Sunday, March 11, 2012

In Delhi: EDGEX2012

I am siting aboard a Jet Airways flight on my way to attend and present at the EDGEX2012 conference in Delhi. It's officially starting from tomorrow. But we--the speakers and the organizers--are meeting today. I am sure Viplav Baxi has already started his day and the folks are already meeting at the Habitat Center, the location of the conference.

Am I excited? I guess that would be an understatement. I am looking forward to 3 days of insights, learning and most importantly, getting to meet others similarly passionate about education. Viplav calls it the Disruptive Educational Conference. I must say I agree. Vehemently!

Yesterday, as I added a few final touches to my presentation, some random thoughts fleeted across my mind.  I jotted these down as they occurred to me and have copied them here. Without edits.
  1. I wouldn't be attending this conference if it weren't for social media.
  2. I was introduced to the work, ideas and blogs of most of the speakers via Twitter.
  3. What I have learned in the last 3 years have been completely via social media. Social, informal learning.
  4. I am a part of a huge global network of educators and learned, a virtual community of practice.
  5. Knowledge in this community is constantly being reconstructed through dialogue, conversation, and debate.
  6. There is no knowledge repository. It is a construct of the network, a constantly flowing and shifting set of paradigms and practices.
  7. There is no one place where this knowledge is stored. It resides in the network.
  8. The network itself is constantly shifting. The edge becoming he center and vice versa.
  9. If we cease to converse, we will cease to create. Conversation is the key to continuous learning which is our key to survival today.
  10. We are, in a way, going back to our roots when our forefathers gathered around the fire to exchange stories.
  11. These stories were not merely means of amusement but keys to survival. By sharing experiences, the elders of the tribe passed on their knowledge about an unknown, unpredictable, dangerous world full of chaos and novel challenges (think of the Cynefin Framework).
  12. This is where we need to go back to. Albeit in a different manner. However, the situation is not very different. The business world is changing, becoming unpredictable and chaotic.
  13. There is no time for an individual to learn from his or her own experiences. We have to go back to the story swapping days, capture tribal knowledge and build on it.
Today's linear, structured, syllabus-and exam-driven model of education is uniquely unsuited to meet the needs of this volatile, changing, chameleon like world. Linearity needs to be replaced by holistic focus on pattern matching, exploration and creative thinking. Think of how the divers learns in the example JSB cites in the power of pull.

I think we can all feel the coming of a huge change. It is already beginning in pockets with parents choosing to homeschool their children, open courseware gaining popularity, adults opting for meaningful work over just jobs. These are tiny facets of a much bigger wave sweeping across different sectors and it's presence is being felt.

I am looking at this conference to highlight some of these changes, to think about what we as educators can do.

Wheels down, Delhi! Time to get off. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

EDGEX 2012: About Disruptive Education

This sentence from Stephen Downes post A World to Change best exemplifies one of the key drivers behind a conference like EDGEX2012: We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.

With EDGEX2012 coming up just round the corner, I must say that I am super excited. It’s getting a bit difficult to focus on my daily work, the BAU stuff and not wander off in my head to the conference. Thanks to Viplav Baxi, we finally have speakers and thought leaders like Stephen Downes, Jay Cross, Clark Quinn, Dave Cormier, et al. coming together in a conference in India.

But I am jumping ahead as usual. I wanted this to be a blog post on what the conference is and why I think all educators—teachers, CLOs, L&D consultants, policy makers and policy breakers, and anyone who has anything to do with enabling others to build capability—should attend. If you believe that the current education system is failing us, is no longer sustainable, is neither fair nor equitable, then this is the conference for you. If you have ever been inspired by the writings of Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy of Hope), then this conference is for you. It is about disruptive education. About freeing education from the shackles of a building (call it school, college, what you will) and democratizing it. It’s about handing power back to the learners and creating the environment for learning to happen. And it will. We have experiments like the Hole in the Wall by Sugata Mitra to prove us right. 

The Connectivism and Connective Knowledge MOOC (massive open online course) that Downes, Siemens and Cormier started in 2008 exemplifies networked learning, and the transformative impact of technology on learning. Most importantly, it does not have a “fixed body of knowledge” that learners need to go through. “Rather, the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person.” And this is the fundamental, quintessential personalized learning taking place on a massive scale year after year. I had joined the MOOC in 2010 for the first time. Since then, I have been a sporadic visitor to the MOOC and have always found nuggets of learning that suited my need at the moment. It empowers you—the learner—to architect your own learning. 

Closely aligned to this, we have Jay Cross—the proponent of Informal Learning. At a time when organizations were investing in formal, top down training programs, a vestige of the Industrial Era and Taylorist ideas of productivity improvement, Cross, Marcia Conner and a few others were busy advocating informal learning, workscaping, the power of social tools and the importance of building one’s personal learning network. I find this coming together of the different strands that constitute how we learn and perceive and make sense of the world today in a single conference quite remarkable. 

The conference also has speakers like Grainne Conole, Martin Weller, Les Foltos, Douglas Lynch and others. And the overarching themes are:
  1. Informal Learning, Communities of Practice, Connectivism
  2. Personal Learning Environments, Open Distributed
  3. Learning, Net Pedagogy, Learning “Design” in a 2.0 world
  4. Learning Analytics, Ubiquitous learning
  5. MOOCs, OER University, Stanford AI
  6. Role of teachers and coaching in an open distributed learning environment
  7. New forms of assessments
There are resources here for those keen to know more about connectivism, learnscapes, communities of practices, open design, social network analysis and more.

Organizations as Communities — Part 2

Yesterday, in a Twitter conversation with Rachel Happe regarding the need for organizations to function as communities, I wrote the follow...