TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.
Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.
Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.
As we are nearing the World Learning Summit June 14th – 16th; a few thoughts on how technology impacts on education and learning. We are all familiar with the debate on Massive Open Online Courses, and the history of MOOCs ascending, subsequent worries, commercialisation issues and more. We are familiar with the accelerating research and exploration on “flipped classroom”, and much more.
But it still seems as if the way educational institutions and education research approaches the spectre of new learning forms, lacks a certain scope: What C.Wright Mills once dubbed “the sociological imagination”? Education´s digital future concerns much more than the emergence of scaling technologies, and much more than pedagogical adaptation to media ubiquity. 1) Students learn differently these days, as media habits and access to information alters the very notion of “studying”. 2) Relations to educators are changing. 3) Educators face new uncertainties. 4) Institutions are adapting, and new institutions emerge. 5) Social media are becoming integral parts of how education institutions present themselves – the very fact that Facebook is becoming a “must have” tool simply because your employer uses it for informational purposes, seems more than a little odd.
The list continues: 6) What we need to know is another question, equally important to “how we need to know”. 7) As educators, we may be seeking support systems and not finding them. 7) Around the world, the majority of students are far from well equipped to master the cultures of technology. Broadband is neither a fact of life, nor a human right, as much as it is a scarcity. 8) Transnational corporations are embedding themselves in educational life much like transnational broadcasting once became integrated in family life, with radio shows and TV shows for every taste and societal segment.
So what are the big issues? The future of learning and education is certainly not a question of effective pedagogy, or understanding how learning collaboration occurs in a classroom. It is that, too. But at the heart of the matter, one might argue that we still find the questions once raised by Marshall McLuhan and Harold Innis: Technologies are extensions of ourselves, altering individual being in the world and institutional organisation of society.
So let us not forget the deeper issues of cultural transformation.
We are extremely happy to announce that Peter Jenner will be joining us for World Learning Summit 2016. A great speaker and a friend to the University of Agder, Peter is a key international voice on issues relating to the impact of the Internet on the music industry. For many years the manager of Pink Floyd, Peter also holds degrees from Cambridge University and has taught at London School of Economics.
Besides managing Pink Floyd, Peter also found time to manage Ian Dury, Billy Bragg, T Rex and The Clash – to name some. He put up a number of gratis concerts in Hyde Park in London, including the 1969 Hyde Park Rolling Stones concert.
We´ve met with Peter Jenner on several occasions before, and we are convinced that his insights into the cultural industries in the age of digital media will add valuable dimensions to our talks about the current technology-driven changes taking place in education and learning. In short: What happened in the music industry, happened in film and the media industry generally. The bottom fell out of the financial model, for better or for worse. New patterns of use emerged. New players like iTunes and Spotify changed the way music is distributed. Behind it is a much greater cultural shift. Peter is a listener, and also a strong voice – caring deeply about the future of creative work in the face of globalising technology and monopolizing dynamics of giant transnational corporations.
Come to World Learning Summit in 2016 to hear him! This will be very good.
It gives us great pleasure to announce the headpilot for the EdTech workshop at the June summit. Like in 2013, the workshop will be coached by Eilif Trondsen. Eilif has been with us for our conferences and workshops since 2010. Few in the Nordic region knows Silicon Valley and the international scene for the EdTech industry better than he does. For about 40 years he´s been living and working there, with a particular eye on the “Nordics”. Because of this, Eilif adds a dimension to our workshops that few if anyone else could.
In recent months Eilif has been working with us on a project to map the Nordic EdTech industry, a study based on our pilot project from 2012 and 2013. This time, people have been engaged in the mapping in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. A collaboration with the EdTech community in Oslo, we can look forward to some interesting findings from that study – and hopefully a few of the participans also finding their way to our June summit?
A range of new partners have come recently in to share in building the World Learning Summit community and event program. As we begin the countdown, we´re happy to have the main newspaper in Norway Aftenposten with us. The city of Kristiansand and the University of Agder have long since added their efforts to ours, but more recently we partnered with several of the innovation clusters in the region. Adding to the already established partnership with the EdTech community in the capitol of Oslo, this now gives us a hugely interesting basis for the coming discussions.
Still working on the Nordic connections. We´ll be back with more on this soon.
The summit workshop program is also shaping up. Take a look.