Wicked problems, a high-tech Shark Tank, a survey of ideas that matter, and fun provided the foundations for an inspiringly overwhelming second day of the 2013 New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project Summit on “The Future of Education” here in Austin, Texas.
Lev Gonick, Vice President, Information Technology Services and CIO at Case Western Reserve University, laid the foundations for the discussion of wicked problems by reminding summit participants that those challenges are complex and ambiguous; require disruptive thinking; and require innovative solutions that actually change the nature of the problems and the contexts in which they operate. They are not generally subject to perfect solutions, but they can be fun to tackle. And that’s where Gonick, summit graphic facilitator David Sibbet (President and Founder of The Grove Consultants International), and NMC Founder/CEO Larry Johnson led us in an exercise designed to identify wicked problems we thought would be fun to address in the world of teaching-training-learning.
By early afternoon, we had identified a core set of 10 of those wicked problems in learning:
- Reducing risk aversion in education
- Finding ways to set aside time for learning innovations
- Rethinking roles and identities for students, faculty members, and administrators
- Reinventing education
- Creating successful all-device interfaces in learning
- Addressing the need for social and emotional development in curricula
- Reinventing online learning
- Addressing the challenges and benefits of learning from around the world
- Fostering an ecosystem for experiential learning
- Defining ethical boundaries and responsibilities in learning
There were a variety of other playful ideas, including one inspired by one participant’s mention of laws in several countries (Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Greece, and Spain) guaranteeing internet access to every citizen: advocating for a constitutional right to internet access as strong as the constitutional right to bear arms.
Joining the discussion on reinventing online learning, I was impressed by the range of options compiled during that brief segment of the daylong proceedings:
- Start with a goal of creating engaging online course that address subjects to be taught; don’t just transfer onsite courses to online settings
- Include lots of choices, e.g., collaborative and individual study, and synchronous and asynchronous, that provide learner-centric experiences
- Use social media to engage learners, and foster plenty of interaction
- Design courses that move learners out of a learning management system and into online communities that continue to exist after courses formally conclude
- Engage in blended learning by using asynchronous courses to serve learners world-wide, and build in live online and onsite interactions whenever possible
- Partner with other teaching/learning organizations
- Strive for more authentic learning opportunities
- Provide more project-based learning opportunities that produce learning objects
- Involve learners from all over the world so that the learning experience is enhanced by increased exposure to diverse perspectives
- Entice faculty into online learning by creating faculty communities of learning to draw upon the knowledge base of that faculty
- Develop flexible formats for crediting learners’ accomplishments
- Capture and document teaching and learning for repurposing
- Provide more just-in-time learning experiences
Comments from all of the breakout discussion groups were to be compiled this evening so discussions on the final day of the three-day summit could be used to propose plans of action in addressing these various wicked problems.
Interspersed throughout the activities conducted during the second day of the summit were wonderful presentations on a variety of “ideas that matter,” and the culmination of that process was the Shark Tank competition in which eight predetermined competitors were each given 10 minutes to describe an education-tech initiative under development and make a pitch for support (including a $2,500 cash award) from the New Media Consortium.
It was a winning exercise for everyone. The eight competitors involved in the first round (round two, with three survivors, was scheduled to be conducted at the beginning of the final day of the summit) had an opportunity to finely tune their project pitches, and audience members had an opportunity to learn about eight wonderful cutting-edge proposals that combine creativity, learning, and collaboration in ways designed to further our approaches to educational successes.
A sampling of the proposals provides an enticing glimpse into the state of tech and learning innovations:
- Learning from experience through the Scroll Ubiquitous Learning Log
- The One Million Museum Moments social media tool providing museumgoers and museum professionals an opportunity to document their museum experiences
- A learning analytics project centered on “X-Ray Analytics”
- The Taking IT Global project designed to cultivate future-friendly schools and foster global collaboration in addressing the world’s greatest challenges
- The development of digital technology supporting educational software simulators and other products through Axis3D
- Global collaboration among students through the Global Efficient Cook Stove Education Project
- The FLEXspace community of practice, centered on an interactive database that serves as a flexible learning environment exchange
- Capturing learners’ information and analytics through Citelighter, a free social media tool that allows learners to store, organize and share research data and other educational information
The entire round of presentations left many of us not at all envying the tough choices the judges had to make, and we’re looking forward to seeing how finalists Citelighter, Taking IT Global, and X-Ray Analytics fare when the summit resumes in the morning.