#BectaX took a fresh look at new technologies and schools by bringing together social media experts and teachers, workshopping a range of possible ways of using new technology to develop “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.”
As I commented in my previous post, part of the outcomes looked for from #BectaX were policy recommendations. Well I identified three, which may not be part of any Party Manifesto’s, but could be part of the post-election debate. Labour have just published their Lemon-Jelly inspired Manifesto cover (pdf) which manages that difficult trick of looking like a cross between a British Rail poster for the Chiltern’s in the 1930s and heroic Soviet Realism from the same time, but without the workers. I guess that is a graphically accurate summary of their policy achievements after 13 years, so fair enough. The tick-box driven design lets us know we can expect even less from more of the same. However there are three real issues we can pick up on from #BectaX; Infrastructure, Collaboration & Participation.
In response to the growing focus on e-safety issues I mentioned that I had been part of a team that had developed a (rejected) “Facebook for learning” for the DfES in 2003. This could still be delivered and would solve many of the current e-safety (and other) concerns. A tweet picked up on by Ewan Macintosh at #BectaX suggested that “we” didn’t want government building technology. As this was an audience with several digital media entrepreneurs this is an understandable, if limited perspective. My point was that if e-safety is the single most important issue facing the adoption of social media for learning then let’s deal with it now and here is an answer. However there is also a deeper point here; in advanced democracies Government’s have a role in building the infrastructure necessary for its citizens to engage in socially productive work. And, however reluctant the UK government is to recognise it in the 21st Century, Nation-State 2.0 requires the “web as a platform” to function. Consequently government, in whatever policy formulation is appropriate, should be encouraging; two-way world-standard broadband, guaranteed connectivity, security and authentication, and digital (and social) inclusion. Amongst other possibilities a “Facebook for learning”, with secure Data Protection, could be built by British software houses and would then provide a platform for the development of relevant further apps by new media companies. It would also allow a learner-centred approach to be supported by new technology rather than being crushed by it.
Matthew Engel’s recent instructive book Eleven Minutes Late is an anatomy of 170 years of relentless government ignorance in building the infrastructure of the distribution networks necessary to enable the economic activity in the industrial society. Well, we had the luxury of leading the world then, we don’t have that advantage now. We can’t afford to continue failing to understand how to build the infrastructure for a digital society. Even less so now that we bet the House on the banks.
The common ground reached by all groups at #BectaX was the “Learning is Delicious” Schoogle model which struck me as being a “FERL 2.0” solution. That is a Community of Practice model working on the principle that practitioners willingly shared resources and skills (as well as classroom tips). FERL was driven by the roll out of VLE’s to FE Colleges in 1998 and by the training of one ILT Champion per college. JISC recently reported on how widely this is still being serviced after 12 years in their report Working in Partnership (pdf). A key factor in making it work as been the CHAMPS JISC mail list (p17). The FERL model derives from an earlier form of e-learning, pre-social media, where learning resources were shared. Indeed the focus of FERL was its “resource exchange” model. Learning is Delicious would take a more tagging-based approach, perhaps more in tune with an OER (Open Educational Resources) world than the Learning Objects world of FERL; more sequence than object perhaps. But in both cases resources need tagging, scaffolding and its process-use described. And in both cases you invest in the professionalism of the teachers to identify, develop and share learning resources that reflect a whole range of learning strategies and resource ecologies. Greater collaboration, the logical way to use social media tools for learning, requires a different Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD), as well as a different learning culture within educational institutions.
In 1998 I was part of a team that created TaLENT (Teaching and Learning with Educational Networks) which built a Community of Practice resource focussed around Lewisham schools using the £400 per teacher the government provided to retrain each teacher in Internet (NGfL) use. The resource is still used, unlike the National Grid for Learning which has evolved into RBCs and Regional Grids, as “e-learning” models have evolved. The point is that in 1997 the shift in technology use to Web 1.0 prompted the government to invest in Teacher CPD. I would argue that it now needs to invest in a Web 2.0 CPD policy as well. And I think new social media companies are ready to provide this, unlike the experiment in business involvement through PPP that marred the first round of web-focussed Teacher CPD.
Whilst a Web 2.0 CPD strategy from government would be welcome it would only cover part of the learning affordances offered by new technology and social media. A key reason for this is that government, policy wonks and senior academics see new technology and social media as merely being a part of a subset of education, that is technology might help institutions to meet existing success targets. Todays JISC/Guardian Roundtable (13/04/10) simple sees the role of technology as providing better IAG about existing learning offers. In schools, league table success is the only criteria that matters concerning educational success and so mitigates against schools making the transition to new social media supported modes of learning, such as the Open Context Model of Learning we advocate. In FE the AoC Beacon awards not untypically go to Colleges who were “failing” three years earlier who then, with a degree of desperation, often use new technology to turn their performance around, See Eccles College for example. So “traditional” educational success is a key barrier in this debate.
I would argue that we need to think of new technology and social media for learning as representing a “superset” of the educational model we now have, as we can do so much more with them. Not just the delivery of curricula but supporting a range of social learning processes enabling the creation of new modes of learning and indeed also changing the way in which we view the creation of knowledge; which is what we need in the Knowledge Economy we are allegedly preparing pupils for.
So the major Policy consequences of #BectaX?
1) Infrastructure; create safe learning platforms which provide learner-centred security and authentication with easy integration with social platforms and tools of choice. It should also be an enabling platform stimulating entrepreneurial economic activity in this sector. You should be able to buy learning apps and tools that enable teachers and new media companies to work and learn together in order to develop infrastructure further. Educational technologies should move beyond an eyeball model of value to a Public Service model measured by networked Public Value (nPV – see Architecture of Participation). They should be designed to support the development of networked learning services as part of a shake-up of our learning institutions. To some extent this is what is envisaged in the EU educational targets for i2010 and i2015.
2) Collaboration; design for a social-media enabled Community of Practice approach to teaching and learning and offer a Web 2.0 CPD programme for all teachers (crowd-sourced through #BectaX?) instead of the £10,000 “golden handcuffs” offered today by Labour. (I notice the Conservatives are also offering “golden handcuffs” but to parents, so as always in Manifestos teaching and learning are not addressed). Actually make the £10,000 a CPD entitlement to be drawn down at any time during a teachers professional life; if you made it £1,000 each you could fund “Schoogle” out of that. Oh yeah, and re-professionalise teachers and TRUST them; learners too.
3) Participation; Recognise that we are in the “Beyond The Classroom” phase of education (which can also help with Community Capacity building) and that new technology and social media represent a superset of education and not a subset. Most of all recognise that new technology and social media can transform education and allow their strengths to be absorbed, rather than fighting both their perceived and real weaknesses. Oh yeah and listen to Adora Spitvak when she explains “What Adults can learn from kids“
In a Tweet (fredgarnett); “Infrastructure that enables, collaboration as CPD, participation that transforms – bit.ly/dlt6E6”