Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Quantum leaps in education - Stephen Downes

While returning to Christchurch from Dunedin last night, I browsed through this article / report by Stephen Downes on 'Quantum leaps we can expect in teaching and learning in the digital age'. It was published in 2017 and had been sitting in my 'to read' folder for a while. Here are notes taken:

An essay about change and technology addressed to today’s teachers and the students of tomorrow.

Begins with overview of the technology environment. Summarises developments in the access to the internet, increased power and memory in hardware, the impact of microcomputing (e.g. drones), the promises of the internet of things and how these have contributed to constant and accelerating change.

Then discusses ‘what can we (teachers) do’? Explains the concept of ‘affordances’ and how technology changes the ways in which opportunities are provided by tools, infrastructure, software and interfaces between humans and tools. All of which contribute to change.

“In an education system focused on the future, therefore, the core of learning is found not in what is defined in the curriculum, but in how teachers help students discover new possibilities from familiar things, and then from new things.”

Discusses the old and the new in education, classrooms, textbooks, pedagogy, assessments, institutions and credentialling.

The turning wheel provides summaries of what is currently occurring with virtual services, platforms, ‘the end of the app’, and decentralisation.

Spreading activation details the means for upscaling innovations including technology enablers for conferencing and communication.

Provides resources to assist development of curricula, ebooks, publication databases, courses, educational resources, data and applications. New business models evolve and resources become services.

Closes with ‘who speaks for us’? Proposes the importance of learning analytics and how the current emphasis on course level, educational data mining etc. shifts education towards intelligent curriculum, adaptive content and adaptive learning.

Food for thought as per normal. I will need to mull the concepts over for a while and work out contextualisation to vocational and higher education application.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Technology and the future of work - NZ

The government has launched a report to be collated ontechnology and the future of work. Through the Productivity Commission, an issue paper has been drafted and submissions are now being gathered. Submissions close June 5th and the final report is due to the government on 31st March 2020.

The remits of the report are to debate and consolidate knowledge on - What are the current and likely future impacts of technological change and disruption on the future of work, the workforce, labour markets, productivity and wellbeing? How can the Government better position New Zealand and New Zealanders to take advantage of innovation and technological change in terms of productivity, labour-market participation and the nature of work?

Technological change seen to affect work in the following ways. There will be a creation of new tasks and jobs; reduction in demand or increase in demand for workers in some existing jobs dependent of components of these jobs; and changes in the economics of different work arrangements (i.e. project based employment, precarity, etc.)

Proposes 4 scenarios to think through –
More tech more jobs, more tech less jobs, stagnation or steady as (i.e. no change). So, nothing new as yet and it will be interesting to see, next year, what the report comes up with.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Submissions - Reform of Vocational Education - New Zealand

Did a catch up on the Reform of Vocational Education in New Zealand. Submissions for the Minister of Education's proposals, closed in mid-April.

A large number (over a hundred)of submissions were submitted. Given the tight timeframe for submissions, the number shows the importance of vocational education.

Here is a summary of a few of interest to my research:

Ako Aotearoa's submission expressed the views from their role as the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. Ako Aotearoa supported the proposal for a unified vocational education system. They saw the reform as an opportunity to ensure there was an emphasis on teaching standards and the development of teaching capability. In turn, to ensure all learners, during the transition, were supported through the 'new' systems' implementation.

The ITF (Industry Training Federation) representing the eleven Industry Training Otganisations, provided a different perspective. As the proposal affected ITOs in many respects, including their disbanding and replacement with Industry Standards Boards. Their core activities of supporting work-based apprentices and trainees, is proposed to be shifted to the mega-ITP. Hence, their submission was to rationalise the need to leave the support of workplace training with ITOs. Constructive advice was provided as a way forward including the strengthening of the roles of ITOs and their continuance and the introduction of an employer incentive scheme to encourage employers to join the system.

The union for tertiary teachers and allied workers, the TEU (Tertiary Education Union), agreed with the proposals as laid out by the Ministry. The provisos were to ensure the reforms met the requirements and commitments of the Treaty of Waitangi, an opportunity to address aspects of gender equality within the NZ VET system, a commitment to support VET and to engage unions in the processes of transformation, transition and implementation.

The NZ VET sector is now awaiting the government's response to the consultation process. Almost all the consultation documents decry the short length of time availed for response. However, the number of responses, many of them supportive and proactive, has at least raised awareness of the size and importance of VET contributions to the economical and societal aspects of NZ.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Horizon Report 2019

The 2019 Horizon report is now up and provides the annual overview on the state of the future of learning, with emphasis on moving towards digital environments for learning.

This year, the people consulted covers an international albeit Western centric view. The usual short, mid and long term trends are identified as:

Short term
Redesigning learning spaces
Blended learning designs

Mid term
Advancing cultures of innovation

Growing focus on measuring learning

Long term
Rethinking how institutions work

Modularised and disaggregated degrees

Significant challenges are also identified:

Solvable – improving digital fluency, increasing demand for digital learning experiences and instructional design expertise

Difficult – evolving roles of faculty with edtech strategies; bridging the achievement gap

Wicked – advancing digital equity; rethinking the practice of teaching.

Time to adoption is always interesting to see as many of the previous predictions have been accurate.

Now  - mobile learning and analytics technologies

2 -3 years – mixed reality and artificial intelligence
5 – 6 years – blockchain and virtual assistants

Of note this year is deeper discussion into the lack of movement with several highly relevant trends. these include the following

Adaptive learning – understanding progress and potential has been the main challenge as there are many ways to view adaptive learning; scaling has been a challenge and requires large amounts of resourcing.Resourcing is also mentioned in the next two promising trends. 

Augmented and mixed reality – usability and ergonomics. In short, the need for VR glasses to enable AR, MR and VR has been a major impediment. There are usability issues, especially when VR goggles have to be used with a wide range of learners from different age groups and physical needs. As with gaming, the need to ensure authenticity of the experience, makes it a continual resourcing challenge to keep the elements up-to-date and relevant.

Gaming and gamification - Again, good simulations, game-based learning platforms etc. require large amounts of time, effort and technical backing to develop. The specialised 'situated' nature of learning means customising the game to make sense to a diverse learner audience means, continual resourcing to update and this requires resourcing which is not always easily available in the education system.