One of my other roles is as director of education at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, a voluntary position with an exciting charitable organisation. Having just developed a five-year strategic plan, I’m looking forward to using social networking technologies and practices to build a much larger community of learners. Comments on learning and the non-profit sector are always welcome. Here’s some of our latest news:
?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½Our mission is environmental education and our theme is renewal,?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ says David Hawkins, recently designated Chairman of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute (formerly Maritime Atlantic Wildlife). ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½We?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½Ñ¢re launching our new season with a new name, a new slogan, a new web site, a new Wildlife Learning Centre, and a new board of directors.?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½
The name change, to Atlantic Wildlife Institute (AWI), reflects an expansion of the focus of the well-known Maritime Atlantic Wildlife organization, which has been in operation for the past eight years. It will now add an important dimension of learning and research to its initial mission of rehabilitating displaced or injured wildlife. The new Institute program will include wildlife education and ecotourism experiences, as well as training opportunities for people who want to gain the skills required for responding to wildlife emergencies.
?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½The Institute designation also underlines the non-advocacy nature of our activities,?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½ continues David Hawkins. ?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨?ï¿½We are ready to partner with any organization that has a sincere interest in enhancing the relationship between human society and nature. We?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½Ñ¢re actively seeking constructive solutions, but we?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½Ñ¢re not activist, in the confrontational or lobbying sense, nor will we be.?ï¿½ï¿½Ç¨ï¿½ï¿½
There is finally some formal training/education in the field of performance improvement available in Canada. From CSTD news feed is this article on a program being offered by Fanshawe College and Seneca College, both in Ontario. From the joint course description:
Training can be the most expensive of performance improvement options. It is also among the most frequently and inappropriately used, and without performance support in the workplace, is a highly perishable investment.
The number one workplace complaint compromising job satisfaction is poor systems and processes: 94% of employees flagged this issue in studies conducted by W. Edwards Deming, father of Total Quality Management. By contrast, training and professional development solutions address skill and knowledge gaps almost exclusively.
All I can say is that it’s about time, but what about Atlantic Canada? Is anyone willing to get a program going on the East coast?
Stephen Downes succinctly tells us why technology is the necessary equalizer in creating a global learning society:
Classroom teaching, even if supported with technology, will not scale. If we are to provide access to all, we must abandon the idea that education is something that is done for us and support the idea that it is something we can do for ourselves. That’s why we need technology in learning.
New technology, used to support new approaches to learning, is akin to the replacement of scriptoriums by literacy. Just as we no longer need people to read and write for us, we will, in the future, no longer require people to teach for us. The technology should – and will, because people demand it – allow us to teach ourselves. But clinging to the traditional model – in which writing is still done in scriptoriums (albeit, with ballpoint pens and laser printers) is to show a casual disregard for the needs and aspirations of people who not only benefit from writing, but are liberated by it.
In Tunisia I was told that the country had very different demographics than Canada. Most of the population is under 20. In order to make room in the classrooms for the expanding group of younger students entering the school system, the older students’ learning needs were starting to be addressed through e-learning. In this way, the limited physical infrastructure could be reserved for younger children. In Tunisia, classrooms don’t scale well either.
George Siemens distills the essence of the use of learning objects and repositories in the e-learning field:
… content in context is the real challenge. Or put another way, the extraction of meaning from an object is the real challenge. We can have access to all the content in the world, but if we are not able to find what we need, when we need it, in the format we need it, and for the task which we need it, it’s of no use. Content management takes care of organizing resources. The extraction of meaningful content is where systems fail.
I find that there is still a lot of snake oil being sold as e-learning. If you can help people find what they need, when they need it, in the right context to be useful, then you will have effective content management and/or performance support. The rest is what a friend of mine calls "shovel ware".
Stephen Downes recently attended the RIMA conference in Quebec where, among other things, he covered Seymour Papert’s presentation on learning environmentalism. It was wide ranging presentation, and here is an interesting statement on laptops in schools:
"Putting laptops in schools, he [Papert] noted, is not tantemount to educational change, but it’s the seed of educational change. It is the act of putting the change in motion. But it couldn’t have come from within. Ask educators what the proper ratio of computers to students is, and you may hear, %:1, 6:1 – but the proper answer is 1:1 – but that is something that can be said only outside the system."
So it’s not about the technology. It’s about planting seeds of change, and as any internal consultant can tell you, change from within is difficult. The kids want change, the parents want change, Governors and Premiers want change, but those in charge of the education system don’t think that radical change is necessary. Neither did the politburo.
The Premier of New Brunswick is trying to get a pilot laptop project going for Grade 7 students in one of our schools, but there has been much vocal resistance. His interest in the subject was sparked during a visit to Maine, where laptops were recently introduced into the school system. The initiative appears to be a success in Maine. I’ve already commented that I used to be against the idea of technology for technology’s sake, but laptops give students a wide range of opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. These include access to courses online, connections with other schools in other countries, use of blogs and wikis for knowledge creation, and others.
Now there is non-profit organisation in Britain lobbying for laptops in all schools. The author of the Digital Equality report from Citizens Online stated, "The very process of education is dependent on technology and not having equal access to laptops is like some pupils using pen and paper while others use slate and chalk."
Human nature is funny. If you say you can’t have something, then everyone wants it. If you have something to give away, then no one wants it.
A recent report by the Rand Corporation The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States is available for +300 PDF pages of reading pleasure. In the report, three factors affecting work are discussed ?¢‚Ç¨‚Äú demographic trends, technological advances and globalisation. The US workforce [read Canadian too] will not grow as quickly as it has in the past. Technology will continue to reshape production, jobs and organisations. There is a worldwide marketplace for goods, services and labour.
This is a comprehensive look at forces affecting labour, organisations, the nature of work and technology. This report combines what a lot of other reports have already mentioned and should be a good reference for the next year or two.
Some interesting extracts:
?¢‚Ç¨?ìJust as individualized medicine is envisioned as an outgrowth of biotechnology, individualized learning programs that are optimized for a given person?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s knowledge base and learning style are expected for the future. Such learning programs will become increasingly sophisticated over time with advances in hardware and software, including artificial intelligence, voice recognition and natural language comprehension.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
?¢‚Ç¨?ìThese workers and others who increasingly interact in a global marketplace and participate in global work teams will also require the skills needed to collaborate and interact in diverse cultural and linguistic settings (Marquardt and Horvath, 2001). Individuals who can exploit diversity to generate new knowledge about customers, suppliers, products, and services will be more likely to succeed in a competitive global environment.?¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Liz Lawley in Many2Many discusses the merits of blogging conference presentations, and describes the different types of presentations, from good speakers & good content to the reverse. The privacy of IRC or other media encourages criticism, and some critical thinking, as well as plain old heckling. I see this as a pretty good method to evaluate conference presenters, either as formative evaluation for improvement or summative evaluation, to ensure that they don’t get invited back if they can’t cut it. Blogging and chat seem to be better evaluation tools than "smiley" sheets that few attendees complete …
This reminds me of Conor Vibert’s competitive intelligence class at Acadia University, where he has students giving presentations on a business, while others are going online to question their claims, and other students are using chat to discuss the points without interrupting the speakers. It’s exciting to watch Conor’s classes in action at the Acadia Real Time Case Competition.
I’m posting this information on the Edinburgh scenarios, because I believe it is important, and because I cannot find any more information on the results of the scenario building that took place in Edinburgh last month. Does anyone have any more information? I would like to keep the conversation going. The eLearninternational 2004 World Summit… Read more »
My previous blog on Blogs, Markets & Conversations, is nothing new. A detailed discussion from 1997 is provided by Juanita Brown, which was pointed out by Martin Dugage, who also hopes to see the end of corporate jargon as a feeble attempt at conversation with markets.