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. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

SEED (Sharing Educational Experience and Development) - Ara Institute of Canterbury

Here are notes taken at the first Ara’s annual SEED (Sharing Educational Experience and Development) for 2018.

The theme for this session was technology in the classroom.

First up is Melissa Barber, programme leader for LevelCertificate in Study and Career Preparation for pre-health and medical imaging pathways. She presents on ‘the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning in the pre-health programme’. Began with background on the programme and focus of the presentation – to improve students' on-going engagement and revision as the programme progressed. Implemented a series of summative on-line quizzes on 2 courses, to increase engagement. Six quizzes in total, usually held every 2 weeks and with each having 15 items. Time limit for students to complete the quizzes and best score of 5 out of the 6 used to calculate final mark. Replaces a high stakes 90% exam. Still an exam but lower weighting (40%) and the progressive quizzes provide feedback on progress so students are able to access support with weak areas.  Second iteration being run this semester and will be evaluated to obtain feedback on efficacy of this approach. Included will be monitoring beyond this programme of students as they move across to degree programmes. To ensure there is authenticity of student undertaking the quiz, the time frame is over weekends and questions and multiple choice options are randomised. Each student then goes through a different version. The quiz is open book but students only have 30 minutes to complete. Questions ensued on robustness of our LMS and challenges of running summative assessments on it. Keeping to short quizzes and time delimitation helps. Need to ensure students are provided with proviso that they may have to resit if LMS fails.

Nathan Walsh provided a quick overview of OneNote Classnotebook and how it can be used to support learning.

Secondly, Dr. Isis Carter from Applied Sciences on ‘the use of Moodle forums for engagement and formative assessment in applied science’. Used forums for level 5 course on Industrial biomolecules. Was keen to improve students' ability to communicate and collaborate to prepare them for work in science – which is premised on high levels of collaborative work. Important to also provide formative feedback to students. Used forums (weighted at 10%) as the tool to encourage students to communicate clearly in writing on complex content. Students commented (at least to two peers) on each other’s postings to help each other refine their ‘final’ submission. Has run for two years (but with small number of students) and adjusted assignment to match learning outcome. The forum provided a means for the tutor to model good writing practice and scaffold students to the level of writing expected. These then useful for completing written report as students could use initial work from the forum and also from other students (but credited). Students needed confidence to undertake feedback, they had to learn the language of science and for feedback. Student feedback indicates need to build student confidence and student engagement increased when grade added for timely responses.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Smarter than you think – book overview

Here is an overview of the book - Smarter than you think; How technology is changing our minds for the better - by Clive Thompson. Published 2013 by Penguin Press.

Positive review from nytimes.

The book proposes humans are innately wired up to learn. AI/ robots / AI agents etc. are only as good as their programmes. When both machines and humans work together, they are better than all human or all AI efforts. Therefore, it is important to leverage off the potentialities of AI etc. rather than fearing the coming onslaught.

Additionally, the way we perceive the world and ‘knowledge’ has changed with the widespread availability of information and the ubiquity of ‘smart devices’. Instead of being passive consumers, large numbers now create and share their efforts. People who would not have written / shared experiences beyond their friends and families 30 years ago, now upload opinion pieces, instructions, reflections etc.

The book has 10 chapters and is written in an accessible prose. Notes (30+pages) and index round off the book.

By way of introduction, chapter 1 ‘the rise of the centaur’ sets the scene. The chapter uses the well-known late 90’s batter between chess master Gary Kasporov and the IBM Deep Blue to introduce the concept that both humans and computers have their own strengths and weaknesses. In 2005, ‘free-style’ chess tournaments saw two relatively lower ranked chess players, who were able to ‘collaborate’ with a chess computer, win the tournament against teams made up of grandmaster chess players or chess computers only. The ability to integrate machine assistance into the decision making process of chess, is argued to be the defining factor. This chapter also presents how the author has shifted positions, from being pessimistic about the future digital future, to being optimistic about how humankind has been able to leverage off the many opportunities afforded.

The second chapter, ‘we the memorious’ overviews the ways people remember and discusses the pros and cons of recording ‘life blogs’ or ‘video blogs’ of daily happenings. Technology allows us to have ‘infinite memory’ but too much is perhaps not always good.

Chapter 3 is on the theme ‘public thinking’ summarises the rise of ‘citizenship journalism’. How some ‘accidental bloggers’ became conduits for information when dictatorial regimes imposed news blackouts and the ways this form of communication has changed our lives forever. For large segments of society who never really did much reading or writing, the advent of blogging has shifted many into becoming much more literate to cope with a mostly text based internet. There is evidence first year students write longer pieces and more complex pieces when compared to two decades ago.

Of interest to educators, the chapter on ‘new literacies’ overviews the shift from the focus of literacy on reading and writing to encompassing multiliteracies. These include all the usual needs to become digitally fluent but also the visual literacies and ‘3D literacies’ which new tools and platforms bring.
Next chapter extends to the previous with discussion around ‘the art of finding’. Opens with a discussion on how being able to google, helps us surmount the ‘tip of the tongue’ syndrome but also may cause some to lose confidence when the internet goes down or their smart phone is unable to connect with the internet. Discusses how access to anytime/ anywhere information changes the way we prioritise what we learn and how dependence may affect our creativity. Too much information is a distraction but selected digital memories can amplify our access to brain functions.

Following is a chapter on ‘the puzzle hungry world’ which tracks the rise of digital games and the shift in how games are used by people. In particular, how games which require collaboration and harness collective thinking changes the way people play, work and learn.

The next chapter is also useful for educators as it discusses the potentialities digital technologies bring to the ‘Digital school’. Khan academy is used as an example of how primary school children learn advanced mathematics when they are allowed to become self-directed and learn for their own fulfilment. Uses example from NZ school on how blogging improved reading and writing for students as their work was being read by others beyond their own community. Also discusses the pro and cons of teaching children to code.

The chapter on ‘Ambient awareness’ adds another technology assisted capability / potentiality. The digital trail collected across our lives lead to data patterns, allowing analysis to reveal our routine life flow. Included are the networks we are part off and our perspectives on life. Collection of ‘self-talk’ and broadcasting these, help understand the perspectives across a team. The pros and cons of ambient awareness are discussed.

‘The connected society’ is the penultimate chapter and brings together the ideas from the previous chapters. Uses citizen instigated protests against the state in China / Egypt / Azerbaijian as examples of how technology, tapped through the expertise of a few becoming mainstream practice, is able to create social / political change.

The epilogue returns the discussion to AI with Watson, an IBM programme able to play Jeopardy - requiring AI to take intuitive leaps based on experienced living. At the moment, Watson runs on a supercomputer but predictions are for supercomputer processing speeds will be available within a decade on a laptop. If Watson is a precursor, that some of the quirks and idiosyncrasies humans are capable of, may no longer the sole domain of humans. 

Overall, the book can be seen to be counter to other books on a similar vein. For example - The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. My thoughts are than humans have survived due to their adaptability. Adaptations can go either way and most people will experience, learn and adjust. Not to the polar opposites of technology will make us all become subservient or we become part cyborg, but a sort of middle ground whereby some will have to work through 'addiction' to the less advantageous aspects of technology and other will overly embrace the perceived advantage. Education has to play a role in assisting people to understand the pros and cons, attain the literacies to make use of the aspects of technology which will enhance their lives, and continue to be vigilant as to how AI develops (i.e. the ethics of AI). 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The Shift: The future of work is already here - book overview

The Shift: The future of work is already here by Gratton, L. Published in 2011 by Harper Collins.

Briefly browsed through this book a few years ago when it arrived at the Ara library. Over the summer, completed a deeper read of the concepts proposed. In part due to the paucity of literature proposing solutions beyond UBI (universal basic income) as a panacea for the implications wrought by AI / robotics / globalisation / neoliberalisation etc. on the future of work.

Generally positive reviews from aidnography blog, management today magazine and financial times. The tone of reviews indicate the book to have a business / organisational management slant.

The book is readable to a lay audience and written in a conversational style. There are 11 chapters plus preface and introduction with 5 parts dividing up the book into themes. Due to the rapid movement in this area of research, the bibliography is already dated. At the end of the book, there is also a ‘follow up’ section with author contact etc., acknowledgements and comprehensive notes for those keen to explore various items further.

The introduction details the rationalisation and the ‘how the book came about’. In particular, the metaphor of quilting is used to illustrate a way forward. The introduction is a caveat in part, outlining the challenges inherent in predicting the future and the ways the used to try to circumvent some of the pitfalls. Two assumptions are used to anchor the various themes, firstly is that generalised skills may not be the panacea, instead there is a need for specialists to constantly ‘reinvent’ themselves; secondly, individualism is replaced by collaboration and networks.

Chapter 1 makes up the one chapter in Part 1 ‘the forces that will shape your future’. The five forces are: technology, globalisation, demography and longevity, society and energy resources. Each of the forces is discussed and extended to provide deeper detailing to make a total of 32. Nothing new in these but the thematic collation is useful. Suggests individuals need to craft their own future by discarding items no longer required, embroidering the items of importance, discovering and collecting new pieces, sorting to prioritise and continually looking for patterns.

Part 2 is made up of 3 chapters which summarise the ‘dark side of the default future’ with the increase in fragmentation as we experience our world in sound bites, facebook likes and random wanderings around the web. Of importance is the effect on how we learn and progress as our lives becomes challenged by having to deal with a deluge of information and expectations. Our concentration to allow for the building of mastery is compromised, our capacity to observe and learn is reduced and the opportunities to ‘play and create’ are removed.

The flip side is the isolation individuals then feel as actual social interaction declines. In part due to the erosion of ‘the family’, the neighbourhood/ village, and opportunities for ‘easy friendship’. The economic consequences of exclusion through the rise in the ‘new poor’ is covered in chapter4. There is a widening gap between the haves and have nots due to a shift to ‘the winner takes all’ syndrome and the celebration of the individual.

Part 3 then takes on a proactive slant with ‘the bright side of the crafted future’ Each chapter proposes a solution. These include, co-creation, social engagement and micro-entrepreneurship.
A series of narratives gives life to these three chapters. The examples provided are contemporary and describe live, as it is now, for many. In summary, these three chapters discuss how the forces can be used to make life better and how individuals need to be aware of how to leverage off the forces, instead of being overwhelmed by them.

The fourth part spells out ‘the shift’. Each shift is defined and extended. The shifts are: from shallow generalists to ‘serial maser’; from isolated competitor to innovative connector; and from voracious consumer to impassioned producer. Here, solutions offered are argued through. Firstly, it is important to build deep mastery in a discipline, but the caveat is to ensure the discipline has potential for future career development. Deep mastery requires investment in time and effort to attain. Affinity, passion, and resilience are important. Serial masters constantly ‘rework’ themselves by sliding and morphing’, as work shifts and mastery increases. Then ensure there is an emphasis on connecting with others, organisations, etc. and making use of technology to crowdsource, network and self-market. Importantly, becoming a ‘producer’ / crafter/ maker so one becomes a contributor, not just a consumer.

The last part consist of a series of ‘notes’ which summarise the recommendations to targeted audiences. The notes are to children, CEOs and governments. In conclusion, the book advocates for individuals to be proactive and to take control of their working lives. However, agency on the part of workers is fraught with social / economical / political obstacles, sometimes difficult for individuals on their own, to navigate or get around. Therefore, some support may be a key to empower individuals to think through, plan and realise goals to ensure they are able to continually adapt to the challenges.