institute of Education’s Knowledge Lab, who has written an ‘Occasional Paper: The implications of Artificial Intelligence for teachers and schooling’, published on her blog.

Rose says there are three key elements that need to be introduced into the curriculum at different stages of education from early years through to adult education and beyond if we are to prepare people to gain the greatest benefit from what AI has to offer.

The first is that everyone needs to understand enough about AI to be able to work with AI systems effectively so that AI and human intelligence (HI) augment each other and we benefit from a symbiotic relationship between the two. For example, people need to understand that AI is as much about the key specification of a particular problem and the careful design of a solution as it is about the selection of particular AI methods and technologies to use as part of that problem’s solution.

The second is that everyone needs to be involved in a discussion about what AI should and should not be designed to do. Some people need to be trained to tackle the ethics of AI in depth and help decision makers to make appropriate decisions about how AI is going to impact on the world.

Thirdly, some people also need to know enough about AI to build the next generation of AI systems.

In addition to the AI specific skills, knowledge and understanding that need to be integrated into education in schools, colleges, universities and the workplace, there are several other important skills that will be of value in the AI augmented workplace. These skills are a subset of those skills that are often referred to as 21st century skills and they will enable an individual to be an effective lifelong learner and to collaborate to solve problems with both Artificial and Human intelligences.

Teachers tense and dissatisfied

February 27th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

The UK National Foundation for Educational (NFER) research have published the first of what they say will be an annual report on the state of the teacher Labour Market.

The Key Findings are as follows:

  • The secondary school system is facing a substantial teacher supply challenge over the next decade, which requires urgent action.
  • Retention rates of early-career teachers (between two and five years into their careers) have dropped significantly between 2012 and 2018.
  • Alternative sources of teacher supply, such as returners and overseas-trained teachers, have not increased in spite of the growing supply challenge.
  • One in five teachers (20 per cent) feel tense about their job most or all of the time, compared to 13 per cent of similar professionals. Two out of five teachers (41 per cent) are dissatisfied with their amount of leisure time, compared to 32 per cent of similar professionals.
  • Teaching’s traditional ‘recession-proof’ advantage over other professions has eroded over time due to a relatively strong graduate labour market. High job security for graduates outside of teaching makes it harder to attract them into teaching and retain them.

They say teachers’ working conditions are a fundamental lever to effecting change over teacher recruitment and retention.

The full report can be downloaded from the NFER website.

 

Digital Creative Arts Framework

February 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I am supposed to be adding resources on the Circular Economy for a new webs site for adult educators which we are helping develop. But as happens too often with digital media I got distracted by Twitter. It was a tweet from Dave White which did it. N was not quite sure what he was going on about but Dave White is always worth listening to.

Lots of discussion in our #teachcomUAL session again this week – thanks to @mattlingard. I’ll post the slides in the next couple of days.

The recording of the session: eu.bbcollab.com/recording/810f…

Temp location for the Digital Fieldwork activities is here: daveowhite.com/digifield1/ twitter.com/daveowhite/sta…

I followed the links and ending up on thetemp location’ web site.   And very interesting it is too. The Digital Creative Attributes framework developed at the University of the Arts London is designed to connecting high-level aspirations through to practical activity. These, Dave says,   are an extension of the Creative Attributes Framework at the UAL which lays out nine key attribute areas in three groups. The Digital Creative Attributes Framework (‘D-CAF’) is a framework which provides a shared language for staff, students and the creative industries and, amongst other things, can be used to articulate current curriculum in digital-practice terms.

The DCAF is released under  a Creative Commons licence and says Dave “It gives a good insight into the digital practices which underpin creative working and as such is relevant to anyone taking a creative approach to teaching and learning.”

 

Technology and pedagogic models for training teachers in developing countries

January 22nd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

My new year intentions to post more regularly here got disrupted quickly by a bad cold and a week of travel. But I’m back in the saddle. There are two major themes running through my work at the moment (and overlapping to an extent: initial teacher training and continuous professional development for teachers and trainers and the impact of new technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence of both education and employment. So, here is the first of a series of posts on those subjects (though probably not in any particular order).

I’ve been doing some research into the training of teachers in Sub Saharan Africa. The major issue is the shortage of qualified teachers, which is of such a scale that there seems little no hope of overcoming by tradition pre service teacher training institutions. Also scaling up provision through teacher training colleges is problematic due to the size of many African countries and the rural  nature of much of those countries. Part of the problem in many countries in Sub Saharan African countries is the lack of prestige in which teaching is held and the low pay for teachers. That being said, there still remains a major challenge in terms of training new teachers and in providing continuing professional development for existing teachers.

In this situation, it is little wonder that attention is focused on the use of ICT for teacher education. It is probably fair to say that despite the issues of connectivity and access to technology, Technology Enhanced Learning is seen as the only real answer for the shortage of teachers in many countries in the region. This is despite Infodev’s findings in its Knowledge Bank on the effective uses of Information and Communication Technology in education in developing countries that:

While much of the rhetoric (and rationale) for using ICTs to benefit education has focused on ICTs’ potential for bringing about changes in the teaching-learning paradigm, in practice, ICTs are most often used in education in LDCs to support existing teaching and learning practices with new (and, it should be noted, often quite expensive!) tools.

Infodev goes on to say:

While impact on student achievement is still a matter of reasonable debate, a consensus seems to argue that the introduction and use of ICTs in education can be a useful tool to help promote and enable educational reform, and that ICTs are both important motivational tools for learning and can promote greater efficiencies in education systems and practices.

Firstly, I must say my research is limited. But I have read the literature and reports and undertaken about 30 interviews with people in Africa working on various projects for developing capacity in teacher education. And it seems that possibly understandably the emergent model is blended learning combining short face to face training programmes with longer periods of online learning, whilst based in the school. Its not a bad model, especially if support for teachers while learning in the workplace (i.e. the school) is well designed and well supported. My worry is with the training for people supporting the school based learning. Essentially the projects appear to be adopting a cascade model. And although cascade models are attractive in terms of quickly scaling up learning, they can be ‘leaky’, breaking down at the weakest point in the cascade train.

I don’t think there are any immediate answers to this problem. I think we need more south-north dialogue and interchange if only that northern countries including in Europe face huge problems in providing professional development for teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. I also think we need to examine the different models more carefully,  especially in understanding the assumptions we are miking in designing new training and professional development provision. Without understanding the assumptions we cannot evaluate the success (or otherwise).

 

 

 

 

Five myths about education, debunked

January 4th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I just stumbled on a blog post by Andreas Schleicher, Director of Directorate for Education and Skills at OECD. He says one of the reasons why we get stuck in education is that our thinking is framed by so many myths and  debunks some of the most common.

  • “The poor will always do badly in school.” That’s not true: the 10% most disadvantaged kids in Shanghai do better in maths than the 10% most advantaged students in large American cities.
  • “Immigrants will lower the performance of a country on international comparisons.” That’s not true: there is no relationship between the share of immigrant students and the quality of an education system; and the school systems in which immigrant students settle matter a lot more than the country where they came from.
  • “Smaller classes mean better results.” That’s not true: whenever high-performing education systems have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter. Often it is small classes that have created the Taylorist culture where teachers end up doing nothing other than teaching, and don’t have the time to support individual students, collaborate with other teaching professionals or work with parents – activities that are hallmarks of high-performing education systems.
  • “More time spent learning always means better results.” That’s not true: students in Finland spend little more than around half the number of hours studying than what students in the United Arab Emirates spend; but students in Finland learn a lot in a short time, while students in the United Arab Emirates learn very little in a lot of time.
  • “The results in PISA are merely a reflection of culture.” That’s not true: rapidly improving education systems did not change their culture but their education policies and practices.

Foresight and the use of ICT for Learning

January 3rd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Time to return to the Wales Wide Web after something of a hiatus in November and December. And I am looking forward to writing regular posts here again.

New year is a traditional time for reviewing the past year and predicting the future. I have never really indulged in this game but have spent the last two days undertaking a “landscape study” as part of an evaluation contract I am working on. And one section of it is around emerging technologies and foresight. So here is that section. I lay no claim to scientific methodology or indeed to comprehensiveness – this is just my take on what is going on – or not – and what might go on. In truth, I think the main conclusion is that very little is changing in the use of ICT for learning (perhaps  more on that tomorrow).

There are at any time a plethora of innovations and emerging developments in technology with the potential to impact on education, both in terms of curriculum and skills demands but also in their potential for teaching and learning. At the same time, educational technology has a tendency towards a ‘hype’ cycle, with prominence for particular technologies and approaches rising and fading. Some technologies, such as virtual worlds fade and disappear; others retreat from prominence only to re-emerge in the future. For that reason, foresight must be considered not just in terms of emerging technologies but in likely future uses of technologies, some which have been around some time, in education.

Emerging innovations on the horizon at present include the use of Big Data for Learning Analytics in education and the use of AI for Personalised Learning (see below); and MOOCS continue to proliferate.

VLEs and PLEs

There is renewed interest in a move from VLEs to Personal Learning Environments (PLE), although this seems to be reflected more in functionality for personalising VLEs than the emergence of new PLE applications. In part, this may be because of the need for more skills and competence from learners for self-directed learning than for the managed learning environment provided by VLEs. Personal Learning Networks have tended to be reliant on social networking application such as Facebook and Twitter. These have been adversely affected by concerns over privacy and fake news as well as realisation of the echo effect such applications engender. At the same time, there appears to be a rapid increase in the use of WhatsApp to build personal networks for exchanging information and knowledge. Indeed, one area of interest in foresight studies is the appropriation of commercial and consumer technologies for educational purposes.

Multi Media

Although hardly an emerging technology, the use of multimedia in education is likely to continue to increase, especially with the ease of making video. Podcasting is also growing rapidly and is like to have increasing impact in the education sector. Yet another relatively mature technology is the provision of digital e-books which, despite declining commercial sales, offer potential savings to educational authorities and can provide enhanced access to those with disabilities.

The use of data for policy and planning

The growing power of ICT based data applications and especially big data and AI are of increasing importance in education.

One use is in education policy and planning, providing near real-time intelligence in a wide number of areas including future numbers of school age children, school attendance, attainment, financial and resource provision and for TVET and Higher Education demand and provision in different subjects as well as providing insights into outcomes through for instance post-school trajectories and employment. More controversial issues is the use of educational data for comparing school performance, and by parents in choosing schools for their children.

Learning Analytics

A further rapid growth area is Learning Analytics (LA). LA has been defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” [Reference] It is seen as assisting in informing decisions in education systems, promoting personalized learning and enabling adaptive pedagogies and practices. At least in the initial stages of development and use, Universities and schools have tended to harvest existing data drawn from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and to analyse that data to both predict individual performance and undertake interventions which can for instance reduce drop-out rates. Other potential benefits include that LA can, for instance, allow teachers and trainers to assess the usefulness of learning materials, to increase their understanding of the learning environment in order to improve it, and to intervene to advise and assist learners. Perhaps more importantly, it can assist learners in monitoring and understanding their own activities and interactions and participation in individual and collaborative learning processes and help them to reflect on their learning.

Pardo and Siemens (YEAR?) point out that “LA is a moral practice and needs to focus on understanding instead of measuring.” In this understanding:

“learners are central agents and collaborators, learner identity and performance are dynamic variables, learning success and performance is complex and multidimensional, data collection and processing needs to be done with total transparency.”

Although initially LA has tended to be based on large data sets already available in universities, school based LA applications are being developed using teacher inputted data. This can allow teachers and understanding of the progress of individual pupils and possible reasons for barriers to learning.

Gamification

Educational games have been around for some time. The gamification of educational materials and programmes is still in its infancy and likely to continue to advance.  Another educational technology due for a revival is the development and use of e-Portfolios, as lifelong learning becomes more of a reality and employers seek evidence of job seekers current skills and competence.

Bite sized Learning

A further response to the changing demands in the workplace and the need for new skills and competence is “bite–sized” learning through very short learning modules. A linked development is micro-credentialing be it through Digital Badges or other forms of accreditation.

Learning Spaces

As ICT is increasingly adopted within education there will be a growing trend for redesigning learning spaces to reflect the different ways in which education is organised and new pedagogic approaches to learning with ICT. This includes the development of “makerspaces”. A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing. Makerspaces typically provide access to a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, computer numerical control (CNC) machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Despite the hype around Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), the present impact on education appears limited although immersive environments are being used for training in TVET and augmented reality applications are being used in some occupational training. In the medium-term mixed reality may become more widely used in education.

Wearables

Similarly, there is some experimentation in the use of wearable devices for instance in drama and the arts but widespread use may be some time away.

Block Chain

The block chain has been developed for storing crypto currencies and is attracting interest form educational technologists. Block chain is basically a secure ledger allowing the secure recording of a chain of data transactions. It has been suggested as a solution to the verification and storage of qualifications and credentials in education and even for recording the development and adoption of Open Educational Resources. Despite this, usage in education is presently very limited and there are quite serious technical barriers to its development and wider use.

The growing power of ICT based data applications and especially big data and AI (see section 10, below) are of increasing importance in education.

The use of data for policy and planning

One use is in education policy and planning, providing near real-time intelligence in a wide number of areas including future numbers of school age children, school attendance, attainment, financial and resource provision and for TVET and Higher Education demand and provision in different subjects as well as providing insights into outcomes through for instance post-school trajectories and employment. More controversial issues is the use of educational data for comparing school performance, and by parents in choosing schools for their children.

Learning Analytics

A rapid growth area is Learning Analytics (LA). LA has been defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” [Reference] It is seen as assisting in informing decisions in education systems, promoting personalized learning and enabling adaptive pedagogies and practices. At least in the initial stages of development and use, Universities and schools have tended to harvest existing data drawn from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and to analyse that data to both predict individual performance and undertake interventions which can for instance reduce drop-out rates. Other potential benefits include that LA can, for instance, allow teachers and trainers to assess the usefulness of learning materials, to increase their understanding of the learning environment in order to improve it, and to intervene to advise and assist learners. Perhaps more importantly, it can assist learners in monitoring and understanding their own activities and interactions and participation in individual and collaborative learning processes and help them to reflect on their learning.

Pardo and Siemens point out that “LA is a moral practice and needs to focus on understanding instead of measuring.” In this understanding:

“learners are central agents and collaborators, learner identity and performance are dynamic variables, learning success and performance is complex and multidimensional, data collection and processing needs to be done with total transparency.”

Although initially LA has tended to be based on large data sets already available in universities, school based LA applications are being developed using teacher in putted data. This can allow teachers and understanding of the progress of individual pupils and possible reasons for barriers to learning.

Artificial Intelligence

In research undertaken for this report, a number of interviewees raised the importance of Artificial Intelligence in education (although a number also believed it to be over hyped).

A recent report from the EU Joint Research Council (2018) says 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.”

It goes on to say AI will have:

“profound impacts on future labour markets, competence requirements, as well as in learning and teaching practices. As educational systems tend to adapt to the requirements of the industrial age, AI could make some functions of education obsolete and emphasize others. It may also enable new ways of teaching and learning.”

However, the report also considers that “How this potential is realized depends on how we understand learning, teaching and education in the emerging knowledge society and how we implement this understanding in practice.” Most importantly, the report says, “the level of meaningful activity—which in socio-cultural theories of learning underpins advanced forms of human intelligence and learning—remains beyond the current state of the AI art.”

Although AI systems are well suited to collecting informal evidence of skills, experience, and competence from open data sources, including social media, learner portfolios, and open badges, this creates both ethical and regulatory challenges. Furthermore, there is a danger that AI could actually replicate bad pedagogic approaches to learning.

The greatest potential of many of these technologies may be for informal and non-formal learning, raising the challenge of how to bring together informal and formal learning and to recognise the learning which occurs outside the classroom.

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    News Bites

    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.


    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


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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