Monday, October 29, 2018

Brain facts - interactives for core concepts

Brain facts is my go to site for keeping up with developments in neuroscience which inform learning and teaching.

They now have a series of interactive snippets, to help explain core concepts. These are short activities, to explain some of the core concepts of how the brain works.

There is also a good overview in their 'brain facts book' which is updated regularly. Currently, the latest 2018 version is available and a good resource for finding out how the brain and nervous system works.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Future of Jobs - 2018 report from World Economic Forum

Had a look through the World Economic Forum's viewpoint on the future of work over the weekend. There was a brief summary / overview on the NZ Herald last month titled - Machines to do most work in 2025.

Overall, despite the title of the NZ Herald article, a more optimistic report compared to the last one a couple of years ago.

The four drivers of change are ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology.

Accelerators of change due to ability to extend on technology as more is learnt. Trends in robotisation including increased use of robots  including stationary, non-humanoid land, fully automated aerial drones etc. and improved AI and learning algorithms.

There are rapidly changing patterns of the geography of production, distribution and value chains.
This leads on to changing employment types – with over 50% of companies expecting automation to lead to reduction in workforce by 2022. 38% expected to extend though.

There will be a new human-machine frontier with existing tasks. The ratio of human to machine tasks in jobs will see the machine proportion rise. Predicts 58% of tasks will be performed by humans and 42% by humans but this proportion will be dependent on job types.

Some work tasks which have always been seen to be human strengths, including communicating and interacting, coordinating, developing, managing and advising, and reasoning and decision making, will begin to be automated.

There will be emerging ‘in-demand’ roles – usual ones like data analysts, scientists, software developers etc. and the ‘service’, human relationship type occupations. New roles revolve around AI, automation, robotics, human-machine interaction designers etc. This will lead to growing skills instability with the accompanying need for re-skilling and sound strategies to address skill gaps.

This morning, today online article brings another dimension (an Asian perspective) on things. The article records an interview with Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, and has excerpts from his book - published this year - AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order. In short, the book brings another dimension into how to think about the future of work and what society and government's role are in meeting the coming challenges. Will summarise this book once I have read it.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Research methods for education in the digital age – book overview

Here is an overview of a timely addition to the research methodology literature.

Research Methods for Education in the Digital Age arrived at the Ara library last week. 

Written by Maggi Savin-Baden and Gemma Tombs 2017 and published by Bloomsbury

After the introduction, 10 chapters. Includes useful glossary differentiating the various methods and approaches referred to in the book and 25 pages of references.

The introduction provides the rationale for the book. Being to fill a gap in understanding about how research is now conducted in the digital age. Has a table providing descriptions and salient literature sources for key digital technologies used in education. Also includes brief overviews of each of the following chapters.

First chapter, introduces ‘issues in researching education in the digital age’. Begins with summarising the change to data types now possible through the advent of digital technologies – the new typology of data. Apart from orthodox data, there is now the possibility of collecting participative intentional data, consequential data (i.e. health records), self-published data (i.e. blogs etc.), social media data, data traces (from search histories for example) and found data (available in the public domain). Introduces the concepts of the internet of things, digital tethering and digital immortality. Switches tack briefly to preview the traditional philosophies that inform research practice, conceptual frameworks and then discusses the challenges wrought be digital data.

Chapter 2 – new methodologies? – introduces potential methods including liquid methodologies (which morph across philosophical approaches); digital and visual methods – visual ethnography, arts-informed inquiry, grounded theory, evaluation, narrative inquiry,

Continues with chapter on ‘ethnographies for the digital age. Summarises the history of ethnography and then describes and discusses a range of possibilities. Ethnography for the internet, netography, sensory ethnography, connective ethnography, visual ethnography and critical ethnography.
Fourth chapter on adapting research approaches for educational research in a digital age focuses on design-based research, design patterns, future technology workshop, actor-network theory and activity theory. These are defined and critiqued.

Chapter 5 on quantitative data in digital context introduces the three main categories of data. Individual, engagement and learning. Engagement data is further sub-categorised as action or activity orientated, network-orientated or content- orientated. Big data, learning analytics and educational data mining are also introduced and discussed. Various modes for data gathering enabled by digital technologies are also presented and pros and cons discussed. These include web delivered surveys, mobile delivered surveys, social media polls, avatar delivered and chat bot delivered surveys. Other types of data including mobile application data,  social media data, geo-location data and the data associated with participation in virtual applications also detailed.

Digital ethics is covered in the next chapter. The chapter begins with an overview of the purposes of ethics in research. Then a discussion on how the advent of digital research methods and data, pose challenges. Solutions are proposed and discussed. In particular, the issues of privacy, consent and analytics in digital spaces, ‘found data’ in education – e.g. data available from participants in the public sphere, consent and learning analytics – who owns the data and issues of transparency.

Then a chapter on digital data creation and collection. Begins with discussion on what is the researchers’ role. Then discusses cooperative research opportunities afforded by digital technologies. Uses observations as an example of how research methodologies have shifted. Observation may now be carried out without research presence, using avatars or concentrate on textual and visual observations.

Chapter 8 covers data management covers the types of digital data – refashioned, re-created, digitally connected and digitally created. Then goes through the various ways for digital data analysis including social network analysis, analytical induction, critical discourse analysis, interpretative phenomenological analysis, narrative analysis, content, keyword and thematic analysis. Most of these achieved through the use of digital tools. Theories for interpreting educational research data in the digital age include cyborg theory, rhizome theory, network society, supercomplexity and digital tethering. Each is defined, discussed and critique.

Then chapter 9 on representation and portrayal in qualitative research. Interesting chapter on how research can now be represented or portrayed through use of digital research methods and tools. Defines each and provides examples, critiques.

Last chapter is on digital impact which is about how research impact can now be measured through mechanisms like h-index and altmetrics. Also introduces the new ways research findings can now be presented including institutional or personal websites, blogs etc. the advent of video abstracts and articles; data visualisations and the role of open access / open data.

All in, a good update for researchers on the potentialities and details for moving from traditional means for conducting and disseminating research, to the methods possible with digital technologies. The book is more of a 'how to' rather than an academic book, so it is accessible and well laid out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Marc Prensky - Public lecture at Ara Institute of Technology as part of Tertiary ICT conference

Tertiary ICT conference – a 3 day conference attended mostly by ICT staff from across the tertiary sector is being held at Ara Institute of Canterbury this week.

Notes taken at the free public lecture this evening by Marc Prensky on ‘Civilisation-level change in education’. he is keynote at the conference.

Advocates for the merger of traditional ‘academic’ education with the older ‘accomplishment’ approach. Discusses why it is important and how we may get there.

Began with brief introduction including having taught at primary to college levels.
Rationalised WHY education has to change. The importance of education but we need to think through what is education and what is the purpose of education.

The third millennium requires a shift, to empower our kids in an exponentially changing world.
Argues, change is on us now and not going to slow down. Technology is not proceeding linearly but information technology has enabled change to be complex. How can people keep up or cope? Maximise the use of technology to face challenges of the future.

Spend some time defining exponential and speed of change. Computational abundance is now here with incredible empowerment. Personal devices (more than number of people), human web (50% now) connectivity and connected things / sensors. Convergence occurring between hard and software, physical and biological, human machine symbiosis etc.
Argues that computational power enable huge empowerment of the individual. Help deal with VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex ambigious), climate change, etc.

What does this mean for the future of work and to be human in an age of intelligent machines.  
“We learn in order to accomplish useful things”. Accomplishment (for others) is not the same as achievement (for yourself). Argues that we have always had ‘the accomplishment tradition” for action, relationships and still practiced in workplaces. The ‘academic tradition’ as about thinking and learning and this occurred in schools.

So, supports the precepts of situated learning. Critical thinking alone is not enough unless combined with effective action, relationships and application.

Education moving from personal achievement – individuals/ grades / rankings and personal success to Accomplishment – real world results.

Current paradigm is kids have to be taught, goal to make them better individuals and best process is with content, tests, rankings and qualifications. Tinkering with educational reform is not effective. Need to change the way people see the world and adopt a new paradigm.
New civilization level paradigm of education is kids empowered to accomplish, with goal to better their world and includes world improvement projects etc.

Goes back to his original premise of kids now needing to be educated for a different world. Reading and writing, researching, translating, thinking (AI) are becoming machine skills. Anything that 2 people can do equally well, can be, and will be, automated (eventually).

Education has been ‘making people the same’ what the future needs is people who can be unique. Teachers need to help kids find, nurture and extend their strengths. Need to see learners as extended brains all networked together. Provided examples of empowered kids and schools around the world (design for change). Proposed a way forward with alternative education as an option as to replace educational systems will be too difficult. Curriculum based on real world learning based on real world projects - people who can get things done. broad lifelong skills the key - effective thinking, action and relationships. Teachers are coaches and enpowerers, not content deliverers. Technology should be used as enablers for improving the world and becoming good empowered people. 

Some of his ideas are congruent with neuroscience of learning – to teach is to learn - see this blogpost on book overview of the secret life of the mind. Get kids to lead, they will learn what is required to solve the problems important to them. Learning needs to be situated, problem / inquiry learning engages and motivates learners. These skills set learners up for the fast changing future.

Monday, October 01, 2018

10 trends for digital learning

Jane Hart's list of top 100 tools is now out. This year, the list is has columns for personal and professional learning (PPL); workplace learning (WPL) and education (EDU). Not only the top 100 but the top 200 tools are listed, along with links to each tool.

Most of the perennial favourites are still going strong. There is an increase in project planning tools, no doubt caused by the rise of "agile' project management.

Additionally, the top 10 trends for digital learning in 2018 were summarised.

They are:

  • Web resources still dominate
  • Social networks, some increased, others down
  • Web courses are increasing in popularity
  • There is a subtle shift from course to content development
  • Learning at work is becoming personal and continuous
  • Team collaboration tools support the real social learning at work
  • Microsoft ecosystem still strong
  • OneNote is preferred digital notebook
  • Video conferencing is in
  • Audience engagement become popular

No surprises across the list or with the trends. Cloud based tools along with microsoft office type applications are now the norm. The use of and access to curated resources (e.g. Tedtalks videos) and platforms for personal learning (e.g. MOOC type sites like Udemy, Coursera, etc.) and personal curation (e.g. Anders Pink; degreed) do indicate the rise of personalised learning environments which are individually bespoked to meet organisational and individuals' learning needs.