Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Croydon Tech City: Start Up Culture and Mindset

Croydon Tech City Xmas meetup -  Image by Fluid4sight

I popped into the Croydon Tech City Xmas meetup and ideas popped into my mind!

Croydon Tech City is a not for profit movement and community that champions and inspires tech skills, business and opportunity in South London. A crucial part of their work is in developing an ecosystem, environment and culture to inspire and share across all kinds of abilities and interests.

The Xmas meetup started with a talk by Einstein Ntim - a co-founder of Bloomer who are developing washable flexible circuits that can be embedded into fabrics to inform people on key metrics used to tackle cardiovascular disease and improve health. Einstein described how personal experience of family members with heart disease motivated him to co-found Bloomer with colleagues he met at Singularity University and how passion for his idea is his driving force. Einstein mixed art in with his talk on tech and business by finishing with a poem about the heart with audience participation beating out the heart's rhythm on their chests.

Next up was Sarah Gillingham - CEO of Case Study Ninja. Sarah described her journey - how after 20 years in the public sector she left the office politics to startup her ideas - first with a website for those in the wedding sector to exchange excess stock and now with Case Study Ninja - a website to make it easy for companies and freelancers to create, store and share case studies.

Jonny Rose, one of the cofounders of Croydon Tech City rounded up the evening with an overview of the community's activities and plans for 2016. He described recent events like Teach Meet Tech at Thornton Heath Library and media coverage such as "why young start-ups are choosing Canada Square and Croydon over Old Street"

The honest and personal stories of the speakers symbolised what I liked about the event and the Croydon Tech City community - Sarah leaving office politics behind to startup her own ideas and Einstein with his mix of art and tech. Croydon Tech City is Embracing the startup mindset with an an entrepreneurial spirit of exploration, curiosity and a focus on possibilities.

Think Like a Startup - "While big companies are busy protecting the golden goose with fear-based, micro improvements, startups are busy with the hard work of changing the world"

This got me thinking about formal education

........................ to be continued

Friday, December 18, 2015

Education: From Answers To Questions

Teach Meet Tech was a unique "education fusion" event bringing together 70 students, teachers, IT people & the public to talk about Education & technology.

These are my impressions

Information technology and its use has changed remarkably in the last decade - its now pervasive. Our students are used to communicating with and using information and communication technologies and systems that are cheaper, easier, more powerful and more personal than those generally made available for their use by the education system.

DIY Tech

Teach Meet Tech mixed contemporary technology ideas with leading edge innovative practice in education and the community - the ability to DIY what you want was a pervasive theme. We heard about DIY style tech startups; free DIY cloud based tools available to teachers; projects where students DIY their learning by teaching, how students wanted the education system to accommodate their DIY tech and why our networks should accommodate personal DIY tech.

From Answers To Questions

In the past access to information was limited -  the education system played an important role in delivering information to students and learning could be measured by their answers to questions about the specified content.

Today, access to information is unlimited but the education system is still focused on testing learners answers to questions about the content it delivers.

Teach Meet Tech was a fusion event rather than a fission event. Rather than reduce answers through experiments on a defined question it sought to synthesise questions through explorations of the undefined.

Teach Meet Tech raised more questions than answers .. this in itself suggests a different approach for education in an era of unlimited information.

Can we move to an education system where our learners ask the questions?

The students at Teach Meet Tech asked the questions .. can the education system give answers to these questions?

How can we better integrate technology in the curriculum?
How can we make better use of modern technology?
How can we make better use of learners personal technology and information environments?
How can we use social, community and discussion type assignments and assessments?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Education and Technology: The View From Students at Teach Meet Tech London

Teach Meet Tech was a unique "education fusion" event bringing together 70 students, teachers, IT people & the public to talk about Education & technology - there were presentations from teachers, technologists, business and most important of all ... students.

This is a summary of the student's presentation at Teach Meet Tech.

The students medium was their message to the education system - rather than use a Powerpoint slideshow from a file stored on a USB stick - their message was on-line from the cloud using eMaze - this alone was very refreshing.

"When modern lives are so immersed in digital technology, understanding the language of computers has become an essential form of literacy" 

The students began their message to the education system with the quote above from Apple's Craig Federighi (Apple turns stores into classrooms) then took us on a journey of student access to technology in the education system. They talked about “old school” one-to-many education with limited and restricted access to with school based systems standardised in computer labs and class sets of equipment.

Education is not utilising technology effectively.
The students talked about education today - how technology plays an important role in their everyday life but not when they are in education. 

The students asked for better use of virtual learning environments to not only to save money but also offer a convenient and supportive community learning environment.

“Instead of using virtual options like Moodle, there is a strong need to create virtual communities”

The students recognised the value of on-line assessment but recognise that these simply mimic traditional assignment practice - the students ask for social, community and discussion type assignments and assessments.

The students observed that interactive whiteboards are widely installed but rarely used.

The students talked about how smartphones improve ease of sharing and information access but note that there use is in education and learning is usually banned . The students ask that they be allowed to use their smartphones as this will be helpful in making their learning more effective. The students also ask for education institutions and subject areas to create their own smartphone applications.

The students talked about how social media is widely used and established in their lives but that that the education sector is only now starting to see its potential for learning - the students ask that education use social media as a platform for sharing and in so doing boost learning.

The students note that today a number of technology options are available that can boost the learning experience and make it more flexible, easy, comfortable and effective for students but the education system is not utilising technology effectively. 

The students concluded with the statement:

"Many pupils are engaged in technology in the 21st century so why not integrate it into the curriculum?"

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Teach Meet Tech Education Fusion

Thursday the 10th December 2015 was a good day for fusion.

Germany just fired up a monster machine that could revolutionize the way we use energy. The Max Planck Institute in Germany achieved first plasma with their W7-X stellarator  - an alternative but much more promising nuclear fusion machine to the more widely known Tokamak.

Teach Meet Tech - achieved education fusion in London.

Much of current formal education is a legacy of 20th century fission - split into so many separate (even conflicting parts) and divided into levels that rarely mix. Most education events reflect this fission - focusing on specific sectors or areas only - creating separate and defined bubbles of experience - rarely would a network manager mix in an event with students; someone in the school sector mix with those in the university sector or for the topics of flipped learning be on the same agenda as network resilience.

The aim of Teach Meet Tech was to bring many of the different parts of education together and see what happens.

Teach Meet Tech was an inspireNshare education fusion event supported by Croydon Council, CCS Libraries, Toshiba, LMN and Vanix bringing together people from schools, community education, adult education, further education, higher education, non profits and enterprise. The event was attended by students, teachers, IT people, education managers and the public to talk about education & technology in a free un-conference style meetup opportunity

Teach Meet Tech was held in Thornton Heath children's library - this was highly significant, symbolic and deliberate. Public libraries are true life-long and community education spaces for everyone. A children's library is a space of learning enjoyment before school - the Thornton Heath children's library is stimulating, colourful, playful and flexible - a perfect venue to help stimulate and catalyse education fusion.

The involvement of all the supporters was significant as they are all involved in various ways with connecting people and connecting technology. Croydon Council and CCS Libraries are seeking to re-think and re-invent local public libraries for the future - exploring their role within society, the content and technologies they provide access to, the activities that take place within them. Toshiba have been supporting innovative education meetups for over a decade - including their education ambassadors and support for student eAmbassadors and over 120 teacher led TeachMeets with 10,000 teachers. The LMN will be familiar to most network managers in the education sector - they ran the London wide high-speed data backbone and connections which connected us to the Internet between 1997 and 2011. Today the LMN are networking people - providing training, professional development, peer exchange programmes and promoting excellence in IT services for students and staff. Vanix helps over 50 UK learning institutions to improve student experience with extensive first-hand sector knowledge and a broad portfolio of network, management, analytics and security and since 2007 have helped inspireNshare technically implement a "the network is our computer" philosophy.

Teach Meet Tech began with a welcome from Martin King who explained the "fusion" concept of the event and talked about the need for education in the 21st century to move from fission to fusion.

Nigel Dias talked about Croydon Tech City - a movement, community and not for profit
that champions and inspires tech skills, business and opportunity in South London. Croydon Tech City is now home to just over 1,000 digital, creative and technical startups.

Miles Metcalf talked about "ICT Zero: The Pop Up College" - the problems of conventional IT departments and the possibility of replacing them completely with DIY style cheap or free consumer hardware and systems.

Adam Stewart joined us via a Google Hangout video conference from the Google UK offices. He showed us the stimulating environment inside the Google offices, talked about and demonstrated the potential of Google hangouts in education - giving examples

James Kieft talked about "Flipping Free" - using free web based tools that teachers can use to curate and share flipped learning content. He talked about Edynco,  BlendSpace,  Lessonpaths,  Zooburst,  QuizizzPiktochartInstaGrok,  Plickers and Visuwords.

Martin King talked about "TERROR" (Technology Education Relevance Risk Or Reward). he talked about the challenge of education in an era of exponential change and how current standard models of education and technology are not relevant in the 21st century and how transformation is necessary for education to remain relevant. He gave examples of inspireNshare projects in education - peer learning work with teachers and eAmbassador and Thinglab - true flip learning projects where students teach each other and their teachers.

Andy Butcher talked about why we need to adapt our networks to meet student expectations. He talked the ETAG challenge to enable innovation with technology to empower teachers and learners and to deepen and accelerate learning.  He spoke about technology trends, the growth of data, network traffic and the strategic challenges for IT services in providing ubiquitous connectivity that meets student expectations.

Students from the College of North West London talked about education and technology. They felt that education system technology and use of technology was outdated and asked that curricula accommodate their own technology and use of technology - they talked about social media and said they would like to make use of their smartphones. They valued on-line resources and wanted to be able to study at home - giving the practical reason of the cost of travel. The students talked about the importance of community experience and valued the role of teachers as guides in their education. The students talked about how education was different for each student and that the preferred balance and blend of on-line\virtual education Vs physical education would be different for each student.

For more information about Teach Meet Tech London visit the event website at http:\\inspirenshare.com/tmtl

Monday, December 14, 2015

Education Fusion

Fission defined the 20th century.

Nuclear fission was a defining technology of the 20th century and "splitting the atom" - the rational analytical reductionism of split something into smaller manageable bits that can be conquered and easily measured  defined many of the operational principles and thought processes of the 20th century.

Fission defines current education.

Current formal education is a legacy of 20th century fission. In essence education is a simple thing - the process of facilitating learning but in practice has become complicated by institutional systemic fission - splitting education into so many separate and even conflicting parts and dividing it into levels that no longer mix together.

Educational fission is good for the purposes of measurement and management but creates a set filter bubbles with all the conditions for memetic "in-breading" that reinforces the status quo.

Exponential and combinatorial developments in information and communication technologies will present completely different social challenges to those presented by the industrial and engineering technologies of the 20th century. Technologies of the 21st century such as artificial intelligence and robotics excel at the easily measurable and testable rational analytical reductionist fission material that dominates current formal education. Technologies of the 21st century are set to displace the very skills taught and learned in our 20th century education system!

Fusion may come to define the 21st century.

Physicists are in a worldwide race to create stable fusion devices that could not only mimic the Sun but release abundant energy, without the volumes of toxic waste generated by nuclear fission - the splitting of the atom.

Fusion needs to define education in the 21st century

Diversity and interconnection are essential elements in evolution and innovation. To evolve, innovate and to thrive in the 21st century education needs to shift from fission to fusion - to shift from closed, disconnected and standardised practice to open, connected and diverse practice. Education needs embrace fusion and evolution through diverse connections, sharing and variation to catalyse innovation, creativity, change, adaptation, innovation and evolution.

Its time for education to use its imagination!