Thursday, November 25, 2010

ITF research network meeting 24th november

Yesterday I travelled to Wellington to attend and present to a keen group of ITO managers. The meeting convened by the Industry Training Federation (ITF) around 3 to 4 times a year as a fora  for ITF / ITO members to network and catch up on various issues. 2 ITF staff plus 12 or so ITO staff (some attended for part of the day). Good to touch base with familiar faces and meet new people.

A round of participants for them to introduce themselves and the projects each ITO is involved in or working towards. First session , Eric Krassoi Peach from the ITF opens the meeting with a discussion and direction for next week's meetings. All good background for me and to get into the ITO mindset.

Next up, I provide an overview of the vocational research projects at CPIT, concentrating on the Ako Aotearoa National funded project on 'first year apprentices' but also providing short summaries of the 'new trades tutors' projects from the perspective of identity transformation / boundary crossing and the 'welding project' plus details of projects begun by Barry Dowrick (interactive whiteboards and learning objects), future work with the engineering team (integrated learning and assessments) and with automotive with android OS tablets (interactive textbooks).

Schools update provided by Josh Williams, quantifications and quality manager at the ITF spoke to the group on sector pathways - making sense of secondary / tertiary transitions. Compared to other OECD countries , NZ retention of 15- 20 year olds in training is low. NZ curriculum refers to 'focus on transitions'. One pathway to university but other pathways not as clear as per On the edge of adulthood: young people's and out of school experiences at 16' - NZCER 2008 report. ITF presents sector pathways to service, manufacturing / technology, constructions /infrastructure, primary industries, social / community services and other industries as one possible way forward to provide 'structure' for career teachers. Perhaps to use the term 'majors' for each so that NCEA becomes more aligned towards one of the pathways rather than a 'pick n mix' which does not add up to any 'concrete' way forward. Went through preliminary analysis of NZQA data of u/s completed between 2005 - 2009 by provider by students to show what sector students were completing u/s in. Many students just completing 1 or 2 (credit harvesting??), and 'rural' schools tended to have students who completed more u/s (agriculture? Outdoor rec??) with many students also completing generic safety u/s 497 and food safety u/s 167. Breakdowns may now be needed to be done by ITO, student characteristics, longitudinal etc.

Then Paul Mahoney from Ministry of Education (Tertiary analysis) provides summary of Industry training stocks and flows - effects of the economic downturn pertient to ITOs. Stock is the number of people in industry training in one year and flow is the movement of these people in or out. 9-10% of population in industry training /apprenticeship as compared to 3% in Australia. Data is from 2001 - 20019. Economic downturn = drop in workplace based training participants as the is GDP contraction in 2009 across all industries, 2008 decline in agriculture, 2006 food & beverage with construction in 2007. Employment contraction also occurred especially for young people. Increase in Limited credits programme (LCP) which could be useful as they do not require a long term commitment but often lead to further training to lead to full qualification. Withdrawals increased. Some industries trained existing workers instead of employing new workers to train. Modern apprentice sign up decreased across many industries and terminations / withdrawals increased.

Last presentation from Erica Cumming from the Hairdressing ITO on work completed on Return on Investment (ROI). Using small case studies to understand and measure the ROI from apprenticeship training to selected and their apprentices. Studied 'phases' in apprentices' fit to business strategy - providing support, colouring, starting to cut and running own column - how much apprentice contributes to revenue at each stage. Intangible benefits to salon with apprentices has to be weight up with costs to salon. Key results - payback period is relatively short (y1/y2), how salon manages its revenue makes the biggest difference, what apprentices is compared against is important. Benefits for apprentices include earning while learning, hand-on training and off-job training. Strategies for salons to make the most financially of apprenticeships are to maximise benefits (ensure apprentice is productive quickly, optimal mix of staff), minimise cost (train efficiently, push cost to apprentice - not encouraged by ITO!!, minimise opportunity costs of training) and encourage apprentice to stay (recruit right apprentice & encourage apprentice, align salon objectives of salon and apprentice, undertake dedicated in-salon training, offer a wage structre for stylist which shows it's worthwhile staying, offer financial incentives to stay). Results used to produce a summary - well presented and aligned to industry needs. All useful for the 'first year apprentices' project :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

We have the technology and the pedagogy, but will education change?

I think that there is little doubt we have the technology (an example extolling the ipad from Graeme Brown – Handheld Learning) and mobile learning is about here (as per Oz/NZ Horizonreport for 2010 via Derek Wenmouth’s blog).
We have also have the pedagogy pitched about right – inclusiveness, participative learning etc. need for critical thinking skills etc. and bringing it together with constructive or curriculum alignment and sumarised in this slideshare (Biggs & Tang, 2008) 
But are our classrooms, institutions and IT departments ready?? As the horizon report summarises,

‘even when technologies are strongly promoted, professional development is still crucial’ and ‘there is a mismatch between pedagogy and the design of emerging technologies’ – which is becoming less of a challenge as with say the ipad’.

Two technologies to become mainstream within a years are ebooks and mobiles.

Ebooks are not pervasive in our polytechnic environment. Many of our students and some of our tutors are not ‘natural’ readers. There is also resistance to reading ‘off the screen’ with many people  printing off items to read, rather than reading on screen and storing the digital copies for later reference. I have lost count of the number of people I have introduced pdf readers with annotation tools (like FoxIT) but few have taken up the challenge. True, there is a learning curve and the need to relearn years of acquired skill through reading hard copies. However, the advantages of digital make the effort worthwhile. I now find articles easily, whereas in the past, I would have to fossick into my card catalogue and hunt down the article either in the library or through boxes of printouts. Now, most journal articles are archived in various folders under the references section of each project. I can use Endnotes to find the article and once the article found, use the search function on the pdf reader to find the relevant section. Usually takes all of 2 minutes compared to at least 15 – 20 minutes for the manual option or a couple of days for the library option if the article is at the university.

For the adoption of mobiles, concerted efforts to bring down the cost of mobile web access will be required OR better access to WiFi within out institutions. Without either, access to the www will be stymied and that makes mobile access slightly superfluous. The small screen of pdas, ipod touches and phones have always been a barrier to the uptake of mobile. Tablets like the ipad make web surfing a joy and reading off an ipad is much more 'book like' although annotation etc. needs to again be learnt.

So will need to work on both the above. An interactive text book approach using the advantages provided by tablets will be an interesting way to tap into both ebook and mobile technologies. The pedagogy underpinning the project will be aspects of using the interactive text book as a resource for both constructive and participative learning. So something wot work through and investigate more deeply.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Activity / information streams and conversations

As a follow up to last week’s blog I followed up on George Seimen’s blog on ‘activity streams’ that proposes the internet as the new way to communicate after the phone, fax and email.

Linked to the above is dana boyd’s Educause Review article on ‘streams of content’ and the keynote from Prof. Agnes Kuklska-Hulme at the recent mlearning 2010. Dana links Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’ to the current ‘flow of information’ through social networking. Agnes discussed the concept of ‘social network’ as a form of conversation and how, for instance. Tweets, may be seen as ‘conversation starters’ and directors.

Of note is dana’s summary of how technology affordances, collide with current social mores. Four areas are democratisation of information, stimulation / attention, homophily (where people connect with others who are very like themselves) and power. Some good ideas to think through as we assume technology will solve the world’s problems, yet what individual’s want may not be what is better for society as a whole (depending on which side you are on). For example, Prof. Mohammed Ali’s call to researchers to harness their energies and networks to provide education for all through mobile learning is a worthy goal. However, does every government/political organisation support education /democracy for all? How does one package learning (what is education?)? Will education be used to further repressive regimes objectives? Who decides what is learnt?

So again, things are not as straight-forward as they might be! We need to continually test our assumptions of what is appropriate and if we change tack, why and for what reasons. On to another interesting week.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

21st century learning - what is it?

I am preparing for a couple of workshops, framed around the use of technology to enhance learning. The first to ‘learning advisers’, the other to teachers across the NZ tertiary sector. In general, I take a neutral stance, introduce ideas, provide opportunities for some hands-on computer-based try outs and then consolidate the concepts of collaborative learning, student engagement and ubiquitous computing. Also important to discuss the ways in which educators critically think through the reasons for integrating technology into their teaching and how technology may be useful for enhancing student learning through collaborative activities and projects.

Have provided several on Web 2.0 over the last couple of years, so time to do a refresh and update to Web 3.0. A video on 21st century teaching was introduced to me by Kirstin Dofs, our learning centre manager. I will use parts of this to show the changes education has to undergo in order for students to learn 21st century skills.Also some of the ideas summarised an animation of Sir Ken Robinson's ideas on the need for educational reform but with proviso's as discussed by George Siemen in a recent blog arguing that trying to meet current needs just means we continually 'chase our tails'.

To add to above is a recent Becta report from Derek Wenmouth's blog which I skimmed over the weekend. The report finds (through a study of teacher's logs) ICT makes possible new forms of classroom practice AND creates the possibility of a wide range of learning practices. So change is possible, given educators who are willing to put in the time to become familiar with technology and be savvy enough to make the most of ICT in enhancing student learning.

A couple of months ago, I worked through Mark Threadwell's book which summarises some of the above and provides ideas for improving teaching and learning using ICT. His website has a good list of books and resources to start teachers up on adopting use of technology as ONE form of learning engagement.

Other resources previewed in the last couple of months, which I have considered via Greg's blog, a Dunedin school principal are 3 youtube videos – difference between 20th & 21st century teachers. One from John Seely Brown on 21st century learners,  David Willingham on – learning styles don’t exist and Greg Wilby on the importance of theory based practice.

So lot's of ideas to build the presentation on Web 3.0 and 21st century learning. Will need to sift through them and maintain a strong thread so that the overall argument is maintained - educators need to make an effort in order to help enhance student engagement, using technology to assist may be one option.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Augmented Reality with Olympus Pen camera

Did a bit of a catch up on Augmented Reality (AR) as a follow up to Andy Goff’s presentation at mlearn2010.  Looked at one of the examples provided, which was the AR demonstration for the new Olympus PEN camera. Downloaded the plugin to run the simulation which included downloading a 'marker' (2d image of the camera). Also need to have vidcam running. A youtube video shows how it should run as it does take a bit of time to get used to running the camera on the screen while you are also holding the marker to bring up the 3D image.
Other examples of augmented reality are available on the wiki for AR and an article from the Guardian with an iphone app. Educational perspective provided by Educause guide with usual recommendations and caveats.
I can see great possibilities but development will be time and money intensive.  Also the simulation will generally have a specialised use and nothing beats coming up f2f with the real thing! The AR will provide the 3D visual but not the smell and tactile feel. However, for mobile access where there is little other choice (e.g. under-resourced classroom / lab / workshop with limited access to situated learning) AR would enhance learning opportunities.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Reflections on 3 conferences in 2 1/2 weeks

Back in quiet and sparsely populated NZ after 21/2 weeks traipsing across a very crowded Europe and Asia. In addition to visiting 5 countries and 3 conferences, I also met up with my PhD supervisor to complete the final edit for my dissertation, shopped around for Android tablets and caught up with family in Singapore. Not sure if I will try to pack in as much another time!

However, time spent in airports was generally productive. The availability of free WiFi at most major airports helps plus on-board power for laptops on some aeroplanes assisted as well. Nothing worst then a dead laptop or no WiFi when trying to bring up Google maps to work out the best route and mode of transport from the airport to booked accommodation. I noticed in most airports, how people who were using the free internet desktops were mostly updating their facebook or similar. Road warriors seemed to have their own laptops and mobile web access.

On the shopping front, Android tablets were not as prevalent as I thought they might be. As in Hong Kong, there were very few in Singapore. I managed to play with one ePad which was being sold for Singpore $599, just $129 less than the 16G basic Ipad. Will need to wait until at least early next year for the market to mature.

Also, as people in other countries commute on public transport much more than the average NZer, the use of mobile devices was much more prevalent. As noticed in Singapore earlier this year, Italians, Romanians and Hong Kongers were all pretty much permanently wedded to their mobile phones. Almost everyone was twiddling with one on the bus, tram, subway or at the airport. In all countries, there were many shops selling mobile phones, often at very low prices when accompanied by a fixed term data plan.

I think the advent of ubiquitous computing is very nearly mainstream, especially in countries where the mobile web is not expensive. Even my 4 aunties (all in their seventies) who had all vowed to not become computer literate. They were all teachers who, aged 50 plus and early 60ish, had to attend PD sessions on using technology in teaching! However, everyone of them now uses a mobile phone and able to txt in both English and Chinese as it is the only way they are able to get hold of their children or grandkids. One has just succumbed to an iphone after being taught how to use it by her son-in-law. An ipad going to be the next investment (time and learning, not money) after I showed them how user-friendly mine was.

All in, a good time to catch up on completing the last edits towards dissertation, observe changes in mobile technology use, see some nice places, meet interesting people, play with a range of technology difficult to find in NZ and remember how lucky I am to live in clean and uncrowded NZ :)