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Archive for November, 2015

RIP Jay Cross

People ask how my new book is coming along. I tell them I’m not writing a book, I’m leading a crusade.

Jay Cross, The Real Learning Project.

The last interaction I had with Jay was in August this year. Jay shared a copy of his latest work “Aha! Get Smart – The missing manual for do-it-yourself learners“.  He wrote:

I hope to inspire hoards of people to experience the Aha! of having learned something significant and remembering how they did it.

Through this project, Jay wanted to empower learners to discover their agency in learning, something that is incredibly important for the future.

Jay tells us to remember that we are in-charge of our learning, not the teacher or the institution. It is not something that happens to you at events or courses, it is something that is owned by you, on a continuous basis, life long. Learning becomes a process for improving your Life.

Throughout the book, there are useful cues and practical help to JDI (Just Do It). The ideas that learning is personal, social, conversational, tacit, reflective, continuous – run through the book. Jay also ran up against the power law in networked learning:

Fifteen years ago, a rule of thumb for community participation was 1-10-100. Out of 100 people, 1 would lead the charge by posting interesting and provocative information. 10 would comment, converse, and otherwise post. The remaining 89  would watch. The ratio must have changed. People who are accustomed to posting news and pictures on Facebook are more likely to take part in any social network they come upon, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with us.

Although we had episodically interacted over the web in various contexts, I remember first meeting Jay when he was kind enough to come all the way to New Delhi for the EDGEx conference we had organized in 2012.

I believe that Jay’s message is incredibly important for all of us. We need to celebrate the Aha! in learning. Now, more so.

RIP. Jay Cross. The man who coined the term eLearning.

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Let us for a moment imagine a future where schools are run by teachers’ cooperatives. That is, instead of an administrative and financial superstructure of wealthy philanthropists or businesspersons or trusts, political muscle, non-academic leadership and all the trappings of modern world schools, teachers would cooperate to teach, learn and administer the school.

The Amul cooperative in India posits a model for cooperatives in the Dairy sector.

The then Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri decided that the same approach should become the basis of a National Dairy Development policy. He understood that the success of Amul could be attributed to four important factors. The farmers owned the dairy, their elected representatives managed the village societies and the district union,  they employed professionals to operate the dairy and manage its business. Most importantly, the co-operatives were sensitive to the needs of farmers and responsive to their demands.

In Education, this is not new (Avalon, SUPAR, Woodland Park). In Can Teachers Run Their Own Schools, Charles Kerchener talks about how such schools lack closed structures, promote open-ness and put greater responsibility on students to manage their own learning.

Advisor Kevin Ward, writes that students who come from a traditional school think, “that an open environment is
the equivalent of an unsupervised study hall and act accordingly. They wait for bells and whistles and detentions and plenty of assignments.” “Parents may expect to see immediate success,” but “learning to become an independent learner takes not only time but a good measure of failure.” These students become successful over time, Ward asserts, because students create their own rules. That struggle can take a long time, sometimes two years before a student understands that success is primarily a function of what they put into it as opposed to how well they play by someone’s rules. Contrast this with scripted teaching, frequent teacher-led drills,
and frequent testing that characterizes some charter schools recognized as successful.

…But regardless of the hours put in, students must design projects that meet all the state standards.

…The credit system—perhaps the most enduring structure of American high schools—is relegated to a bookkeeping function

It is interesting how these cooperatives are organized and how do different stakeholders react to shared leadership and open ecosystems. It is important to note that the exact shape and form for these cooperatives is not something that is designed. Rather it is emergent, based on the dynamics of the people, context and tools.

In India, I have yet to come across a similar vision. Doubtless, there exists someone doing it, but it is an idea not yet discussed or explored in policy or other academic circles, at least from what I know.

However, there is merit in discussing this model if it leads to increased stakeholder trust & respect, higher quality learning, diversity and autonomy. What if there were a significant proportion of cooperative schools in India catering to local needs, responsive to local community, and creating environments where students could really take responsibility for their own learning? Such cooperatives could be served by other cooperatives as well – for needs ranging from administrative/professional services to even needs such as teacher education and leadership development.

Can such a future be?

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