The future is… Pearsonalised learning?

As a suitably qualified ‘disruptive educationalist’ I was lucky enough during the week to attend part of the Learning Without Frontiers conference in London.  It’s a long time since I’ve felt amongst a group of people that think the same way, and ages since I’ve attended a conference with such a high quality parade of speakers one after another! (Indeed maybe never before!).

Speakers from David McCandless (author of Information is Beautiful)  to Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, served to remind us that digital mobile learning will continue to invade the classroom, no matter what the current Government manages to come up with next.

Two particular speakers emerged as being perhaps the most memorable. The first was Katharine Birbalsingh, the deputy head who lost her job earlier in the year for criticising ‘trendy teaching’ at a Conservative Party conference last year.

While the content of her speech sounded like something straight out of the pages of the Daily Mail, her presentation skills were simply awesome. Speaking for 20 minutes without a script or PowerPoint slides, she swirled effortlessly round the circular podium addressing all sides of the auditorium as if she’d been born there. It’s been suggested she stands for Parliament, an idea she has apparently rejected – maybe she is thinking of running against Sarah Palin in the next US Presidential campaign? It’s just a pity that she just doesn’t get the idea that an academic education and future is not for everyone, and that academic ability is not in itself directly related to wealth or race.

Meanwhile the other ‘Wow!’ moment came at the start of the presentation by Genevieve Shore, CIO & Director of Digital Strategy of Pearson. Here’s as clever a piece of video copywriting as you’ll ever come across:

If Pearson have the imagination and budget to commission something this good, my prediction is that within five years, or indeed probably even sooner, they will have become the Microsoft of global education, perhaps with a little help from the Games industry, and of course some sort of personal mobile tablet device. Of course, how good the content will prove to be is another question. Let’s hope they get educationalists to produce it rather than programmers or new media start-ups.

Finally, in contrast, I was also unlucky enough to spend a day at BETT last week. How it has changed over the years. Gone are (nearly) all the interesting people one used to bump into or arrange to catch up with. Gone are the pioneers, and the insight one gained into the latest developments in educational technologies. Instead it’s all about management solutions for network managers, who don’t seem to be particularly bothered that there’s still virtually no quality content to place in their virtual environments. The less said about BETT, the better…

9 comments on “The future is… Pearsonalised learning?

  1. Oddly, I have become more attached to BETT over the years, not because of the content, but because of I have been convinced that it has helped me join a community of educators/technologists whom I really like to learn with. BETT seems to help the Zeitgeist!

  2. @Doug Thanks – I had wondered if there was any source of this forward and backward thinking! The Pearson one is obviously closely derived from this example. I still think it must be difficult to write though!

  3. @ James. Interesting how our views of BETT seem so opposite – and it’s great you feel more positive about it than I do now. To me, years ago I enjoyed it for the same reasons as you, but somehow the technology now seems to over-dominate – and it’s just so hot and crowded!

  4. @james_wilding – have you perhaps considered the InterWeb as a tool for connecting you with a global community educators/technologists rather than a trade show of archeological relics of failed educational technology solutions from a bygone era of tax payer support?

  5. I agree. LWF was interesting (though not as disruptive as purported), but BETT was disappointing. I came out having developed some kind of allergic reactions to Interactive White Boards… 😉

    I was very disappointed to see very little in the form of true interactive content for VLEs and mobile devices as well as ebooks that make the most of the possibilities of the format.

  6. We may need to say less about BETT but we need to say it loud and lots and it goes like this “STOP THIS NONSENSE NOW”.

    I wish educators would consider how much it costs to put on the event.

    After Emap, the marketing companies, the stand designers and manufacturers, the equipment hire firms and “preferred” electrical and networking specialists, BT, the printers, the insurers, the “free pen” manufacturers and the smiley suited event staffing providers etc. etc. have all had their cut… each medium sized stand ends up costing the same as a small house!

    Add it all together across the whole show and the cost of BETT each year is tens of millions of pounds. This is not free money from the suppliers. It is added to the cost of every item you purchase for schools and every year this is lost from the education budget to the marketing companies and stand builders.

    Over the past 10 years I estimate nearly a quarter of a billion pounds, yes £250,000,000 of funding has been squandered in this way. Do some more sums and work out how many teachers, assistants, or CPD sessions this would’ve bought. I reckon I could’ve made a really significant contribution to education with this sort of budget, rather than frittering it away on a trade show.

    And it’s not just the financial cost. I hate to think what the C02 footprint of BETT is. All that purple nylon carpet destined for landfill, all those halogen lamps burning at 60 watts instead of 6, all those paper leaflets and catalogues sitting on a shelf unopened till next year…

  7. I think the Pearson promotional video is a beautiful example of what can happen when a synergy between great educationalists, New media specialists, programmers and finally businessmen and women come together and successfully collaborate. The video is a great example of a refined vision of the future from an educationalist, presented in a thoughtful way by a marketing agency, and executed by a technical producer and spread using YouTube, a modern communication channel. I am glad events like this are beginning to happen and a community is beginning to form – let us hope this marks the beginning in a education revolution.

  8. I’m glad that it was only ‘nearly’ all the interesting people that had disappeared from BETT! I agree that the exhibition could do BETTer, but maybe we should leave it now to the senior management teams looking for a robust and scalable management information system (whatever any of those things mean) and look elsewhere for inspiration and innovation – I hear the blogosphere is nice this time of year…

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