Graham Brown Martin – “Learning Without Frontiers”

Graham Brown Martin is a thought provoking key note speaker and his presence is indicative of the nature of the thinking that has occurred as part of this Slide2Learn’s team’s ongoing preparation for these annual conferences over the last few years.

He is currently on a journey as part of the “Learning (Re)Imagined” project.   He was chosen to write the next book for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE). Accompanied by a couple of talented young photographers,  Graham will travel to places all over the world to research into how the connected society is transforming learning.

He is interested in the social, cultural and historical perspectives and has worked to get different views about education and to gain insights that can be represented in the book.  During this journey he is searching for transformative uses of technology.  He talked about the way that he thinks the terms ‘disruptive’ and ‘transformative’ are getting a bit overused and that  he was aiming to explore that which was genuinely inspiring.

He is writing a book about his travels which will showcase what he has seen and learnt.  This book will be beautifully illustrated and printed and will feature an app for smart phones and tablets that will ‘reveal an evolving digital layer of rich media hovering above the pages”.

His blog on this journey is something I have dipped in and out of since he has been writing as he often tells people he has done an update via Twitter.  Many of the posts are quite fascinating.  I had previously enjoyed reading about his visit to QuestToLearn, for example, which is a school in New York which has long fascinated me.  It is  based around the idea of gamification, and is a bold initiative that redesigns the curriculum and teaching practice to provide experiences for students where learning is placed in applied context and where collaboration is encouraged within SOLES (self organising learning environments).

An important thing they have learned in their 4 year journey is:

“initially we imagined that teachers would essentially be content specialists supported by designers but it soon became clear that there was for more to teaching than simply knowing the subject……specifically their ability to engage learners by being engaged themselves”.

A storify of some tweets from this session

He has reached 5 conclusions as a result of this global journey:

  • Context is king in terms of what is transformative practices are necessary or possible.
  • Environment matters and if transformation is going to occur, the environment must be conducive to creativity and design.
  • Engagement matters
  • The digital can be a catalyst for change.
  • The future is what we make it.

Key Questions and issues for conversation/debate:

  • Can we ‘fix’ education with technology?
  • What is education for?
  • Where are we going?
  • Is education really about prosperity?
  • The purpose of education has always been to maintain the status quo.  Should education be about this now?  It was important to maintain the status quo when we needed factory workers.  But is it now
  • Technology is offering us wonderful tools but we should be mindful that we are not replacing ourselves……the computer can not do the teaching.
  • Technology can be a catalyst – but what kind of catalyst do we want it to be?
  • It can be a catalyst that allows teachers to perform their jobs in transformative ways.  Are we going about this in the right way?   You need to decide why you are using technology.

Key people he spoke to during his global journey:

Seth Godin  (creativity, curiosity – we need to allow these to flourish)

Chomsky (we need to ask what is education for today.  It is no longer to produce compliant workers)

Ken Robinson – click for more.

That’s why I always say that teaching is an art form. It’s not a delivery system. I don’t know when we started confusing teaching with FedEx. Teaching is an arts practice. It’s about connoisseurship and judgment and intuition. We all remember the great teachers in our lives. The ones who kind of woke us up and that we’re still thinking about because they said something to us or they gave us an angle on something that we’ve never forgotten.

 

 Examples of genuine transformative practices in his global journey and an example of the opposite:

1.  Ghana in Africa  – click here to read more

Technology intervention was based around using kindles for reading and literacy as their education is based around the use of books and they simply did not have books.  They engaged in the ‘World Reader Program’ and this includes many local authors.

2.  India – click here to read more

BBC media action.  This program identifies different type of media/technology that can be used to intervene.   It is the biggest mobile learning project in the world.

They focussed around child care and child birth.  The intervention was based around the use of very basic mobile phones.

3. Hi Tech High – San Francisco   Click here for more on this

This school felt like a design studio and it was obvious that the line between the teacher and the student was blurred.  The physical space played a part in this as the line between common areas and classrooms was unclear.

Larry has a coffee mug that states his aim of “nurturing creative noncompliance” which pretty much sums up the exciting learning environment he & team have created.

Click here for an audio from the CEO from HighTech High

4.  Dubai – click here to read more

Chemistry lesson which was a 3D lesson which was meant to be impressive for the parents and visitors but in essence, nothing had changed.  The lessons were essentially all about the teacher and not the learner.

Education should not be about delivering content.

Interesting:  Can we use technology to craft technology rather than mass production?

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