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Posts Tagged ‘EDGEX2012’

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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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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It gives me great pleasure to announce a unique conference on educational research and innovation called EDGEX, to be held at the Habitat Centre, New Delhi from March 12-14, 2012.

The two main themes of the conference are:

  1. Learning X.O – marking the significant and ongoing developments in learning and teaching, particularly in informal learning, connectivism & connective knowledge, the MOOC, Learning Analytics & BIG data, Digital Scholarship, Peer Coaching and Open Distributed Design.
  2. Simulations & Serious Games – A focus on scale and both the philosophy and practice behind simulations, virtual worlds and serious games, clearly one of the most articulate and cogent responses to skill development and joyful learning in the recent times.

What makes the conference unique is the sheer intellectual capital that will be leading the conference. These speakers certainly do not need an introduction:

  • Jay Cross, Internet Time Alliance
  • George Siemens, University of Athabasca, Canada
  • Stephen Downes, National Research Council, Canada
  • Dave Cormier, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada
  • Alec Couros, University of Regina, Canada
  • Jon Dron, University of Athabasca, Canada
  • Grainne Conole, University of Leicester, UK
  • Martin Weller, Open University, UK
  • Clark Quinn, Quinnovation, USA
  • Alicia Sanchez, Defense Acquisition University, USA
  • Les Foltos, Peer-Ed, USA
It is perhaps rare to have these speakers under one roof and is a unique opportunity for the Indian audience, battling challenges of equity, excellence and expansion in the face of a huge and diverse scale. We are privileged to have them accept our invitation and we look forward to hosting them in India.

This conference is part of the EDGE Forum which is a group of leading educational institutions from public and private sector committed to promoting highest standards of education, value systems and governance in the field of higher education.

The EDGE conference, an anual event, addresses questions of improving the quality of education in several dimensions like education governance, human resource management, cutting-edge technologies, holistic approach to education infrastructure and above all adoption of best practices. It serves as an analytical and authoritative source for policy recommendations on higher education. The conference is well represented by reputed educationists, Higher Education administrators, teachers and high level policy makers, apart from representations from industry.

The EDGEX2012 conference site will shortly be live but if you are interested in attending, please do let me know through comments to this post.

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