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Archive for March, 2012

The EDGEX2012 conference is now formally over. But it will continue informally here and here.

To say I feel tremendously happy would be an understatement. It was simply incredible to have such distinguished and enthusiastic people under one roof, both from India and abroad. I think the objectives of the conference were also served well – to promote awareness, to disrupt, to celebrate the network, to share and collaborate and to seed the beginnings of something new.

The conference website and blog will carry consolidated information (videos, articles, opinions, resources) in a couple of weeks from now. But I wanted to highlight my key takeaways from this conference.

I think we could be better organized. I also do think we could have communicated to many more people about this event and that we could perhaps have more speakers from economies that are closer to India in terms of the challenges they face. Given so many speakers, we should definitely have kept time better for each slot. My sense is that we should have organized our knowledge capture better as well.

But there are loads of things I am happy about. I made some great friends and met people who I knew only virtually before. I also loved the possibilities the conversations threw up – from scale to design to open-ness and so many things. I was also happy that our international speakers and audience got a real taste of India, and hopefully for India. I am glad the feedback is positive and we had so many people attend and interact.

There were many tensions identified and debated at EDGEX2012. The challenges of scale, policy environment, infrastructure, attitudes, quality and innovation shaped the initial context of the conference for all of us. But it was equally an exercise to comprehend alternate paradigms of thought that could have a potentially transformative impact on what India does in the future.

The point was to identify these tensions, get a shared understanding of challenges and innovations worldwide and be able to leverage a global network whose attention could be brought to bear upon India. As Madan Padaki, my co-conspirator said, he hoped that our international audience would look at ideas and immediately sense if they were relevant to India.

The way forward is the expansion of the network – to break the silos that exist today in Indian education and to proactively search for new connections to ideas and attitudes. It is my hope that India will achieve this proactively and quickly.

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I have been meaning to catch up with the interesting discussion happening around MOOCs. I believe that there will be and should be plurality of approaches and intentions – they are the inevitable accompaniment to change itself. The top tensions in the conversation are:

  • How do MOOCs compare with other initiatives like the Stanford AI? Should they be compared at all? How is the MOOC experience different from the others in both design and execution?
  • Should MOOCs be seen as disruptive and liberating futures of education, or as incremental improvements to existing educational systems? Should they be posted at all as alternatives to degree or continuing education programs?
  • What skills do learners require to navigate these new learning environments? Does it require that they be motivated, socially enabled and have certain Critical Literacies? Should we worry about motivation or presume it? Is learning an art that can be acquired through reflection and practice or is it a science that can/should be rigorously taught?
  • Is there intentionality in the design/conception of a MOOC? Should we be moving away from the assumption that MOOCs exist to teach something (as opposed to arguing whether learners can chase their own goals)? If so, how is it different from the way things are today on the Internet and with social media?
  • Are theories other than Connectivism able to explain these phenomena accurately? Can/should existing theories be reframed effectively for these types of experiences? Is the Connectivist mode, just as for other theories, like the principles behind the steam engine – evidenced anywhere, anytime?
  • What are the benefits that can be derived from such open systems? Are these benefits comparable to the perceived benefits from traditional closed, semi-open systems?

George indicates that this is a process of experimentation, rather than a prescription yet. But not necessarily one that should or does preclude entrepreneurs from adopting it or universities using and promoting their brand to differentiate themselves with. Stephen indicates that we would be better off thinking afresh, rather than treating them as another way of doing the same thing. Dave indicates how the Cynefin framework and the Rhizomatic learning approach can be interpreted in the context of what a MOOC can help one achieve.

The goals of education are variously defined to include a humane & progressive society, inclusive & equitable development, growth & innovation and a host of other goals that arise from awakened and aware individuals. The goals of training are to ensure repeatability in performance and the ability to handle emergent situations.

Theory and Practice are clearly differentiated by challenges of scale, diversity, infrastructure and operations. While Theory may predicate how things should be, Practice dictates what things are – and there are substantial gaps between the two that cannot be resolved by changes in Theory or Practice alone. This is true, not just in Education.

Thus while theories may suggest that Connectivism or Cognitive Apprenticeship or any other theory be the best way for someone to learn, the practice may leave much to be desired. In fact, trying to systematize any theory/philosophy at scale has always been a challenge. This is the core problem that faces us today, so much so, that we have questioned repeatedly the industrial nature of the education system. Of course, there will always be much to be said and debated about one theory over the other.

Which is why it makes sense to experiment with another paradigm which is closer to the way things are and much more in tune with what our goals from Education and Training are. Such a paradigm embraces complexity, questions the existing design and intentionality, while at the same time attempts to meet the same overarching goals. It is necessarily incomparable and requires a new acceptance from people willing to experiment, to craft it into Practice.

The new paradigm is at once more scalable, more respectful of diversity & personal needs, more inclusive & progressive, and most importantly, addresses just those issues that are really crippling the existing paradigm.

In Practice, there is still a long way to go to see how that acceptance can occur in an emergent manner. There are questions around the temporality of learning for specific needs, the need to assess (internal or external) learning for performative reasons, the assurance of learning in such environments, the use of technology, heutagogical considerations and many other important areas. These cannot be answered by rebuttal, but by cooperation. And it must be done by mechanisms that respect complexity and open-ness.

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Less than two weeks to go for EDGEX2012!

EDGEX is conceived as a platform that would connect people with different passions for education to come together. There are plenty of disruptive things happening in education around the world and EDGEX aims to kindle some conversations within and across learning communities – whether they be organized in some way or not. Most of all, EDGEX aims at breaking the silos that exist and aims to allow discovery of shared passions and goals.

I have already talked about the speakers that are joining us, and they need no introductions! Alec Couros, Alicia Sanchez and Jon Dron could not unfortunately join us this year, but, like with Etienne Wenger, we hope there will be an EDGEX2013 where they could join the conversation.

It is the speaker list from India and their enthusiasm that gets me really excited too. There is Sahana Chattopadhyay from ThoughtWorks, who I have frequently encountered over the social web, but only got a chance to touch base with recently. I look forward to her sharing her thoughts on Communities of Practice and Community Management, as well as her experiences working and interacting with people like Jay Cross. Freeman Murray, who set up Jaaga.in, a network led approach to support and facilitate social learning paths for students, is a great discovery because he adds that layer of implementation that will manage and massage the learning network.

So many entrepreneurs will converge at EDGEX2012 including Dheeraj Prasad, from BraveNewTalent, who is building a community based platform for skill development; Rajeev Pathak from eDreams and Venudhar Bhatt from Learning Revolution, who are engaged in making learning personalized and adaptive; Girish Gopalakrishnan, from inSIRcle and Satya Prakash Ganni (who could unfortunately not come this time), from LearnSocial who are both engaged in ideas that will make a real impact on social, adaptive learning environment; Jagdish Repaswal from Mangosense, who wants to using his vision for mobile and social learning applications, to redefine learning – all people with disruptive ideas and a burning passion to make an impact.

Jatinder Singh, from Atelier, is focused on scaling simulations to enterprises, perhaps national levels and beyond through a set of ideas around frameworks and low-cost delivery mechanisms. Siddharth Banerjee, from Indusgeeks, is a great champion of virtual world based learning and play paradigms. I have had the good fortune of connecting with Rajiv Jayaraman (who unfortunately could not make it to EDGEX this year) from KnolSkape, an exciting company that is focused strongly on simulations and serious games, and to Debabrata Bagchi (of Sparsha Learning) who has come out with simulation based products for the Higher Education space, Prasad Hassan from RightCareer with his vision of building innovative game based psychometric assessments for both urban and rural students; and with Amruth BR from VitaBeans who is taking his efforts at creating behavior profiles through gaming. I would have loved to have folks like Vraj Gokhlay from TIS and Madhumita Halder from MadRat to have also been able to attend. But this gives me hope that the simulation and serious games capabilities in India are growing and there are more entrepreneurs and sponsors willing to invest time, money and effort into raising the quality of education.

Manish Upadhyay from LIQVID, who has forever engaged in being passionate about learning and technology, brings with him his experiences of building mobile, tablet based education systems for the K12 space. Anirudh Phadke’s enthusiasm in building BeyondTeaching with the slogan No teacher left behind, is at once provocative, relevant and intriguing. Surbhi Bhagat and her passion to make an impact in rural education through UnivExcellence; Rajeevnath Viswanathan from EduAlert talking about his concept of an Inclusive Learning Graph; Rajat Soni, from Eduledge with his learning platform called Eruditio; Satish Sukumar (the technology man behind EduNxt, SMU’s digital learning platform) and Shanath Kumar (who heads eLearning at SMU and is the learning guru shaping the development of EduNxt); Rajeev Menon from MeritTrac, who is forever pushing the boundaries of product development in the Assessments space are all entrepreneurs and passionate people intent on creating disruption in the way we do things in education.

Of course, Madan Padaki, my co-conspirator in creating EDGEX and the man behind the largest assessments company in India, MeritTrac, will also present his work with Head Held High, an initiative to leverage the power of education to transform lives.

A special thanks to one of our other entrepreneurs, Piyush Agrawal, who leads Aurus Networks, who with great enthusiasm offered to webcast EDGEX2012 live (details will be on the website soon). Also to Bakary Singhateh, who is coming all the way from Gambia where he researches Connectivism! The Entrepreneur Showcase on Day One of the conference will also showcase students from Manipal University, as part of MU’s Technology Business Incubation division, where Amruth and I went to learn from students what they thought would be potentially disruptive.

With over 35 speakers, the Entrepreneur Showcase, workshops on networked based learning, mobility and serious games, and plenty of opportunities to network with a diverse set of entrepreneurs, thought leaders, investors, companies and other stakeholders, EDGEX is going to be fun!

Let’s disrupt!

 

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