Monday, June 18, 2018

Work and how different types of jobs are perceived

Happened on a Channel News Asia series over the weekend. It is about jobs in Singapore, which are considered to be 'low status'. The documentary, in 5 episodes, is titled "don't make us invisible" and follows the work routine of a petrol pump attendant, bus driver, cleaner and construction worker. All part of the Singapore government's efforts to shift the perception of the populace to consider that all jobs are important, not only the ones which require academic excellence. As it is, the majority of jobs deemed to be low status, are conducted by non-Singaporeans. With the rise in AI and robotics, some of these jobs will disappear, but there will still be  whole categories of work, requiring humans.

The status of jobs is not only an Asian challenge, this chapter 'beyond the vocational / academic divide: inclusion through craftwork and embodied learning', argues that all work, requires engagement and commitment. If we take on the view of learning as moving towards 'embodiment' of a set of manual skills, tacit knowledge and craftsman-like attitudes, then all learning, be it vocational or academic, are important towards contributing to social good.

Interestingly, there is also a volume of  recent literature, example summarised in this recent Stuff article, of how well respected jobs, can be boring and feel pointless. Over 80% of legal jobs, 70% plus project management, support functions, 60%plus in consulting / accounting, financial services / banking, engineering, sales / marketing and communications and over 50% IT type jobs are on the list! Another article summarises David Graeber's, one perspective of why these jobs lack satisfaction. The book 'Bullshit jobs'  categorises these jobs as "goons, flunkies, box tickers, task masters and duct tapers" with people responding that 'the jobs are so pointless that they are not able to justify their existence themselves'.

So although the above well-respected jobs require high academic achievement to enter, they do not, offer satisfaction and are just a means to earn a wage. So perhaps the entry of AI / robotics might not be such a bad thing after all! Some of the boring aspects of 'bullshit jobs' may be taken over. Whereas, the jobs requiring high levels of 'embodiment' providing greater job satisfaction, may continue due to their high levels of manual skill complexity and variety. What does that say of how we educate for the future? Something to think through and follow up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Emerge – Ara Institute of Technology ICT projects exhibition

The annual showcase for Bachelor of Information and Computer Technology (BICT) students runs across this week 11 – 15 June.


As part of the week, there was an evening event with two guest speakers, followed by presentations from students of their work.

Tony Grey, Ara CE provided the welcome and opening of the event. Dr. Bernard Otinpong, computing tutor/lecturer was the MC.

David Carter, Director of Stratos Technology Partners and the chairperson of Canterbury Tech presented on ‘the future of ICT’. Provided two examples of the acceleration in adoption of innovations requiring high IT infrastructure and resources. One is the use of AI bots by Google to  conduct conversations. The second is the development of self-driving cars. Social impacts are often under-stated and just these two technologies, will contribute to the world of the future. The challenge for NZ, a small country, is to ensure we understand what is coming or is already here, and to leverage of these. Provided an example of the smart use of technology to support dairy industry – monitoring of cows across a year provided sufficient data to predict time cows were ready for insemination and how the time of insemination would determine the gender of the offspring. Tech economy is low impact environmentally and Christchurch is well situated to contribute (being second to Wellington in number of IT companies and employees) . Need to ensure there are sufficient IT people to support the industry.

Teresa McCullum, Smart Cities project manager for the Christchurch City Council presented on ‘Smart cities and the internet of things’. Set up the context and rationale for the potentialities of IT careers in Christchurch. Shared the CCC vision for becoming a smart city. Defined smart city and internet of things (IoT). Updated on current work – open platform, open data and open information – to facilitate the interaction between the many ‘internet of things’ points and remove barriers to the adoption of innovative technologies. Exampled the way traffic flow is monitored and information is provided to motorists, rubbish bin sensors and earthquake response sensors. Check smart city Christchurch website.

An interesting session followed as students presented their work. Posters summarised their projects and students were available to answer questions. Almost all of the projects, were focused on the themes brought up by the speakers. Many projects also produced proof of concept type apps or systems for local companies, including this cycle safety app for school children to generate a safe route on bike to school.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Behave: the biology of humans at our best and worst - book overview

I picked this book up from the local library and am glad I chanced upon it.

Behave: the biology of humans at our best and worst by Robert M. Sapolsky, published 2017 by Penguin. 

Sapolsky presents excerpts from the book on a recent TedTalk


This book tries to and mostly succeeds in bringing together, the many threads of neurobiological, developmental, along with the evolutionary, and  social and cultural contributions to how we behave.
The book is pitched at interested lay people, but requires background in human biology to understand. 

The 3 appendices provided are therefore extremely useful overviews of neuroscience (i.e. how the brain works); endocrinology (i.e. the contribution of hormones and biochemical) and proteins (i.e. the genetics basis of life).

The book also has extensive notes for the keen to follow up (50 pages) and a thorough index.

There are 17 chapters with short introduction and epilogue bracketing the content.
The book begins with a behaviour, then proceeds to uncover, over time, layer by layer, the many influences that allow the said behaviour to occur.

The first 2 chapters focus on the neurobiology and biochemistry which drives behaviour. Appendix 1, covering the basics of neurobiology, is recommended as a prerequisite. The three chapters cover the brain areas relevant to understanding behaviour. The amygdala which is where reward, anticipation arise; the role of dopamine; and the frontal lobes contribution to regulation and restraint of behaviours.

Then follow 3 chapters which overlap between physical neurobiology and the biochemical interactions which contribute to behaviour. In particular, details on testetorone (on aggression), oxytoxin and vasopressin (on the mother-infant bond), adaptive female aggression through estrogen, progesterone and oxytoxine, the effects of sustained stress and the caveat that hormones do not determine, command or cause behaviours but make us more sensitive to triggers from emotionally charged behaviours. The effects of these hormones on memory and discussion on neuroplasticity are also included. Chapter 6 provides application of the precepts from the previous chapters by exploring and discussing the adolescent brain – ‘or dude, where is my frontal cortex?’

Then follow 3 chapters focusing on human development. Summarising the various behaviours’ development from birth and the genetic/ epigenetic causes of some of these behaviours. Also the contribution of mother’s behaviours while baby is in the womb and the wider social issues which cause behaviours which are distinct in various populations. Chapter 8 has a good overview of epigenetics and argues that genes are not autonomous. Instead, they are regulated by the wider environment. Epigenetics can allow environmental effects to be lifelong or even across generations. So it is now not so much important what your genetical heritage might be but the environment in which those genes find themselves and how many other environmental factors contribute to how genes manifest, or remain dormant.

Chapter 9 synthesises the biological with aspects of the social-cultural. For example, the role of culture in contributing to why there is a gender gap in mathemathics testing. There is overview of the salient foundations of social theories, including collectivist vs individualist cultures; pastoralism (e.g. what agriculture has contributed); stratified vs egalitarian cultures; the effects of population size, density and heteriogeneity; and origins of religion and war.

Evolution's contribution is then discussed in the next three chapters. The premise is that evolution can shape behaviour, but with caveats. The usual foundations of evolution are discussed, including why there is reciprocal altruism, as it does not favour genetical transfer of the altruistic individual. The nuances of selection are proposed and critiqued – as in individual, group, kin selection etc.  In short, brain neurobiology, genes, hormones, social contributions etc.  provide not so much causes as propensities, potentials, vulnerabilities, predispositions etc.

Chapter 11 provides a good overview of why we are ‘tribal’ and why it we are drawn to ‘us vs them’ reactions. Discussions follow on the contribution of this concept to a whole host of human responses. Chapter 12 follows with extension of chapter 11 with discussion on the social basis of hierarchy, obedience and resistance. Why we crave status, its roots in biology and the social and cultural bases that support and enhance status. This chapter covers much ground. Importantly, the ways we make decisions are founded in our biology (i.e. how we make decisions, our approaches to reflective thought and how we resolve cognitive dissonance). Our social systems have ameliorated some of the predisposition to just look after ourselves and those close to us. For instance, we invented democracy and social welfare. However, we are also conformists and this may lead us to follow pathways which disadvantage ‘the other’.

The implications on behaviour are then presented in a couple of chapters. Chapter 13 summarises morality and ethics and how they contribute. Chapter 14 is on empathy, why do we feel the pain of others? And especially, why are we neurobiologically primed to have empathy.

Chapter 15 follows up behaviours at the other end of the continuum from empathy. Why do we kill? How do we circumvent the inner biological and cultural reinforcements of disgust etc. to kill others?

Chapter 16 is an interesting chapter which discusses whether we have free will. The criminal justice system is used as the basis for examples. In particular, how snippets of neuroscience research have been used, without deeper study of the actual implications. Hence, neurolaw, as an emergent science has to counter misconceptions and provide more studied responses.

The penultimate chapter ‘war and peace’ brings the various themes together. It presents the behaviours which have improved (i.e. we have mellowed and are less likely to go to war); discusses how to move forward and improve our behaviours as a species further; and summarises the best of humanity’s contributions.

In short, things are complicated. We may understand some of the underlying biological basis for behaviour but there are many contributing factors beyond the biological. There is never one factor or cause, but a multitude of interactions, concurrent shifts, biological and social coevolution etc. Understanding this means we need to read the literature critically and not just take things at face value.

All in, a really good synthesis, written in readable prose. Best read if you are interested in the topic as there is a lot to take in (over 600 pages including the appendices).



Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Peak: Secrets from the science of expertise - book overview

This is a layperson's book on deliberate practice. The book - Peak: Secrets from the new science of expertise is by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, published in 2017.

The more scholarly book - development of professional expertise - see summary on this blog here, makes for more thorough discussion and information.

However, for people wanting a quick overview of deliberate practice, and its application to daily life, the book Peak provides good introduction and overview. The book has 10 chapters, each building on the other.

The book begins with 3 chapters to introduce the concepts of deliberate practice. Then, follow two chapters on application (deliberate practice on the job and in everyday life). There is then a chapter on 'the road to extraordinary', summarising much of the work on understanding expertise and arguing that it is deliberate practice which is the key to expert performance. The next chapter then discusses the conundrum of 'natural talent', what is its role in feeding into expertise. The last chapter looks into 'where do we go from here', providing for suggestions for further research into the development of expertise. 

There are 30 pages of notes for those who are keen to follow up more on the topic.

A related article - how to make your kid good at everything - provides more overview of the book's contents. The summation in the article is 'it is not how much practice, but how you do it' which is the important message from the book.

As always, one concept, can only go so far to explain the complexities of human learning. Critique of the concept of deliberate practice was summarised on this blog a few years ago.





Monday, May 28, 2018

Review of NZ vocational education system and ITPs - summary to date

The newly elected NZ Government, a coalition of Labour, Greens and NZ First, had a wide range of items to address when they took up office at the end of last year. One was a review of the entire NZ education system from early childhood to tertiary and vocational education. The last six months has seen a flurry of papers and roadmaps of the various work streams to be completed over the next 6 months to a year.

Since I work and research in the sectors, the review of the NZ vocational education system and the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) are of interest.

The state of review for ITPs is as follows:
- The original 2017 report by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) spells out the challenges including lower enrolments across the sector brought about by lower school leaver numbers over the coming years and high employment across all sectors of the NZ economy. Then the TEC follows on with a roadmap of suggestions for a way forward.

The Minister's view is found in here. With usual hyped up commentary from the media on 'can polytechs be saved?'

-  The scope of the review of Vocational education is provided by Ministry of Education. The scope includes a strong network of provision for all regions; work-based learning that adapts to a variety of needs, a system that is effective for a diverse range of learning; a system that supports, and is supported by industry.

As with most reviews, there are opportunities to try to get things better. However, the challenges presented are large and will require systemic change, in particular, funding structures, to ensure public funding is used responsibly but ensuring NZers are provided access to opportunities for vocational education.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Robots and AI - some NZ perspectives

There has been a flurry of activity via various media and government agencies, on the effects of robotics, artificial intelligence, industry 4.0 etc,. These discussion, all feed into the range of consultations, now underway, on the future of education in NZ - see this link for example of consultation with Business NZ and the Council of Trade Unions.


Overseas, there has been extensive reporting on the rise of AI - see todayonline for example. There has been interest in the effects of the Amazon Go stores - which obviate the need for cashers, checkouts and shopping carts. Also many articles about how AI will replace jobs - for instance lawyers.

Beyond the hype are articles which provide a bit more balance, for instance, the shift in how some jobs will be constituted, rather than replacements of jobs, and the significance of AI but its limitations in replacing many human attributes. Plus the workers viewpoints, as in making a repetitive job more interesting when robots are added into the mix.

Several interesting articles add to the mix of the need to balance the more extreme views on robots and AI. This TEDtalk, argues for the need to not use human understanding to construct algorithms for AI, as AI can work quite differently from how humans thinks (with their inherent bias etc.)

Some NZ focused articles include:
the boost to the NZ economy by 2053 if policies are developed now to ensure the foundations for AI are sound - e.g. ethics, privacy, IP etc.
a caution against UBI
A good overview from BERL NZ on the internet of things, big data, smart cities and the skills required for the transportation industry into the future
Robots in NZ may be useful in occupations how finding it difficult to attract workers - including forestry and horticulture.
plus another one on there being no need to fear the coming of robots.

All good reading to keep up with the play as the convergence of technologies, hasten AI, robotics etc. into our social structures and lives.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

ASL presentations #4 - Ara Institute of Canterbury


Due to another meeting, I had to miss the Tuesday one which was #3 in the series. Today, the last session with two tutors presenting:

Steve Neale from engineering presents on ‘power to the people’. Overviewed his passion for power generation and providing people with better understanding of how the power system works in NZ and how to get the most out of their power supplier. Used his ASL to upskill and update his knowledge into specialised aspects e.g. unsymmetrical faults in phase currents, sub-station information exchange processes. Time taken through study, and time with various companies plus renewal of his registration as an electrical engineer. Explained challenges and how to apply the understanding to practice to help students learn the concept.

Lorna Davis presents on ‘midwifery: a sustainable healthcare practice?’ Completed PhD through ASL and presented a summary of this at this presentation. Objective was to find out how midwives view the concept of sustainability, how it related to their professional lives and if engagement in a change project would change their perceptions. Shared her Mobius model of sustainable midwifery which brings together the themes of philosophies, education and practice.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Disruptive technologies and how they impact on us - presentation at Ara Institute of Canterbury -


Note from a presentation at Ara, yesterday evening.



Vaughn Robertson, Group manager for technology strategy and ‘designated futurist’ for Beca presented on his favourite topic. See here for a 2016 article on similar lines.



Dr. Michael Edmonds, Head of Department of Architectural studies and Engineering introduced the talk. Following the presentation, scholarships are awarded to Ara students.

Trending technology and how it impacts us
Vaughan shared his interest in monitoring technology and impact on us humans. Began with discussion on Why should we care about disruptive technology. Disruptive technology often leads to some dividends, it depends on which perspective you take. Points to note – time frames are critical and difficult to judge and often we will not see them coming, terminology shifts, watch the intersections between different technologies. An example is industry 4.0 which required several technologies to mature before it can become effective. Another is the IDC third platform, first over 30 years ago with ICT, second, the movement into intelligent agents now and the third, with autonomy near 2020.

However, need to be careful and ensure information is corroborated.

Presented on several technology disruption areas.

Internet of things – potential about to finally appear. E.g. fitbit trackers on elephants by researchers; bringy – track your dog’s exercise.

3D printing – again, has been slow but now shifting due to being able to move beyond physical dimensions of printer and use non specialist materials – e.g. buildings can be extruded.

Drones /UAV – EHANG 184 – personal helicopter/drone. Drone which lifts skiers – Scandinavia. Kitty hawk Cora.

Augmented / VR – Beca uses for 3D VR model for design verification.

Robotics – has come a long way with increase in autonomous and AI, lighter materials, higher bandwidth, cloud etc.

Cognitive augmentation – new generation beyond Siri / Cortana – cloud based AI allows customisation to individual habits. Look up Amazon echo/dot with Alexa - bluetooth speaker with voice control.

AI / machine learning – currently used across many fields – photo classification, real-time facial recognition, transportation optimisation, optimal character recognition, email spam filters, topic spotting for newspaper clipping, language translators. Need to distinguish between automation vs augmentation. Narrow AI is useful for single purpose and up the continuum to the singularity where AI is ‘like us’. Broad AI is for transferability between specialised focus eg recognise cats and then learn how to recognise dogs. General AI enabled to pick up skills across range of knowledge. Both broad and general still germinal. check this one for similar classifications.

Ethics / legislation – a reminder as legislation takes time to catch up. Currently interest due to recent media on fake news, privacy, data ownership etc.
Encouragement for us to be responsive to change.








Thursday, May 10, 2018

ASL presentations at Ara #2

Second session of the presentations on academic study leave (ASL) from Ara Institute of Canterbury staff.

Lois Cowan on ‘mindfulness in nursing’. Defined mindfulness as being aware of internal sensations, thoughts and feelings and the external environment surrounding the individual. With compassion, ability to respond by conscious choice rather than reaction and pay attention in the present moment without judgement. Provided examples of how to apply to nursing practice. Deeper explanation from video on how mindfulness works in the brain. Shared rational and advantages / benefits. Has implications for curriculum – to include education for self-care, development of therapeutic nursing interventions and provide support at practice.

Karen Cadigan presents here work on ‘supporting the struggling nursing student in clinical practice’. Presented on Masters study which ASL assisted to complete. Provided background and rational to study. Clinical environment increasingly challenging, dynamic, with complex patient needs, evolving technology and difficulty in recruiting new staff to replace aging workforce. Summarised research approach, method and findings. Students who struggle may lack communication skills and confidence, find it difficult to work with feedback and critically reflect, and continuity of support in the workplace. To best support students, tutors themselves need to look after and support themselves.

Ian Patterson from computing / engineering summarises his ASL on ‘corporate wireless and network security’. Used time to be accreditated to be able to teach teachers who will each CCNA security through CISCO. Further updated knowledge in technicalities of networking and cyber-security. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Presentations from staff academic study leave #1 - Ara Institute of Canterbury

I am summarising presentations from staff who went on Academic Study Leave scheduled for this week and next week.

There are four sessions and here are the two presentations from today's session:

Silvia Santos, learning advisor and maths tutor presented on technology in mathematics teaching and learning. Detailed work undertaken to improve 3 courses through integration of technology. During ASL, visited other institutions and presented at conferences to increase capabilities and keep up with how technology could help improve learning of maths. Recommended resources and overviewed latest research on neuroscience, growth vs fixed mindsets etc. Included resources for teachers on how to ameliorate maths anxiety. Also completed a statistics course at Ara to enhance own discipline knowledge. Shared the list of apps she was able to trial and apply to current work. Overviewed ideas obtained from conference and summarised changes already made to practice.

Trish Jamieson from Social work on ‘working with children, young people and adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)’. Trish had 10 weeks last year to complete her Masters in Health Sciences. The dissertation was an extended literature review. Summarised the history, understandings and details of FASD. Explained how minimal amounts of alcohol, very early in pregnancy can have dire neurological and physiological effects on the fetus, which manifests at birth in brain damage and other physical disabilities. There is an awareness raising programme in September.



Tuesday, May 01, 2018

SEED presentations May 2018 -Ara Institute of Canterbury


The first presentations at Ara Institute of Canterbury for SEED this year revolves around the theme of assessments for learning.
Andre De Roo from Trades sharing his work using OneNote  Class Notebook with apprentices in the engineering trades.  Andre presented his approach which is to focus on learning instead of assessment. Needed to help learners represent their learning using more than just text based. Goal to help mold confident life long deep learning and students are to show and tell how and what they have learnt.
Showed example of students’ OneNote and how the competencies are linked to the evidence collected and collated by the student. Evidence is verified by employer for authenticity of the evidence. Each portfolio – what are the key things I need to learn; Skills are recorded; and a reflection at the end – what have I learnt, what have I learnt that I did not think I would learn, what are the gaps in my learning and how is the next step / stretch to my learning.
Students may respond in OneNote using text, audio or video recordings. Shared examples which are adequate, needed support with supplementary audio evidence and exemplary.

Karen Neill from Broadcasting on the ways used in the programme to ‘assess professionalism for the media industry’. These assessments were developed in the mid-80s and honed over the many years. This programme is highly respected by industry and students enter the industry with key professional skills required to contribute. Craft skills are easier to teach but professionalism always more difficult to pin down, teach and assess. Broadcasting has changed considerably in the last decade and the move into social digital media requires a even greater emphasis on professionalism. Shared how professionalism is scaffolded across 3 years of the degree, culminating with the third year industry practice module which takes up the bulk of last year. Updated through consultation with industry, tutor reviews and student evaluations. Detailed process and returns.

Raewyn Tudor presents on how the Social Work degree integrates assessments. Social work was reviewed several years ago. How do assessments connect with how social workers carry out their work. Defined integrated assessment as process that combines and blends learning outcomes from multiple courses into a series of streamlined, realistic, authentic work-focused assessment activities. Provided details on how integrated assessments work – theory and research (two courses) brought together as a case study learning activity. The students have to research the client case, connect to relevant theoretical / policy and present in a written report and presentation of application to practice. Rationalised the approach as a means to tailor assessments to subject / discipline requirements; connects with the realities of practice and creates student learning for job readiness. Detailed  the how to and an example of how to develop integrated assessments.


Monday, April 30, 2018

AVETRA Practitioner Research Conference DAY 2

Day dawns cool and cloudy and begins with official opening of this year’s conference. Linda Simon, conference coordinator welcomes participants. Robin Shreeve, new AVETRA president extended welcome and also provided context to the conference with an overview of current challenges. Although govt. seeks to increase education in areas of skills shortage and encourage school leavers to investigate non university tertiary education, funding for VET has never been lower.

The sessions begins with a keynote from Jose Luis Fernandez Maure, head of the institute of innovation and applied research for vocational education and training in the Basque Country (population of just over 2 million). Jose speaks on the challenge and potential for VET practitioner research. Began with a summary of the institute - Tknika. Explained challenges in mid 2000s leading to formation of Tknika, in particular the need to equalise quality of VEt trainina across all VEt institutes, some of which were excellent but some still requiring extension. At Tknika, 250 teachers work half their time there and half their time in their colleges to support innovation. The main objective is to reduce the skill gap quickly, so innovations ( pedagogy, technology, discipline specific) and future skill needs are met. Detailed the distributed model used to extend professional development across the sector. Main fields are in biosciences, energy and advanced manufacturing. Provided case study and examples of projects.  Detailed a project to encourage micro enterprises with support to students, teacher training to support the entrepreneurial process, support to create companies and a company network to leverage collaboration and networking. Teachers have masters qualification in teaching. 
Vet organisational changes include self managed teams of teachers, modular curriculum, flexibility of skills across occupations and skills assessments based on development of students to be able to continually learn. Challenges based collaborative learning frames pedagogy. This requires flexible timetables and learning spaces to allow for reconfiguration as the challenge base learning requires. Student learning is centred around being able to complete the challenge. 
Requires a whole system change to put in place and results may take a decade to realise. A key is to ensure all the institutes network to share practice and innovations to accelerate the impact. Collaborative work across institutions important, for example, culinary colleges working with agricultural colleges, for produce and waste to compost.

After morning tea, I chair three 45 minute presentations on the theme of VET teaching.

First up, Dr. Lesley Petersen from Tauranga who runs Petersen Consulting on Developing communities of practice as a pedagogy support mechanism for VET tutors. Began with a context of her work, especially with private training (PTEs) and industry training organisations (ITOs) and the objectives of the project with tutors teaching foundation skills at a PTE. She investigated how a Community of Practice (COP) provide space for tutors to develop pedagogical practice. Based on previous work on signature pedagogies involving 3 PTEs using a blended and action research methodology. Summarised details of the approaches and logistics of engaging with the tutors across the six months of the project. 4 meetings across 4 months with tutors trialling and implementing strategies to support student achievement between meetings. After workshops, evaluative process included minutes of each meeting, mid point online survey, summative interviews at conclusion. 
Influences on the success of the COP in this particular context included: training workshop at beginning important to build trust and purpose; place and space provided to share and collaborate; prompted critical reflection on teaching practice; peer mentoring; designated facilitator. Summarised challenges and implications. Recommendations also shared as PTE continued the COP. 

Second up are Anne Deshepper and Denise Stevens from Deschepper Consulting on Good practice in teaching and learning - the practitioners’ perspective. The evidence base comes from a project for the Victorian Departure of Education (2016) which led to production of a good practice guide (2018). Denise began with background and context. Guide is about to be published and free. Report involved literature review of VEt quality reports from Australia. UK, NZ and Ontario, interviews with practitioners and draft framework. Guide constructed after consultation across sector and variety of providers and validation of framework.
Four factors anchor the framework and described minimum, good and excellent teaching and learning. The factors include currency of specialist discipline knowledge / professional educator indicators, programme development, programme delivery and review of programme. Detailed an example and explained the various practice perspectives of a subset of one indicator. Discussed some ways to implement the guide. 

Then, Dr. Sonal Nakar on Impact of ethical dilemmas on VET teacher well-being. Started with background and rationale for work. Defined dilemmas as used in the project which also included actions following having to face moral based decisions. Defined four types of dilemmas - responding flexibly to increased student diversity, limiting educational engagement, constrains on teacher responsiveness and manipulation of learning assessments. Reasons teachers provided for making their decisions included changing policies, funding mechanisms, immigration rules changing culture and philosophies of education and inadequacies of teacher preparation. Most teachers never provided with codes of conduct and need to find their own way or rely on colleagues for advise. Interview fragments shared to support themes. Summarised implications for teachers of the ethical challenges including ill preparation, lack of support and ethical desensitisation. Recommendation for supporting teachers in this arena.

After lunch, a series of short 10 minute research project snapshot sessions in two streams. I attend the stream with presentations focused around teaching and learning.

Ann Murray on summarises her PhD in progress on A comparison of learning styles and success in the classroom , workshop and online. Rationalised and backgrounded study. Goal to help students match their way of approaching learning with delivery mode. Summarised learning styles diversity. Introduced Curry (1983) onion models with learning strategies wrapped around learning styles and learning preferences. Case study used with 3 students (Cert 3 to Diploma level ) in each delivery mode, monthly interviews across a year. Learning styles test (VARK) initially given, interviews with student, teachers/supervisors, examined student work and student diaries. Data analysis just commenced.

Caroline Lancaster presents on An exploration of current VET pedagogical trends through conversations with educational leaders. Interviewed seven leading VEt specialists. Used open questions centred around pedagogical issues and implications on professional identity. Shared responses and discussed implications. 

Ryan Euinton and Julie Ryan from Holmsglen teaching in the clothing design programme on Learning practical skills within a digitally integrated classroom. Rationalised the need for documentation, record and archive of skills to enhance learning. Focused on skills required to learn spatial orientation with regards to learning from digital resources. Presented example of resource and detailed process of developing the resource. 

Kay Schlesinger, Tania Teese, Chris Ho and Annemaree Gibson from Boxhill TAFE on Interactive teaching and learning strategies. Project documents interactive strategies, empower and support teachers, record and monitors adaptability and integration of the strategies and develop a COp to share and review these strategies. Impact on student satisfaction, teacher observations to be collected to gauge outcomes. 

John O’Donnel from William Angliss, tourism programmes, on Mobility as the teacher: experience based learning. Provided outline for the Diploma of Tourism. Shared philosophy on experiential learning. Used two cohorts of students, embarked on 12 day tour on sustainable tourism to the South Island of NZ to find out efficacy of study tours. More structure at pre, during and post phases of the study tour to help students gain the most from their study tour. 

Last workshop of day with Berwyn Clayton on Doing research in and on your own organisation: how hard can it be? Presented on the moral, physical and ethical dilemmas presented by doing insider research. Many advantages but tempered with challenges as well. Suggested strategies to circumvent disadvantages and to ensure research integrity. Advantages include better access to authentic data and participants, have organisation cultural knowledge, practical problem focused, can be cheaper and quicker, can make bigger impact and connect to local context when reporting. Disadvantages include roles duality, bias through familiarity, assuming participant views are known to researcher, unable to see bigger picture and too close to situation to produce good, culturally neutral accounts. challenges include negotiating access, promising anonymity and confidentiality, interviewing your own colleagues, challenging the value system of your organisation and managing power implications. Issues of anonymity, confidentiality and power discussed along with insider bias influencing and comprising validity, internal ethical engagement issues not always accounted for. Provided recommendations to tackle various challenges including access, gatekeepers, institutional / organisational politics, ensuring credibility and the ethics of care (ie. do no harm).


Overall. A good balance of academic and practitioner research presentations. Workshops were useful to allow for deeper exploration of topics or concepts. Good to meet up with familiar colleagues and catch up with their projects. 

AVETRA practioner research conference Day 1

In Melbourne for the annual AVETRA. Conference. This year, there is a focus on practitioner research. 

The first day is a series of one to one and a half hour workshops in two streams. A welcome from the AVETRA conference organising committee opens up the workshop afternoon. Various supporters for the conference are thanked. 

First workshop is with Dr. Henry Pook Director of applied research from Holmesglen TAFE on Developing collaborative proposal for applied research - the TAFE - industry nexus. Worked through why work with industry, who are our partners, how do we develop partners and how is an applied research project developed? A discussion based workshop for participants to unpack how applied research is organised within their contexts. Shared definition of applied research as systematic application of existing or new knowledge to the production or improving of new materials, products, services, devices, policies and systems. Check report - clever collaborations: the strong business case for partnering with universities - for university model. Discussed what TAFE could contribute.Identified potential industry and business partners relevant to own practice. Provided suggestions for development of partnerships. Proposed steps for developing proposals for applied research. Suggested starting small and a planned incremental approach. 

Second with Sharon Aris from Australian College of Applied Psychology with What do you or who you really? Researching and understanding industry knowledge. Sharon has background in youth work and PhD is framed using a theory developed to understand people. legitimation code theory LCT is a conceptual tool. (Check website)
A matrix of industry knowledge and practice, knowledge turned into curriculum and classroom and assessment practice with phases in skill or knowledge development with sites for learning, assessment processes and meeting of evaluative requirements.
Shared case studies. For her study, established there was knowing, doing and being in becoming a youth worker. Being was the most importance- you have to like young people. Therefore, knowledge is important but being the knower is more so. 


After afternoon tea, I pilot a workshop on Developing e-assessments for learning - an output for the Ako Aotearoa and NZ Qualifications Authority national project. Provided a background and details of eassessment project. We workshop a definition for assessment for learning relevant to each participant. Discuss ways and means for encouraging student learning through effective assessment for learning. The importance of feedback and digital tools able to support e-feedback to enable learning. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Resilience of skills learning versus content ‘knowledge’


A short sequence of facebook comments with a few of my relatives, triggers my thinking this morning. The topic is piano playing. As a child, I and many of my relatives, were taught to play the piano. We had weekly lessons and worked out way through the various music theory and piano practical grades. My mother’s contention was that music and being able to play the piano, would be a ‘fall back’ if I could not make it into higher education. Music teaching would be a way of earning a living. Pragmatic Asian parents did not articulate or maybe consider the broader consequences of funding music lessons. For me, the music lessons led to a lifelong appreciation of music, through exposure at an early age to the classical Western composers. The benefits for learning how toplan a musical instrument on one’s cognitive function and many other contributions are well-known. Suffice to say that music lessons, provide a myriad of advantages for young brains.



In a busy life, all my relatives now only play the piano occasionally. Yet, the muscle memory and skill connections to the brain are still strong and despite not playing for many years, everyone seems to be able to effortlessly pick up piano playing again.


Skills learning is thus resilient as when compared to ‘learning content’. In particular, if the skill becomes ‘automatic’ or ‘sub-conscious’ or ‘tacit’. The bringing together and overlaying of motor skills with cognitive skills (e.g. thinking and learning), assists the brain to solidify neural networks. Leading to lifelong retention. Piano playing, like riding a bike, skiing, driving a car with manual gear shifts etc. remain etched and embodied into our skills repertoire.

The above attests to the efficacy of experiential learning. If we couple learning of complex knowledge, skills and attributes with ‘learning by doing, learning becomes much more resilient over time. Learning 'content' is but one way to engage our brains. When learning 'content' we are using our cognitive functions and learning to learn is therefore an important asset attained through 'working through content'. It is not so much the content that is important, but the process of learning the content which we need to help our students connect with. How do they learn difficult to understand concepts? Helping learners unravel their metacognitive process assists them to then apply their learning method to other contexts. Like learning how to play a piano, once you learn how to learn effectively and understand how to deploy this across the many occasions one has to learn new skills, knowledge or attributes, should still be a major objective of being educated.




Monday, April 09, 2018

Limitations of robots and AI

Here is an interesting read from the BBC on 'four things to help us understand our AI colleagues'.

The article summarises the current state of play with regards to AI and how it impacts on the future of work. Of note is the summary of findings from the 2017 McKinsey Report stating only 5% of jobs would be eventually fully automated but 60% of occupations could see 1/3 of their roles be undertaken by robots.

We see the second scenario panning out now in many ways. For example, almost all the 'finding our more information' component of my research, is undertaken through access to databases which filter my searches. The results are collated into another database which is my bibliographical Endnotes. Instead of using manual index cards, the searching is done through electronic means, with its inherent biases and challenges.

The article provides for four rules which support the argument that robots are not quite ready to afford us of total leisure. These are:
- Robots don't think like humans
- Robots are not infallible - they make mistakes.
- Robots are not able to explain why they made a decision
- Robots may be biases.

All of the above can be circumvented with sufficient resourcing, but for the moment, there is some importance in ensuring we humans understand the limitations of robots and AI. It is especially important to work on the ethical issues around how robots and AI are governed as it is how these entities are 'programmed' with their inherent prejudices, which will dictate how they react and make decisions.

As per the book 'Smarter than you think' - see overview - we all need to learn now to work with 'smart machines' and one aspect of working with these 'tools' is to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. Robots and AI are powerful tools to augment human work and ensuring everyone understands how to best work with these tools, is one important aspect for the future of work and education.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Degree apprenticeships - overview

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has begun a series of consultations which will lead to reviews of the NZ qualifications system. The first one is on microcredentials and I overviewed some of the definitions and implications on this blog a few weeks ago.

Another initiative may be the concept of degree apprenticeships i.e. a degree qualification completed primarily through workplace based learning. Degree apprenticeship is not a new concept but have undergone a recent revival, particularly in the United Kingdom. At the INAP conference in Washington DC late last year, there was a large contigent from Ireland, presenting on their first roll out of their degree apprenticeship, situated within the insurance industry context.

The revival of qualifications completed through a 'learn while you earn' system, is a response to the increased costs of degree qualification completions. Especially given there is evidence to suggest that the payback via completing a traditional apprenticeship in the trades / technology provides similar economic gains to degree completion - see this report for NZ perspective.

In NZ, the engineering industry, has had major challenges finding sufficiently skilled and qualified engineers, especially at the 'technician' level which supports engineers with technical support and expertise. A pilot study, undertaken by Massey University suggested good returns for both industry and individuals. Findings were also presented at last years NZ Vocational Education Research forum by Professor Jenny Poskitt.

The main advantages of situated, authentic learning apply for study whilst working. Many people complete degrees through part-time study which provides similar opportunities. However, workplace learning has always had inherent challenges. There is a large corpus of literature on how to ameliorate the issues and to support practice-based learning in busy workplaces. So, simply doing small tweaks to institute based / structured and designed learning curriculum, does not perhaps deliver the best opportunities for learners or to industry. There is a need for innovative design of learning to encourage the development of important 'soft' skills and most importantly, the skill to be able to learn/ relearn continually to keep pace with the rapid change many industries are experiencing.

Therefore, as always, important to look clearly at what is expected of a graduate who has been accredited a qualification. How can many of the graduate profile outcomes be met through 'naturally occurring evidence' of learning and how can rigour be assured, especially when it comes to 'knowledge' when workplaces each have their own, idiosyncratic 'learning curriculum' best suited to their own needs.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Education reform in NZ - continued - University sector views

Another flurry of activity through the media as the various NZ tertiary sectors submit views to the new Minister of Education's mandate to reform the NZ education system.

Following on from posts over the last couples of weeks on vocational education and the school qualifications, there is now perspectives from the university sector. These are recorded from the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) convening of a workshop from the NZ university sector with submissions also from unions and students. The Ministers perspectives are found here and the summary of the recommendations arising from the workshop are reported here.

All the above signals the Labour Government's intention to move away from the decades of emphasis on market-let economics - the neo-liberal agenda. In NZ, a good overview with regards to neo-liberalism's effect on education is the book - Children of Rogernomics - a neo-liberal generation leaves school. Aspects of the perspectives collected in this book are also reflected in this survey on 18-24 year olds - worried about the prospects of the digital future on work. In particular, on the precarious world of work with poor prospects for tenure, intensive demands to continually retrain / re-skill / re-invent oneself and the dated career advise the currently receive.

Discussion on the effects of neo-liberalism on education is not new. See this 2006 book mostly on the American context. The world-wide push back on the negative effects wrought by neo-liberalism is a decade old. It has taken time for people to understand what the effects are and research and explore alternatives. In NZ, under an MMP (mixed member proportional) electoral system, the current Labour Party came into government at the end of last year, due to the decision made by 'king maker'. The decision was based on his feeling of the electorate seeking a change towards a more balanced social system.

 Therefore, now important to explore what other governments have been doing with their education systems. Especially ones which encourage collaboration across the sector instead of a competitive market-driven ethos. Interesting times ahead for all NZ educators which is perceived by those at the chalk-face to be under-funded, with teacher shortages in the compulsory school sector and a need to shift curriculum and pedagogy to reflect the needs of the future.

Monday, March 19, 2018

NZ school qualifications - review

There has been discussion for several years in NZ, on how to reform the NZ school qualification structure. There is already a high level review of NZ education system, signaled by the new Ministery of Education, with movement in the vocational education sector as summarised in my last blog.

One avenue explored is from this report by the NZ Initiative, titled "Spoiled by Choice".  The NZ initiative is a non-partisan 'think-tank' which is on the 'right' of the political spectrum. It seeks to promote competitive, open and dynamic economies and a free fair and cohesive society through uncovering policies and ideas.The report, provides a good overview and history of the National Certificate in Education (NCEA), which was introduced between 2002 and 2004. Both my children just missed the changeover and finished their secondary school just before NCEA began, so I was spared the angst of having to understand the 'new' system. The report details the promises and how some of these became challenges. One aspect being the process of 'credit harvesting' and the shift of teachers and students to 'teaching / learning for the assessment'. The report also proposes that NCEA has not lessened the socio-economic divide and that a 'one size fits all' system has been difficult.

Stuart Middleton, who has been a supporter of NCEA provides a summary In particular, he has always advocated the 'flexibility' inherent within NCEA to meet the needs of student who are 'non-academic' and seek a different pathway through school towards work or tertiary study which is vocational.

The main recommendations in the NZ Initiative report are:
Raise English and te reo and maths requirements
Expect a broader core of subjects
Reduce number of standards
Make it harder to teach to the test
Reduce reliance on internal assessment
Use comparative judgment software 
Commission independent analysis.

Another report which is connected is one commissioned by the Children's Commission in NZ. This report - titled "Education matters to me: key insights" provides for the student voice. A summary is provided through Stuff. In the report, there is a call to listen to students and to be cognisant of their needs. In particular, their individuality, what they bring with them to school, an end to racism and to 'teach me the way i learn best'. 

As any change in the school system impacts on tertiary education, it is important to keep up with what is happening. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Vocational Education reform - New Zealand

The coming few years will be interesting times for NZ educators across all sectors from early childhood to tertiary. The new Labour government has launched discussions into an overhaul of the NZ education system. The Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, announced late last year, sweeping reforms of the sector, including review of National Certificates in Education and scraping National standards at primary school level.  There will also be a study into the funding model for the 16 NZ Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs).

The last major reform in NZ of education was 30 years ago when the then Labour government devolved centralised control of schools through the 'tomorrow's schools' changes. As with all reforms, there have been pluses and minuses and winners and losers. The National Centre for Educational Research NZCER has a series of reports on impacts through the years.

It is timely to look into how NZ's education system is coping with the advent of 'future of work' impacts and 'Industry 4.0'. As will all reforms, there will be compromises and people with strong opinions along the right / left continuum.

One of the initiatives into seeking opinion on how to go forward with vocational education in NZ, was a workshop convened in Manukau a couple of weeks ago - the Voices of Tertiary Education forum. The workshop gathered representatives from the teacher unions, students, and ITP leaders to produce some recommendations for the NZ VET sector. There was another workshop for the university sector as well.

The outcomes from the workshop include:

·        - Work with staff, students and sector leaders to develop a new funding model
·        - Ensure a new funding model guarantees the regional provision of tertiary education, so all people can access learning opportunities in their communities
·        - Take the immediate step in Budget 2018 of changing the Student Achievement Component funding under-delivery figure to a more reasonable level
·        - Host further forums dedicated to discussing the future of the vocational education and training sector
·     -    Build a system that recognises and provides for diverse learners – including, but not limited to, Māori, Pasifika, second chance learners, sole parents, mature students, students with disabilities, and LGBT


In general, responses from the sector have been positive, to need to re-vitalise and re-evaluate IPT funding systems. For example, Toi Ohomai CE was mostly optimistic. TEU also collected responses from Kirk HOpe who is CE of Business NZ - who called for better alignment between qualifications, educational outcomes and industry and Sandra Grey, National TEU president response of a call to action to make the NZ educational system better. Chris Whelan, Executive Director of Universities NZ, provides the university perspective.

All in, there is a need to keep up with what is happening as the sector submits proposals and various committees are convened to discuss and feedback on recommendations. Exciting times ahead :)

Monday, March 05, 2018

Industry 4.0 - challenges and implications to education - NZ context

The term Industry 4.0 was coined in Germany around 2011. It has roots in the manufacturing industry and the term is based on societies move into the 4th industrial revolution. First one being the use of water power and steam to drive machines, second the shift into mass production and the use of electricity, and the third being the info. tech. computer and automation revolution. The fourth industrial revolution is premised on 'smart technology' with the leveraging of AI and robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and integration across machines and devices.

The principles driving Industry 4.0 are interoperability, information transparency, support of human work by cybernectic / cyberphysical systems, and decentralized decision making (i.e. AI).

In NZ, Callaghan Innovation convened a meeting of industry leader to discuss the impact of Industry 4.0 on NZ manufacturing and wider industries. Industry 4.0 is envisaged eventually to encompass all aspects of manufacturing across the supply chain. For example, NZ primary industries have been working for many years on a 'farm to fork' system to better meet customer needs but also to maintain sustainable practices. Industry leaders across NZ have had many occasions to catch up the implications to their businesses - including this article (2015) and this conference on the internet of things. (2017).

The impacts on education are many. Firstly, there is the push towards STEM as Industry 4.0 hinges on the interface and interconnections between machines, materials and digital technologies. However, understanding the implication to humans, the society at large and being able to see the big picture, requires a high degree of critical thinking. The humanities need to be proactive in representing the 'human' in how industry 4.0 evolves. Secondly, there is the need for all to understand the promises and possible threats of IoT, in particular, the pervasive effects across future lives. Education needs to prepare people for collaboration not only with others but to include 'non-human' entities. Included is the need to be able to work across a networked world, whereby cultural competency includes others who view the world with different perspectives. Thirdly, there is a need to help all individuals become savvy about how to proceed in a world which changes rapidly and where 'careers' across a lifetime, shift constantly. This NZ Herald 2016 article calls for the need to prepare 'kids' for the robot revolution and recommends an optimistic approach to meeting the surge of change. As the new Minister of Education announces reforms in the NZ education system, it will be important to contribute to the discussion as this is a crucial time for how countries shift their education systems to cope with the challenges of Industry 4.0.





Monday, February 26, 2018

Microcredentialling - overview


Microcredentialling is one of the ‘buzz’ items now rapidly becoming a ‘must have’ within formal institutions’ portfolio. In NZ, there have been growing interest in, see this and this, and the NZ qualifications Authority (NZQA) is undertaking a series of pilots – edubits – to work out how micro-credentials could be implemented.



However, there are many interpretations of what actually are micro-credentials, see here for one.


In general, microcredentials belong within established suites of qualification options. They may be useful in the following segments of learner journeys:


As a precursor to entry into a programme, or shift to slightly re-configured job etc.

Within a formalised programme of learning to enable greater flexibility – i.e. through ‘stacking’, RPL or recognition of ‘soft skills’ etc.

For continual professional development – e.g. programmers up-skilling to new programming language.

An established case study distilled some principles for development and implementation of micro-credentials within a teacher professional development programme.

Within the NZ context, Mischewski from E2E completed a report for the Tertiary Education Commision to find out how micro-credentials can be used to improve engineering as an educational option, in particular at diploma level. Figure 5 – page 23 provides an example in engineering – for how microcredentailling may be useful for beginning, developing, upskilling and expert engineers and the types of learning including micro, work-based and formal that can be credentialed. The report also summarises pros and cons within the NZ engineering industry and education contexts.








Monday, February 19, 2018

Future skills for work - NZ context


The NZ Heraldreported last week, that NZ education came up tops with regard to preparing people for the world of future skills. These skills include:

  • interdisciplinary skills
  • creative and analytical skills
  • entrepreneurial skills
  •  leadership skills
  • digital and technical skills and
  • global awareness and civic education.

We need to move from thinking about employability skills etc. to focus more on preparing people for being able to understand, navigate and survive the coming challenges wrought by AI and robotics on work – see one example Frey et al.

Many exponents of solutions promote the adoption of Universal Basic Income (UBI), including the current NZ government on 'the future of work' summarised in a previous blog. However, the UBI only goes part way. Individuals still need to be proactive and have the wherewithal to work out for themselves, their aspirations and carve a career 'pathway or trajectory' for themselves. The provision of UBI may be seen as a soft landing cushion for individuals seeking to or are forced to re-evaluate their work options

See two previous book reviews summarising the need for individuals to be assisted - Book by Gratton on the shift to the future of work and Thompson on 'smarter than you think'. Both, along with this paper by Dr. Gog Soon Joo, advocate for a shift in thinking from the current model of education to skills to employment to one which is centred more around the individual being prepared to take ownerships of their trajectory – the entrepreneur to professional to leader career.

Dr. Gog's context is Singapore, which is mentioned in two recent reports prepared by the World Economic Council on the future of work. The first report - future of work - accelerating workforce reskilling fro the fourth industrial revolution - features the Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) and the second report - a white paper on reskilling - uses the Skills Future as one of the case studies of a whole government initiative to provide citizens with information, incentives and advise on continual professional development.

With the Labour party forming the current government in NZ, some of the recommendations proposed from their future of work project, will no doubt inform some of the ways forward. Over the last five years, career pathways (see vocational pathways) and careers information through careers NZ (which was recently res-structured) have improved markedly. However, there is still a focus on the 'education to skills to employment' approach with some modicum of preparing the individual with skills to move their own career on - the role and agency of the individual, still needs to be made more overt though. See this 2011 paper by Vaughan on shifting the NZ system to enable individuals instead of concentrating on skills development.