#EDU8213 Positives, negatives and what was interesting about the use of Twitter and blogs

I have to admit to having started out as very sceptical, particularly around the use of Twitter as a tool for note taking during lectures.   I thought after the first session that my doubts had been confirmed – trying to keep up with other peoples’ comments, make my own and edit them down to 160 characters made the whole experience somewhat dissatisfying.   I thought that the whole thing was ridiculous and detracted from the quality of the conversation, making a mockery of the idea of a quality intellectual debate about something as crucial as children’s education.   How wrong was I proven to be!

In the first session, I found it difficult to keep up with the conversation, difficult to keep my responses down to 160 characters and spent so much time editing and refining responses that I seemed to be somewhat left behind as others posted comments that I dearly would have loved to have responded to but, by the time I was ready to respond, their tweets had disappeared from the timeline and it was time to move on.   By the end of the session I felt disappointed and more than a little annoyed by the whole experience feeling that I had been let down by those responsible.

It was during the second session that the power of using a social media tool to enhance a debate really became apparent as contributors from outside the room, even outside the country, came to be involved.   To be able to have a real time conversation with someone not even in the same country, let alone in the same room, was a tremendous experience and really showed the ability of social media to add value to a course such as this one.   I had learned a little from the experience of the first session, most usefully how to keep track of the comments I was interested in while I composed a response, but also not to worry about missing out on threads in the conversation that might prove interesting while I was concentrating on something else.   This helped considerably to add to my experience in the second session.

I also enjoyed writing the blogs in the evening after each session, while events were still relatively fresh in my mind.   Using “Storify” helped me to locate all the tweets and to see what, if anything, I had missed.   It was also a chance to revisit the session and, although I still don’t like the 160 character limit of Twitter, the combination of the tweets and blogs did add up to a comprehensive set of notes and acted to make the make the many smarter than the few, just as suggested by James Surowiecki in “The Wisdom of Crowds”.

How can this be refined for next year?   A better way of communicating during the sessions than Twitter or, at the very least, at least one or two training sessions for the “Twilliterate”, like me, before trying to use it in earnest.   Overall, though, this was a very enriching and rewarding experience, one that lived up and exceeded its billing and was very definitely intellectually invigorating.

 

#EDU8213 What is the Future of Learning?

The title of this module was “The Future of Learning” and, over the course of the past 6 weeks the general consensus was very much ‘who knows?’.   That said, there is quite a considerable amount that people contributed during the course of many discussion, both in person and on Twitter and in blogs that could point the way to some general conclusions.   Time is the only thing that will tell if we came anywhere near to the truth or if learning will go off in a completely different and unexpected direction.   What was agreed, and is almost certain to prove to be correct, is that it is very unlikely to look like it does today!   Technology has, and continues to, advance so rapidly that is is inconceivable that it will not have a significant impact on the delivery of education in the future.   It cannot, and neither should it be, however, the future of learning of and in itself.

An idea for the use of technology in the future which came up in one of the earliest discussions was put forward by a colleague, Alan Sunny, in the group in which I was participating and that is the concept of ‘invisible, continuous, assessment’ – the idea that technology would be able to observe learners in the learning environment and make decisions as to whether they had achieved a specific learning objective and record the evidence to show it.   If this could be achieved it would have so many positives – for one thing it would provide an alternative for the current destructive reliance on high-stakes assessment while provide a completely objective method of gauging progress of students and recording the evidence of their achievements for future reference.   Personally I cannot think of a better use in education for technology than this.

The final ‘assignment’ for want of a better word for this particular course was to try to imagine what a school in a town in Mexico would look like in the year 2050.   It was heartening to feel that the entire group still considered that some kind of physical space, a ‘school’, would be needed, even if it included things that would not currently be considered essential for education, such as a farm.   A physical space is essential in order for the socialization of students to take place, a vital if somewhat underestimated consequence of schooling.

The whole group came up with some interesting ideas but what struck me was that no one tried to define what the curriculum would look like, other than it would be a continuum with students progressing based on competency rather than age, after an initial age-based introduction.   Content was very much off the agenda, rightly so in my opinion.   It is impossible to predict what might be on the curriculum in 2050 because we cannot foresee what will be important to society at that time.   A valid question raised was whether what we describe as ‘literacy’ and ‘numeracy’ will still have a place in a future curriculum?   The current pace of advances in technology means that the ability to read, write and perform simple arithmetical tasks may well be one area which could be easily passed to machines in the near future: voice recognition and transcription software already exists.

Were this to happen, it would not be an advance in my opinion.   Apart from the fact that some kind of mental activity is required in the early years of development in order to aid neurological development it raises the question of how much of our humanity are we going to be prepared to pass across to machines?   What are these machines there for – to make our lives easier or to take our lives over?   But that’s a question for another time.

The content of the curriculum will be an essential aspect of the future of learning and raises a number of issues beyond simply schooling but relates to the centrality of why we educate; what is the purpose of education?   The current primacy of economics in every aspect of our lives is worrying, to me at least.   Bodies such as the World Economic Forum, an unelected and unrepresentative trade organisation for the world’s leading multinational corporations is already seeking to dominate national and local school policies by inextricably linking business to education.   Their policies and recommendations seek to enrich these very global corporations by using education systems around the world to produce workers with the “right” skills – those valued and demanded by those very corporations.   This emphasis on “human capital” seeks to determine and control the social capital of the family.   Unchecked, we are heading for a world of rich and poor, haves and have nots, where compassion, altruism and empathy are tools for efficiency rather than drivers for social and economic justice.   Education is a driver for social justice, not a tool for international capitalism and globalisation to increase the (already insane) differential between the top 1% and the bottom 50%.

The biggest danger for the future of education as we know it is not the indiscriminate use of technology but the creeping influence of bodies such as the OECD, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum as they seek to dominate the political and economic agendas of individual countries and the world as a whole, seeking to become the de facto World Government, imposing its doctrines on governments and their people whether they like it or not.

“This could become a world of human worker robots and economic masters who live on a slowly deteriorating planet where the economisation of the environment or, as it is called, sustainable development, results in human inaction to protect the environment and other species.” (Spring, 2015 p.149).   The future of education must lie in resisting the seemingly inexorable progress of the global elite, putting the progress of the human race back in the hands of the ordinary people and restoring balance and harmony to our world.

Bibliography:

Spring, J. (2015)  Economization of Education: Human Capital, Global    Corporations, Skills-Based Schooling. New York: Routledge