Wednesday, 24 November 2010

JISC online conference 2010 - Opening keynote

Well yesterday was Day 1 of the JISC online conference (Innovating e-learning). I attended for the first time last year and really enjoyed the experience of an online conference but I had forgotten how tiring it is (more so then a physical conference). However yesterday was good. I was only able to attend a couple of the live presentations but both were really interesting. I need to catch up today with the session "what do students really want?" as I was sorry to miss that live yesterday.

OK so opening keynote from Keri Facer was really interesting and has stimulated a lot of discussion. Keri asked a couple of questions prior to the session which were then discussed further in the live session:

A. what do you think the world will be like in 2025?
B. Is there a future for the physical education institution in 20 years time? Why? What might we gain/lose by going virtual?

Food for thought. It's hard to think so far ahead when many of us are worried about what might happen in the next few months rather than the next 20 years.

Keri said that we are having to get used to living in interesting times. There is a worrying trend that we are seeing education as an individual investment rather than a social investment, so then the questions are asked about why fund it? So we need to think about what sorts of education establishments would rebuild the confidence that they are a sound investment for students and society's futures. When thinking about that we need to ask the question - what sort of futures do we think we are preparing for? This is no easy task and we have to overcome barriers to do this in a meaningful way.

Keri then asked the audience what was our most important source of our belief about the future and then what we thought our institutions most important source is. It was interesting that the two did not match. The majority of those present said they used research evidence/reports from practice and industry but overwhelming felt our institutions used Government as a source - could this be a problem?

She talked about BCH programme the aim of which was to build a set of long term future scenarios for education in the context of social and technological change 2025 and beyond.
  • We will have the capacity to know more stuff about more stuff - there will be a massive growth in the amount of digital information we'll have access to
  • Personal cloud - constant connection to other people, more filtering and shaping the information we get
  • Working and living amongst machines will become increasing normal - delegation of responsibility to machines, especially for management of complex systems
  • Changing organisational space - distance will be less of an issue (don't need to travel to the institution) but geography will still matter (place plays a role as an identity marker)
  • Weakening of institutional barriers

So what does this mean? The growth of the "knowledge worker" - who will crowdsource, collaborate, manage multiple roles, work with, work on and rework data.

Thinking about the physical institution - did we think this would still be necessary in 20 years time - overwhelmingly the answer was Yes but..

Keri went on to talk about complicating factors:

  • Ageing population - will there be inter-generational conflict?
  • Decline of confidence in the knowledge economy future

We were then asked which way we thought the future was going to go; business as usual, collapse/breakdown or transition/transformation? Being a positive group transition/transformation came out on top so the follow up questions of how did we want things to go came up with around the same result. Keri was surprised by this, but as Helen Beetham said in the discussion afterwards, is that people mean difference things by transformation. I also think that it's the group of people that she was talking to. By our very attendance at an event like this suggest that we lean towards transformation and changing attitudes - or am I reading people wrongly?

The final thing I took from this (headphone fatigue was setting in) was the idea that rather than trying to "future proof" we should be "future building". That means rather than trying to protect against change or build in flexibility we should be looking clearly at the potential future. We need a strong future vision of the educational future we want. We need to ask " how can we work together to tip the balance in favour of futures that offer real well being for our students?". We need to shape students ability to shape their own futures.

I found it hard to concentrate on the discussion that what going on in chat and listen to the presentation. With this in mind for the second live session I focused on the presentation and not the chat, as it's always possible to review the chat after the session. More on session 2 in a little while....

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