Archive for the ‘education 2.0’ Category

News from 1994

July 9th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

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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A focus on both discrete skills and broader human skills

June 17th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
laptop, woman, education

JESHOOTS-com (CC0), Pixabay

There is an interesting article by Allison Dulin Salisbury in the Forbes magazine this morning. The article says that the Covid 19 pandemic is speeding the digital transformation of business, driven by AI and automation and quotes MIT Economist David Autor calling it an “automation forcing event.”

The combined forces of automation and dramatically altered demand are giving rise to a labor market “riptide” in which some sectors of the economy are seeing mass layoffs while others, like healthcare and tech, are still desperate for talent. Against that backdrop, education and training systems are underfunded and ill equipped to meet the demands of a more complex labor market and the shifting demographics of students.

And from the evidence of the last recession, it appears likely that it will be lower paid and lower skilled workers with jobs most at risk.

However, if the analysis of the problem is correct the answers proposed leave room for doubt. The article says: “The past few years have seen a flourishing of high-quality, low-cost training and education programs, many of them online. They are laser-focused on the needs of working learners.” Maybe so in the USA, but in Europe I am yet to see the emergence of flourishing laser focused online learning programmes. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest that online programmes such as MOOcs have more often been focused on the needs of skilled and higher paid workers.

Neither is the appeal to stakeholder capitalism and for the involvement of employers in the provision of training likely to result in big change. More interesting is the call for “investment in practices that help workers identify what career they want before they start an education program,” and to “align training to the competencies required to land a good first job.” This, the article says “means a focus on both discrete skills and broader “human skills,” like communication and problem-solving, that actually become more marketable amid automation.”

Despite reservations, the argument is moving in the right direction. Put simply the Corona virus has on its own caused massive unemployment, with the effect likely to be magnified by a speed up in automation and the use of AI. This requires the development of large scale training programmes, both for unemployed young people and lower skilled workers whose jobs are threatened. Fairly obviously, the use of technology can help in providing such programmes. Nesta in the UK is already looking at developments in this direction. It will be interesting to see what national governments and the European Union will do now to boost training as a response to the crisis.

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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

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Ed-tech for good?

January 24th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

The Open Universiteit and the Centre for Education and Learning (CEL) at Leiden-Delft-Erasmus are publishing a new video series. “The digital revolution is having a significant impact on the way we learn and the ways in which educational institutions operate and engage with their students”, they say. Learning in a Digital Society vodcast series gives a platform to leading experts in Technology-Enhanced-Learning (TEL) to discuss this digital transformation. In each episode an expert delves into a single topic and discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by technology and their vision for the near future. Some address questions such as how to teach programming to children, or why technological innovation in education is often slow. Other videos provide a sketch of key research topics in TEL such as Learning Analytics and Open Education.

The first in the series is by Geoff Stead,  Chief Technical Officer at the language learning app Babbel. In a time when Ed-tech adherents are increasingly questioning the effectiveness and efficacy of their work – see for instance Andrey Waters much discussed ‘The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade’ – Geoff remains enthusiastic about the future of tech. Embrace the edges, he says, and don’t just be a passive consumer of tech.

Anyway, regardless of the content, I like the format and production.

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Student Experience Roadmap – what it means for teacher development

May 29th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Earlier this week the UK Jisc  launched the Jisc NUS roadmap (pdf) designed to support students, course representatives, and union and guild representatives to work with their institution on improving student digital experiences.

Jisc say “Informed by extensive research into learners’ experiences and expectations of technology, the roadmap has been updated following over 77,500 student responses to Jisc’s digital experience insights survey, gathered over three years.

The roadmap – which has been updated from a benchmarking tool Jisc previously developed with the National Union of Students (NUS) and The Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) – is now freely available online. It enables institutions to identify gaps in their digital provision, while allowing students to compare their digital experiences to others’.”

The roadmap focuses on ‘Good Practice Principles’ which has four levels of progression: First steps, Developing, Developed and Outstanding. Whilst obviously focused on wider aspects of the student experience, one section covers teachers, with the good practice principle being that “Teaching staff are confident users of digital technologies and media.” Students were asked “What one thing would improve the quality of your digital learning and teaching?”  They were further asked to “rate your digital learning and teaching overall” and in a more open question “When digital technologies are used on my course…”

First steps were:

  • Training available for teaching staff in all core systems such as the virtual learning environment, assessment systems and lecture capture
  • E-learning specialist staff are available to support teaching staff
  • All teaching staff can use inclass digital technologies and audio visual equipment
  • All teaching staff can upload content to the VLE and use an online submission and grading system

Developing were:

  • A technology enhanced learning (TEL) or e-learning strategy with goals for teaching staff development
  • There is a growing cohort of teaching staff with digital expertise, supported by elearning specialists
  • All teaching staff can use the specialist academic/professional technologies of their subject area
  • Workshops are available to support the development of digital teaching skills

Developed were:

  • All teaching staff can design digital activities suitable to their subject area and student needs
  • Local e-learning staff or staff digital champions support digital approaches at the course or subject level
  • Staff share digital teaching ‘know how’ via one or more communities of practice
  • Dedicated funding and staff support for digital innovation projects

Developed were:

  • Teaching staff have time allocated to develop, practice and evaluate digital approaches
  • Specific rewards and career pathways for digital teaching expertise and innovation
  • Teachers and students work in partnership to develop new digital approaches
  • There are excellent digital teaching and learning projects that have been recognised outside the organisation
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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).

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Peer production and open peer review

April 13th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I get a lot of notifications about various journal publications. Most are not particularly interesting and in reality, are what might be called academic spam. But I was interested recently to get an email telling me of the publication of a a new edition of the Journal of Peer Production. The Journal says their focus is on

peer production as a mode of commons-based and oriented production in which participation is voluntary and predicated on the self-selection of tasks. Notable examples are the collaborative development of Free Software projects and of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

Through the analysis of the forms, operations, and contradictions of peer producing communities in contemporary capitalist society, the journal aims to open up new perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change.

The latest addition of the journal showcases a wide variety of case studies in cities from different geographies of the Global North and Global South namely Barcelona, Berlin, Brisbane, Brussels, Ciudad Juárez, Dhaka, Genoa, London, Melbourne, Milan, New York, Paris, Rosario.

But what particularly interested me was the jounal’s review procedure:

There are eight case study research papers which have been peer-reviewed and revised through the particularly transparent review process of JoPP (i.e. for each of the peer-reviewed papers the originally submitted version, the reviews and the final feedback of reviewers on the revised version are made public) and four experimental contributions that have been reviewed by the special issue editors. The experimental pieces follow a less rigorous and more playful format, an interview with commentary, a dialogue, a call for participation, and an open-ended online article. They all invite us, the readers, to follow up their stories in dedicated online venues, or even in face-to-face meetings, and participate in the form of peer production that they advocate for.

I am not sure about the “less rigorous and more playful” format (and am not sure that this is a necessary trade off). But for some time now, I have been arguing in favour of a more open (and transparent) review procedure. Personally, I would welcome the opportunity for more dialogue around reviews I have written. I think this could be implemented without abandoning the process of blind reviews. And making reviews open would also provide valuable learning materials for reviewers. Sometimes I really doubt my own judgement when undertaking reviews. Just seeing the reviews in the Journal of Peer Production have made me more confident about the quality of feedback I provide for authors.

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Are we lost in online space?

February 14th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I was invited to give a presentation at a conference “Are we lost in online space?” organised by in Belgrade.

As the report on the conference web site says, the conference brought together 48 participants, most from east Europe, and 6 experts in the field of online learning. Participants had the opportunity to learn, experience and discuss about digital pedagogy, personal learning environment, online counseling for youth at risk, the possibility to educate youth workers in the online context, the ability of young people to use online tools when they are used for educational purposes, using games with young people, the potentials of using the virtual reality packages in youth work.

The web site also has video of all the presentations. I particularly liked the presentation on How to approach young people at risk to use the opportunities of online counseling by Anni Marquard, from the Centre for Digital Youth Care, Denmark and on Using games & gaming culture for educational purposes by Uroš Antić from Serbia)

It was a lively conference with a wide range of different experiences and views and some great participatory workshops and activities. It was apparent that at least from the countries represented in the conference, technology is a relatively new field in youth work, but also that many youth workers are ready to engage with young people through technology. However, tools and platforms such as Moodle seemed really not to support the pedagogy of youth work, nor to engage with young people. Youth work is more about informal learning – and ed-tech has tended to focus on formal learning.

There was a quick straw poll at the end of the conference on whether or not we were (still’ lost in online space. Participants were divided – some lost, some not and some not sure!

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    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!

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