The first keynote speaker, Donald Taylor (@DonaldHTaylor), chair of the Learning and Performance Institute, spoke about the many changes in Learning Technology in the last 13 years. He identified 3 major changes in that time, leading to new opportunities for the Centre:
- Learning occurs in a boarderless world, but it's not just the classroom walls that have been broken down. The ubiquity of the internet means that information is available anywhere. Mobile technologies mean that we can access the internet from wherever we happen to be. Moreover, the boarders between work and social life are also breaking down, leading to a blur between formal and informal learning.
- Information is free. There is no point writing/developing new courses that already exist and are freely available. Business models have got to change, because it will no longer be possible to sell content.
- The expectations of learners have changed. People want immediate, focussed, social learning. Donald particularly noted the increase of video in "how-to" learning. Learner-generated content brings the notion of authority into question.
Donald then looked at how the world is responding to these changes. In Learning and Development, the training model is moving from design, develop and deliver, to one of find, facilitate and filter. He gave some examples of innovative use of technology for training in industry (including Ericsson, Eskom and TTi) and mentioned briefly the Open Courseware movement.
The second speaker of the morning was Jonny Parkes, who is chair of the board for the new Centre for Learning Innovation, representing industry. Jonny started out by differentiating between "best practice", which is what may be going on today, and "next practice", which means trying to see into the future. He spoked about 3 principles upon which the new Centre will be based.
- Learn from the past. Jonny gave a very nice overview of learning technology since the 1980s, starting with CBT (interact), through multimedia in the 1990s (engage) and eLearning in the 2000s (connect). None of these were perfect solutions, but we can learn from each of them. What then is the next practice?
- Be brave, but be open to change. The themes of the Centre will be social learning (search, interoperability, personalised); mobile learning (intelligent content delivery, location based, hands-on learning); immersive learning (agents, games & virtual worlds, augmented reality); metrics and assessments (is it working? are we improving learning?).
- The need for smart people, including academic partnerships and industry-led collaboration. (Apparently the smart people are all in the heart of Dublin, but I'll let that go)
- Research excellence, achieved through partnerships with research groups in TCD, UCD, NUIG and WIT.
- A deep understanding of learning and the learning sector.
- Proven transfer success
- Industry direction and partnerships
- Need to lower the risk in technology adoption
To date, the percolate project, a precursor of the Centre, has been working in the area of social discovery for learning. The final speakers of the day, Paul Mac Cartney and Lynda Donovan gave a good overview of the work so far in three areas: corporate, schools and higher education.
Focus on Technology
I'm still trying to get together my thoughts on yesterday's event. I can see a role for the Centre for Learning Innovation as a hub to bring together industry and research in technologies for learning. But I do think that the expertise in Teaching and Learning is missing. The "academic" partners of this initiative are research centres and, just because they are based within a higher education institution, doesn't mean that they have expertise in pedagogy or pedagogic research.
The canvas for online learning is certainly changing and moving fast. I found it strange that none of the presenters mentioned any of the recent developments in MOOCs; see this quick snapshot of advances in online education by Catherine Cronin.
Much of the talk yesterday focussed on technology, and there seemed to be a basic view that learning is a matter of finding the best content. But learning is much more than content, and teaching is more than delivery.
There was very little talk yesterday of the learner and no consideration of how people (children, students, employees) learn. This was particularly evident in the final presentation on the homework help system for children. From the evaluation of the system, it appears that it was of more use to "fast" learners than to "struggling" learners. It was suggested that this might be because children of high ability are more proficient at searching. For me, this immediately raises issues of digital literacies, of which there was no mention during the presentation.
So, I think it's worthwhile keeping a watch on this Centre for Learning Innovation. It will be interesting to see how it develops. But I am concerned to see such a focus on the technology and so little on the pedagogy.
All of yesterday's sessions were recorded and will be available on the Centre's website. For the moment, that website is www.percolate.ie.