The Network takes Over

This post was written at the Idea13 #idea13 Conference, MCG, 12/11/2013

Mark Pesce, from the University of Sydney was the opening keynote.

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Connected World

Pesce opened with the idea that ‘this is the moment’, when things aren’t going to be transformed. They already are. Pesce argued that we’ve gone from little or nothing to a radical change in just over fifteen years; about a billion seconds. Eighteen years from the beginning of the web to now.

The biggest change, he argued, was connectivity and the literally unimaginable possibilities that connectivity created. He said it was about ‘knowledge amplification’ and gave Wikipedia as a key example.

He argued that the next key moment after the internet was the smart phone. ‘A fundamental transformation to the construction of human knowledge’. The smart phone and tablet (he reminded us that the iPhone was only five years old in Australia) were desktop computers in the palm of your hand; ‘a huge, growing wealth of human knowledge’ was the world of our students.

It was interesting, for a futurist, that Pesce seemed to assume that he evolution was now complete. ‘I’ve seen the full evolution of the connected computer’.

‘If the classroom lacks the tools for sharing that are available everywhere, then how is it going to survive?’ was something like a key point. He gave the example of the students who invented a social network for their school, because it needed one.
He called the new generation ‘sharing natives’; sharing and collaboration was native to them, and that’s why THIS moment was the greatest challenge in the last 200 years. Knowledge is not not rare, it’s ‘universal’. What does mean for librarians? What does that mean for teachers? What does that mean for schools?

Craptastic World

What does the educator offer now? In two years the now craptastic $79 tablet will be powerful enough, as powerful as today’s smart phones, which means that everyone will have one. Schools will hand them out every year, with the textbooks on them. The digital divide has expired, he argued. It’s available to everyone, everywhere.  A key point is that sharing is not going to be restricted to the wealthy (the $29 Indian tablet) nations.

He talked a bit about ‘flipped classrooms’ and the rise of MOOCs. ‘The classroom is the least natural environment for the new learning. Peer mentoring is now easier for students to access than a classroom or a teacher. Teachers (professional educators) will need to be problem solvers: innovative, creative, capacity amplifiers.


Sharing can be distracting, the ‘weapons of mass distraction’ and it can arrive too early for some students. We know we can’t stand against this ‘tide of change’, but ‘what do we have to surrender, when the network takes over.’

Keep Calm and Find a Peer Mentor

There may not be a class in the future. Or a school? If everything is connected, why centralise it? Pesce argued that the ‘foundation skills’ (reading, writing, numeracy) are an essential preparation for immersion in the culture of shared knowledge. Digital citizenship, time management, etiquette, safety still need ‘an attentive educator to monitor their progress and provide assistance.’

The next question was around, ‘how does assessment work in a world of shared knowledge?’ Pesce said that this question was a furphy; the key point is that ‘assessment is intrinsic to the act of sharing’ Every moment of peer-mentoring is a moment of assessment. Being able to critique, and receive critiques of mentoring, is a new key competency in the middle years of learning. Schools initiate students into the culture of shared learning and establish patterns of behaviour. The role of the professional educator will change, will be mentoring students some of whom will be face to face, some who won’t. It’s not either/or.

The secondary school will be:

  • Connect.
  • Share.
  • Learn.
  • Do.

A never-ending process of continuing education.

Students need to be able to grow their own networks, beyond a learning network for teachers, but a network of peers, mentors, problem-solvers,for life. ‘The classroom, as it is beginning, is the initiation into this network … the path is clear.

Questions I had
Is the internet ‘wisdom’ or even ‘knowledge’
Is it overly optimistic to believe that peers will shape things nicely and positively for learners?

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Shaping Innovative Futures

This was the first keynote at the IBAC Conference

Shaping innovative futures

Sohail Inayatullah

This session opened with the affirming, ‘If you try to predict the future you get it wrong; the answer is that you need to promote resiliency and adaptability.

‘The future is an asset, a resource and a narrative to be used with intelligence and wisdom’ See things from different perspectives.

He showed how change actually happened, including examples:

The change of doctors from recommending ‘Camels’ to recommending complementary medicine and meditation.
The growth of geo-medicine
Young single women earn 8% more than their male peers in large American cities.
Asia-Pacific leads the world in female participation in leadership.

In a message that would recur later, in other presentations: How we imagine the future is critical, to that future.

Stop “othering”, nations are constructs, what IB learning does is open that thinking up. 
Old behaviours dies hard – the used future (the old future that others have already and challenge the notion of who’s in charge. He argued for a move from reactive to proactive – towards prevention 
“If you have too much history, you often can’t innovate “
European universities blesses and burdened by 1000 years of history 

Why do so many projects fail? – “culture eats strategy for breakfast”

One key message: we need a compelling narrative – new metaphors to overturn the weight of the factory model on the imagination of the school of the future 

His Waves of change 

(I heard threads from Al Gore’s new book in some of these)

Peer to peer – from Britannica to Wikipedia (flatter)
Artificial intelligence leaving the web (everything is hyperlinked)
Transparent and flexible brain (meditation)
Smart, green cities (emotional maps)
Demographic shift
Rise of Chindia
Long GFC

It was a  nice way to start the conference; playing with alternate futures.

Collage from Malaysian Tourist Commission promotion.

Living in the future

Someone sent me this clip below from one of my favourite movies, 2001: A Space Oddysey and thought it looked like they were looking at Ipads (and that movie was made in 1969) I must admit that I don’t remember that scene from the movie, but it did make me think about the tools and technologies we have now, and how what seemed like science-fiction a short while ago, is something I’m holding in my hands right now.

We sure live in interesting times, with some amazing tools. Let’s use them to help students learn.