Category Archives: Articles

e-apprenticeship

Thanks to Allen Beliveau from my PIDP 3240 course  for posting the paper by Bradley D. Hartwig from SFU Faculty of Education “e-Apprenticeship: Establishing Viability of Modern Technology in Traditional Practice”.  Published in 2007 the paper looked at the views of apprentices towards learning their trade online rather than at a traditional vocational institution.  It also looked at the history of the BC apprenticeship system and apprenticeships in general.

One of the problems of the present system is that many apprentices must travel to attend school.  This entails added expenses at the same time you are not working and earning a wage.  In some cases EI will pay you but this is still a reduction in income.  In an e-apprenticeship the apprentice would learn their theory online while doing their practical work in their workplace.  Since there is a 30% non-completion rate for BC apprentices it is simple economics to remove any barriers we can to make sure apprentices successfully become journeypersons.

One disadvantage of this approach is that many employers look upon apprentices as a source of cheap labour.  Many can spend their whole apprenticeship doing a limited variety of the trade related tasks.  Government and institutions would have to spend a large amount of money to develop a comprehensive curriculum and the learning tools to support it.  There would have to be follow up process to make sure that the apprentice was getting the proper coaching and mentoring that similar institutional classes provide.  One advantage of this system is I have heard apprentices returning from school complain about how school failed to replicate the real world conditions of the work place.

Another advantage of an e-apprenticeship is that you can quickly incorporate new technologies and procedures into the curriculum.  In this day and age change is occurring at an ever increasing rate.  A disadvantage of an e-apprenticeship system is that many small and medium sized businesses can not give their apprentices the wild range of training that the curriculum might require.  The government and training institutions would have to insure equality of opportunity for all apprentices right across the province.

The amount of labour and coaching required by online learners is another disadvantage of online learning.  According to Palloff and Pratt (1999) an online course would take 18 hours of instructor time compared to 6.5 to 7.5 hours for a face-to-face lecture course.  There would also be a learning curve in both learner and instructor learning as to how to best utilize the software and learning modules.  This would also require an IT support team as students and instructors ran into computer problems.

One advantage of having the employer take responsibility for the practical training of an apprentice is that it involves them to take more of an interest and ownership over the development of their apprentices.  Journeypersons would have to take on a more meaningful mentorship role.  However one of the main concerns of the apprentices surveyed was that they would miss the camaraderie and connections they get in a classroom.  Also they said they would miss the peer to peer learning and teaching that takes place.  This could be overcome by having gatherings of local apprentices from various trades coming together to learn material common to all trades.  This would also get apprentices out of their trade silos and get new perspectives.

Returning to in-house training of apprentices hearkens back to the days of the medieval guilds.  In some ways going forward is going backwards, but it must be done carefully at this time and involve all stakeholders.  The paper talked about some pilot projects that were using e-apprenticeship and I believe this is the way to proceed.  Since the BC government is investing over $30 million in a new Trades Education facility at Camosun College, e-apprenticeship isn’t on the top of their agenda.

How do you teach this type of welding

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Journeyperson Mentorship Program

Journeyperson Mentorship Program

In Newfoundland/Labrador the Department of Advanced Education and Skills has a Journeyperson Mentorship Program that provides funds to eligible employers to hire a journeyperson to mentor an apprentice to allow their apprentices to get the training and hours to complete their apprenticeship.

Journeypersons in provincially recognized trades, that require 4500 hours or more of combined school and work hours are eligible to be mentors.  An employer can choose a person who is currently employed in their field or is retired from their field who has at least five years experience.

This program is open to private employers particularly small and medium sized businesses in the profit or non-profit sector who “Have the capacity to employ a minimum of three apprentices and pay all associated employment expenses from own resources.”  They must also have an office location base in the province and be able to provide a minimum of six months work in the trade.

Apprentices must be registered with the provincial apprenticeship program or be eligible to register.  Journeyperson/mentors must have a “Certificate of Qualification” in a NL designated trade along with a minimum of five years experience with a minimum of two years employment as a journeyperson in the trade in the last ten years.

This is a great idea for the employers because it compensates companies that train apprentices by allowing them to hire skilled journeypersons to mentor and train them, building a productive team of employees.  It is good for journeypersons because it encourages them to take a more active role in training and mentoring apprentices.  It reaches out to our retired journeypersons and allows them to share their knowledge acquired over years of work in the field.  Finally for apprentices they get the training, mentoring and hours so they can successfully complete their trade and maybe one day become mentors themselves.

Advance Education and Skills

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BC and Adult Education

BC faces a looming crisis.  In their submission the Select Standing Committee on Finance in 2013 BC Colleges stated that 78% of the job openings will require some form of post-secondary education while currently only 60% of the population has that level of education.  This they describe as a skills gap.

Recognizing this the BC government has proposed new funding to address the skills gap that the province faces.  Yet faced with budget shortfalls local school boards are cutting programs that are viewed as being outside their core mandate of providing basic kindergarden to Grade 12 education.  Recently the Vancouver School Board closed the adult education centre in the city’s west end and in Salmon Arm the local school board axed their continuing education program.

This seems like a contradiction to me and it suggests that maybe now is the time to reorganize our education system.  Governments have to start looking at education funding as an investment rather than a cost.  BC Colleges claim that they return $3.80 for every $1 of taxpayer financial they get.  One major problem that we face is that government is having to use their meagre resources to substitute for the lack of investment in training by the business community.

imgres Maybe it is time for the provincial government to either take the responsibility for adult and continuing education away from local school boards or adequately fund these programs on top of the grants that school boards already receive.   Perhaps this could be done in coordination with the BC Jobs Plan and the government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan to make sure that the training matches the needed skills.  In Canada the senior levels of government have more funding resources than the locally funded school boards.  It is their responsibility to make sure that valuable continuing education courses are available and that BC citizens can continue to be life long learners.

A “Connected Learning” Experience

Today I had a perfect example of what is meant by “connected learning” in the age of the internet. I was on my computer working on PIDP 3240 Media Enhanced Learning a course I am taking in pursuit of my Provincial Instructors Diploma.  Part of the course consists of finding and evaluating Web 2.0 tools.  One such tool I found was Scoop.it a site that uses human curation, along with algorithms to sort and evaluate content into Scoops, pages that are organized according to tags that you provide.

I created an account and set up a topic called Adult Education using: teaching,adult,technology,social media,education, learning as my keywords.  One of the first articles of the 100 in the list was “Theory of Knowledge, Social Media and Connected Learning in High School” on the digital media and learning central site.  The article introduced me to the concept of connected learning.

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A Learning Approach Designed for the Demands and Opportunities of the Digital Age: Powerful, Relevant, Engaging

Logging into my account today I there was a Scoop from the connected learning research network.  I went to their publications page to see if there was anything I could use for my PIDP course and I came across “Re-Mediating Current Activity for the Future” by Kris. D. Gutierrez.  It must have been something about the title of the the mention of “growing poverty and inequity” in the short description but I decided to read the paper.  The paper was about American educator Mike Rose and his methodology that has come to be associated with cultural historical activity theory (CH/AT).  I became intrigued by Mike Rose and googled him to read more of his articles and papers.

The first thing I read was an article in American Scholar “Blue Collar Brilliance”.  As a blue collar worker myself the choice was obvious.  It was an autobiographical piece that described his mother who was a waitress and talked about the cognitive skills involved in her job.  He described other relatives who worked in blue collar jobs and how they used their intelligence as well as their psychomotor skills in doing their jobs.

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Staying with the American Scholar I next read “When the Light Goes On” in which Mike Rose describes his high school education, how a mix up had him in the vocational stream.  Later he was transferred to the academic stream where he languished in mediocracy until he was inspired by his senior year English teacher.  This reminded me of my own high school years where we streamed into arts/science, business or technical courses for four or for those going onto university five years.  In Grade nine at the age of 13 or 14 we were supposed to have some idea of what career we wanted to pursue.

Next I read  Sara Goldrick-Rab’s paper “Comments on Mike Rose’s Essay “Rethinking Remedial Education and the Academic-Vocational Divide” which prompted me to read Mike Rose himself “Rethinking Remedial Education and the Academic-Vocational Divide”.

So what did I get out of all this?  Was I just surfing the web or did I actually have a learning experience?  It made me consider something I have been witnessing for a long time in my industry that more and more of the cognitive work and planning is being taken out of the scope of blue collar workers at the point of production and is being managed by workers in the office.  This is dangerous because it creates a disconnect which I have seen lead to many errors being made and much productive capacity being lost.  It leads to a disengagement of the workers and lack of a team effort between white and blue collar workers in a company.

In my teaching practice I want to be able to not only teach my craft but to teach it in such a way that it engages my student’s imagination and inspires their intellectual appetites to learn more.  I don’t want to turn out automatons who can perform tasks with machine like precision as they will soon be replaced by machines.  Rather I want them to develop the critical thinking skills, to be life long learners and to have the ability to work as part of a team as these skills will always keep them on track and current in whatever career path they choose.

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Facebook and Higher Edcuation

Social networking sites have become a major part of young people’s lives.  Many professors are angered when students will check their Facebook feeds while attending class while others are embracing the technology and incorporating it into their teaching.  They posit that the interactive nature of Facebook allows students to collaborate and share information.  While many studies have done on the effectiveness of using Facebook in education, the conclusions vary.

In his 2009 paper Neil Selwyn found that students use Facebook to:

(1) recounting and reflecting on the university experience

(2) exchange of practical information

(3) exchange of academic information

(4) displays of supplication and/or disengagement

(5) ‘banter’ (i.e. exchanges of humour and nonsense) (Selwyn, N. 2009. p.161)

He found that students saw Facebook as being part of ‘their’ internet and resented its appropriation by the hierarchal university and suggested that his data showed that Facebook as a “backstage space” that augmented their university education.

One way that Facebook has found to be effective is when it uses Facebook pages to form online study groups.  An example of this is the School of Instructor Education Facebook page allows students to share information that they have found on the internet.  This allows students to access a portal that has much relevant information to their studies rather than tedious searches through a search engine.

Dr. Nisha Malhotra at the University of British Columbia uses Facebook groups to answer student questions, post relevant articles and engender online discussions.  Dr Leah Donlan in her 2012 paper concludes that students are happy using Facebook for academic purposes when it is on their terms as they wish to keep their private and academic lives separate.  This suggests to me that any teacher that wishes to use Facebook in their courses might want to have the students collaborate in designing and defining the Facebook group and how it is to be used.

The use of Facebook and other social media in a formal institutional environment is still in its infancy and much study still needs to be done to assess their effectiveness.  Searching the anecdotal information available one finds many successes and failures, but we have to realize that Facebook is a vital part of student’s lives and it is where they spend much of their time.  As Susan Erdman writes “Perhaps the bruising immediacy and startling intimacy of Facebook will indeed offer a way out of the ritualized

Donlan, L. (2012). Exploring the views of students on the use of Facebook in university teaching and learning. Journal of Further and Higher Education, (ahead-of-print), 1-17.

Erdmann, S. (2013). Facebook Goes to College; Recent Research on Educational Uses of Social Networks. Nordic Journal of Modern Language Methodology, 2(1).

Selwyn, Neil. “Faceworking: exploring students’ education‐related use of Facebook.” Learning, Media and Technology 34.2 (2009): 157-174.

Selwyn, N. (2012). Social media in higher education. The Europa World of Learning 2012.

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Canada Gets Serious About Apprentices?

Right now Employment Minister Jason  Kenney is leading a Canadian delegation to Germany and the U.K. to study their apprenticeship systems.  He hopes to apply “best Practices” to Canadian apprenticeship systems.  The German “dual system” is world renowned and the unemployment rate for youth in Germany is 8% compared to 14% in Canada at the same time that energy projects in western Canada can’t find enough skilled labour.

Many people point out that aspects of the German system is incompatible with the Canadian reality.  German children are streamed into a trades education when they are as young as 10 or 11.  German industry has always had a strong presence in the training of apprentices who work at the same time they go to school.  In contrast Canadian companies have cut investment in employee training by 40% since 1993.  Germany’s rigidly designed apprenticeship system is very successful in creating accredited, highly skilled workers but they are also unable to advance into jobs that require college or university training.

In Canada we have a variety of provincial apprenticeship programs and the federal government has recently announced an Apprenticeship Grants program to encourage more young Canadians to purse the trades as a career choice.  One of the biggest challenges we face is the fact that almost 17% of all registered apprentices fail to complete their training.  I think one thing that we can learn from the German system is the way in which the government, business and trade unions work together co-operatively to make sure that German workers receive some of the best training in the world.

The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum in a 2011 report recommended that employers coordinate details of technical training, that promising practices in mentoring be promoted and that labour market information be used to encourage training in trades where the employment prospects are strong.  Hopefully as the federal and provincial governments work to build a strong apprenticeship system these recommendations are followed up on.

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Canadian Educational Association

While searching through Google Scholar for articles pertaining to Canadian educational issues I came across the Canadian Education Association.  A federally incorporated non-profit society this organization has been around for over 120 years.  They publish a magazine five times a year called Education Canada and they also have a monthly enewsletter that you can sign up and subscribe to.   For students such as ourselves they have a vast array of studies and publications that can be downloaded and perused.

The association also has a number of videos on their website and host a number of blogs.  I am really glad I came across this great research source and by subscribing to their newsletter I hope to keep abreast of what is happening in the educational field in Canada.

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