Archive for the ‘e-learning 2.0’ Category

Stray thoughts on teaching and learning in the COVID 19 lockdowns

June 10th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
covid, covid-2019, covid-19

artpolka (CC0), Pixabay 

 

I must be one of the few ed tech bloggers who has not published anything on the move to online during the COVID 19 lockdowns. Not that I haven’t thought about it (and I even started several posts). However it is difficult to gauge an overall impression of what has happened and what is happening (although I am sure there will be many, many research papers and reports in the future) and from talking with people in perhaps six or seven countries in the past few weeks, there seem to be contradictory messages.

So, instead of trying to write anything coherent here are a few stray and necessarily impressionistic thoughts (in no particular order) which I will update in the future.

Firstly, many teachers seem to have coped remarkably well in the great move to online. Perhaps we have over stressed the lack of training for teachers. Some I talked too were stressed but all seemed to cope in one way or another.

However digital exclusion has reared its ugly head in a big way. Lack of bandwidth and lack of computers have prevented many from participating in online learning. Surely it is time now that internet connectivity is recognized as a key public infrastructure (as the UK labour Party proposed in their 2019 manifesto). And it also needs recognising that access to a computer should be a key provision of schools and education services. Access to space in which to learn is another issue – and not so easy to solve in a lockdown. But after restrictions are lifted in needs remembering that libraries can play an important role for those whose liv9ng space is not conducive to learning.

One think that has become very clear is the economic and social role schools play in providing childcare. Hence the pressure from the UK government to open primary schools despite it being blatantly obvious that such a move was ill prepared and premature. I am not sure that the provision of childcare should not be a wider service than one of education. And maybe it has become such a big issue in the UK because children start in school at a very young age (compared to other countries in Europe) and also have a relatively long school day.

There is a big debate going on in most countries about what universities will look like in the autumn. I think this raises wider questions about the whole purpose and role of universities in society. At least in theory, it should be possible for universities to continue with online learning. But teaching and learning is just one role for universities. With the move to mass higher education in many countries going to university has become a rite of passage. Thus in the UK the weight attached to the student satisfaction survey and the emphasis placed on social activities, sports and so on. And this is a great deal of what the students are paying for. Fees in UK universities are now £9000 a year. The feeling is that many prospective students will not pay that without the full face to face student experience (although I doubt many will miss the full face to face lectures). I also wonder how many younger people will start to realise how it is possible to get an extremely good on line education for free and one thing during the lock down has been the blossoming of online seminar, symposia, conferences and to a lesser extent workshops).

Which brings me to the vexed subject of pedagogy. Of course it is easy to say that with the full affordances of Zoom (and whoever would have predicted its popularity and use as an educational technology platform) all we have seen is lectures being delivered online. Online teaching not online learning. I am not sure this is a good dichotomy to make. Of course a sudden unplanned forced rush to online provision is probably not the greatest way to do things. But there seems plenty of anecdotal evidence that ed-tech support facilitated some excellent online provision (mention also needs to be made on the many resources for teachers made available over the internet). Of course we need to stop thinking about how we can reproduce traditional face to face approaches to teaching and earning online and start designing for creative online learning. But hopefully there is enough impetus now for this to happen.

More thoughts to follow in another post and hopefully I can get some coherent ideas out of all of this

Case study. The Ada chatbot: personalised, AI-driven assistant for each student.

March 31st, 2020 by Graham Attwell

As part of the AI and vocational education and training project funded through the EU Erasmus plus project we are producing a series of case studies of the use of AI in VET in five European countries. Here is my first case study – the Ada chatbot developed at Bolton College.

About Bolton College

Bolton College is one of the leading vocational education and training providers in the North West of England, specialising in delivering training – locally, regionally and nationally – to school leavers, adults and employers. The college employs over 550 staff members who teach over 14,500 full and part time students across a range of centres around Bolton. The college’s Learning Technology Team has a proven reputation for the use of learning analytics, machine learning and adaptive learning to support students as they progress with their studies.

The Ada Chatbot

The Learning Technology Team has developed a digital assistant called Ada which went live in April 2017. Ada, which uses the IBM Watson AI engine, can respond to a wide range of student inquiries across multiple domains. The college’s Learning Technology Lead, Aftab Hussain, says “It transforms the way students get information and insights that support them with their studies.” He explains: “It can be hard to find information on the campus. We have an information overload. We have lots of data but it is hard to manage. We don’t have the tools to manage it – this includes teachers, managers and students.” Ada was first developed to overcome the complexity of accessing information and data.

Student questions

Ada is able to respond to student questions including:

  1. General inquiries from students about the college (for example: semester dates, library opening hours, exam office locations, campus activities, deadline for applying for university and more);
  2. Specific questions from students about their studies (for example: What lessons do I have today/this afternoon/tomorrow? Who are my teachers? What’s my attendance like? When is my next exam? When and where is my work placement? What qualifications do I have? What courses am I enrolled in? etc.)
  3. Subject specific inquiries from students. Bolton College is teaching Ada to respond to questions relating to GCSE Maths, GCSE English and the employability curriculum.

Personalised and contextualised learning

Aftab Hussein explains: “We are connecting all campus data sets. Ada can reply to questions contextually. She recognises who you are and is personalised according to who you are and where you are in the student life cycle. The home page uses Natural Language Processing and the Watson AI engine. It can reply to 25000 questions around issues such as mental health or library opening times etc. It also includes subject specific enquiries including around English, Mathematics and business and employability. All teachers have been invited to submit the top 20 queries they receive. Machine learning can recognise the questions. The technical process is easy.” However, he acknowledges that inputting data into the system can be time consuming and they are looking at ways of automatically reading course documentation and presentations.

All the technical development has been undertaken in house. As well as being accessible through the web, Ada, has both IOS and Android apps and can also be queried though smart speakers.

The system also links to the college Moodle installation and can provide access to assignments, college information services and curriculum materials. The system is increasingly being used in online tutorials providing both questions for participants and access to learning materials for instance videos including for health and social care.

It is personalised for individuals and contextualised according to what they are doing or want to find out. Aftab says: “We are looking at the transactional distance – the system provides immediate feedback reducing the transactional distance. “

Digital assessment

Work is also being undertaken in developing the use of the bot for assessment. This is initially being used for the evaluation of work experience, where students need to provide short examples of how they are meeting objectives – for example in collaboration or problem solving. Answers can uploaded, evaluated by the AI and feedback returned instantly.

Nudging

Since March 2019, the Ada service has provided nudges to students with timely and contextualised information, advice and guidance (IAG) to support their studies. The service nudges students about forthcoming exams, their work placement feedback and more. In the following example, a student receives feedback regarding his work placement from his career coach and employer.

The College is currently implementing ProMonitor, a service which will offer teachers and tutors with a scalable solution for managing and supporting the progress made by their students. Once ProMonitor is in place, Ada will be in a position to nudge students about forthcoming assignments and the grades awarded for those assignments. She will also offer students advice and guidance about staying on track with their studies. Likewise, Ada will nudge teachers and student support teams to inform them about student progress; allowing for timely support to be put in place for students across the College.

A personal lifelong learning companion

For Aftab Hussein the persona of the digital agent is important.

For Aftab Hussein the persona of the digital agent is important. He  thinks that in the future that chatbot will morph into a personal cognitive assistant that supports students throughout their entire educational life, from nursery school to university and beyond.

“The personal assistant will learn from each student throughout their life and adapt according to what they like, while guiding them through studies. It could remind when homework is due, book appointments with tutors, and point towards services and events that might support studies, for example.”

 

 

 

Discussion: Learning and Training anywhere

March 30th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

The International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched a E-Discussion on Continuing online learning and skills development in times of the COVID-19 crisis. The discussion started on 27 March and runs to 9 April.

The ILO say “the virtual discussion provides an opportunity to explore the concept of “learning and training anywhere, anytime”, an idea central to the concept of lifelong learning. This, in turn, requires examination of a range of issues such as how technically prepared we are to support new ways of working in the face of disruptors like a pandemic, and how quickly we can organize digital education and training and mobilize teachers and trainers to maintain services to learners.”

You can join the discussion at the following addresses

 

Digital Creative Arts Framework

February 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I am supposed to be adding resources on the Circular Economy for a new webs site for adult educators which we are helping develop. But as happens too often with digital media I got distracted by Twitter. It was a tweet from Dave White which did it. N was not quite sure what he was going on about but Dave White is always worth listening to.

Lots of discussion in our #teachcomUAL session again this week – thanks to @mattlingard. I’ll post the slides in the next couple of days.

The recording of the session: eu.bbcollab.com/recording/810f…

Temp location for the Digital Fieldwork activities is here: daveowhite.com/digifield1/ twitter.com/daveowhite/sta…

I followed the links and ending up on thetemp location’ web site.   And very interesting it is too. The Digital Creative Attributes framework developed at the University of the Arts London is designed to connecting high-level aspirations through to practical activity. These, Dave says,   are an extension of the Creative Attributes Framework at the UAL which lays out nine key attribute areas in three groups. The Digital Creative Attributes Framework (‘D-CAF’) is a framework which provides a shared language for staff, students and the creative industries and, amongst other things, can be used to articulate current curriculum in digital-practice terms.

The DCAF is released under  a Creative Commons licence and says Dave “It gives a good insight into the digital practices which underpin creative working and as such is relevant to anyone taking a creative approach to teaching and learning.”

 

Technology and pedagogic models for training teachers in developing countries

January 22nd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

My new year intentions to post more regularly here got disrupted quickly by a bad cold and a week of travel. But I’m back in the saddle. There are two major themes running through my work at the moment (and overlapping to an extent: initial teacher training and continuous professional development for teachers and trainers and the impact of new technologies, especially Artificial Intelligence of both education and employment. So, here is the first of a series of posts on those subjects (though probably not in any particular order).

I’ve been doing some research into the training of teachers in Sub Saharan Africa. The major issue is the shortage of qualified teachers, which is of such a scale that there seems little no hope of overcoming by tradition pre service teacher training institutions. Also scaling up provision through teacher training colleges is problematic due to the size of many African countries and the rural  nature of much of those countries. Part of the problem in many countries in Sub Saharan African countries is the lack of prestige in which teaching is held and the low pay for teachers. That being said, there still remains a major challenge in terms of training new teachers and in providing continuing professional development for existing teachers.

In this situation, it is little wonder that attention is focused on the use of ICT for teacher education. It is probably fair to say that despite the issues of connectivity and access to technology, Technology Enhanced Learning is seen as the only real answer for the shortage of teachers in many countries in the region. This is despite Infodev’s findings in its Knowledge Bank on the effective uses of Information and Communication Technology in education in developing countries that:

While much of the rhetoric (and rationale) for using ICTs to benefit education has focused on ICTs’ potential for bringing about changes in the teaching-learning paradigm, in practice, ICTs are most often used in education in LDCs to support existing teaching and learning practices with new (and, it should be noted, often quite expensive!) tools.

Infodev goes on to say:

While impact on student achievement is still a matter of reasonable debate, a consensus seems to argue that the introduction and use of ICTs in education can be a useful tool to help promote and enable educational reform, and that ICTs are both important motivational tools for learning and can promote greater efficiencies in education systems and practices.

Firstly, I must say my research is limited. But I have read the literature and reports and undertaken about 30 interviews with people in Africa working on various projects for developing capacity in teacher education. And it seems that possibly understandably the emergent model is blended learning combining short face to face training programmes with longer periods of online learning, whilst based in the school. Its not a bad model, especially if support for teachers while learning in the workplace (i.e. the school) is well designed and well supported. My worry is with the training for people supporting the school based learning. Essentially the projects appear to be adopting a cascade model. And although cascade models are attractive in terms of quickly scaling up learning, they can be ‘leaky’, breaking down at the weakest point in the cascade train.

I don’t think there are any immediate answers to this problem. I think we need more south-north dialogue and interchange if only that northern countries including in Europe face huge problems in providing professional development for teachers in the use of technology in the classroom. I also think we need to examine the different models more carefully,  especially in understanding the assumptions we are miking in designing new training and professional development provision. Without understanding the assumptions we cannot evaluate the success (or otherwise).

 

 

 

 

Foresight and the use of ICT for Learning

January 3rd, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Time to return to the Wales Wide Web after something of a hiatus in November and December. And I am looking forward to writing regular posts here again.

New year is a traditional time for reviewing the past year and predicting the future. I have never really indulged in this game but have spent the last two days undertaking a “landscape study” as part of an evaluation contract I am working on. And one section of it is around emerging technologies and foresight. So here is that section. I lay no claim to scientific methodology or indeed to comprehensiveness – this is just my take on what is going on – or not – and what might go on. In truth, I think the main conclusion is that very little is changing in the use of ICT for learning (perhaps  more on that tomorrow).

There are at any time a plethora of innovations and emerging developments in technology with the potential to impact on education, both in terms of curriculum and skills demands but also in their potential for teaching and learning. At the same time, educational technology has a tendency towards a ‘hype’ cycle, with prominence for particular technologies and approaches rising and fading. Some technologies, such as virtual worlds fade and disappear; others retreat from prominence only to re-emerge in the future. For that reason, foresight must be considered not just in terms of emerging technologies but in likely future uses of technologies, some which have been around some time, in education.

Emerging innovations on the horizon at present include the use of Big Data for Learning Analytics in education and the use of AI for Personalised Learning (see below); and MOOCS continue to proliferate.

VLEs and PLEs

There is renewed interest in a move from VLEs to Personal Learning Environments (PLE), although this seems to be reflected more in functionality for personalising VLEs than the emergence of new PLE applications. In part, this may be because of the need for more skills and competence from learners for self-directed learning than for the managed learning environment provided by VLEs. Personal Learning Networks have tended to be reliant on social networking application such as Facebook and Twitter. These have been adversely affected by concerns over privacy and fake news as well as realisation of the echo effect such applications engender. At the same time, there appears to be a rapid increase in the use of WhatsApp to build personal networks for exchanging information and knowledge. Indeed, one area of interest in foresight studies is the appropriation of commercial and consumer technologies for educational purposes.

Multi Media

Although hardly an emerging technology, the use of multimedia in education is likely to continue to increase, especially with the ease of making video. Podcasting is also growing rapidly and is like to have increasing impact in the education sector. Yet another relatively mature technology is the provision of digital e-books which, despite declining commercial sales, offer potential savings to educational authorities and can provide enhanced access to those with disabilities.

The use of data for policy and planning

The growing power of ICT based data applications and especially big data and AI are of increasing importance in education.

One use is in education policy and planning, providing near real-time intelligence in a wide number of areas including future numbers of school age children, school attendance, attainment, financial and resource provision and for TVET and Higher Education demand and provision in different subjects as well as providing insights into outcomes through for instance post-school trajectories and employment. More controversial issues is the use of educational data for comparing school performance, and by parents in choosing schools for their children.

Learning Analytics

A further rapid growth area is Learning Analytics (LA). LA has been defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” [Reference] It is seen as assisting in informing decisions in education systems, promoting personalized learning and enabling adaptive pedagogies and practices. At least in the initial stages of development and use, Universities and schools have tended to harvest existing data drawn from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and to analyse that data to both predict individual performance and undertake interventions which can for instance reduce drop-out rates. Other potential benefits include that LA can, for instance, allow teachers and trainers to assess the usefulness of learning materials, to increase their understanding of the learning environment in order to improve it, and to intervene to advise and assist learners. Perhaps more importantly, it can assist learners in monitoring and understanding their own activities and interactions and participation in individual and collaborative learning processes and help them to reflect on their learning.

Pardo and Siemens (YEAR?) point out that “LA is a moral practice and needs to focus on understanding instead of measuring.” In this understanding:

“learners are central agents and collaborators, learner identity and performance are dynamic variables, learning success and performance is complex and multidimensional, data collection and processing needs to be done with total transparency.”

Although initially LA has tended to be based on large data sets already available in universities, school based LA applications are being developed using teacher inputted data. This can allow teachers and understanding of the progress of individual pupils and possible reasons for barriers to learning.

Gamification

Educational games have been around for some time. The gamification of educational materials and programmes is still in its infancy and likely to continue to advance.  Another educational technology due for a revival is the development and use of e-Portfolios, as lifelong learning becomes more of a reality and employers seek evidence of job seekers current skills and competence.

Bite sized Learning

A further response to the changing demands in the workplace and the need for new skills and competence is “bite–sized” learning through very short learning modules. A linked development is micro-credentialing be it through Digital Badges or other forms of accreditation.

Learning Spaces

As ICT is increasingly adopted within education there will be a growing trend for redesigning learning spaces to reflect the different ways in which education is organised and new pedagogic approaches to learning with ICT. This includes the development of “makerspaces”. A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing. Makerspaces typically provide access to a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, computer numerical control (CNC) machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Despite the hype around Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), the present impact on education appears limited although immersive environments are being used for training in TVET and augmented reality applications are being used in some occupational training. In the medium-term mixed reality may become more widely used in education.

Wearables

Similarly, there is some experimentation in the use of wearable devices for instance in drama and the arts but widespread use may be some time away.

Block Chain

The block chain has been developed for storing crypto currencies and is attracting interest form educational technologists. Block chain is basically a secure ledger allowing the secure recording of a chain of data transactions. It has been suggested as a solution to the verification and storage of qualifications and credentials in education and even for recording the development and adoption of Open Educational Resources. Despite this, usage in education is presently very limited and there are quite serious technical barriers to its development and wider use.

The growing power of ICT based data applications and especially big data and AI (see section 10, below) are of increasing importance in education.

The use of data for policy and planning

One use is in education policy and planning, providing near real-time intelligence in a wide number of areas including future numbers of school age children, school attendance, attainment, financial and resource provision and for TVET and Higher Education demand and provision in different subjects as well as providing insights into outcomes through for instance post-school trajectories and employment. More controversial issues is the use of educational data for comparing school performance, and by parents in choosing schools for their children.

Learning Analytics

A rapid growth area is Learning Analytics (LA). LA has been defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.” [Reference] It is seen as assisting in informing decisions in education systems, promoting personalized learning and enabling adaptive pedagogies and practices. At least in the initial stages of development and use, Universities and schools have tended to harvest existing data drawn from Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and to analyse that data to both predict individual performance and undertake interventions which can for instance reduce drop-out rates. Other potential benefits include that LA can, for instance, allow teachers and trainers to assess the usefulness of learning materials, to increase their understanding of the learning environment in order to improve it, and to intervene to advise and assist learners. Perhaps more importantly, it can assist learners in monitoring and understanding their own activities and interactions and participation in individual and collaborative learning processes and help them to reflect on their learning.

Pardo and Siemens point out that “LA is a moral practice and needs to focus on understanding instead of measuring.” In this understanding:

“learners are central agents and collaborators, learner identity and performance are dynamic variables, learning success and performance is complex and multidimensional, data collection and processing needs to be done with total transparency.”

Although initially LA has tended to be based on large data sets already available in universities, school based LA applications are being developed using teacher in putted data. This can allow teachers and understanding of the progress of individual pupils and possible reasons for barriers to learning.

Artificial Intelligence

In research undertaken for this report, a number of interviewees raised the importance of Artificial Intelligence in education (although a number also believed it to be over hyped).

A recent report from the EU Joint Research Council (2018) says that:

“in the next years AI will change learning, teaching, and education. The speed of technological change will be very fast, and it will create high pressure to transform educational practices, institutions, and policies.”

It goes on to say AI will have:

“profound impacts on future labour markets, competence requirements, as well as in learning and teaching practices. As educational systems tend to adapt to the requirements of the industrial age, AI could make some functions of education obsolete and emphasize others. It may also enable new ways of teaching and learning.”

However, the report also considers that “How this potential is realized depends on how we understand learning, teaching and education in the emerging knowledge society and how we implement this understanding in practice.” Most importantly, the report says, “the level of meaningful activity—which in socio-cultural theories of learning underpins advanced forms of human intelligence and learning—remains beyond the current state of the AI art.”

Although AI systems are well suited to collecting informal evidence of skills, experience, and competence from open data sources, including social media, learner portfolios, and open badges, this creates both ethical and regulatory challenges. Furthermore, there is a danger that AI could actually replicate bad pedagogic approaches to learning.

The greatest potential of many of these technologies may be for informal and non-formal learning, raising the challenge of how to bring together informal and formal learning and to recognise the learning which occurs outside the classroom.

Why we need technology for training teachers

October 5th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I have been doing some research on the training of teachers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The figures make sober reading. A report ‘Digital Learning: Reforming Teacher Education to Promote Access, Equity and Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa’ by Bob Moon and Charmaine Villet points to the scale of the issue:

UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics (UNESCO, 2015b) has estimated that, globally, 25.8 million extra teachers will need to be recruited by 2030 to meet EFA targets (to put that in context, this is equivalent to the population of Ghana).

Of these, 3.2 million would be filling new posts and 22.6 million would be replacing teachers retiring or leaving the profession. There were 59 million children out of school in 2015. To have them all in school would require the recruitment of 2.7 million teachers if pupil-teacher ratios are not to exceed 40:1.According to the Institute’s forecasts, without such recruitment, 33 countries will not have enough teachers to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2030.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces the biggest challenge. of any major world region in this respect. For every 100 children beginning school in 2015, there will be 142 in 2030. And the figure is projected to continue growing at this rate through the middle years of the century. Of the 3.2 million posts to be filled worldwide, Sub-Saharan Africa will need 2.2 million to deal with this growth and, at a conservative estimate, 3.9 million teachers will be required to replace those leaving the profession.

Pretty clearly there is little chance of meeting these targets through scaling up traditional teacher training institutions, nor even through school based teacher training. That is why there is increasing interest in using technology – Open and Distance Learning, MOOCs, video and multi media, Open Educational Resources – in Sub-Saharan Africa. This development is often being led through different aid programmes run by UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning, USAid and other organisations. Early evaluations seem promising – although the real challenge will be in scaling up, mainstreaming and sustaining development projects. But researchers and developers working on initial and continuing teacher education in Europe and other richer countries could do well to look at what is happening in Africa.

 

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.

Issues and challenges in the use of ICT for education

August 8th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

For a tender I wrote earlier thiss summer I was asked to comment on a series of challenges and issues related to the use of ICT in education. I think the challenges and issues were well framed. This is a draft of what I wrote.

Fast changing and developing Information and Communication Technologies offer great opportunities for education but also considerable challenges. How can educational policies and practices be developed to utilise the potentials of ICT and modernize education whilst safeguarding students, promoting inclusion and lifelong learning and ensuring equal opportunities? What are the implications for the design of educational institutions, teacher education and curriculum development? What are the ethical implications of the use of ICTs in education?

ICT in Education policy review and development

The development and implementation of policies for using ICT in education needs to be an ongoing and continuous process, incorporating monitoring and review. It also has to link policy to practice. A technology centred approach is not enough alone. More important perhaps, is a focus on developing and implementing new pedagogies for the use of ICTs. Policy processes have to incorporate not only technology companies but educational experts and practitioners.

The issue of the digital divide and the subsequent risk of digital exclusion remains a barrier to ensuring equity and equality in access to technologies. Policies have to ensure infrastructures are fit for purpose if the potential of technology to open up and extend learning is to be achieved. There are major issues as to how to scale up project driven and pilot programmes to widespread adoption and in how to negotiate access to commercial hardware and software and infrastructure for schools from vendors.

Policy has to be developed to safeguard students but at the same time encourage their creative use of ICTs. Education policies also have to address the issues of privacy, bullying and digital literacy, particularly understanding the veracity and reliability of data sources. Further issues include privacy and data ownership. Policy development needs to consider ethical concerns in using not only educational technologies but big data and social networks

Teacher competences and professional development in ICT

While early initial programmes focused on training teachers in how to use ICT, there is an increasing focus on their confidence and competence in the use of ICT for teaching and learning in the classroom. Rather than ICT being seen as a subject in itself, this new focus is on the use of technology for learning across the curriculum. Programmes of initial teacher training need to be updated to reflect these priorities. In addition, there is a need for extensive programmes of continuing professional development to ensure all teacher are confident and competent in using ICT for teaching and learning. New models of professional development are required to overcome the resource limitations of traditional course based programmes.

The ICT Competence Framework for Teachers provides a basis for developing initial and continuing teacher training programmes but requires ongoing updating to reflect changes in the way technologies are being used for learning and changing understandings of digital competence. The development and sharing of learning materials based on the Framework can help in this process.

Mobile learning and frontier technology

There are at any time a plethora of innovations and emerging developments in technology which have the potential for impacting on education, both in terms of curriculum and skills demands but also in their potential for teaching and learning. At the same time, education itself has a tendency towards a hype cycle, with prominence for particular technologies and approaches rising and fading.

Emerging innovations on the horizon at present include the use of Big Data for Learning Analytics in education and the use of Artificial Intelligence for Personalised Learning. The development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) continue to proliferate. There is a renewed interest in the move from Virtual Learning Environments to Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks.

Mobile learning seeks to build on personal access to powerful and increasingly cheap Smart Phones to allow access to educational resources and support – in the form of both AI and people – in different educational contents in the school, in the workplace and in the community. However, the adoption of mobile learning has been held back by concerns over equal access to mobiles, their potential disruption in the classroom, privacy, online safety and bullying and the lack of new pedagogic approaches to mobile learning.

The greatest potential of many of these technologies may be for informal and non formal learning, raising the challenge of how to bring together informal and formal learning and to recognise the learning which occurs outside the classroom.

The development and sharing of foresight studies can help in developing awareness and understanding of the possible potential of new technologies as well as their implications for digital literacies and curriculum development. Better sharing of findings and practices in pilot projects would ease their development and adoption.

Once more there is a challenge in how to recognise best practice and move from pilot projects to widespread adoption and how to ensure the sustainability of such pilot initiatives.

Finally, there needs to be a continuous focus on ethical issues and in particular how to ensure that the adoption of emerging technologies support and enhances, rather than hinders, movements towards gender equality.

Open Educational Resources (OER);

There has been considerable progress in the development and adoption of Open Education Resources in many countries and cultures. This has been to a large extent based on awareness raising around potentials and important practices at local, national and international level, initiatives which need to continue and be deepened. Never the less, there remain barriers to be overcome. These include how to measure and recognise the quality of OERs, the development of interoperable repositories, how to ensure the discoverability of OERs, and the localization of different OERs including in minority languages.

While progress has been made, policy developments remain variable in different countries. There remains an issue in ensuring teachers understandings of the discovery, potential and use of OERS and importantly how to themselves develop and share OERs. This requires the incorporation of OER use and development in both initial and continuing professional development for teachers.

Finally, there is a growing movement from OERs towards Open Educational Practices, a movement which will be important in developing inclusion, equity and equal opportunities in education.

ICT in education for Persons with Disabilities

 Adaptive technologies have the potential to provide inclusive, accessible and affordable access to information and knowledge and to support the participation of Persons with Disabilities in lifelong learning opportunities.

Assistive, or adaptive, technology has undergone a revolution in recent years. There is a wide range of established commercial and free and open source software products available (such as screen readers, on-screen keyboards and spelling aids), as well as in-built accessibility features in computers and programs.

More people use mobile and portable devices with assistive apps. One significant benefit of ICTs is the provision of a voice for those who are unable to speak themselves. Apps for tablet devices for example that use scanning and a touch screen interface can now provide this at a fraction of the cost of some of the more complex and advanced hardware technologies.

Most countries have moved towards including young people with Special Educational Needs within mainstream educational provision. The use of technology for learning can allow differentiated provision of learning materials, with students able to work at a different pace and using different resources within the classroom.

Regardless of these potentials there is a need to ensure that institutional policies include the needs of students with disabilities and that staff have time to properly engage with these and to provide staff awareness and training activities. Alternative formats for learning materials may be required and the adoption of OERs can help in this process.

Developing digital skills

The importance of digital skills is increasingly recognised as important for future employability. This includes both the skills to use digital technologies but also their use in vocational and occupational contexts. Discussions over the future of work, based largely on the growing applications of AI and robots, suggest future jobs will require higher level skills including in digital technologies. This will require changes in a wide range of curricula. Mapping of changing needs for digital skills provide a reference point for such development. Some countries are already including coding and computational thinking in primary schools: a trend which is likely to spread but once more requiring professional development for teachers. The rapid development of technology is also leading to changes in understandings of digital skills. Reference Frameworks are important in providing a base line for curriculum development and teacher training but require updating to reflect such new understandings.

It is important that digital skill development is not reduced to an employability agenda. Instead it needs to include the use of such skills for providing a decent life within society and community and to equip young people with the skills and understanding of the appropriate use of technology within their social relations and their life course.  Yet again, such skills and understanding require continuing considerations of ethical issues and of how digital skills can advance gender equality.

Identity transformation and Industry 4.0

August 8th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Here are the slides from a presentation I gave at the Bundeswehr BildungsKongress In Hamburg last autumn. The theme of session was Industry 4.0. I think the ideas we have developed on identity transformation in the EmployID project which fosused on work with Public Employment services meet the challenges being posed by German Vocational Educati0n and Training researchers aorund moves towards Industry 4.0.

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    Gap between rich and poor university students widest for 12 years

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    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.


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    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!


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    As reported by WONKHE, a survey of 1,200 final year students conducted by Prospects in the UK found that 29 per cent have lost their jobs, and 26 per cent have lost internships, while 28 per cent have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded. 47 per cent of finalists are considering postgraduate study, and 29 per cent are considering making a career change. Not surprisingly, the majority feel negative about their future careers, with 83 per cent reporting a loss of motivation and 82 per cent saying they feel disconnected from employers


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