I found yesterdays protests about the BBC plans to archive their recipe site fascinating. After over 120000 people signed a petition protesting against the move and after the government culture minister (somewhat disingenuously) distanced himself from the plan, the BBC backed down and said they would move the recipes to their commercial web site. Now those into conspiracy theory might suggest this was what the BBC were after all the time and others point to huge protests from the middle class over the potential restriction on access to the Great British Bake off etc. whilst cutbacks to welfare quietly proceed. But I think this misses the point.
The major pressures for the BBC to restrict access to free recipes was that they are competing with private businesses including paid for newspapers, subscription websites, commercial publishers and so on. And that public funding should not be allowed to so this. People didn’t buy in to that argument, largely because of a conciousness that the BBC is a publicly owned organisation and that we have teh right to free content paid for by a license fee (ie taxes). I seem to remember the same argument coming from publishers in the early days – some ten or twelve years ago – against Open Educational Resources. Resources created by university staff, so they said, were paid for by public funding and that was unfair competition. Today despite the government’s same disdain for publicly funded education as for the BBC, Open Educational Resources have become seen as a Good Thing. And the debate over OERs has extended into a wider discussion on the meaning of open. In the same way the protests over the proposed archiving of a publicly owned archive of recipes could well extend into the meaning of open content in wider areas of the web and to an open digital infrastructure The battle for open goes on.
Another in this mini series on Learning Analytics. When looking at Work based learning, Double Loop Learning becomes particularly important. Double-loop learning is used when it is necessary to change the mental model on which a decision depends. Unlike single loops, this model includes a shift in understanding, from simple and static to broader and more dynamic, such as taking into account the changes in the surroundings and the need for expression changes in mental models.(Mildeova, S., Vojtko V. ,2003).
To remind readers again, in the EmployID European project we are aiming to support scalable and cost-effective facilitation of professional identity transformation in public employment services. And I would argue such identity transformation is based on refection on learning, on Double Loop Learning. Identity transformation necessarily involves the development of new metal models and new ways of looking at work based behaviours and practices.
So where does Learning Analytics fit into this? Learning analytics aims to understand and improve learning and the learning environment. This does not necessarily involve Double Loop Learning. For students feedback about their present performance may be enough. But if we aim for identity transformation and wish to improve the learning environment then we need a deeper interpretation of data. This has a number of implications in terms of designing Learning Analytics.
Firstly we have to have a very clear focus on what the purpose of the Learning Analytics is. Is it to find out more for example about informal learning in organisations or to inform L and D department staff about the Learning environment. Is it to help learners understand about their interactions with other staff or to examine their own dispositions for learning – and so on? Secondly – and crucially who is that data presented to users – be it learners or trainers. The existing parading for Learning Analytics presentations appears to be the dashboard. Yet in the LAk16 pre conference workshops there were a whole series of presentations where presenters invited participants to say what the graphics meant. And often we couldn’t. If LA professionals cannot interpret data visualisations then a leaner has little hope of making their own meanings. I am a little puzzled as to why dashboards have become the norm. And one of my major concern is that often it is difficult to understand the visualisation out of the context in which the learning exchange has happened. If Double Loop learning is to happen, then learners need to reflect in order to make meanings. And refection occurs best, I think, in the context in which it takes place.
There are alternatives to the dashboard. For instance with EmployID we are developing real time discourse analysis and are also looking at providing dynamic prompts for reflection.>One final point. If we are aiming at using Learning Analytics for Double Loop Learning we need to find out what works and what does not. That means that any measure for Learning Analytics needs to be accompanied by well designed evaluation measures. All too often because LA collects data, it presumes to cover evaluation. Whilst both LA and evaluation may share data, they aim at different things.
The paper is based on early research and practices in developing workplace Learning Analytics for the EU funded EmployID project, focused on identity transformation and continuing professional development in Public Employment Services (PES) in Europe. Workplace learning is mostly informal with little agreement of proxies for learning, driven by demands of work tasks or intrinsic interests of the learner, by self-directed exploration and social exchange that is tightly connected to processes and the places of work. Rather than focusing on formal learning, LA in PES needs to be based on individual and collective social practices and informal learning and facilitation processes rather than formal education. Furthermore, there are considerable concerns and restraints over the use of data in PES including data privacy and issues including power relations and hierarchies.
Following a consultation process about what innovations PES would like to pilot and what best meets their needs, PES defined priorities for competence advancement around the ‘resourceful learner’, self-reflection and self-efficacy as core competences for their professional identity transformation. The paper describes an approach based on Social Learning Analytics linked to the activities of the EmployID project in developing social learning including advanced coaching, reflection, networking and learning support services. SLA focuses on how learners build knowledge together in their cultural and social settings. In the context of online social learning, it takes into account both formal and informal educational environments, including networks and communities. The final section of the paper reports on work in progress to build a series of tools to embed SLA within communities and practices in PES organisations.
The debate over the future of work, long running in research circles but kicked into public consciousness amongst others a Oxford University study titled ‘The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation’ suggesting over 40 per cent of jobs are at threat in the next 11 years due to technology, continues. In truth there is little agreement from economists and labour market specialists. Some claim techn0logy is leading to more jobs, some that it is destroying jobs and still other that it is neutral. Some claim technology is leading to jobs being deskilled, others the reverse.
I like a recent blog post entitled ‘More on digitalisation and skills: What happens within occupations?’, by Guillermo Montt on the OECD Skills and Work web site. The article says that “as technology enters the workplace, the tasks related to a job and an occupation change” citing Alexandra Spitz-Oener (2006) who found that in Germany, occupations in the 2000s require more complex skills than in 1979 and that this change is more pronounced in occupations that adopted computers. Although something of a simplification, that finding is largely born out in analysis of the USA O*NET data. The article also draws attention to research by James Bessen published in his recent book ‘Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages and Wealth‘. “He follows the evolution of occupations over time and claims that accelerated technological change has implications for inequality within occupations with more and more occupations becoming winner-take-all markets.” Essentially, as new technology is introduced pay and opportunities in occupations bifurcate with a few taking high high, pay levels and more taking home lower pay. “In occupations requiring above-median computer use, the 90th to 50th percentile wage ratio has risen by 0.2% per year but has remained stagnant in occupations with below-median computer use. Workers who stay ahead of the curve, those who learn by doing, reap the wage benefits of technological change.”
This has major implication for training and continuing professional development. CPD has traditionally been organised through courses. But as we have already found in in the EmployID project working with employees in European Public Employment Services, traditional course delivery is both too slow to respond to change and even more problematic is unable to deliver the volume of training required. The approach adopted in EmployID is both to look at using new technologies for learning and for promoting informal learning in the workplace but also to center on changing occupational identities. For instance there is a very different occupational identity associated with a print graphic designer than todays web designer. But the ability to change occupational identities may be shaped by previous learning experiences and by motivation as well as the ability to reflect on both individual and group learning. Within EmployID we are exploring how Learning Analytics can bets be deployed to assets people in reflection (Reflection Analytics) and to assist in transforming identities to deal with such change. I am presenting this work next week at a LAKs pre conference workshop in Glasgow and will publish by slides on this blog.
Predicting the future of labour markets is not easy at the best of times. And this is not the best of times. The problems include the long lasting effects of the financial crash, the impact of government austerity policies (and non impact of qualitative easing) as well as rapid changes in the way we work and in the technologies we are using.
Essentially future labour markets are modelled using existing labour markets, with the proviso of different scenarios according to disruption. At the moment disruptions are seen to be overriding the base model, resulting in much uncertainty.This is a big issue for young people setting out on a career or indeed for those thinking of changing jobs or of entering education and training.
The real problem with modelling is that there is no consensus on what is happening with today’s labour markets. Lately this debate has spilled out from more academic and economic journals into the popular press, with predictions of a severe squeeze on middle skilled work, especially office work, due to the introduction of robots, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Yet a new study by Dr Andrea Salvatori of the Institute for Social and Economic Research calls such concerns into doubt.
Although she recognises a bifurcation of labour markets with a decline of middle skilled jobs, rather than robots, the cause, she suggests, is the expansion in university education, “which has led to a tripling in the share of graduates among employees, accounting for the entire growth in top-skilled occupations, as well as a third of the decline in middling occupations.”
“In parallel, the relative performance of wages in high-skill occupations has deteriorated relative to mid-skill ones, indicating that the supply of workers for these jobs outpaced demand and contributed to the continuing shift from the middle to the top. These facts are highly suggestive that the improvement in the education of the workforce has contributed significantly to the reallocation of employment from mid- to high-skill occupations.”
Andrea Salvatori says that far from being threatened by technology the wages of middle skilled occupations have risen in line with high skilled professions, which she suggests may be due to the increased use of technology.
This debate is important. It suggests that rather than the disruption by technology (which it is always presumed as inevitable) it is government policies over education and training that are responsible for the shrinkage in middle skilled jobs. It could also be suggested that that lack of such jobs may in part be to blame fo the persistently low rate of increase in productivity in the UK, especially when compared with Germany which has continued to train for middle skilled jobs through its apprenticeship system.
I like this blog post by Robert Peal entitled ‘A Myth for Teachers: Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet’. The article looks at the origins of the idea that the top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004 and its later variant that 60 per cent of the jobs for children in school today have not been invented. In both cases he found it impossible to track these statement in any reliable research. Of course these are myths. But often such myths can be tracked back to quite prosaic political objectives.
For a long time, the European Union has pushed the idea of the knowledge society. And whilst there are many learned papers describing in different ways what such a society might look like or why such a society will emerge there is little evidence of its supposed impact on labour markets. Most common is the disappearance of low and unskilled jobs, linked to growing skill shortages in high skilled employment. Yet in the UK most recent growth in employment has been in low skills, low paid jobs in the retail sector. I remember too in the late 1990s when the European industry lobby group for computers were preaching dire emergencies over the shortage of programmers, with almost apocalyptic predictions of what would happen with the year 200 bug if there were not major efforts to train newcomers to the industry. Of course that never happened either and predictions of skills shortages in software engineering persist despite the fact the UK government statistics show programmers pay falling in the last few years.
I’ve been invited to do several talks in the last year on the future of work. It is not easy. There are two lengthy reports on future skills for the UK – ‘Working Futures 2012- 2022’ and ‘The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030’, published by the UK Commission for Skills and Industry. Both are based on statistical modelling and scenario planning. As one of the reports says (I cannot remember which) “all models are wrong – it is just that some of more useful than others. Some things are relatively clear. There will be a big upturn in (mainly semi skilled) work in healthcare to deal with demographic changes in the age of the population. There will also be plenty of demand for new skilled and semi skilled workers in construction and engineering. Both are major employment sectors and replacement demand alone will result in new job openings even if they do not expand in overall numbers (many commentators seem to forget about replacement demand when looking at future employment).
But then it all starts getting difficult. Chief perhaps amongst this is possible disruptions which can waylay any amount of economic modelling. The following diagram above taken from ‘The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030’ shows possible future disruptions to the UK economy and to future jobs. One of these is the introduction of robots. With various dire reports that up to 40 per cent of jobs may disappear to robots in the next few years, I suspect we are creating another myth. Yes, robots will change patterns of employment in some industries, and web technologies enable disruptions in other areas of the economy. Yet much of the problems with such predictions lay with technological determinism – the idea that technology somehow has some life of its own and that we cannot have any says over it. At the end of the day, despite all the new technologies and the effects of globalization, there are massive policy decisions which will influence what kind of jobs there will be in the future. These include policies for education and training, inter-governmental treaties, labour market and tax policies, employment rights and so on. And such considerations should include what jobs we want to have, how they are organised, where they are and the quality of work. At the moment we seem to be involved in a race to the bottom – using the excuse of austerity – which is a conscious policy – to degrade both pay and work conditions. But it doesn’t need to be like this. Indeed, the excuses for austerity may be the biggest myth of all.
Chahira Nouira sent me an email asking if I could make a short podcast around Communities of Practice. ” I am writing,” she said “because I thought you might have 15 min of your precious time to help me compile an audio playlist where you are the stars! For a year, I have been involved in a project funded by the EU and one of its products is a Community of Practice for Lifelong Learning: DISCUSS. My idea is to get insights from you on CoPs based on how your experience and stories”.
I have been involved – and still am – in a number of projects seeking to support the emergence of communities of practice – defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – with varying success. In the podcast I try to explain why I think some have worked an others less so.
In early days, in the late 1990s, we mainly saw the idea of Communities of Practice as an analytic tool to understand how informal learning develops in Communities of practice and how knowledge is exchanged. In a later stage we moved on to try to develop or foster Communities of Practice, using IST to support the emergence of dispersed communities.
All to often we thought we could form communities ourselves, not totally understanding the emergent nature and the ownership of CoPs. Too often also, we have conflated organisations with communities. Probably more importantly, whilst we have fused on communities, we have failed to properly understand the nature of the practices which bind together those communities. According to Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions
In seeking to support facilitation a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988). One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.
If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed. Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”
Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:
He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediating group learning about clients or projects in progress.
In general, when seeking to support online communities, we have developed web sites and web based tools which are separate form the work process. Possibly, we should be looking instead at how we can use artifacts from work processes to support learning and knowledge exchange.
Mobile learning was e-learning’s dream come true. It offered the potential for completely personalised learning to be truly any time, anywhere.
He’s right but I am not sure his reasons are sufficient. The main problem John sees is that when early projects were developed into mobile learning, they were based on supplying participants with digital devices. This was expensive and limited the scale and sustainability of such projects. Now new initiatives are emerging based on BYOD (bring your own Device). This is more sustainable but raises its own questions.
Bring your own device, enabling students to use their own equipment, introduces more questions: is there a specific range of technologies they can bring, what’s the nature of the support offered, and have we got a network infrastructure that won’t fall over when 20,000 students turn up with gadgets? What kind of staff development is needed to handle the fact that not only will the students turn up with many different devices but tomorrow they’ll have changed to even more different devices?
All this is true. And as we prepare to roll out the trial of our Learning Layers project funded Learning Toolbox (LTB) application we are only to aware that as well as looking at the technical and pedagogic application of Learning toolbox, we will have to evaluate the infrastructure support. The use of Learning toolbox has been predicated on BYOD and has been developed with Android, iOS and Microsoft versions. The training centre where the pilot will take place with some 70 apprentices, BauABC, covers a large site and is in a rural area. Telecoms network coverage is flaky, broadband not fast and the wireless network installed to support the pilots is a new venture. So many issues for us to look at there. However in terms of staff development I am more confident, with an ongoing programme for the trainers, but perhaps more importantly I think a more open attitude from construction industry trainers to the use of different technologies than say from university lecturers.
The bigger issue though for me is pedagogy. John hints at this when he talks about mobiles being used to access virtual learning environments that are being used as repositories. The real limitation here is not in the technology or infrastructure but a lack of vision of the potential of mobiles for learning in different contexts. Indeed I suspect that the primary school sector is more advanced in their thing here than the universities. Mobile devices have the potential to take learning into the world outside the classroom and to link practical with more theoretical learning. And rather than merely pushing learning (to be read on the bus although I have never quite understood why mobile learning vendors think everyone travels home by bus), the potential is to create a new ecosystem, whereby learners themselves can contribute to the learning of others, by direct interaction and by the sharing of learning and of objects. Dare I say it – Learning Toolbox is a mobile Personal Learning Environment (at least I hope so). We certainly are not looking to replace existing curricula, neither existing learning technologies. Rather we see Learning Toolbox as enhancing learning experiences and allowing users to reflect on learning in practice. In this respect we are aware of the limitations of a limited screen size and also of the lack of attraction of writing long scripts for many vocational learners. This can be an advantage. Mobile devices support all kinds of gesturing (think Tinder) and are naturally used for multimedia including video and photographs.
So what killed the mobile learning dream. Lack of understanding of its true potential, lack of vision and a concentration of funding and pilot activities with the wrong user groups. That is not to say that mobile learning cannot be used in higher education. But it needs a rethinking of curriculum and of the interface between curriculum, pedagogy and the uses of technology. So the dream is not dead. It just needs more working on!
If you would like to know more about Learning Toolbox or are interesting in demonstration or a pilot please contact me graham10 [at] mac [dot] com
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.