Leading a Culture of Innovation with Sir Ken Robinson

3753935-expressionless-young-woman-with-usb-cable-in-her-neck--ready-to-be-plugged-in-isolated-on-white-backYesterday I heard Sir Ken Robinson speak live at the EDUCAUSE conference in Anaheim, CA.  Readers may know Ken Robinson by his acclaimed talks about education on TEDx. Robinson, professor, author and advocate for education reform, is originally from Britain—his humour dry, self-deprecating, and quite funny. He did not disappoint on Wednesday despite the early hour of his keynote talk Leading a Culture of Innovation. Robinson spoke of culture and technology, technology’s influence on human behaviour, and in turn its impact on cultural values and norms. Culture, according to Robinson, ‘manifests itself in every part of our being’.  In response, cultures around the world are changing significantly. Though I’m not clear on what Robinson believes—whether its humans driving the change or if it’s the other way around. But the point is moot given that our ‘digital culture is transforming the face of our earth’, to the point that ‘information systems will soon merge with human consciousness’ according to Sir Ken. I found this idea quite disturbing. Not something I like to think about, but it seems we should. Robinson believes that machines, artificial intelligence, at some point will be able to make decisions independent of human intervention, in other words machines will potentially be as smart as, or smarter than humans. This concept is singularity; a theoretical point in time when robots are smarter than humans. It seems Bill Gates of Microsoft and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google don’t deny that this time will come, though both are mum as to exactly when that time might be.

The statement made by Robinson in his keynote, ‘information systems will soon merge with human consciousness’ sounded familiar. I had just read something remarkably something similar last week. It was in The Global Village: Transformations in a World Life and Media in the 21st Century (1989) by Marshall McLuhan and Bruce Powers. McLuhan, (1911 – 1980) a professor communication theory, author of the critical text the Gutenberg Galaxy among other books, was a futurist in his own right. In the introduction, of The Global Village co-author Powers writes this:

“McLuhan believed in an investigation of this book’s precepts, his last collaborative work, would prove out his most profound thought: that the extensions of human consciousness were projecting themselves into the total world environment via electronics, forcing humankind into a robotic future. In other words, man’s nature was being very rapidly translated into information systems would produce enormous sensitivity and no secrets.”  McLuhan and Powers

Robinson’s statements about technology and its role in the future echoed McLuhan’s.  I found Robinson’s language somewhat softer, though the messages similar—technology is driving change around the globe, impacting how we communicate, how we relate to one another, and function in society.  What’s more, artificial intelligence will be a reality for better or worse. On the brighter side of Robinson’s talk, he spoke of creativity and imagination, referring to his recently re-launched book Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative. Originally published in 2001, the book has been revised and updated.  I wrote a review of this book a few months ago. It’s an excellent read.  Below are highlights of the other key takeaways from the keynote.

Key takeaways from Sir Ken Robinson’s Keynote:

  • How people use technology creates cultural shifts; impacts how people feel, think and act.
  • Conversely, human ‘feelings’ impact how technology is used.
  • Humans are unpredictable. How they use technology may go far beyond what the developers intended or imagined.
  • Imagination is unique to human beings. Imagination leads to creativity. Creativity is the act of creating something of value (to the beholder).

For Educators:

  •  Perception is everything when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of technological innovation.
  • We need to allow for creativity by not seeking the ‘right’ answer
  • What questions should higher education be asking?
  • Exercise in creative thinking: watch this  two-minute video on when there is a correct answer
  • Creativity—original thinking, most often comes when people ask a different question.

Video Sir Ken Showed in his Keynote: When There is a Correct Answer: Exercise in Creative Thinking

Learning in the Wild West of ‘Open’

west_film_landingLearning in the open—in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for instance is somewhat like the Wild West of the 19th century—undisciplined, with few rules and no regulations. These same characteristics have been used to describe learning in a connectivist MOOC [cMOOC], a form of open learning where there is no set curriculum, process, or particular method. Learning in the open with the world-wide web as the classroom is unsettling for many and overwhelming for most. But the rewards are rich; personal and professional growth that is hard to achieve in a face-to-face setting.

Definition Open Learning: learning based on independent study or initiative rather than formal classroom instruction [Oxford Dictionary]. In today’s learning context, open learning encompasses connectivism; a theory of learning that identifies learning as a process of creating connections and engaging within a network. Connectivism considers the world-wide web a platform for learning, with its nodes representing connections that are people, information, images or data. A connectivist MOOC is an example of an environment created with some structure to facilitate open learning.

Though learning in the open does not come naturally—one has to learn how-to-learn in an open environment. After participating in numerous MOOCs, it’s apparent that a very different and unique skill set is required; a different set of competencies than what is used in traditional learning environments. I recently shared strategies and tips for open learning in a webinar as part of a cMOOC, Open Online Experience, 2013. I’ve shared my slides from the webinar here, and outlined  essential skills for participants of the open—the Wild West of learning.

“I began this MOOC with the greatest of intentions…I found so much information however, that I am lost in the information overload.  I think that I am posting in week three, but I am not sure.” Comment from a high school teacher enrolled in a cMOOC that illustrates what most participants feel like in their first [or even] second MOOC.

Habits for Teachers of the Future
It’s hard to imagine what education will look like ten even twenty years from now, but the need to adapt beings now.  Though teachers and professors as subject matter experts hasn’t changed, nor will it anytime soon, the delivery formats for instruction and learning has. Contact North recently published ‘Seven Habits of the Professor of the Future’, an article that suggests the skills educators will need by 2020. The skills are varied, and face-to-face instruction is included.  But note the variety of the skills mentioned in addition to face-to-face teaching. Note also the emphasis on collaboration—collaboration on a massive scale, and creating new resources using a variety media. These habits connect to open learning. Learning in the open is the new way to learn, create, collaborate, assess, and develop, personally and professionally.

Skills for Open Learning
In practice however—what does open learning look like? Just as in traditional learning, this form of learning takes time and much effort, though tenacity, discipline and a keen desire to learn are traits of connectivism. Open learning is self-directed, where the learner sets his or her goals, creates a learning path, selects resources and tools accessible within a network. Within a cMOOC environment the learning experience is even richer, as a group of like-minded learners are learning collectively, connected together by a space or platform on the web, i.e. a wiki, blog or LMS platform. Making connections, both personal and conceptual are core elements of open learning. These latter skills are the most challenging, yet vital to open.

During the webinar Learning in the Open with OOE13 we discussed these skills and examined challenges with open learning. The consensus was that open learning is different from what most of us were used to; it can be chaotic, overwhelming and confusing. But how-to-be successful with open learning can be learned. Strategies discussed are in the slideshare below.

Closing thoughts
Learning in the open is non-linear, unpredictable and without guard rails that education institutions or companies create to structure learning in traditional settings. Learning in the open is the Wild West, a new frontier of learning, a new opportunity to grow and connect.  Though I’ve shared here how to embrace open learning and experience the benefits, the Coles notes version are as follows: 1) reflect and blog consistently about what you are learning, and 2) share and engage with others via a social media platform of choice—add value by providing quality resources, links and ‘nodes’ of knowledge.

Further Reading and Resources:

Image credit: PBS, The American Experience, artist Sloan

How Educators Can Make Time for Professional & Personal Development

Time business concept.What better time than the week after Labor Day, the traditional back-to-school kick-off, for educators to embrace opportunities for professional and personal development (PD). Though for some just the thought of beginning a PD course of any kind is overwhelming, even stressful. The most frequently cited barrier to engaging in extracurricular learning activities is time; not having enough of it, not being able to find it, and wishing for more. Warranted too, given the frenetic pace of our current culture. This post explores why embracing an online PD experience, whether an un-course, a MOOC or other, is enriching, fulfilling and motivating. I also address the time factor, and suggest how to approach investing time for PD learning with a different perspective so it becomes stress relieving, not stress inducing.

My original plan for this post was to share two PD learning opportunities that begin next week, Open Education Experience 2013, and How to Teach Online with Leeward College [both cMOOCs], but I decided to share first a viewpoint on PD that may be helpful for readers. I’ll will conclude though, with details on the two learning opportunities.

For an overview of MOOCs, and the difference between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, read The Ultimate Student Guide to xMOOCs and cMOOCs from MOOC News & Reviews.

Integrated Learning
The beauty of engaging in learning online within a community, in a MOOC format for instance, is that it’s driven by individuals’ learning goals, their contributions, and provides learning opportunities beyond what could be experienced solely in a face-to-face space. There’s also the added bonus of the opportunity to create a network of people to learn from and with, often referred to as a personal learning network. Yet learning this way should not be viewed as an extra activity on a to-do list. What makes PD successful is when learners choose to engage in experiences that inspire, that spark interest and motivation. Learning is not a chore when integrated within—with what you do, what you are passionate about.  I’ll provide an example here from my experience to illustrate the point.

This month I’m learning through Statistics in Education for Mere Mortals, from Canvas Network.  I’m not taking this course because I love statistics, and I’ve already completed several statistics courses. But I chose to take the course because of a work project I’m involved with. I’m in the process of researching pedagogical methods and principles that are applicable to online learning environments, and at the same time studying participation patterns of MOOC learners. The course [which could be classified as a xMOOC], coincides time wise and content wise with what I’m working on now. The professor is not only teaching theoretical concepts associated with educational research, but is using the course participants for a research study about MOOCs. He’ll be sharing the results with the participants of the course. I benefit in two ways, 1) by experiencing the instructional methods used within the course which allows me to study pedagogy used in a given online course, and 2) by being able to review and analyze the MOOC research results. Thus, I find myself making time to invest in the course.

I’ve also completed a few cMOOCs, connectivist MOOCs, which is a different experience from an xMOOC altogether. To clarify though, one experience is not better than the other, they are merely different. My cMOOC experiences have been expansive, social, even organic in the sense that my learning was developed through a series of varied connections that fit together to produce sometimes unexpected [learning] results. Each of the learning experiences I’ve described here work for me at a certain time within a given year. Though I invest in personal and professional learning for the most part year-round,  it’s the type and level of participation that varies, and is dependent upon numerous factors including current work projects, personal commitments, etc.

How to Make it Happen
Professional development is most successful, when time is devoted to learning that aligns with one’s work, personal projects, interests, and/or passions. The result is, that rather than having to find the time for PD, it happens because we make time. Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that even with the best laid plans for PD, it can’t always happen. ‘Stuff’ can get it in the way—life happens. Having a strategy for learning though does support success with PD in the long run.

Tips for Making Time for PD
There is a learning curve to learning effectively in an online environment — how to discern what to engage with, when and how. Even how to use technical tools associated with online learning, whether it be the course site, Twitter, a blog platform, etc requires time to learn. I could devote a whole post to this topic, and I will do so in the #OOE 2013 course, during a webinar I’m facilitating, “Success in OOE 2013: How to Make the Most of your Learning Experience” on September 18, 2013 (OOE 2013 calendar here).

In the meantime, below are three quick and dirty tips:
1) set aside a set amount of time each week for your own learning, block the time in your calendar
2) find a course or learning experience that interests you, and register. Check out mooc.ca to find a calendar of upcoming MOOCs in a breadth of topics
3) write about what you are learning: blog, write articles, or keep a personal journal (though usually you learn more when you share). That’s only the beginning. I’ve included some resources to move beyond the quick and dirty at the end of the post.

Two Learning Experiences
cropped-Gweb_Logo211) Open Online Experience 2013 is a 10-month long learning experience that aims to provide participants with a rich, immersive experience into the study and use of educational technology in teaching and learning. It is a professional development program with a difference: it is open to any teacher or faculty member who has internet access, and it has been designed on a “connectivist” model. To register, click here.

2) How To Teach Online” is a massive, open, online course (MOOC) that takes a broad view of teaching online. This five-week MOOC is for instructors of all experiences who teach online. Whether you are new to online teaching or want to improve your craft of teaching, “How To Teach Online” is a great place to share, connect, and learn from others around the world.

This is an open-access MOOC – no fees are required to join and participate. For this MOOC to be successful, we emphasize and are dependent upon, participant contributions and discussions as a means of exploring how to teach online. Your contributions are what makes the MOOC a success. Click here to register.

Resources