I can remember at the turn of this century ( always wanted to start something with that sentence – not sure if it makes me wise or just old! ) there was a person, who will remain nameless, who kept popping up at events and conferences I attended. I used to get a bit fed as in every presentation this person did, and they did a lot, they used to bring out their mobile phone, wave it about, and say “this is going to revolutionize everything in education.”
“Yadda, yadda”, said I and others, and we went back to our desks, our metadata, our content packages, our baby VLEs and websites. 15 years on, and it turns out that mobile technology (not just phones) are actually incredibly important in all our lives – not just in education.
For me the I think the change has been evolutionary, each handset I’ve had has been allowed me to do just that little bit more, be it take a decent picture or video conference. There have of course been a couple of revolutionary moments. Thank you Steve Job and co for ipods/pads/phones. Although I hate to admit it, I do feel slightly lost without my phone. Without it, I feel just that little bit less connected to my world, my family and friends and not just work.
Last week I was at a Jisc event where we were asked to develop some radical ideas, things that would be revolutionary not evolutionary – and of course be able to be sustainable potential funding ideas for Jisc. Peter Reed has already written a great summary of the event. Whilst I’m still not sure if any of the ideas were actually that revolutionary or radical, one thing that did strike me was that a lot of the ideas were dependent on mobile technology. Many of the ideas built on geo-location services like Yik Yak or extending personalised notifications on phones.
It was also pretty easy to get not to far away from a not to shabby mock up of apps, and have confidence that the backend technology to make them happen was pretty much available already and we were all confident that things would work. As someone said in the room, if this had been 10 years ago at a Jisc meeting, the technology would have been central to the discussion. We would have spent 2 days designing the database, not what anyone was going to do with it. At this event, it was really the ideas, people and processes that were top of the agenda, and amen for that.
One of the delegates was head of estates, and I found the perspective of “the voice of the estate” fascinating. Intelligent, dynamic room booking based on real time pre attendance information; that probably is the not too distant future.
That said, it was also noticeable that there was focus on services to make the wider student experience better for students, and there wasn’t as much focus on learning and teaching itself.
I was in one of the groups that did focus on learning and teaching. We started with the idea of “what if?” What if you didn’t have to go to meetings, give one hour lectures, mark essays, what if you could actually get more time to “do stuff”? That evolved from something that blocked out time for staff to experiment, to the google 25% idea, to what we called the “total curriculum” where everything from 1st year to PhD, was based on real world projects.
Of course, there is a lot of project based curriculum already happening across all levels of education from primary schools to universities, but what if we extended it more? Of course there would need to be radical changes to our learning and teaching structures (like timetables and exams) to more meaningful self directed learning with negotiated assessments. Perhaps we could start with more evolutionary steps like 1 week learning festivals, maker fests and building up to one month, one semester, one year, three (four) years.
Would that bring about a revolution or just another step in our evolution? I don’t know, but it was fun talking about it and realising that just like with some of the technology for the other ideas, it isn’t too difficult to image actually happening.