Friday, November 30, 2007

Online Educa '07 - Day 2: Opening plenary on ICT on lifelong learning

The first presentation by Roberto Caneiro (former Portuguese secretary of Education) was a rather vague story about Lifelong Learning for Meaning, where meaning is the latest stage in a four-stage value chain: Information --> Knowledge --> Learning --> Meaning
His main claim was that learning only happens when it is related to an individual's sensemaking. As Sumata Mitra said yesterday: people need to WANT to learn, but it also needs to make sense in the particular situation / context in which they live. His presentation showed that you shouldn't overdo the use of video fragments. The technical issues hindered his message rather than supporting it.

Then my colleague Ben Janssen as secretary of the Dutch national initiative Long live learning gave a talk about "A quantum leap in lifelong learning in The Netherlands: the need for an open and flexible lifelong learners' infrastructure". Ben sketched (1) the lifelong learning agenda, (2) the importance of OER for lifelong learning, (3) preliminary results of the OUNL's OpenER project, and (4) the beginnings of the Network Open Hogeschool initiative. On the whole, Ben's story only scratched the surface - as will often happen in a plenary presentation - and I'm not sure what his main message was. Does an open and flexible infrastructure mean a societal infrastructure that supports such fragmented initiatives as those that Ben described? Where does technology come in? A lot of questions remain.

Next was Brian Turrant, chief executive of the London Grid for Learning Trust in the UK. He talked about the critical path in transforming learning and life changes, and he stresses the need for organisational change in relation to ICT in learning. A strategic approach is needed, but at the macro or micro level? In London the macro approach was taken: 33 local authorities have joined forces, and have set up a high-speed fiber-optic network; have sufficient purchasing power to lower prices of content by up to 90%; have pooled expertise and creativity. Down-sides of this macro approach are that individual schools can feel "done-unto", and that upscaling may prove difficult. On the whole: central co-ordination with local implementation has advantages.

Final speech was a SMART Technologies representative (didn't catch his name, though). I left the session because of my doubts about the usefulness of interactive whiteboards, and because I have an ingrained dislike of commercial perspective. In this case, the use of Interactive Whiteboards is generalised to the use of ICT, and then conclusions are drawn from that. In my view: ICT does not equal Interactive Whiteboards. Time for tea, and preparing my own - too vague - presentation.

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