Well organised, chaotic, frustrating, fascinating, optimistic and dynamic event, which allowed for policy, research, comment, argument and debate to speed-date each other in a twitterfall of networking, finally topped off with a learner whisper that roared with youthful wisdom and eloquence from the very edge of Skype, thanks to the kids from Cramlington.
Education in schools is hemmed in and shut down by the political constraints that come from the combination of their in-loco parentis responsibilities and the artificial demands developed by the current managerial target culture that denudes teachers of their professionalism. Teachers have to both manage kids and meet targets for which the rewards are elsewhere. Learning, motivation, identity and values get lost in the current mix, which is why trying to do something stimulating relating to schools can be so damned frustrating.
So three cheers for just-b the punning n’btweenies who made the event happen. What event? Well, #BectaX; tag line “a growing community of movers and shakers from education and digital media collaboratively (designing) solutions to identify how education might evolve in a connected world.” And to be fair they outlined a model by which we might achieve that.
In the morning of March 31st we were provided with a series of presentations which slowly outed the usual concern which dominates any learning and technology event in the UK; e-safety. Yep, the reason we will retain our ninteenth-century education system is that we have been cyber-bullied into keeping it; or terrified into inertia. Ewan Macintosh says “open it up” and I agree, but the real filters are in our minds. A couple of the morning presentations, Annette France Headteacher from Chipping Camden, and the storytelling librarian Nicola McNee, were based on the kind of pragmatic optimism which you need to move beyond technophobia. They were fulsomely rewarded with cascading twitterfalls (wordle here). Luckily we were then put into a high-tempo speed-dating networking event, where I discovered that French language learning is a major blog topic, and also how diverse we were as a group. Except…
The Whisper that Roared
No school kids were there, but 14 of the 15 schools who had agreed to carry out whatever we came up with (!) in the afternoon pitch, were online in the background from their schools, skyped into the hype perhaps, but their participation was merely whispered, until…
After lunch it all picked up and the schools, especially BXNE1, were invited into the conversation. I’m not a big fan of Learner Voice, because I think it usually occurs on a “how was that for you” basis in education and I am more interested in developing co-creation models of learning. However, following a twitterstorm, dialogue broke out in the afternoon under Ewan. Cramlington stayed with us, answering our questions, until the very end at 6pm. Brilliant; hanging in there, the very definition of hope. A big shout out, then to BXNE1…
Pitch and Put into action
What happened in the afternoon was that attendees blue-skyed the 5 collaboratively generated questions concerning; teachers rewards, access, platforms, industry partnerships and responsive frameworks. And then something really interesting happened, we began to move away from the somewhat fearful debates of the morning into something way more hopeful. The 5 multi-variate Pitchs developed by teams in response pretty much offered the same answer whatever questioned was addressed; a coincidence of motivations as the Learner-Generated Contexts Group put it. There was a clear Spark(.com) as the Schoool, Schoogle and LearnMeet proposals argued that Learning is Delicious, as far as this pretty fearless bunch is concerned. Give us tools, tags, collaboration, time to experiment, stories, and we will develop collaborative learning beyond classroom constraints. In a Becta context it felt a bit like FERL 2.0, the community of practice, resource exchange foolishly absorbed into the Excellence Gateway, but yesterday the platform-based sharing of a love of learning seemed like the very best kind of practice. My view is that this is a model of collaborative learning that could eventually produce a collaborative society.
A Coincidence of Motivations!
With my Learner-Generated Contexts hat on this looks exactly like the kind of Coincidence of Motivations that we argue is how you create learner-centred learning and educational change. You need to develop a sound agreement concerning the purpose of learning (as Mike Wesch puts it) and, fortunately, this emerged and gathered strength in the pitch session; collaborative learning supported by appropriate tools. The kids pointed out that they were achieving some of this already using iGoogle as a resource aggregator. They whimsically added that they could even “teach a horse technology.”
So collaboration, negotiation, partnership, tools (and new skills) all present and correct in the model pitched to us. Some of the scaffolding, learning, pedagogy and andragogy would still need to be developed to make the most of such a collaborative approach, but the motivation to develop learner-centred learning was clearly evident. This looked something like the future we have been talking about with “learner-generated contexts.”
However from a Learner-Generated Contexts perspective the pay-off really happens if you can get also organisations to change their business processes in response to learning-generated change, what we call “agile configurations,” and put learning at the centre of organisational purpose as well. This might be achieved with responsive networked partnerships and institutional clusters for example. That wasn’t really addressed at#BectaX, not really the brief, but it is what we need if we are going to develop an education system where learning happens “because of” the system rather than despite it, as at present. This needs to be addressed in policy in some detail, but #BectaX could still be the basis of a strand of exciting learning developments across the country. To quote a ReTweet, the participative Knowledge Democracy looks like it is back on the agenda again…
Do What YooDoo safe
A lot of talk at #BectaX concerned safety and issues with Facebook and YouTube being blocked. I forgot to mention that there is a safe YouTube for schools called YooDoo. Built by mediacitizens and run by the kids in Peckham; they made a film called the Future of Learning here.