Saturday, 14 June 2008

Impact, interaction.... and irony

Well, it's all over bar the shouting (which will happen during the post luch Annual General Meeting of EDEN - look, I'm only joking,OK??) The foyer downstairs is bare and few people remain. It's a little like Second Life (Now I am being serious)

The social web has had a huge impact on the way we see the world of education, and business. In his keynote today, David White from the EU commission used the analogy of Amazon.Com which encourages online book reviews. He says this has changed the business model for book selling, and that education needs to undergo a similar transformation so that the needs of lifelong learners and e-learning in particular can be addressed. He doesn’t know a great deal about e-learning but he does know a little about the lumbering edifice that is Europe. Europe consists of its people and the task in the European Union (and supposedly its governments) is to create the space, provide the instruments and give the support that liberates and sustains social and individual talents that make us all human. Europe has within it a wealth of culture and a creativity of spirit that is second to none and the challenge here is similar to those working within e-learning and distance education on a global basis. Our aim must be to encourage and support every individual as they realise their self potential so as to enable them to collectively contribute toward the common good. This was certainly Euro-centric and rejoiced in the unity of the continent and its potential to participate on the world stage. Delivering this speech directly in the wake of Ireland’s rejection of the Lisbon treaty yesterday, took some courage. It is rich indeed, and as his speech was actually given in Lisbon, with David hailing from Ireland, it certainly has a delicious irony.

Marci Powell, who has replaced John Flores as the new president of the United States Distance Learning Association, examined the interface between academia and industry. USDLA did a survey of 431 human resource directors in the USA. She concludes that the future workforce is here, now, but it is ill-prepared. The 3 R’s are not enough - a new digital literacy is needed, and there is also a new set of interactive skills (in what I will call the 4 ‘C’s) – collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication that is required. The problem is that the technologies children will work with probably haven’t even been invented yet, and we need to prepare them for this. This is an impossible task. The impact of Globalisation on jobs is severe, and competition is fierce. E-learning has created an open field of opportunity where the traditional catchment areas of student populations have been eroded. State funding is gradually draining away for universities, so the established institutions will need to be creative and innovative to survive. This will involve clear and open negotiation with the corporations to discover what new skills and knowledge they require us to deliver. This is the task set before distance educators. One of the answers is to connect people of all cultures through the global meeting place – the Internet.

These were at times controversial and thought provoking speeches, which reveal the complex problems of living and learning in a connected world. David White may have misjudged the mood o the conference. Marci Powell on the other hand tapped into our expectations. More problems were offered than solutions, but the EDEN crowd are pragmatists and didn’t really expect to have any real answers delivered on a plate. It may be a brave new world we inhabit with many problems to address, some of which appear to be intractable. New learning cultures are emerging which bring with them new sets of problems we didn’t anticipate. Education is not cheap to deliver, and e-learning is only a part of the solution. Yet it is a necessity for global well-being. If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance...

Posted by Steve Wheeler. Follow Learning with 'E's.

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