Thursday, October 23, 2008

Handheld learning Day 2 - the last bits I hadn't written up yet.

Laurie O'Donnell. LTS Scotland Putting Philosophy into practice

Sometimes when I sit in Edtech conferences I wonder why I'm here and I feel a bit fraudulent, but I know that when I listen to Danah Boyd and the thoughts of Laurie O' Donnell, I feel gald that I am there and ...well I am glad I came. Something inside is excited and stirred by what they say. Their energy is infectious.

Laurie's talk was simple, he presented two philosophies of education and then took questions, or as somebody behind me sat via Nintendo DS, he freestyled.

There were he said two Mindsets around education and technology and so many of his points resonated with me.

Philosophy A

Says Education is broken and can be fixed - and fixed with lots of money and technology. - I thought of the rush to install whiteboard nationwide at the end of the last century - great technology but in many cases lacked the pedagogical input from schools or LAS.

It also says innovation means Innovation which means let a thousand projects fly. This thought struck me like a smack in the mouth as in my role it is easy to get excited about projects and get caught up with future chasing, but innovation has to work for more than just one setting, but that is hard and ultimately involves not only money but some early risk taking innovators with a good deal of balls.

This Philosophy says Technology drives change - no clearly people drive change and when I reflect on my time in teaching and working in the sphere of Ed Technology, it has been those inspirational coordinators, ICT technicians and inspiring advisers and consultants that's have developed others and moved on both whole schools and in some cases groups of schools with their inspiration and leading by example. I wont mention names here, but Derrek Robertson, Ewan Macintosh, Alex Rees, Ophelia Vanderpoi, John Dabbro, Terry Freedman, Adam Collyer, Paul Harrington, John Sutton, Simon Mills and Penny Paterson are people who come to mind here are people who have had impact and caused change, perhaps without them even realising.

In this philosophy we measure success by attainment and bandwidth - perhaps too narrow a success criteria . How do we measure success then Laurie, particularly when we work in an environment where we have to measure impact and progress in quantitative levels and categories.

The Curriculum in this philosophy saysdon’t trust the teachers- lets make sure its all on paper and get teachers to work on the script - I agree we should trust our teachers more, this has been John Davitt's message for some time, though many teachers feel comfortable with the script, sometimes because it fills in gaps in their knowledge, other times because they are just too busy or at worst they don't want to have to think.

And the final facet of this philosophy is that:
Learners are the future workforce

So then Laurie presented us with an alternative view - no prizes for guessing which most of us preferred

Philosophy B

  • Education is a long term investment in the future and can not be fixed overnight

  • Technology enables supports and accelerates change – but still people drive change – people change things to make the world better – it helps enable positive changes
  • Teachers should be supported professionals –they are highly professional people who can make informed choices- teachers aren’t broken they just need support and help
  • Learners – are hopefully seen as a lot more than being a future worker
  • Curriculum is guidance rather than a script – populated with meaningful learning experiences
  • Innovation has got to be scalable and sustainable- don fund anything that can not be scaled and replicated – if this is not sustainable – its got to work across 3 thousand schools

Laurie saught to answer the questions about measuring success, when he described a recent visit to In Finland. He asked his host there how do you measure success –His reply was how many people are sent to prison – how healthy are are people that you see all around you.

For me there was a lot to think about in Laurie's talk, if nothing else it has caused me once again to temper my excitement around innovation. We need the innovators, the people who are forging ahead and trying out new routes as we all forge on en masse towards the same goal of using technology for effective learning. The routes that these trailblazers forge are exciting and new and make look like they provide us with shortcuts and quick wins, but these routes need developing and strengthening so that others can follow the same path. They also need the permission to make mistakes so that others can learn.

But the scalability of innovation is still a hard question. If we only chose to invest in those projects that we knew were a cert we may end up playing safe and replicating rather than innovating.

My mind continues to ponder this one...

Anyway here is Lauries's talk, so you can have your own thoughts.

I have to say that a weird but quite exciting phenomenon happened during this talk, towards the end of the philosophies discourse I noticed that many people had their Nintendos out. I joined in the Pictochat with others, one of the biggest pictochat sessions I have ever taken part in, whats more it worked perfectly as a sort of IM/Twitter tool via our consoles.

Where we bored ? - yes probably by that point, where we engaging with the Handheld learning conference - yes as many people were asking questions about the pedagogical value of this console - and Derek Robertsosn and others were answering, except his planned session was in the afternoon. Should he have waited to respond - no

1 comment:

Terry Freedman said...

Thianks for including my name in such an esteemed list, Anthony. I very much agreed with Laurie. The only thing I didn't agree with wholeheartedly was his insistence on scaleable projects. I think that sometimes you don't know if an innovation is going to be scaleable or not -- if you did, it would hardly be an innovation. Also, sometimes what you need is replicability but not necessarily scaleability.
For example, if you devised a brilliant way of teaching problem-solving to a particular sample of students, you would want to be able to apply similar techniques to another group of similar students. That would be valuable even if you were unable to scale it up, in my opinion.

Still, all very thought-provoking, as u suggest.

Thanks for writing up these notes and reflections.