the blog of dan pontefract | TedTalks, Me and You: Social Learning in Action (ie. help me)
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TedTalks, Me and You: Social Learning in Action (ie. help me)

I have the fortune of being asked to deliver a few words of inspiration, intrigue and innovation at an upcoming TedTalks event in Vancouver on October 23, 2010. (kudos to Mike Desjardins for his matchmaking and Bret Conkin and team for the invitation)

The event is tailor made for me. Billed as ‘Fast Forward Ed’, it strives to attract speakers and attendees who want to crush the archaic bastion of the classic education space and build something for the 21st century. (you know, with electricity and stuff)

Specifically, the questions to answer at the event are:

  • As the new decade unfolds, how do we prepare secondary, post-secondary and lifelong learners for a world moving at breakneck speed?
  • What are skills needed by industry vs. skills being taught?
  • Who are the innovators succeeding in achieving learning in an environment of budget cuts, ESL, literacy challenges and wired kids?
  • What is the optimal use of technology in the classroom?

They had me at hello.

In the spirit of true social learning, I’m asking you for your opinion.

Sure, I’ve got mine … but that’s one voice (and only one crazy mind) so this forum is an opportunity for you to surface your issues, your pain points, your thoughts, your success stories, your ideas and I’ll see if I can weave them into the 18-minute or less soliloquy on stage.

That’s social learning in action.

I hope to hear from you. I promise to dialogue back in this space as well.

11Comments

  • Peter Rawsthorne / 12 September 2010 9:12

    * As the new decade unfolds, how do we prepare secondary, post-secondary and lifelong learners for a world moving at breakneck speed?

    I don’t believe we should underestimate the unschooling movement. Most what I have learned is on my own, following my bliss… this is how more and more pedagogical approaches will be influenced. People (life-long learners) following thier bliss. The idea of life-long learning will be an increasing part of secondary and post-secondary learning, the skills for this will be more baked into “traditional” approaches. We should not underestimate how the bursting of the higher ed bubble will push people toward doing it on thier own, look at the DIYU movement already afoot. Assessment and accreditation will increasingly move online. Reputation management will be how we get known and recognized…

    * What are skills needed by industry vs. skills being taught?

    Blended collaborative skills and technology literacy are needed. With the increated acceptance and usability of video chat the need for travel is decreasing significantly. Combine this with collaborative tools and “web 2.0 / social media” the world is becoming flat… these are no longer ideas and the future… these abilities are here now. I do not believe the collaborative and online media skills are being taught in the traditional institutions, particularly as learning tools and approaches.

    Openness is becoming more important in business; look toward the open data movement, and the benefit on mass-collaboration. The old structures will fade (slowly), so copyright, ownership, propriety will shift toward openness, it is the only way to stay competative. I still believe models of how to monetize openness still need further development… these will come.

    * Who are the innovators succeeding in achieving learning in an environment of budget cuts, ESL, literacy challenges and wired kids?

    Khan academy is an exemplar when it comes to the impact of an individual.
    CLEBC is having a stellar year for many reasons, one being technology adoption and increase in access.
    Language learning is about to explode, look to the language learning social media sites.
    Wired kids; Continue to think about un-schooling, and look to Think Global School, http://thinkglobalschool.org/

    * What is the optimal use of technology in the classroom?

    To bring the world in and let creativity out.

  • Clark Quinn / 13 September 2010 10:13

    Dan, some quick answers:

    * As the new decade unfolds, how do we prepare secondary, post-secondary and lifelong learners for a world moving at breakneck speed?

    We teach them to be good learners. We focus on so-called 21st century skills: evaluation, experimentation, collaboration, etc.

    * What are skills needed by industry vs. skills being taught?

    The skills needed are the ones above. The ones taught explicitly are few, most training/schooling is knowledge focused. The skills taught implicitly are how to control or get along, not how to inspire and empower and take ownership.

    * Who are the innovators succeeding in achieving learning in an environment of budget cuts, ESL, literacy challenges and wired kids?

    Abilene Christian University http://www.acu.edu/technology/mobilelearning/, St. Marys City Schools http://www.smriders.net/Mobile_Learning/ are two.

    * What is the optimal use of technology in the classroom?

    As a tool to support comprehension, communication, and collaboration. Technology should augment our goals of becoming better learners, not be the focus of learning.

  • Dan Pontefract / 13 September 2010 9:00

    Thanks lads for getting the ball rolling. Really appreciate the input.

    @Pete – did you read this recent G&M Article related to ‘unschooling’ http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/more-families-are-deciding-that-schools-out-forever/article1703185/

    Also, @Pete, part of my ‘rant’ will include the death-trap of higher education today; ie. the continuation of walled schooling by subject matter, not by cross-collaborative opportunity. As an educator, both in public and private worlds, how do you see higher education becoming more connected and collaborative versus independent subjects not connected?

    @Clark – industry certainly needs a greater sense of individual and organizational empowerment … right with ya … but how do you see this actually taking flight? Is it merely a matter of time, or, can we actually utilize formal-informal-social means to get this point cemented into the ‘powers’ above?

  • Holly MacDonald / 15 September 2010 10:59

    Hi Dan – I think you’ll do just fine on your own – but fun to contribute anyway. If you are looking for short and pithy, skip the long-winded section and go to the end.

    Re your comment “…how do you see higher education becoming more connected and collaborative versus independent subjects not connected?” is a really powerful question. But, I think you have to ask the why. There may be some demographic factors to draw upon in an argument there – if there are fewer actual people in an age cohort entering higher ed – then basic economics would tell us that the demand is decreasing, therefore price will increase and more niche solutions and big name brands will win (all the middling schools should beware). As I’m not an economist – and in writing this fear an actual economist will show me up – I also have to look at the demand from employers for degrees. If there are fewer actual people to fill jobs, then it becomes a buyer’s market, and the seller (employer) can’t be as choosy about who they hire, so the “degree” requirements may decline. What does all this have to do with your question? I think they are burning platforms for institutions to adapt to survive.

    [However, one cautionary tale, I note that many people I know have pursued a MALT (Masters of Arts in Leadership and Training) from Royal Roads and anyone outside of BC has no clue what this is, while it is an interesting program it does not seem to have as much credibility as say an MBA would.]

    I believe we need to listen to these societal and economic trends/drivers/environmental factors to figure out the how. We may have the “right” solution, but the “right” solution isn’t the one always accepted. Until we can figure out how to demonstrate the actual impact, we are talking philosophy which while noble, doesn’t always compute.

    Perhaps a safe first step option is to keep the individual schools within a uni, but have a required course for degrees, which is a more collaborative, project-based interdisciplinary FOR CREDIT course. And the school should market the hell out of it.

    Also, I think that the whole system (K-12, even early education) needs to be revamped. The classroom model is so ingrained in them if we do change things at the post-secondary level, kids may not adjust.

    Skills – Critical thinking. They learn how to write a certain number of paragraphs for an assignment, not how to frame and support an argument or how to play devil’s advocate to back-test their understanding. I think if most people agree on one thing, it’s critical thinking – needed by employers, researchers, professors, governments, entrepreneurs, etc.

    Whatever it’s worth – hope my ramblings have offered something.

    If you were looking for succinct and pithy:
    Teach them skills, don’t tell them stuff
    High tech AND high touch
    Design with context and help them think critically

  • Jeff Dunmall / 16 September 2010 6:11

    Trying to keep it simple, and pesonal. What was the most significant learning event that prepared *me* for a “world moving at breakneck speed”?

    Three years not in school.

    Long ago, my parents sold everything we owned when I finished grade 5, and we bought a sailboat. Through grades 6, 7, and 8 we sailed through 20+ countries.

    I learned about real collaboration – the kind that is required for survival instead of the more causual optional collaborative environment formal learning fosters, and industry flirts with. True collaboration is learned when some critical piece of your sailboat breaks in the middle of nowhere, and you know nothing about the mechanics, barely speak the langauge, and won’t go anywhere without a solution.

    You learn not by putting 30+ kids together with one adult for 200+ days of the year, but instead by mixing kids and adults together that instinctly know that finding the best combination of strengths is the best way to solve a problem. When your best friend is 46, and only the ‘real world’ finds that odd.

    You learn by being stretched way beyond what society would accept. Can a 13 year old drive a 40′ boat through a storm throwing 25′ seas, in the middle of the night with everyone sleeping? Yes.

    You learn about the amazing things that a young human is capable of. That builds tremendous confidence. With a strong sense of collaboration and a foundtation of confidence, the worlds’ ‘breakneck speed’ is nothing. That’s why you swing more than one bat before approaching the plate.

  • Dan Pontefract / 19 September 2010 9:03

    Thanks @Holly. Part of my rant at the Ted event has to deal with what I refer to as the ‘classroom cartel’. You’ve given something for me to think about as it pertains to degrees as well, so thanks.

    @Jeff – well that was inspirational, thanks for sharing and being so open. Although you didn’t state it, in essence, you are referring to real-world experiential learning. That’s the key for me, and where the conduit between K-12 through Higher Ed through Corporate Learning fails. We need to rethink the cartel, and apply experiential learning when and wherever we can. (just like what you experienced for three years at sea and in various countries)

  • jay cross / 20 September 2010 7:21

    Dan, you’ve got to check out Clark Aldrich’s Unschooling Rules. http://unschoolingrules.blogspot.com/

    Clark’s been a voice in our industry for a long time. He’s best known for his work in simulations. He’s one of the wisest people I know.

    He also homeschools. And his book/blogs on the topic are right-on.

    In the Q&A following my presentation at a conference last week, someone asked where fresh thinking about schooling is taking place. All I could offer was Clark’s URL.

  • Clark Quinn / 20 September 2010 10:21

    Dan, sorry, missed the followup question ’til now. I see empowerment ‘taking flight’ by a full court press: pushing the conceptual argument, showing examples (particularly with competitors ;), and then finding/developing pockets within our own community and demonstrating improvement. And, of course, living it personally. Leave nothing to chance: “prepare to board, take no prisoners”. Still a matter of time, but not a passive approach; use formal,informal, and social!

  • Reuben Tozman / 23 September 2010 7:42

    Dan,
    I suggest looking at experiments conducted by Sugata Mitra in developing countries. I don’t think the answer could by more obvious. There is also a good talk on TED from Charles Leadbeater on education reforms based on what he’s seen in the ‘slums’.

    Cheers,
    RT

  • Bret Conkin / 23 September 2010 11:41

    Couldn’t help weighing in after a few great days teaching Gr. 5-7 digital literacy skills like claymation, cyberbullying and digital comics. 95% of the students were fully engaged and their creative output, as always, exceeded expectations. Yet in high schools during my practicum, text books were still the norm. Jeff, you’re words were inspirational for sure – my dream is to take my young sons for a life experience along those lines, if not quite as extensive.

    This idea spreading is exactly what we hope to achieve at our TEDxUBC event, and those of you in Vancouver, hope to see you at our event!

  • Dan Pontefract / 24 September 2010 7:08

    @Jay – great link, thanks as always.

    @Clark – love the ‘full court press’ point

    @Reuben – great point, have always loved what Professor Mitra is doing

    @Bret – the classroom cartel is weighted down doubly by the publishing pimp … more to come on stage 😉

Want to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, dp.