So what of the future?

March 1, 2010

Can you predict the future?

Do you know what life will be like next year, in five years, in ten years?

Over the last year or so I have been doing a few keynotes and presentations entitled the future of learning. I do start with a caveat that I don’t know the future for sure and that no one can really predict the future…

Though as a reflective person I do look back at the work I have been doing on mobile learning and I think there are lessons to be learned about the journey I have travelled.

This is me in 2006 based on work I was doing in 2004 and 2005.

This work came from mobile stuff I was doing back in the late 1990s. Back then I worked for an organisation called at-Bristol, a hands-on science centre in the middle of Bristol.

One of the projects we started working on was with HP looking at how we could use an HP Jornada on our then fledgingly wireless network to allow visitors additional and enhanced information on webpages about the exhibits. One of the key questions at the time was how we got the URLs into the devices at the right place. Then we decided to use HP’s Jetsend IR technology to “squirt” the URL to the Jornada. Of course since then the technologies have moved on and importantly so have the public. Today you would probably let the visitors use their own devices and smartphones. You would use QR codes, Bluetooth or more probably in the future RFID to find out where the visitor was before sending them the information (or letting them access the information via QR codes). If the attraction was outside then GPS could be used. The key though was not the technology but the concept of enhancing a visitor’s experience with additional content through a mobile device.

After leaving at-Bristol and joining the Western Colleges Consortium, I continued to work on mobile learning; at that time there was no funding available.

When I was working on mobile learning all those years ago, the reason was that mobile phones and mobile devices were becoming more sophisticated and more useful to consumers and business. I knew then it would only be a matter of time before they become useful to education and importantly a focus for policy and funding.

And in 2007 along came MoLeNET, millions of pounds of capital funding with a focus on mobile learning in FE.

There is no way that I would call myself a futureologist, but from an FE perspective I am looking at how new technologies can enhance and enrich everyday life, as before long these technologies will enter education.

So the big question is what am I working on now? What do I think will have a real impact in education, not just for learners, but also for funding and projects.

Well I am not working on Second Life or MUVEs. These do have some great application to learning, however until consumers start to use these technologies a lot more, than we won’t see a big change in their use in education.

Social networking and Web 2.0 are very big in the consumer field at the moment, Facebook is everywhere and corporate and entertainment use of these tools is now much more widespread than it was just a year or two ago.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these tools and services can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

So what about next year or the year after?

Well for me the “next big thing” is e-Books and e-Book Readers. These will hit the consumer market big time over the next three years. We will see many more people reading books, magazines and newspapers via devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and other devices not yet on the market. More publishers and broadcasters will start to think about how they are going to use these devices and start offering content on them, think of BBC iPlayer and its availability on the iPhone.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these new technologies can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

You see at the end of the day, it will be how these products are used by educators, it’s how they are taken up and used by consumers and business. Whether that is right or wrong, is not really the case, as more often this is how it happens and has happened over the last twenty to thirty years with most technologies.

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Did you know?

September 17, 2009

Remember Shift Happens?

This an updated new version.

Full of facts and stats.

The world is changing, society is changing, however are our learners changing as fast? Are our institutions changing too?


ALT-C Reflections Part One

September 15, 2009

I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter.

It was really nice to meet up with a lot of different people, some I knew, some I knew only from the web, some I had never met and those that knew me though I didn’t know them.

There was some great presentations, workshops, keynotes and debates and I felt I learnt a lot and was given a lot to think about.

I had a reasonable journey up to Manchester (no connectivity on the train) and having arrived, caught a taxi to the venue. I was relieved to see that my Glossy Poster had safely arrived though for some unknown reason at that time my flyers for my workshops and that symposium had failed to arrive.

I bumped into a few people I knew and then someone came up to me and said hello. I recognised him, but couldn’t name the face… I hate it when that happens, and after turning over their name badge (why do they always flip the wrong way at the wrong moments) I saw it was Richard Elliot from New Zealand. I am doing the keynote at ASCILITE 2009 conference so it was good to meet one of the organisers to chat and discuss the conference.

After the pre-conference buffet and chatting I headed up to the F-ALT event on post digital and managed to catch the last bit and added a little to the discussion.

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These fringe events add a lot to the conference, they’re not competing with the conference, but adding a social, informal side to the conference that allows delegates to add a social learning element to the conference. It also allows delegates to discuss and present issues on stuff and technologies which at the time of the abstract submission deadline maybe wasn’t available or didn’t even exist.

Tuesday morning, saw a bright and early start with the conference kicking off proper at 9.00am. After the conference introductions we moved onto the conference keynote from Michael Wesch.

It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press and a few hundred again before the telegraph. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges. New types of conversation, argumentation, and collaboration are realized. Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, YouTube, classrooms, and “the future,” this presentation will demonstrate the profound yet often unnoticed ways in which media “mediate” our conversations, classrooms, and institutions. We will then apply these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we may need to rethink how we teach, what we teach, and who we think we are teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his presentation and presentational approach, however I do wonder and still wonder if all our learners are like his students? Are all our learners using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools and services on a regular basis and importantly are they using them for learning?

I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.

See what you think from the recording.

I enjoyed the short papers on staff skills, some of the work that Alan Cann is doing at Leicester is very illuminating and interesting.

Then lunch and I won’t dwell on the conference catering, all I will say how much I enjoyed the coffee from the Museum Cafe across the road from the conference venue.

After sustenance we had the big debate, you know, the one about how the VLE is Dead! The debate was a lot of fun and it would appear that the delegates who attended enjoyed the debate. In a room with space for eighty, we had nearly a hundred and fifty people, many sitting and standing. We also had about two hundred people online following the live stream.

vleideadterrywassal

Photo source

The debate was based on the following proposition.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

I know that most people realised that the debate (and especially the title) was provocative and that the aim was for a fun debate as well as looking at the issues. You are not going to be able to give serious academic consideration to the issues in an eighty minute debate.

I was pleased with the interest shown, not just at the conference, but also online on Twitter and on various blogs. Cloudworks has a list of the blogs that have discussed the issue. The “marketing” for the debate worked well (probably better than expected) with the trailer, the flyer and the numerous blog posts by me, Steve and many others…

As expected, I didn’t get to the next session, but did make Steve Wheeler’s Twitter session. A very popular session with lots of different people attending, some like me who are immersed in Twitter to people who had never used it.

After all that I missed the new ALT Members Reception, and as Gloucestershire College joined ALT this year I should have been attending. Ah well.

In the evening I went to a nice Tapas bar with Ron, Lilian and David.

More later…


ALT-C 2009 Day #2

September 9, 2009

It’s Wednesday and it’s day two of the ALT Conference 2009 here in Manchester.

An early start for me as I am running my Hood 2.1 workshop on Web 2.0. We had fun last year, I am hoping to have a similarily good session this morning.

Due to a scheduling clash, it does mean I will miss David Sugden and Lilian Soon’s excellent Active learning with Mobile and Web 2.0 technologies workshop.

After the Wednesday keynote, over lunch is the poster session, and I shall be showing off my Glossy poster.

glossyposter450

After the poster session I am hoping to attend the demonstrations looking at Xerte and Mindstorms Communication in Second Life.

After the ALT AGM I will be going to Learning Innovation which has two short papers, 240 Students’ experiences of wikis for a collaborative project: technology choice, evidence and change and 167 Enhancing University Curricula via Adventure Learning.

Final session of the day will be the Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video Presentations. I was one of the judges so will be at this session.

In the evening is the ALT Gala Conference Dinner. Last year’s conference dinner was really good and some of you may remember this video I made of last year’s dinner.

Should be good, long and busy day.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #027: It’s conference time…

August 30, 2009

altc2008

James discusses what he will be doing at the ALT Conference in Manchester from the 7th-10th September 2009.

This is the twenty seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s conference time…

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s conference time…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Shownotes


Hood 2.1 – it’s still a Web 2.0 World out there

August 28, 2009

Following on from the success of the Hood 2.0 Workshop at ALT-C last year, at this years ALT-C I shall be running another workshop, Hood 2.1 – it’s still a Web 2.0 World out there.

forest

Background

Web 2.0 is exciting and innovative, with new services appearing almost daily. These services can incorporate social networking, video and audio production, sharing, collaboration and user-created content. Some will be useful for providing information and entertainment, some will allow us to create innovative learning activities.

This stimulating and interactive workshop will explore new Web 2.0 services that can be used to solve some of the issues facing learners.

Ideas to be explored

During the workshop participants will be shown different learning scenarios and activities that utilise a range of new and exciting Web 2.0 services.

It is expected that the workshop will utilise the newest and most exciting Web 2.0 services out there, but could include: the use of Audioboo.fm for fieldwork; using Jing to create learning resources and web reviews; and using ipadio to allow learners to create a series of work-based podcasts.

Participants will discuss and debate the Web 2.0 service and the scenarios in small groups, covering how they could be utilised within their own institutions.

The groups will also discuss how the pedagogy needs to drive the scenarios and not the technology, and address how Web 2.0 can empower learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Each group will provide feedback through either a blog entry, an audio podcast or a video presentation. These will then be made available online to allow further comment and discussion beyond the workshop, and also allow other conference delegates to participate.

Intended outcomes

The participants will have a greater understanding of the innovative role of Web 2.0 to support.They will have considered how Web 2.0 can be used to redesign the pedagogy, the curriculum, and assessment methods to secure a substantial positive impact on learning.

The participants will have presented the results of their discussion to other participants and to other delegates through the use of a variety of learning technologies and Web 2.0 services. This will allow them to understand which services are innovations of true value, rather than mere fads.

Photo source.


It’s not dead… yet…

August 10, 2009

Why we can’t bury the VLE just yet…

cpr

There are many people out there who believe that the institutional VLE is dead and we should allow learners to use their own PLE (personal learning environment) and/or a selection of Web 2.0 tools and services.

For example Steve Wheeler in Learning with ‘e’s says in a recent blog post on the death of the VLE that:

The institutional VLE is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change, whilst the personal web is led by one user. The personal web has one more key advantage – it is owned by the individual who created it.

In another of his blog posts, Steve argues that

I have previously argued that VLEs tend to constrain students into particular ways of thinking and stifle creativity. I also maintain that most proprietary VLEs have been designed by businesses not by teachers, and therefore are unfit for purpose.

To be honest I don’t actually disagree with Steve on principle. I do believe that in order for learning to be accessible and personalised for all learners, institutional services often fail as they provide a service for all which can only meet some of the needs of some of the learners. Eventually learners will be able to choose the tools they want to use and when they want to use them. For those learners the VLE will be dead.

However we do need to question whether we bury the VLE now or wait…

Why wait?

Well Steve argues that learners are able to utilise the online tools and services available on the web to facilitate their learning.

There’s a big problem with this, in that most learners do not know how to use the web effectively and many of these only “visit” the web to do some stuff.

The concept that the majority of learners are adept at using Web 2.0 tools and services, are engaged with social networking and importantly are able to apply these skills to learning is a flawed concept at this time.

Most learners are not using these tools for anything let alone learning. There are no digital natives and there isn’t a Google Generation. Various papers have been published on this subject.

From my experience, most e-learning professionals aren’t engaging with the Web 2.0 tools and services out there let alone learning professionals. At ALT-C 2008 for example, six hundred delegates who were coming to a learning technology conference, and of those less than 8% were using Twitter! Though I expect the situation to be different at ALT-C 2009 I still don’t see the majority of the delegates at that conference engaging with the very technologies that are supposed to be replacing institutional tools.

Most learning professionals aren’t engaging with the web tools and services, so will learners?

Most learners who engage with post 16 learning could in theory already choose a personalised individual route to learning and use the wide variety of tools out there. They don’t choose that route though, they choose to engage with their learning via a physical learning environment, a college, a university, they choose to engage with a learning environment which is led by the entire institution and is therefore slow to respond to change.

If the VLE is dead then  maybe we need to ensure that the physical learning environment is buried alongside. However it will be some time before we see the demise of the physical learning environment, why it’s not perfect, but it does a job.

Steve in his recent blog post concludes:

All things considered, it is inevitable that the personal web will win in a straight fight against the institutional VLE. The VLE has had its day and will meet its demise, even though its supporters cannot see it coming. The personal web is on the rise.

The personal web will probably win, the personal web however is currently the domain of a select few individuals and not embraced or used by learners. For these learners they need guidance and advice on what tools they should use. This does not need to come from tutors alone, however where do these learners start from? Where should they go first? They need some kind of starting place (and dare I say it) some kind of portal to their learning.

The VLE can be that starting point.

Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE and web tools can be used together. For example this blog has an RSS feed which feeds directly into my institutional VLE. I use Slideshare to host my presentations which I can then as well as embedding into this blog, also embed them into my institutional VLE too. As well as embedding presentations, I also embed YouTube videos, videos from this blog and other sites too. My delicious tag cloud is embedded into the VLE to allow staff to see what I am bookmarking. My Twitter stream is streamed into the VLE to allow staff to stalk track my activity.

The VLE is not perfect, but it does a job that with the current cohort of learners and teachers could not do by themselves.

Eventually the VLE will be replaced as are all tools, but at this time we can’t afford to bury a tool which for some is their starting point on their learning journey.

Is the debate over?

No it’s just beginning. You can join myself, Steve Wheeler, Graham Attwell and Nick Sharatt at ALT-C 2009 in our symposium, “The VLE is dead” where we will be presenting and debating these issues.

Is the VLE dead?

Not yet.

Photo source.