WLS 2022 PRE-SUMMIT
THE FUTURE IN EDUCATION
10 PRE-SUMMIT themes to REFLECT ON
At the pre-summit we will be outlining the topical areas for the fall webinar event that in sum represent World Learning Summit 2020.
The May 25th event will be a conversation including the themes below but not limited to them. These themes are intended to get that sociological imagination going.
Education´s digital future is very much also a question of education´s power to transform society.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE COMMUNICAtion?
1 Communication is at the heart of modern, global and networked society. And yet, communication is also a monopolised industry, raising doubts about our ways and means of cultivating truth, trust, talent and tolerance in the 21st Century. While communication is not a singular “sustainable development goal” — SDG — in the current UN framework, it is key to many of the other SDGs. Accordingly we might ask: How do we conceptualise sustainable communication and how does it relate to global perspectives on higher education? If the student generations no longer believe in the future – where are we?
Fake news and social media
6 Since Ethan Zuckerman and Andrew Keene — among others — began to talk about “filter bubbles” several decades ago, we have seen the meteoric rise of social media like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok and many others. Howard Rheingold popularised the idea of “social media” in his 1994 book Virtual Community. Social media certainly builds communities, but what kind and with what impact? What kind of an Internet do we want? “Fake news” and extremism is certainly not a recent phenomenon, but it would be naive to not think of contemporary media ubiquity as a deep challenge for education.
Lack of trust in government and democracies
2 In 1990 we talked of a “new world order” where democracy was on the rise around the world. 30 years later we do not. In 2022 we are living through a war in Europe which in one sense is a witness to how propaganda and state censorship is at all possible, and on the other hand how a country under siege captures the global imaginations of people concerned with the future prospects of democracy. Extremism is on the rise in the Western world. Research literature and policy papers point to the failure of current governmental institutions to address and adequately solve contemporary crises: Climate crisis, mobility and refugee crises, hunger, disasters and civil wars: Inconvenient truths are not difficult to spot, but how do we reflect on these matters as concerned educators? How should we think about this erosion of trust in relation to challenges in higher education? The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer concludes that the rise of social media, mounting political failure to solve crises, and societal fears riding a maverick wave in public opinion – combine to render the bleakest numbers ever recorded in this annual trust survey.
Media literacy as an SDG
7 MEDIA LITERACY REFERS TO our capacity for deciphering contents, genres, formats and conventions in our daily engagement with information and entertainment flows. Three concerns come on the horizon: First, whether we at all have access to information and entertainment? Second, what information and entertainment we have access to? Third, our social contexts for making sense of it? Media literacy has been on the UN agenda since the 1970´s debates concerning a New world information and communication order, but where and how does the concern with media flows connect with media literacy as an aspect of global higher education? In short, what questions are on that horizon? As traditional news outlets in some regions of the world cease to play the editorial role they once did play, what functions are there to maintain verification and fact-checking? With television and social media being the key sources of information for a great many people, how does one cultivate the required complexity of of knowledge and insight necessary for citizens to be informed citizens?
Education´s Future relevance
3 Generalizing a common view on global higher education is close to impossible and yet we are called on to collaborate, exploring modes of networking, student mobility and the advance ment of education from the point of view that education matters. In some countries tuition fees are prohibitively high. In other countries a growing number of young people question the role and need of higher education. A common feature in research-based higher education is the tendency to de-emphasise the purpose of education and disproportionately emphasize citation scores, publication ranks and other factors not necessarily linked to our capacity for delivering education that matters – education that solve problems.
Collective memory in an age of strife
8 “Culture wars” rage in the US. Questions of evolution and creation now on the US education agenda might surprise a European. Yet, we have our own culture wars: East, West, North, and South are very much an aspect of societal transitions tearing at the European idea. Culture wars rage in other parts of the world: How long – really – since the genocide in Rwanda? Wars in the Balkans? On the one hand we seek to mold our understanding of the present with an eye to the future, deploying narratives of the past in order to do that. On the other hand, our narratives of the past are also an aspect of competing world views. How do we cultivate tradition, literature, and values in a mediatized age?
Continued COVID conCERNS
4 While COVID-19 no longer rages like a pandemic in some part s of the world, it still does in others and will for some time to come. Student and staff mobility will continue to suffer from it. The long-term impacts are profound. Our head-on meeting with education technology rendered the term “shock digitalisation” which certainly is no neutral term. In a manner of speaking the future of education needs to address the continued long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the level of all points being made in this agenda review. WLS has addressed the COVID pandemic two years in a row already. Why do this one more time? Several reasons come to mind: First, updating the network on current statuses has value on its own. Secondly, countries and institutions choose different ways out of the pandemic just as they choose differently on how to handle it. Updating on status is in short of importance in terms of pointing forward. And finally, it seems to be a commonly held idea that most people prefer “face to face” learning interactions over online alternatives. That presumes on the one hand that F2F is an option and on the other hand that we have adequate research results to conclude — and we may just be a bit early on that account? Current research within a range of fields would seem to suggest a continued dialog on the paradoxes involved
EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY AFTER SILICON VALLEY
9 Since the 1990´s and the coming of the personal computer, companies like Apple and later Google have made learning and education cornerstones of their societal engagement and growth. Education Technology is everywhere, at all levels in learning institutions. As “EdTech” matures, so does the response of educational institutions. Concerns with open access and “free flow of education” collide with institutional concerns about ownership, privacy, longtime information storage and access. While information is open and available on social media, on YouTube, TedTalks and a very wide range of platforms, educators are not necessarily free to use them. Universities are rightly concerned with privacy, leading also to a process of “vetting” technologies, prioritising and by default limiting entrepreneurship and innovation. Platforms like Google and Facebook/Meta have clearly contributed to a mounting skepticism in Europe concerning US legal frameworks for the protection of privacy and absence of state surveillance. And yet, no company is as embedded in many Nordic Universities as Microsoft: A near monopoly. A US EdTech giant. Structuring our work. Certainly a paradox to be discussed.
EDUCATING FOR PEACE
5 Peace research was institutionalized as a research field in the 1950´s, by scholars such as Kenneth Boulding and Johan Galtung, dealing since then not so much with the question of peacer as with questions of conflict and conflict resolution. If one were to think of the concept of “peace” not only as a research theme and not only as a topic for particular courses or programs, but as a core idea running through the entire framework of the UN sustainable development goals; what would one have? Most certainly, the challenge of education for peace is a different challenge in philosophy compared to that of engineering, but that fact is no reason not to raise the challenge of contemporary needs to revitalise the idea of peace as the core purpose in the UN framework.
WLS AGENDA 2022: TRUTH, TRUST, TALENT AND TOLERANCE
X World Learning Summit 2022 is perhaps the smallest and most interactive event we have ever held. The invitation going out is an invitation to dialog, updating on the year past and collaboration in the planning and production of a book volume reflecting the main theme of the summit. During two days of conversations we will seek to outline themes for chapters, in the context of an evolving understanding: The four T´s is an apt point of departure: A common denominator in the challenge we will explore together: The future of higher education is inseparable from how we as educators engage with new learning generations in fostering beliefs in the future.