Monday, February 19, 2024

Unpicking Te Pūkenga - commentary on what is happening and what may work

 Roger Smyth  has had a long association with Aotearoa NZ tertiary education and his occasional blogs  provide viewpoints from his background as a policy analyst. He draws from both his experiences, scholarly work and his networks, to provide commentary on contemporary issues affecting tertiary education.

His latest blog, discusses a 'where to next' with regards to Te Pūkenga' as the process of its disestablishment begins. He summarises the reasons for the formation of Te Pūkenga, as a solution to the challenging financial position almost all of the country's polytechnics faced before merger. Discussion is had on the many facets of the reform of vocational education (RoVE) and the problems with combining the two arms of VET, the polytechnics with the industry training organisations (ITO).

He then discusses a few options for the creation of a network of regional polytechnics, how to try to bring some synergy between the objectives of polytechnics and the work-based support provided by ITOs, what do do with the funding system, and how to ensure employer and industry representations on skill needs is carried through to the standards setting function, currently held by Work Development Councils (WDCs).

It will be interesting to see how prescient some of his suggestions are, given that to date, little information has been available on what the post-Te Pūkenga landscape might look like going into the future. 

Thursday, February 08, 2024

Sociomaterial design: Bounding technologies in practice - book overview

The book - Sociomaterial-Design edited by P. Bjorn and C. Osterlund was published in 2014 by Springer. 

There are 9 chapters, including the first chapter which introduces the concepts of sociomateriality and design.

The precepts of sociomateriality are argued to be useful in better understanding complex interactions. Design is brought in as to how processes are developed, and planned, initially impact on how people and things interrelate and interact. Therefore there are connections and commonalities between the two. How sociomateriality is affected by design and in turn feeds back on the efficacy of design, is a basis for better understanding intricate human associations, reactions and responses. 

5 chapters follow the introduction, reporting on a project (the emergency department in a hospital) and using it as a way to further illustrate the principles of how sociomateriality impinges on work. The last three chapters bring the various threads together with a chapter specifically on 'boundaries' and how actions affect these, how the findings can be applied to contexts beyond the healthcare sector and the overall implications on the discipline.

The concepts are now even more relevant as humans and machines' interactions and even the intertwining of the two into 'enhanced' entities become reality. 

Monday, February 05, 2024

AI tools for instructional designers

 The number of Gen AI supported apps/tools available is increasing rapidly. Here is a list from the eLearning Coach of recommendations for instructional designers. Many of these are also useful for teachers and learners.

The tools are organised into categories of animation, audio enhancement or improvement, audio text-to-speech tools, chatbot builders, classroom instruction, content search and generation, course creation, image editing, meeting apps (record, transcribe, summarise etc.), presentations, productivity, scholarly research, translation, video, and writing. 

In all, a good collation, showing the versatility of Gen AI incorporation into many tools that already existed but now 'enhanced'. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

ILO reports - Towards lifelong learning and skills for the future of work: global lessons from innovative apprenticeships AND promoting apprenticeships to meet the needs of the digital and knowledge economy

 Two recent reports from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) of relevance to future skills, digital skills and the role of apprenticeships.

Firstly, A report titled 'Towards lifelong learning and skills for the future of work: Global lessons from innovative apprenticeships"published in 2022 and authored/edited by McCoshan, A, and Markowitsch, J. with several chapters based on a collection of reports written by other authors. Most of the discussions centre around 'formal' apprenticeships. The first 4 chapters cover future skills needs including digital and green economy. There are two chapters on increasing apprenticeship participation. Then two chapters on emerging approaches to increase work-based learning including strengthening work-based learning in VET institutions and adapting apprenticeships to support the reskilling and upskilling of adults. a couple of chapters discuss how to make apprenticeship systems more flexible, inclusive and digital. The report closes with policy messages for the future of apprenticeships.

Secondly, with relevance to digital skills is the report on "Promoting apprenticeships to meet the skills needs of the digital and knowledge economy" authored by Perryman, S. and published in 2022. The report is part of the ILO Apprenticeship Development for Lifelong Learning and Training (ADULT) project.

The report overviews the effects of the digital and knowledge economy on jobs - including aspects of labour market polarisation and types of future work (platform-based, hybridisation of work and skills, pandemic effects, importance of targeted education and training); summarises the skills needs of digital and knowledge economies; discusses how apprenticeships may meet some of the challenges; provides some recommendations to meet strategic and policy, curriculum, accreditation, inclusion and funding/delivery challenges; and closes with a case study. 

Overall, both reports summarise some of the key future skills needs and postulates how apprenticeships may be modified to meet the oncoming and rapid changes in work. Mostly macro discussion with some ideas for implementation at the micro level. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Digital Skills Framework - for Aotearoa NZ - a discussion paper

 A discussion paper commissioned by Ako Aotearoa and written by Dr. Anne Alkema provides a timely piece of work from which our 'AI in foundation studies' project can draw from. Digital skills are prerequisites to being able to make use of AI tools/apps as presently, all are reliant on text input - although users could dictate the prompts into speech to text if the relevant plugins were enabled. 

The paper discusses the various definitions of digital literacy and skills and overviews several examples from overseas (UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, EU, US of A) to inform the development of an Aotearoa NZ version. 

Recommends 4 options - align with the current adult learning progressions (which is what we currently have at Ara); develop an essential skills framework; develop a standalone digital skills framework; and work with potential partners.

Monday, January 15, 2024

AI in learning: Designing for the future - book overview

Open access book, published 2023 by Springer on AI in Learning with Hannele Niemi, Roy, D, Pea, and Yu Lu as editors with authors mainly from China, Finland and the US of A.

The book takes an overarching viewpoint on the application of AI into educational contexts. The book sections indicate the types of ways, AI can be deployed to improve learning and support teaching. Most chapters are useful in informing the ways AI can be implemented across various sectors and levels of educations. As the studies were conducted across 3 countries, social and cultural perspectives are also considered as what is considered to be acceptable in one country (i.e. AI surveillance), may not be in another. 

Sections include AI in expanding learning and well-being through life; AI in games and simulation; AI technologies for education and intelligent tutoring systems; and AI and challenges in new learning environments.

As such, the broader perspective, beyond just Gen AI, is described, explored, and evaluated. Of note is that chapters not only introduce the advantages of AI but also critique AI systems (including surveillance technologies) and argue for the importance of ensuring the voice of teachers and learners are included when AI technologies are implemented into education. worth a browse through the relevant chapters to learn more about the larger educational issues impacted on by AI and how application of digital technologies using AI can be of use to support learning and teaching.               

Monday, January 08, 2024

Plans for 2024

 Back at work today, after an exciting trip down to the Sub-Antarctic Islands, followed by a camping trip into the Canterbury high country. We await the next steps and details on how the disestablishment of the recommendations from RoVE pan out.

From the usual business as usual perspectives, it looks like we will be back to being a singular institute with campuses across Canterbury and the West Coast. I assume that the usual work of supporting departments and learning design will continue to ensure the institute fulfils its many functions and obligations to students, NZQA and government.

The six AI in VET projects will need to be written up by all the researchers involved and I need to finalise the chapters I author by the end of March. The process of editing everything before we submit the manuscript to the publishers at the end of April will keep me busy for the first quarter of 2024.

Additionally, there is the work to begin the four projects on AI in foundational VET, funded by Ako Aotearoa. Semester one will see each of the projects introduce AI to their students and to evaluate the tools/apps or platforms most appropriate to the programmes' contexts.

In all, semester one will roll by quite quickly with so much to accomplish in a short timeframe!! Alongside will be the following through of whatever process is pronounced with regards to the disestablishment of Te Pūkenga. I will miss the collegial interactions with colleagues from throughout the VET system but the relationships have now been kindled. It will be important to prioritise the nurturing of these despite the move back to individual institutional silos.

Therefore, I am looking forward to an interesting year. Let's see what happens and what can be done to ameliorate some of the disadvantages of disestablishment and to capitalise on the collaborations and networks formed through the last two years.