Latest: the future of learning’s coming along (CALF)

BDRA’s Creating Academic Learning Futures (CALF) project, in collaboration with the University of Falmouth, is looking at the future of learning. If you’d like to know more, there’s a blog for the project, videos and a wiki.

Last December Sandra Romenska blogged about CALF at Online Educa in Berlin. She mentioned Lord Puttnam (Chancellor of the Open University), one of those behind an initiative to change how we think about education. There’s a We Are the People Weve Been Waiting For website. There’s also a 77-minute documentary. I watched it recently: it’s thought provoking but has too many of the great and good, as well as five children who speak up well about what they haven’t had.

For contrast, you may like to look at George Siemens’ 9-minute video, asking is it possible to de-school society? Across the water, Stephen Downes says that according to the New York Times, “an American kid drops out of high school at an average rate of one every 26 seconds. In some large urban districts, only half of the students ever graduate. Of the kids who manage to get through high school, only about a third are ready to move on to a four-year college.”

Efforts to use IT to upgrade education still fail catastrophically sometimes: in South Korea the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology thought it saw the future and spent about US$250 million to install 65-inch electronic blackboards in 256 middle and high school classrooms across the country, only to find they are little used. For 2010, Lev Gonick considers IT in Higher Education.

Maybe Harvard has a better idea for influencing the future of learning. Stephen Downes notes that to create a new generation of educational leaders, Harvard is launching a three year, tuition-free doctorate which will include a final year field placement. It will initially offer places on the Ed.L.D to just 25 candidates.

Have a look  at the Educause Magazine for January-February Innovation: Rethinking the Future of Higher Education.

The best news is that BDRA is aiming to launch an MSc in Innovative Education and Training (Learning Futures). More details soon.

David Hawkridge

How Many Students In University After The Recession?

Almost half of British industries have no intentions of employing any of the hundreds of thousands of new graduates who will flood the job market in the next three months, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and KPMG, reported in today’s Independent.

Gerwyn Davis, public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has said:  “It is going to be a long, hot summer for many of this year’s graduates and school leavers, as they sweat over their chances of finding work. Employers have for a long time had doubts about the employability skills of those leaving education, and this year’s crop face employers in a more choosey mood than ever before. Against this backdrop, graduates and school leavers need to sharpen their case for being picked ahead of their classmates – and fast.”

The question is, what will be the lesson learnt for those who are still in high school, but who observe what is happening to their older peers after graduation. In all likelihood they will take it into account when deciding whether to go into higher education when their time comes.

What will be the outcome for universities in the future, when government targets of getting 50 per cent of young people into higher education are weighed against consideration that the average graduate today, who is likely to be leaving university owing £16,000 for tuition fees, is considered for employment by only 50% of employers? And given that bodies like the very Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, mentioned above, come forward with advice like “Employers have for a long time had doubts about the employability skills of those leaving education… students need to get work experience, demonstrate a broad range of non-study related skills…” A university degree is no longer the surest way to a good job. In fact, the winner of the “Best Job in the World”, (care-taker of a tropical island with a salary of 70 000 UKP) advertised by the Australian Board of Tourism landed the job in tough global competition, after an innovative marketing campaign that highlighted the power of social media, rather than qualifications and diplomas (you can see some of the applications on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=islandreefjob&view=videos&start=40).

The first universities were institutional innovation centres which emerged in the 12th to 14th century Europe as a result of the need to consolidate and expand intellectual resources in response to increasing demands for knowledge and skills in the economy and society. Despite debates whether universities have remained these “medieval organisations,” unchanged over the 700-800 years of their existence or have been transformed by major changes, consensus seems to prevail about intensifying pressures for reform in higher education institutions today. It is important that planning and management are not dominated by short-term thinking about immediate problems and maintaining established practices. Neglect of the long term is increasingly problematic in meeting the challenges of complexity and change in higher education. In order to be able to look beyond the constraints of the present, especially when the investment of significant resources is concerned, higher education institutions need to sharpen their capacity to systematically explore and connect together various driving forces, trends, and conditioning factors so as to envisage alternative futures for themselves and for higher education.

Sandra Romenska

BDRA, 26 May 2009

Mice and Creativity

Given it’s April 1st, I woke up this morning with the powerful urge to post a BDRA version of Orson Welles’ radio show of 1938:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_warworlds.html

Now, after having played a few pranks to relatives, friends and colleagues, the practical joke impulse has been subdued somewhat. Still, it is Fool’s Day and one needs a lot of inspiration and creativity to come up with amusing (for one) and believable (for one’s victim) pranks, I decided that my post will be about bright ideas, creativity and insight.

I read yesterday the story of the invention and evolution of the computer mouse. It all started in the 1970s with the Xerox PARC mouse that cost 400$ to which an extra 300$ needed to be added for the interface connecting the mouse to the computer. A picture can say more than a thousand words, so just take a look at the image below and you will see why people were eager to improve the technology.

 (http://www.techdigest.tv/2008/12/galleries/top_10_tuesday_6.php?pic=1#galtitle)

 Then, Steve Jobs from Apple contracted two young designers to come up with something 90% cheaper (he wanted the manufacturing costs to be no more than 25-30$), sturdier and more functional. This is where the story becomes fascinating. The two designers – Dean Hovey and David Kelley, found inspiration for the prototype of the mice we use today from the design of roll-on deodorants. In Hovey’s words:

“The first place I went was to Walgreens, and I bought all the roll-on deodorants I could find on the shelves. They had these plastic balls in them that roll around. Then I went over to the housewares area and bought some butter dishes and plastic things that were about the size I might need to prototype something. Over the weekend I hacked together a simple spatial prototype of what this thing might be, with Teflon and a ball. The first mouse had a Ban Roll-On ball.”

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/it/2002/3/2002_3_48.shtml

 I have been reading lots and lots of scenarios about the future lately. When discussing change in the future and where it may come from, very often the authors of these scenarios seem to believe that the more extraordinary, “unthinkable” and unusual the sources of change and its consequences are, the more authentic and believable and “expert” their scenarios will be. And yet, to me, the story of the invention of the mouse shows how often ground-breaking change happens when little, unnoticeable, everyday things are arranged by people or by chance into novel combinations, or used for innovative purposes.

Happy Fool’s Day!

Sandra Romenska, BDRA

 the20first20mouse1

Making teaching and learning environmentally friendly

Over the past years I have been quite interested and intrigued about the technological advances in space exploration. My keen interest started when I watched a television programme by Dr Michio Kaku, the theoretical physicists and co-founder of string field theory, on parallel universe. Last Saturday, I decided to take my children to the National Space Centre in Leicester to round off the half-term. Whilst there, my attention was drawn by one of my children to a notice that said “In the next fifty years we would be living in space”. My son asked if this is true, and if so what will happen to this beautiful world. I responded by saying, well I don’t know? No, wait a minute, maybe I do; would environmental pollution have rendered the earth uninhabitable? 

Sadly, sources of environmental pollution have been traced to Higher Education, around energy use connected with heating and lighting for large lecture halls, carbon emission associated with ICT, waste production including paper and equipment disposal and physical infrastructure using materials which are not environmentally friendly.

Can we as academics create learning futures whose values, principles and practices lead to sustainable development in all aspects of education? The time to act is now!

Old dog learning new tricks

This old dog is a day late and hasn’t followed the rules. All the same, this blog is a great opportunity to see what other younger dogs are thinking about and what tricks they’re getting up to.

My own thoughts have been wandering round the issue of whether and how e-learning will be sustained in our global society of the year 2050 (or, if you like, 2100). It seems to me that the shortages of energy, water and fertile land may by that time render e-learning either absolutely essential or somewhat fragmentary or both. Being a prophet is a job for a madman or a fool, so I don’t want to be either. Instead, I feel some affinity with James Lovelock, who combines hope with pessimism.

E-learning is the only solution on the horizon that would enable higher education to continue when campuses have been abandoned. Its excellence needs to increase: being robbed of face-to-face human contact is a high price for teachers and learners to
have to pay. Can virtual systems improve sufficiently? I hope to learn new tricks as they do.

Like John Fothergill, I’d like to add a joke at the end, but that will have to wait until next time.

David

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