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Looking backwards, looking forwards

I am on a bit of a “Back to the future” theme at the moment and so when I volunteered to interview for the current purposed campaign, I decide to do a bit looking back as well as forward.

The instructions were:

For our next campaign we want to you to spread the Purpos/ed message by asking somebody two questions and recording their answers:

A) How should we educate people in the future?
B) What do we need to be doing now to enable that?

We’d like people to use Audioboo to record audio for these.

I interviewed my friend Marian who left school at 14 1/2 and, as an added bonus, her partner Ray  arrived part way through the interview.  Unfortunately we had barely got started when the 5 minutes were up but here is the first part of our discussion http://audioboo.fm/boos/388699-interview-with-marian-and-ray.

The sound quality of the last part is not improved by the dog barking in the kitchen – Billy wanted to see Ray too.

After we had run out of audio boo, we had a really interesting discussion, covering the following points.

  • at the time Marian and Ray left school, jobs were in abundance (contrast that with now) but it wasn’t possible for either of them to stay on past the school leaving age even though they regret that now
  • they both learned a lot in their workplaces but have also learned other things e.g. Ray learned to play the guitar through a correspondence course
  • they don’t have access to the Internet but are beginning to be interested though starting digital photography and hearing so much about it

I am very interested in how the generation approaching retirement can gain access to the Internet, learn how to use it and learn through using it at a time in their lives when they will have more free time but less money.  As NIACE tell us,

“Those who are not online are older, in lower income brackets, and are less likely to have formal qualifications. It is estimated that households can save around £500 a year by being online, and one in three internet users say they use the web for learning and finding information online.”

When we are thinking about the purpose and future of education, let’s not forget about the generations who missed out the first time around and are in danger of missing out on new ways of learning.

The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online

The following abstract is for a Symposium that will be presented at ALT-C 2011 by

Frances Bell, Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan

It is considered, eclectic and interesting and we hope it will attract rich discussion before during and after ALT-C 2011. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to guess who wrote which part (and I have to say one of them is pretty easy to guess), and then to go on to engage in meaningful discussion.

Abstract:

This symposium will examine the paradoxes of giving and receiving online in education in a changing economic climate.  Each of the panellists will briefly address topic areas within the symposium theme, followed by an opportunity for present and at distance audiences to contribute, concluding with a 25 minute plenary discussion.

Symposium delegates will be provoked to reconsider the costs of participation online by paid and unpaid participants in ‘open’ discussion and sharing of resources.

Open Educational Resources exist within communities that create, use and sustain them (Downes 2007). When ‘communities’ in Higher Education break down due to redundancy and casualisation of labour what happens to OERs? Are they sustained? Can they reach out to other contexts?

All areas of education, including the school sector, currently face significant financial challenges and uncertainties. Institutions are increasingly reviewing the provision of devices and services, and looking at learner owned devices and commercially owned ‘free’ cloud-based services. What is the real price of an education system supported and transformed by embedded learning technologies?

Ownership in the age of openness calls for clarity about mutual expectations between learners, communities and ourselves. Ideas and content are shared easily through open platforms, and yet attributions can be masked in the flow of dissemination: does credit always go where it is due?

Openness in the production, sharing and reuse of education/resources is meaningless in the face of neoliberalism. Where coercive competition forms a treadmill for the production of value, openness/OERs are commodified. Control of the educational means of production determines power to frame how open are the relations for the production or consumption of educational goods or services, in order to realise value. The totality of this need, elicited by the state for capital, rather than the rights of feepayers, parents, communities or academics, shapes how human values like openness are revealed and enabled within HE.

Scarce research monies focus attention on impact factors, arguably stagnating practice. For publications, Open Access can increase wider societal impact but at the expense of career progression.We explore the tensions, paradoxes and professional costs on societal benefits, individual agency and academic progression.

The purpose of education

Education, 1890, by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios

What is the purpose of education?

Well, of course that raises more questions:

What is education? I refer you to the stained glass window above see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_%28Chittenden_Memorial_Window or my interpretation that it is an activity involving serious angels and though which light can shine.

Whose purpose are we talking about? Well I think we just have to agree that there is a variety of purposes, and I’ll say more about that later.

Why are we asking the question?

Purpos/ed seems to about working to raise the position of education on the political agenda.  It also seems to be located within the learning technology community. This suggests to me that educational funding is seen to be under threat and that the role of technology in education is important.

Fred Garnett referred us to Mike Wesch’s inspirational ideas on the need for educators and learners to (re)gain a sense of the purpose of education. Stephen Downes and Lou McGill showed how educational system can go awry.

Ewan McIntosh persuaded me that we should be “giving up the artificial reins we as teachers, parents and governments use to strangle those passions and the  creativity that lends itself to their growth.” Other contributors stress the need for passion and creativity, and the agency of learners (and teachers).

My own view

Passion about solving the current problems in education and excitement about the possibilities offered by web and network technologies can tempt us to think that current educational systems can somehow be replaced by technology.  This could be a risky experiment!

Conscious of a slightly anti-teaching tone creeping into debates about networked learning, I ran an online seminar where participants explored the role of teachers in learning networks and what happens when they disappear. My conclusion was that good teachers know when to disappear, or give up the artificial reins.

My two applications did not result in a National Teaching Fellowship but the reflective writing I did for them helped me develop my philosophy of education, based on my experiences as student, mother, teacher and researcher in secondary, further and higher education. So I do believe that thinking about and questioning the hows and whys are very important parts of education.  Education is in constant flux: within families, institutions, networked publics.  Keri Facer stressed the “urgent need to have a serious public debate about the purpose of education that builds bridges between students, educators and the wider public”.  Perhaps the purpose of education is to construct a participatory dialogue about the purpose of education: a dialogue that makes a difference to what learners experience throughout their lives.

Education has four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.  I believe its impact depends on its ability to enable all of us to shape it.  Purpos/ed is doing a great job of involving educators in the dialogue – the next challenge is to involve the learners.

International Women’s Day 2011 – make a small difference

International Women’s Day is on 8 March 2011.

Happy International Women's Day
Photo from Katkura

Although this day has been celebrated since 1910, there is always a danger that it provides a ‘warm glow’ moment and does not make any difference to what we do or think.  Not aspiring to revolution #egypt style, and partially prompted (but not managed!) by Fred Garnett, I have thought of something that we can do that can make small local differences to women, and possibly shift the tenor of online connections.  My other prompt was receiving a touching private  message from a former student, thanking me for helping her achieve promotion.  When I shared this on anonymously on Facebook, I got more props (not my intention!) and a general affirmation of the importance of positive feedback.

This left me pondering on the knotty question of Linked-in recommendations.  My personal policy on this is to make unsolicited recommendations whenever I think of them, but I have noticed recently that the number of requests for recommendations from male colleagues has been increasing (including from one for whom I had already written an unsolicited recommendation- you know who you are!!). I haven’t been able to find any research on gendered recommendation behaviours on Linked-in but would not be surprised if they are what we might expect based on what happens elsewhere – that women tend to get less glowing recommendations.  I also wonder who makes more recommendations – men or women.

So what I am asking you to do for International Women’s Day is to look at your acknowledgement behaviours  and make sure that you credit the wonderful women that you work, play and live with.  Who knows? you may already do this or you may do it in future.

Here are some concrete suggestions:

1. Look at your blogroll – are there any great women bloggers who should be there?

2.  When you visit a woman’s blog, go on – post a comment.

3. Retweet good posts you see from women.

4.  Follow some interesting women on Twitter that you see in a hashtag stream.

5.  Recommend some great women on Linked-in without them having to ask you.

6.  Tell the women in your life when they do something great or useful or that makes you happy

In general – spread the love!

Warning:  Please don’t do any of the above to me unless you were going to anyway or want to make me very embarrassed;)