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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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Over the next few weeks, as the countdown to the EDGEX Disruptive Educational Research conference to be held in New Delhi from March 12-14 begins, I hope to bring to you all news and updates about the conference and its themes.

The EDGEX 2012 Conference has been carefully and collaboratively constructed to bring cutting edge educational research to participants. There are two major themes – Learning X.O and Simulations & Serious Games. The Learning X.O theme essentially tries to synthesize the fairly amazing and disruptive research and experimentation around Connectivism, Informal Learning and Communities of Practice.

For something that I joined up in 2008 (with the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge [CCKO8] “course” led by George Siemens,Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier, featuring a unique open-ended format called the Massive Open Online Course – MOOC) to co-experiment with over 2000 people across the world, to have advanced so much and to have directly or indirectly inspired systems thinking on education (witness the Stanford AI “course” experiment and the recent announcement – MITx – by MIT) by traditional brick and mortar institutions, is no mean achievement over such a short period of time.

What makes Connectivism and all the associated themes so disruptive is just that – its potential to arm an entirely new generation of theorists, researchers and practitioners with the thought paradigm and tools to comprehend the impacts of disruptive technology, over abundant knowledge, demographic pressures and changing social relations among other important trends. Underlying it, in my own interpretation, is the tremendous principle of democratization – of education to be by, for and of the people. Though it is heavily steeped in technology, the essence of it is like “the principles behind the steam engine” as Stephen would say.

George and Stephen continue to raise the bar. Their continued work, and that of able partners and fellow researchers like Dave Cormier and Alec Couros, not only on the CCK MOOCs, but on various others, like the Critical Literacies MOOC, the EdFutures MOOC, Alec’s EC&I 831, the Change11 MOOC, the Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference, Stephen’s technology development and many other initiatives, are inspiring thousands of educators worldwide.

Etienne Wenger, with his disruptive work on Communities of Practice, is one speaker who we shall miss terribly on this platform. We did not get his availability on the dates for the conference, and would have loved to have him, so as to, at least in my mind, complete the conversation. But I am fairly sure, his intellectual presence will be felt strongly through the themes of the conference.

Quick switch to Corporate Learning and the one name that immediately comes to mind is the person responsible for really starting it all – Jay Cross. In his work with the Internet Time Alliance, Jay, along with Clark Quinn (who we are honoured to host at the conference), Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings and Paul Simbeck-Hampson, are redefining the boundaries of what learning can be. Their work on Learnscapes as learning ecosystems that promote complexity instead of eradicating it, is path breaking because it offers another way for us to think about how workplace learning can be transformed.

Even as this disruptive research and experimentation impacts our conception of how learning will be and how learning systems will be, the work of three of the expert researchers at EDGEX2012 – Grainne Conole, Jon Dron and Martin Weller – is of crucial significance. Grainne is researching ways in which new pedagogies and approaches to design can harness the potential of social and participatory media. Martin is investigating the implications of scholarship in a digital world. Jon is looking at learning environment design and investigating the “shapes of online socially enhanced dwellings that are most likely to lead to enhanced knowledge and, in the process, uncover some of the nature of technologies and our intimately connected cyborg relationships with them”.

Meanwhile, the other theme, Simulations and Serious Games, is really a veiled approach to unravelling how rich digital media and delivery platforms can combine to produce rich digital learning experiences. The work of Clark Quinn and Alicia Sanchez, and other speakers such as Sid Bannerjee and Jatinder Singh will lay the foundation for rethinking digital media. Clark, of course, brings in a much wider perspective – he is rethinking our conception of learning and systems for learning and is investigating models such as spaced practice, social learning, meta-learning, and distributed cognition.

Les Foltos brings in focus to teacher education and how educator communities can use peer coaching as a technique to continuously learn and evolve. Shanath Kumar, Satish Sukumar, Rajeev Menon, Manish Upadhyay and Amruth B R bring in yet more perspectives on design, content, new age assessments, semantic web, mobility and technology, thus rounding off this theme.

And this is not limited to Higher Education alone. The principles and precepts are fairly universal, although the practice and implementation will definitely vary between contexts. K12 educators will find a plethora of disruptive opportunities in the conference.

The conference has one other dimension worth noting. We are inviting startups and entrepreneurs who believe that they are contributing disruptive innovation to education. You will see some of these entrepreneurs showcase their ideas at the conference.

I am hoping this conference acts as the melting pot for disruptive research and practice and marks the start of new level of collaboration between participants.

In my mind, all this research is connected by one common theme – we are looking the ways to change the dominant paradigm, because the dominant paradigm will fail (and indeed, is failing) to achieve a vision of a meaningful and capable system of education in the face of the challenges we face today.

Particularly for countries like India, the timing of these disruptions could not be more apt. And this is where we hope your vision and expertise at the conference and around it, will pave the way for open and concerted dialogue on how we can embrace change in our society.

The website for the conference is up at http://www.edgex.in. The website features speaker bios and a set of resources to get started on the many topics that will be covered in this conference. You can also connect with us  prior to the conference through email or the links below.

Please do feel free to drop me a line at edgex2012@edgex.in if you are interested and I will get right back to you! We look forward to hearing from you!

Let’s disrupt!!

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With a little help from Jatinder, a kindred soul in the making of simulators that happen to attract Brandon Hall Awards, I tried to visualize a model of PLEs operating in a connective environment. It started with a reply I made to Janet and Carmen on what I think should be:

…let us contrast the MOOC environment with an LMS. Can we think of this environment as self configuring instead of being configured by an administrator. How about when a person wants to join a “course”, she gives rights to the MOOC server to “pull” content she wants to share in context of the course into the course environment…the content stays with her, but instead of (or in addition to) the LMS “pushing” some general stuff, it configures a learning space based on the expertise and contributions of its members?

Like if I join a space or a conversation, I bring not only my personal self but also my blog, my Zotero collection, my Diigo links, my tweets, my network etc., but also decide to bring in a relevant “slice” of these and other influences to the course or research I am taking on. Maybe such environments understand a shared semantic vocabulary for the subject so that they can quickly organize the combined course network without my explicit instructions. Wouldn’t this be a self-organizing, emergent ecology more in line with Connectivism and a way to differentiate against an LMS?

The first visualization I thought of was that of puddles and rain. Simply put, when the rain falls, puddles of water form. Some puddles mix with other puddles, self-organizing, to form streams, some stay quietly content to stay aloof and disconnected. Depending upon how much it rains and what the surfaces are that receive the rainfall, we will see patterns. There may be a point of bifurcation when the entire surface gets covered. When rain stops, and puddles start drying, a pattern of decay forms quite unlike the pattern of growth which was an emergent, complex pattern to start with.

So replace puddles with PLEs, the surface and environment with the network (a super-PLE?) ecology and the rain with a certain eventedness (a MOOC?) and you have my picture of what goes on in connective learning. Weird idea? I sincerely hope not.

So I thought I would bring about a better visualization with Jatinder’s kind help. Picture this (disclaimer: not to suggest any connection between the names of various people in my network on the visual and social connotations of the word butterfly, more from the effect of a butterfly flapping its wings….):

(Images courtesy various artistes on the web, but in particular for the incredible post here – did you know the Fibonnacci Sequence appears in the sunflower!)

This could be an environment unlike the above, with cacti and barren deserts instead, a metaphor perhaps for rigid institutional environments. The point is that each of the elements will feed on each other in complex ways, uncontrollable, still with distinct patterns. Of course, Stephen invoked that knowledge as a plant, meant to be grown metaphor when talking about connectionist networks. I am not suggesting that one plant is altogether separate from the other and knowledge is silo-ed, they will have dependencies and some common roots. But each plant will have a tapestry of complex patterns to reveal, strands of knowledge and butterflies will cross-pollinate.

But it is a picture where PLEs are an extension of the self, disembodied but in many ways a natural extension, making us a distributed entity operating as a singularity(?). I like this way of thinking (although the quickly engineered visual may not make the grade). And I think this way of visualizing gives us credible alternatives to the way LMSs are built today.

As always, would love to know what you think!

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Almost every kind of IT has a potential impact on education. If you look at the various dimensions that constitute mainstream adoption, you want to look at the fit to the educational need, the capability of the audience to consume it, the access and availability of both platform and content, supporting infrastructure required and of course the cost & scalability factors.

Most forms of IT interventions in elearning, I always say, fail due to the death by technology syndrome i.e. an overwhelming emphasis on technology and delivery. I would place many forms and methods of generating elearning content, especially the same umbrella term of technology.

We know that the space has potential, but the problems we face with traditional elearning and elearning technology such as the ability to personalize learning, to make it experiential & engaging and to demonstrate a return on investment, get a little more complex as we look at 3D immersive technology and we must build solutions keeping this in mind.

So firstly we need to focus on the learning needs. India is uniquely positioned because we have the youngest population. We must ask ourselves what will our needs be and thus our expectations be from the workforce in the next few years and work towards aligning all efforts in that direction. That direction must also be inclusive and equitable, and this is critical for us.

Then the way our young population has embraced the changes in the global workplace, and especially in the next generation Internet based technologies/movements like social networking, open source collaboration and mobility, needs to be leveraged as a 21st century skill, the way other countries are doing in a concerted manner.

Then we need to ask what kinds of segments we can address with which solution. For example, 3D immersive technology is a no-brainer for vocational training, manufacturing, technical training on hardware, product marketing, brand presence, eCommerce, generic collaboration etc. In the K12 segment, there are a host of possibilities such as for discovery-based learning, virtual laboratories, educational games and simulations that can make the experience come alive for our children. This technology is appealing because it is based in a visually immersive setting, like the world around us, and therefore lends itself to collaboration, discovery, exploration, problem solving, critical thinking and many other key learning dimensions.

We must then build capability with teachers and educationists to navigate these possible solutions. Traditional assessment solutions also need to be reworked in the context of the rich feedback that some of these solutions can provide on student activity and competency.

Creative content is then going to be an important part of the solutions we create. In my opinion, technology solutions that offer easy and cost effective ways to generate 3D based learning solutions will be critical in this space.

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Well, the rush is on to futurecast the next generation of everything! The pundits are exhaling everything related to community, content, social learning, commerce, technology, change, collaboration, virtualization, personalization, ubiquity, context, search, faceted classification et al into new versions and avatars of the web and learning. The race is on getting the next version X.0 right!

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So everything that we formalize needs a frame of reference. The design of these frameworks and models typically defines the boundaries of what can be achieved. Take for example, ADL’s SCORM. Written by experts across industry and standards organizations, SCORM defines a methodology to design and serve learning content.

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