Avoiding cynicism during tradeshow season

This week and next I’ll be doing my usual pilgrimages to the BETT and Learning Technologies exhibitions.  Some of my notes from previous years are on this site (BETT16; BETT14; LT16; LT15; LT14).

On reflecting about what I want to get out of these shows this year I realised the growing levels of cynicism in my previous reviews.

I then read Laura Overton’s mind shifts for 2017 piece and realized that it is perhaps as I’ve just now just been around a while!  Obviously I don’t hold Laura’s level of experience but her fourth point resonated:

I’ve been going since it started years ago and it is great to catch up with old friends. However it’s a time when cynicism can abound, particularly with those who have been around a bit.

After all, we’ve been talking about how the latest tech will change the world, about performance, the need to get managers on board, to communicate more for decades.

These are not new ideas but our cynicism and fixed mindset thinking kicks in when we believe we see no change.

Whilst the concept of disruption is all the rage right now in L&D, fundamentally we need to apply the idea of radically transforming the norm to our own thinking, especially our cynicism. A growth mindset will ask – why no change? Was it that the time wasn’t right? Is the time right now? What can I do to make a difference now?

One weakness I have is that I perhaps do not take enough positive feeling from the change and impact I’m having – instead frustrated by the slow pace (or lack of) clear change.  Rather than just thinking “yeah, heard this before” I’m keen, this year, to get more out of the events:

  1. Get a feel for what may be possible from BETT – 3D/VR/AR are of real interest to me at the time being as the practical skills in my workplace would lend themselves to these types of technologies – making virtual learning far more real whilst maintaining a safe learning environment (well VR would at least).  If Microsoft don’t have a Hololens, to try their take on AR, I’m going to be disappointed.
  2. More generally BETT should be a good opportunity to get a feel for what is happening in schools – as I’ve argued before: an understanding of this is essential for workplace learning pros who want to build suitable inductions and optimize future readiness.
  3. At Learning Tech I’m going to be more of a ‘guide’ as I’m taking my head of department to the show and she will be a ‘newbie’.  As we have a meeting in the morning we’re likely to be restricted to about half a day in the exhibition so I suspect it will be something of a whistle-stop tour – that should be good as it will stop me listening to as many of the free presentations.  I think last year, in-particular, a number of those sounded like broken records.  It should be a great opportunity to drive home some key messages and some of the things I keep banging on about…

and on that last point – Laura’s 6th point (“believe in yourself”) is another worth reflecting on.  This time last year I was looking for work and was increasingly frustrated – both with (only some it has to be said) agencies (due to lack of contact/followups/etc) and with conversations/interviews where I felt I could contribute to an organisation but the recruitment processes were frustrating or annoying.  Thankfully I’ve found an organisation where my skills and experience are a good fit – now just to avoid the cynicism and keep on driving on performance improvement and employee empowerment!

Adobe Education Summit 2015

Back in November I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s Adobe Education Summit.  I must admit it is a while since I have really used an Adobe product, beyond the obvious freebie ones and Connect, so I really just wanted to see what was happening with their suite of tools.  Indeed, in the past, Photoshop and Dreamweaver were two of my most used tools, in fact I used to support art students in developing their capability in those tools.  The focus on the day being largely being on the more artistic tools in Adobe’s suite, i.e. the Creative Cloud.

The event was the second held in the UK and was made up, as tends to be the way, between some official corporate messaging, user demos and thought leadership.  The event was also, to an extent, a celebration of 25 years of Photoshop – a pretty amazing fact in-itself considering the way tech has changed in that time.

Adobe keynote

This looked at some of the big trends they seeing from a generational, digital transformation and education sector perspective.  Nothing too much new in what was discussed but they did stress the rise of the Chief Marketing Officer in (higher) education and the impact competition and student demand is having.  On the marketing front, the Adobe ‘Marketing Cloud’ empowers schools and companies.

In terms of learning outcomes there was a mention for Tony Wagner’s more transferable skills (aka survival skills) vs student demand to see clearly what the tangible skills they will get from their studies.  There are clearly some crossovers here to capability education and assessment models that offer alternatives to the 1st/2nd/3rd model.  Interestingly, Adobe are hiring on demonstration of transferable skills – the technical expertise can, they argue, be taught in house.  With my L&D hat on this was obviously interesting to hear.

There were some interesting stats thrown in around the way, for example 72% of students surveyed wanted to be able to look at study options and information to help choose schools on their mobile.  Adobe’s positioning through the student life-cycle looking to help with:

Attract > Engage > Empower

Within engage, they have performed multiple activities, including working with universities on interactive books and mobile apps.  Meanwhile tools like the ‘Document Cloud’ can help organizations with their operations (including the digitization of forms).

Some organizational uses of Creative Cloud were considered, for example Uber’s phenomenal growth has been powered by ‘Creative Sync’ where head office can retain control over core marketing assets centrally, with different countries able to make use of them.  The advantage being that any updates at HQ will automatically filter through to the websites.  In the education space there was a look at Clemson Uni in the US who have taken the approach of “creativity as a competitive differentiator”, with digital creativity embedded across curricula and the whole organization (seemingly) working to this end.  Some of the tangible ways this has impacted have included library space being handed over to students for video production and other products.  Indeed students are expected to product an ePortfolio as a concrete piece of evidence beyond their resume.

I must admit that I had largely heard of a decline in use of Creative Cloud due to cost issues, however, growth numbers are apparently strong.  Perhaps I need to look again!  The ‘Digital Publishing Suite’ certainly looked an easy way to create mobile apps (no coding).

Finally there were plugs for the peer support available via the ‘Adobe Education Exchange’ and the value in some of the certifications available.

Adobe demos

There were a few main messages from these:

  1. no longer just about desktop, more and more about cool mobile apps
  2. increasingly about to work on a project across device and switching between apps
  3. mobile apps aiming to be fun and easy but with real utility, especially when combined with desktop

The main apps to catch my attention:

  1. CaptureCC: capture traditional media for digital work (i.e. hand drawn to vector), a little like OfficeLens for creative types 😉
  2. Premiere Clip: video stories
  3. Comp CC: create a rough sketch of web layouts, creates styled widgets and then can populate with digital assets later.  Those assets can come from elsewhere in your creative cloud so you can have a central store.  Effectively this seemed to produce a drag and drop web authoring environment when combined with Muse but you can also send you layout to InDesign, Photoshop or Illustrator.  I thought this was interesting in that it is a ‘creative’ solution to producing digital content in the same way that the eLearning industry have gone and produced their own tools (Articulate, etc) rather than there being a ‘go to’ HTML5 authoring tool.
  4. Slate: presentations in browser or app.
  5. Photoshop Sketch: not that I’m ever likely to be doing any drawing but the timeline feature is really nice.  You can effectively branch a project from a base to create multiple different images or finishes from a standard starting point.
  6. Photoshop fix: use the healing tool on the go!  The demo showed how you could use the ‘face tool’ to make the Mona Lisa smile!!

Guest speakers

Sarah J Coleman (aka inkymole illustration) and David Butler (VP of Innovation at The Coca-Cola Company)

Sarah’s talk was most of interest to me in just seeing her mindset around digital tools, she uses traditional and digital media.  However, there are some things she is known for (such as chalk-style effects) that she has only ever done digitally.  It was also interesting to hear how her digital approach has changed over time, she was apparently a big user of MySpace for self promotion!  There were certainly some lessons for those, such as me, considering the talk from a ‘learning’ perspective – not least “It’s OK to bugger things up as long as you had a go” (the kind of message that of course comes up a lot when thinking about learning cultures!).  She has worked with others to produce a film, “Stupid Enough“, aiming to provide better advice to aspiring creatives from the likes of Gareth Edwards.

I had to leave before the end of the Coca-Cola presentation but it was looking how ‘design thinking’ has changed their business.  From one which took decades to change or introduce new products it is now much more flexible and a “design driven company”.  I particularly liked the point that we are now all designers and our organizations need to work to get us designing better.  I’d argue we can see some bigger trends around this, if we thinking of data presentation (including infographics) the need to have an ‘eye’ for design is increasingly important (he says somewhat ironically considering the basic design I have opted for with this site).  His approach to design being:

explore > simplify/standardize/integrate > scale

Within the above, you can design for agility by having fixed elements (like the coke ingredients) and recognize the flexible pieces (new productions, sizes, packaging, etc).  For Coca-Cola this has led to three new billion-dollar juice brands in the last five years and increased growth in emerging markets (where the core product is fixed but distribution/sales models can be seen as the flexible elements).

Educators’ presentations

A number of presentations, I had to take a few calls during these so did not see them all but they included:

  1. rllearning.com: presenter has worked with teachers at his school to digitize curriculum.  He is also a Lynda.com author to help a wider audience, including students so they can help themselves.  Justification for all of this was to “help changes lives!”.  A very passionate speaker!  It seemed like a lot was done via publishing to the ‘Adobe Content Viewer’ app.
  2. tipsquirrel.com: presenter focused on why he has students actively using their mobiles [yes it seems there is still a debate on if phones should be left on or not!]  There was a lot of basic stuff on phone management in the room [the nicest idea was that they have phone breaks every 20 mins which also doubles up as a ‘brain break’].  The more interesting bit was how some apps are being used in the curriculum and by students, he mentioned: Capture, PhotoShop Light-room, PS Mix, PS Fix and Instagram for Photography.  Cross-subject apps included Slate, Adobe Voice, NearPod, Edmodo and RefME.

 

Virtual Free Schools

I’ve mentioned previously, on this site and old blogs, my belief that we need to be look differently at schooling going forward.  Continuing with traditional school models is an option but we also need to look to offer children and their parents new options.  Online options could potentially be cheaper for the state and more appropriate for the learner.

I have done a bit more research around the topic of late – including noticing this article from 2006.  Yep, the benefits were clearly articulated in a BBC article…in 2006!  Indeed Ofsted have reported on benefits too

Now, I know there are virtual school providers in the UK.  However, they remain largely private (fee charging) or for those children outside of the mainstream system (for example those who are vulnerable and in care).  I previously asked the New Schools Network back in 2011 if state funded Virtual Schools were emerging thanks to the changes of regulation resulting in Free Schools (it surprised me this week when I realized that email conversation was 3 years ago!).  Their reply at the time:

We would agree that at present the Free Schools policy and application process are not particularly tailored for this type of school, but we have talked to the DfE and they are receptive to proposals for virtual schools.

So when I reached out this week to NSN and on LinkedIn to a Free Schools group it was good to get one solid reply that work is underway.  In fact I offered my assistance, if I can offer any, as I really believe we need to consider online learning as opposed to the postcode lottery of existing provision.

Not to say that traditional schools are not investigating the possibilities, for example with this director of eLearning post currently advertised.

Anyway – I’m going to keep this Google Drive presentation up-to-date with a vision for an online school, if I ever have the time perhaps I will look to investigate it more.  However, having read Toby Young’s guide to setting up a free school, I doubt I will ever have the time needed to fully support the launch of such a school.

What future for education? MOOC – Week 2

It has been a little while since I’ve engaged at all with a MOOC.  I continue to sign up for the odd one but having moved into a house which is now proving a ‘money pit‘ my spare time has largely been taken up with cleaning, worrying about money and general panic about the years of work we’re facing.

This has been educational in itself – full building surveys are there for a reason, do not buy houses based purely on character, garden sheds are difficult/impossible to fix, foxes are very similar to dogs, etc etc but I am trying to get back into further personal development (including the recent splurge of posts here).

Anyway, the WFE MOOC seems to have picked up a bit of traction with people I follow online and whilst I largely ignored Week 1, the activities for week 2 are a bit more interesting:

1 – the discussion task

Offer an example of someone who is considered to be intelligent or gifted BUT who has had to be an expert learner. Tell us something about that person (they could be real, someone you know well, or a celebrity or fictional character). Outline why you think they are a “good” learner. THEN choose two posts from the discussion forum (not your own) and post a response to them: why do you think their learner is a good example: what does it tell us about intelligence and learning? Please read our forum posting policies before posting or starting a new thread.

Now I find this task description a little complicated, the need to use BUT and THEN in the way they have kind of highlights that there could/should have at least been use of bullets to better set out the instruction. From one of the staff replies, to someone seeking clarification, there is also something clearly missing in the above description:

“The idea is to consider the learning process of people who are considered to be gifted or intelligent.
There are examples of people who are highly successful who were even at some point in their life considered to have learning or other difficulties, overcoming this by developing expert learner skills
A little reading up on people who you consider to be particularly intelligent or gifted might give you some ideas. (musicians, businesspeople, scientists, nobel prize winners etc)”

There is a clear difference here between identifying a good learner (lets say Napoleon as an example of someone who studied hard at military school and quickly learned on the job afterwards) against someone who has overcome a learning or other difficult by becoming an expert learner (Stephen Hawking type examples here I guess or the business leaders for whom ‘school didn’t work’ only for them to still be a success and find out later that they had severe dyslexia or something similar).

This all highlighting one problem of running a MOOC – that you open yourself up to a world of nitpicking!

2 – the reflection activity

  1. During your own education, how has your “intelligence” been assessed?
  2. How has this affected the educational opportunities you have been given?
  3. What judgments have people made about you that have been affected by an assessment of your “intelligence”?
  4. Do you consider yourself to be a “learner”? why

Personally I would say all animals are learners, in incremental ways we change our behavior continuously from dealing with basic needs, such as sourcing food, to highly technical skill development.  The education system typically assesses our recollection of information (exams) or ability to research, analyse and articulate (essays/vivas).  Recollection can be more complex, for example in Mathematics, but rarely would my formal education have assessed in more detailed ways.  Few opportunities were given for more detailed investigation, coursework in practical subjects at school would have at least combined physical skills with mental activities.  Intelligence can of course be judged in many ways, Howard Gardner etc etc, but as the image in course menu suggested, we revert to ‘clever’, ‘brainy’, ‘smart’ and many negative options too.  Ultimately we will all learn but combinations of our neurology, previous experiences and environment will impact what this means in reality.

Tristram Hunt’s take on that ‘School Revolution’

Partly in response to the changes in government, mentioned in my last post, the shadow minister for education has set out some of his ideas around the future of schools:

This is once again a little disappointing for me, for example, he seems to be sitting on the fence around the variety of schools that now exist (academies, free schools, etc) rather than suggesting a simplification.  Yet the video like one with his predecessor, also at the RSA, does at least stress the virtues of schools working together.

Perhaps the most interesting point, for me, of Tristram Hunt’s  presentation is his apparent unease at those “less committed to the social ethos of schooling”.  Within the context of his presentation this sounded like opposition to an expansion of ‘virtual’ or online schooling.  I still fear this is a missed opportunity, even if he was just to advocate for more online delivery around bricks and mortar it would be a step forward.  However, he seems to be another politician who links physical co-location with social learning, which does not have to be the case.