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Gilly Salmon's Creating Learning Futures here in Australia...Live Blogging from Global Learn in Melbourne
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
In Melbourne, listening to a keynote at the Global Learn conference Gilly Salmon from the Univerity of Southern Queensland. I will take notes here and try to capture her key points so you can feel as though you are here with us (by the way, the date of this blog says Tuesday the 29th of March; but here in Melbourne it is Wednesday morning the 30th).

Ok, here it goes (sorry for any typos). Gilly has recently moved from the University of Leicester to create a Digital Futures Institute here in Australia (i.e., "Australian Digital Futures Institute"). It has been four years since I last saw her in Leicester. Always a fun person to listen to. She always gets me (and others) to think in a new way. Her books on moderating and facilitating online courses and activities are highly popular. John Hedberg from Macquarie University in Sydney just introduced her. John, Gilly, and I keynoted an e-learning summit in Hamilton, New Zealand nine years ago this week. Hard to believe that those 9 years have gone by so fast.

Ok, back to the keynote. Gilly is showing a visual of what she is calling "The Tree of Learning." Using it, she is attempting to show us the evolution of learning. She discussed people like John Locke bringing on empiricism, Raplh Taylor for structuring the school curriculum, Erasmus on the method of study (i.e., pedagogy), Charlemagne (the emperor) who surrounded himself with scholars who provided him with evidence and not just opinion, Raphael's School of Athens (and she alludes to learning through apprenticeship and groups), and also in there is the Ptolemaic Library and Research Institute of Alexandria.

Then Gilly goes on, "An interesting thing happens to our tree," we now have a wide diversity of learning. Many things happens. Ivy Bean, age 104 is the world's oldest tweeter. Gilly worked near her in the UK until recently. She kept in touch with new and old friends now with her tweets. I think to myself, "imagine the mentoring possible today from people in nursing homes and retirement communities around the planet."

I cannot think for too long...I must keep up with Gilly. Next, she points out that there are many exciting, new learning branches and new forms of growth. New things developed. Some species became extinct, she says. "As more variations occured, the Tree of Learning grew." Then she goes back and says that in many cases books were locked up in chains. Today, universities open up their knowledge. Journals are open. Open educational resources (OER) and opencourseware (OCW) enhance the university. They do not distract from it. She knows of no university which has placed OER and OCW on the Web that are extinct. What I think she is saying is that often, exactly the opposite happens--educational organizations that are more open and celebrate open educational avenues thrive and become ever better known. We need such experimentation.

In terms of the history of the world, open education is just the last milisecond of time. The first Wikipedia entry, the first cafe with the Internet, the first blog post, the first podcast, etc. These are all recent phenomena. She asks, so is online learning establishing itself as a significant part of the learning equation? Today, workplace and professional learning is more contributary, more on demand, more relevant, etc. The workplace branches for learning are now more fresher and greener, she contends. I think she is absolutely correct.

The guilds are gone. However, 70 universities in Europe are in the same place doing the same things that have existed for centuries, if not millennia. Of course, the British Library has over 150 million physical items and very good coffee. Audience laughs. It is worth a wonder into it. Technoshine (a word Gilly has coined) has digitized 25 million pages of newspapers dated since the 17th century including the UK Times as well as more trashy news sources. Gilly notes that this opens up scholarly work.

Now what about the up and coming generation. We need to educate things for massive challenges in front of us. Climate change, security, healthcare, etc. For instance, Sugata Mitra's Hole in the Wall ideas and other ideas for helping children in rural India can teach themselves skills. He calls the result "self-organized learning." Kid will learn to browse the Web n their own. We need to capture such stories. She thinks that this can be a new species of learner. Part of this new learner will be more mobile. It will transform education. Gilly provides a story of her 14 year-old granddaughter who texts friends, uses virtual learning environments, shares ideas for homework with friends, etc.

So what is next? She quotes from Eric Hoffer that in times of change the learners inherit the earth while learned people are prepared for a world that no longer exists. Do you want to let it happen, make it happen, or wonder what happened, she asks all of us. Our audience raises its hands and says it wants to make it happen.

She then has 3 main points. The first is that Differentiation = innovation (I missed the other two--ok, I asked her for more info after her session and she said one of the other ones is that natural selection allows for more learner's chose). She discusses ideas from the Young Foundation about social innovation. Most are extending and defending our core businesses, Gilly contends. Some universities are building emerging businesses. And a few are creating viable options. She argues that we need to do all three to survive. You can rarely do #2 and #3 on your own. In effect, she says, you need to "collaborate to compete" (I think that was the point).

What she is trying to do is reflect on ideas from Darwin to wish to evolve our learning and education spaces. Just as animals evolve, so must education and learning opportunities. It is difficult to change any aspect or part of education. But we are now in a very rapidly changing ecosystem. In such a system, you need to know where your specialness is and where it is going. Know where your differentiation is going to be rewarded in the future. We need to shift resources to new areas. Futurists design for the future. Education needs to respond to the variety of opportunities on the tree of learning.

She pauses for a moment and says, oh, but some will contend that teachers (and others) will be resistent to change. Yet, how can the most creative of the species known as human--teachers--be resistant to change? More and more ideas are tumbling from the tree. How can this dillemma happen? Some take on too many changes at once. A huge proliferation of projects, the majority of which no longer exist. The paradox is that the continuity of core activities is so deeply entwined that it is difficult--the longer you have been doing something, the much harder it is to extract resources from it for innovation (I asked her for this clarification in her meet the keynote session). We need to extract resources from one area to rethink and design new areas.

There are four things in a matrix that she is showing us:
1. University owned technologies and continuos adaptation is what is happening now.
2. Then consider new technologies and how they can be harnessed for the future.
3. Third, we need to think about universities owned technology and new opportunities with them.
4. And fourth, this quadrant is about riskier, new technologies and new types of learners.

Gilly then reflects back on the Media Zoo that she had at the University of Leicester in her "Beyond Distance Research Alliance." Otters, pelicans, tigers, etc. Animals were her metaphor there in Leicester. Here is Australia, she has a "space" metaphor.
1. Our Solar System,
2. Our Galaxy,
3. Our Galatic Partners, and
4. Deep Space.

She is still working on it. She does mention several principles and ideas including going back to Athens with dialogue. She is cautious in predicing the future. More learner voice, partnerships, and contributions. We will form relationships between 3D virtual world environments, and real world. More open educational resources. Thanks were wonderful as always! I look forward to Thursday morning when I join her and five others on a panel that will discuss our digital futures (see below for the link).

Yesterday, the keynote was Rick Bennett from the University of New South Wales. His paper (10 meg), Global Classrooms, Rural Benefits: creative outreach through computing in education, is downloadable from the Global Learn speaker Website. Rick is at the intersection of creativity, art and design, expert mentoring, online collaboration, learning technologies, humanitarian causes and social change. Do check out his Omnium project and Creative Waves outreach and research.

Rick's stuff is so cool. Many people were just amazed by his talk. He really gives a purpose and meaning to those of us in the learning technologies field. As Rick puts it, he just does stuff. He takes action to help people in developing and underdeveloped countries (the Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, etc.). Check it out. His work is exactly what the Global Learn conference mission and vision is all about.

What a fantabulous way to start the conference out. Write to his papers...check out the Omnium project. And then find a way to make your own dent in the world. Gilly, John, and Rick have. You can too. At the start of his talk, Rick referred to reflecting on what happened "on your shift" and your role in it. It is something that Gilly has said to him once and it struck a chord with him (and me too now). I say make a dent. What will your dent be? What will you do on your shift? Go for it. Be bold. Do not be, same ol', same ol'. Please!

Check out our special keynote panel for tomorrow, Digital Futures: Now and When. If you get a chance, come to the Global Learn conference tomorrow here in Melbourne, Australia. Or come next year to Singapore for the 3rd annual Global Learn conference (assuming that is where we go).

Hope this was helpful. Again, apologies for typos...I was typing as she was speaking and my battery is running low and I need to post this now.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 2:49 PM  
  • At 7:00 AM, Blogger Anne Maxwell said…

    Thank you so much for the detailed account of Salmon's talk.

  • At 11:58 AM, Blogger Shoba Bandi-Rao said…

    Thanks for sharing the info as things are happening at the conference. I feel like I am there.


  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger Shoba Bandi-Rao said…

    Thanks for sharing the info with us as the conference is happening. I feel I am there, and it keeps me interested.


  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger Yeol said…

    Thank you for sharing this~!

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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