Vocational vs Elite Educations

Emeka Okafor reviews the lack of vocational education available and looks to other countries’ examples for how to improve economies.

Why don’t the products of our high schools, colleges and universities have a greater ability to create, manufacture or process things? Our educational systems seem to spit out those who can only barely administer and officiate. A general lack of critical thinking abounds with few exceptions. How can we systemizecuriosity-driven, startup, maker mentality? The roots of these failures to a degree stem from deficient foundations left by former colonial overlords. It would do us a measure of good to learn from Germany, Europe’s most successful economy and appropriate where we can

He posts some interesting videos that look at traditional and vocational education in African countries.

In full

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Creativity-based Research: The Process of Co-Designing with Users

Caroline Naranjo-Bock writes for UX magazine about the practice of co-design and the different stages – taking account of what the research goals and questions are; who the audience is and what tools they can use; the users invited to participate; running workshops with different methods; trying a pilot and analysing the results. These don’t have to be done in a face to face setting.

New forms of co-design have emerged that take advantage of digital technologies to allow hundreds of users to co-create a product or service regardless of their location. Most of these co-design efforts come in the form of contests or collaborative online platforms that encourage users to submit ideas directly to the company and to collaborate with their peers.

Open innovation and crowdsourcing initiatives are open calls to a broad community of people for help with the design of a company’s next product or service, or for ongoing ideas that might be considered for real production.

In full

 

Nobler than the Noble Profession

Angelo G Garcia reports from the Philippines and profiles Edgar Madlaing work as a teacher, encouraging students with voluntary activities too

He says the most challenging aspect of this profession is seeing former students who used to fail change their lives for the better.

I realize I can’t do everything for them. As their teacher, I get frustrated when I know I did my best and gave most of my time to the job. My take home pay cannot even take me home. Most teachers here in the Philippines can relate to this predicament,” he laments.

For Madlaing, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is the successes of his students, knowing well that he was somehow part of that success.

“It’s a great feeling to know that behind these stories of success, is a story that Iam part of. Many former students of mine who have become successful in their careers come back to say ‘thank you’. For example, former CAT Officers of who entered the PNPA(Philippine National Police Academy) and PMA are now successful officers. They claim that their dream to become ‘an officer and a gentleman’ started when we first met during their CAT days,” Madlaing shares.

In full

Reflections on #realwplearn chat: Breaking Down Silos

David Kelly regularly takes part in the weekly #lrnchat on Twitter and also #realwplearn . Their recent topic was silos and he notes that many learning professionals have already encountered risks of organisational silos where similar information can exist in different areas to solve similar problems – performance support is only taking account of one at a time, but bears the cost of both.

The question of silos ultimately comes down to one of culture, and can be defined by how you ask the top most question about information sharing. Are you asking if you should leave the door open, or are you asking if you should open the door? The latter reflects a silo mentality. If you want to break down silos, you’ve got to start by leaving doors open, both metaphorically and literally.

In full

How Should Education be Transformed? (Guest Post at Co-operative Catalyst by Occupy High Students)

Occupy High students share their thoughts on how education should be changed.

There is no explicit curriculum to help a teacher instruct for a year about public education. Perhaps because in doing so, the teacher wants to avoid engaging students in metacognitive strategies every class of every day. Perhaps because we don’t believe that students can engage in the discussion about transforming education. Perhaps because, if we opened this can of worms, we would be admitting defeat every lesson in which we question the direction of what we are doing.

I believe it is time to open this can of worms pedagogically. The only snag is that we have convoluted public education so much so that it is impossible to limit the scope of such a curriculum. Do we create experts with knowledge an inch deep and a mile wide or would we rather have these students have surface knowledge of everything without expertise? What are we doing?

The students present their thoughtful responses highlighting the need for student voices to be heard in any process that looks to transform education.

In full

Lurking or Legitimate Peripheral Participation

By Christy Tucker, CC/A/3.0

During the July 7 early #lrnchat about social media and social learning, there was a lot of discussion about lurking.

Can I Play?In response to the question “What are some ways you learn through social media that aren’t collaborative, with other people per-se?”

I replied:

I do a fair amount of lurking (ie “legitimate peripheral participation”)

I also retweeted this message by Colby Fordham:

We all like sharers, but there is a value in lurking. [You] have to [learn] the rules and important topics.

and Jane Bozarth replied

…and then stop lurking

Often, lurking is just a temporary phase, and you do jump in afterwards. But is that always necessary? I have lots of online communities where I sit on the periphery and lurk, long past the initial phase of learning how the community works.

A few examples:

  • YouTube: Most of the time on YouTube, I’m just watching. I’m not creating my own videos, commenting, sharing, or bookmarking. I have a few videos, but I’m lurking at least 90% of the time.
  • Kongregate: Technically, I am not a lurker on this gaming site by the strictest definition, since I do rate games. I read through the forums and chat  sometimes, but rarely jump into the conversation.
  • News: I don’t get a newspaper in “dead tree” format; I get most of my news online. I read several newspapers and blogs, all of which have commenting or community features. Most of the time I don’t even read the user discussions, and I never add my own comments.
  • Slashdot: I skim the RSS feed, but I don’t have an account and have never commented.
  • Wikipedia: At one point, I contributed quite a bit (2500+ edits), but it’s been over a year since I’ve been active.

I learn on all those sites. (Yes, even Kongregate: I learn game strategies on the forums. What I learn is of limited use in the rest of my life, but it’s useful for my goals when I’m on that site.) I’ll be honest; I’m not really interested in getting sucked into the high drama conversations on most of those sites. Wikipedia, for example, can be pretty intense and nasty. It’s the only place online I’ve actually been directly threatened (although there was no actual danger, it was still disconcerting). If I’m going to be part of conversations, I’d rather they be part of the learning community, or at least more productive than many of the conversations at the sites above.

Would I be a better gamer if I was active in the Kongregate forums? Most likely. But I’m not looking for a high level of expertise in gaming. So why should I expend my energy there, when peripheral participation gets me enough expertise to meet my personal goals?

In the #lrnchat conversation, Jane called this behavior “taking,” and she’s right—I’m reading and taking advantage of the resources without giving back. I give back here, but I don’t give back in every community that I use. My giving is very uneven, and sometimes I just lurk.

Is it wrong to lurk, or is it appropriate to have different levels of participation in different online communities? Should we exclude anyone from reading the RSS feeds of our blogs if they aren’t commenting,  bookmarking, +1-ing, etc?

In Digital Habitats, Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, and John D. Smith call lurking “legitimate peripheral participation”:

From a community of practice perspective, lurking is interpreted as “legitimate peripheral participation,” a crucial process by which communities offer learning opportunities to those on the periphery. Rather than a simple distinction between active and passive members, this perspective draws attention to the richness of the periphery and the learning enabled (or not) by it. (p. 9)

Do the people active in a community learn more than those on the edges? Yes, I do believe that. But if your goal isn’t to be an expert, peripheral participation may give you enough learning to meet your needs. You can learn via social media without it actually being social learning.

What do you think? Are there communities where you are in the center of the action, but others where you’re on the periphery? Is there a place for lurking in learning communities, or should everyone be an active participant? If we’re designing learning with social media, can we focus just on social learning, or can we also support use of social media for peripheral participation?

Image credit:

Can I play? by jaxxon

#Change11 Traineeship Programs and Cynefin Framework based on Dave Snowden – Part 1

by John Mak

Jenny Mackness summarises in her post on the presentation by Dave Snowden.  I am impressed by Dave’s saying: “There are whole tracts of knowledge that can only be understood through interaction, e.g. through an apprenticeship model of education, which allows for imitation and failure, such as for London taxi drivers. Failure is key to human knowledge acquisition.” That sounds practical, as we have been adopting such an apprenticeship model of education here in Australia – with on-the-job training for the last 2 decades. To a great extent, I reckon it is one of the best ways of learning through practical hands on- deep down to earth learning.  The merits with such learning is that apprentices and trainees could actually follow through with the gaining of skills that they could apply on the jobs, reinforcing the experience, and thus allow for reflection of what works and what doesn’t in their particular fields.  This apprenticeship and traineeship on the job model of learning has also been highly valued as one of the situated learning – a model of learning where “Learning begins with people trying to solve problems.[4] When learning is problem based, people explore real life situations to find answers, or to solve the problems. Hung’s study focuses on how important being social is to learning. In believing that learning is social, Hung adds that learners who gravitate to communities with shared interests tend to benefit from the knowledge of those who are more knowledgeable than they are. He also says that these social experiences provide people with authentic experiences. When students are in these real-life situations they are compelled to learn. Hung concludes that taking a problem-based learning approach to designing curriculum carries students to a higher level of thinking.[4]

To what extent is the above claims valid? There are lots of problems waiting for us to solve, especially when one is at work, or studying in a course, or immersing in networks or communities, or in gaming, even having personal informal study, as part of the life-long or life-wide learning, or in the case of learning a particular skill as a hobby or interest.  For instance, if I want to learn how to play badminton, then I would likely try it myself, and watch others playing in the court, or watch some of the videos on Youtube, in order to understand some of the basic techniques, and thus could practice the skills when playing.  I could also share some of my experiences with others, or ask others for help, so as to improve my knowledge or skills.  As a disclosure, badminton is my favorite sport.  If one is learning how to cook, then he or she would likely watch some of the videos on cooking, checking with cookbooks on the recipes, and trying to cook different dishes at home.  However, would one become a chef just by doing that?  Not likely? I learnt that most chefs have acquired the skills through apprenticeship programs.

I just happened to discuss with the owner of the restaurant today, and he shared with me his experience as a chef before becoming an owner.  Surely, he learnt through immersion into the particular trade (as a chef), and so it is different from that of an amateur.  I like cooking too, but I could only do some very basic dishes, like fried rice, fried noodles, porridge or soup, but would never be able to achieve that level of mastery of the chef, without more expertise training and guidance.  To this end, I am impressed with Dave’s mention about the importance of training as a generalist, rather than a specialist, and that: “In universities we are training recipe book users and assessing whether they can reproduce the recipe. We are not training chefs who can achieve a huge amount without a recipe. Chefs have a mix of practical and theoretical wisdom and willingness to engage conceptually and theoretically with real world problems.” as cited by Jenny on Dave’s presentation.  So, it is important to have an open mindset in order to develop those expertise, likely through learning with more knowledgeable others, and or training on the job or workplace.  Is traineeship the solution then?

How about the effectiveness of traineeship model? The report states that: “The findings suggest that traineeships are an important pathway for female early school leavers. However, traineeships are poorly targeted if the target group is disadvantaged young people.”

There are concerns what traineeship program should be aiming for, whether it is more relating to provide avenues of training for those unemployed or disadvantaged people who would like to pursue a trade or the skills acquisition, both for new entrance and those currently employed on the job, for upgrading and/or recognising their skills.  This up-to-date report on traineeship provides the details with recommendations.

It has been revealed that most “trainees” could learn the skills on the job, and for those who are existing workers with years of experience (veterans in particular), what are necessary would be a reinforcement of their skills to ensure that they are kept up-to-date and so it is more aligned with recognition of their competency, though certain skills acquisition would surely happen with the introduction and application of new and emerging technology at work.  I reckon a simple to complicated scenarios would be sufficient for the “training” of most of these trainees.

For new entrance trainees, especially those early school leavers, or unemployed people, I could see the needs falling into a number of patterns, with a wide spectrum of skills.  For most of the early school leavers, their interests may lie more with the hands-on manual, technical or technological, administrative and clerical work, which may range from cooking and catering, hospitality and hotel work, office administration, warehousing, transport and distribution, freight forwarding, automobiles, mechanics, fitting and machining, performance arts, ICT, child care, nursing, finance and accounting, finance etc.  So, the emphasis here is on the skills for a particular trade or profession, though there are also strong emphasis on knowledge, where the trainees are expected to “acquire” such knowledge (like health and safety, legislation, company rules and regulations, procedures, products and services, and general knowledge on ICT and customer service) in order to perform the job to the standards required. I reckon the scenarios most likely fall into the simple (in majority) scenarios, where systems, processes and procedures would determine the best practice, and training would more likely be based on the supervision by their supervisors, or trainers, though institutional teaching and facilitation would also be incorporated to reinforce the knowledge and skills learnt through the job.  The challenge for  the training of disadvantaged or unemployed people is that most institutions would need to provide those on-the-job experience for them to actually practice the skills.  On some occasions, simulated working or virtual learning environments were introduced to augment the classroom training.   The use of authentic learning in a classroom setting may be a good alternative to solving this problem.

Are these skills and knowledge the same or different from the literacies cited in various reports?  See Keith’s post Here.

Impatient Futurist: Science Finds a Better Way to Teach Science

By Mind & Brain Learning, Discover Magazine

This article looks at whether traditional science lecture methods actually help students learn and reviews work beyond using handheld clickers to answer questions, towards more practical problem solving and application.

Full article

Eric Mazur – Confessions of a Converted Lecturer