Archive for the ‘Wales Wide Web’ Category

Finding and visualising Labour Market Data

March 25th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Following my last post on creating a database for the LMI for All project, I am now beginning to explore what you can find out from the database.

One of the main sources for labour market data in the UK is the quarterly Labour Force Survey. Data on employment is collected under two main categories, the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) about the industries in which people work, and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) about their occupation. Using our database API we can query the two classification systems against each other to find out how many people in a particular occupation work in which industries. We did this query on Friday for Computer Programmers. This gave us a long spreadsheet which was not particularly easy to understand. I cleaned the data and uploaded it to the IBM ManyEyes site and used the bubble visualisation which gives the graphic above. OK it is not perfect. The industry titles are too long for the index box. And maybe it provide too much data (I will look at what we get using a 3 figure SIC classification, rather than the present 4 figure SIC).

However I think it show potential. And there is no reason why we could not provide longitudinal and comparative data with a  bit of work.


Please follow and like us:

LMI for All

March 23rd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Over the last year we have been working on a series of ideas for using open data in careers guidance. We call these applications under the generic name of Technology Enhanced Boundary Objects.

In the last six weeks we have been working with the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and Cambridge Econometrics on a project for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills on a database, code named ‘LMI for All’.

The Stakeholder Briefing explains:

LMI matters: accessible and intelligible labour market information (LMI) is vital for the effective functioning of the UK labour market. Young people entering the labour market for the first time, and people of all ages re-entering it or seeking to move between jobs, need up-to-date information on the opportunities available. But too often this information is located in a number of places and highly technical, reducing its value to non-experts.

The government has emphasised the importance of careers information to its plans for growth. The National Careers Service’s new web portal, which will launch in April 2012, will provide up–to-date information on occupations, progression routes, wages and employment trends. But over the longer term more can be done to provide nuanced information, more closely connected to the original data sources.

One way in which this could be achieved, which this project will explore, is through the creation of a comprehensive database that pools information from key LMI sources into one place. This database would be accessible to web developers who could develop targeted interfaces: connecting the right information to the right audiences…….

The database will be developed in line with the UK Government’s open data principles3 and will be accessible to web developers from the private or non-profit sectors to use to develop targeted interfaces that provide the information that their target audience requires, in the way that best meets their needs. This will ensure that the data can be used flexibly and creatively to meet real demand for LMI.

The prototype database draws on a number of different data sources including the quarterly Labour Force Survey, O*NET data and Job Centre vacancies. We have developed an API to provide access to the data and last Tuesday UKCES organised a hack-day where, in a one day workshop, developers from Rewired State took part in a competition to develop applications based on the database.  The Rewired State blog provides screen shots and brief details of the different apps developed.

The results of the project will be fed through to the English government with recommendations as to how this work might be further developed.

Please follow and like us:

What is a knowledge worker?

March 23rd, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I was at a meeting earlier this week discussing our ideas for a project using mobile devices for work based learning in the construction industry (see previous blog entry). We have emphasised the importance of interaction with physical objects in the workplace, which I think has generally been underestimated or even ignored in most elearning research and applications, at least outside the e-science domain.

We were asked whether the ideas we were putting forward were applicable to knowledge workers.

According to Wikipedia:

Knowledge workers in today’s workforceare individuals who are valued for their ability to act and communicate with knowledge within a specific subject area. They will often advance the overall understanding of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies. What differentiates knowledge work from other forms of work is its primary task of “non-routine” problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking (Reinhardt et al., 2011).[1] Also, despite the amount of research and literature on knowledge work there is yet to be a succinct definition of the term (Pyöriä, 2005)

I am not sure that the concept of knowledge workers is very helpful. In reality many jobs today are requiring research skills and non routine problem solving as well as creative thinking. And that goes well beyond people who spend most of their days working in front of a computer or what used to be called ‘white collar’ jobs.

Indeed one of the big issues in the building and construction industry appears to be rapidly increasing needs for higher levels of skills and knowledge, driven largely by new (and especially green) technologies and work processes. Traditional course based further training does not scale well – and may not be particularly effective when not linked to workplace practice.

Proving this ‘hypothesis’ is not so easy and of course leads us back to the issue of what constitutes knowledge in a work based context. But in November last year I attended a fascinating (at least to me 🙂 ) seminar hosted by the LLAKES project at the Institute of Education in London where Any Dickerson  discussed work undertaken for the UKCES on:

the development of a new and comprehensive set of detailed, multi-dimensional occupational skills profiles for the UK by combining the US-based Occupational Information Network (O*NET) system with the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC2010). This enables the multi-dimensional O*NET system to be used to generate comprehensive occupational skills profiles for the UK, providing a much more detailed depiction of skills utilisation, and changes in utilisation, than is currently available for the UK.

The project report “Developing occupational skills profiles for the UK : a feasibility study” provides detailed information about the methodology and findings. And I suspect, with a little more detailed analysis, it should be possible to draw some conclusions about changing skills and knowledge components in different occupations.

Why is this important? Obviously it has implications for economies and employment. But from the point of view of teaching and learning – and especially developing learning opportunities – we should be training for the future not the past or even the present. To do this we need a detailed understanding of what is happening in different occupations. And we need to get beyond policy rhetoric about the knowledge economy and knowledge workers.

Please follow and like us:

Using technology for work based learning

March 20th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Those of you who I have had the pleasure of talking to lately will know we are working on a sereis of new ideas. However, we have been so busy that this blog and website are running beyond. Hopefully int he next few weeks, I will I have the opportunity to get it back up to date. In the meantime, here is the abstract of a paper by Ludger Deitmer and myself, submitted for the PLE2012 conference, which describes the work we are developing on using technology for informal learning in the workplace and specifically in Small and Medium Enterprises in the building and construction trade.

Developing Work based Personal Learning Environments in Small and Medium Enterprises in the Building and Construction Industries

Graham Attwell, Pontydusgu

Ludger Deitmer, ITB, University of Bremen


Research and development in Personal Learning Environments has made considerable progress in recent years. Yet such research continues to be focused on learning through formal educational institutions. Far less attention has been paid to work based learning and still less to the particular context of learning in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Yet it could be argued that it is in just these contexts, where work can provide a rich learning environment and where there is growing need for continuing professional development to meet demands from new technology and materials and changing work processes that PLEs could have the greatest impact. However, for this to happen requires a dual approach, based on informal learning and the development of network and mobile technologies. This paper will describe an approach being developed for learning in SMES, specifically in the building and construction industry in north Germany.

The challenge for knowledge and skills

Many industries are undergoing a period of rapid change with the introduction of new technologies, processes and materials. This is resulting in new quality and certification requirements and standards, and in the emergence of new skill requirements. It is generally acknowledged that a key factor for enterprises to staying agile and adaptive is to have a highly skilled workforce. With the rapid development of new technologies, staying up-to-date with know-how and skills increasingly becomes a challenge in many sectors.

Technology Enhanced Learning

While technology-enhanced learning (TEL) has been suggested as a means to address this challenge and support learning at the workplace, its potential has not yet been fully realized. Especially in many Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), the take-up has not been effective. A critical review of the way information technologies are being used for workplace learning (Kraiger, 2008) concludes that still today most solutions are targeted towards a learning model based on the ideas of direct instruction in a more or less formal manner. That is, TEL initiatives tend to be based upon a traditional business training model with modules, lectures and seminars transferred from face to face interactions to onscreen interactions, but retaining the standard tutor/student relationship and the reliance on formal and to some extent standardized course material and curricula.

Informal learning and Personal Learning Environments

However research suggests that in SMEs much learning takes place in the workplace and through work processes, is multi episodic, is often informal, is problem based and takes place on a just in time basis (Hart, 2011). Rather than a reliance on formal or designated trainers, much training and learning involves the passing on of skills and knowledge from skilled workers (Attwell and Baumgartl, 2009). In other words, learning is highly individualized and heavily integrated with contextual work practices. While this form of delivery (learning from individual experience) is highly effective for the individual and has been shown to be intrinsically motivating by both the need to solve problems and by personal interest (Attwell, 2007; Hague & Lohan, 2009), it does not scale very well: if individual experiences are not further taken up in systematic organisational learning practices, learning remains costly, fragmented and unsystematic.

The Building and Construction Sector

The building and construction trades are undergoing a period of rapid change with the introduction of green building techniques and materials followed by new processes and standards. The EU directive makes near zero energy building mandatory by 2021 (European Parliament 2009). This is resulting in the development of new skill requirements for work on building sites.

The sector is characterized by a small number of large companies and a large numbers of SMEs in both general building and construction and in specialized craft trades. Building and Construction projects require more interactive collaboration within as well as under different craft trade companies. Following the logistical chain also with planners and architects as well as with suppliers of new materials.

Continuing training is becoming increasingly important for dealing with technological change. Much of the further training offers are too little connected with real work projects and there is often little transfer of learning. The cost pressure in building enterprises limits chances for time-consuming training measures far away from the workplace. (Schulte, Spöttl, 2009). In all this there is an issue of how to share knowledge both between workers in different workplaces and of how to provide just in time training to meet new needs and how to link formal training with informal learning and work based practice in the different craft trades.

Mobile technologies

In the past few years, emerging technologies (such as mobile devices or social networks) have rapidly spread into all areas of our life. However, while employees in SMEs increasingly use these technologies for private purposes as well as for informal learning, enterprises have not really recognized the personal use of technologies as effectively supporting informal learning. As a consequence, the use of these emerging technologies has not been systematically taken up as a sustainable learning strategy that is integrated with other forms of learning at the workplace.

An approach to developing PLEs

We are researching methods and technologies to scale-up informal learning support for PLEs so that it is cost-effective and sustainable, offers contextualised and meaningful support in the virtual and physical context of work practices. We aim to:

  • Ensure that peer production is unlocked: Barriers to participation need to be lowered, massive reuse of existing materials has to be realized, and experiences people make in physical contexts needs to be included.
  • Ensure individuals receive scaffolds to deal with the growing abundance: We need to research concepts of networked scaffolding and research the effectiveness of scaffolds across different contexts.
  • Ensure shared meaning of work practices at individual, organisational and inter-organisational levels emerges from these interactions: We need to lower barriers for participation, allow emergence as a social negotiation process and knowledge maturing across institutional boundaries, and research the role of physical artefacts and context in this process.

The paper will explore the evolution of this work in developing work based PLEs, capturing informal learning.

Please follow and like us:

Coding the future

March 8th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The debate over computer science, digital literacies etc. in the UK is still continuing. And the success of the Raspberry Pi computer – selling out of its first 70000 production run in under a week shows the demand and interest in coding and computers in general.

One driver of the debate is that employers are unhappy with the competence and knowledge of potential employees. But this is not new. Employers have always moaned that job applicants do not have the right skills, aptitudes, attitudes – whatever. And it is always the fault of the schools or universities. Maybe it is time that employers started thinking about their own role and responsibilities for training a future workforce. And that includes the IT industry. Of course curricula need updating. Learning how computers work is probably more of a democratic necessity rather than for employment or the economy. There is a danger that we evolve as a society of consumers essentially controlled by the technology of a few major corporations. You know who they are!

But just tweeking the school curriculum or weeding out production fodder university courses will not solve the problem. The real issue is how we view learning – how we create learning environments outside the classroom and how we value learning that takes place outside the formal education sector.

I like the following thoughtful comments from Chris Applegate on his blogpost ‘Why it’s not just about teaching kids to code

Secondly, there’s a spectrum of challenges, but there’s also a spectrum of solutions. It’s not just schools and universities that need to bear the burden. As I said, coding is a practice. There’s only so much that can be taught; an incredible amount of my knowledge comes from experience. Practical projects and exercises in school or university are essential, but from my experience, none of that can beat having to do it for real. Whether it’s for a living, or in your spare time (coding your own site, or taking part in an Open Source project), the moment your code is being used in the real world and real people are bitching about it or praising it, you get a better appreciation of what the task involves.

So it’s not just universities and schools that need to improve their schooling if we want to produce better coders. Employers should take a more open-minded approach to training staff to code – those that are keen and capable – even if it’s not part of their core competence. Technology providers should make it easier to code on their computers and operating systems out-of-the-box. Geeks need to be more open-minded and accommodating to interested beginners, and to build more approachable tools like Codecademy. Culturally, we need to be treat coding less like some dark art or the preserve of a select few.


Please follow and like us:

A third of recent graduates in low skilled jobs

March 7th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I spend a lot of time at the moment looking at how we can interpret and explain labour market data, especially for use in careers. Universities are a sensitive area of policy in the UK, and particularly in England, with an increase in fees of up to £9000 a year from this September. Inevitably, young people – and parents, are increasingly wondering if it is worth it in terms of future careers.

Strangely the big fall off in applications is from mature students who will be less effected as many of them will not hit the ceiling for repayments of the students loans being made available to pay the fees.

Thus, I suspect, it is perception rather than immediate hard economics which is driving people to apply or not.

Yesterday, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published a new report – Graduates in the Labour Market 2012 – based on the latest statistics from the Labour Force Survey. And in a very welcome development, they published a video on Youtube to accompany the PDF report. The Guardian newspaper highlighted the main results of the4 report:

More than a third of recent graduates are employed in low-skilled jobs, official figures show.

In the final quarter of 2011, 35.9% of those who had graduated from university in the previous six years were employed in lower-skilled occupations, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. This compares with 26.7%, or just over one in four, in 2001.

In the same period, the number of recent graduates in the jobs market has grown by 438,000 to around 1.5 million in 2011.

Jobs categorised as low-skilled by the ONS include hotel porters, waiters and bar staff, and retail assistants.

The report may be masking the extent of graduate unemployment however, as the unemployed figure excludes those on work experience or internships many of which are short term and, controversially, unpaid.

The one figure which surprised me in the video was the concentration of graduates in London and the South East. I suspect this reflects the role of the London and the South East as the centre for banking and finance, most of which jobs require a degree. Conversely those regions with a lower percentage of graduates are mainly focused on manufacturing industry. Whilst these industries require skilled workers, degrees may not be so important. I would be very interested to see a comparison between pay and employment of graduates and skilled workers (without a degree – for instance with an apprenticeship). Unfortunately the way in which The Labour Force Survey collects data around qualifications makes it very difficult to make any meaningful comparisons. Yet, especially for young people from working class backgrounds, that may be a key choice for them in coming years.

And whilst the present English government is attempting to increase the number of apprenticeship places, there have been persistent criticism over the quality of those apprenticeship places (see this recent BBC report), with many so called apprenticeships consisting of short courses in the retail and service industries – just those very areas where so many recent graduates are ending up!



Please follow and like us:

Restart Education

March 1st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the Imaginarium in Romania, an event organised as part of the Restart Education campaign in that country. Restart Education is a partnership between the Romanian American Foundation, TechSoup, CROS and Microsoft, and according to their website “creates a framework for innovation in learning and education – harnessing the power of technology to develop new ‘user’ centric tools for Romanian education. ”

The website goes on to explain their motivation for the project.

Education and the approach to pedagogy are in need of constant innovation and reinvention to keep up with an accelerating pace of change.  The world is shifting from a paradigm based on memorization to valuing abilities to synthesize available data and collaboration.  Thankfully, the tools of the information age that demand new approaches also provide systems for collaboration and consumer led development; offering the opportunity to answer the question of ‘what will make education more relevant and valuable in real time?.’

The event was designed as a mixture between an unconference, a workshop and a game with some 100 participants, mostly young people.

The first session was devoted to exploring a model for the future of education developed by the CROS NGO. In the second session the groups or ‘tribes’ brainstormed ideas for new applications to support learning. That resulted in some 169 ideas which were then grouped and on the second day participants further developed their ideas and made a short pitch around them. At that point I sadly had to leave to catch a plane but I gather there was going to be a vote with the most successful ideas receiving development and marketing support.

I was relying on interpreters so may not have fully understood all of the ideas. Some seemed to struggle to advance their thinking outside present assessment and classroom paradigm but a  number seemed very promising. And most encouraging was the enthusiasm of the participants who had given up a weekend to0 attend the event. I would love to see this model repeated elsewhere and also was left wondering how to get peopel to truly explore more radical models for education.

The organisers had invited Leonard Turtin from Summerhill School, myself, Fred Garnet and Cosmin Alexandru to make short inputs, I guess to try to promote an alternative vision for education.

Clearly this was just the beginning of a longer process and I hope to be able to keep in touch with the development. many thanks for CROS for inviting me (I will write another post on the remarkable structure and activities of the student NGOs in Romania and thanks to to all the people with whom I had such stimulating discussions. I don’t know about the Romanian participants but I came away awed and inspired by the energy and vision of what could be. Now the question is how to realise those ideas.

You can find out more on the Restart Education Facebook page and on Fred Garnett’s blog which he set up for the event.

Please follow and like us:
  • Search

    Social Media

    News Bites

    Racial bias in algorithms

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

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

    Please follow and like us:

    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

    Via The Canary.

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

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

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

    Please follow and like us:

    Quality Training

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

    Please follow and like us:

    News from 1994

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

    Please follow and like us:

    Other Pontydysgu Spaces

    • Pontydysgu on the Web

      Our Wikispace for teaching and learning
      Sounds of the Bazaar Radio LIVE
      Join our Sounds of the Bazaar Facebook goup. Just click on the logo above.

      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.

      Please follow and like us:
  • Twitter

  • @C_Goodfellow_ Congratulations Claire. I mean, Dr Claire .🤗 I'll be raising a glass to you tonight x🥂

    About 2 days ago from Cristina Costa's Twitter via Twitter for Android

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Categories