The objective of this workshop was to begin a new kind of RSA fellowship engagement ‘RSA networks’, and to discover what they might do and how they might work.
A stimulating ‘Open technology’ format was used to generate, discuss and refine over 70 ideas from the 260 fellows and staff present.
I proposed ‘What’s wrong with university” and “The University for Improvement” as ideas for debate and constructive thinking. The fellows who joined me were surprisingly gentle, compared to the RSA report “In from the cold- the rise of vocational education” written by Professor Sir Graham Hills in November 2004. Graham was project champion of the RSA’s Visions of a Capable Society programme in 2004, and he identified the following flaws in the qcademic ethos:
- Fragmentation of knowledge
- Internal referencing, peer review, cronyism and social corruption
- Absence of context, flight from reality
- Objectivity taken to extremes, dehumanisation of science
- Authoritarian attitudes to knowledge and behaviour
- Competition between knowledge bases leading to internal uniformity and external conformity
He continued to claim that the world of reality and technology, outside academia was:
- Holistic, not reductionist
- Context driven, not subject driven
- Mission-oriented research, not blue skies
- Teamwork, not individual scholar
- Multi-authored publications, heteregeneous knowledge bases
- Divergent not convergent thinking
- Reflexive philosophy rather than objective statements
- Decisive criterion: does it work?
Nevertheless I went away feeling that both business and academia (both well-represented in the session) were unhappy with the current state of affairs and the University for Improvement – an idea based on the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project (IDIBL) I am working on at the University of Bolton – was well received.
As Graham Hill put it: “The best way to connect the world of industry to academia is to people it with students” – something IDIBL will be striving to do.
Loads of enjoyable discursive sessions here, but I enjoyed Scott Wilson’s workshop ‘Co-ordination and Control of Business Processes’ most of all. We discussed which higher education processes could respond to development in the light of technology developments. Our group’s diagram, although untidy led to a neat table of processes we felt could benefit from development:
||Readiness for change
|1 Peer learning matching
||Better results, fulfilment
||As 4 below
||move effort from presentation to facilitation, formative assessment
||Business process concepts as 4 below
|3 Marking / assessment
||Discomfort, hard work, fairness
||Lower costs, reliable results, happier staff
||Systems of peer ranking
|4 Environmental Audit
|5 Learn(ing)ed Societies, (Journals, peer-review, inter-institutional repositirys, joint bids
||Need for enhancement of academic society
||Social software, intentional communities of practice, business process enabled
A fascinating evening sitting in the Star Trek-like environment of Talkaoke at the RSA. Discussing the development of an online environment for the RSA Fellows. A wide-ranging discussion which homed in on the confrontation between the trust and shared intent of a closed society and the creativity and diversity of open thinking. A chance to present the IDIBL project and consider its place in RSA developments to become a dynamic force for change by offering a route for those keen to embrace civic innovation in a disciplined and rigorous manner and gain academic qualification at the same time.
Went with Patrick to this excellent meeting of young and old minds. We spoke to Cameron (8) who told us his ideas for a “mp3 and mp4” player so that he wouldn’t get bored when avoiding his younger brother! It reminded me that changing the world starts small, and visions of what’s important are close to home as well as global.
I was privileged to attend this event at the Royal Ballet School. It was performed by musicians and dancers of their own joint works. I was most impressed by the sophistication in both music and dance and the articulate way they explained their own challenges in collaboration against real deadlines in the discussion afterwards.
I could never have imagined that this was what Sasha would be confidently doing in 2007, when, ten years earlier aged 5, he set out on a musical career.
When Stan Owers became Dr Stan Owers, this lecture was initiated.
It was to be held annually to address the issues surrounding manufacturing industry and education. This third in the series was a really challenging event with Jeff Roche, a 2nd year undergraduate giving us a frank review of his learning trajectory so far. Raj Rajagopal, IET trustee and long experienced in the world of manufacturing added his global perspective, pointing out that where the design and manufacture goes, the research and development follow.
A vibrant discussion ensued and a real sense of action required to improve the awareness amongst school students of how industry works.
Made a presentation today, based on my developing talk about ‘delight’ applied to the task of professional development of teachers and trainers. We used Marratech and although this provided a good sense of presence, my audio was not well heard.
Thanks to Antonio Reis for inviting me – it took only an hour out of my day to make some kind of impact in the Azores!
A real pleasure to hear some outstanding poetry read by the poet in the intimate surroundings of this long-established theatre – a real credit to the town of Bolton. I am not well-read in poetry, but have come to enjoy it substantially in middle-age and Adrian’s material had me excited and tearful in short shrift. You can find him stubbornly reciting ‘Tell me lies about Vietnam’ from thirty years ago on Youtube, but this still scathing poem was scornfully delivered by an energetic 75-year old on Thursday night.
Not a complaint I suffer from, but the hot potato of synthetic phonics mashed well at Channel 4 by uncompromising feisty primary heads, publishers, educators, authors and reading experts alike.
It seemed to me there is not enough recognition of the power of a school staff team, working together and determined to eradicate poor reading skills, which almost certainly makes more difference than which variant of phonics you employ.
Another in the series of events promoted by my long-term friend, colleague and mentor Stephen Heppell, to showcase creative use of technology by young learners from all kinds of educational settings. The photo shows one youngster for whom the event was proving exhausting, but mostly the adults were knocked out by the interesting ideas on show. I was most excited by the use of the Nintendo DS for exercising number facts – an annoyingly useful knowledge which deserves entertaining and competitive challenges to make learning more delightful.
My task at this conference was to talk about the delightful development of e-tutors and trainers. This gave me a chance to re-read John Heron’s ‘up-hierarchy’ (don’t ask*) which when interpreted in a learning context gives strong support for offering digital creativity, inquiry-based learning and opportunity to negotiate and choose the curriculum. Delight in learning is not just an entitlement for moral reasons, but effective when seen in this way.
By the way, got completely obsessed by the suspension bridge out of my Lisbon hotel window, which constantly found its way into every photo!
*Heron, J, Feeling and Personhood: Psychology in another key. London and Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1992.
Shared a platform with Gillian Lovegrove on this topic at the Naace All-Members Conference at Cisco in Feltham. I enjoyed the relatively easy task of listing some of the arguments for computing’s contribution to the wealth of human knowledge:
- computing > arithmetic – it is also the engine room of the social network / Web 2.0
- ubiquity of knowledge management – all disciplines’ approach to knowledge is infected with computing
- creativity and problem solving – it provides extraordinary potential for creative and problem solving activity by making the abstract concrete
- concept of the human mind – ideas of the mind have interchanged with concepts of the computer throughout history
- historical contribution – the interrelationship with war, economy, culture and democracy
- tool culture drives evolution (genetic and social) – tools have been symbiotic with humanity’s evolution since the stone age and the computer is the most sophisticated and diverse tool invented
After Gillian’s points about the problems facing the subject of computing, it was most challenging to hear one member of the audience ask the question: “Could it be our fault?”. It will be interesting to see how this discussion develops in the future.
A day which thoroughly overlapped two intriguing events, but I managed to make breakfast at the RSA for Becta’s Harnessing Technology: Research Forum and then skip across the road to present at the BCS KIDMM MetaKnowledge Mash-up and then back again for the wrap-up session at the end of the day back at the RSA. Diane Oblinger obligingly begged my question, she having identified as three purposes of education: Economic Wealth, Citizenship and Social Mobility. This left me with the opening to ask about the status of Cultural Enrichment and Individual Fulfilment as further aims for education, and how digital creativity might be central to delivering these aims?
“The Chinese Government has recently commissioned the building of more than 1600 new design colleges, with a view to ending the division between the design of an object and its production.”
This was a very small part of an astonishing show in a large tent in Hyde Park, over the road from the Royal College of Art. The students on the MA Product Design had been organised into six ‘platforms’, focii led by their tutors. The words quoted above, from the Platform 8 poster they were giving away, are fascinating in the context of Stan Ower’s work around the culture of tools and gives me food for thought as I prepare for the next Owers Lecture.
This is the presentation (as a PDF) I have used to promote the innovative Ultraversity project we developed and implemented in Ultralab, Anglia Ruskin University from January 2003 – December 2006. The project’s main outcome was a degree programme which is still recruiting and has had enormous success.
I have left there now, but so much of me went into it’s design and management that I have made the effort to annotate each slide so that the presentation makes more sense without me there to talk it through. The video’s are missing for now, but watch this space…
In my spare time :), I am transcribing the interviews with Ultraversity graduates at the graduation ceremony in Chelmsford on November 24th 2006. Greta has done the mass of the transcribing, I am editing and very nearly finished.
It is compelling stuff:
“I just could never envisage myself here, with the degree because I always thought I wasn’t an academic”
“that is right”
“because the books didn’t mean much to me but actually reading and putting everything into work experience”
“it came alive to me. Is that what happened to you?”
“It did to me. And I think the main, the one other thing that really helped me when I was working with Ultraversity”
“was the learning journal, logging everything down and every experience”
“I still do that, do you? Do you still do that?”
“Yes, I do. It is very hard to get out of the habit and I think it is a good learning curve”
“to be able to have that and to be able to refer back, whether it’s written or whether it’s tapes or whatever. You got it there.”
“And it is a great evidence as well, isn’t it for everything you do: in workplace, home learning”
“That is right.”
These kind of remarks make me very very proud of our endeavours over the last three years.