Friday, April 29, 2011

ITF research conference - day two

Day two begins with keynote form Jeremy Baker on identifying and reporting the value added from training. Important to not only measure training outputs in term of quantification completion but also to take into account training as a process and experience. Value related to right training for the right business and the right job. The training process runs through getting ready, undertaking, assessment and putting into practice. At the moment 90% of the ITO effort goes into the middle steps but 80% of the impact of training actually in the first and last steps. Therefore to calculate reported value added RVA for training requires evaluating each of the stages of training. The steps for the RVA process therefore are to identify things that drive productivity and performance in the business, identify which are affected by skills, then refine information on drivers and impact of skills and staff satisfaction, then work out how trained and untrained employees perform and the $ value. Importantly, review the $ value to analyze is the right sort of training offered, do business practices encourage effective skill deployment and what improvements need to be made to skills and training? Recommendations include need to review content and assessment of training programs, implementation of staff development programs, more thinking about career pathways and aligning training roles, and more emphasis on training element. Therefore not just more training but appropriate and useful training.

Concurrent sessions begin with a report from Professor Rob Strathdee of Victoria University on the social composition of VET in NZ. Outlined the three phases of VET provision, meritocratic, market and managed. These phases are progressively introduced to try to increase participation range of students from various social backgrounds. Concluded VET not just for lower decile schools. However, students from higher decile schools are likely to engage in higher level VET.

Followed by Dr. Peter Waterhouse from the University of Waikato on telling tales on skills and employability: reviewing some australian research through nz lens. Began by introducing the work and future direction of the National Centre of literacy and numeracy for adults. Presented several reports from Australia, mostly through the NCVER, relevant to literacy and numeracy. Include - contradicting the stereotype - on people who succeeded even with lit/ num challenges. Two dimensional work - even though work places say they demand creative workers, some workplaces did not provide space for creativity, critical thinking or critical literacy. Making experience work - could displaced workers transfer their employability skills? Not automatically or inherently generic, key skills of transfer required, important to be able to unpack, repack, latent skills might not beam apparent etc. Skills ecosystem research refers to recognizing context. A good overview of Australian research in the adult literacy field.

Next lot of concurrent sessions with Heather McDonald and Anne Alkema from Heathrose Research and Justin Blakie from the Ag ITO. On what makes a difference to support completion and credit achievement for ag Ito trainees. Tried have 75 trainees interviewed, with recently completed, fervently exited without completing and currently enrolled across dairy (40), sheep/beef (15) and water (20) but ended with 59. Most who left self initiated, usually within first year. 97% knew what was expected of them during training. About half said they did not need qualification to do the job, they saw value in training, farm mobility was common and employers less influential about commencing training. On job farm training valued, conditions could be better, time for training an issue. Off job training valued but written work a challenge for some. Written work a challenge across educational spectrum. Support from employer and training advisor important. Motivator - future prospects once qualification completed. Thosenwho find it harder have lower qualifications, less positive employer relationships and lack time outside work to study. John reported on how ag Ito put findings from the research in place to enhance completions.

After lunch, Dr. Rose Ryan and Heather McDonald and Anne  Alkema from Heathrose Research on saying what you mean and hearing what is meant: issues in researching trainee and employee perspectives on industry training. Covered the challenges of ensuring trainee voice and experiences are included and logistical, methodological and ethical issues. Challenges include access to workplace, reliance on interviews, building rapport and interpreting meaning. Reviewed NZ research on industry training 44 of which 27 was primary research and only 10 talked to trainees. Generally case studies, with interviews etc. Ad most had small participant numbers. Access to interviewees include getting workplaces to participate, selection of interviewees, informed consent and ethical assurances (power dynamics and confidentiality in small workplaces). Communication is also issue with gender, ethnicity, ESOL and age. Also how well researchers understand the workplace context and how well interviewees understand the process of research?

Then, a sessions with David Earl from the Tertiary sector performance analysis/ Ministry of education on how can tertiary education deliver better value to the economy? Theories - human capital - more skills = more productivity, improved capacity to innovate and knowledge transfer. Generally improved education (quality not quantity) leads to improvements in economy. Tertiary Ed. = diploma or higher, NZ almost 50%  - almost 60% for younger and 60% have above level 3 literacy. Both skills and qualifications complement each other and in combination are important. NZ has well educated workforce but low productivity. Still shortage in engineering, building, architecture, specialist health and post-graduate info. Tech. High skills and more qualifications still important.

Last lot of concurrent sessions starting with Ann Harlow from University of Waikato on the impact of embedded literacy and numeracy teaching on adult vocational learners. 100 students from ITPs and PTEs asked about what teaching practices helped them improve literacy. Students appreciated fun ways to learn, often using more visual representations, games, linking directly applicable to practice often just in time. Students enjoy learning in groups, experts coming to class, use technology, role plays and one on one tutor assistance. Work placement and research assignments were also good ways to learn. Frustrations included difficult vocational jargon, complicated processes to remember, lack of Internet access at home.

Last session with Professor Frank Sligo from Massey University on NZ managers' low literacy : does it matter.  76% of managers are below level 3 in literacy. However, nature of managerial work is more inclined to orality then print literacy. Policy has tended to support workers' literacy improvement. However, low literacy in managers has consequences to workplace practice e.g. Affordances for other workers to literacy support Plus modern digital (document driven) world requires enhanced critical literacy. Innovation also requires both practicalities and literary intelligence. Therefore important to complement NZ no. 8 wire approach capability in print literacy.

Conference ended with a plenary panel discussion with Dr. Peter Coolbear and Professors Stephen Billett and Jane Bryson and Jenny Connor, filling in for Jeremy Baker. Each did a short overview of items learnt over the course of the conference, making links to their own presentations and those of others. Each also raised more questions requiring further work and need for vocational education sector to work with other tertiary sectors.

Overall a busy two days and good to attend a diverse range of sessions and to see how vocational education research is progressing in NZ.

ITF research conference - day one

At the  Industry Training Federation  - ITF NZ vocational education and training research forum on Wednesday 27th and 28th April.

Began with introduction and housekeeping with Jeremy Baker the ITF executive director. Opening address from Dr. Peter Coolbear, Ako Aotearoa director on "Direction for research". Covered the policy context for workplace learning, Ako Aotearoa portfolio and issues to resolve. Policy context include limited funding on tertiary ed., youth unemployment, need to have return on investment, concern about duplication and fragmentation. Also a need to bring employers, Voc. Ed institutions etc. together.

Big change is no longer outputs and systems but about outcomes - value added to NZ economy, to the individual, productivity for today ad tomorrow and work readiness and career building. Ako Aotearoa  invested 0.9 million in 7 national and 19 regional projects on workplace learning. Emergent trends / issues include little cross fertilization between different forms of workplace learning, work integrated /cooperative education. Competency and capability confused. how education/training programmes proactively address life skills and attributes. Linkages between theory and practice and assessment of learning in the workplace. Emergent ones include how strong is the evidence that work integrated learning opportunities equate to career readiness and productivity? How we actually understand learning in the workplace?Identity as a tradesmen/ professional and what is the nature of expertise? Are we fixated on content rather than concepts and attributes?

Keynote from Professor Stephen Billett on "Making space to lift performance:decision making about and engagement in vocational education". Trying to work through the challenges of what skills drive performance? How to lift performance and what investment in skills will make a difference in performance and productivity.
Introduced intended, enacted and experienced curriculum as a starting point to move forward. Intended - national curriculum documents. Enacted - shaped by what resources are available, experience experience of teachers, interpretation of what is intended, values, situational factors etc. Experienced - what student experience and as shaped by their personal processes of contrual and construction.

Reviewed historical origins of vocational education and provided suggestions on how to move forward from long held perspectives of the hieratic organization of occupations. Important to understand, based on current research, what skills drive work performance. These include set of capacities specific to a particular occupation including conceptual, procedural and dispositional, capacities that augment and are embedded in the domain eg. Communications, team work, problem solvig etc and that exist at canonical and situational. How to lift performance ? State needs to engender value of work, build mAture relationships amongst partners and make space for secure engagement from local contributions, those who assist students to learn and those who learn.  

After morning tea, sessions from postgraduates' research.
First up, Jacqui Remnant from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) on financial literacy as context for strengthening literacy and numeracy for adults.  Defined financial literacy as beings aware of financial opportunities and risks and having literacy and numeracy skills, financial concept knowledge and confidence to make informed choices. Key considerations include need to connect financial literacy explicitly with other study and work with learner. Matching resources to learners reading and numeracy demands. Flexibility important as is not giving learners financial advise but for them to work it out themselves. Introduced a range of resources currently available to assist.

Gemma Piercy from the University of Waikato on 'insider outsider perspectives: the subjectivity of workplace identity. Study on what others and how professionals perceived vocational identity based on the occupation of baristas. Proposes a continuum of baristas identity. Understanding of skill requirements of baristas varies from highly skilled to unskilled work. Perhaps skill levels related to types of work identity?

Last up Dan Hunt and Diana Sharma from Unitec on debating and defining the scope of ITOs in business capacity development. The project came about through assisting small businesses to build capability. Training and development was an important aspect of capability building. However, not all ITOs developed training solutions would fit into every businesses' capability building strategy. How can there be a connection? And how can ITOs contribute flexibly to different needs and objectives of businesses at various stages of capability development.

After lunch, Professor Jane Bryson from Victoria University on "Lifting performance through facilitating capability". Explored the concept that skill is important but cannot alone create the conditions for performance and achievement. Multifaceted tools need to be used to try to understand the diverse nature of individual, team and organizational performance. Is performance a function of ability/capability, motivation/willingness/effort and opportunity? facilitating capability includes a focus on conditions which enhance means (qualification, resources, etc.) and freedom (workplace, personal agency) to achievement.   Conversion factors between means and freedom include personal (age, gender, ability) social and environment and on capabilities (to use and develop skill) and functioning (vocation, lifestyle).

Presentation by Flip Leijten and myself followed on learning welding: process of feedback. Good interest followed by questions. The study we reported on available as appendix 1 in the guidelines for using video to study workshop and workplace based learning.

After afternoon tea, three concurrent sessions.

Firstly, how does learning happen on the job with Dr. Karen Vaughan, Dr. Paul O'Neil and Marie Cameron. Reports on conditions, motivations and strategies that make workplace learning successful. Based on six workplaces with interviews and observations with learners, trainers and employers. Workplaces were identified as successful by the itos involved. Guidelines include support at organizational level, structured orientation, support structured learning activities, learning from experience and use of formative and summative assessments. Implications were well reported and include a critical interplay between workplace structures and workplace learning, teachers and trainers have a key role, learning is for participation at work, success is about participating in society, knowledge and skills are now always what we assume, and workplace learning both reinforces and challenges institutionally based education.

Then secondary workplace learning and post school transition: insights from the longitudinal surveys of Australian youth with Dr. Sinan Gemici from the Ncver. vet in schools is seen as a way to start students on a career pathway in order to lower the number of youth who do not move into work or higher learning post school. So will work experience at year 11, improve outcomes for youth? After doing quantitative data matching of non wpl kids with kids who undertook wpl, there is still a significant positive effect I.e. Wpl assist school leavers to move on to further learning or into work.

Last presentation of an interesting day. Jen McCutcheon and Mike Hollings present on a community partnership in action - authentic learning through Te Kura. Te Kura provides 'personalized learning distance learning courses supported intensively using a toolbox developed for learning advisors. Based on moving learning towards a big learning picture with the student as part of an advisory group assisted by an advisor. Students also encouraged to be supported by parents and family. A student centered approach encompassing a student education plan focused on students interests and goals. Leads to programs of learning to support interest, job shadowing, development of advisories, internships and portfolio assessments.

Inspire tech at wintec on 18april

A bit late with this one as Easter intervened and I lost access to the internet for a few days while out of Perth. So, here are notes taken at the very well organised and inspirational Wintec professional development event for staff.

Merran Davis opened the proffessional development progrmme after karakia. Teaching quality program led by Julia Bruce has an objective to raise cababilities in using technology to enhance teaching and learning. Staff interested but at least half of staff not confident with using IT in teaching. So inspire tech organized, a two day PD program.

Keynote to start things going with Mark Nichols now Executive Director for Faculty at the Open Polytechnic. His work on elearning summarised well in his e-ako series. Topic extend, enhance, excite, engage and above all educate. Mark spoke about the importance of pedagogy and how technology can enhance learning. Covered understanding learning, is extend, enhance, excite and engage the focus? How does technology help? Eleaning can be defined as pedagogy empowered by technology.

Cautioned about the seduction of technocentrism whereas sound pedagogy utilizes appropriate technology suitable to subject, content and student. So not content but process important.

Should elearning move into a deeper realm. Where to? Social media learning? Does information availability make education redundant? How can elearning be unlocked? How can information be useful for education? Introduced the following books that discuss the pluses and minuses of digital revolution.

Google and the myth of universal knowledge - Jeanneney 2007
Here comes everyone - shirky 2008
Cult of amateur - Keen, 2007
Dumbest generation - Bauerlein 2009
Shallow generation - what Internet is doing to our brain - Carr 2010.
Mcneely 2010 makes the link with short term memory as stimulus working memory and information but long term memory as education. Perhaps, stimulus - excite and info - enhance, excite engage not main aim of education! What is our role as educator? Helping to form mental schema, transform perspectives and help them become xxx.

Some guides offered.

Diana Laurillard - conversational framework of learning - dialogue leading to a particular goal. Education is an alignment of the understanding between student and teacher.

Mezirow 2000 -  transformative learning from whist we know to how we know. Adapted by king 2009 into four steps.

Mark provided five principles for learning application
Focus on end not the means
Aim to be conversational
Keep the subject at the centre
Emphasis feedback and conceptual understanding
Be shamelessly transformative.

I faciliated two workshops at this event. The one in the morning as a general introduction to Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 possibilities. A change to evaluate a range of e tools for helping to enhance student learning. After lunch, a workshop on mobile learning tools. Both sessions attended by keen tutors, so I hope they will follow through and introduce at least one form of IT into their teaching practice next term.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Outliers - some thoughts on the book

Presently in Perth for a few days to be with family and to celebrate my dad's eighth birthday. Had the usual stack of reading to catch up, including several new CPIT library books on workplace learning and multimodal research. At the airport bookshop, decided to purchase Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers as a spot of light reading and ended up finishing the book over the course of the flights from Christchurch to Perth - with a very quick shopping trip around Melbourne city with my daughter as an interlude.

Some of Outliers is autobiographical. Gladwell uses his family as an example of how the birth year of his mother and the Jamaican culture for mixed race people, conspired or destined his mother to travel to the UK for further education, setting up Gladwell's educational opportunities and future prospects. The book's overall thesis is that intelligence is not enough for individuals to succeed. Other tangibles - family connections, respect for education, propensity for hard work (the 10,000 hour rule), society's focus during your life span and unexpected alignment of things like year or month of birth, opportunity to learn skills/knowledge that others do not have easy access to at a given time (Bill Gates and his access to a mainframe in the 1970s to learn and hone programming skills), all contribute to eventual 'success'.

I am particularly taken by the dedication of the book to Gladwell's grand-mother, Daisy as it rings true for my family as well. My maternal grandmother, passed on recently at the grand age of 98. Without her foresight and determination, I might not be here writing this blog. My grandmother was born in Indonesia, a third generation Hakka, to a family of traders, supplying food to tin miners on the island of Bangka. Her matchmade marriage at the age of 18, brought her to Singapore where she and my grandfather, eked out a living, eventually with 6 children (1 boy and 5 girls), as domestic employees to various government officials. She never had the opportunity go to school and remained, all her life, illiterate - although one of my cousins taught her to write her name in Chinese and English when she was in her 60s.

What I am eternally grateful for, is that she scrimped, saved and worked - baking Indonesian cookies and cakes, to sent all her children (remember, most girls in the 1940s in Singapore did not go to school) to 'Mission school'. My uncle became a police officer, eventually rising to police superintendent, all my aunties became teachers with one becoming a school principal and two very senior subject teachers and my mother, a nurse, who when she retired, was matron of a large hospital. All my cousins have attained professional positions and so far, my childrens' generation has seen each and everyone complete at least a graduate degree. So, as in Outliers, my grandmother's decision to educate not only her son but all her daughters as well, saw out family, rise in one generation, to the middle class. The influences of the Chinese respect for education and Singapore's emphasis on educational meritocracy cannot be discounted as well. Also, the birth years of my parents, as they were in their early teens during the world war 2 Japanese occupation of Singapore. If my dad or uncles were just 4 - 5 years older, they might not have got through the pogrom of young men.

So perhaps some truth in aspects of the Outliers' book, regardless, it's a good book to read while stuck in a plane :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

electronic literature - contrbution to interactive textbooks

While doing a catch up on reading up on multimodal analysis last night, I came across the use of the hypertext authoring tool StorySpace as a means to compile a multimodal research report. A concept I will explore next year if one of the projects I am applying for funding comes about.
StorySpace runs on Macs and Windows and cost US$295 and also offers multiple user versions for commercial / educational institutional use.
Exploring beyond wikipedia's summary of StorySpace brought me back into the world of electronic literature exampled by the story - Afternoon and a showcase of various examples. Also a good defintion of the differences between ebooks and elit found here.
The examples reveal the capabilities of being able to move through a book using pathways that are based on user choice, moving outside of the book to explore other resources on the www, being able to input/ amend content etc. All not new ideas but execution of these capabilites in an educationally sound way needs to be further explored.

Monday, April 11, 2011

updating on mobile learning and web 2.0 / 3.0

Doing preparation for a workshop / presentation at Wintec next week, for their staff development day – Inspire.  There will be two workshops, one of Web 2.0 and moving on to Web 3.0 and the other on mlearning. The main objective is to provide tutors with some tools they can start 'playing' with and for them to match one tool to their teaching context and hopefully try it out with their students.
As updates, have looked at the following over the last two weeks.
Found Shelley Terrel's site via one of the posts on the MobiMOOC course. The site has some good examples of mlearning using podcasts etc. mainly in the context of language learning.
Also some new web 2.0 sites on carl anderson's site with access to one of his latest presentations on mlearning as being a disruptive innovation  and another with ideas for new additions to the digital backpack.

Friday, April 08, 2011


Have registered for the ‘massive open online course’(MOOC) on mlearning facilitated by a host of mlearning practitionerswith several participants from NZ and other places I have met/worked with.
Have been lurking at the moment due to work being rather busy. The course is hosted on wikispaces and communicates through google groups. Over the last week, there has been a large number of emails as course members introduce themselves to each other.
At present, things have settled down somewhat as focus returns to the main event, with week one facilitated by Inge de Waard. There was an elluminate session to kick things off. This ran 5am here in NZ and one Australian participant has already emailed a request for a more workable time for us in the antipodes!  The session had a good overview of mlearning (now on slideshare) with two examples from Inge’s Institute of Tropical Medicine’s work with health workers in Peru and a professional development portal for physicians.
Of interest is that the course encourages everyone to participate and offers examples of levels for participation. A good idea due to the number of people involved and individuals seeking to meet different objectives from being part of the course.

MOOCs are really an interesting concept and this is the second one I have 'participated' in. The first one on Connectivism stretched my understanding of how to deploy a variety of elearning tools, towards providing learning opportunities. In the main, both this and the previous course, requires intermediate levels of digital literacy as participants have to be able to navigate through a series of wikis, email or discussion forums and archive for themselves, the learning they glean through the course content and interaction with other course members. The real important skill is to be able to sieve through the large amount of information, work out the important bits to save, archive these somewhere for later retrieval (like on this blog) and then to be able to remember you have archived the items when you need the information!  So far, not many 'gems' as yet as the course is still in it's beginning stages. However, I never discount opportunites to learn serendipitous offerings as everyone has different approaches and come to innovative solutions to solve their individual requirements. So I am looking forward to further learning as the course proceeds.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Returning to CPIT city campus

Officially allowed to return to the CPIT city campus from 1st April with some courses starting today 4th April. I had been into the campus several times in the last fortnight, the first time, to collect personal belongings (wallet, cell phone, keys) and then a couple of brief visits last week to tidy up the office and to meet with other staff. Each time, a fleeting visit, with entry via the Moorhouse road entrance and a quick walk through the empty campus with very few signs of visible damage. Attended the staff safety briefing late last week which featured one of the consultant structural engineers. It was very reassuring as he pointed out the few places where there were signs (cracks, fallen plaster, buildings which have shifted up or down in relation to each other) and explained the structural implications.

This morning, a totally different perspective as I biked in via the border of the cordoned off red zone. Many collapsed buildings and the ones not yet demolished, are fenced off. Most of the old brick buildings housing various panel beaters, auto mechanics, familiar cafes and other shops no longer exist physically. So the blocks East (the Catholic basilica, still standing but just) and North and North West of the polytechnic, basically now a wasteland of piles of brick and debris. A list of the over 100 buildings to be demolished featured in the Saturday newspapers.

Options for rebuilding abound, including making the city more sustainable, future transport options, a blog discussing alternatives etc. There will be much to do in the future but old and familiar Christchurch city landscape is now gone.