Friday, April 21, 2017

AVETRA 2017 - Day 2

Day 2 begins at 9am after a late night conference dinner.

Practitioner research is showcased with a series of presentations. Dr. Melinda Waters sets the scene. Shared two projects - scholarship project, association  of colleges UK and applied research model - Canada for guidelines and models.
Details also in paper - Waters, Simon, Simons, Davids and Harreveld (2015). New practices for new times: a case for scholarly activity in Vocational Education in Australia. Journal article.
Provided rationale for practitioner research and its importance along with advantages of implementing practitioner research. Capabilities include critical professionalism (Bathmaker and Avis, 2013). Shared examples of innovative pedagogies in VET, including spatial work, Affective  work, balancing work and practices of inquiry and research.

I attend the following two.
Firstly with Robert Brodie from Swinburne reporting on his International Specialised Skills fellowship to Canada and the US of A to investigate models of training in carpentry. Provided background and reasons for selecting the focus of his fellowship. Need to upgrade the range and depth of skills across his industry as 'specialised skills' survive the 'second machine age (Brynjolsson and McAfee)' when compared to 'ordinary' skills. Warns of disappearance of high skill craftsmanship if challenges of globalisation, skill depreciation and aging trades teacher workforce. Summarised the various institutions and systems visited and learning distilled from each. Especially impressed by Canadian system with training system allowing for focus on heritage, sustainability and / or journeyman. Provided examples relevant and applicable to the Australian contexts. Concluded on need for a journeyman or RedSeal type qualification to raise standards. 
Final report available ISSI site.

Secondly, is maintaining industry currency in a time of change With Dr. Philip Alviano from Master Builders Association Victoria. Rapid changes include energy efficiency, BIM, 3 D printing and prefabrication. Report on construction technologies summarised. Prefabrication include cross laminated timber panels, cassette flooring, prefabricated pods and closed panels. Current technologies picked up on ISSI fellowship in Germany last year. Especially impressed with Craftsmanship approaches. 
New construction technologies require funding for VET development centre, trainer upskilling and skills analysis through interviews, informal discussions with management, design and shop floor. Summarised feedback on skill analysis. Findings to include need for more people's skills to work in collaborative tasks. Might need Blended skills qualification bringing together carpentry and civil construction.

Melinda and Linda Simon then facilitated a session on 'what does it take to do practitioner research?' practitioners shared their experiences and challenges. Support structures detailed to assist the process. The difference and movement between scholarship, quality assurance processes and research was raised. Each may support and feed into the other. Nudging scholarship and quality processes into research requires capability building perhaps through community of practice/s and support.

After morning tea, I attend Professor Stephen Billett's session on 'towards a comprehensive account of adult learning and development'. Overview of adult learning and developmentand elements of a framework to address the lack of a solid and empirically grounded theories on adult learning and development. Many accounts are descriptive and speculative and compares poorly with theories of children's learning and development. Examples given on reflection, transformative learning, what are its scientific basis? Does it exist? How are they constituted? What are they constituted? 
Feye and Nylander review reveals majority to be qualitative methods and based on social theories. Elements of a framework for adult learning and development influenced by institutional or social, brute and personal factors (Searle, 1995) includes micro-genesis, ontogenetic development, distinction between learning and development, phylogenetic development and transitions in societal roles. Proposed the ways in which these focuses interrelate and interconnect. Summarised the precepts of microgeneses. Therefore theory needs to accomodate inter and infra psychological processes, fresh consideration of socio genesis goes beyond ideation and procedural and societal. Must be grounded and empirically informed.

Then Ronnie Liu completing his PhD from Griffith University on 'understanding practice based learning in small business Chinese restaurants: a practice theory perspective. Argues for richness of learning undertaken in the ethnic hospitality context, not currently recognised or accredited. Used a practice based theory lens to find out the features of learning characteristic of this context and it can the workforce be better supported. Used workplace learning theories and practice architectures as investigative framework. Detailed method. Findings included enacted pedagogies, special practice based learning and sayings used. Pedagogies include declarative - know that,  procedural - know how, experimental - know why knowledge and observation, rectification, internalisation - explicit to tacit, enculturation and synchronisation. Special features of this learning are to participate in purposeful and progressive, participatory activities, relational interdependence between individual and social world, aesthetic grounding, chain of actions with cultural coherence (workplace, regional culture), tacit and explicit knowledge conversions, intuition as expertise, critical reflection and embodied prevalence. 
Practice architectures studied on the sayings, doings and relating for the learning and work activities. So how can these practice architectures be enhanced and how have they been constrained? Practice based learning can be better supported through better communications between stakeholders, listen to voices of workers / learners and considerations of the enabling and constraining factors.

Two sessions after lunch. 

Jennifer Miles from Monash and Jane Court from Chisholm Institute with 'locating and practicing authenticity in VET. Early findings from Jennifer's PhD. Presented on how training packages are both the box and a means to keep people in boxes. How do we help VET teachers to critique and challenge the instrumentality of competency based training. Both presenters teach Cert 4 adult learning teaching qualification. Argued for importance of ensuring VET educators able to be critical thinkers. Used a team teaching approach to frame Diploma in VE5 to enable learners to improve their teaching practices. Begins with the learning of self and then to develop their strengths. Need to foster spaces as transformation and space to transform. Finding self includes remembered, ordered and imagined self (Brady).

Warren Guest from Holmesglen TAFE and Mike Brown from La Trobe present on 'providing pastoral care in apprenticeships: increasing retention rates through provision of mentoring and social support arrangements'. Reported on a pilot study to provide support services to apprentices. Now run 6 months and although many encountered significant hurdles, 86 % retention has been a good result. Pilot now funded by state to continue for 3 years. Background includes low completion rates, complex system, role of teacher, employer, parent, apprentices have changed, quality mentoring and pastoral care lifts completion rates, there are multiple stakeholders and competing functions. 129 case studies undertaken along with 6 apprentice support coordinators (ASC) interviewed and large forum also conducted. Pastoral care main intervention 54%, 13% mentoring advice, 16% for financial support and 17% academic support. ASCs with trades background believed their experiences and networks assisted with their role and their work often overlapped with pastoral roles of trainers, mediating role of field officers, mentoring role of employers. Proposed the need to reframe the apprenticeship system, less complicated, requirements for ongoing support etc. continual project across next 3 years to inform construct of better model.

Conference closes mid afternoon with conference overview. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

AVETRA 2017 - Day 1

This year marks the 20th anniversary of AVETRA- the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association. The conference is at William Angliss Institute / TAFE in Melbourne. Conference began yesterday evening with welcome reception and 20th birthday celebrations which included a birthday cake covered in red and black icing - AVETRA and Canterbury colours. A good opportunity to catch up with familiar faces and meet new researchers.

Day one begins at 8.30am with Colin Hunter Junior's welcome to country and conference opening with Linda Simon. Linda provided some thought provoking challenges to think through during the inference. In particular, how much has changed and more importantly, not shifted in policy and practice, despite 20 years of the association. What can we do with the research now taking place to make a change in the VET sector? how can research be better supported through the sector? Especially given activity within small numbers of the TAFE sector now beginning the building of a research culture.

First keynote is with Professor Peter Noonan, Professional Fellow at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University of who shares insights into the future directions for tertiary education in Australia - challenges and possibilities. A report from work completed recently summarised and extension of keynote from last year which focused on funding issues within the Australian contexts. Reiterated the importance of tertiary education to the nation and for individuals. Labour Department projection for 2020 predicts only 69,000 out of each million jobs will require only secondary school education. Formal education only one means to attain skilled workers, also international migration, on job and firm based training, personal experience and development and professional development. Important to apply skills in workplace as this drives productivity not just more people competing qualifications. Capping of enrolments will not allow for the number of skilled people required. However, growth cannot be funded under the current model.   Went on to summarise the challenges presented by VET and HE partnerships and pathways. In the main, differences in qualification design make is difficult to articulate credit transfers. Proposed three scenarios to address challenges, absorption of VET diplomas and advanced diplomas into HE, increased pathways in strong VET and labour market linkages e.g. Higher level apprenticeships and VET becomes major provider of sub-degree programmes including associate degrees. Proposed and rationalised new VET funding model to support need for change to meet the challenges. 

After morning tea, the concurrent sessions begin.

First up, Professor Stephen Billett on positioning tertiary students as interdependent learners. 3  cases as reasons, better understanding now of how learning occurs, needs of industry changed and social expectations. Reviewed some premises of education. Extends on his work on affordances as there is still a need for learner to engage as learning requires effort. Contemporary accounts of learning supports that learning is multi modal and engaging sensory and neural systems with experiences; activities structure cognition; situations are constitutive of cognition; simulations and grounded cognition; individuals mediation of what they experience; physical and social considerations. Learning has been ascendant across human history with formal instruction having a much shorter history. Proposes individuals need to be interdependent rather than independent learners due to mediated nature of learning through life. Critique the consequences of the schooled society- knowledge pre specification, codified teaching of knowledge, mass forms of schooling, administrative and political systems etc. not privileged are many procedural capabilities; embodied learning, haptic qualities, dispositions, all central to occupational performance! Proposes need to extend means with which students engagement e.g. Working with others, studying with others, authentic learning etc. to encourage personal epistemology practices, mimesis, apprenticeship learning, ontogenetic ritualisation, learner readiness. Encourages not about improving teaching but more teacherly practices that promote independence.

Then I follow in the teaching, learning and assessment steam with 'e-assessments for learning in Vocational education: promises, potential and pitfall. Summary of rationale of the eassessment project along with pros and cons of assessment for learning as assisted by technology. Introduced the focus on various sub-projects and how eassessments assist with learning of specialist skills. In many ways, my approach to eassessments apply the precepts from Stephen's presentation i.e. Learning is multimodal, context dependent and includes sociocultural and sociomaterial interaction to assist learners to learn the genre, quality expectations and tacit knowledge components for becoming exponents of an occupation.

In the same stream, a presentation from Na Li, Craig Poole and Anna Daniel from TAFE Queensland on the topic of developing educator capability for delivery of blended learning. Good follow on from my presentation as one of the eassessment implementation challenges is digital literacy of educators. Findings and recommendations from research and pilot training programme. Defined blended learning as combination of classroom with digital technology to enhance learning. Flipped delivery is one form of blended. Interview data from teachers in Queensland and China reveals concurrence on the main themes of benefits and challenges.

Second keynote after lunch with Professor John Polesel from Melbourne graduate school of education. His topic is on VET, inequality and the lure of university. Presentation arose from findings of PIACC data suggesting VET enrolled students are disadvantaged in employment in the long term when compared to people's with general education. A reply to these statistics provided to give a more balanced perspective. Reviewed the historical privileging of HE over VET through societal preference of the liberal arts over manual skills. In Victoria, between 2003 to 2016 had a declining number of school leavers transiting to VET -32 to 22%. To university it has risen from 41 to 54%. Analysed the data to try to explain the non quantifiable aspects of the difference in enrolments and outcomes. In general 50% to university, 25% to VET including apprenticeship, 6% in full time work, 12% in part time work, 6% looking for work and 1% not working. More girls go to university but if into work, mainly part time. Lowest socio economic origin kids have lower university entry 38% compared to over 80% in higher SES. Argues for work on how knowledge is expressed and learnt in HE and VET; links between VET and the labour market and tertiary differentiation.

Then with Lisa Maurice-Takarei and Helen Anderson from Unitec in Auckland with VET teaching: realising potential. Presented on the framework used to bring the new NZ adult tertiary teaching qualifications programmes. The new book 'Designs for Learning: teaching in adult, tertiary and vocational education" introduced. Began with overview of NZ contexts. Discussed the graduate profiles in the NZ qualifications and sought feedback on its composition. The book aligns with the outcomes of the new qualification. 

On to the qualifications, training products and future skills stream with Angela Tsimiklis from William Angliss TAFE on the rise of the artisan: how participatory action research benefits the development of specialised artisan skills. Argues for the need to support the development of a different way to certificates specialist skills. Related her experiences through a deliberate approach based on participation in the practice. Attended 4 weeks learning at Carpigiani Gelato University in bologna, Italy. Provided example of depth of knowledge required to understand the process sufficiently to be able to create gelato variants.

Next presentation from a group from RMIT and William Angliss on the topic of addressing the challenge of scholarship and industry currency in Vocational Education: a pilot. Presented by David McLean on work with Nancy Everingham, Jane Mancini, Amberley Mitton and Melanie Williams. Provided rationale and background to the pilot. Described process whereby VE teachers undertook an ethnographical study on what was actually occurring in their industries. Based on scholarship framework developed by Williams, Goulding and Seddon (2013). Towards a culture of scholarly practice in mixed sector institutions. Adelaide: NCVER. Nancy presented her experiences and the project she worked on including a shift to critical thinking. Jane also presented her project and explained how the framework assisted with providing a scaffold for her work. both Nancy and Jane teach interior design at the associate degree level after many years of teaching on Cert.4 and Diploma.

As usual, a busy day with an early start followed by AVETRA AGM and conference dinner. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Grand challenges into the 21st century - bbc article

While catching up on international news on the bbc, I chanced on this article last week, on a collection of 'opinion pieces' revolving around the topic of 'grand challenges into the 21st century'

Several commentators provide their reflections on artificial intelligence, cities and global development, health and humanity, energy and the future of the internet, media and democracy.

In general, predictions towards the future have always been fraught. Predictions are based using known and quantifiable statistics and socio-political situation from the present and extrapolating these outwards into the short or long term future. However, we have learnt that the world and the biological earth is unpredictable, with human and natural circumstances shifting in unpredictable patterns. So any discussion of the future needs to be taken with the caveat that it is all conjecture.

The various experts have taken on the task of looking into the 'grand challenges' and it is worth a quick read to see what the commonalities and dis-similarities are.

In general, there is some convergence that given 'progress' as following on incrementally, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet will become standard features in our future lives. How the effects occur require humans to take a knowledgeable approach. We need to be award the potentialities but also be mindful of the social effects.

Likewise, there is a strong focus on sustainability in the discussions on development, health and energy. At the moment, we only have one planet to sustain us. We need to be cognisant and responsible for the effects of human living on the planet. Instead of warring amongst ourselves, it is time to take a global initiative to ensure our decendents have a future on earth.

Not all the discussions are easy reading. Some have links that provide more material to follow up. Overall, worth the time taken to catch up on wider viewpoint.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Disobedient Teaching - Welby Ings book

Welby Ings, who is the first tertiary teacher to be awarded the Prime Minister's Supreme excellence in tertiary teaching award, has a new book published.

I have yet to read the book, but have had the privilege of being at several of Welby's presentations over the last few years. He is subject area is design and he has been working in the area of creativity, producing and directing several short films.

Here is his TEDx presentation in Auckland a few years ago, summarising his work.

Last week, his book 'Disobedient Teaching' was officially launched. There has media interests with interviews on Radio Live, the Otago Daily Times and the NZ Herald - which also includes a short video.

The book is published by the Otago University Press and available at via the publishers or online via usual sources.

Will post a summary / overview after I have read the book :)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Techgirls and Makerspaces - two recent events

Summary of two professional development occasions attended recently. Both are initiatives to increase children's exposure and interest to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, although the sessions attended were focused mainly on technology.

Firstly, a lively evening session with TechGirls are SuperHeroes with Jewella (aka Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen). Held at Ara on 15th March. The main objective of the session was to launch the Techgirls movement's main international event. NZ will participate in the annual technovation challenge for the first time this year. Teams of primary / secondary school girls are mentored over a 12 week period to develop and pitch an app, to solve a real world problem relevant to their context. Technovation is looking to sign up not only teams of girls, but coaches and mentors as well. Coaches could be parent, teachers etc. who assist with the logistical and support issues. Mentors are women or men from industry who will be able to help the teams meet the technical challenges.

Secondly, a session with Dr. Kylie Peppler from the University of Indiana who is in NZ for a 6 weeks Fulbright visiting scholar to Otago University. She was in Christchurch briefly to provide a session, organised by Professor Nicky Davis at University of Canterbury. Dr. Peppler shared her work on Maker Spaces. She provided background on the Maker Movement and provided examples.

Quoted the work of Resnick & Rosenbaum (2013) extensively - Designing for Tinkerability including the following:
Process over product; themes not challenges, diverse examples; tinker with space; engage with people not just materials; pose questions, not just seek answers; combine diving with stepping back.

Examples included the use of Arduino based sets; working on e-textiles to learn how circuits work; using 'scratch' to learn basic programming principles.

All in, two interesting sessions to provide some background on what is happening in the junior school sector. These students will be coming through into tertiary study within the next few years. Tertiary educators need to tap in to students' prior learning rather than be continually focused on treating students as 'blank slates'.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Future of Ubiquitous learning - book overview

Worked through this book last week, Future of Ubiquitous learning: Learning designs for emergingpedagogies.
Edited by B. Gros, Kinshuk and M.Maina and published 2015 by Springer.

The book is available as an ebook via the Ara library.

Timely book to inform on e-assessments project and the learning design work which makes up a large part of my present work. The book provides direction for the future of learning design as traditional models, based on constructivist / or even behavourist/instructivist models, are no longer pertinent as the education is challenged to assist learners to be sufficiently prepared for the future of work. 

The book has 14 chapters organised into 3 parts.
Part 1 – foundations of emerging technologies had 5 chapters
An introductory chapter ‘the dialogue between emerging pedagogies and emerging technologies’ is by B. Gros and sets the scene for the book and provides overviews of each chapter. Some of the changes: learner-centred, individual and social learning; personalised and tailor-made learning; innovative pedagogical concepts – experiential and immersive learning and social and cognitive process; formal institutions will need to be flexible and dynamic; and education and training made available and accessible to all citizens. Introduces the emerging theories of learning: theories focused on the network (networked learning, connectivism, actor-network theory); theories focused on social-personal interaction (heutagogy, peerology); and theories focused on the design of network (Learning as a Network – LaaN). ). LaaN combines aspects of connectivism, complexity theory and double-loop learning. Learning is envisaged to be a personal network of knowledge attained through interactions with the ‘ecological’ spheres of learning. Hence ‘emerging pedagogies are held to: support lifelong learning and ecologies of learning; use different forms of knowledge; integrate the use of technology as ‘mindtools’; change the nature of the traditional roles of teacher and learner; integrate self-regulation, co-regulation and social share regulation; promote deep learning tasks; are transparent; based on socio-constructivists pedagogies; and require new forms of assessment.

Chapter 2 overviews principles of “heutagogy: a holistic framework for creating 21st century self-determined learners’ by L M. Blashke and S. Haase. Introduces, defines heutagogy as a form of self-determined learning and rationalises it as a holistic, learning-centred approach. Characteristics are learner-centred and determined; based on capability, self-reflection and metacognition; allows for double-loop learning along with nonlinear learning and teaching. Presents the affordances for heutagogy as availed by digital technologies. The heutagogy learning ‘loop’ cycles through / touches base with activities to explore, create, collaborate, connect, share and reflect.

P. B. Sloep contributes the next chapter on ‘design fornetworked learning’. Networked learning is defined as learning using computer networks for educational activity. Uses the distinctions between epistemic, social and set design to guide the design of networked learning. Critiques the process and suggests improvements. Epistemic design involves ensuring learning activities are aligned to the achievement of learning outcomes. Uses Laurillard’s work – design patterns for learning – as a frame complete the epistemic design. Social design is based on socio-cultural learning theories including the work of Brown and Duiguid – the social life of information and Lave and Wenger’s communities of practice. Set design includes the selection of appropriate tools to support epistemic and social design. It is essential these tools are used in a holistic manner, so the various ‘elements’ of learning are connected and assist self-directed (heutological) learning.

Chapter 4 is on ‘why do we want data for learning? Learninganalytics and the laws of media’ by E.D. Gazulla and T. Leinonen. Provides theoretical and analytical understanding and discusses pros and cons. Of note is the connection between LA and the types of pedagogies that can be supported. Examples include analytics to support learning through the use of social networking, discourse, content learning, dispositional learning and student centred approaches. The proviso is to ensure the correct type of LA is used to support the appropriate learning approach. Mis-match leads to invalid data being used to support decision making!

The fifth chapter is on ‘articulating personal pedagogies through learning ecologies’ with M. F. Maina and I.G. Gonzalez. Proposes learning ecologies as one way to explore ‘frontier’ pedagogies to connect the formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts of individuals. The chapter provides background on the evolution of learning ecologies including personal learning ecologies. Presently, attempts to match the needs of individual’s learning to the offerings of ‘mass education’ have been disappointing. Moving to personal learning environments (PLEs) requires large shifts in how education is valued, measured, accreditated etc. PLEs implies learners use their self-direction to learning through all spheres of their lives, through formal, ‘informal, networked, socially-connected means. Having to ‘measure’ these, and whether this is the way to go, requires investigation and rationalisation. Chapter 6 provides some ideas.

Part 2 covers learning design for emerging technologies with 5 chapters
N. S. Selander contributes with chapter 6 on ‘conceptualization of multimodal and distributed design for learning’. The chapter describes the shifting from SYSTEM 1 (stable structures, national curricula, classroom teaching, printed school textbooks and assessment standards) to SYSTEM2 (dynamic (global change), development of digitized media, cognitive systems, mobile learning and individual learning from 2000 onwards. SYSTEM 2 requires the development of a new paradigm for the future curriculum, including new ways to recognise learning and need for new assessment practices (and standards); need to account for and understand learning in relation to multimodal design; and the role of digital media in organisation of school work at scale.
Current theories of learning founded on SYSTEM 1. Proposes the use of ‘learning design sequences’ as a basic unit of learning. LDL model – Learning design sequences – see this article for further details.

Chapter 7 by A. Littlejohn and L. McGill covers ‘ecologies of open resources and pedagogies of abundance’. Presents analysis of diverse pedagogies enabling learners to capitalise on digital, open resources. The emphasis is not on the content but on helping learners to create and navigate their own pathways. This is a modern take on ‘constructivism’ with good examples of how to leverage off the ease of access to open resources and how learning can be designed to make the most of the affordances availed.

The next chapter discusses ‘educational design and construction: processes and technologies’ by S. McKenney and T. C. Reeves. Comprehensive chapter which provides a range of learning design approaches to deal with the present and future challenging learning environment. Design through exploring and mapping and construction of solutions is covered. This chapter provides the ‘how do we get from design’ to actually implementing the solution. Strategies for idea generation (synectics, SCAMPER, Slip writing, picture taking) followed by how to consider the idea (Dr Bono’s hats, courtroom challenges, SWOT analysis, weighted ranking) and idea checking using logic modelling. The solution mapping involves refining design, using skeleton design and constructing the detailed design specifications. Initial solution building includes management of the prototyping process using assistance form project management tools – critical path, gannt charts, milestone map, Rasci matrix followed by evaluation of iterations and consideration of revisions. Outputs of the entire exercise include the need to record and synthesise frameworks.

‘User-centred design: supporting learning designs’ versioning in a community platform’ is by J. Chacon-Perez, D. Hernandez-Leo, Y. Mor and J. I. Asensio-Perez. Reports on a project whereby a community platform called Integrated Learning Design Environment (ILDE) is used to share and assist with co-editing of resources and activities for implementation into learning programmes. Represents a ‘worked-example’ case study genre. Many of the ideas presented in the preceding chapters are used in the ILDE.

Chapter 10 by F. Pozzi, J. I. Asensio-Perez and D. Persico is on ‘the case for multiple representations in the learning design life cycle’. As per chapter 9, chapter 10 reports on a project. The project uses visualisation to assist with learning design across time. Principles of multimodality are applied and used across both the approaches deployed in the learning design and in how the overall learning design process is recorded for later evaluation and analysis. Of importance is the assertion that ‘one size does not fit all’ and the use of the ‘life cycle’ as a guide, not a framework set in concrete.

The last part is on adaptive and personalised learning with 4 chapters

Chapter 11 covers ‘measurement of quality of a course: analysis of analytics’ by J. Seanosky et al. Recommends not just the evaluation of courses at the end through learner feedback, but continually, formatively and summatively, using factors across learner motivation, learner capacity, learners’ increasing competency and instructor competency.

The next chapter by T. Zarraonandia, P. Diaz and I. Aedo is on ‘modeling games for adaptive and personalised learning’. Of interest to those incorporating elements of gamification into learning design. The chapter provides a good overview and discusses ways to ensure games are developed to allow for personalised learning to flourish.

Chapter 13 is by I. A. Zualkernan who discusses ‘personalised learning for the developing world’. Introduces various models supporting the development of PLE type educational programmes for developing countries. Acknowledges the difference in resource and access between the developed and developing contexts and provides some ideas to assist with circumventing challenges.

Last chapter is by A. Alun on ‘understanding cognitive profiles in designing personalised learning environments. Describes the use of neuropsychological tests’ potential to determine learners’ cognitive profiles and how these can be applied to better understanding and designing programmes based on personalised learning environments. Perhaps a chapter that could have gone earlier into the book. This chapter uses neurological / cognitive characteristics to assist with the design of PLEs. Takes on the view of ‘know the learner’ and matched to better way to present learning so learner is able to access. Various neuropsychological tests detailed. Discusses how we all deal with attention, memory, navigate through information etc. differently. Proposes future work on harnessing the individual’s ‘ways of doing’ to help enhance / mediate / support their learning.

All in, the book rewards for time put into reading the many chapters. Each chapter brings with it an approach to learning design that is supported and informed by previous scholarly works and supplemented by projects in the field. My challenge is to tease out the items which are relevant to our work at Ara. Given the diversity of discipline areas and levels of learning within Ara, there will be congruence between some of the theories described in the various chapters, and the graduate profiles / learning outcomes required. Will need to read through the salient chapters to identify the approaches which we can use or adapt. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

What makes us uniquely human - role of vocational education

 ‘Super artificial intelligences (AI)’ are currently able to churn through vast amounts of data to create solutions. Used in tandem with other digital tools including embedded chips in other machines, humans and appliances (i.e. the internet of things), AI has and is set to replace blue and white collar workers. AI will be installed in machines, turning them into automated ‘robots’, self-drive vehicles, automatic stock control ‘containers’ and self-repairing appliances.

 One perspective is dire. 46% of the current jobs in NZ are predicted to disappear or be significantly changed due to effects of technology. (see NZ Labour party website set up to discuss future of work as an example).

The other, and in my humble opinion, more realistic scenario, is that new jobs will be created and current jobs will be transformed. History supports this perspective. When work in certain sectors become scarce, people move on into other types of work. These new types of work would have become necessary to support the technology that removed the original work itself! (see this article from Forbes for more detailed discussion)

A recent bbc article also supports the above. There are some things, currently still uniquely human, that cannot yet be replicated by machines.

We are now back to the challenges presented to education by the rapidly shifting demands of the world's workforce and economies. Change in education moves ever so slowly. Debates have swung backs and forths as to whether 'Learning Transfer' occurs easily, whereby individuals trained in specialists vocations are able to switch into another (preferably) related job, if their current work disappears. There is the spectre of 'near' and 'far' transfer and for some educationalists', the argument is for very little transfer!

So where does that leave the individual? Continual life-long learning is a given but what of continually retraining to on and on to try to fit into continually changing work? Who bears the costs? the individual? the organisation? the country's educational system? A shared responsibility is the key. It will be interesting to see the final iteration of the 'productivity commission report on tertiary education'. The final report is due out late February but it looks like it is going to be slightly late. The draft sent out for submissions raised more questions than recommended solutions :)

All above important for educational developers to be cognisant on. The 'new' programmes of study we are now working on need to reflect the challenges presented for development of the 'future workforce'.