Fighting Fake News in Finland via Schools

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We have witnessed years now of conventional and now digital media being manipulated to confuse, misinform and mislead the public of all ages round science of climate change or global warming, politics and campaigns, immigrants and population growth, vaccinations, natural disasters, religion and minorities etc.

Like some states in Australia used to teach critical thinking to high school students in the 1970s, since been ’embedded’ and/or disappeared, Finland has taken the lead in developing skills at primary school age dealing with Russia especially, and global warming denialism.

From The Guardian:

‘How Finland starts its fight against fake news in primary schools

Country on frontline of information war teaches everyone from school pupils to politicians how to spot slippery information

You can start when children are very young, said Kari Kivinen. In fact, you should: “Fairytales work well. Take the wily fox who always cheats the other animals with his sly words. That’s not a bad metaphor for a certain kind of politician, is it?”

With democracies around the world threatened by the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of false information, Finland – recently rated Europe’s most resistant nation to fake news – takes the fight seriously enough to teach it in primary school.

In secondary schools, such as the state-run college in Helsinki where Kivinen is head teacher, multi-platform information literacy and strong critical thinking have become a core, cross-subject component of a national curriculum that was introduced in 2016.

In maths lessons, Kivinen’s pupils learn how easy it is to lie with statistics. In art, they see how an image’s meaning can be manipulated. In history, they analyse notable propaganda campaigns, while Finnish language teachers work with them on the many ways in which words can be used to confuse, mislead and deceive.

“The goal is active, responsible citizens and voters,” Kivinen said. “Thinking critically, factchecking, interpreting and evaluating all the information you receive, wherever it appears, is crucial. We’ve made it a core part of what we teach, across all subjects.”

The curriculum is part of a unique, broad strategy devised by the Finnish government after 2014, when the country was first targeted with fake news stories by its Russian neighbour, and the government realised it had moved into the post-fact age.

Successful enough for Finland to top, by some margin, an annual index measuring resistance to fake news in 35 European countries, the programme aims to ensure that everyone, from pupil to politician, can detect – and do their bit to fight – false information.

“This affects all of us,” said Jussi Toivanen, chief communications officer for the prime minister’s office. “It targets the whole of Finnish society. It aims to erode our values and norms, the trust in our institutions that hold society together.”

Finland, which declared independence from Russia in 1917, is on the frontline of an online information war that has accelerated markedly since Moscow annexed Crimea and backed rebels in eastern Ukraine five years ago, Toivanen said.

Most campaigns, amplified by sympathetic far-right, nation-first and “alternative” Finnish news sites and social media accounts, focus on attacking the EU, highlighting immigration issues and trying to influence debate over Finland’s full Nato membership.

Resistance is seen almost as a civil defence question, a key component in Finland’s comprehensive security policy. Toivanen said: “We are a small country, without many resources, and we rely on everyone contributing to the collective defence of society.”

The programme, piloted by a 30-member, high-level committee representing 20 different bodies from government ministries to welfare organisations and the police, intelligence and security services, has trained thousands of civil servants, journalists, teachers and librarians over the past three years.

“It’s a broad-based, coordinated effort to raise awareness,” said Saara Jantunen, a senior researcher from the defence ministry who has been seconded to the prime minister’s office. “Like virus protection on your computer: the government’s responsible for a certain amount, of course, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to install the software.”…

…..He wants his pupils to ask questions such as: who produced this information, and why? Where was it published? What does it really say? Who is it aimed at? What is it based on? Is there evidence for it, or is this just someone’s opinion? Is it verifiable elsewhere?

On the evidence of half a dozen pupils gathered in a classroom before lunchtime, it is an approach that is paying off. “You must always factcheck. The number one rule: no Wikipedia, and always three or four different and reliable sources,” said Mathilda, 18. “We learn that basically in every subject.”….

…..Part of that continuing education is also provided by NGOs. Besides operating an effective factchecking service, Faktabaari (Fact Bar), launched for the 2014 European elections and run by a volunteer staff of journalists and researchers, produces popular voter literacy kits for schools and the wider public.

“Essentially, we aim to give people their own tools,” said its founder, Mikko Salo, a member of the EU’s independent high-level expert group on fake news. “It’s about trying to vaccinate against problems, rather than telling people what’s right and wrong. That can easily lead to polarisation.”

In the run-up to Finland’s parliamentary elections last April, the government went so far as to produce an advertising campaign alerting voters to the possibility of fake news, with the slogan “Finland has the best elections in the world. Think about why”.

Similarly, Mediametka has been developing and working with media literacy tools since the more innocent days of the early 1950s, when its founders were motivated mainly by fear of the irreparable damage that comic books might do to the minds of Finnish children.

These days, the NGO, part-funded by the culture ministry, organises ed-tech hackathons with inventive Finnish startups in a bid to develop “meaningful materials” for schools and youth groups, said its executive director, Meri Seistola.

“We work with pictures, videos, text, digital content; get our students to produce their own; ask them to identify all the various kinds of misleading news,” said Seistola: from propaganda to clickbait, satire to conspiracy theory, pseudoscience to partisan reporting; from stories describing events that simply never happened to unintentional errors of fact.

Finland has something of a head start on information literacy, ranking consistently at or near the top of international indices for press freedom, transparency, education and social justice. Its school pupils have the EU’s highest PISA score for reading.

“The level of trust in national institutions, in the media, in society as a whole, does tend to be higher in the Nordic countries than in many others,” said Faktabaari’s Salo. “But that means we really need even greater vigilance now, to prepare ourselves for the next phase. Because we have more to lose.”’

 

For more articles and blogs about younger generations, critical thinking, climate change and curriculum click through.

 

E-Learning for University Students in Africa

E-learning maybe the solution for increased affordable access to effective education across the world as an organic extension of distance learning, open university and on campus study using ‘FLIPPED learning model’, dependent upon digital resources and communication.

Parts of Africa, and the world, can use e-learning for access.

African University Study via E-Learning (Image copyright Pexels)

For many parts of Africa it is a solution to limited or no access, from Deutsche Welle:

The importance of studying at home for a degree: E-learning in Africa

Many young Africans dream of a higher education. But they often don’t have the means: colleges are often far away and accommodation is expensive. Online universities and e-learning may provide a viable solution.

Lectures with compulsory attendance were not an option for Alida Tapsoba. The 29-year-old from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, has to earn a living and therefore needs to be in control of when she works and when she studies. With this in mind, she decided to take an online course. “But I was also afraid. I wasn’t sure if I could do it,” the journalism student told DW. “You have to be well organized to deliver the assignments on time — especially if you work extra hours.”

Alida Tapsoba said her choice is rather expensive. She spends a lot of money on internet access. She needs to download large files, which is time-consuming and costly. Rebecca Stromeyer knows the problem well. She said that in many African countries, internet access is considerably more expensive than in Germany. Stromeyer is the founder of e-Learning Africa, an annual conference which attracts experts in the field to network and exchange information in a pan-African context.

No digital infrastructure

Internet access varies much across the continent. “Kenya is a pioneer, even in rural areas,” said Stromeyer. In the Central African Republic, by contrast, only a few people can accesss the internet. “Conditions are not yet so ideal that everyone in Africa can complete an e-learning program,” said Stromeyer. She adds that governments need put more efforts into developing the infrastructure.

“Nevertheless, the need to develop e-learning was much stronger in Africa than in Europe,” said the communications technology expert. And it is not restricted to university studies. The school system often does not work, especially in rural areas. There is a lack of teachers and textbooks. Stromeyer advocates using the internet for education in schools as well, although she believes that students learn better at school than they do online.

Flexible and individual

Tony Carr, from the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, begs to differ: “Sitting in a lecture hall with 600 other students is much like taking a degree by correspondence. Online interactions can be much warmer and personal. They can bring students closer together than a course requiring attendance.”

Flexibility is another advantage. Young people can also save on accommodation costs by staying at home and not having to rent a room in another city. They can tailor their studies to fit their needs, focus on the skills they believe to be most important and take courses they would not otherwise have access to.

Alida Tapsoba is a case in point. She dreams of working abroad as a journalist. She could not find the master’s course she was looking for in her home town. But a renowned journalism school in Paris had just what she wanted.

South Africa’s pioneers

The University of South Africa (UNISA) pioneered distance learning on the continent. When it was founded in the 1940s it offered only degrees by correspondence. Today, it is on its way to full digitalization. By its own account, it is Africa’s largest distance learning institution.

Tony Carr refers to a research paper into online studies in Africa, which compared different countries between 2011 and 2016. It showed that South Africa was the pioneer in e-learning, followed by Angola, Nigeria and Tunisia. According to Carr, this growth goes hand in hand with internet access, income levels and the increase of the middle class in the countries mentioned.

Generally speaking, Anglophone countries lead the field, Stromeyer said. But there is a growing number of initiatives in French-speaking West Africa. Ivory Coast founded the state-run Universite Virtuelle de Cote d’Ivoire four years ago. “An outstanding institution,” said Stromeyer. “It had the advantage of being able to learn from the mistakes of others.”

High demand in African countries

Many employers still believe that online studies are worth less than degrees that require a physical presence. “They believe that the courses are shorter and that less content is conveyed,” said Stromeyer. “This is not true. The need for e-learning is great in Africa, where an above-average number of young people live. Traditional universities and student accommodation are often overcrowded.” Stromeyer recommended a mixture of online and attendance studies, since young people also have the need to socialize and be part of a community.

The main thing is to gather in-depth information about online courses and providers, Tony Carr pointed out. An online university can be located anywhere, and can circumvent the national accreditation system. Experts recommend asking precisely which degree can be obtained and whether it is recognized in your own country or abroad.

 

For more articles and blog posts about adult learning, andragogy, business training, course design, CPD Continuing Professional Development, e-learning in higher education, ID Instructional Design, international students, MOOCs, Online Education, Pedagogy and Program Design, click through.

 

Soft Skills for Work and Employment

Soft skills for work and employment to complement technical skills have been recently highlighted, again, by a Deloitte Australia media release, following is a summary.

Soft skills for work and employment have been recently highlighted, again, by a Deloitte media release.

Soft Skills for Work (Image copyright Pexels)

 

While the future of work is human, Australia faces a major skills crisis – The right response can deliver a $36 billion economic bonus

12 June 2019: With skills increasingly becoming the job currency of the future, a new Deloitte report finds that the future of work has a very human face. Yet Australia is challenged by a worsening skills shortage that requires an urgent response from business leaders and policy makers.

The path to prosperity: Why the future of work is human, the latest report in the firm’s Building the Lucky Country series:

  • Dispels some commonly held myths around the future of work
  • Uncovers some big shifts in the skills that will be needed by the jobs of the future
  • Reveals that many key skills are already in shortage – and the national skills deficit is set to grow to 29 million by 2030
  • Recommends that businesses embrace, and invest in, on-the-job learning and skills enhancement
  • Finds that getting Australia’s approach to the future of work right could deliver a $36 billion national prosperity dividend.

 

Employment Myths busted

The report dispels three myths that tend to dominate discussions around the future of work.

Myth 1: Robots will take the jobs. Technology-driven change is accelerating around the world, yet unemployment is close to record lows, including in Australia (where it’s around the lowest since 2011).

Myth 2: People will have lots of jobs over their careers. Despite horror headlines, work is becoming more secure, not less, and Australians are staying in their jobs longer than ever.

Myth 3: People will work anywhere but the office. The office isn’t going away any time soon, and city CBDs will remain a focal point for workers.

 

The big skills shift ahead: from hands…to heads…to hearts

 

“That today’s jobs are increasingly likely to require cognitive skills of the head rather than the manual skills of the hands won’t be a surprise,” Rumbens said. “But there’s another factor at play. Employment has been growing fastest among less routine jobs, because these are the ones that are hardest to automate.”

More than 80% of the jobs created between now and 2030 will be for knowledge workers, and two-thirds of jobs will be strongly reliant on soft skills.

 

Critical skills and the multi-million gap

 

As work shifts to skills of the heart, Rumbens said the research reveals that Australia already faces skills shortages across a range of key areas critical to the future of work.

“These new trends are happening so fast they’re catching workers, businesses and governments by surprise,” Rumbens said.

At the start of this decade, the typical worker lacked 1.2 of the critical skills needed by employers seeking to fill a given position. Today, the average worker is missing nearly two of the 18 critical skills advertised for a job, equating to 23 million skills shortages across the economy.

 

The business response?

 

Rumbens said that getting ahead of the game will require concerted action.

The report includes a series of checkpoints business leaders and policy makers, can use to inform, and drive action. These include:

  • Identify the human value – Identify which jobs can be automated, outsourced to technology such as AI, and which are uniquely human. Use technology to improve efficiency, and increase the bounds of what’s possible.
  • Forecast future skills needs – Understand the skills, knowledge, abilities and personal characteristics of your employees.
  • Re-train, re-skill, and re-deploy – People represent competitive advantage. Consider alternatives to redundancy such as re-training, re-skilling or re-deploying as options to support existing workers reach for new opportunities.
  • Involve people – The people who do the work are often the best placed to identify the skills they require to succeed. Find ways to involve employees in the design and implementation of learning programs.
  • Talk about technology honestly – Engage in an honest dialogue about the impacts of technology to support staff and generate new ideas for managing change.
  • Manage the robots – Introduce digital governance roles to evaluate the ethics of AI and machine learning, alongside existing frameworks.
  • Use mentoring and apprenticeships – Micro-credentialing holds the key to unlocking the value of emerging job skills, while apprenticeship models are re-emerging as an effective way for business to develop a future-ready workforce.
  • Recruit and develop social and creative skills – Recognise and reward social skills such as empathy, judgement, and collaboration when recruiting and developing workers.

 

For more articles and blogs about soft skills and adult learning click through.

 

University Education – Student Teacher Tutors or Professors?

Interesting article from The Conversation regarding university tutorial teaching or tutoring quality, students or academics?  The glib answer would be neither form of pedagogy, in fact ‘andragogy’ for adult learners shows that many should be learning together as students, not through teacher centred direction.

Can students teach as well as professors?

Student Tutorial Teachers or Professors? (Copyright image Pexels)

Research shows students are as good as professors in tutorial teaching

February 19, 2019 5.23pm AEDT

Professors and graduate students are at opposite ends of the university hierarchy in terms of experience, qualifications and pay. But at many universities, both do the same job: they teach tutorials offered in parallel with lectures.

Our research explores whether it makes sense for professors to teach tutorials – and we found it doesn’t. They are no more effective as tutorial instructors than students.

This finding implies that universities can reduce costs or free up professors’ time by asking students to teach more tutorials.

Measuring instructors’ effectiveness

We conducted a survey about tutorial instruction in OECD universities. Our results show that tutorials are used in 63% of OECD universities. At 25% of these institutions, tutorials are taught by students, 29% by professors and 46% by a mixture of the two.

Using professors to teach small groups is expensive, and reducing costs is a central concern given the increases in tuition fees and student debt.

We have studied the costs and benefits of using tutorial instructors with different academic ranks, using data from a Dutch business school that offers four key features. First, tutorials are taught by a wide range of instructors, ranging from bachelor’s students to full professors. Second, the school’s dataset is large enough (we observe more than 12,000 students) to give us enough statistical power to detect even small differences between instructors.

Third, at this business school students are randomly assigned to instructors of different academic ranks, creating a perfect experiment for seeing whether academic rank matters. Finally, we were able to supplement these already excellent data with measures of students’ satisfaction with the course, and students’ earnings and job satisfaction after graduation, for some of these students. This is important since instructors might matter in many ways and we need to cast a wide net to capture a range of student outcomes.

Students just as effective

Overall, our results show that lower-ranked instructors teach tutorials as effectively as higher-ranked ones. The most effective instructors – postdoctoral researchers – increase students grades by less than 0.02 points on a 10-point grade scale compared with student instructors. The differences between all other instructor types, from student instructor and full professor, is smaller than that.

Full professors are also no better than student instructors in improving students’ grades in the next related course or job satisfaction and earnings after graduation. We do, however, find that higher-ranked instructors achieve somewhat better course evaluations, but these differences are small.

These findings are counter-intuitive. Yet they are consistent with the general findings in primary and secondary education that formal education does a poor job at predicting who teaches well.

What could be the reason why all the extra qualification and experience of professors does not translate into better results for their students? The content of tutorials might be adjusted in a way that students can easily teach them. Further, lower-ranked instructors may compensate for their lack of experience by being better able to relate to students and being more motivated.

Key implication

The implications of our findings are obvious. Universities can free up resources by not asking their most expensive staff to do a job that students can do equally well. We show that the business school we study can reduce the overall wages they pay to tutorial instructors by 50% if they only employ student instructors.

There are, of course, reasons why universities might not want to exclusively rely on student instructors. Students might not be able to teach some more technically advanced master’s courses. There might be some research-inactive but tenured professors whose most valuable use of time is tutorial teaching. And, as with other research that rely on data from one institution, future studies need to show whether our results hold in other universities as well.

But even if these studies uncover some benefits to students of being taught by a professor, we would be surprised if these are worth the extra costs.’

 

Unclear what is quality teaching and learning? Higher education or universities put great importance upon narrow and high-level specialised knowledge exemplified by a doctorate, i.e. content or subject matter expert. Further, the vocational Certificate IV of Training & Assessment TAE40116 is included on many job descriptions as a desirable teaching qualification and meanwhile ‘real world’ experience can be ignored by institutions and/or embellished by the beholder (unlike the ID points system, all factors are not taken into account).

Related issues here, theory of teaching and learning, pedagogy (for children) is cited but for adults we should be speaking about andragogy.  Andragogy of adult education focuses upon adults’ need for knowledge, motivation, willingness, experience, self-direction and task-based learning.

Good instructional or learning design for adult centred learning:

  • broad and deep needs analysis based on learners’ knowledge, expertise and real skill gaps
  • motivated when they have input and some control over learning, activities and outcomes
  • participate in learner centred activities, interaction and social learning
  • opportunities to contribute knowledge, expertise and reflect on their business practice
  • contribution to and management of learning activities through tasks and problem solving; post course too.

A more complete qualification is the UK Cambridge RSA CELTA or TEFLA, especially behavioural theories fitting ‘andragogy’, including teaching skills, and dealing with significant numbers of adult students for whom English is not their first language.

Another issue to emerge has been that of ‘ID Instructional Design’ on behalf of university teachers, but not based upon subject matter or teach/learning skills (when ID is implicit for any competent teacher).

Finally, explaining in terms of cost (cutting or savings) may seem mercenary when high fees are now the norm for most students.

 

University Graduate Employment

There is much concern about the employment prospects of school and university graduates and the following article highlights some concerns and points on reasons including high school career counselling, parents, industry, universities and back grounded by ignorance of skills in demand.

One could add that societal attitudes and knowledge about science, maths or data and digital are low in Australian elites, meanwhile working age population aka baby boomers is in transition and meanwhile, many low level positions require university degrees as a minimum requirement.

Are there too many university graduates in the wrong disciplines with few employment opportunities?

Too Many University Graduates? (Image copyright Pexels)

Who’s really to blame for too many unwanted graduates?

By Tony Featherstone

February 7, 2019 — 12.01am

Why do thousands of young Australians enrol in the wrong university degree each year and overlook in-demand professions that are screaming for graduates.

In engineering generally, about 10,000 students graduate at our universities each year and about 16,000 engineers arrive here annually from overseas, according to Engineers Australia analysis. There would be a massive engineering shortfall without skilled migration.

It’s crazy that so few Australian students study software engineering, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and other emerging fields, relative to industry demand, yet there is a growing surplus of graduates in the arts, journalism, law and other fields with fewer jobs.

The obvious culprit is universities. They have fanned a graduate glut – and a generation of students with high debt and diminished job prospects – by accepting more students into fields that already oversupplied….

….Industry, schools and students are part of the problem. Business complains about not enough graduates being developed in a new area, yet runs a mile when it has to fund university research or co-develop teaching courses. It’s easier to outsources graduate training to universities, take no risk and let taxpayers co-fund the learning. Then, whinge about universities.

Schools, too, can do more to encourage students to pursue in-demand occupations. I don’t know enough about career counselling at schools to form an opinion, but something must be wrong if so many students enrol in degrees that have terrible job prospects.

Perhaps school curriculums are not sufficiently aligned with the needs of universities. Industry berates universities for not producing enough graduates in areas with skill shortages, yet schools might not be producing enough students with the skill and passion to do engineering and similar courses at university.

Again, that’s changing as more boys and girls study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at school. But change is slow and off a low base – engineering, for example, has been crying out for more students, particularly women, for years.

Then there’s students and parents. We tell our kids to follow their passion when choosing a career: think with your heart rather than your head about a degree; take a year or two off for travel before university; chop and change degrees if you don’t like them.

That’s reckless advice. I’m not saying students should enrol in degrees they have low aptitude for, or will make them miserable. They must have an inclination, either natural or an ability to develop one, in any field to succeed in the long run.’

 

For more blogs and articles about higher education teaching, work skills, digital technology and science literacy click through.