Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

What is Machine Learning

January 20th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

What is machine learning header

I am copying this from Stephen Downes’ ever informative OLDaily newsletter digest. It features an article entitled What is machine learning? – A beginner’s guide posted on the FutureLearn website.

This is quite a good introduction to machine learning. If you don’t know what it is and would like a quick no-nonsense introduction, this is it. Machine learning is depicted “as the science of getting computers to learn automatically.” It’s a type of artificial intelligence, which means essentially that they are software systems that “operate in an intentional, intelligent, and adaptive manner.” The third point is the most important, because it means they can change their programming based on experience and changing circumstances. The article talks about some types of machine learning systems and outlines some application in the field. It’s FutureLearn, so at the end it recommends some course tracks for people interested in making this a career, and just to dangle a carrot, the web page lets you know the median base salary and number of job opening for the program in question.

Subscriptions to streaming learning provision

January 19th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

Soon after MOOCs had burst onto the scene, I was talking to a senior manager at a UK university. He was charged with leading their development of MOOCs. But despite his enthusiasm,he thought he would only be given two or three years to get things right. And the big thing he had to get right was making money.

And so it has been for the last ten years. There have been a whole number of attempts to make money out of MOOCs. One popular measure has been to charge for certification. The problem with that is that many who enroll on a MOOC really are not that concerned about the certificate. And others may wonder just how much traction a MOOC certificate has on the labour market, even if from a renowned university or university alliance. Another way of raising funds is to allow access to a MOOC for a period after it has finished for a fee. Of course the early MOOC providers generally just turned themselves into commercial online course providers, with a pivot towards continuing professional development,especially towards technical knowledge and skills.

Europe’s largest MOOC provider FutureLearn, an alliance of organisations led by the UK open University,has tried quite a few of these ideas. And now they are enhancing their paid for provision, albeit with an interesting spin.

“You’ve probably heard of music, TV, fitness, and even snack subscriptions,” they say, “but what about a subscription to learning?”

Whilst the world was already well on its way to being filled with subscription-loving societies, the COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged our desire for easy, affordable access to the things we love without setting foot outside the front door.

Our way of achieving this at FutureLearn is by offering flexible, career-focused, and fun learning experiences online.

Our brand-new learning subscription model,, offers you the chance to build expert knowledge and workplace skills entirely on your own terms.

In an explanation of Learning Subscriptions which they, describe as “the learning of 2020, they say:

Learning on demand refers to the kind of learning where you have access to educational content at any time or in any place. The learner, therefore, has control over their learning and gets to plan and create their own educational journey. A model like this differs from a typical in-person learning model due to its flexibility and because it requires less of a financial and personal commitment.

So is this really something new and does it require less commitment?

ExpertTracks -the FutureLearn implementation of Learning Subscriptions

are carefully curated series of online courses that focus on specific areas of learning. They’re designed to help you fast-track your studies across various topics, subject areas, and industries.

You’ll find ExpertTracks on a diverse range of topics, including ones such as blended learning, getting started with SEO, and fintech innovations. From the basics of psychology to the teaching of practical science, you can develop your skills to match your career aspirations. …..

with each ExpertTrack, you’ll complete at least 20 hours of learning time, often from a top educational or business institution.

The ExpertTracks look to me like a series of repackaged MOOCs, designed for continuing professional development. But of course one of the things about MOOCs is they were free and have played a big role in opening up education. The cost per month per ExpertTrack is 36 British pounds.

I am sure many of these online courses (because that is what they are) will be very good. But all in all I can’t help thinking this is yet another go at marketising MOOCs. And I am not sure that people are going to ought up 36 pounds a month to Open Learn for professional development which if we are serious about promoting and supporting skills development should be for free.

 

AI and Edge computing

January 7th, 2021 by Graham Attwell
ball, abstract, pattern

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

A recent MIT Technology Review Insights reports on a survey of 301 business and technology leaders around their use and future planned us of Artificial Intelligence. The survey confirms that the deployment of AI is increasing, not only in large companies but also in SMEs. It also points to the emergence of what is known as edge  comput9ing, using a variety of devices closer to the applied use than cloud computing allows and capable of near real time processing.

38% report of those surveyed report their AI investment plans are unchanged as a result of the pandemic, and 32% indicate the crisis has accelerated their plans. The percentages of unchanged and revved-up AI plans are greater at organizations that had an AI strategy already in place.

AI is not a new addition to the corporate technology arsenal: 62% of survey respondents are using AI technologies. Respondents from larger organizations (those with more than $500 million in annual revenue) have, at nearly 80%, higher deployment rates. Small organizations (with less than $5 million in revenue) are at 58%, slightly below the average.

Cloud-based AI also allows organizations to operate in an ecosystem of collaborators that includes application developers, analytics companies, and customers themselves.

But while the cloud provides significant AI-fueled advantages for organizations, an increasing number of applications have to make use of the infrastructural capabilities of the “edge,” the intermediary computing layer between the cloud and the devices that need computational power.

Asked to rank the opportunities that AI provides them, respondents identify AI-enabled insight as the most important (see Figure 2). Real-time decision-making is the biggest opportunity, regardless of an organization’s size: AI’s use in fast, effective decision-making is the top-ranked priority for large and small organizations.

For small ones, though, it is tied to the need to use AI as a competitive differentiator.

Again, the need for real-time data or predictive tools is a requirement that could drive demand for edge-based AI resources.

Survey respondents indicate that AI is being used to enhance current and future performance and operational efficiencies: research and development is, by a large margin, the most common current use for AI, used by 53% of respondents, integrating AI-based analytics into their product and service development processes. Anomaly detection and cybersecurity are the next-most-deployed AI applications.

Large organizations have additional priorities: 54% report heavy use of robotic process automation to streamline business processes traditionally done by humans, and 41% use AI in sales and business forecasting. For organizations with AI strategies, 40% rely on robotic process automation, and 42% use AI to estimate future sales.

Word of the Day

January 7th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

Rather than comment on the goings on in America yesterday, I will leave it to Susie Dent and her extremely timely Word of the Day tweet.

Basic digital skills

January 5th, 2021 by Graham Attwell
student, typing, keyboard

StartupStockPhotos (CC0), Pixabay

Happy new year  to you all and the first post of the year comes from the Marchmont Employment and Skills Observatory monthly mailing.

A new survey has found that many people are still lacking basic digital skills during lockdown. Most people have had no recent help to improve their digital skills, despite the pandemic moving personal and professional life online. Some 83% of UK adults said they had not received any support to improve their tech skills over the last six months, the poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT found.

Most offers of help with digital skills came from employers (57%), over a quarter (28%) from family and friends and 13% from organisations like government and training providers. Asked about specific software, nearly a third (31%) of people are not confident with basic data management using an Excel spreadsheet, the professional body for IT reported

. The research follows an issue with the NHS track and trace system where people testing positive for COVID-19 were not recorded once an Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum capacity.

 

MOOCs and Artificial Intelligence – Potentials for the Professional Development of VET Teachers and Trainers

December 21st, 2020 by Graham Attwell
processor, cpu, computer

ColiN00B (CC0), Pixabay

It does not seem likely that we are going to participate in any face to face conferences in the near future. But conferences are continuing online and in some ways there are increased opportunities for sharing ideas and knowledge. Anyway that was a preamble for the latest abstract that I, together with Sohia Roppertz and Ludger Dietmer have submitted for the 4th Crossing Boundaries on Vocational Education and Training in 2021.

1        Introduction

The growing use of Artificial intelligence (AI) and other technological innovations are leading to a fundamental change in the world of work, as tasks previously performed by humans can now potentially be performed/assisted by computers and computer-controlled machines (Brynjolfsson & McAffee, 2014; Dengler & Matthes ,2018).

This digital transformation places VET under high pressure to adapt (Seufert, 2018), to provide professional action competence within non academic technical, social, commercial and other occupations. VET schools and their teachers and trainers have the central task of preparing learners for the changing world of work.  Technological change also is impacting the organisation of  VET schools through the introduction of big data and e-government and at the implementation level in connection with e.g. adaptive learning systems and learning analytics (Seufert 2018).

Against this background, the question arises how vocational school teachers and trainers can be prepared for these tasks. While a survey undertaken through the Taccle AI project found most vocational teachers and trainers recognised the importance of AI, there are presently few opportunities for professional development (Author, forthcoming).

This paper reports on work in progress through the EU Erasmus Plus funded Taccle AI project examining the impact of AI on Vocational Education and Training, led by the University of Bremen Following initial research and the development of a Resource Toolkit, the project is developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), to be offered in English and  Germany and expected to be launched May 2021.

In section two of the paper we will examine the vision behind MOOCs and in section three will look at the different dimensions of a MOOC for professional development for teachers and trainers around AI. This will be followed by a discussion of how cooperative and project related MOOC design can support teachers and trainers in developing their professional practice. Finally we will draw some initial conclusions based on our work.

  1.       Theoretical background

The first MOOC, led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes was in 2008 around the topic of Connectivism. According to Downes (2012) it was based on the realization that the use of distributed open resources would support – with ease – an attendance in the thousands. The vision grew out of the idea of Open Education, where everybody could access free online courses. The idea quickly took off, especially with the launch of Coursera and Udacity. Although the founders of these companies saw their innovation as disruptive to traditional education institutions, universities have been quick to pick up on the potential of MOOCs. In Europe one of the biggest MOOC providers is OpenLearn, through the UK Open University leading a consortium of educational providers.

2.1       Vision behind MOOCs

There has been and continues to be discussion over pedagogic approach to MOOC design, with advocates of so called cMoocs emphasising the active contribution of participants, using digital platforms and technologies while so called xMOOCs, for example from Stanford University, are more focused on the transmission of knowledge.

MOOCs are increasingly being used for professional development, for instance by companies like Siemens, and for teachers and trainers.

  1. MOOCs and AI – two dimensions

There are two key dimensions to the AI MOOC.

3.1       MOOCs as a Way to Learn about AI

The first is MOOCs as a way to learn about AI. This in turn has three key foci. After an initial introduction the course will examine both the impact of AI on the Changing world of Work and its implications in terms of skills, tasks and consequently curriculum. The second focus will be on the use of AI for teaching and learning in VET. The final section will examine the ethical implications of AI for VET.

3.2       Artificial Intelligence powered MOOCs

The second key dimension will be the integration of AI into the MOOC platform. While this work is still under development it is intended to incorporate Natural Language processing for the production of materials and Learning Analytics within the MOOC Platform.

  1.             Implementation of cooperative and project related (more interactive) MOOCs design in professional development of VET teachers and trainers

New forms of learning are needed for AI in VET. MOOCs including practice and project-based learning can be used both in VET courses and for training teachers and trainers. The paper will discuss how MOOCs can be designed through a new didactical approach to teaching and learning.

The article will explore the concept of additional qualifications within apprenticeship training and how such concepts can be adapted to different European vocational settings. It will show how the new arrangements affect the teaching and learning of  VET students (e.g. mechatronic apprentices), and new roles for VET teachers and trainers. Discussion will be based around examples, for instance the mechatronic students are working and learning in school based and training factory labs themselves developing AI projects (Author et Al, 2020a). This functional learning material allows student teams to plan, prepare, realize and demonstrate projects in which for example autonomous driving or robot functions are programmed, tested and presented to bigger audiences. These practice based developments will be incorporated in the MOOC.

  1. Conclusions

This paper will examine the question of whether MOOCs are suitable for the continuing education of VET teachers and trainers in the context of Artificial Intelligence. It will also clarify what kind of MOOCs types and settings can be connected to projects, how MOOCs can be implemented by VET teachers and trainers and how they have to be structurally designed in didactical terms. This includes the question how teachers and trainers have to be prepared for such new learning arrangements in order to develop vocationally oriented MOOCss (Author at Al, 2020b).

References

Author, Bekiaridis, G., Author., Tutlys, T., Perini, M., Roppertz, S., & Tutlys, V. (2020a). Artificial Intelligence in Policies, Processes and Practices of Vocational Education and Training. Institut Technik und Bildung. https://doi.org/10.26092/elib/307

Author, Author., Tutlys, T., Author, & Perini, Marco. (2020b). Digitalisation, artificial intelligence and vocational occupations and skills: What are the needs for training teachers and trainers? In C. Nägele, B. E. Stalder, & N. Kersh (Eds.), Trends in vocational education and training research, Vol. III. Proceedings of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Vocational Education and Training Network (VETNET) (pp. 30–42). https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4005713

Downes, S. 2012, The Rise of MOOCs, https://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=57911, accessed 15 December, 2020

Brynjolfsson, E., & McAfee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. WW Norton & Company.

Dengler, K. & Matthes, B. (2018). Substituierbarkeitspotenzial von Berufen. Wenige Berufsbilder halten mit der Digitalisierung Schritt. IAB-Kurzbericht.

Seufert, S. (2018). Flexibilisierung der Berufsbildung im Kontext fortschreitender Digitalisierung. Bericht im Auftrag des Staatssekretariats für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation SBFI im Rahmen des Projekts «Berufsbildung 2030 – Vision und Strategische Leitlinien» Zugriff unter: https://edudoc.ch/record/132323 (1.12.2020)

Author, (forthcoming). Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Education and Training – Perspective of German VET teachers. Proceedings of the European Distance and E-Learning Network Research Workshop, 2020 Lisboa, 21 – 23 October 2020.)

Does only AI make a good university?

December 10th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
town musicians of bremen, cat, dog

Clker-Free-Vector-Images (CC0), Pixabay

Plans for a dedicated AI university campus in Bremen are causing a controversy. The plan is backed by a consortium  of German software giant SAP, Chinese IT firm Neusoft and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.

It is intended to take over the Jacobs University, a private university in the north of the city founded in 1999. The university has been funded up to now by the food company Jacobs, but they have announced they are ceasing their financial support. The university has always been controversial with questions over the need for a private university competing withe the state funded Bremen University.

THE reports that the Bremen government hopes that a dedicated AI campus will boost the local economy, attracting skilled workers and companies, although the city and firms involved have not yet drawn up detailed plans.

But there are fears from academics at Jacobs that the university, which sells itself on its interdisciplinary campus, will end up with too narrow a focus.

“AI is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Professor Bau. “The big question is: only AI, does that actually make a good university? Universities and university education are something that does not have a small focus.”

Developing Competences for the AI Era

December 1st, 2020 by Graham Attwell

UNESCO are increasingly active in the development in the use of Artificial Intelligence in Education. Next week – 7 and 8 of December they are hosting an International Forum on AI and the Futures of Education (AIED). The theme of the Forum is  Developing Competencies for the AI Era. the Forum will bring togther education and technology experts from around the world to discuss AI skills for the futures of education and AI as a common good for education. UNESCO say participants will share policies and practices in defining the competencies required in the AI era, and examine strategies to prepare all people to live and work with AI effectively.

“The concept of futures in the plural is used to recognize that there is a rich diversity of ways of knowing and being around the world. The plural form also acknowledges that there are multiple dimensions to the future and that there will likely be various desirable and undesirable futures – all of which will vary greatly depending on who you are and where you stand. Rather than attempting to chart a single future, looking at futures in the plural validates multiple possible and desirable futures of humanity on our shared planet.

The Futures of Education initiative aims to generate discussion and action on the role of education, knowledge and learning in view of the predicted, possible and preferred futures. Such re-visioning of knowledge, education and learning is more relevant than ever. Accelerated technology transformations over recent years, in particular in the field of Artificial Intelligence, and their rapid deployment in work, life and learning have profound implications for the futures of education. The Forum will provide an opportunity to discuss these implications and the transformative potential of AI on education.”

Attendance is free and participants can register at https://aiedforum.org/#/home.

Workshop on Ai and Vocational Education as part of European Vocational Skills Week

November 9th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

This week is European Vocational Skills Week.

And as a partner of the European Vocational Skills Week the Taccle AI project, is organising an online workshop on “Artificial Intelligence for and in VET” on Tuesday 10 November 15:00 – 16:30 CET. Our Taccle AI project partners from five European countries will welcome you.

About the Workshop:

AI is particularly important for vocational education and training (VET) as it promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. Not only are some jobs vulnerable and new jobs likely to be created but there will be changing tasks and roles within jobs, requiring changes in initial and continuing training, for those in work as well as those seeking employment. 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.

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

In our workshop we will explore these issues with short inputs and breakout sessions for discussion by participants around key issues.

Register now (here)!

Rwanda teachers on how to safely reopen schools

October 22nd, 2020 by Graham Attwell
covid, covid-2019, covid-19

artpolka (CC0), Pixabay

The issue of safe reopening of schools after lockdowns in the Covid 19 pandemic is contentious in many countries, including the UK. Equally there is a debate going on as to how students can be supported in catching up with missed learning

One of the most interesting report I have seen was posted to the UNESCO ICT CFT Champions network. This is a WhatsApp group bringing together researchers, teachers and trainers predominantly from Africa but also from the wider world.

Vincent from Rwanda posted to the group. explaining that the Rwandan Ministry of Education is planning for schools to reopen after closing due to the COVID 19 pandemic and proposes a gradual reopening of schools with  an emphasis on the well being of both students, teachers school administration sand the entire community. A questionnaire survey composed of multiple choice questions was administered to teachers to understand their viewpoint on the safe reopening of schools.

Sadly the graphic files downloaded from my phone are two small to be clear. But, asked, following an extend period of school closure what in their opening will be the most effective to manage learning loss as a result of Covid 19 the survey had the following results:

  • Providing teacher training 26.6%
  • Motivating students 13,7%
  • Offering remedial catch-up programs and accelerated progams 27.3%
  • Conducting continuous assessment focusing on lesson assessment and end unit assessment 9,7%
  • Adoption of blended learning *both face to face ad online program 22.7%

And asked what in their opinion would be the most challenging aspects of implementing safe school opening, the following were the results:

  • Providing hand washing facilities ins schools 10%
  • Ensuring social / physical distancing, equitable access and quality 41.5%
  • Providing face masks 5.2%
  • Double shifts to allow physical distancing among the students 18.8%
  • Raising awareness among students, teachers schools administrators about the importance of health and hygiene 24.5%
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    News Bites

    Racial bias in algorithms

    From the UK Open Data Institute’s Week in Data newsletter

    This week, Twitter apologised for racial bias within its image-cropping algorithm. The feature is designed to automatically crop images to highlight focal points – including faces. But, Twitter users discovered that, in practice, white faces were focused on, and black faces were cropped out. And, Twitter isn’t the only platform struggling with its algorithm – YouTube has also announced plans to bring back higher levels of human moderation for removing content, after its AI-centred approach resulted in over-censorship, with videos being removed at far higher rates than with human moderators.


    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

    The gap between poor students and their more affluent peers attending university has widened to its largest point for 12 years, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

    Better-off pupils are significantly more likely to go to university than their more disadvantaged peers. And the gap between the two groups – 18.8 percentage points – is the widest it’s been since 2006/07.

    The latest statistics show that 26.3% of pupils eligible for FSMs went on to university in 2018/19, compared with 45.1% of those who did not receive free meals. Only 12.7% of white British males who were eligible for FSMs went to university by the age of 19. The progression rate has fallen slightly for the first time since 2011/12, according to the DfE analysis.


    Quality Training

    From Raconteur. A recent report by global learning consultancy Kineo examined the learning intentions of 8,000 employees across 13 different industries. It found a huge gap between the quality of training offered and the needs of employees. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent said they , with only 16 per cent of employees finding the learning programmes offered by their employers effective.


    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!


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