Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Autonomy and the importance of teachers

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

The technology industry spends millions trying to disrupt education. And one of their fantasies is that machines can replace teachers. I don’t think they can or should. On International Teachers day it seems appropriate to point again to the importance of well trained and supported teachers having teh autonomy to shape and support learning.

And by chance I found on Twitter today this excellent bog post, writing just about the need for autonomy.

@HeyMissSmith says:

I have watched with incredulity as the idea of scripted lessons and highly controlled curriculum content has grown. The idea that knowledge can be packaged nicely and given to teachers. That you can in some way control knowledge. That it is prepackaged food a teacher microwaves for her class (as per instructions). Not so. Knowledge when it meets a class of thirty individuals plus a (hopefully) excited teacher becomes something else; it becomes an ocean of possibilities. It becomes the universe, past, present and future. A skilled and enthusiastic teacher will take knowledge, and their class reactions to it and will shape the conversations. Steer children through the endless sparks and dead-ends they create with it. They will cover much ground, but what that ground is is not apparent until the class is in front of them.

What am I saying? That we have to trust teachers with knowledge.

Leaving home

October 1st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

living at homeI’ve had this graphic hanging around for quite a while, so it may be out of date. I think the point of it is that like much data the figures are fascinating but it is quite difficult to interpret. Why do boys leave home earlier than girls? Why is there such a big difference between countries. Although obviously there will be differences between those countries where young people normally leave home to go to university and those where they usually move to another town or city. And I am sure some of it is explained by socio- economic factors. It costs money to leave home. But I am not sure this explains it all. I would be very interested in anyone else’s perspective on this data.

CONNECTed Learning

September 26th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

With Brexit looming like a big black cloud over us, Pontydysgu have established a second organisation based in Valencia in Spain. And we are happy to have started our first project at the start of September. Pontydysgu SL are partners in an Erasmus Plus project called CONNECT, coordinated by the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Here we give the ‘official’ summary of the project; in a follow uppost I will discuss some of the wider issues the project raises.

CONNECT is designed to facilitate access to upskilling pathways.  The overall objectives of the project are a) to build and pilot an urban ecosystem of lifelong learning, that helps to leverage the educational impact of European learning cities and b) to develop a learner-centered approach to learning, which harnesses the assets of a city and transform them into a network of seamless pathways of learning experience. At the heart of CONNECT lies a digital learning hub, which by citizens can be used to set up personal learning projects and share their learning journey with the local community. The role of CONNECT is to build and facilitate access to networks that can support a person’s learning  goals and career development over a lifetime.

CONNECT builds on the assumption, that in a society where existing educational pathways no longer guarantee opportunity, and with a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, networks can open up new entry points and pathways to opportunity in particular for those who are distant from learning or disadvantaged. Learners who have peers and mentors who share their interests, can make a better connection from learning outcomes to real world opportunities. Moreover, it has been demonstrated, that education works best when it connects with and builds on other initiatives, like community issues, and when it links learning to opportunity creation, like jobs and skills needed by the wider community. Last but not least the project aims at facilitating access to upskilling pathways by encouraging learners to develop a sense of ownership for their learning, along with a change of attitudes towards learning, so habits of lifelong learning can take route.

Moreover, CONNECT builds on the assumption that the outcomes and impact of adult education in the digital age can be significantly improved, when shifted from siloed to open learning architectures, from consumptive to participatory learning and, from institutions to learning in networks. The project supports this shift by encouraging adult educators to take on new roles, such as becoming facilitators of personal learning projects and brokers of learning within networks. CONNECT will guide adult educators on their way to the digital learning society, and equip them with the skills needed in order to guide and support the adult learners of the future. CONNECT in this sense extends and develops educators’ competences on the effective use of ICT.

CONNECT supports the open education and innovative practices in a digital era by building city-wide digital platforms, that enable adult learners to set up personal learning projects based on their passions and interests;  build connections with learning that appears across multiple contexts of the city; collect, mix and remix local learning resources and, with the help of peers and facilitators leverage their skills and competences; share learning outcomes with others, get feedback and ideas for improvement and gain recognition of their learning.

Ubiquitous technologies nowadays allow for learning anywhere and any time, which causes a shift from education to learning in open learning architectures. Moreover, learning which was previously based on consumption of information now shifts to participatory learning. Learning happens best when it is rich in social connections, especially when it is peer-based and organized around learners’ interests, enabling them to create as well as consume information. Finally, learning in institutions shifts to learning in networks. In the digital age, the fundamental operating and delivery systems are networks, not institutions, which are one node of many on a person’s network of learning opportunities. People learn across institutions, so an entire learning network must be supported.

However, while the Internet over the past decades has put the focus on distance education and on collaboration among people that are geographically distributed, CONNECT seeks to bring again into the picture local issues, recognizing the critical role of technology-enhanced learning, supporting not only interactions with others around the world, but also and, perhaps more importantly, with people and organisations nearby.

CONNECT brings together 7 partners from 5 EU member states, who contribute to the project through profound expertise on learning cities and regions, community development, neighbourhood learning, local education management, lifelong learning development and technology-enhanced learning.

AI Brain Drain?

September 3rd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It is not often I read the Daily Telegraph. Not withstanding the politics, the paper only provides a short introduction for free with the rest of the content languishing behind a paywall. But I picked up this stub of an article through Twitter.

Britain faces an artificial intelligence “brain drain” as Silicon Valley raids its top universities for talent, data compiled by The Telegraph shows.

Around a third of leading machine learning and AI specialists who have left the UK’s top institutions are currently working at Silicon Valley tech firms.

More than a tenth have moved to North American universities and nearly a tenth are currently working for other smaller US companies. Meanwhile just one in seven have joined British start-ups.

The Telegraph surveyed 150 people who had gained either a postgraduate-level degree or had…..

The sample I think comes form just four universities so is possibly not reliable. But it possibly shows how unattractive working as a researcher in UK univeristies sis becoming compared to provate sector work abroad.

Vocational Education and Training Research in the UK

August 31st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Next week I am going to the European Conference on Education Research (ECER) taking place in Bolzano in Italy. I am talking in three sessions, one about changing identities in work, one on research around the use of technology in vocational education and training and the third on Vocational Education and Training research and innovation agendas in Europe.

The latter is an initiative by Monica Moso from the Bankia Foundation in Spain and is organised as a round table with researchers from Spain, UK, Germany and Switzerland.

I am reporting on the UK in response to three questions Monica has asked:

  • Question 1: What is the characterisation of the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 2: What are the major contemporary challenges to the country’s existing VET R&D?
  • Question 3: Is there a national policy or strategy for VET R&D? If not, an informal agenda? How is it?

In order to answer the questions Monica asked us to select and prioritise the main research areas in VET in each country. For the UK I prioritised the following areas:

  1. Economic development and VET
  2. Changing Labour market
  3. Apprenticeships/ internships/ workplace learning
  4. VET policy, organization and management
  5. The Salience of work
  6. Qualification research
  7. Careers
  8. VET teacher education and teacher behaviour
  9. Vocationalisation of higher education
  10. VET and Society

I noted that researchers in VET are drawn from a wide number fo different subject areas and attached to different university departments including:

  • Anthropology
  • Educational studies
  • Educational sociology
  • The study of higher education policy
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Industrial relations/human resource management/personnel management
  • Economics
  • Labour economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Politics and policy studies
  • Gender studies
  • Ethnic relations
  • Continuing education
  • Hotels, catering and leisure studies
  • Management studies
  • Engineering and manufacturing systems.

Monica asked us to characterise the state of VET research in our countries and to expand on the issues researchers face. This is my reply for the UK:

  • Extreme fragmentation, with research located in a multiplicity of institutional and disciplinary settings
  • Lack of stable funding / resources – funding from a very wide range of sources.
  • Lack of central research networks / infrastructure / knowledge exchange mechanism
  • Lack of reflexivity in the research / policy process, with a lack of a feedback loop between policy makers
  • Dislocation between research, policy formation and implementation
  • Ideology driven policy agendas
  • Frequent changes in policies and lack of thorough evaluation of their impact
  • Austerity and lack of funding in further education sector
  • Poor or non existent data

 

I noted there is no national policy or strategy for VET rsearch and development in the UK. However, at present the government is funding a VET research unit based at the London School of Economics (CVER)

The priorities set for the LSE unit appear to reflect government priorities, namely:

  1. Describing the Further and Vocational Education landscape in England
  2. How does vocational education affect individual prosperity, firm productivity and profitability, and economic growth?
  3. How can the quantity of ‘high quality’ vocational education provision be improved?
  4. How do the costs and benefits of vocational education influence individuals’ participation decisions

These areas reflect the informal agenda set by the government which is largely ideologically driven.

Some VET research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – e.g the LAKES project at the Institute of Education

There are a wide range of different sources of funding for VET research. These include:

  • Foundations and trusts
  • Government departments and agencies
  • Political parties
  • Trade Union Congress (TUC) and trade unions
  • Confederation for British Industry and industry organisations
  • Professional bodies
  • Royal Society for the Arts
  • Careers organisations
  • Industry education bodes
  • Local Economic partnerships

There is no central mechanism for deciding the knowledge needs of the VET system – nor for agreement between participants on the main problems. Whereas in some areas such as apprenticeship there is general consensus as to its importance the policy implementation is contested. Ultimately policy options are imposed by central government. At least in rhetoric, there is considerable reliance placed on the views of employers.

All in all it is a fairly depressing picture. Is there anything I have forgotten?

 

The development of Labour Market Information systems

August 29th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Over the past few years, part of my work has been involved in the design and development of Labour Market Information Systems. But just as with any facet of using new technologies, there is a socio-technical background to the emergence and use of new systems.

Most countries today have a more or less elaborated Labour Market Information system. In general, we can trace three phases in the development of these systems (Markowitch, 2017). Until the 1990s, Labour Market Information systems, and their attendant classification systems, mainly provided statistics for macroeconomic analysis, policy and planning. Between the 1990s and 2005 they were extended to provide data around the structuring and functioning of the Labour markets.

Mangozho (2003) attributes the change as a move from an industrial society to a post-industrial society (and the move to transition economies in Eastern Europe). Such a definition may be contentious, but he usefully charts changes in Labor market structures which give rise to different information needs. “While previously, the economic situation (especially the job structure) was relatively stable, in the latter phase the need for LMI increases because the demand for skills and qualifications changes fundamentally; the demand for skills / qualifications changes constantly, and because of these changes, Vocational Education and Training (VET) system has to be managed more flexibly (ETF, 1998)’.

He says: “In the industrial/pre-transition periods:

  • The relationship between the education and training system and the Labor market was more direct.
  • Occupational structures changed very slowly and as such, the professional knowledge and skills could easily be transferred.
  • Planning, even for short-term courses, could be done well in advance, and there was no need to make any projections about the future demands of occupations
  • The types of subjects and the vocational content required for specific jobs were easily identifiable.
  • There was little need for flexibility or to design tailor-made courses.
  • The education system concentrated on abstract and theoretical knowledge as opposed to practical knowledge.
  • Steady economic growth made it possible for enterprises to invest in on the job training.
  • There was less necessity to assess the relevance and adequacy of the VET system because it was deemed as adequate.
  • A shortage of skills could easily be translated into an increase of the number of related training institutions or student enrolments without necessarily considering the cost effectiveness of such measures. (Sparreboom, T, 1999).
  • Immediate employment was generally available for those who graduated from the education and training systems.”

Changes in the structure and functioning of Labour markets and the VET systems led to a greater need for comprehensive LMI to aid in the process of interpreting these structural shifts and designing effective HRD policies and programs, which provide for more linkages between the education and training systems and the Labor market.

At the same time, the reduction in the role of the state as a major employment provider and the development of market economies gave impetus to the need for a different approach to manpower planning, where the results of Labor market analysis as well as market based signals of supply and demand for skills are made available to the various economic agents responsible for the formulation and implementation of manpower and employment policies and programmes.

This led to the establishment of formal institutions to co-ordinate the generation of LMI, for instance internet based Labour Market Information Systems and the setting up of Labour Market Observatories and the development of more tangible LMI products, which provide a broad up, dated knowledge of the developments on the Labour market for different users.

Since 2005, Labour Market Information systems have been once more extended to incorporate both matching of jobs to job seekers and matching of supply and demand within Labour markets, particularly related to skills.

The definition of literacy is inherently political

August 28th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Over the years, I’ve written a lot of posts on this blog on digital literacy or, better put, digital literacies. The one thing you can general say, is that whatever definti0n and framework is presently popular will go out of date in the next couple of years, as we struggle to define what digital means for lietracy with changing technologies and use of technologies. So I was very happy to see Mark Brown from City University, Dublin is writing a three-part opinion piece for the ASCILITE blog focussing on different conceptions of digital literacy

In the first part he says:

three core threads are woven throughout this critical discussion about what it means to be digitally literate in the 21st Century. Firstly, the definition of literacy in whatever form is inherently political. Secondly, the digital literacies movement is complex and most efforts to propose definitions and develop related models and frameworks are disconnected from wider socio-political debates and underestimate the importance of the situated nature of educational practice. Lastly, most models and frameworks for digital skills, literacies or competencies fail to adequately address some of the powerful macro-level forces, drivers and entangled and contradictory discourses associated with the goal of preparing more digitally skilled learners, workers and citizens.

Im looking forward to teh next two parts.

Digitalisation in / of Vocational Education and Training

August 20th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I facilitated a workshop at the European Skills Week event on research in vocational education and training. The workshop was entitled digitalisation in /of vocational education and training. There were some five of us in the workshop and we had about two hours to answer a series of questions based on the following framework.

vet research framework

Despite the too short time, I think what we came up with is a good starting point and the discussion will continue in a round table session at the European Conference on Educational Research in Bolzano, Italy in September.

Research Desiderata & Questions

The following central research questions and / or desiderata in this field were identified:

  • How do processes of digital transitions and transformations impact on VET and what are the mediation processes and artefacts involved?
  • Digital technologies are changing the nature and organisation of work, and the skills and competences required. This is happening simultaneously at a sectoral level and a global level. The new skills and competences are mediated in interactions between different actors but also between actors and objects. These processes of mediation to a large extent shape the practices of using digital technologies.
  • In a critical appraisal of digitalisation in VET, what are the different possibilities for the future: What is and more importantly what could be?
  • There is a tendency to take technologies and replicate past paradigms – hence for instance the idea of a ‘digital classroom’. Yet digital technologies open new possibilities for vocational education and training. To understand what ‘could be’ requires a critique of existing practices in VET and of the early adoption of technologies for teaching and learning.
  • How do digital technologies and transformations affect the creation and meaning of work at a sectoral and global level?
  • As technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence are fast being adopted in different sectors and occupations, the future form of work and work organisation is being questioned. Alongside the digital transformations impacting in many sectors, sections of capitalism have advocated digital disruption based on new business models. The use of technology in this way raises Issues of social justice and values. What should be the role of VET in providing the skills and competences to shape the meaning and values of future work and innovation?

Explanation & Justification

Analytical Level

Macro Level

The changing nature of work due to the emergence of new technologies can potentially be shaped. To an extent how technology impacts on work is dependent on values. Equally digital transformations can build on existing skills and competences and older forms of knowledge. To understand these processes requires research at a sector level.

Technological unemployment should not be viewed as simply an issue requiring upskilling, but as questioning forms and organisation of work within society. Life skills are equally important in developing resilience for future employment.

We need a greater understanding of how old knowledge forms are transformed into new knowledge in the digital age.

Meso Level

Institutions mediate processes of skill and competence formation related to digitalisation. What is the relation between specific digital skills required in different sectors and occupations to basic and transversal digital skills? How can skills and knowledge acquired formally or informally in the workplace be linked to education and training in VET institutions.

At the same time, digitalisation provides new possibilities for teaching and learning, for example through augmented reality. This in turn requires the adoption of new pedagogic approaches for VET. Present practices in the adoption of Learning Management Systems form socio-tech systems and may prioritise or marginalise different skills and knowledge.

Micro Level

What are the skills and knowledge required not only to deal with and shape technology in the workplace (in different occupations and sectors) but also for living in the digital age? How does technology transform the work identity of individuals and how do individuals change their own identity for dealing with the changing world of work? What are the life skills that develop the residence required by individuals to deal with digitalisation at a societal level?

Analytical Focus

Learners / Students

Understanding the processes of digital transformation is critical to developing future oriented curricula for learners and students. At the same time, emergent technologies – such as robotics and artificial technologies – call into question existing societal forms of wage labour – once more requiring new curricula for life skills.

We need to focus not only on formal initial training in VET, but on informal learning in the work process leading to identity transformations.

Object / Process

Objects and artefacts play a key role in mediating learning in VET. These artefacts are themselves becoming transformed through digital technologies.

The use of technology opens up new possibilities and contexts for learning, including directly in the workplace. It also potentially empowers processes of social learning, with learners themselves acting as facilitators for other people’s learning and for developing and sharing knowledge within social settings.

This requires research for understanding how such social learning processes can be developed, how new forms of knowledge are acquired and what role objects and artefacts play in these processes.

Trainers / Teachers

There are many examples of good practice in the use of technology for learning in VET and of teachers and trainers sharing knowledge and experiences online. However, many teachers and trainers also feel left behind by the rapid changes in technologies both within occupations and for teaching and training.

Research suggests that best practices are not being generalised because existing models of professional development for teachers and trainers do not scale to meet needs.

An understanding of the possibilities for future VET, requires an understanding by teachers and trainers of the potentials of using technology in their own practice.

Learning with the Open Web

August 15th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I don’t generally advertise conferences on this site. There are just too many and besides most of ridiculously expensive. But I am much taken by the Learning with / On the Open Web conference taking place in Coventry, UK on 25 October. The conference promotes itself as a  “One-day event celebrating the Open Web as a socio-technical ecosystem for teaching, learning, scholarly communication and public engagement!”

The organisers say “Join us to share, learn and participate in how the Open Web can be utilised in different educational contexts and why it is core to the development of digital literacies and critical pedagogy approaches.”

The Open Web is acknowledged as a loosely defined term that can be interpreted in different ways. However, the organisers are keen on contributions focusing on digital practices that involve the use of online technologies that are aligned with the founding principles of the World Wide Web (WWW), imagined by its creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee as “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

Oh, and the conference is free. More details here.

NameCoach: software which doesn’t suck

August 14th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

It is remarkable how may software applications are released which seem a) over complicated and / or b) tp have little if any pupose. So this morning while idly browsing WONKHE while trying to wake myself up, I was mauch taken to stumble on an article singing the praises of NameCoach. Paul Geatrix, registar of the University of Nottingham says:

As anyone who has been involved in graduations knows though name reading is one of the more challenging elements of the ceremony and can cause some distress for graduates and their families if it goes horribly wrong (as it occasionally does). But now, for heads of school, deans, pro-vice-chancellors and other name readers, who have to work so hard to prepare for graduation (and to whom I remain eternally grateful) an end to pronunciation misery is at hand. ‘NameCoach’, which was developed by Stanford University graduates, provides a means of collecting correct pronunciations for name readers so they are sure to get it right first time.

When I went to university it was considered naff to collect your degree in person. But as I understand (from bitter experience of sitting through several of these things) it is now a central part of the student experience. True the software doesn’t do a lot.  But what it does fulfils a useful function for some people who can’t avoid academic ceremonies. And you can’t say that for many applications.

  • Search Pontydysgu.org

    News Bites

    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.”


    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


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