Horizon Report Retreat (Pt. 3 of 3): Six Minutes of Inspiration for Trainer-Teacher-Learners

February 21, 2012

Sometimes it only takes a moment to change the way we view the world; at other times, it takes a little longer.

The talks that have been taped and posted on the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) website often, in 18 minutes or less, are powerful enough to change our worldview. And in a reduced format through a “Six Minutes With” series of presentations that ran through the three-day New Media Consortium “Future of Education” Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat in Austin, Texas last month, there were plenty of transformative moments that can now be viewed via links on the Horizon Retreat wiki.

Since these were great thinkers rather than time-keepers, those “Six Minute” segments sometimes ran upwards of nine or twelve minutes, but I suspect none of the attendees was watching the clock. Our eyes and ears were focused on the speakers, and the messages were clear: We’re in an exciting and dynamic period of change in the world of education, technology, and creativity, and each of us involved in training-teaching-learning has a tremendous role to play.

Marsha Semmel, who oversees and coordinates Institute of Museum and Library Services partnerships with other federal agencies, foundations, and non-governmental organization, reminded us that “people go to museums and libraries…because they are places of curiosity, wonder, imagination. They are places that use different styles and promote different styles of learning, and they invite cross-generational learning…Learning is about passion. It’s about motivation. It’s about play. It’s about imagination.” Throughout her presentation, she outlined the educational and cultural roles museums are playing, and suggested that “we are in a period of lifelong, life-wide, life-deep learning, and every single organization and institution has to belly up to the bar and be part of the solution.”

Susan Metros, Associate Vice Provost and Associate Chief Information officer for Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Southern California, talked about how leadership lives within each of us. To give a framework to her presentation, she summarized three books that have influenced her as an leader within education: Edward De Bono’s Lateral Thinking, Amos Rapoport’s  House Form and Culture, and Mary Catherine Bateson’s Composing a Life.

John Weber, Dayton Director of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, opened his presentation on “Museums and the Digital Space” by suggesting that “we love our gadgets; we are addicted to them. We obsess over them. We compare them. We update them constantly.” In a focused discussion on how those gadgets fit into the museum experience and its educational offerings, Weber maintained that museums “are very beautiful spaces. They contain objects which are unique, which surprise us, which, generally speaking, exist only in one place and they foster intense, particular, irreplaceable experiences, flashes of recognition and flashes of surprise…We want now to bring our gadgets into museums…We want to photograph what we see in museums…We are photographically addicted, including me…At times, that can really get in the way of seeing it.” But, he concluded, “in  the end, it’s all about looking at the art objects, and how can we empower that” so visitors will “linger longer and get more out of the time they spend with us in real space, in museum space.”

And then there was the final “Six Minutes” presentation—“Reflections: The Horizon Project at 10”—by NMC Founder/CEO Larry Johnson. Using “the language of image,” Johnson’s presentation was a magnificent and heartfelt combination of photography, philosophy, and call to action. Taking us through a brief history of networked technology at the personal level of how it has been used by his family, he recalled how radio was at the center of his father’s life; how television was the technology of choice as he was growing up; how computers have become “the network” for his son, and how mobile technology is what is at the center of his very young grandchildren’s lives. Furthermore, he said, his son corrects him when he suggests that “the network has been built out to help us in a myriad of ways.” For his son and his son’s contemporaries, “The network is us. It doesn’t help us. The network actually is us. We are the reason there is a network, and the network is here to serve us.”

His grandson and others growing up today, he continued, “will never ever live in the world where the network wasn’t anywhere he wanted to be. …What does that mean for what we do [as educators]?…We have to be careful that we don’t spend the money that we have on solutions that are not going to be used. We need to make sure that we’re not giving people this technology [radio] when, in fact, the world they live in has changed. The thing we need to focus on is how do we keep the magic in learning? …We need to make their jaws drop. We need to make them understand that the world is so cool that it’s worth their curiosity, and that’s the message I’m going to leave you with. This is the room to do it. We’ll do it together.”

And if all of us who serve as trainer-teacher-learners take that message to heart and become part of the group that helps to shape the world as it is changing all around us, we can help reshape the horizon we all spend time exploring.


Horizon Report Retreat (Pt. 2 of 3): Reflections, Reinvention, Transformation—And Watching Evolution Happen

February 7, 2012

The world of technology, education, and creativity is changing so quickly that it’s as if we are sitting in a Darwinian doorway and watching evolution happen, a colleague at the recent New Media Consortium “The Future of Education” Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat in Austin, TX observed.

And that pretty much sums up how it felt to be at the second day of that three-day retreat with nearly 100 very creative educators from academic institutions, museums and museum organizations, companies involved in the development and diffusion of new technology, libraries, and other game-changers in teaching-training-learning.

To try to capture the level of discourse that flows through and from a gathering like that one is like trying to fully capture a profoundly moving dream hours after waking up. Except that there was no sleeping going on there. That was a fully-engaged group of dreamers who knew that their (our) dreams document and even have the ability to shape the world in which we live, breathe, and work. A group of people who are deeply passionate about and engaged in how technology and creativity affect training-teaching-learning. And one that never for a moment seemed to lose sight of the human element of an industry driven and affected by the rapid rate of technological change.

Convened to reflect on what 10 years of Horizon reports have produced;  to consider ways of reinventing the annual flagship report on technology in higher education and its various subsidiary versions (taking specific looks at technology in museums, technology in kindergarten through 12th-grade education, and even regional variations on these themes; and to foster discussions about how those reports will continue to transform the ever-increasing world of teaching-training-learning, we began Day 2 with encouragement from NMC Founder/CEO Larry Johnson to stretch ourselves into an idealized future. To identify a set of big ideas capable of guiding people in the larger world for years to come. And to find ways to keep the Horizon Report relevant in a world that seems to change as quickly as sand shifts under our feet in a pounding surf.

There was talk of libraries as learning centers; the ubiquitous nature of mobility in learning at a time when the use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is absolutely exploding at a global level; the need to seek a new form of literacy—“deluge literacy”—to help learners cope with the deluge of information they face on a daily basis; and discussion of a TED talk about building an architecture for participation—lubricating the wheels for collaboration—a creativity process capable of inspiring innovations and change from the ground up. And there was a poignantly compelling reminder that “global” doesn’t necessarily mean “universal.”

You could sense, moment by moment, that this was a group with dreams of inclusivity rather than exclusivity. A group focused on how technology is changing the way we learn, but also keeping technology in a position subsidiary to the human element of teaching-training-learning. And a group intensely, passionately engaged in responding to learners’ needs and looking for ways to effectively and engagingly incorporate technology into the learning process.

It’s obvious that the hundred of us there were all attending, participating, and sharing ideas in the same conference/retreat at very significant levels. And yet because of the masterful way the event was facilitated by David Sibbet, President and Founder of The Grove Consultants International, and the way face-to-face and online communication was supported (through a very active Twitter backfeed under the hashtag #nmchz; I contributed via @trainersleaders), it’s possible to assert that we all attended and participated in 100 different, highly personal, and overlapping conferences where the levels of engagement were increased by our abilities to listen, talk, take notes, exchange tweets, and read those tweets during breaks and after hours while we were all onsite together.

At one of the break-out discussion sessions, I found myself at a table with colleagues from Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Shanghai, Spain, and the U.K. During rides to and from the conference hall, I was with an Australian who works for the BBC, in Manchester. You can’t physically be in these situations and settings without viscerally understanding how small the world has become in many ways. And how inspiring and transforming it can be to even be able to spend a few minutes listening to the various perspectives an opportunity like this reveals. As we watch evolution unfold.

Next: Reflection and Inspiration in Six-Minute Bites


Training, Learning, and Collaborating on the Other Side of the Horizon

December 18, 2010

Trainers and other perpetual learners are information junkies. We thrive on what we learn and share. We revel in those moments when boundaries dissolve and we embrace a seamless role of trainer-teacher-learner rather than simply delivering a lesson and hoping that participants in a learning opportunity will remember something that we said.

We, like those whose learning we facilitate, have our cherished sources of information: friends; colleagues; printed newspapers, books, magazines, and their online counterparts; our favorite librarian; and/or the waiter, waitress, or supermarket checkout clerk who calls our attention to what we might not otherwise notice given the demands that information overload puts on us and all we encounter.

There are also the reports without which we would feel diminished. One of those, for me, is the New Media Consortium (NMC) annual Horizon Report, an engaging free online document designed to “chart the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry,” as Consortium representatives explain on their website.

To read the main and subsidiary reports inspires thought and action. Writing about the reports has become an annual ritual for me ever since I attended a live Horizon Report presentation in 2008. And to cross over to the other side of the Horizon this year by serving on the 2011 Horizon Report Advisory Board and helping shape the next report—which, of course, I can hardly wait to read when it is released in February 2011—has been an exercise in collaboration which has changed the way I work.

At the heart of the Horizon report process is the wiki that provides a virtual meeting place where Advisory Board members from several different countries asynchronously contribute to the development of the report. The lesson here for all of us as trainer-teacher-learners is at least twofold: a) as participants immersing ourselves in using a tech tool as contributors rather than solely as readers, we educated ourselves and became comfortable with exactly the sort of tech change we were documenting for others, and b) we would not have been nearly as successful as we were without guidance—in this case, from New Media Consortium Chief Executive Officer Larry Johnson and his NMC colleagues, who themselves served as trainer-teacher-mentors throughout the brief and intense period of work.

Larry and other NMC staff, throughout the two-month process, guided us with concise, welcoming, supportive email messages; online tutorials; and instructions on how to approach and complete each step of the process—and then they turned us loose to learn, work, and collaborate. The pleasures of exploring new technology with other Advisory Board members via the wiki never seemed to end, and the serendipitous discovery early in the process that an ALA Learning blog colleague—Lauren Pressley—was among my Advisory Board collaborators once again reminded me how small the world has become through the use of shared online tools.

Workplace collaboration, in this case, went far beyond the structure of the staff and Advisory Board’s contributions to the wiki: the entire process was visible, via that wiki, to anyone who wanted to follow it. When the original list of more than 30 technologies we were exploring was winnowed down to a short list, that information was posted publicly for anyone to view—which means that part of the process was to provide a magnificent resource for anyone interested in exploring the topics on their own. The process, furthermore, has produced a list of online press clippings that is an additional resource for anyone wanting to explore the tech topics that were under discussion during the Advisory Board’s online time together.

For anyone who is still wondering why more and more people are exploring wikis as a first-rate collaboration tool and how they provide effective ways for all of us to work together, the entire Horizon Report process is a complete course within itself. And, like any first-rate learning experience, it leaves us with an expanded toolkit that changes the way we work once we have become engaged.

Ultimately, it leads us to another level of building communities of learning.

N.B.: For more resources about collaboration and building communities, please see “Communities and Collaboration in an Onsite-Online World: An Annotated Bibliography.”


%d bloggers like this: