Social Media Resilience

It has been a whirlwind couple of months with bid writing and project work and I’m slowly getting back on top of it all, which means I can finally announce a new media literacy project – Social Media Resilience Toolkit or SMaRT-eu which seems particularly timely in this age of conflicting and confusing health advice, bad science, badly presented statistics and alternative truth.

The project is lead by our Portuguese colleagues at COFAC, part of Lusófona University, who are experts in their field. We worked with them previously on a participatory internet radio project RadioActive and also more recently in Media In Action and are excited to be working with them again.

SMaRT-eu will work with intergenerational groups to provide tools and training on topics such as how to read media – particularly social media, how to navigate with critical consciousness in the social media environment which is saturated with instantaneous information, as well as how to use digital media to engage communities for social good.

You can find out more from the project website http://smart-toolkit.eu

New report on Artificial Intelligence in Vocational Education and Training

The Taccle AI project has launched it’s 74 page report exploring the use of AI in policy, process and practice in VET.

For VET teachers and trainers, there are many possible uses of AI including new opportunities
for adapting learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment,
analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in
guidance for learners.

The project interviewed Vocational Educators and AI experts from across Europe and found that AI poses significant changes to the VET curriculum and pedagogical processes. These changes require important institutional and organisational adaptations, adjustments and improvements, such as better integration into the school organisation by well established bigger teams of VET Teachers, development of learning projects by teacher teams at the school, avoiding becoming too dependent on Industry support, and stronger involvement of collaborative AI projects between training centres and local industry.

Find out more about the project on the Taccle AI website http://taccleai.eu/ and Download the full report here.

Chatbot for Career Chat

Pontypridd company’s CareerChat chatbot project selected as a finalist for the CareerTech Challenge Prize.

Pontydysgu is very happy to be part of a consortium, led by DMH Associates, selected as a finalist for the CareerTech Challenge Prize! The South Wales based ed-tech company specialises in careers based technologies and ICT training for educators.

Pontydysgu’s director Graham Attwell explained the innovative chatbot, CareerChat, as a chatbot providing a personalised, guided career journey experience for working adults aged 24 to 65 in low skilled jobs in three major cities: Bristol, Derby and Newcastle. He says ‘It offers informed, friendly and flexible high-quality, local contextual and national labour market information including specific course/training opportunities, and job vacancies to support adults within ‘at risk’ sectors and occupations’

CareerChat incorporates advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies, database applications and Natural Language Processing and can be accessed on computers, mobile phones and devices. It allows users to reflect, explore, find out and identify pathways and access to new training and work opportunities.

Nesta and the Department for Education have invested in the grant funding programme, offering a cohort of 11 grantees a package of grant funding alongside non-financial support. Nesta is delivering the CareerTech Challenge in partnership with the Department for Education as part of their National Retraining Scheme. Pontydysgu, based in Pontypridd and employing a team of remote workers across Europe, is one of those grantees

Nesta research suggests that more than six million people in the UK are currently employed in occupations that are likely to radically change or entirely disappear by 2030 due to automation, population ageing, urbanisation and the rise of the green economy.

In the nearer-term, the coronavirus crisis has intensified the importance of this problem. Recent warnings suggest that a prolonged lockdown could result in 6.5 million people losing their jobs. Of these workers, nearly 80% do not have a university degree. 

The solutions being funded through the CareerTech Challenge are designed to support people who will be hit the hardest by an insecure job market over the coming years. This includes those without a degree, and working in sectors such as retail, manufacturing, construction and transport.

The CareerTech Challenge runs from October 2020 until March 2021, for more information visit https://www.nesta.org.uk/project/careertech-challenge/

 

Ponty’s Young (Online) Activists

Last week CEYOU hosted the first online meeting for the Youth branch of Pontypridd Young Friends of the Earth.

The group have been very active over the past year attending Fridays for Future School Strikes and organising a hustings for local parliamentary candidates to discuss their views and policies relating to Climate Change.

Everyday life has changed significantly in a short space of time. Supermarket restrictions and limiting our time out of the house may lead to an increase in purchasing products wrapped in plastic and relying on takeaways in plastic tubs, combine this with reduced waste management and recycling services and its easy to fall into bad habits.

Their task for our Youth Forum this week was to come up with a top ten tips for staying green during the Covid19 quarantine and lockdown period.

The group were full of ideas for the lockdown from planning your ideal garden in Minecraft to redecorating your home for a change of scenery to leaving chalk messages of hope and positivity on the pavements.

Here are the top 10 which, in true Circular Economy style you are free to use, reuse and repurpose but please give attribution to CEYOU.eu and YoungFOEPontypridd.

 

Our Town in Xylagani

The OurTown project team met recently in Xylagani Primary school to discuss the next stages of the project. We now have a process by which we can add multiple challenges to the same QR code and link the code to a geographical location using Google maps. Each time the user scans the same code, a different challenge will be presented to them.

Our next step is to continue creating a bank of challenges and linking them to the codes. We will be working closely with local schools and community groups so if you have an idea for a set of activities linked to specific places in your town please get in touch.

On the second day o the meeting we visited the Folklore museum of Xylagani, a beautiful old mill which had been given to the people of the town. The collection comprised of artefacts and photographs donated by local families to tell the story of their migration back to Greece and share their ways and traditions. The exhibits will be accompanied by QR codes with challenges for pupils relating directly to their own culture and history within the museum.

Ponty gets Cycle-ing

It’s not unusual to find the Pontydysgu staff in a bar on a Saturday but I was there before the staff this weekend.

Pontypridd’s Clwb y Bont played host to an event to promote the Cycle project. Cycle aims to promote circular economy ideas to teachers and trainers in adult learning who can in turn promote the ideas through their work with learners. Fortunately Pontypridd is a hotbed of circular activities and I am still being contacted by people who want to get involved.

Circular economy sounds far more complicated than it is. It means that instead of buying a product, using it and then throwing it away, we aim to get the absolute maximum use out of it, ideally reusing it over and over. The aim is to produce zero waste. This requires thought and planning at all levels of the production/supply chain but it is something that everyone can play a part in.

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At the start of 2019 I sat down with a local group of adult educators and community group leaders, told them about the Cycle project and asked what sort of event would be most useful for them. They knew far more about circular economy that I did!

What resulted was a day long circular economy and sustainability festival in the glorious Welsh summer combining workshops and discussions about implementing circular economy ideas in practice, about teaching those ideas to others and about making what adult educators already do more circular. At the same time there were practical demonstrations of the work and teaching including willow craft, home brew and sustainable gardening.

We called it Your Ponty Needs you because the whole town needs to pull together to reduce waste and improve sustainability.

YETI in the Valleys

The YETI project will hold its final multiplier event in Clwb y Bont, Pontypridd on 24th and 25th August.

During the two afternoons there will be chance to learn more about the project and to talk to local business owners and organisations about the process, challenges and rewards of self-employment.

If you are a business owner local to Pontypridd and would like to be involved please contact me angela.gerrard@gmail.com

If you have a business idea and are looking for support, please come along to the event. More details here 

Wales DigitalFest 2018

Cardiff may be a small city but it certainly knows how to put on a good show. The beautiful Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay was jam-packed with exhibitors, speakers, workshops and discussions with attendees ranging from wannabe start-ups to big business moguls, politicians to street food vendors.

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies featured highly on the agenda, which seems hugely different to DigitalFest 2017 where the only mention of blockchain I heard was by accident sitting at the back of a small presentation drinking my coffee. It was obvious from the discussions that most people have no idea what it is or how it works. Thankfully the consensus was that most people don’t need to, in the same way that most people don’t know how their mobile phone works, you can remain blissfully unaware whilst blockchain technology is working away in the background, quietly de-centralising your data storage.

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The most interesting and useful parts of conferences for me are always the interactive workshops and round-table discussions. I’m in good company because these sessions were well attended. Sadly the layout let us down and what was probably envisaged as an open space, open discussion, was more like, well, trying to hold a workshop in a busy corridor. Nevertheless I managed to take plenty away from it all; how social enterprises can harness digital for the greater good, lessons to be learned from digital innovations in rural Africa, Richard Theo’s tips on being an entrepreneur, and how we deal with some of the darker side of digital; fake news, propaganda, online gambling addiction, cyberbullying, data and privacy. All of which will be appearing in my resources for YETI and MIA in the very near future!

 

Educate to Create

This year, Bulgaria holds the presidency of the European Union, I was invited to Sofia to be a panel speaker at one of the associated conferences, Educate to Create.

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The conference was billed as “an opportunity to bring attention to the pressing need to raise digital skills and competence levels across Europe and to support young people in using technologies for creativity, knowledge construction and effective and efficient learning.”

There were panel discussions and plenary sessions on the maker movement, digital creativity, educator training, partnering with industry,  how to raise digital skills across the board, gender equality and inclusion.

IMG_1452.jpgMy panel addressed Digital Creativity and maker skills – the role of teacher education. In my introduction I presented the Media In Action project which aims to provide educator training and resources with a basis in journalistic techniques, story telling and digital content creation.

In summing up we were asked what European policy should focus on for the next five years in the field of supporting teachers and teacher training.

My answer;

“Being the media literacy representative here I should say media literacy is the number one priority. It is essential for a functioning democracy, we all need the to tools to access, critically evaluate, interact with and create digital media.

But teachers don’t need one more thing bolted on, one more thing to be responsible for.

We do need to embed digital, media, “convergence literacies” throughout the curriculum. We need to support educators with practical ideas and practical resources, useful stuff, things you can use with your class tomorrow morning. We need to support them with training. We need to support them by creating time and space for educators to learn and to be creative with what they learn.

Teachers are already creative but we drum it out of them with constant bureaucracy, assessments, inspections, hoops to jump through.

We need to trust our teachers and their abilities to do their jobs. We should be fostering a culture of trust in educators so that they have more confidence in themselves to go and be creative”

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It was an honour to share a stage with Deirdre Butler (DCU), Nina Lindstrom (Strawbees), Oliver Quinlan (RaspberryPi) and Jan de Craemer (Flemmish Ministry of Education and Training), who did an excellent job moderating us!