Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Privacy online: a toolkit for childre

August 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

The London School of Economics has published an online toolkit to promote children’s understanding of the digital environment and support them to make good decisions about privacy online. They say “the toolkit is aimed at children of secondary school age, parents and educators, and was developed with the participation of a mix of children in Years 8 and 10. It includes information and resources on: why privacy online is important, how online data is generated and used, children’s rights, privacy-related risks and protective strategies, where to seek support, suggestions and recommendations from children, and fun resources to watch and play.

With the help of experts and practitioners, we collected the best resources on online privacy and reviewed them based on a number of criteria: relevance and suitability to children, quality, free access, no need for creating an account, and no installing or downloading. A list of selected resources were presented to three child juries in March 2019 where 18 children were given the opportunity to assess the selected resources and help design the online toolkit.

The toolkit is part of an ICO-funded project led by Professor Sonia Livingstone. The project  aims to listen to children’s voices and develop tools to better empower them.

Travel to university time a factor in student performance

August 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

My summer morning’s work is settling into a routine. First I spend about half an hour learning Spanish on DuoLingo. Then I read the morning newsletters – OLDaily, WONKHE, The Canary and Times Higher Education (THE).

THE is probably the most boring of them. But this morning they led on an interesting and important research report. In an article entitled ‘Long commutes make students more likely to drop out’, Ana McKie says:

Students who have long commutes to their university may be more likely to drop out of their degrees, a study has found.

Researchers who examined undergraduate travel time and progression rates at six London universities found that duration of commute was a significant predictor of continuation at three institutions, even after other factors such as subject choice and entry qualifications were taken into account.

THE reports that the research., commissioned by London Higher, which represents universities in the city found that “at the six institutions in the study, many students had travel times of between 10 and 20 minutes, while many others traveled for between 40 and 90 minutes. Median travel times varied between 40 and 60 minutes.”

At one university, every additional 10 minutes of commuting reduced the likelihood of progression beyond end-of-first-year assessments by 1.5 per cent. At another, the prospect of continuation declined by 0.63 per cent with each additional 10 minutes of travel.

At yet another institution, a one-minute increase in commute was associated with a 0.6 per cent reduction in the chances of a student’s continuing, although at this university it was only journeys of more than 55 minutes that were particularly problematic for younger students, and this might reflect the area these students were traveling from.

I think there are a number of implications from this study. It is highly probable that those students traveling the longest distance are either living with their parents or cannot afford the increasingly expensive accommodation in central London. Thus this is effectively a barrier to less well off students. But it is also worth noting that much work in Learning Analytics has been focused on predicting students likely to drop out. Most reports suggest it is failing to complete or to success in initial assignments that is the most reliable predicate. Yet it may be that Learning Analytics needs to take a wider look at the social, cultural, environmental and financial context of student study with a view to providing more practical support for students.

I work on the LMI for All project which provides an API and open data for Labour Market Information for mainly use in careers counseling advice and guidance and to help young people choose their future carrers or education. We already provide data on travel to work distances, based on the 2010 UK census. But I am wondering if we should also provide data on housing costs,possibly on a zonal basis around universities (although I am not sure if their is reliable data). If distances (and time) traveling to college is so important in student attainment this may be a factor students need to include in their choice of institution and course.

 

Learning Analytics and AI for Future-Focused Learning

August 7th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I’ve tended to be skeptical about Learning Analytics, seeing it of limited relevance to pedagogy and more concerned with managing learners (reducing dropouts) than having anything to say about learning. Even more, Learning Analytics research has tended to docus on higher education and formal learning, having little to say about workplace learning and vocational education and training. But things are changing, especially through the integration of AI with Learning Analytics Learning Analytics and AI for future focused learning. I’m especially interested in this since we have had a project approved under the Erasmus Plus programme on AI and vocational education and training teachers and trainers.

This presentation by Simon Buckingham Shum at the EduTECH conference in Australia in June of this year introduces some of the work at the UTS Connected Intelligence Centre, where, he says “the team has been refining (for the last 3 years) automated, personalised feedback to students on higher order transferable competencies (Graduate Attributes in university-speak, or General Capabilities in the schools sector) – namely, high performance face-to-face teamwork (exemplar: nursing simulation exercises), and critical, reflective thinking (as revealed in students’ writing).”

Simon says “Learning Analytics bring the power of data science and human-centred design to educational data, while AI makes new forms of timely assessment and feedback possible. Tech researchers, developers, educators and learners can co-design formative feedback on 21st century competencies such as critical reflective writing, teamwork, self-regulated learning, and dispositions for lifelong learning. Such tools are being coherently integrated into teaching practice and aligned with curriculum outcomes at UTS, and could be in schools.

Getting the technology’s capabilities and the user experience right is impossible without meaningful engagement with educators and students. So, this talk is organised around our emerging understanding of how to align the different elements of the whole sociotechnical infrastructure. To use the language of the framework – the ‘cogs’ can be tuned to different contexts, and must synchronise and drive in the same direction to create a coherent learning experience.”

A number of things strike me about the presentation (and the videos within the presentation).

The first is the integration of the LA Framework with more traditional educational frameworks including competences and assessment rubrics. These provide a much broader reference point for proxies for achievement and reflection than the relevant proxy used in LA (and indeed in many areas of education of achievement in examination and other assessments. The design process is intended to develop a data map to these proxies.

Secondly, rather than seeking to provide feedback to students on attainment (and likely attainment – or otherwise) or to serve as the basis for intervention by teachers, the focus is on reflection. The feedback is seen as “a  provocation to deeper discussion” and as “scaffolding reflection

Finally – and as part of the refection process – the LA is designed to provide agency for the student, who, says Simon “can push back against the machine” if they think it is wrong.

All in all, there is much content for reflection here. The slides which contain a number of references can be downloaded here (PDF).

Circular Economy and Lifelong Learning: Scenarios – Methodologies – In action

July 31st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

2019 ACR ZWS Circular Economy Lifelong learning Cover
The momentum for the circular economy has never been stronger. Global issues, such as climate change and natural resource consumption levels, urgently require a change in our lifestyles and a transformation in our ways of thinking and acting. To achieve this change, we need new skills, new values and new behaviours that lead to more sustainable societies. But is it even possible to find a shared definition of circular economy (CE) education?

As part of the Erasmus+ CYCLE project, in which Pontydysgu are a partner, on 19 February 2019, ACR+, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, organised a workshop entitled “Circular Economy Competencies. Making the Case for Lifelong Learning”.  brought together local authorities, experts and practitioners in the field of environmental and sustainability education to discuss this topic. The speakers of the workshop shared stories of vocational training and green jobs, sustainable consumption education and system thinking, of pedagogical models capable of empowering learners and urging institutions to include the principles of sustainability in their management structures. I introduced the project at the workshop and have contributed to the publication.

What this publication is about

This publication aims to make those experiences a shared treasure by sharing them with educators, policymakers and managers of NGOs and training organisations that intend to promote the development of local loops of circular economy through educational tools. The three chapters of this booklet are structured to cover different areas of the lifelong learning landscape:

  • Circular thinking in education. Educational designers will find useful insights on: the promotion of circular holistic approach in schools; a bird’s-eye view on how tertiary education is integrating the circular economy into its educational offer; the creation of attractive learning pathways in adult training;
  • Upskilling waste, repair & reuse industry. Policy makers and professionals in the field of vocational training will find useful references on the development of professional standards and competence profiles for 3R’s industries;
  • Facilitating the transition towards circular economy. The last chapter contains an analysis of the links between Industry 4.0 and circular economy in Italy and the case history of a network of municipalities that have developed training courses to equip local authorities’ staff for the circular transition. In conclusion, a final article analyses the possible positive correlations between entrepreneurial education and circular economy.

You can download the publication here.

Yo quiero estudiar espanol

July 9th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Analytics Cymru

June 25th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Jisc report that “Learning Analytics Cymru is generating interest across the world.” The service, which has every higher education institution in Wales signed up and is supported by the Welsh Government, is the focus of a new article for US edtech organisation Educase.

In the piece Jisc consultant Niall Sclater’s  discusses the Learning Analytics Cymru model and how it provides a blueprint for delivering such services on a national scale.

By pooling resources, institutions are benefiting from opportunities to share experiences and learn collaboratively in the emerging field of learning analytics.

Woodstock for Geeks

June 17th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I love the description of big academic conferences as “Woodstock for Geeks.” This is a brilliantly made cartoon by Mike Morrison, not only explaining the problem with poster sessions at conferences but putting forward a simple template for designing research posters as a practical help to overcoming the problem.

One part of the design idea is to include a QR code providing access to further information, papers and so on. My friends from Kubify have gone one step further producing mini posters linking to ‘stacks’ of interactive and multimedia material.

Kubify’s Learning Toolbox, they say,  “is an award-winning ePoster platform and is a versatile tool that can also be used to support other event and education activities.

Learning Toolbox allows people to quickly and easily build their own stacks of interactive and multimedia material and share them with others. These dynamic stacks can be used as ePosters, research calling cards or learning resources.”

Rich ePoster content

“A Learning Toolbox ePoster can contain many different rich resources such as videos, images, audio, apps, presentations, twitter and links to interactive online resources.”

Skills for Green Jobs

June 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell


Addressing climate change and setting economies and societies more firmly onto a path towards a sustainable, low-carbon future is one of the defining challenges of our time. Such shift will entail far-reaching transformations of our economies, changing the ways we consume and produce, shifting energy sources, and leveraging new technologies.

The European Centre for Vocational Education and Training, Cedefop, has released a new report on Skills for Green Jobs. The report is based on country studies undertaken in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in six countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France and the UK) since 2010.

A key outcome, says CEDEFOP, is that countries vary in their approach to defining, classifying and collecting data on green jobs and skills. However, they have observed increased efforts are observed on data collection on developments in the ‘green economy’.

Since 2010, green employment trends have tended to parallel general economic trends. Carbon reduction targets and associated incentives and subsidies have been especially influential on green jobs and skills; other green policies, such as legislation to protect the environment, have also been important.

Although few countries have a strategy on skills for green jobs, “the updating of qualifications and VET programmes has soared, reflecting increased demand for green jobs and skills since 2010.” Updates mainly concern adding ‘green’ components to existing qualifications/programmes, since changes in skill demands are perceived more pertinent to including new green skills within existing occupations rather than the creation of new green ones.

 

More information is available in the CEDEFOP magazine promoting learning for work, Skillset and Match.

Is manufacturing finished in the UK?

June 12th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper highlights a report by Cambridge University for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), showing that Britain’s manufacturing sector is much larger than official figures suggest.

The report argues that official statistics, which estimate that manufacturing output accounts for 9% of national income, are based on “outdated and inaccurate methods of counting” and the figure is much higher.

The report avoids putting a fresh figure on the proportion of GDP accounted for by the sector, but one of its authors said it was nearer 15% once activities tied to the sale of UK-made products, including engineering support and contracted services, were included.

“It is essential that policymakers have accurate information on the size of manufacturing sectors in order to develop an internationally competitive industrial strategy,” said Eoin O’Sullivan, one of the report’s authors.

“In particular, policymakers need to be able to measure manufacturing in a way that better reflects how firms actually organise themselves into value networks.”

While the Guardian news spin on the report focuses on the threat to the manufacturing by tariffs on exports resulting from a no deal Brexit, the report has wider implications. Manufacturing has long been seen as in decline and is accordingly unattractive as a careers option when compared to the growing service sector. Yet the report shows the continuing importance of occupations like engineering.

Cities of Learning

June 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

posterPontydysgu’s Spanish organisation is part of the EU CONNECT project. Funded under the Erasmus Plus programme, the CONNECT project aims to leverage the impact of Learning Cities through building urban ecosystems of lifelong learning that harness the assets of European cities and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience for adult learners. The project application says: “In a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, connected learning for all citizens can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity; in particular when integrating both the potential of ubiquitous learning technology and learning opportunities created by European cities.”

Pontydysgu have been working on two main things. Firstly, we have been doing a field study on Russafa, an area of Valencia, looking at different opportunities for non formal and informal learning, as well as at formal adult learning provision. One of our main conclusions is the importance of public spaces for learning to take place. To this extent history, culture and context play an important role and not least climate: in Valencia many learning opportunities take place outdoors! Urban design is another key contextual factor.

Secondly, we have been undertaking a literature review. One of the most interesting documents we have come across is ‘Cities of Learning in the UK’ – a “prospectus” published by the RSA. Cities of Learning (CofL), they say “is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass engagement movement around learning and skills. It seeks to close gaps in opportunity and empower places to promote lifelong learning as core to their cultural and civic identity.”

“CofL can be a galvanising force for bringing people together with a city’s economic and social aspirations. It can open new sources of city leadership, learning potential and civic energy. Cities can both make visible and amplify nascent systems of learning – involving learners, institutions, employers, civil society and the voluntary and cultural sectors. Learners, especially those from underserved communities, can benefit from much greater access to the wealth of enrichment experiences and opportunities their city offers. By deepening social and civic connections, CofL can be a means to developing a sense of place, identity, mission, ambition – and learning.”

The Cities of Learning movement started in the USA but the Prospectus has been “adapted for UK.”

One thing I very much like about the CofL approach is the emphasis on place. As the RSA say “Learning systems – formal, non-formal, informal – are experienced by people in places and form a fundamental part of how they experience life within their neighbourhoods, communities, and towns and cities. They operate outside of the silos of traditional programmes, allowing organisations to work together to focus on shared outcomes rather than individual concerns.”

They go on to say that CofL “capitalise on crucial intangible factors that drive collective action, such as identity, heritage and community.” Certainly, from our research in Valencia we would concur – although I am not sure that heritage and community are intangible.

The Prospectus emphasises the widening participation and opportunity gap in society today.

It stresses the importance on non-cognitive as well as cognitive skills for future employment. Skills and calls for cities to develop learning pathways leading to Open Badges, recognizing learning or formal and informal learning experiences. Learning networks would incorporate a skills spine using both OECD core skills and competences as well as more locally developed learning needs. The report points to different Interest driven and destination driven learning pathways – destination driven meaning learning for employment. This seems to us too binary a division. Interest driven learning can often lead to skills for employment and vice versa. In reality people often cross over between different pathways.

Dense networks and relationships are seen to be central to the development of CofL with “anchor organisations” and “influential change makers” acting as “network hubs and stewards.” Three key factors are identified for developing CofL initiatives – leadership, networks and platform.

Although stressing the importance of networks and of community organisations, the examples provided seem to be driven by city governments. And the report also provides the example of a large employers overhauling their recruitment policy as driving change through their supply network, but there is no discussion of the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises who provide the majority of employment in cities like Valencia.

Cities are of course important but I do not see why the approach to learning in place based networks should not also include more dispersed population areas, including rural areas and towns in the south Wales valleys with different population structures.

One thing definitely welcome is that the technology plays an enabling function, supporting learning. Technology Enhanced Learning may have a weak link to place, but place is key to practice in learning.

Less welcome is the unnecessary emphasis on CofL as disruptive or as they call it a “quiet disruption.” Neither do I see Open Badges as a “disruption.” I can only see CofL and Open Badges as developing and extending traditional ideas of adult education.

The report also claims that CoFL challenges the fragmented rigid and centralised nature of public services. Certainly, education services have become fragmented but the major challenge is not that but is government austerity policies which have decimated adult education provision.

However, despite this, City of Learning is an exciting vision, and one I think which could spread beyond the RSA sponsored experiments and networks.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    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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