Monday, July 29, 2013

The solitary trade worker

Interim data analysis has revealed one area for further investigation.  However, this theme will not be reported as the sample size we are working with is too small. So some notes and thoughts collected here for follow up further on, perhaps into to see if there will be sufficient content that can be used in a journal article.

One of the trades involved in the ‘learning a trade’ project, is glazing. Commercial glaziers and automotive glaziers work in teams but many domestic glaziers, work as individuals. Therefore, domestic glaziers providing the service to replace broken windows in homes, travel around in self-sufficient vans from one house / job to the next. Apprentice domestic glaziers receive short but intense training. Some will follow a trade worker glazier for a short time. They are then provided with a van and carry out straight-forward jobs.
Many trades are organised around training an apprentice to become independent. I remember a chat I had a few years ago about how one of our plumbing tutors trained his apprentice. The apprentice would follow him about for about a year. Then, he would leave the apprentice at a job site and travel away to take on more work with another junior apprentice. He would check on his ‘senior’ apprentice a few times a day, then once a day and sometimes every few days. The objective was to have an apprentice who would be able to independently complete a job by the later part of the second year into apprenticeship. 

The ubiquity of the mobile phone has changed support for learner trades people. Help is but a phone call away. So although not face to face, the social aspect of learning a trade is still present. Assistance is synchronous but the apprentice needs to have narrowed down on the challenge that needs to be solved and explain what is required over the phone. The trade person / trainer or coach has to figure out, remotely, what the problem is and provide relevant advice over the phone. Sharing of pictures through texting is one way to cut down on the verbal descriptions required.

When questioned, only half of the glaziers had formal arrangements for sharing practice through staff meetings, most of the foundational skill learning took place when they were following a trades person. When the apprentice went out on their own, they had to apply all their learning to work through the various challenges. They only asked for assistance when they were well and truly stuck. So in a way, the need to be able to work independently, consolidates and integrates skills and knowledge that contribute towards successful problem solving. This form of training works in trades that have well-bounded parameters. The final stages of many other trade apprenticeships also have a large degree of autonomous and self-directed work practice. So, perhaps there is a fulcrum point when apprentices are 'let out on their own' that signifies trade competency sufficient for independent practice and this could be the point at which they meet 'graduate profiles' for trade qualifications. Something to think through. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Technology-enhanced learning strategy launch at CPIT

Yesterday evening, CPIT launched its Technology enhanced learning strategy with a series of presentations and a networking function hosted by the Learning technology steering group.

A vision of the future: launching CPIT's technology enhanced learning strategy was opened by Judith Brown, Director for all our departments .Judith provided links to strategic plan and rationale of the TEL strategy to support a more learner centred approach. Including need to go beyond dissemination to provide interactivity, critical engagement, enhanced feedback and closer contact between students.
Video from TV 3 Campbell live on modern learning environments to summarise the future of kiwi learning. Martin Jenkins, Centre for Educational Development manager,  provided summary of the TEL framework . TEL strategy seeks to combine development of existing technologies with innovation in new technologies.

Mark Nichols, Faculty manager from the Open Polytechnic (OPNZ) provided an engaging keynote.
Mark's topic was on CPIT as a bold eLeap. A challenge to staff to view learning as a designed process with support from disruptive learning technologies. Hw provided an overview of Open Poly practice and the challenges they face as a distance delivery institute. CPIT on the other hand has the advantage of f2f and needs to leverage off this. Mark provided an example of a tablet based competency based course in real estate management. Activities embedded into traditional text based content. Then effectively used 'show of hands' on ownership and use of technology to illustrate how much mobile technologies in particular are now mainstream.
Keynote closed with hints on how to progress with our 'bold eLeap Hints were -- do not give up! get serious about it i.e. design for learning and teaching as science (recommended Laurillard' s book - teaching as design science - as reference) and reiterated " you are the important part of it" - to add value, not to be replaced. Don't be a 'lone ranger'. think of it (the TEL strategy) as a licence to innovate and disrupt those infinitives.

Martin then went through the five goals of the TEL. These are TEL used to enhance student learning experience and success; create rich TEL environments; as part of a culture of collaboration both with in and out of institution; used to transform practice.

Current new initiatives like our academic literacies framework, pilot of learning spaces, equella digital repository, moodle 2.4 upgrade, echo 360 pilot, project tablet (microsoft RT tablets) were linked to the TEL strategy.

Video of examples of use of TEL at CPIT with the work of Steve Tomsett (engineering - flippin g the classroom), Katrina Fisher (barista -multimedia to assist learning of difficult skills) and Phillipa Seaton (nursing - blended learning) then launched.

Judith closed to session and networking with drinks and nibbles served at Visions.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fortnight with Surface Pro tablet

While away for two weeks, I relied solely on the Surface Pro to take notes, read, websurf and write.  I used only the tablet as I did not bring the keyboard cover or the pen/stylus with me.

Notes taken at the NCVER conference were posted on this blog with transfer of the text via a memory stick and PC. Typing on the screen based keyboard worked OK as I was already used to using the onscreen keyboard on the ipad. Only bugbear is the screen blocks off half the screen, minimising the visible area for working with text. I found a openmap to be more user friendly than the generic map app that came with the tablet.

WiFi was accessed through various cafes, museums / libraries and on the Brisbane trains. Always handy to bring up relevant map of where I was headed and then taking a screenshot so the map is accessible in places with no WiFi. The camera worked well and I used Skitch to share annotated photos and map images with friends I had organised to meet up with.  Kindle app worked well for some leisure reading. The ‘windows’ button on the surface is sensitive to light touch, so took me a few uses to work out how to best hold the tablet for reading without continually being re-directed to the start screen every time I brushed the tablet near the windows button. Used Adobe XI to read journal articles etc. stored on a memory stick.

The Bing web browser performed satisfactorily but I also downloaded and used google Chrome which provided easier synching with gmail, blogger and igoogle. Accessed RSS feeds via Feedly which I now use as a replacement for google reader. Most used apps were openmap, NZ Herald, noteanytime, kindle, adobe reader XI and skydrive.

So all in, there are pluses in having a USB port. Apps used performed to expectations. After the usual binge downloading of apps on iPad a few years ago, I am much more circumspect about downloading apps as there are only a few I use regularly. So the Surface being my 'work' tablet means download of relevant apps that are useful for various work projects or for technology-enhanced learning try outs.

However, batteries only allowed for ½ a day of intensive use before recharging was required. The tablet gets hot enough to be uncomfortable on your lab if you use it while it is recharging! So need to plan ahead, reccy various possible areas to recharge the table over lunch time and remember to recharge each evening.

Friday, July 12, 2013

NCVER no frills - day 2

Day begins with a keynote from Daniel Gschwind who is Chief Executive of Queensland Tourism Council. presentation on Tourism in Australia reaching its potential. Provided an overview of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, the current state of play, potentialities and the way forward.

QTIC priorities include workforce capacity building. Tapping potential includes providing services which are value for money, consumer focused and requiring development of innovative products and skills in service delivery and entrepreneurship.

First concurrent session for the day with Sinan Gemici from the NCVER on "how realistic are the occupational aspirations of 15 year olds". Presented work completed with Alice Bednarz, Tom Karmel and Patrick Lim.

Aspirations are goals given ideal conditions, interests are emotional dispositions toward a career option and expectations are on occupations that are perceived to be realistic.

Evidence of strong associations between aspirations and longer term education and work outcomes. Data extracted from the LSAY question 'what job do you expect to have at 30' which is answered by students at the age of 15. Answers matched to the ANZSCO occupation status score, the Australian socioeconomic index and gender. Factors influencing occupational aspirations include gender, immigration background, SES, attitudes to school, perceived teacher student relations, perceived disciplinary climate at school, academic performance, friends, parents educational plans.

Factors that matter most are parent plans on whether kids go to University, not University, army, apprenticeship, gap year. Then, academic performance is important. for those who do not go to uni. with poor grades and male, aspirations are to lower status jobs. For those bound for uni. friends plans, teacher student relationships, attitude to school are important.

In general aspirations tend to be above what is available and also actual employment at 25. Therefore aspirations are high at 15 compared with the occupations they move in to. However, females have higher aspirations but do achieve at higher levels of occupational status, but not to level of aspiration.

Full report will be published in next couple of months on NCVER website.

After morning tea, "research methods for effective industry engagement" with Lou de Castro Myles and Melanie O'Toole. From a project on 'moving earth with the right people' in the heavy automotive sector. needed to find out why sector had difficulty attracting and retaining skilled people. so, need to identify job roles and occupations, develop workforce profile.

Method of industry and workforce profiling, survey and interviews and engagement through industry forums. Found that industry was scattered across range of primary, construction, infrastructure services, mining, public and transport / logistics sector with a range of key and associated occupations - operators, mechanics, technicians, fitters and machinists.

Sector characterised by low skills and qualifications, low VET capacity, skills shortages, aging male workforce and below average earnings. Strategies required to improve workforce supply, recruitment and attraction, upskill existing workers and work on workforce retention.

Conference closes with a wrap up and invitation to next year's conference in Melbourne hosted by Holmesglen TAFE.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

NCVER 2013 'no frills' conference - Day 1

At the annual Australian National Center for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) conference this week. The 22nd conference held at Mooloolaba. The second time i have attended the conference in this location in the last 10 years or so.

As usual the first day of the conference consists of workshops. Here are notes of the actual conference presentations which take up all of today and half of tomorrow. Conference opened with welcome and housekeeping from Sue Ferguson NCVER and traditional welcome to country which included a digeeridoo recital plus official welcome from the Director of Sunshine TAFE, Leesa Boyle.

First keynote from Tom Karmel, managing director of NCVER who speaks on the "implications of increasing education levels on job prospects from a quality of jobs perspective". Higher education for many is encouraged as it leads to economic gains for both individuals and society. however, is there going to be a saturation point? so, what is a good job? how can we rank jobs? by skill, income and occupational status to come up with a cumulative percentile. 1% means job is in the top 1%. examples at the top of income are medical specialists and government officials. High skill include academics. Lowest skill include fast food cooks. lowest paid include hairdressers and cooks. There is a gender bias with male occupations having less correlation between skill and pay. Between 1996 and 2001 large increase in qualifications across Australian workforce.

Corresponding rise in jobs that require professional or specialised qualifications. Over 15 year, advantage of higher degree has declined in terms of pay and entry into top occupations. This change reflected in all other qualifications apart from Cert 3 and 4 where there has been no change. Effects tend to be occupation specific, for example although increase in higher qualification and batchelors engineers and educators retain advantage but management has slightly lowered.

In Science, IT, health greater differences. Therefore, in general, a qualification no longer gaurantees as good job as in 1996, but there is considerable variation between occupations and professions.

Then second keynote with Nik Babovic, deputy vice chancellor of Central Queensland University. He presented on his reflections on the establishment of a dual sector university. Nik reflected on the various operational challenges and new opportunities for teaching and research.

Currently still in transition with CQ University and CQTAFE becoming one institution in July 2014 a process begun in 2010. Challenge involved in bringing higher ed. and VET together to align stategic goals, centralise environments and build the partnership.

After morning tea, concurrent sessions in 5 streams begin. I attend Dr. Darryl Dymock's with Dr. Mark Tyler on "workplace change and skill needs". Report on one of the topics in Professor Stephen Billet's project on continuing training and education in work. Asked the questions, what recent changes have there been in your job? what changes do you anticipate in the future?

The argument is that individuals change as workplaces requirements change. continuing development required to meet workplace requirements, workplace needs transform and remain in the workforce longer. Therefore, what models and practices of continuing tertiary education will meet work requirements into the future?

Interviewed 80 plus workers in a range of industries to find out if there was work driven change. 0ver 90 changes made although 15% stated no change. Examples provided in changes in role, job scope, processs, services and products. For future change, 25% predicted no change but broader influences, work related changes involving work roles, new systems, technology etc.

Changes tended to be due to change of role, expanded work tasks and internal policies and systems. Implications include the emphasis on workplace in supporting learning, workers' need to engage with learning as 'the work is the learning'.

Second session with Dr. Steven Hodge, from University of Ballarat who provided background on "challenging the ideal curriculum alignment in Australian VET". Is there an alignment between competencies as per the intended curriculum with the graduate outcomes? are the graduates work ready as defined by industry. so, are industry skills as specified in competencies and interpreted by and implemented by VET practitioners preparing learners with the required skills.

VET practitioners asked about initial and continuing education in relation to interpreting competencies, implementation of and assessment of competencies. Interviewees revealed disparate levels of understanding about competencies and their purposes. There was divergent understanding with some saying competencies were things to aspire to vs minimum standards. Difficulties could be due to the language of competencies, short initial and lack of continuing education on competencies and expertise development stages means experts are unable to unpack their own understandings.

Therefore, there exist difficulties in the curriculum alignment process as practitioners may have difficulties interpreting the competencies.

After lunch, a session with Beth Evans from OTEN TAFE NSW, with "improving student outcomes: student completion of research and projects in distance education". OTEN is largest vocational education provider of distance learning in Australia with 64000 students with diverse needs, entry levels, motivations etc.

2011 completion rate for VET only 27% compared to university sectors 70%. project of OTEN students gathered 400 plus survey responses. Students generally satisfied with OTEN services but required student pre preparation with regards to becoming distance learning student. Distance learning still highly text based and emphasis needs to be also placed on helping students become self-directed able to pace and structure their own learning programme. Digital literacy important and a tech help person a available to assist when required as all courses fully online.

Second afternoon session on "massive open online courses: MOOCs in the VET sector" with Jamie Murphy from the Australian College of Applied Education (Perth). Provided overview of MOOC including advantages and disadvantages and some approaches to MOOC pedagogy.MOOC mania (Daniel, 2012) provides history and background. Platforms include coursera, google forays, uversity etc. Diffusion of innovations by Everett Rogers, 2003 provides framework to evaluate innovation.

Last up Liz Toohey and Chris Dann from University of Sunshine Coast on using mobile assessment platform: a shared space for critical discourse. Used to support teacher mentors who support teaching students out on classroom experience. Using mobile phone, tablet etc. used to provide means to provide consistent support . ensure learning outcomes can be achieved, assessment strategies can be shared, learners supported and on site supervisors sharing practice. work integrated learning therefore supported with a personalised approach to mentoring.

Research question was 'what is the impact on learning when mobile devices are used to collect data, measure progress and inform judgements against clearly defined benchmarks throughout the learning process.

Ios App - Pre service teacher tracker used to record evidence of student and mentor formative feedback while observing student teaching in the class, providing evidence for later discussion and forwarding on to main institute. Videos can also be attached for self or shared reflection.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Standing desks

I have had recurring lower back problems over the last decade or so. A consequence of a life time of working in a bakery and teaching baking. The need to do lots of lifting (bags of ingredients, trays, tins, loading and unloading tray racks and ovens), standing for long hours on hard concrete floors and keeping up with the students would be the main culprits. I must say I enjoyed the physicality of the work but my back did not share the same feelings. Therefore, one of the reasons I decided to move into a staff development role 7 – 8 years ago, was to move into a less physical job. However, for the last year or so, the back has been sore at night, usually preventing me from getting back to sleep. Many nights of trying to get back to sleep at 2 am prompted the purchase of a new bed and mattress. I also started to take more care when out tramping / walking by ensuring my pack was well balanced, not jumping off high steps etc. and using two trekking poles. When things really got difficult during the year, regular visits to the osteopath would help relieve things for a month or so. 

So on my osteopath’s advice after the another visit (just after Easter), I contacted our helpful facilities and health and safety person to organise a standing desk to be set up. The osteopath reckoned that in my previous work role, I would have been sitting down to work for an average of 2 - 3 hours a day or 10 -20 at the most a week. In my present job, I was sitting down 7 – 9 hours a day, adding up to 35 -45 hours a week!  

The general benefits of a standing desk have been well reported, an example here from a recent NZ press article summarises the general trend.The blogosphere has thousands of articles on the merits of putting in a standing desks, check out the experieces of others and their reasons for converting.
Plus also lots of articles on how to set up a do it yourself standing desk, cool examples include this one using ikea furniture and another DIY one.

I have now been working at a standing desk for all my computer work for a month and a half. I must say the back has improved.  The first week was not too good as I had to get used to more standing. I persevered into week two where things started to improve. I did change to better shoes to stand on (used crocs as recommended here) and did more walking around. By week three, things had settled down and began enjoying a good night’s sleep, uninterrupted by back pain. However, I developed a very painful neck! Back to the osteopath, after which things started to settle down. Now into week seven and my body seems to have settled into the new regime.

My work pattern has also changed slightly. I write, answer emails etc. while standing but have found reading / web surfing etc. to be more difficult to sustain over a period of time. So, it has been Ok to stand and work on reports etc. for several hours but standing up for half an hour of reading pdf journal articles is long enough. So a permanent arrangement would ideally allow one to shift seamlessly from a standing to a sitting desk. Or will need to use Skydrive more to read documents on the iPad / Surface Pro and all writing tasks to be done standing.  Standing up to write seems to work well and I have been working productively on two reports, one conference paper and doing edits to a journal paper over the last month.  The task into the next couple of weeks is to investigate more permanent solutions with our health and safety officer, with a goal to having something in place by end of July.