Interview with Dan Pontefract on the Future of Training

by  Janet Clarey

Dan Pontefract, currently Head of Learning & Collaboration in corporate sector at TELUS, talks about the the future of the training department or whether there is a future. This video was shown at the Bersin & Associates IMPACT 2011 conference.

Janet Clarey is a senior analyst for Bersin & Associates, and conducts research for their learning practice.


Interview with Koreen Olbrish on New Approaches to Learning

by  Janet Clarey

Koreen Olbrish, who founded Tandem Learning, talks about new approaches to learning including alternate reality games (ARGs) and virtual worlds. Koreen also gives three examples from recent projects she completed.. This video was shown at the Bersin & Associates IMPACT 2011 conference.

Janet Clarey is a senior analyst for Bersin & Associates, and conducts research for their learning practice.

Sea Change in Knowledge and Education

by Leslie Poston, Magnitude Media

In this post Leslie discusses the relationships between return on investment in education, college and expected employment and highlights examples of how schools are moving beyond initial adoption of social media so that

“access to knowledge in your pocket can break the institution of “school” out of the concrete, rigid shell it lives in and turn it into organic knowledge that students yearn for”

Are we moving towards plugging into the matrix and learning like Neo?

Sailing the Shift in 2012

Ships in harbour are safe, but that is not the what ships were built for. 
John Shedd

Throughout 2011, anyone who spends time online will have witnessed the increased focus on leadership in education, creative thinking, the spreading of Open Education Resources (e.g. MIT Open Course Ware ,  Open Culture, among many others) as well as the growing tide of free education, especially at post-secondary level. And of course, technology, technology, technology – in all its forms and areas of influence. Gaming in education is taken seriously as are other multimodular forms of presenting and engaging learners.

Which brings me to ask about the role of social media in education – is there a place for it? If so, why?

Let me begin by highlighting what I agree to be essential skills for today:

  • Sense-making. The ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed
  • Social intelligence. The ability to connect to others in a deep and direct way, to sense and stimulate reactions and desired interactions
  • Novel and adaptive thinking. Proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based
  • Cross-cultural competency. The ability to operate in different cultural settings
  • Computational thinking. The ability to translate vast amounts of data into abstract concepts and to understand data-based reasoning
  • New-media literacy. The ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms and to leverage these media for persuasive communication
  • Transdisciplinarity. Literacy in and ability to understand concepts across multiple disciplines
  • Design mind-set. Ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes
  • Cognitive load management. The ability to discriminate and filter information for importance and to understand how to maximize cognitive functioning using a variety of tools and techniques
  • Virtual collaboration. The ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team
More than only for an unknown distant future, these are skills which learners today need to be comfortable and confident in. It is when they are at school/college that they can practice them in  a safe,  peer-level environment. From learning how to conduct efficient and effective online searches, being able to sift through the never-ending data available, to learning how to blog and use Twitter as a collaborative learning platform, educators have the responsibility to teach these skills, not only to motivate and engage learners, but to help prepare them for their futures.
painting of girl with blonde hair in pink dress, on grey stoneI have frequently been confronted with the time-consuming argument that not all learners need to learn about social media and that  “successful education” is really about passing exams.
Although I may understand this limited view of education (after all, it is an opinion among many other attitudes and approaches to education), it has certainly never been one that I share or practice. Not all skills may necessarily be labelled as “21st Century Learning Skills” – collaborative learning is how humans learn, after all. Throughout my life in classrooms and staffrooms, collaborating in teams, with partners, with the local community,  has always taken place. What is different today is how much broader and wider these collaborations can effectively occur. From the above list, sense-making, social intelligence and adapting to new ways of thinking are also not unique to “21st Century Learning”. They have always been required as they are inherent features of what it means to learn.

An Interview with Jay Cross on Changes in Learning & Development

by  Janet Clarey

Jay Cross, Internet Time Alliance, talks about the changing workplace and workforce and supporting employees’ fundamental ability to learn. This video was shown at the Bersin & Associates IMPACT 2011 conference.

Janet Clarey is a senior analyst for Bersin & Associates, and conducts research for their learning practice.

What happens when pedagogical agents are off-task?

by George Veletsianos

Social and non-task interactions are often recognized as a valuable part of the learning experience. Talk over football, community events, or local news for example, may enable the development of positive instructor-learner relationships and a relaxed learning atmosphere. Non-task aspects of learning however have received limited attention in the education literature. Morgan-Fleming, Burley, and Price (2003) argue that this is the result of an implicit assumption that no pedagogical benefits are derived from non-task behavior, hence the reduction of off-task activities in schools such as recess time. This issue has received limited attention in the pedagogical agent literature as well. What happens when a virtual character designed to help a student learn about a topic, introduces off-task comments to a lesson? What happens when a virtual instructor mentions current events? How do learners respond?

These are the issues that I am investigating in a paper published in the current issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior, as part of my research on the experiences of students who interact with virtual instructors and pedagogical agents. The abstract, citation, and link to the full paper appear below:

In this paper, I investigate the impact of non-task pedagogical agent behavior on learning outcomes, perceptions of agents’ interaction ability, and learner experiences. While quasi-experimental results indicate that while the addition of non-task comments to an on-task tutorial may increase learning and perceptions of the agent’s ability to interact with learners, this increase is not statistically significant. Further addition of non-task comments however, harms learning and perceptions of the agent’s ability to interact with learners in statistically significant ways. Qualitative results reveal that on-task interactions are efficient but impersonal, while non-task interactions were memorable, but distracting. Implications include the potential for non-task interactions to create an uncanny valley effect for agent behavior.

Veletsianos, G. (2012). How do Learners Respond to Pedagogical Agents that Deliver Social-oriented Non-task Messages? Impact on Student Learning, Perceptions, and ExperiencesComputers in Human Behavior, 28(1), 275-283.

Why Edtech, Why Now, and How It Will Change Public Education Forever – Eventually

by Jack West

Unmet Expectations from The Great Equalizer

The decades long attack on public education has weakened the institution enough to make it nearly indefensible in many geographic regions of the country. The once-was pride of a post-war America has suffered sustained insults from privatization advocates, and anti-tax alliances. Perhaps we have lost sight of our common cause. Maybe the absence of a formidable foe on the global stage leaves us waiting in the halls of the coliseum for too long, forcing us to turn on each other. Regardless of the cause, public education in America is nearly the shame that opponents have been calling it since the 1960’s when the system was the envy of the world.
creative commons license NicholaasB

The current sustained economic recession is the immediate cause of systematic failure. First, schools increased class sizes, cut sports and music programs, and turned off the heat at the last bell. Then came the furlough days, and the trimming of administrative positions. Now,instruction is being outsourced to unproven, and in some cases, fraudulent, online education purveyors simply because they will meet state education obligations (some of which the online education lobby has re-written themselves) for a lower cost. Hang onto these crumbling walls a high needs child population, 26% of whom now live in poverty. Let them eat Ketchup! The situation is as grim as it has been in more than half a century.

But this is America, home of Hollywood. In our stories, whenever the protagonist is beaten down and appears to be taking his last breath, rock bottom gives him the foundation he needs to spring once again to his feet.

Enter the edtech entrepreneur or edupreneur. The edupreneur is a new breed of motivated hero-genius. She is the TFA alum who spent just enough time in a classroom within a school that was more like a prison than a Utopian city on a hill to be inspired to change a system that would do that to children. He is a former Paypal, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Zynga engineer/executive who called in rich and wants to be a part of a growing movement of like-minded individuals applying the same collaborative/competitive energy to solving a problem whose solution truly has the potential to save the world. They are seasoned nonprofit executives who have joined forces with others and found a way to fund making quality educational content free to everyone. All of them come to the wire-frames with at least two things in common: they have all been to school, and they all want to make it better.

Occupy Education?
If there is anything we have to thank the machinery behind our global financial crisis for, it is the rebellion that it has spawned. While many are occupying city centers across the country, directly protesting the unequal representation purchased from congress by the entitled few, the edupreneurs are attacking one of the roots of the problem, a democracy weakened by inadequate public education. Education budget cuts in every state are forcing school systems to spend more creatively to meet the progressive (lower case ‘p’) improvement demands of NCLB. In the same way that the ‘x factor’ was perceived to be a source of the extended prosperity of the 1990′s, education leaders now hope that edtech will do the same for education achievement.

A true democracy demands an educated citizenry, a citizenry that knows when they are being ‘played’ with emotional issues like immigration and terrorism. Democracy requires a confident populace that reads, discusses, and understands when and why a government official makes a decision that weaves the last thread from the shawl of the poor into the cloak of the king. The edupreneur is a tinkerer, a problem solver. He is the one that changed how we communicate with each other. She is the one that changed how you listen to music. They are the ones that believe with the right team, anything can be done – including reclaiming our democracy.

The edupreneur is a technocrat and a meritocrat. Even those that had the advantage of attending the best schools, still had to work intelligently and diligently to achieve what they have before arriving at edtech. Their work involved solving complex algorithms, collaborating with a team of different personalities and nationalities, and even communicating with their competitors on standards that would benefit the entire field. They succeeded in their prior work because they were open minded, capable of pivoting their business model to respond to a new market or meet a new challenge, and because they were intelligent. They are idealists, and those that are engineers (which is most of them) probably appreciate the complex moral confrontation often addressed in their favorite sci fi and fantasy. The edupreneur is not satisfied with financial reward alone. She did her market research and knows that the time of return for any education business is double that of the other startups she worked on – if there is to be any significant financial reward at all.

Edupreneurs as Changemakers
This bespectacled army of once was science fair blue ribbon winners, robotics team champions, and mathletes will change how we engage with information and ideas in the school setting. They already have. Gone is the need for native software that every individual teacher must maintain themselves. Gone is the need for the ink-smudged transparency. Soon, gone will be the need for letters home because the communication between student, teacher, and guardian will be safe and ongoing. The opportunities for reconfiguring what we think of as class, teacher, and even school are boundless for the edupreneur.

few education institutions will show us what can be done with the forthcoming quiver of edtech arrows. Within a year there will be learning analytics platforms that make possible formative assessment that gives both teacher and student the ongoing feedback they need to make differentiation a reality. There will be social networks that keep teachers connected with their students wherever they are in a safe and productive environment. There will be adaptive, cloud-based mathematics instructional systems that will change the meaning of the phrase drill and kill.

The students of these few successful models may very well, finally, offer us hope that the promise of The Great Equalizer is a legitimate one. The successes of these pioneering schools, contrasted by the distinct possibility of a much larger failure of the dominant traditional institutions, will inspire the real change that must happen if we want to recover our democracy.

From the Ashes..
The likely failure of edtech to cause any significant reform in the majority of education institutions can inspire the reforms necessary to effect broad scale change. When the edupreneurs discover that their paradigm-changing inventions fail to pave the path to national excellence that they had thought it might, some will retreat in defeat. Others will seek answers.

The tenacious eduprenerurs will wonder. Why didn’t the ever-presence of formative assessment data, available to teacher, parent, and student alike, increase student test scores in inner-city Oakland? We gave it to them for free! Why didn’t the suite of multi-media mixing tools inspire students in L.A. Unified to attend more school? Why aren’t U.S. scores on the PISA moving up to join other industrialized nations? Why is the number of students pursuing post secondary education continuing to decline?

Then, some of those edupreneurs that remain in the game, having dedicated themselves to solving this national problem of giving every child a quality education, will seek answers outside of technology. And it is the collective power of this technocratic intelligentsia, that can crowdsource a protest of thousands in a few short hours, raise half a billion dollars for a minority presidential candidate, and provide the tools for a global people’s revolution against tyrany in a single spring, that will finally begin the process of changing education at its roots.

The deep solution will employ all of the edtech tools the edupreneurs will have built, but it will be much more. Meaningful education reform will require that we give up on American exceptionalism and learn from countries like Finland, Singapore, Germany, and Japan. A lasting solution to our education woes will mean changing how we recruit, train and compensate teachers. A lasting solution will mean that we embrace standards articulated by the practicing professionals themselves and not bureaucratic ad hoc committees. Perhaps most importantly, a lasting solution will mean that we make a commitment to ensuring that every child comes to school from a safe home with adequate nutrition.

We can only hope that there will be a few edtech entrepreneurs that stay the course even after this current recession ends and the recruiters begin once again to hound them day and night. If there are a few that remain, perhaps they will have allied themselves in dedication to the idea that education is not the privilege of a free world, it is the foundation of the free world. Then, perhaps they can help us #occupy education.

What’s not to MOOC?

by John Schinker

The two-week break in the #change11 MOOC has given me an opportunity to catch up a bit, and to reflect on the experience so far. It’s now sixteen weeks since the start of the course, which has included thirteen weeks of content, a week of introduction, and a two-week winter break. According to Stephen Downes, the course has 2,000 registered participants. The course web site has had 38,000 visits. There have been 1300 blog posts tracked with the #change11 tag, and there have been 2500 tweets with the same tag.

On a personal level, I’ve spent about 25 hours on the course, I’ve blogged about it four times, and I’ve tweeted about it, umm, more than once (I think).  I’ve read or consumed more than 70 posts, documents, videos, and web conferences related to the course, and I’ve commented on about 10% of them. My notes are more than 16 pages long and are summarized in the Wordle image on this post (click on it for a better view).

Mostly, I’ve kept up by reading the daily email that comes from the course, which lists the upcoming events, recent blog posts, and tweets that use the #change11 course tag. I also set up a newspaper using the #change11 course tag. This gives me an overview of the links posted via Twitter related to the Change course, all formatted as a daily newspaper. Admittedly, I haven’t always been faithful about using the tag, and I’m sure others have been doing the same thing. So the numbers cited above are probably estimates on the low side.

I’ve been trying to keep track of my level of engagement because I’m participating in a pilot project involving graduate workshop credit for MOOC participation. We’re trying to figure out how to make this authentic learning experience fit into the framework of formal continuing education workshops. Why shouldn’t work in a MOOC count toward teacher licensure renewal or salary advancement? Some would argue that participation in a MOOC is more relevant than taking a graduate workshop at a university. But the challenges are many. We have to find a way to ensure that people are really participating, that they’re really engaging with the content and other participants, and that they’re finding a way to make it relevant to their own professional lives. Plus. the regents like to see things like contact hours and some sort of tangible product that can be assessed.

In my case, then, a typical week consists of about 107 minutes of engagement. I read about 5 web resources. I take just over a page of notes. I make a comment on a blog post about every two weeks, and I post on my blog about the course roughly once a month. That’s well below my expected level of engagement, which called for about 30% more consumption of others’ content, and about double the contributions from me.

But none of this counts the related non-change11 stuff I’ve been doing. I bought and read Chris Lehmman’s new book on Web 2.0 tools and Will Richardson’s book on Personal Learning Networks. I passed them around among our administrative leadership team, and we’ve had many conversations about the future of schools. I attended a21st Century Learning summit with my superintendent, and we spent a lot of time talking about how to reinvent our successful public school to continue to meet the needs of our students. And because my professional learning network is already in tune with many of the topics in the Change11 course, the same ideas keep coming up over and over in the normal conversation flow through those networks. That happens with or without the course tag. For most, that’s just lifelong learning. It’s great that my personal professional development is so embedded in my professional life and my online identity. But in this case, because I’m trying to track it, it’s a little messy.

The challenges for me, moving forward, are to increase my level of engagement with the other MOOC participants, and to bring some of these conversations down to the local level. I need to be engaging my teachers, my administrators, and my community members in these ideas about what next generation learning looks like. I hope to use several different strategies to accomplish this. Without using the terminology and structure, we may be bringing some of the elements of the MOOC into our school district as a professional development model.

2012 is going to be an exciting year.