Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Learning Analytics for Vocational Education and Training

July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I have just spent an hour or so on a periodic search for research and development about Workplace Learning Analytics and the use of Learning Analytics in the public sector. As usual the results are pretty thin – although I think the slowly growing interest in the links between learning design and Learning Analytics may come in handy in the future.

The one thing which did interest me was a report of a workshop organised by Jisc with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce “to explore significant opportunities for improving access to data, and analytical capacity, in the face of the significant changes that are taking place across further education and training, skills commissioning and apprenticeship provision and funding.”

Of course, some of this is very UK specific in terms of the commissioning and funding models and are focused particularly at Further Education institutions. But some of the approaches  would appear more transferable for work based learning in general.

As part of the Further Education initiative, Jisc have been developing a series of user stories. The breadth and depth of the stories were extended at the workshop. Paul Bailey from the Jisc Learning Analytics project explains: “The user stories that were prioritised were around using analytics to

  • help learners to improve retention, achievement of grades and make informed decisions regarding their next destinations
  • improve the quality of learning and teaching, including looking at the curriculum design and use of rich content in online learning
  • improve college support processes to improve retention and provide effective careers service to support progression
  • understand the employer demand to better plan curriculum and recruitment
  • track finance and quality to remain competitive.”

In general these priorities apply across the initial vocational and education training sector (particularly for apprenticeships). However they don’t really work for public sector organisations which are largely focused on continuing training and professional development and which have different institutional and organisations aims and purposes than vocational colleges. But I like the story telling approach which could be a good way of exploring the potential of Learning Analytics in these organisations.

The return of printed books

July 25th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The various reports (see for example this article in BoingBoing) detailing the upturn in the sale of printed books in the UK, and a corresponding downturn in the sales of e-books are interesting, if only because it shows that trends towards digital products are not irreversible.

And although I eagerly embraced the ebook trend, I find myself increasingly buying traditional books. Why? Firstly, I think a book is just more enjoyable as a product, as a design artefact. Secondly, whilst I bought an early Kindle, I refuse to be tied in to Amazons social and economic ecosystem. I use a Android tablet now as an ebook reader and it generally works OK, but can be fiddly with different formats and finding downloads (NB Verso books has the answer – providing multiple formats, no DRM locks, and a variety of means of accessing copies). However, the tablet screen is not really readable in bright light, which certainly is a disadvantage in southern European countries.

I very much like the Chrome plugin allowing users to browse books on Amazon and then providing information on where they can be bought in the nearest bookshop. But although Amazon’s recommender system was a novelty at first, that novelty has worn out. It is just too damn predictable: the joy of bookshop browsing is in finding the unexpected and of course the ability to read the first few pages before deciding whether to buy. From a research point of view I find it much easier to recall where in a paper book the quote or section I want is, although that is probably my incompetence with productivity tools in electronic media.

And just like record shops, independent bookshops are upping their game, becoming more community and event oriented. It is difficult, if not impossible, for online bookshops to compete on these terms (although once more Verso does a pretty good job).

So I am not surprised at the return of the book but I wonder which sector or product is next in line for reverse digital disruption (unflipping the classroom)?

Brexit, universities and research

July 21st, 2016 by Graham Attwell

bannerEmptyH2020Much of the concern expressed by UK universities regarding Brexit is linked to free movement of researchers and to the loss of income from European funded research. these are important issues and while Brexit campaigners promised national money to meet any funding shortfall, the credibility of such promises is doubtful.

But there are other important issues raised from the probable exclusion, or at least downgrading, of UK institutions in European funded projects. In the 40 or so years since the UK joined the European Union, research has changed. The days of the lone researcher, labouring away in their office or laboratory are long gone. Research today is largely comprised of distributed and cross disciplinary teams, often at a large scale. Internet technologies have facilitated communication between distributed teams and made knowledge sharing much easier. Not only does Brexit threaten to isolate researchers in the UK from participating in such projects, but it also makes the UK institutions less attractive for ambitious researchers. And at the same time, especially in an age of austerity, core national funding for full time researchers has been greatly reduced, with the rise of short term appointments based on European and other project based research funding.

Of course European funding is not perfect. As with any such funding programme, the bureaucracy can be annoying (to say the least). Competition to get projects is high. And the short term nature of project funding often condemns promising prototypes to a silo, whilst seeking more resources to continue the work. Despite various attempts by the EU to prompt sustainability, research exploitation routes remain perilous. But one of the great benefits of the European research programmes in education has been for professional development, although this is rarely or ever picked up in evaluation reports. Many of those leading research and teaching in European universities today have benefited from the informal learning from discourse and exchange with peers in different countries. Exclusion from that opportunity for UK researchers will be one of the greatest losses for education from Brexit.

 

New book: Empowering Change in European Public Employment Services

July 18th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

employid bookReaders familiar with European Research projects will know how they work. The projects negotiate with the European Commission a DOW – Description of Work – which details the work to be undertaken in each year of the project. It is divided into discrete work packages. Every year the work package provides a (usually over lengthy) report on research and development undertaken which is then presented to a team of expert reviewers who can ‘pass’, recommend changes or ‘fail’ the report. Although obviously large scale multi national research projects need structures and plans. But all too often the work package structure separates research and development activities which should not be separated and the DOW become a restrictive ‘bible’, rather than a guide for action. And despite the large amount of work which goes into preparing the work package reports, they are seldom widely read (if indeed read at all), except by the reviewers.

In the EmployID project which is working with identity transformation in European Public Employment Services (PES), we are doing things differently. The work is structured though cross work package teams, who follow an adapted SCRUM structure. The teams are reviewed at face to face meetings and recomposed if necessary. And this year, instead of producing a series of Work package reports, the project partners have jointly contributed to a book – Empowering Change in Public Employment Services: The EmployID Approach which has just been published and can be downloaded for free.

The introduction to the 244 page PDF book explains the background to the work:

European Public Employment Services (PES) and their employees are facing fundamental challenges to the delivery of efficient and effective services and the need to change their strategies to combat high unemployment, demographic change in increasingly uncertain and dynamic labour markets. This does not only require developing new professional skills related to new tasks, but poses for more profound developmental challenges for staff members.

Three of these changes relate to understanding the changing world of work; a ‘turn’ towards coaching; and the increased importance of relations with employers. The staff need to learn new ways of working, with a major challenge being to enhance the power of collaborative (peer) learning in order to support staff in accomplishing their goals.

All these changes are linked to transforming professional identity, which requires learning on a deeper level that is often neglected by continuing professional development strategies. EmployID makes its contribution here; that PES practitioners’ learning related to professional identity transformation needs to be facilitated through social learning approaches and the nurturing of social learning networks, which include the following:

  • Reflection as a way of turning one’s own and others’ experiences into general insights on multiple levels, both from an individual and a collective perspective

  • Peer coaching as a way of helping learners in changing their behavior through a structured process

  • Social learning programmes as a way of engaging learners with new topics, other perspectives, and conversations around it.

Supporting start up businesses

July 5th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

 

 

 

 

One of the best things about Twitter is the ability to follow links to all kinds of things you probably would never have been to without it. And so I find in my notes somewhere the link to an article in Quartz – an online magazine (?) about which I know nothing. The link is to a loosely researched article about entrepreneurism – making the point that there is not much thing as an entrepreneurial gene but rather propensity to take risk and to set up new businesses is more like to be related to access to money – in other words to class.

The article, attributed to REUTERS/Allison Joyce, quotes University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubinstein who “analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.”

Entrepreneurship is all the trend in Europe at the moment, especially in the recession and austerity hit southern countries, where setting up a business is seen as one of the few ways of getting a job. However the rhetoric seems to overplay the potential of technology (everyone can be the next Steve Jobs!), whilst ignoring sectors of the economy such as tourism which probably represent better opportunities within the existing labour market.

At the same time programmes such as the EU Youth Guarantee fund are being used to set up support agencies for young people wishing to set ups their own business and we are seeing the increasing emergence of co-working spaces for new enterprises. But anecdotal evidence – and some reports although I cannot find them at the moment – suggest that many of these businesses are struggling to survive beyond the first one or two years. In austerity Europe bank capital remains hard to come by and most young people do not have access to their own funds to consolidate and explained their business. Although initiatives like the EU SME programme are very welcome, access to such funding is not simple and anyway the amount of grants on offer are simply insufficient. As European politicians slowly wake up to the disaster austerity policies have wrought, then establishing better support for new businesses should be a priority, tied to easy access to small business start up capital.

Understanding that Brexit vote

July 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Many of my friends from outside the UK have asked me however could people have voted for Brexit. And I have read countless newspaper columnists and analysts asking the smae question (with usually not very profound answers). The best explanation I have come across was posted by Ron Johnston, Kelvyn Jones and Davidn in an article entitled Predicting the Brexit vote: getting the geography right (more or less) on the London School of Economics Politics and Policy blog. Using a large body of polling data collected by YouGov they had earlier this year pointed to “clear evidence suggesting that young people and those with higher-level educational qualifications were much more likely to support Remain, whereas older voters and those with few or no qualifications were much more likely to support Leave.”-And despite they misread the likely outcome of the referendum, their findings largely tie up with a post referendum analysis of the results. Following a detailed analysis they find that:

There are substantial parts of the country where large numbers of people have lost out from the deindustrialisation and globalisation of the last few decades of neo-liberal economic policies, and where the educational system has not helped large proportions of the young to equip themselves for the new labour market. Increasing numbers in these disadvantaged groups were won over during the last few decades by the campaigns in parts of the print media, taken up by UKIP since the 1990s, linking their situations to the impact of immigration – uncontrollable because of the EU freedom of movement of labour principle.

From this they conclude that “class, as expressed through educational achievements, delivered Brexit.”

Linking austerity (which has done nothing good for the vast majority of people in the UK) to the growing inequalities in the education system is important to understanding the Brexit vote. Of course the vote can be seen as an attempt to kick the ruling Tory party toffs. Yet it is very hard to argue for the EU, given that they have been one of the major transnational proponents of austerity.

However, I have some reservations about the idea that “the educational system has not helped large proportions of the young to equip themselves for the new labour market”. On the one hand this is obviously true. But the problem is that the new labour market is largely comprised of low paid and insecure jobs, mainly in the service sector. Many of those who have been able to pay for an increasingly expensive university degree are working in what are classified as non degree jobs. Education and the labour market have to be understood as parts of a symbiotic system. Education alone will not change the reality of lack of opportunity in deindustrialised areas of the UK. Lack of opportunity for meaningful and adequately paid employment and lack of educational opportunity are two sides of the same coin in a currency called austerity.

We are not going away

July 4th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

I just checked the company documents. Pontydysgu was set up on 3 February 1999. In that time our work has moved from Vocational Education and Training to embrace the use of technology for teaching and learning, working around careers, knowledge development and sharing in organisations and much more. And whilst our core staff remains largely unchanged we have employed interns from all over Europe and wider afield, including Wales (of course), Romania, India, Greece and Portugal as well as the UK. We have worked with training organisations, libraries, universities, schools, NGOs and enterprises from across the European Union, we employ staff in Germany and Spain.

Brexit poses an existential threat to the future of our organisation. It is not just that the EU is a major funder of many of the projects and contracts that we working on. It threatens our whole pattern of collaborative research and development and our ability to develop the long lasting partnerships with individuals and organisations from all over Europe on which our work rests.

But we are not going away. Of course we, like many other UK based organisations, are exploring the option of setting up a company based in an EU country (or countries). In the meantime, with so much political uncertainly we will continue to work on our current projects and to seek new partnerships. And we would like to thank the many friends who have contacted us expressing their regret at the outcome of the referendum and their solidarity and determination and commitment to work with us in the future.

Skills shortages and skills gaps

June 15th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

 

 

The London School of Economics politics and policy blog is well worth following or anyone interested in Labour Market information and Intelligence. A recent article by Scott Hurrell looked at the outcomes of the 2015 Employer Skills Survey ESS), run by UKCES.

Scott explains “Two of the most important indicators measured by the ESS, are skills shortages and skills gaps, collectively known as skills deficits.  The former exists where an employer reports at least one vacancy that is hard to fill because applicants lack the correct skills, qualifications and/or experience. The latter exists where employers report that they have at least one employee who is not fully proficient at their job. Skills shortages are thus a barometer for skills supply in the labour market whilst skills gaps reflect employers’ internal skills needs. Six per cent of employers reported skills shortages in the 2015 ESS, whilst 14 per cent of employers reported skills gaps. The survey revealed that skills deficits consisted of a range of soft (e.g. social and interpersonal) and hard (e.g., technical) skills.”

The problem is making sense of such a survey. the article discusses research into skills gap often based on differences of perceptions by those answering the survey, usually HR specialists. In my own (limited) experience employers are rarely aware of the range of skills employees possess. In the MatureIP project we introduced an APP allowing staff to recommend the skills of their co-workers. I was very dubious that this would be accepted by the staff but was proved wrong – they were happy and excited to recommend others for their skills and knowledge. Sadly the pilot was in a careers company in England that was closed down before we could test the app for an extended period and since then I have nots seen anyone else take up the idea.

One big issue is what employers do over identified skills gaps. One problem within hierarchal work places (which still dominate employment) is the lack of opportunity for autonomous decision making and for practising new skills. I suspect many skills deficiencies could be overcome by informal work based learning but that would require changes in work practices and an element of designing the work environment to support learning – a move still radical in todays austerity coloured world.

A final note – despite the caveats over how the survey is interpreted it is a valuable tool for exploring further. UKCES is now being shut down due to the withdrawal of  government funding and it would be a pity if the ESS disappeared along with it.

Informal Learning @ Work

June 10th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

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Picture: Gothick

On Monday 20 June I am helping to run a knowledge exchange workshop in Bristol, UK. The workshop is fee to participants and there are still a few spaces left. Details are below – register at EventBrite if you would like to participate.

More than 70 per cent of all we learn comes from informal learning in the workplace. Yet despite increasing recognition of the importance of workplace learning in a time of fast changing technologies, work organisation and labour markets, little effort has been made to promote and support informal learning.

Perhaps one of the reason for this is it has previously proven hard to track learning in workplace contexts, let alone to promote the collaboration, creativity and teamwork so much modern work requires.

This workshop is based on work undertaken in the Learning Layers project and is intended to discuss these issues. Conceptualised as a knowledge exchange event, it is organised around short pitches and a hands on exhibition.

The workshop takes place on June 20th from 10am to 5pm at Armada House in Bristol. University of West England Vice Deputy Chancellor Prof. Jane Harrington will open the event.

We want to show you the work we have done and discuss with you whether the tools and applications we have developed might be useful in your work and learning context. We also want to hear from you about your needs and to exchange any ideas and tools you might have for supporting informal learning.

We are piloting our tools in different settings such as Healthcare, Construction sector, Creative Industries and Higher Education:

  • Confer – an application for teams to explore ideas and reach decisions
  • Learning Toolbox – a flexible mobile based, context aware application for supporting learning in practice
  • Bits and Pieces – a web based program for collecting and making sense out of informal learning experiences at work
  • Ach So! And ZoP – mobile based peer to peer video annotation tools
  • Living Documents – a shared document creation environment

Entry is free but places are limited so please register by following the link below if you wish to attend. Coffee and a buffet lunch will be provided, with an informal reception and drinks following the workshop.

Please get in touch if you would like to present something at either the pitch or exhibition sessions. Send us an email to bristol [dot] layers2016 [at] gmail [dot] com.

When
Where
BS1 4BQ – Armada House Telephone Ave, Bristol, Avon , Bristol, BS1 4BQ, United Kingdom –

 

A short note about communities

June 9th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

PodcastToday I got an email from the Yahoo podcasters group mail. It was a long time since I could remember the last. But at one point, the group was very active with usually a daily digest appearing. And at that time it felt like a real community, of people from different countries and contents with different kills and knowledge reaching out to help each other.

As podcasting has become established there is a wealth of help available online, videos and manuals as well as specialist software and hardware. Podcasting is not longer a frontier sport. And the community is no longer need, or at least it no longer plays the same function.

And I wonder if that is true of other communities of practice. Etienne Wenger has suggested that communities of practice are always emergent (a point protecting them from making a fetish of conservative and out of date practices). That is usually taken to mean through membership, with new members becoming central as others move to the edges. But it may be that communities are always emergent in the knowledge and practices which constitute their base. And when that knowledge and practices cease to be emergent – as in the case of the Yahoo podcasters group – unless the community can move on to new emergent pastures, then it simply slowly dies.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    Teachers and overtime

    According to the TES teachers in the UK “are more likely to work unpaid overtime than staff in any other industry, with some working almost 13 extra hours per week, according to research.

    A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

    Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

    Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.”


    The future of English Further Education

    The UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee has warned  the declining financial health of many FE colleges has “potentially serious consequences for learners and local economies”.

    It finds funding and oversight bodies have been slow to address emerging financial and educational risks, with current oversight arrangements leading to confusion over who should intervene and when.

    The Report says the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Skills Funding Agency “are not doing enough to help colleges address risks at an early stage”.


    Skills in Europe

    Cedefop is launching a new SKILLS PANORAMA website, online on 1 December at 11.00 (CET).

    Skills Panorama, they say,  turns labour market data and information into useful, accurate and timely intelligence that helps policy-makers decide on skills and jobs in Europe.

    The new website will provide with a more comprehensive and user-friendly central access point for information and intelligence on skill needs in occupations and sectors across Europe. You can register for the launch at Register now at http://skillspanorama.cedefop.europa.eu/launch/.


    Talking about ‘European’ MOOCs

    The European EMMA project is launching a  webinar series. The first is on Tuesday 17 November 2015 from 14:00 – 15:00 CET.

    They say: “In this first webinar we will explore new trends in European MOOCs. Rosanna de Rosa, from UNINA, will present the philosophy and challenges behind the EMMA EU project and MOOC platform developed with the idea of accommodating diversity through multilingualism. Darco Jansen, from EADTU (European Association of Distance Teaching Universities), will talk about Europe’s response to MOOC opportunities. His presentation will highlight the main difference with the U.S. and discuss the consequences for didactical and pedagogical approaches regarding the different contexts.


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      We will be at Online Educa Berlin 2015. See the info above. The stream URL to play in your application is Stream URL or go to our new stream webpage here SoB Stream Page.

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