Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning welding #2

During our conversations on welding, I have taken the role of absolute beginner while Flip explains the intricacies of welding to me. Apart from the need to learn welding skills along with the skills to be an independent learner, I was interested to find out what nuances are of importance in welding.

One important nuance is the role of sound in welding. A point which I did not pick up on in any of the workbooks or text books I have been reading on welding. As with much tacit knowledge, the importance of sound in developing skill in welding is so well known to experts that they neglect to mention the role of sound in learning how to weld. For instance, Flip told me about the importance of sound almost as an aside as he explains how he detects whether students are completing welds correctly as each student works in their individual welding booths. He uses the sound of welding as a way to pinpoint students who are experiencing difficulties with a weld.

This video contains good pointers to what to listen out for when accomplishing a weld. Here is another one, covering the setting up of the arc welding machine with a tip about listening to the sounds produced by the electric arc to be able to work out how well the weld is progressing.

A google scholar search reveals a few papers from the academic engineering community on the relationships between the sound of a weld and how it is progressing.  A Japanese technical paper studying arc welding sound & its relation to various aspects of the welding action plus a Chinese paper on gas tungsten argon welding are examples of research carried out in this area.

So one focus of our project will be to try to find out how long it takes students to acquire the auditory cues important in indentifying stages in the welding process and how sound may assist with trouble shooting when undertaking a weld. We meet with students this week and begin the collection of video & audio evidence of student learning activities so this project is moving along to plan.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Learning a trade - role of apprenticeships

Updating my literature on apprenticeships and apprenticeship systems as a prelude / preparation /getting into the right mindset towards my work on the Ako Aotearoa National fund project – Belonging, becoming and being: First year apprentices experiences in the workplace. Also a bit of an update towards the literature review chapter of my dissertation.

The 6 volume ‘International handbook of education for the changing world of work’ just arrived at our library and this will form the basis of several weeks of reading. Volume 1 lays out pedagogical foundations, volume 3 on TVET professionalism and Volume 4 on curriculum development and delivery are the most relevant for the moment. An associated book focusing on TVET research, handbook of technical and vocational education and training research’ requested for purchase but meanwhile, some tantalising snippets available on google books.

I also will need to catch up with material archived by several organisations. These include the:

Unesco-Unevoc site with links to various communities working on apprenticeship research.

There is the International network on innovative apprenticeship which has had 3 conferences so far and will be meeting again in 2011 in Beijing. Proceedings from the last conference in 2009 will be most relevant as it is on transition from school to work and building vocational identity.

The European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) is a more generalised site but has much of relevance.

Also with a European flavour is the European Educational Research Association which has a VET network called VETNET which has a more policy / strategic planning direction.

For vocational educators there is the International Vocational Education and training association (IVETA) which encourages links between vocational educators. The latest newsletter has an article on CPIT Trade Innovation Institute (TII)’s Tradefit project written by TII dean Fiona Haynes.

The United States had the National Center for Research in Vocational Education (NCRVE) which ceased to operate at the end of 1999. There is a National research centre for Career and technical Education (NCCTE). Currently featured a review of research in post –secondary transitions. Comprehensive links to US of A organisations relevant to voc ed also provided.

In the UK, the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative has a whole host of programmes including workplace learning strands on early career learning, learning as work and lifelong learning including Learning lives, identity and learning.

The Australian National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) maintains the extensive database (VOCED). I have used this resource for many years and it provides especially good coverage of commonwealth country based research into VET.

In NZ, the Industry Training Federation has hosted the NZ vocational education and research forum for several years & presentation are archived on their site. Also NZ relevant publications pertinent to my project. In addition, Ako Aotearoa had compiled a list of pertinent projects on workplace learning with some articles on apprenticeship and will continually update this resource with new and pertinent NZ & overseas research.

Overall, good to see progress being made in a variety of countries on TVET. NZ now has a small but active number of researchers in the VET area. Although much of this research is on strategic issues, there is still an interest in workplace learning in particular with learning in apprenticeship an important by-product.

Learning welding

The first project in the multimodal research programme is called ‘Learning a trade @ CPIT: Learning welding’ where we will try to understand a little about how students learn how to weld. Specifically to find out how they link their learning of the theory on the effect of heat on metal to the actual practice of adjusting a welding machine to allow for different types and gauges of metal.

Having only ever used ‘welding’ techniques to construct gingerbread houses and pastillage models, I have put in some time into learning a bit about welding. So over the summer break, I borrowed a few books from the library, looked at some videos on the www and visited the welding workshops at CPIT to get a feel of what welding is about.

As with all trades, there is more to it than most people think : )  Firstly, there is the language of the workshop, flux, slag, weldpool etc. including a slew of acronyms MMAW (manual metal arc welding), GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding), GMAW (gas metal arc welding), OAW (oxyacetylene welding). Additionally, there is the unfamiliar equipment with the welding machine linked to various gas cylinders and a series of more new concepts with amp ratings, OCV (open circuit voltage). The star wars trooper workshop uniform made up of welding helmet, very uncool leather aprons and super sized, stiff gloves. Plus a whole host of safety regulations to be aware of when working in the workshop to gather research data using digital recorders and videos.
So to begin, Flip & I have selected 2 performance criteria (PCs) and broken them down using a suggested technique by Graham Nuttall to drill down into learning outcomes. These PCs are part of unit standard 2682 – weld steel in a downhand position to a general purpose standard using the manual metal arc welding process, which is the foundation skill set learnt by welders and engineers at CPIT. Therefore, it is the first welding course students in engineering - light fabrication / structural steel undertake.
The above unit standard is taught in a workshop learning environment mainly through students watching a demonstration by the tutor and then practicing the skills in individual welding booths. There is a comprehensive and well laid out workbook which is part of the NZ modular training scheme for the joining of materials produced by the NZ Welding Centre (which is part of the Heavy Engineering Research Association – HERA). This workbook contains written information on the MMAW process, has many diagrams, uses a ‘fill in the blank’ approach to revise concepts and terms introduced and practiced in the workshop sessions and formative assessment in the form of multiple choice questions.
The learning environment for welding is therefore very much reliant on students learning not only the skills of welding but to learn how to work independently. From the first stages of their welding career, students have to learn through imitation and kinaesthetic awareness / comparisons of their own postures etc. with what is expected of a welder. They have to learn how to adjust their own control of the welding torch, adjust the welding machine to allow for the type of metal they are welding, choose the correct welding rods etc. All this is done pretty much via self-directed learning with small individual guidance sessions from the tutor (one tutor to 16 students!) & peer interaction whenever the students leave their individual welding booths to move into the wet room (to cool their welded sample down). My first impressions lead me to think that preparing / orientating welding students to make the most of the specialised learning environment, which emphasises self-learning, could be something to explore with the welding section.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Group discussion with Mark Nichols

Last Friday, Mark Nichols came in for a brief visit to CPIT. Staff at CPIT involved in elearning had a ‘roundish’ table discussion with him. The meeting was facilitated by Dr. David Gough, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Health & Sciences and attended by Dr. Nicky Page(library manager), Dr. Philippa Seaton (school of nursing elearning leader), Dr. Shirley Wilson (academic quality), Nick Ford (elearning developer), Lyn Williams (adult education), John Delaney (faculty academic advisor), Robin Graham (staff development & myself. Most of these staff have worked extensively on various elearning projects. The primary goal of the meeting was to make contact with Mark and his work at his former (Massey University) and current (Laidlaw College) institutions.

Of interest was Mark’s philosophy on elearning as ‘pedagogy powered by technology’ and his use of core & custom pedagogies to assist with strategy direction in planning for elearning programme / course development. Mark has also contributed to the NZ tertiary sector with the publishing of the Ako e- primer series. A comprehensive series of 'reports' on aspects of elearning relevant to the tertiary sector. Mark updates the contents of the e-primers on a blog.

With the formation of a 'Centre for Learning Development' (name still unofficial) and the movement of staff developers, elearning and educational designers into the new centre, it is important to begin conversations towards direction for how the centre is able to support staff and student learning. Elearning is but one spoke in the wheel (maybe Learning Development Hub a better name?). An interesting year ahead as the emergent centre develops. A position for centre manager / leader / director in the pipeline :) to coordinate the centre's activities and herd the other 5 staff in the centre along.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Update on mlearning resources

Doing a catch up on mlearning resources this morning. A copy of paper presented at efest / teaching and learning conference at Ucol in October last year now archived along with several others via Ako Aoteoroa. Ones pertinent to mobile learning include Kathryn McCallum’s paper on ‘student characteristics & variables which determine mobile learning adoption’ and Thom Cochrane’s & Roger Bateman on their mLearning journey.

In addition, Thom has provided an overview of the Unitec mlearning projects in developing eportfolios using social networking sites using mobile phones as one of the many interesting projects to enhance student learning in the Ako Aoteoroa ' good' practice ebook.

Always good to check up on web based educational resources on Jane Hart's site.  There is a compendium of mobile learning tools which provides a good list for use with iphones/ipod touches, blackberrys and windows mobile phones.

A more theorectical aspect on mobile learning, which I have recommended our library purchases is a book on mobile learning:structures, agency & practice edited by Norbert Pachler, Ben Bachmair and John Cook. There is a preview of this book on Google books.

Mobile learning is no longer seen as being something which is still emergent.  There is now greater recognition of the advantages in investigating the use of mobile technology in enhancing learning opportunities for students. Part of this is the greater access everyone seems to now have to mobile phones. Using increasingly sophisticated mobile phones does assist educators in becoming more familiar with the use of this form of technology and awakens awareness of it's possibilities for learning.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Nettabs and google wave - two new items to enhance mobile learning

Did a catch up on various tech and edu blogs last week. Looks like there is more learning to be undertaken on mobile learning technology with the launch of two items which may assist in bringing mobile learning more into the forefront.

First up there are nettabs, which are an upgrade of netbooks and an adaptation/ improvement to current tablet laptops. Nettabs are to rise in visibility and usage in 2010.  As tablets have been on the expensive end of the market, nettabs are set to lower the cost of tablet devices, make them smaller and lighter and with more user friendly features.  The Lenova Ideapad is an example.  However, last week's much blogged announcement by Apple on their iPad  raised the bar for all nettab manufacturers. An elegant design with a price tag of US$499 for it's 16G Wifi model - making it around just over NZ$700 although may be sold here at closer to NZ$800.  A 64G ipod touch is sold at NZ$699 (which is advertised for US$399 at the US of A apple store).

The next item of interest is Google Wave.  Jane Hart provides a good review of Google Waves uses in education along with various sites and readings on it's potential. I signed up for a preview membership & email providing access arrived within 24 hours.  The main advantages to Google wave is the blending of email with IM & social networking tools which allow photos, videos and documents to be shared.  You set up a 'wave' & invite others to join you.  There are possibilities for Google wave to be easily used as an eportfolio repository.  All entries can be shared and archived. The wiki capability could then be used to do the 'showcase'/ building CV / present eportfolio part of a eportfolio. I will have a good play with Google wave over the next couple of months with ipod touch, PSP2 & mobile phone to see how easy it is to operate using mobile devices.