Monday, July 25, 2016

Pop Up Thinglab 7: At The Not Moodle Roundtable

Pop Up Thinglab 7 was part of the "Not Moodle Roundtable" facilitated by Julian Bream at the Mary Ward Centre for people involved with adult and community education in London.

21 people from 15 adult and community learning services across London shared their experiences, tips and tools of education and technology - here is what we talked about:

* Appropriate access to wifi was perhaps the biggest problem and challenge - their is a wealth of useful things online but its not always possible or reliable to get access to them in the venues that adult and community education use. Some services are providing "MIFI" style mobile shared wifi hotspots for staff to take with them to community venues for them and their students to use to get on-line.

* Learners expect to use familiar technology in their education (it's part of everyday lives) but the technology education offers is increasingly out of touch with everyday life and is difficult to use.

* There was much discussion about BYOD and examples were given of learners using smartphones to make videos and share things using social media and messaging apps. Waltham Forest for example have IT courses without providing any hardware - an example of BYOD family learning.

* Learners (and staff) have few problems using their own devices especially smartphones but we have to be very sensitive to technology equality issues as some people have very good personal equipment and networking while others have very poor equipment or none at all. Moving away from a focus on technology can help here - there is no use prescribing a particular app or system if it can't be used in context - focusing on teaching and learning is a better approach and putting any technology into a support role.

* Having to operate, teach and learn in locked down IT environments - restricting the freedom of teachers and learners to be flexible and to use the tools they find most appropriate.

* Too much focus on technology and its provision rather than a focus on pedagogy and using the appropriate methods and tools to support it.

* The idiosyncrasies of the venues they use - adult and community teachers often have to educate in venues operated by many agencies and the IT used has different "systems behaviours" e.g. ways to login, access storage and programs etc.

In some places there is enthusiasm but its not matched with the right level of support or infrastructure.

* Some tutors feel they don't have the skills or confidence to use technology.

* People don't like change ... this is often a consequence of institutional methods of change ... top down "big bang" systems thinking approaches with inappropriate\inadequate consideration of human factors.

* The importance of peer support and the sharing of ideas, experiences and solutions was recognised and the need for more of this was appreciated. People talked about creating a toolkit of resources that can be selected from. In no particular order here are some of the tools that people talked about and recommended Thinglink, Padlet, Camstudio, Pinnion, Polleverywhere, Nearpod, Photomath, Blendspace, Quizlet, Whatsapp, Google translate and Youtube.

Education is not a problem to be solved.

InspireNshare's Martin King did an impromptu session on education technology. He spoke about the problem of change in education, "ed-tech solutionism", education and technology cycles, history repeating and about the philosophy of InspireNshare and Thinglabs .

Martin spoke about his experience of more than 35 years with education and technology - how he has seen the cycles of "the next big thing" that will really make a difference or as Evgeny Morozov writes "To Save Everything, Click Here". The latest technology solutions that most remember and which are still being promoted in education are of course eboards, MLEs's, tablets and MOOCs. Martin told Miles Metcalf's joke about eBoards ....

"The latest eBoards are so good that you can see the chalk dust" 

There is a willingness to invest in tangible capital product but not the staff or staff development that can really make a difference and with this type of "concrete thinking" the replacement of teachers with AI systems seems inevitable. 

"Concrete thinking" means the "e" in eLearning so often stands for "expensive" - there are so many stories of institution leaderships giving the go ahead to spend tens of thousands on tablets only to have them sit in cupboards unused because no one has had any idea how to use them in practice in their subjects or have them locked down and loaded with specific apps and taken out of charging cabinets in classrooms as if they were textbooks. 

So often technology is seen as just yet another content delivery method and with this type of thinking the direct brain upload to students seems inevitable!

Why is it that education itself doesn't seem to change?

Why is it that so many talk about a growing disconnect between education and the real world?

Why is it that people talk about education technology and a crisis of relevance?

Keep taking the tablets ... technology dependence .. the solution is more of the same

One reason is that education decisions are not informed by teachers but by corporate style vested interests in maintaining the status quo of big expensive institutional technology and the high level deals with the education and technology industry "matrix". 

Somehow learners and teachers must be able to shape the future of learning and teaching

Martin spoke about his "bottom up" and grass roots development philosophy and how inspireNshare and Thinglab are influenced by the ancient Greek steam engine and the Butterfly effect - that sharing things can inspire people to see appropriate or new uses for them and that by further sharing their ideas and uses can cause bigger effects than ever imagined.

In the 1st century AD Heron described what is considered to be the first recorded steam engine but it was only ever thought of and used as a toy ... imagine if a Roman engineer had seen it ... its potential might have been seen and history could have been very, very different.

The Butterfly is a symbol of change and lightness of mind and the Butterfly effect is the idea that tiny actions and changes can have large, widespread effects through chain reactions in an interconnected world.

As part of the meeting Martin brought along the Pop up Thinglab Virtual Reality Travel Agency with a selection of VR headsets and showed an Introduction To Virtual Reality Smash Hit VR, Cirque Du Soleil: ZARKANA and Discovr. Egypt on the Samsung Gear VR and The Click Effect and "The Evolution of Vrse" on Google Cardboard VR.

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