Monday, May 30, 2016

world class education - NZ documentary

Probably required viewing for anyone in NZ who works in education or is a parent trying to understand the complexities of the educational system. The documentary - World Class - Inside NZ education : A special report fronted by Bryan Bruce  - provides for much food for thought.

In a short 45 minutes, the various initiatives undertaken by successive NZ governments though the last 30 plus years is overviewed and discussed. Comparisons to countries  / cities (Finland, Shanghai) successfully featured as 'world class' as per testing regimes like PISA are trotted out.

Usual reviews were usually positive in the NZ media via stuff - summary,  'does not disappoint' , and opinion piece. In short, there is call - supported by much research - for early (pre-school) learning to be better supported and for parent 'education' / support where needed. As a child learns much in the first years of life, parents as 'first teachers' are an essential component of any 'educational outcome'. Given NZ's rising disparity between the haves and the have nots, there is mounting need to support those who struggle. Otherwise, the gap between the educational outcomes of the better off and the less better off, will be always difficult to bridge.

One interesting comment struck me as worth thinking through. An American academic urged NZ to NOT be focused on tests scores (ie. PISA and similar). His question was apt. Why should a small country like NZ, concentrate on producing learners who could just 'pass tests'. Surely, it is more important to ensure a small country like NZ, prepares future citizens to be ready for the future. To be creative, innovative, thinkers who lead the world, not drones to work in repetitive, mechanised and conformist organisations.

Ditto therefore relevant to the vocational education sector. We currently have a very important mechanism for changing the focus of voc, ed, in NZ. The NZQA targeted review of all qualifications in NZ has shifted qualifications from emphasis on 'unit standards' and a rational (quantitatively) approach to delivery and assessment of vocational skills to graduate profiles. In this article, I argue for leveraging off the opportunity provided by a shift to graduate profiles, to recognise more relationally (qualitatively), the skills, knowledge and attitudinal voc. ed. attainment through concepts like 'becoming' - as per occupational identity formation which formed part of my PhD thesis.

Much work still be be done to shift industry training and pre-trade / on-going voc. ed, through polytechnics and institutes of technology (NZ ITPs). However, the opportunity has now be provided and it is up to the 'users' to make the most of it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Conversation - Australian forum for academics

While at the AVETRA conference a month ago, one of the websites that came up in a workshop session at use of social media by researchers / academics, was ‘The Conversation’. This website provides a academics to put up op-ed type articles on a range of topics including Arts and culture, business and economy, education, environment and energy, health and medicine, politics and society, science and technology etc.

There are version so of "The conversation for Australia, Africa, France, UK and the US of A. Becoming an author requires registration.

A browse of the education section reveals a few nuggets, including this article by Megan O'Connell and Bill Lucas on 'young people designing their own learning'. Generally, most articles appeal to a wide audience, hence articles relevant to the compulsory education sector and around Australian funding / policies.

A few vocational education focused articles usually on topical issues, sometimes in ‘reply’ to try to shift perspectives reported in the popular media. Examples include:

Damien Oliver and Serena Yu summary of a recent NCVER report on relevancy of voc. ed.

So, another site to add to my 'favourites' / alerts as it provides commentary on socio-political forces which shape voc. ed. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Maker Culture - some thoughts

Compulsory sector education has been promoting the adoption of 'maker culture' in schools. In NZ, one of the top ten trends noted is the rise of maker culture. The trend has come about through the advent of cheaper and more user friendly 3D printers - see inventables for examples.

Currently extends also to:
-  learning through 'mechatronics' (e.g. lego robotics), 
- the rise of learning coding at primary school - see UK example and theatlantic for a discussion on relevance or non-relevance to school 

However, as lamentated relatively recently by Matthew Crawford in his book - Shop class as Soulcraft - the work of the 'trades' already epitomises the 'maker culture'! See good overview / review by the new atlantis and my book summary  Ditto from the work of Mike Rose - with his book - the mind at work - book summary on blog.

Some acknowledgement within the educational sector of the need for academic learning to be extended through 'working with our hands' is better than none at all. So in a way, the maker culture, albeit with a 'tech' slant, is still a good thing. However, as with all 'trends', important to weigh up the pros and cons and work out what the overall learning objective.

The rise of maker culture, arose outside of the educational sector - see time for overview. In many parts of the world, 'maker culture' has always existed. In the post-industrial West, there is a revival in an appreciation of the skills required in manufacturing. retired tradesmen and hobbyist set up shared machine shops to craft machinery parts of trains, cars, planes etc. being restored as the parts are no longer manufactured. With baby boomers retiring, there is also an increase in 'men's sheds' and the female equivalents in the crafts. My' elderly' friends who belong to craft groups - knitting, crochet, quilting etc. tell me of younger women in their twenties, attracted to the crafts to fulfill the needs of 'being able to make things'. Many of these youngsters have not had the opportunity to learn crafts at school - concentrated on academic objectives. 

Making is therefore something innate in us humans. How to bring the many ways to 'make' into a cohesive objective, usefully integrated into the already crammed school curriculum, will always be a challenge. Trades still need greater visibility, not just as an alternative to academic learning, but as an integral part of being human. To be able to not only conceptualise but to also make.

Monday, May 09, 2016

The Collaborative Economy - Channel NewsAsia TV series

Happened on this series of documentaries as I check in on  Asian news through Channel New Asia website about once a week. Also do a similar thing with European / World news via BBC.

The series 'New World without Strangers' is hosted by Henry Golding and now on to the fifth episode.

The first episode focused on home sharing, featuring AirBnb with hosts in China, Singapore and South Korea. The following episodes involve ride sharing (Uber), sharing items (peer to peer renting - rent tycoons), meal sharing (meetup ; zipbob; bonappetour) and sharing with the community.

So what about the educaitonal sector. A quick google search reveals peer - peer learning platforms including tribelearn and P2PU with inklings for a host of startups. Traditional LMS with their ubiquitous 'discussion forums' also provide the tools for peer to peer learning.

What makes education different from the rest of the 'collaborative' economy? Learning can be thought of as an asset as well. Peer learning has always been advocated as an effective method to assist with learning - for example see the work of Hattie and Timperley on feedback.
Language learning comes to mind - the nextweb provide a blog summarising 8 tools for language learning includes a couple of tools to learn with and from others.
Also many of the DYI sites - like this one on cake decorating - sprout facebook sites to allow the learners to clarify their learning as it proceeds, providing Just in time assistance as and when required.

The maker culture (see Core Ed for NZ educational perspective) and growth of maker spaces (see NZ example) have also firmed up with a journal bringing the study of collaboration within this evolving culture into academic inquiry.

Therefore, need to keep in touch with this area of as there are contributions to how educators think of learning and it's provision. When learning is individually self-driven, there are platforms and tools now which will assist with the gaining of skills and knowledge without recourse to stepping into or enrolling into a formal programme. How can educational institutes, still very much in the 'gate-keeping' and awarding of qualifications mode adapt?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Jane Hart's top ten tools

Doing a catch up on elearning and Jane Hart's Top 10 tools for 2015 always a good place to start. The annual guidebook provides a summary of each tool.

Tools are now categorised into Instructional tools, content tools, social tools and personal tools. As always, some overlaps but the categorisation does assist with selection when we (as ed. developers) recommend tools to teaching staff.

Instructional tools include MOOC platforms - which includes Khan Academy, course management tools, course authoring tools  and quizzing, survey and data collection tools.

Content tools include ones to sue to develop presentations, animations, edit videos, screen cast, screen capture, graphics and infographics, photo/imaging tools, audio tools, documentation and spreadsheetis.

Social tools include webinar, live event interaction, team collaboration, file sharing, blogging and website tools, public social networks and enterprise social platforms.

Personal tools include search / research, email clinet,s messaging tools, social bookmarking, notetaking, web browsers, personal readers, other personal productivity tools and devises and apps.

I think the categorisation is comprehensive enough to sort the range of tools now available on what used to be known as Web 2.0.  Many tools have survived over the last 1/2 a decade and even Microsoft has got on board with the launch of Office mix and Sway into their suite of 'tools'. Also of interest, the rise of alternatives to Moodle, including Canvas and Edmodo.