Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blogging good practice and with youme

This week I am facilitating a discussion forum with a group of tutors enrolled on the ICT for education course. My brief is to introduce the concepts of blogging & start discussion on how to use blogging in either their own personal development or as a teaching / learning tool.

There are guidelines to corporate blogging which mirror the CPIT guidelines for staff who maintain blogs. What I needed to find is guidelines for educational blogging. Found a good overview by Jeremy Williams via Google Scholar which also includes an appendix on resources on blog methods and blogs in learning.

So far, the uses of blogging proposed by course members were to make use of blogs to improve on student reflection. I wanted to move the tutors beyond this so that blogging could be used in a more synergistic manner for students to record their learning journey; network with other people (not in their own class) studying in the same area; share, discuss & evaluate their learning with others in the class; archive the resources that they find & record their initial reactions so that they are able to compare these with later perspectives. In short, guiding students towards the left hand bottom corner of the matrix proposed by Scott on post about matrix of some uses of blogs.

Also, this week, Tricia Lewis (with Stephanie Roberts) presented a session on using blogging to help students learn English as part of the School of Humanities sharing of good practice series. Trish & her brother set up youme to encourage students (familiar with social networking) to practice their English via blogging. 300 students now use this site although not all are blogging regularly. The site has features with are user friendly to use including allowing students to blog, chat & take part in discussion forums. Groups of students can be brought together in clubs. This makes it easier for the teacher to work with students as they engage with blogging & for the students in each class to share their work. Great stuff & good to see most of the tutors in the language area taking up the challenge to make use of blogging to enhance student learning.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ITF presentations now online

All presentations described in previous two blogs now available online. I browsed through a few of the ones I did not attend as I was attending the other session running concurrently.
The most useful ones were:

Literacy & numeracy or qualifications – which matter more in employment, and does participation in upskilling differ by industry group by David Earle, Elliot Lawes & Paul Satherley of the Ministry of Education which came out of the ALLs surveys now summarised.

The ETITO development of industry relevant strategic training plans by Dr. Dominic Madell & Dr. Heather Lees.

ITO literacy & numeracy good practice from Dr. Nicky Murray of the ITF, Helena Parsons from Quartz Clarity & Dr. Gene Kumekawa from the TEC.

Friday, April 24, 2009

ITF research forum day 2

Day two began with a presentation by Dr. Karen Vaughan on conditions & strategies for making the most of workplace learning. Understanding challenges presented by workplace learning presents the opportunity to work on strategies to improve learning in the workplace. Workplace learning defined as on the job + off the job + integration with business strategy. 21st century workplace learning needs are impacted on by speed of adoption of technology, globalisation etc. challenges include the tensions between knowledge & skill, hierarchies & roles, and learners & motivation. Others include how workplace interactions are enacted, the complexity of the task, what regulations cover the business, how much technology needs to be introduced or utilised, how market forces impact, the workplace culture, suitable learning strategies, involvement peers, mentors & learners in goal setting, availability of feedback & knowledge sharing (reflection) and opportunities to practice & take some risks.

Concurrent sessions follow the rest of the day. First one I attended is from Helen van der Werff, from the Horticulture ITO on increasing the impact of industry training investments in the horticulture industry. Based on qualitative nation wide survey of 19 businesses & interviews with 4 ITO training advisors. Harvey & Harris (2008) 7 drivers of productivity used to access productivity & learning to performance process (Brinkerhoff, 2002), logic of training, a high impact learning management (Brinkerhoff, 2001) used to inform the study.

Second presentation from the Department of Labour on skills in demand: past, present & likely in the future from Dr. Ram SriRamaratnam, Richard Manning and Xintao Zhao. This covered brief overview of skill concepts (types & measures), employment skills (their mix & content), high level skills categories and skills demand (2003, 2008 & 2013). Demand also include additional / expansion demain, replacement / retirement demand. In summary, still a need for ‘skilled workers’ into the future due to forecasted replacement & retirement demands.

After lunch, first session up was from Paul Mahoney from the Ministry of Education on factors associated with success in industry training and modern apprenticeships – what the data tells us. Over 180,000 industry trainees / apprentices in 2008. Analysis at the moment focuses on credits & national qualifications completed as proxies of success. Two reports, one of industry training & one on Modern apprenticeships just produced. In industry training, 35% of students entering complete their full course within 5 years. Similar levels of completion to polytechs / private providers & rates in UK (27 – 40%) & Australia (45%). Females more likely to complete than males. Some industries in NZ have higher levels of workplace based training completions for both trainees & modern apprentices. Older workers more likely to complete.

Then attended session on a comparative analysis of stakeholders’ evaluation of NZ industry training strategy within the tourism & public sectors from Lois Parkes of Victoria University. Lit review reveals, interest in skill from publick policy & business perspectives, assumptions that skill = qualification, investment = outcome, many economies have fallen short of the high skill = high wage vision. Evaluation was based on a positivist bias therefore stakeholders perspectives & experiences are not taken into account. There is a research gap as not the whole range of stackholders perpectives have been collected, collated & compared.

Last session of the day was on embedded workplace training: benefits for the health & disability sector by Liz Stephenson from Careerforce & Rose Ryan from Athena Research. Embedded model of training is defined. Features of how organisations obtain maximise, support & evaluate cost effectiveness. Learning and assessment were part of workplace practice, support provided by Careerforce workplace advisors to assist trainees in using workbooks, learning resources & trainee verification. Embedding requires a high level of commitment & resourcing but costs are offset by reduced turnover / recruitment & improved quality of service. Embedded model helped to overcome barriers to learning amongst non-tradtional learners.

The conference ended with a plenary session for questions & answers facilitated by Jeremy Baker & with questions from the floor to the three keynote presenters, Professor David Ashton, Dr. Johnny Sung & Dr. Karen Vaughan.

ITF vocational education research forum Day 1

The annual NZ vocational education & research forum was convened by the ITF (Industry Training Federation) over two days this week. It is heartening to see vocational education research flourishing in NZ, in part via the provision of contested funding from Ako Aotearoa to conduct research in the tertiary sector. This year almost 200 people attend the 2 day conference compared to about 40 at the first conference 6 years ago.

This year, the conference was held at Victoria University’s Rutherford House. Conference opened with a warm & pertinent welcome from Hon. Anne Tolley, Minister of Tertiary Education.

First keynote was from Professor David Ashton, from SKOPE at the University of Cardiff & the University of Leicester. He spoke on the topic of the global auction of skills: implications for sector approaches to workforce development. Two main arguments were put forward. One that there should be (but is not) a relationship between how much money is put into training & the returns on investment. Secondly, the influence of multinational organisations on training direction which is not in synchrony with national interest. The study was based on surveys / interviews etc in seven countries & four core sectors. Presentation started with a good overview on labour markets etc over the last couple of decades related to changes in the organisation of production due to globalisation. He presented the idea of ‘skill webs’ & how they have evolved from low skill (high skilled work remained in home country, dependent on quality of national ed. system & rewards determined by national internal revenue) to strategic skill webs (global supply of skills, internationalised skill strategies). This presentation provided much food for thought as to how a small country like NZ is going to be able to contribute, utilise & ameliorate the effects of globalisation. With the advent of ‘virtual R & D teams’ working via ‘digital taylorism’ the world is ‘flat’ & participation by NZers becomes easier but also more challenging with competition from countries like China, India & Russia.

Concurrent sessions then ran. First up motivating learners to complete qualification through workplace leanring by Karen Moses, R & D senior advisor for LearningState (the ITO for state sector organisations). Concern on low completion rates of tertiary learners (including apprentices & trainees). 70% of learning happens through work & life experiences, 10% through training & 20% through coaching and mentoring. A workplace assessment model based on Cheetham & Chivers (2005) model of professional competence. Examples of how this model works was then provided. Key motivator was relevance of learning, learning that may lead to future careers, learning which was challenging & provided social opportunities for interaction, qualification a form of legal tender, RPL & RCC available. Self direction was a sign of motivation in learners & readiness to learn emerges from the need to learn.

After lunch, I attended the session with Dr. Peter Coolbear , Dr. Kirsty Weir & Dr. Warren Sellers from Ako Aotearoa on enhancing the value & impact of research into voc. ed. & training. Ako Aoteoroa is funding 18 million a year on various projects to tertiary education. The presentation was on how to ensure the research leads on to best possible educational outcomes for all learners. An inventory of voc. ed reseach in NZ from 2003 – 2008 reveal 118 pieces of work but much of this is not widely disseminated or known by practitioners. Pasteur’s quadrant was used by Tooley & Darby (1998) to identify type of research needed to improve practice. Integrity of method suggested as most effective way to ensure research outcomes are effective and have impact on practice. Ako selected 40 projects & mapped these against the quadrant for methodological integrity & potential impact. 21 of the projects were ‘health sector’ based with the other 10 spread across other types of workplaces. 70% were in the quadrant indicating low methodological & potential impact. Limitations included unclear results, work not build on previous literature, little triangulation, quantitative research measured perceptions & lack of generalisable findings. Ako will work together to help foster user generated research and to support & encourage practitioners to take advantage of use-inspired research,

Then a session from Dr. Johnny Sung, University of Leicester on the varying nature of industry-led VET training. Instigating ‘sector skills councils’ may not lead to actual industry –led training. Four broad types of industry led VET systems were examined. Analysed via nature of employer / industry led varies hugely between systems, way funding channelled through sectoral system, way employers may influence qualifications & training content, employers role in creating training places. Into the models of employer involved, employer modelled, employer owned & employer driven. An associated paper on the role of employers in sector skills development provides background & good information.

My session came after afternoon tea. I presented on a small part of my thesis, the concept of ‘proximal participation’ in helping young people ‘belong to a workplace’. The apprentices in my study ‘fell into the trade’ after working in the bakery as cleaners, dishwashers, retail assistants and catering assistants. These support / peripheral jobs provided the opportunity to ‘belong to the workplace’ by building relationships with the other workers in the bakery, trying out the baking lifestyle and viewing the practice bakery work. As proximal participants, they could adopt an identity as an observer. In order for proximal participation to be effective, time span of the engagement with the work had to be long enough to allow relationships to build.

Last session from Elizabeth Valentine, CEO of ATTTO & Steve Hanrahan, CEO of HSI. They spoke on career maps & pathways into the tourism and hospitality industries. Project revolved around providing career maps, articulating career paths, national map of provision and defining a process for “lifting the bar” funded by the TEC. Project was to assist with preparing the two industries for the Rugby World cup in 2011 & then the Cricket World cup in 2015. Example of the career mapper database for baristas was presented as how the career maps were constructed.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blackberry 8110 usability & suitability for mlearning

I have had a week to play with the Blackberry over the Easter. Mobile access was patchy (as expected) but I could still assess the other PDA functions. It took me a couple of days to become comfortable with the one handed / left handed use of the trackball cum blackberry key to access various menus. Using the ‘sure-type’ keys with each qwerty key providing access to two alphabets took more time to get used to. The prescriptive text entry system tended to be quite good at working out what needed to be inputted. So my typing speed did increase over the 4 days of practice. Use of camera, video etc. was also easy to learn. Picture quality was OK. Photos could be viewed easily with zoom, rotate etc. available. Voice recording was also good & easy to use.

The GPS was limited so will need to source google maps & upload for better capabilities. What was available was easy to use including the ‘where I am’ function. I also read up a recent ‘wired’10 uses of GPS article on the uses of GPS in daily live. I found some of the applications to be invasive of my personal privacy but can also see many useful adaptations that can be taken for using GPS in educational settings.

The form factor (size) & price of the Blackberry, makes it more accessible to the student market. However, due to the Blackberry being marketed to the business sector, it will not be on the radar of most apprentice learners. However, it has capabilities that make it suitable as a corporate mobile learning tool due to ease of use & ready linking to corporate email systems. This means that content dissemination (text, slideshows, photos etc) along with discussion forums etc. can be based on email. This makes mobile learning easier to institute as all tutors are familiar with email. Incorporating social networking sites like twitter for ‘chat’ type synchronous sessions is also much easier to introduce. So there are possibilities worth exploring which I will discuss with our elearning team.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Blackberry 8110

The powers that be at CPIT have changed telecom providers which means a change in the mobile phones supported by the institute. So my trusty Treo 700wx (which I have been allowed to keep for it’s PDA functions) has now been replaced with a Blackberry 8110. None of my students will have a Blackberry L but the Blackberry seems to be making inroads in to corporate mlearning. Blackberries interface with Blackboard LMS but we have shifted to Moodle. However, it is always good to be able to trial mlearning on a multitude of mobile phone OS & the Blackberry will be added to our collection.

I will be spending much of the Easter break getting to grips with how to make the most of the Blackberry. Will be away tramping so it will be a good opportunity to find out what sort of mobile phone coverage the Blackberry has, test out the GPS / camera / video & assorted PDA capabilities and work out how long the battery charge will last J The West Coast is aka as the ‘wet coast’ for it’s damp climate. Although the forecast seems to me mostly dry, it will be a good test of my ability to keep the phone dry & to see how well it works under non-ideal conditions.

As a first impression, the size & weight is much better (from the trampers point of view!). The Blackberry is about 1/2 the weight & 2/3 the size of the Treo. The trackball which runs most of the menus on the Blackberry is pretty intuitive to use. Without reading the manual, I figured out how to access email, SMS, web browser etc. practiced using the ‘suretype’ system as the phone does not have a full qwerty keyboard but an adapted one with two alphabets to each key (laid out as per qwerty). After that sending email, SMS was simple although slower as I am used to using both thumbs on the Treo. With its smaller size, the he Blackberry handles better with just one thumb and my left hand is always not as easy to coordinate as my right.

Voice dialling was quite nifty but I have yet to get the media manager on the desktop manager to work, although backup, synchroniser & application loader (loaded mobipocket reader) all work OK.

So will report back on progress next week.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pockets of potential report

Here is a great report Via Derek Wenmouth on using mobile tools from the company that brought us Sesame Street .

This is an American report to try to nudge the American government into greater support for mobile learning. It provides a good overview of projects that have taken place in Europe & Asia along with many guidelines on how to leverage mobile learning into education along with the reasons why. Most of the projects reported use handheld devices (pdas, game consoles) instead of mobile phones but the overall intent of the project is to provide greater access for learning opportunities to all children regardless of the digital divide. Handhelds are one way to provide access to the internet & learning objects without having to set up the infrastructure required by desktops.

It provides a succinct (albeit American viewpoint) on mobile learning & its promises, pitfalls and real potential. Key & challenges in mobile learning are summarised. There is an ‘update’ on the relevant market trends and innovation that have brought mobile learning closer.
There is also a good summary of the goals of mobile learning including “understanding that mobile learning is an unique element of educational reform; developing mobile learning by building learning interventions; promoting mobile learning by engaging the public and policy – makers in defining the potential of mobile devices for learning; Preparing teachers and learners for mobile learning by providing training on how to incorporate mobile technologies; and stimulate mobile learning by generating new support for digital learning.

That an organisation that has promoted pre-school education for decades is now involved in advocating mobile learning is really a promising sign that mobile learning is becoming mainstream. President Obama has been reported as being attached to his Blackberry & his election campaign made astute use of mobile technology to connect with & involve his supporters. All of which leads to better appreciation by naysayers of the power of mobile phones to bring about social change. Is education then not about change in attitudes as well?