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'. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

The Originals - what makes original thinkers

Had a quick look through this TEd talk by Adam Grant - who is a professor at Wharton. The talk summarise Grant's book - The Originals. There is a summary / review at the following Forbes site.

The overall premise of Grant's work, as summarised in the Ted Talks is how to recognise the difference between innovators and followers.

In short:

- innovators may be slow to get off the ground. They are the ultimate procrastinators.Procrastination may be used to mull over ideas and come to better solutions.

- innovators may not be the first or the best. They make mistakes and learn from them.

- There may have to be many bad ideas before good ones come along!

- therefore resilience and ability to learn are also important.

Perhaps deep pockets, ability to garner funds, high social / economic capital to start with which translates to access to 'angel' funding are also important!

Education, in particular summative assessments whereby students attain a final grade are therefore not a good measure of entrepreneurship or innovation as the learner is penalised (marked down) for mistakes! We perhaps need to make overt to students, the subjects or topics which are important towards attainment of foundational knowledge and skills, the canon of the discipline. Then the courses whereby project work, portfolios etc. are the mechanisms for assist 'learning by making mistakes', allowing for reflection and review to inform the next stages of learning.