Learning about elearning, m-learning, eportfolios and topics relevant to my work in curriculum development. Also meanders into research, into workplace learning, apprenticeships and apprentice learning, trades tutors and vocational identity formation. Plus meanderings into philosophy and neuroscience as I learn about how we learn.
Usual disclaimers apply. This blog records my personal learning journey, experiences and thoughts and may not always be similar to the opinions of my employer.
The NZ Heraldreported last week, that NZ education came up tops with regard to preparing
people for the world of future skills. These skills include:
creative and analytical skills
digital and technical skills and
global awareness and civic education.
We need to move from thinking about employability skills
etc. to focus more on preparing people for being able to understand, navigate and
survive the coming challenges wrought by AI and robotics on work – see one example Frey et al.
Many exponents of solutions promote the adoption of Universal Basic Income (UBI), including the current NZ government on 'the future of work' summarised in a previous blog. However, the UBI only goes part way. Individuals still need to be proactive and have the wherewithal to work out for themselves, their aspirations and carve a career 'pathway or trajectory' for themselves. The provision of UBI may be seen as a soft
landing cushion for individuals seeking to or are forced to re-evaluate their
Dr. Gog's context is Singapore, which is mentioned in two recent reports prepared by the World Economic Council on the future of work. The first report - future of work - accelerating workforce reskilling fro the fourth industrial revolution - features the Institute of Adult Learning (IAL) and the second report - a white paper on reskilling - uses the Skills Future as one of the case studies of a whole government initiative to provide citizens with information, incentives and advise on continual professional development.
With the Labour party forming the current government in NZ, some of the recommendations proposed from their future of work project, will no doubt inform some of the ways forward. Over the last five years, career pathways (see vocational pathways) and careers information through careers NZ (which was recently res-structured) have improved markedly. However, there is still a focus on the 'education to skills to employment' approach with some modicum of preparing the individual with skills to move their own career on - the role and agency of the individual, still needs to be made more overt though. See this 2011 paper by Vaughan on shifting the NZ system to enable individuals instead of concentrating on skills development.
Here are notes taken at the first Ara’s annual SEED (Sharing
Educational Experience and Development) for 2018.
The theme for this session was technology in the classroom.
First up is Melissa Barber, programme leader for LevelCertificate in Study and Career Preparation for pre-health and medical imaging
pathways. She presents on ‘the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning in
the pre-health programme’. Began with background on the programme and focus of
the presentation – to improve students' on-going engagement and revision as
the programme progressed. Implemented a series of summative on-line quizzes
on 2 courses, to increase engagement. Six quizzes in total, usually held every
2 weeks and with each having 15 items. Time limit for students to complete the quizzes and
best score of 5 out of the 6 used to calculate final mark. Replaces a high
stakes 90% exam. Still an exam but lower weighting (40%) and the progressive
quizzes provide feedback on progress so students are able to access support
with weak areas. Second iteration being
run this semester and will be evaluated to obtain feedback on efficacy of this
approach. Included will be monitoring beyond this programme of students as they
move across to degree programmes. To ensure there is authenticity of student
undertaking the quiz, the time frame is over weekends and questions and
multiple choice options are randomised. Each student then goes through a
different version. The quiz is open book but students only have 30 minutes to
complete. Questions ensued on robustness of our LMS and challenges of running
summative assessments on it. Keeping to short quizzes and time delimitation
helps. Need to ensure students are provided with proviso that they may have to
resit if LMS fails.
Secondly, Dr. Isis Carter from Applied Sciences on ‘the use of
Moodle forums for engagement and formative assessment in applied science’. Used
forums for level 5 course on Industrial biomolecules. Was keen to improve
students' ability to communicate and collaborate to prepare them for work in science
– which is premised on high levels of collaborative work. Important to also
provide formative feedback to students. Used forums (weighted at 10%) as the
tool to encourage students to communicate clearly in writing on complex
content. Students commented (at least to two peers) on each other’s postings to
help each other refine their ‘final’ submission. Has run for two years (but
with small number of students) and adjusted assignment to match learning
outcome. The forum provided a means for the tutor to model good writing
practice and scaffold students to the level of writing expected. These then
useful for completing written report as students could use initial work from
the forum and also from other students (but credited). Students needed
confidence to undertake feedback, they had to learn the language of science and
for feedback. Student feedback indicates need to build student confidence and
student engagement increased when grade added for timely responses.
The book proposes humans are innately wired up to learn. AI/ robots /
AI agents etc. are only as good as their programmes. When both machines and
humans work together, they are better than all human or all AI efforts.
Therefore, it is important to leverage off the potentialities of AI etc. rather
than fearing the coming onslaught.
Additionally, the way we perceive the world and ‘knowledge’
has changed with the widespread availability of information and the ubiquity of
‘smart devices’. Instead of being passive consumers, large numbers now create
and share their efforts. People who would not have written / shared experiences
beyond their friends and families 30 years ago, now upload opinion pieces,
instructions, reflections etc.
The book has 10 chapters and is written in an accessible
prose. Notes (30+pages) and index round off the book.
By way of introduction, chapter 1 ‘the rise of the centaur’
sets the scene. The chapter uses the well-known late 90’s batter between chess
master Gary Kasporov and the IBM Deep Blue to introduce the concept that both
humans and computers have their own strengths and weaknesses. In 2005,
‘free-style’ chess tournaments saw two relatively lower ranked chess players,
who were able to ‘collaborate’ with a chess computer, win the tournament
against teams made up of grandmaster chess players or chess computers only. The
ability to integrate machine assistance into the decision making process of
chess, is argued to be the defining factor. This chapter also presents how the
author has shifted positions, from being pessimistic about the future digital
future, to being optimistic about how humankind has been able to leverage off
the many opportunities afforded.
The second chapter, ‘we the memorious’ overviews the ways
people remember and discusses the pros and cons of recording ‘life blogs’ or ‘video
blogs’ of daily happenings. Technology allows us to have ‘infinite memory’ but
too much is perhaps not always good.
Chapter 3 is on the theme ‘public thinking’ summarises the
rise of ‘citizenship journalism’. How some ‘accidental bloggers’ became conduits
for information when dictatorial regimes imposed news blackouts and the ways
this form of communication has changed our lives forever. For large segments of
society who never really did much reading or writing, the advent of blogging
has shifted many into becoming much more literate to cope with a mostly text
based internet. There is evidence first year students write longer pieces and
more complex pieces when compared to two decades ago.
Of interest to educators, the chapter on ‘new literacies’
overviews the shift from the focus of literacy on reading and writing to
encompassing multiliteracies. These include all the usual needs to become
digitally fluent but also the visual literacies and ‘3D literacies’ which new
tools and platforms bring.
Next chapter extends to the previous with discussion around
‘the art of finding’. Opens with a discussion on how being able to google,
helps us surmount the ‘tip of the tongue’ syndrome but also may cause some to
lose confidence when the internet goes down or their smart phone is unable to
connect with the internet. Discusses how access to anytime/ anywhere
information changes the way we prioritise what we learn and how dependence may
affect our creativity. Too much information is a distraction but selected
digital memories can amplify our access to brain functions.
Following is a chapter on ‘the puzzle hungry world’ which
tracks the rise of digital games and the shift in how games are used by people.
In particular, how games which require collaboration and harness collective
thinking changes the way people play, work and learn.
The next chapter is also useful for educators as it
discusses the potentialities digital technologies bring to the ‘Digital school’.
Khan academy is used as an example of how primary school children learn advanced
mathematics when they are allowed to become self-directed and learn for their
own fulfilment. Uses example from NZ school on how blogging improved reading
and writing for students as their work was being read by others beyond their
own community. Also discusses the pro and cons of teaching children to code.
The chapter on ‘Ambient awareness’ adds another technology
assisted capability / potentiality. The digital trail collected across our
lives lead to data patterns, allowing analysis to reveal our routine life flow.
Included are the networks we are part off and our perspectives on life.
Collection of ‘self-talk’ and broadcasting these, help understand the
perspectives across a team. The pros and cons of ambient awareness are
‘The connected society’ is the penultimate chapter and
brings together the ideas from the previous chapters. Uses citizen instigated
protests against the state in China / Egypt / Azerbaijian as examples of how
technology, tapped through the expertise of a few becoming mainstream practice,
is able to create social / political change.
The epilogue returns the discussion to AI with
Watson, an IBM programme able to play Jeopardy - requiring AI to take intuitive leaps based on experienced living. At the moment, Watson runs on a
supercomputer but predictions are for supercomputer processing speeds will be
available within a decade on a laptop. If Watson is a precursor, that some of the quirks and idiosyncrasies humans are capable of, may no longer the sole domain of humans.
Overall, the book can be seen to be counter to other books on a similar vein. For example - The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. My thoughts are than humans have survived due to their adaptability. Adaptations can go either way and most people will experience, learn and adjust. Not to the polar opposites of technology will make us all become subservient or we become part cyborg, but a sort of middle ground whereby some will have to work through 'addiction' to the less advantageous aspects of technology and other will overly embrace the perceived advantage. Education has to play a role in assisting people to understand the pros and cons, attain the literacies to make use of the aspects of technology which will enhance their lives, and continue to be vigilant as to how AI develops (i.e. the ethics of AI).
Briefly browsed through this book a few years ago when it
arrived at the Ara library. Over the summer, completed a deeper read of the concepts
proposed. In part due to the paucity of literature proposing solutions beyond
UBI (universal basic income) as a panacea for the implications wrought by AI /
robotics / globalisation / neoliberalisation etc. on the future of work.
The book is readable to a lay audience and written in a
conversational style. There are 11 chapters plus preface and introduction with
5 parts dividing up the book into themes. Due to the rapid movement in this
area of research, the bibliography is already dated. At the end of the book,
there is also a ‘follow up’ section with author contact etc., acknowledgements and
comprehensive notes for those keen to explore various items further.
The introduction details the rationalisation and the ‘how
the book came about’. In particular, the metaphor of quilting is used to
illustrate a way forward. The introduction is a caveat in part, outlining the
challenges inherent in predicting the future and the ways the used to try to
circumvent some of the pitfalls. Two assumptions are used to anchor the various
themes, firstly is that generalised skills may not be the panacea, instead
there is a need for specialists to constantly ‘reinvent’ themselves; secondly,
individualism is replaced by collaboration and networks.
Chapter 1 makes up the one chapter in Part 1 ‘the forces
that will shape your future’. The five forces are: technology, globalisation,
demography and longevity, society and energy resources. Each of the forces is
discussed and extended to provide deeper detailing to make a total of 32.
Nothing new in these but the thematic collation is useful. Suggests individuals
need to craft their own future by discarding items no longer required,
embroidering the items of importance, discovering and collecting new pieces,
sorting to prioritise and continually looking for patterns.
Part 2 is made up of 3 chapters which summarise the ‘dark
side of the default future’ with the increase in fragmentation as we experience
our world in sound bites, facebook likes and random wanderings around the web. Of
importance is the effect on how we learn and progress as our lives becomes
challenged by having to deal with a deluge of information and expectations. Our
concentration to allow for the building of mastery is compromised, our capacity
to observe and learn is reduced and the opportunities to ‘play and create’ are
The flip side is the isolation individuals then feel as
actual social interaction declines. In part due to the erosion of ‘the family’,
the neighbourhood/ village, and opportunities for ‘easy friendship’. The
economic consequences of exclusion through the rise in the ‘new poor’ is
covered in chapter4. There is a widening gap between the haves and have nots
due to a shift to ‘the winner takes all’ syndrome and the celebration of the
Part 3 then takes on a proactive slant with ‘the bright side
of the crafted future’ Each chapter proposes a solution. These include,
co-creation, social engagement and micro-entrepreneurship.
A series of narratives gives life to these three chapters.
The examples provided are contemporary and describe live, as it is now, for
many. In summary, these three chapters discuss how the forces can be used to
make life better and how individuals need to be aware of how to leverage off the
forces, instead of being overwhelmed by them.
The fourth part spells out ‘the shift’. Each shift is
defined and extended. The shifts are: from shallow generalists to ‘serial
maser’; from isolated competitor to innovative connector; and from voracious consumer
to impassioned producer. Here, solutions offered are argued through. Firstly,
it is important to build deep mastery in a discipline, but the caveat is to
ensure the discipline has potential for future career development. Deep mastery
requires investment in time and effort to attain. Affinity, passion, and
resilience are important. Serial masters constantly ‘rework’ themselves by
sliding and morphing’, as work shifts and mastery increases. Then ensure there
is an emphasis on connecting with others, organisations, etc. and making use of
technology to crowdsource, network and self-market. Importantly, becoming a
‘producer’ / crafter/ maker so one becomes a contributor, not just a consumer.
The last part consist of a series of ‘notes’ which summarise
the recommendations to targeted audiences. The notes are to children, CEOs and
governments. In conclusion, the book advocates for individuals to be proactive and to take control of their working lives. However, agency on the part of workers is fraught with social / economical / political obstacles, sometimes difficult for individuals on their own, to navigate or get around. Therefore, some support may be a key to empower individuals to think through, plan and realise goals to ensure they are able to continually adapt to the challenges.
In an effort to attain better work / study / life balance, I
have started to bring some organisation into one aspect of my informal
learning, which is of New Zealand flora and fauna. Having tramped (hiked)
around most of the South Island for almost forty years, I learnt, through a
process of osmosis, some of the common plants, birds, insects and lizards/skinks
commonly encountered in NZ's diverse natural landscapes. As I near retirement, I am
in need of an intellectually challenging hobby and my long standing forays into
‘naming things’ may become an avenue to take up time released through
retirement from work.
My initial attempts to bring structure my botanical
instruction began by collating photos of plants taken on various tramps /
walks. To date, after 2 years, almost 300 plants archived on Picasa, now Google photos, with
identification sought through references to a range of books on my shelves,
library books and then an increasing array of digital resources found through Google. Of which botany has extensive resources, with this site a good one archiving the myriad links.
All the above makes use of my current research skills, albeit
in a more visual medium. I also sought out botanically trained, or inclined walking
companions, many of whom patiently explained the nuances of identifying the
rather large corpus of plants in NZ. Including a wide range of small leaved shrubs - with this book by Hugh Wilson and Tim Galloway an essential reference.
Several months ago, on advice from one of these ‘teachers’,
I subscribed to Naturewatch. The contribution of networked learning has
increased my learning several fold. I have also been able to observe how the
on-line community on Naturewatch interact and support kindred spirits. So now,
I try to upload photos a day or so after I have recorded the specimens. I
usually attempt to identity the plant/s as I upload them, so would have made an
effort to find the plant in my ‘hard-copy’ or digital resources first or use the nifty visual matching facility on the site. Then,
usually within ½ a day, my sample would either be confirmed, or alternative
identification would be offered. Through this process, I have learnt to be more
careful with my initial identifications and to especially take note of seminal identification features and regional aspects.
Remembering the names of these plants is a major challenge.
However, I have found associating the plant to the place where the photo was
taken, provides a good initial anchor into my neural framework. Then, repeating
the plant name when I encounter another sample, helps to reinforce the memory
and lead to better recall on following occasions. Plants which have been
contentious and have led to a discussion on Naturewatch have also been helpful.
The experience of interacting with others and discussing the rationale for
identification, again assists with future recollection.
All in, a good foray into the realm of possibilities opened up by the internet. When I shared the above with a good amateur botanist friend of mine, who is in her eighties, she was impressed by the ease of information sharing. Replacing the time honoured method of snail mail correspondence and asynchronous interaction. So, my learning is work in progress.
jobs will become more interestin as robots remove the mundane,
Jobs will disappear – e.g. horses at the turn of 1900.
There will be and already is an encroachment of machines on to things that make humans
unique, including the ability to think, learn and create – some machines can now do these
Advances in technology now undergoing exponential change, increase in cognitive capability with an improvement on the ability to learn (e.g. winning at Go)
Proposes the result will be a lose of jobs, stagnant wages and precarious job. However, the global economics hinges on consumerism / market, therefore, if no one has money then economies
Rationalises basic income (UBI) as a solution to decouple work
Basic income is not a panacea but a start. UBI needs to be followed up with incorporation of incentives into basic income so people still thrive to achieve
social, individual, community and meaning and fulfilment in our lives. Therefore, it might be more politically acceptable if some differentiation
allowed in basic income.
Proposes, more automation =
more opportunity to develop high-value service or products especially in
relationship based services. Time saved in not having to do boring and routine
tasks can be diverted to development of niche premium products; personalised
services; ability to be nimble and adaptive to market changes and to be the
disruptor, not the disrupted.
Encourages jobs in the trades, personalised assistance type
roles and the importance of continually developing excellent communication and
Proposes quantum computing to be well on its way, with use of quantum with
‘normal PC’ via cloud and processing speeds improve up to 100,000 faster than
Implications include the importance of ‘life long learning’ so everyone able to keep
up with changes. Quote from article:
education needs to shift “from education as a content transfer to learning as a
continuous process where the focused outcome is the ability to learn and adapt
with agency as opposed to the transactional action of acquiring a set skill,”
move from guiding and accessing that transfer process to providing social and
emotional support to the individual as they move into the role of driving their
own continuous learning.”
All the articles concur there WILL be major impacts on how jobs are constituted. There needs to be leadership and direction from governments to cope with the coming social impacts. For individuals, it will be a time to ensure one does not keep one's head in the sand but to be aware of what is coming and to try to plan ahead. Individuals with the literacies and wherewithal to be flexible and continually able to keep up with shifts in the job market, will be the ones who will survive the coming challenges.
Book by Professor / Baroness Susan Greenfield, A day in the life of the brain: the neuroscience of consciousness from dawn to dusk, published in 2016. Read this intermittenly across the summer break, and wrote this up, in snatches across last week from digital notes taken after reading each chapter. I have tidied to provide continuity and have added the book into my list of 'need to read through another time' as the book deserves another read to pick out the applicable information to teaching and learning. For the moment, this overview is a work in progress. There is review of the book from the Guardian which is mostly positive. The book has 9
chapters plus notes and references – 66 pages or about one third of the book.
The main thread of the book is the identification of what actually makes up consciousness from
the perspective of images taken of the brain as it is active. The various
aspects of what makes up consciousness is unpacked through the various routines
in a ‘typical’ day.
The first chapter is titles ‘in the dark’. This introductory
chapter tries to define ‘consciousness’ by summarising the various approaches taken
thus far to understand the concept. The chapter argues that although there has
been much progress, we are still some way to understanding how consciousness
works. There is still no distinct brain area, or network of brain cells /
neurons or clusters of brain cells in which consciousness can be found. Recent
advances in neuroscience has concentrated on identifying the various
contributions of different brain cells, parts of the brain etc. See connectomeetc. The book tries to come up with a
model or conception of what is consciousness and how it works, to provide some
grounding for further work in neuroscience to validate the idea. The model
promoted in the book relies on unravelling how ‘neural assemblies’ work. Theses
assemblies are posited to be ‘deposits’ from which consciousness ripples forth.
The book then works through a series of explanatory
chapters, loosely tied to the ‘day in the life’ theme. Chapter two delves into
states of consciousness when we sleep and undergo anaesthesia. There is discussion
on what is consciousness and the variability of this state of being. The
concept of neuronal assemblies is then introduced through its historical evolution and a summary of present hypothesis which come through advances in
MRi. The analogy of stones thrown into a pond and the ripples that occur is
then used to provide a visual anchor for neuronal assemblies.
Chapter 3 explores consciousness in non-humans and uses this
to further expand on the details of neuronal assemblies. For example, the
variables and effects – using the analogy of ripples on a pond – of a bigger /
smaller stone and the force / angle of approach etc. when thrown in. A useful
diagram is introduced, explained and discussed. This diagram tries to unpack
the ‘differences’ between mind (the personalised system), the brain (consisting
of neural networks) and consciousness (the subjective experiences – sensory and
cognitive). A continuum of ‘scholarship’ is also designated to each –
philosophy studying the mind, psychology and neuroscience concentrating on the
brain and consciousness and theology with focus on consciousness. Neuronal
assemblies are proposed to bring some order and holism in to how we can
understand the links between brain plasticity, neurogenesis, exercise and
The fourth chapter explores the five senses, and the
neuroanatomy challenge. Essentially the chapter argues that the brain works in
an all-inclusive manner. Even though one part of the brain may be the main site
of activity for an individual sense, the way organisms perceive the world, is
holistic. We do not just see, but seeing also includes tactile, aural and other
senses. The VAK – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic – learning styles approach –
is debunked as learning requires interconnection of various parts of the brain
to achieve new learning.
Chapter 5 ‘at the office’ is used to mop up the many other
‘sensings’ we need to undertake to perceive our world. Physical features like
how we sense, feel, be emotionally affected by colour; our spatial sense; and
subjective reactions to the environment are discussed.
Chapter 6 ‘problems at home’ looks into the way the brain
develops (adolescence); mental issues (depression; demetia); how the brain
deals with pain, to further develop the argument for the existence and function
of neuronal assemblies.
Dreaming is the focus on chapter 7. A summary is made of the
function, history, phylogeny, neuroscience foundations of dreaming. Chapter 8
brings the argument together with a discussion on whether neuronal assemblies
are the rosetta stone for bringing the fields of physiology and phenomenology
together. A possible mechanism for the generation of consciousness is proposed
and summarised in a diagram.
The last chapter closes the book with how space and time may
be traversed through understanding on how ‘assemblies’ improve our
understandings of how the brain and consciousness work. As per usual, questions
are posed for further investigation and study.
Overall, a readable book without too many parts which are
dense and difficult to unravel. Most of the time, the argument put forward is
clear. Based on reviews - whether the concept of neuronal assemblies withstand
the test of time, remains to be seen.