Dysgu Ponty

The Pontydysgu website is always full of news about the big projects we are involved in, like FP7 Learning Layers or Taccle2.  This is pretty inevitable as they take up the majority of our time and budget.  However, there are lots of other, smaller Pontydysgu projects running in the background that we rarely post anything about.  This is a bit of an oversight because although we often use these projects as test beds for trying out new ideas or as vehicles for piloting specific bits of technology that we then roll together in a much bigger package, they are also successful in their own right.

All of them are running in Pontypridd, (known locally as “Ponty”) which is where the Wales half of Pontydysgu is based. Some are part funded through the LLL Partnerships programme; some are funded in-house. We thought we might write a series of posts on what these projects are all about….

First up is Dysgu Ponty, which translates to Learning Ponty.  We chose this name because apart from the play on Pontydysgu (meaning approximately Bridge to Learning), we wanted to convey the idea that the whole community of Ponty was learning and that the town called Ponty was a learning resource.

The project is based on a very simple concept – let’s cover the town with QR codes linked to a learning resource.   The codes are being printed on decals (for shop windows), enamel (for the exteriors of building) and on varnished wooden plaques for hanging around trees in the park.  Codes come in three colours – red for Welsh, green for the English translation and black for careers.

So far we have 200 and our target is at least another hundred.  The town has a population of 30,000 but this covers all of the outlying villages as well.  It also has a great sense of community, which means that the level of support has been brilliant. The whole community is involved – schools, the Town Council, shops, businesses, the local newspaper

The link from each QR code goes to a website page on which there is a question that relates to the location.  The level is approximately 8 -12 yrs olds. Following the title question is some simple information using a range of multi media.   The location of the codes will be on Google Maps and we are currently sorting them out into a ‘Maths trail’, ‘Language trail’, ‘History trail’ etc so that children can choose whether to follow a subject trail or focus on the codes in one part of the town.

The purpose of the project is really to provide a bridge between formal and informal learning and to improve home school links.

We are currently working of a way of  ‘rewarding’ children for completing a number of questions – not sure Mozilla badges quite fits.  Also thinking about how we can get kids to be able to upload pictures as well as comments. May rethink the platform.

Meanwhile here are some examples of the sorts of things we are talking about

Location:  on the bandstand in the park

  • Links to… Question:  Have you ever heard brass band music?
  • Additional ‘information’ – mp3 of Colliery Brass Band with one line of text explaining that most all the pits had their own band

Location: Outside Costa Coffee

  • Links to… Question: Do you know where coffee comes from?
  • Additional information: You Tube video of coffee being harvested and processed

Location: Outside travel agent underneath exchange rates

  • Links to… Question:  How much is it worth?
  • Additional info:  Text and image – If you had £37.50 to take on holiday, how many Euros would you get?  Which travel agent in town has the best exchange rate today?

Location:  On the river bank adjacent to the confluence

  • Links to…mQuestion:  What rivers are these and where is their source?
  • Additional info:  The place where two rivers merge is called a ‘confluence’.  Use Google Earth to trace the two rivers back as far as you can, find out their names and where the river enters the sea.

 Location:  On the war memorial

  • Links to… Question:  How many died?
  • Additional info: Look at the names on the Great War memorial and then the names on the Worls War 2 memorial.  In which war were the greatest number of people from Pontypridd killed? How many times more people?  Why do you think this was?

 Location: Market Street

  • Links to…Question:  What has changed?
  • Additional Info: Picture of the street taken 100 years ago from same spot. Text – List all the things that are different between Market Street in 1910 and the same street today.
You get the idea!
[We also have black codes for older students linked to careers information as part of the EU New Jobs project.  The codes take them to links asking "So you want to be a baker?" or "So you want to be a printer?" with videos explaining what the job involves, what qualifications or skills you need etc. Some are purpose made and some from You Tube or Vimeo.  More on this is another post.]
Next time – Learning about Art in Ponty




The Challenge to Education

Last year I took part in an excellent confernce in Darmstadt last year on “Interdisciplinary approaches to technology-enhanced learning.” Now they have asked me to contribute to a book based on my presentation on ‘Learning Environments, What happens in Practice?. I will post the book cpater in parts on the blog as I write it, in the hope of gaining feedback from readers.

The first section is entitled ‘The Challenge to Education”

Firstly it should be said that it is not technology per se that poses the challenge to education systems and institutions. It is rather the way technology is being used for communication and for everyday learning within the wider society.

Whilst institutions have largely maintained their monopoly and prestige as bodies awarding certification, one major impact of internet technologies has been to move access to learning and knowledge outside of institutional boundaries. The internet provides ready and usually free access to a wealth of books, papers, videos, blogs, scientific research, news and opinion. It also provides access to expertise in the form of networks of people. Conferences, seminars and workshops can increasingly be accessed online. Virtual worlds offer opportunities for simulations and experimentation.

Id course this begs the question of support for learning although there are increasing numbers of free online courses and communities and bulletin boards for help with problem solving. Schools and universities can no longer claim a monopoly as seats of learning or of knowledge. Such learning and knowledge now resides in distributed networks. Learning can take place in the home, in work or in the community as easily as within schools. Mobile devices also mean that learning can take place anywhere without access to a computer. Whilst previously learning was largely structured through a curriculum, context is now becoming an important aspect of learning.

Technology is also challenging traditional traditional expert contributed disciplinary knowledge as embodied in school curricula. Dave Cormier, (2008) says that the present speed of information based on new technologies has undermined traditional expert driven processes of knowledge development and dissemination. The explosion of freely available sources of information has helped drive rapid expansion in the accessibility of the canon and in the range of knowledge available to learners. We are being forced to re-examine what constitutes knowledge and are moving from expert developed and sanctioned knowledge to collaborative forms of knowledge construction. The English language Wikipedia website, a collaboratively developed knowledge base, had 3,264,557 pages in April, 2010 and over 12 million registered users.

The present north European schooling systems evolved from the needs of the industrial revolutions for a literate and numerate workforce. Schools were themselves modelled on the factory system with fixed starting and finishing times with standardised work tasks and quality systems. Students followed relatively rigid group learning programmes, often based on age and often banded into groups based on tests or examinations. Besides the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed by the economy, schools also acted as a means of selection, to determine those who might progress to higher levels of learning or employment requiring more complex skills and knowledge.

It is arguable whether such a schooling system meets the present day needs of the economy. In many countries there is publicly expressed concerns that schools are failing to deliver the skills and knowledge needed for employment, resorting in many countries in different reform measures. There is also a trend towards increasing the length of schooling and, in some countries, at attempting to increase the percentages of young people attending university.

However the schooling system has been developed above all on homogeneity. Indeed, in countries like the UK, reforms have attempted in increase that homogeneity through the imposition of a standardised national curriculum and regular Standardised Attainment Tests (SATs). Such a movement might be seen as in contradiction to the supposed needs for greater creativity, team work, problem solving, communication and self motivated continuous learning within enterprises today.

Furthermore, the homogeneity of schooling systems and curricula is in stark contrast to the wealth of different learning pathways available through the internet. Whilst the UK government has called for greater personalisation of learning, this is seen merely as different forms of access to a standardised curriculum. The internet offers the promise of Personal Learning Pathways, of personal and collaborative knowledge construction and meaning making through distributed communities.

The schooling system is based on outdated forms of organisation and on an expert derived and standardised canon of knowledge. As such it is increasingly dysfunctional in a society where knowledge is collaboratively developed through distributed networks.