Archive for the ‘teaching and learning’ Category

Does AI mean we no longer need subject knowledge?

January 15th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

I am a little bemused by the approach of many of those writing about Artificial Intelligence in education to knowledge. The recently released Open University Innovation Report, Innovating Pedagogy, is typical in that respect.

“Helping students learn how to live effectively in a world increasingly impacted by AI also requires a pedagogy”, they say, “that, rather than focusing on what computers are good at (e.g. knowledge acquisition), puts more emphasis on the skills that make humans uniquely human (e.g. critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity) – skills in which computers remain weak.”

I have nothing against critical thinking, collaboration or creativity, although I think these are hard subjects to teach. But I find it curious that knowledge is being downplayed on the grounds that computers are good at it. Books have become very good at knowledge over the years but it doesn’t mean that humans have abandoned it to the books. What is striking though is the failure to distinguish between abstracted and applied knowledge. Computers are very good at producing (and using) information and data. But they are not nearly as good at applying that knowledge in real world interactions. Computers (in the form of robots) will struggle to open a door. Computers may know all about the latest hair styles but I very much doubt that we will be trusting them to cut our hair in the near future. But of course, the skills I am talking about here are vocational skills – not the skills that universities are used to teaching.

As opposed to the emergent Anglo Saxon discourse around “the skills that make humans uniquely human” in Germany the focus on Industry 4.0 is leading to an alternative idea. They are seeing AI and automation as requiring new and higher levels of vocational knowledge and skills in areas like, for example, the preventative maintenance of automated production machinery. This seems to me to be a far more promising area of development. The problem I suspect for education researchers in the UK is that they have to start thinking about education outside the sometimes rarified world of the university.

Equally I do not agree with the reports assertion that most AI applications for education are student-facing and are designed to replace some existing teacher tasks. “If this continues”, they say “while in the short run it might relieve some teacher burdens, it will inevitably lead to teachers becoming side-lined or deprofessionalised. In this possible AI-driven future, teachers will only be in classrooms to facilitate the AI to do the ‘actual’ teaching.”

The reality is that there are an increasing number of AI applications which assist tecahers rather than replace them – and that allow teachers to get on with their real job of teaching and supporting learning, rather than undertaking an onerous workload of admin. There is no evidence of the inevitability of teachers being either sidelined or deprofessionaised. And those experiments from Silicon Valley trying to ‘disrupy’ education by a move to purely online and algorithm driven learning have generally been a big failure.

 

 

Highlights in the TACCLE 4 CPD project – Working with the theme “Open Educational Resources (OER)”

December 15th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous posts I have presented results that have been achieved in the EU-funded project TACCLE 4 CPD. I have drawn attention to the reports that have focused on promoting digital competences of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). With this post I want to shift the emphasis from the final products to the process of work that has led to results. Here I want to highlight the collaborative process that has made it possible to achieve genuine results with the theme “Using Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of VET”.

Before I go any further I need to make the point that I couldn’t have brought such results on my own – as a research in VET with researcher’s view on practice. To me it has been a highlight in this project to work together with my colleague Jan Naumann. Jan has a background in apprentice training for two technical occupations and then a long experience as trainer and as vocational teacher. Having completed his studies in pedagogics of VET he has joined us as a researcher in ITB. With his manifold experience in ‘training teachers and trainers’ projects we could focus on real use cases and teaching/learning arrangements. But we could also bring the documentation and promotion of OER further with our join efforts.

Preparing the report on uses of OER in the field of VET

When we started working with the report for the TACCLE 4 CPD project we made a decision that we will not try to give an encyclopedic overview on different kinds of OER. Instead, we tried to outline an innovation path (or learning journey) in using OER to shape and enrich vocational taeching/learning arrangements. From this perspective we presented exemplary cases – starting from simple ones and heading to more complex ones.

In the first exemplary case the use of digital tools was not highlighted. Instead – with the process in which apprentices were making their own tools – the pedagogic point was that the learners were producing tools for themselves. Thus, they were invited to think of the use of the tools and of the quality requirements. In the second example a learning path in robotics was enriched with the use of Open Resources (OR) into an integrative project that brought together different areas of vocational knowledge. In the third example the use of OR in a nodal point of hitherto separate learning path helped to link them into an integrated set of learning paths. In the fourth example the use of OER and OR helped to bring parallel learners’ teams (technical, administrative and catering) into a joint learning project – planning and organising go-kart races with self-planned project administration, self-made vehicles and self-organised catering services.

Preparing the supporting power point presentation on two exemplary cases

Whilst the report could provide rather lively summaries of cases that have been implemented in practice, it was necessary to give closer insights into the educational designs. Therefore, we prepared a power point presentation as an annex to the said report. In this presentation we could visualise the development, enrichment and integration of the learning designs in the second and third exemplary case. To us, this provided a basis for discussions, how to build upon such cases.

path1 path2

Preparing the ePoster  to share knowledge on the report and the exemplary cases

However, we didn’t stop working when we had finalised the report and the annexed power point presentation. We wanted to take a further step in using digital tools to promote knowledge sharing on such innovations. Therefore, we prepared an ePoster by using Learning Toolbox (LTB) – the digital toolset that had been developed in the earlier EU-funded project Learning Layers (LL). For this purpose we created an LTB-stack that consisted of three screens (as they appear on the mobile app of LTB). The first screen presents an opening message and then provides access to the report, power point presentation and to a relevant web page for accessing OR. The second screen presents the exemplary case of the single integrative project with additional information and detailed presentation. In a similar way the third screen presents the integrated set of learning paths. Finally we prepared the stack poster that can be used as a mini-poster in conferences.

OER in VET 1 OER in VET 2OER in VET 3

With this process of work we have tried to demonstrate, what we mean with the concept ‘innovation path’ in the context of promoting uses of OER in vocational teaching/learning contexts. And with using LTB as means to share knowledge we have tried to work with our own tools to deliver our message.

I think this is enough of this highlight in our project work. Now it is time to take a break and to see what comes next.

More blogs to come …

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Six: The complete set of reports is available on ResearchGate

December 14th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the last few weeks I have worked hard to finalise my deliverables for the EU-funded project TACCLE4 CPD. The project develops models for continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of teachers and trainers. The acronym TACCLE stands for “Teachers’ aids on creating contents for learning environments”. The current project is already the fourth one in the series of TACCLE projects. The earlier ones have focused on classroom teachers and on organising training for interested teachers. The current project has shifted the emphasis to organisational level and to different educational sectors – including adult education (AE) and vocational education and training (VET).

My contributions (on behalf of our institute ITB have focused on the field of VET and made transparent challenges and boundary conditions for promoting digital competences as contribution to vocational learning. In my previous blogs I have discussed this with reference to the particular reports once I have got them completed. Now that I have the full set of  reports ready and uploaded on ResearchGate I want to present an overview, what all has been produced to support CPD initiatives and to draw attention to promotion of digital competences in the field of VET.

Overview of the VET-related reports for TACCLE4 CPD project

Below I just present the titles of the reports and the links to ResearchGate. For further information I refer to the previous blogs and to the abstracts on ResearchGate:

Report One: Policy analyses as background for continuing professional development of teachers and trainers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.24915.73762

Report Two: Finding new approaches to promote digital competences – Legacy of past projects and new inputs from R&D projects in vocational education and training (VET).  DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.13171.68649

Report Three: Role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the field of Vocational education and Training (VET) – Insights into uses of OER in vocational teaching/learning arrangements.  DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.23552.58880 (co-authored with Jan Naumann)

Annex to Report Three: Using Open Resources (OR) and Open Educational Resources (OER) in Vocational Education and Training (VET). Two examples of teaching/learning designs. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.10969.67684 (co-authored with Jan Naumann)

Report Four a: Strategies and Training Models for promoting Digital Competences in the field of Vocational Education and Training – Reflections on Policies, Conceptual Frameworks and Innovation projects. (Co-authored with Angela Gerrard and Werner Müller)

Report Four b: The Theme Room Training 2020 framework – Promoting digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers Report 4b for the TACCLE4 CPD project.  DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16783.33447

Annexes to The Theme Room Training 2020 framework (Report 4b for the TACCLE4 CPD project) 

As I see it, I have completed a coherent work program starting from policy analyses, continuing with explorations on R&D projects and use cases on introducing OER and then landing to a synthesis report and to framework for shaping CPD measures. I hope that this has been useful.

I thing this is enough of presenting my contributions to the TACCLE 4 CPD project. Now it is time to shift to more specific themes and working issues.

More blogs to come …

 

 

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Five: Working with the annexes to the Theme Room Training 2020 framework

December 13th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

Last week I was happy to announce that I had completed the text to my final deliverable for the TACCLE 4 CPD project – the Theme Room Training 2020 framework for promoting digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers. At the same time I made the point that the mere drafting of such a framework on the basis of the given thematic blocks is not enough. I made it clear to myself and to the readers that I still have to prepare Annexes to the framework – as coordinates, how to work with it. Now I have prepared a set of Annexes and I think that I have done my job to answer the question “so what“. Below I try to give a picture, what the annexes are and what they stand for.

Annexes to the Framework text – what do they stand for?

The first annex that I have prepared is an annotated list of reference materials  to the Theme Room Training 2020 framework. As it is the case, not all thematic blocks have been based on publications. To some extent there are publications that can be referred to. But equally, there are field interviews and working documents and emerging educational resources. I have tried to do justice to all these as relevant reference materials to the framework.

The second annex provides an overview, how the German framework study has interpreted the concepts ‘digitization’ (in education and training) and ‘digital transformation’ (in working life) – and what implications they have on vocational education and training (VET). In addition, the annex presents a selection of thought-provoking theses, with which the research team challenged practitioners and stakeholders to reflect the ongoing and future changes.

The third annex is a seemingly simple interview guideline to discuss the readiness of older and younger learners to take up the use of digital media and toolsets in the context of vocational learning. However, these questions were not the ones that I originally posed in the beginning of my field interviews with vocational trainers. Instead, they were the ones that I identified on the basis of our discussions – I had posed narrower questions, the trainers broadened and deepened the scope.

The fourth annex presents the use of Learning Toolbox (LTB) for preparing ePosters to promote knowledge sharing and transfer of innovation. So far I had promoted the use of ePosters in research conferences and prepared my own ones on the basis of my research papers for the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). This week I had the pleasure to work with my colleague Jan Naumann to prepare an ePoster on the theme “Use of Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training (VET)”. We were happy to complete our work and to insert the related mini-poster to the annex document. The ePoster can be accessed via the following link.

The fifth annex presents the TACCLE 4 CPD Routemap as a tool for planning the use of ICT resources in education and training and for developing training (or CPD) initiatives for teachers and trainers. I hope that the selection of power point slides gives a picture, what all can be achieved when working with the Routemap.

Altogether, I think that the annexes have given an appropriate push to work further with the themes that were raised in the Theme Room Training 2020 framework. After all, we didn’t aim to provide cookboks with ready-made recipes. Instead, we have tried to raise key themes and give impulses, how to work as innovation leaders and change agents.

I think this is enough of these annexes and how they complement the framework. Let us hope that these have been useful pieces of work. Time will tell.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Presenting my contributions to TACCLE4 CPD project – Part Three: Reflections on using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

November 30th, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I have given an overview of the reports for our ongoing TACCLE4 CPD projects that I had completed so far. At the end I mentioned that the next one to be completed would be Report3 on the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). This week I have worked on this report. I have had the great pleasure to have my ITB colleague Jan Naumann with me as an expert in this matter and as a co-author. So, the best thing for me to do was to explore with him different contexts of vocational education and training in which he has been working with OER. Below I present the conclusions of our report.

Conclusions: Using Open Educational Resources in Vocational Education and Training

Here it is worthwhile to note that this report has not the aim to give a comprehensive overview on Open Educational Resources (OER) that may have relevance for vocational education and training (VET). Such a task would no longer be manageable. Currently there is such a richness of OER – also ones that address explicitly the field of VET. As a contrast, this report has provided insights into exemplary cases of using OER to enhance vocational teaching/learning arrangements and to empower vocational learners.

Also, concerning the range of occupational fields that these cases cover, the report is far from comprehensive. Yet, when looking more closely at the cases, there is a pattern variance and a gradual shift from rather simple cases to more complex vocational teaching/learning arrangements. In a similar way the degree of using OER grows from elementary engagement to specific interventions and to more complex incorporation of OER into vocational learning culture.

In a nutshell the key messages of the above-presented cases can be summarised in the following way:

  • Rather simple and elementary vocational learning exercises can be transformed into creative learning projects. This is the case, when the learners are challenged to think, what they can achieve with the results (products) they produce. The first case in which the learners produce their own tools underlines this point. Individual teachers who create such learning projects can become producers of OER.
  • Hitherto separate subject areas and learning projects can be linked to each other with the help of OER. This may happen with the help of hands-on exercises using Open Resources and quiz exercises using OER. The second case of integrated learning paths underlines this point.
  • Neighbouring occupations can be brought together with the help of OER to work with a joint learning project if it is sufficiently challenging and interesting to all parties involved. The third case with an integrated working and learning project with robotics serves as a demonstration.
  • Vocational learning arrangements can be made attractive to apprentices and to trainees in pre-vocational education (also with socially disadvantaged background). The fourth case with the complex teaching-learning arrangement around organising a series of Go-kart races provides an example of this. Here, by organising learners as occupational teams and bringing the contributions of teams to a common effort the learners worked for a common goal. This was facilitated by manifold use of OER and by documenting the whole concept as OER.

Altogether, the cases are selected examples and they do not provide evidence that the use of OER as such would guarantee successful learning. Yet, they have given insights into the prospect of shaping of vocational teaching/learning arrangements as creative learning spaces.

I guess that this is enough of our report on the use of OER. What remains to be done for the project is a final report on shaping continuing professional development (CPD) to promote digital competences of vocational teachers and trainers. There I need to highlight the challenges, ideas and ways forward that have been discussed in the previous four reports.

More blogs to come …

AI needs diversity

November 6th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

As promised another AI post. One of the issues we are looking at in our project on AI and education is that of ethics. It seems to me that the tech companies have set up all kinds of ethical frameworks but I am not sure about the ethics! they seem to be trying to allay fears that the robots will take over: this is not a fear I share. I am far ore worried about what humans will do with AI. In that respect I very much like this TEDxWarwick talk by Kriti Sharma.

She says AI algorithms make important decisions about you all the time — like how much you should pay for car insurance or whether or not you get that job interview. But what happens when these machines are built with human bias coded into their systems? Kriti Sharma explores how the lack of diversity in tech is creeping into our AI, offering three ways we can start making more ethical algorithms.I wonder too, how much the lack of diversity in educational technology is holding back opportunities for learning

AI, education and training and the future of work

November 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Last week was the first meeting of a new Erasmus Plus project entitled ‘Improving skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of Artificial Intelligence’. The project, led by the University of Bremen has partners frm the UK (Pontydysgu), Lithuania, Greece and Italy.

Kick off meetings are usually rather dull – with an understandable emphasis on rules and regulation, reporting and so on. Not this one. Everyone came prepared with ideas of their own on how we can address such a broad and important subject. And to our collective surprise I think, we had a remarkable degree of agreement on ways forward. I will write more about this(much more) in the coming days. For the moment here is my opening presentation to the project. A lot of the ideas come from the excellent book, “Artificial Intelligence in Education, Promises and Implications for Teaching and Learning” by the Center for Curriculum Redesign which as the website promises, “immerses the reader in a discussion on what to teach students in the era of AI and examines how AI is already demanding much needed updates to the school curriculum, including modernizing its content, focusing on core concepts, and embedding interdisciplinary themes and competencies with the end goal of making learning more enjoyable and useful in students’ lives. The second part of the book dives into the history of AI in education, its techniques and applications –including the way AI can help teachers be more effective, and finishes on a reflection about the social aspects of AI. This book is a must-read for educators and policy-makers who want to prepare schools to face the uncertainties of the future and keep them relevant.”

Improving the skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of Artificial Intelligence

October 11th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Pontydysgu are partners in a new project on Artificial Intelligence and vocational Education and Training, starting this month. The project will last for two years and is funded through the EU Erasmus Plus programme. It is coordinated by the Institut Technik und Bildung at the University of Bremen and includes partners from Greece, Italy and Lithuania.

Below is a description of the project. There is also a short form to sign up for project newsletters and if your organisation is interested, to join the project as associate partners.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be defined as a computer system that has been designed to interact with the world in ways we think of as human and intelligent. Ample data, cheap computing and AI algorithms mean technology can learn very quickly. The transformative power of AI cuts across all economic and social sectors, including education. UNESCO says AI has the potential to accelerate the process of achieving the global education goals through reducing barriers to accessing learning, automating management processes, and optimizing methods in order to improve learning outcomes. Education will be profoundly transformed by AI.Teaching tools, ways of learning, access to knowledge, and teacher training will be revolutionized.

A recent European Joint Research Council policy foresight report suggests 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.” They say it is therefore important to understand the potential impact of AI on learning, teaching, and education, as well as on policy development.

AI is particularly important for vocational education and training as it promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. There have been a series of reports attempting to predict the future impact of AI on employment, producing varying estimates of the number of jobs vulnerable to automation as well as new jobs which will be created. But the greatest implications for VET lies in the changing tasks and roles within jobs, requiring changes in initial and continuing training, for those in work as well as those seeking employment. Cooperative robotics offers new work designs and job scenarios for occupations avoiding repetitive work tasks. This will require changes in existing VET
content, new programmes such as the design of AI systems in different sectors, and adaptation to
new ways of cooperative work with AI.

If teachers are to prepare young people for this new world of work, and to excite young people to engage with careers in designing and building future AI ecosystems, then VET teachers and trainers themselves require training to understand the impact of AI and the new needs of their students. There is an urgent need for young people to be equipped with a knowledge about AI, meaning the need for educators to be similarly equipped is imperative. This requires cooperation between policy makers, organisations involved in teacher training, vocational schools and occupational sector organisations, including social partners.

For VET teachers and trainers there are many possible uses of AI including new opportunities for adapting learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment, analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in guidance for learners. AI systems can provide diagnostic data to learners so that they can reflect on their metacognitive approaches and areas in need of development. New pedagogical possibilities include learning companions based on affective computing and emotion AI. AI systems can help in interpreting
activities undertaken in VET, linking theoretical and practice-based learning.

AI can be a key technology in the modernisation of VET by providing new opportunities for adapting
learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment, analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in guidance for learners. The project will promote open innovative methods and pedagogies and develop learning materials, tools and actions in the form of Open Educational Resources that support the effective use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide initial training and continued professional development for VET teachers and trainers in Artificial Intelligence. The project will extend the European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators, a reference framework tool for implementing regional and national tools and training programmes to include AI.

The project will seek to support VET teachers and trainers in extending and adapting open curriculum models for incorporating AI in vocational education and training. Furthermore, the project will develop an Open Massive Open Online Course in AI in education in English and German, open to all teachers and trainers in VET in Europe. The course materials will be freely available for other organisations to use for professional development.

The realisation of the potential of AI for VET requires the involvement of European teachers and trainers in designing solutions to the key educational challenges facing VET. Technologists alone cannot design effective AI solutions. The implications of AI for VET curriculum and for teaching and training in schools and the workplace are profound and educators must engage in discussing what needs to change as a matter of urgency

 

 

 

Reading on screen and on paper

September 1st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Do you read books and papers on screen or do you prefer paper. I am conflicted. I used to have an old Kindle but gave it up because I am no fan of Amazon. And I used to read books on firstly an ipad and latterly an Tesco Huddle tablet – both now sadly deceased.

Like many (at least if the sales figures are to be believed) I have returned to reading books on paper, although I read a lot of papers and such like on my computer, only occasionally being bothered to print them out. But is preferring to physical books a cultural feel good factor or does it really make a difference to comprehension and learning?

An article in the Hechinger Report reports on research by Virginia Clinton, an Assistant Professor at the University of North Dakota who “compiled results from 33 high-quality studies that tested students’ comprehension after they were randomly assigned to read on a screen or on paper and found that her students might be right.”

The studies showed that students of all ages, from elementary school to college, tend to absorb more when they’re reading on paper than on screens, particularly when it comes to nonfiction material.

However the benefit was small – a little more than  a fifth of a standard deviation and there is an important caveat in that the studies that Clinton included in her analysis didn’t allow students to use the add on tools that digital texts can potentially offer.

My feeling is that this is a case of horses for courses. Work undertaken by Pontydysgu suggested that ebooks had an important motivational aspect for slow to learn readers in primary school. Not only could they look up the meaning fo different words but when they had read for a certain amount of time they were allowed to listen to the rest of teh story on the audio transcription. And there is little doubt that e-books offer a cost effective way of providing access to books for learners.

But it would be nice to see some further well designed research in this area.

 

Learning, education outcomes and socioeconomic class

August 30th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have long known that educational outcomes are heavily influenced by social class. But little has been done to try to understand how social class affects learning. In that respect the article by Lien Pham on ‘How socioeconomic background makes a difference in education outcomes‘ is very welcome.

Pham notes that although “PISA publishes its PISA context assessment framework to supplement its regular international PISA testing of reading, maths and science”, ” these are just snapshots rather than an analysis of the impact of students’ background characteristics on their participation in these processes, or whether the educational system, schooling processes and classroom practices may favour certain groups over others” and “they do not help to shed light on how and why some students perform better than others.”

Pham says “In order to truly understand what is happening with inequality I believe we have to recognise the implicit social relationships and social structures in the schooling processes that position students in different vantage points.”

Pham goes on to look at what PISA says about students’ family backgrounds, student ethnicity and polices to improve educational inequality, adding his own comments and analysis. His overall conclusion is that reducing inequality neds more than just access to economic resources

We need to deeply understand students’ “real” opportunities within our systems of education. I believe we need to look more closely at what students can reasonably do (or not do) with those resources given their backgrounds and situations.

Resources are important, but just because a school has a wide variety of resources doesn’t mean all of its students will benefit from those equally.

I am arguing that policy attention to improve educational inequality should place student agency and diversity at the forefront, rather than focussing on resources with the assumption that all students will be able to access them in similar ways with similar outcomes.

You can read more in his paper: Capital and capabilities in education: Re-examining Australia’s 2015 PISA performance and context assessment framework

 

 

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