Last Wednesday, Online hosted Education Unbound 2008. We would like to thank the panel for sharing their interesting and insightful comments and we hope that both speakers and guests enjoyed the night as much as we did.
Chairing the panel debate for the second year running was Matt Locke, and we are very grateful to him for his excellent stewardship of the discussion. Matt briefly talked about one of the informal educational projects that Channel 4 Education have launched recently, year dot, a multimedia project which follows fifteen teenagers as they undergo a period of significant change in their lives.
Andy Gibson talked about the inspiration behind the School of Everything and the successes the project has already enjoyed. After stating that he wishes to disrupt education in a positive way by connecting people, Andy explained that for the school of everything, the role of the social web isn’t the delivery of content but the connections that can be forged through using it. The ultimate goal of the project is to get people to meet in rooms and learn from each other face to face. He ventured that the School of Everything is essentially e-bay for learning, and that he believes everyone has both something to teach and something they want to learn.
Catherine Howell focused on the impact of 2.0 web technologies for higher education institutions. Interestingly, she highlighted how the social web can aid inter-disciplinary approaches by facilitating informational exchanges and networking outside of traditional subject divisions. Catherine discussed the role of open source technologies in HE, pointing out that the open source model provides a rich and productive model of software development and allows participants to exchange vast amounts of data whilst utilising free or not for profit services. However, she contended that institutions will always want to maintain a degree of control over their services to maintain quality and therefore advocated a mixed ecology approach for educational institutions. She ended by asking three pertinent questions:
1) What is the right kind of structure for R&D in this area?
2) How do we increase the accessibility of web 2.0 applications?
3) Where is the political discourse around the social web?
David Noble shared his experiences of utilizing the social web as a teacher, both inside and outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, David talked about how engaging web 2.0 applications can be for students, and raised the problem of schools banning social networking sites. He also noted that social technologies can facilitate teachers sharing resources effectively within the classroom and talked about using skype in the teaching of foreign languages as an example of technology improving the quality of formal learning. Outside the classroom, David elaborated on the benefits of social networking between teachers and the personal use he makes of tools such as twitter. He pointed to flash meetings and other web conferencing tools, which facilitate the sharing of ideas between teachers from different continents and of which he is a regular participant. Interestingly he also explained teach-meets, online wiki based event organising so that teachers can meet up in person at conferences such as BETT or the Scottish Learning conference. One of the key barriers he argued to teachers utilizing new social technologies effectively is the time involved in exploring new technologies and organising online events. Finally, with reference to Clayton Christenson, David questioned whether in the future teachers would help disrupt the formal education system by organising outside of it or whether teachers would be too reluctant to become the “guide by the side rather than the sage on the stage.”
Dan Sutch commented that the personalisation agenda has changed the paradigm of education. However, whilst the formal education system is trying to incorporate some of the benefits of informal learning, this is proving a very slow process. He argued that for change in teaching practice to move at a faster rate and incorporate more of these benefits, policy would have to change to encourage movement in certain directions. Referencing a study in which Futurelab had asked 40 teachers to identify barriers to innovation in the profession; he said that the 40 participants had named 300 different barriers between them. Unsurprisingly, one of the most significant barriers was considered to be assessment. He talked about the significance of the name change from the DfES to DCSF, and that DCSF now has responsibility for education in the home and the family as well as in formal educational institutions. He finished by posing the following question: considering the blurring of formal and informal learning, what is the role of formal education?
Again I would like to thank the speakers for taking the time to come and speak to us last week. All of us at Online really enjoyed the event and found the discussion very inspiring.