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Citizen Science & the Internet of Things

citizenscientists1Since the release of the book which, apart from occasional stock shortages, has gone really well I’ve been spending my time presenting findings from the project at various events around the world, mentoring a number of really interesting start-ups in Vietnam and the UK, developing ideas for my next book and working on a number of consulting engagements.

 

My next book, when I have figured out how to finance and publish it, will start where Learning {Re}imagined ended. It will consider some of the challenges that we as a society already know that our children and their children will encounter during this century. Rather than flying cars, interactive watches and an increasingly digital world the things I’m thinking of are population, climate change, antibiotic resistance, environment, ideology and increased urbanisation. But more than simply identifying the challenges I’m going to explore the kinds of projects and people that make me optimistic about our future chances as a species.

 

It was with this outlook I was introduced to a project lead by London’s former Deputy Mayor, Nicky Gavron. Nicky, it could be said, is a force of nature, a person who has made a career out of an obsession with grassroots community activism to improve the lives of Londoners and potentially the populations of other urban cities. Amongst many achievements Nicky has lead London’s response to climate change, she introduced policies and programmes to reduce C02 emissions across energy, water, waste and transport. Her initiatives include establishing the London Climate Change Agency and the C40: Large Cities Climate Leadership Group.

 

Nicky’s challenge to me was how can we encourage grassroots community awareness of key urban issues in the creation of smart cities. Specifically how could we empower communities to engage in the discourse around the design of their urban environment? How do we engage them in the policy discussions around transportation, energy, sustainability, health and well-being? If we’re going to design smart cities then surely it must be smart communities of smart citizens who build them.

 

It was with this in mind that I embarked on designing a learning experience that will be piloted during March and April this year in schools in Lambeth with a cohort of up to 50 children age 9-11, their parents/carers, their teachers and members of the local community.

 

citizenscientist2We hear a lot these days about STEM, STEAM and the importance of engaging young people in learning science. We also hear a lot about computer science and learning coding. We hear a lot about making. We hear a lot about parental engagement in their child’s learning. We hear a lot about flipped classrooms. You get the picture.

 

So in Lambeth this month and next I will be working with Nicky and colleagues to provide a cohort of children, parents and community members with a collection of internet connected sensors and activity trackers. The idea is that we will use these devices as part of the Internet of Things to conduct experiments that encourage conversations and deeper learning as a result of experiences and multi-generational participation. We also hope that it may embed some knowledge and thinking about some vital urban issues and we want to do this by co-discovery engaging all of the participants.

 

Over the course of the pilot we will be distributing 30 low cost, Arduino-based, air quality sensors to families in Lambeth with instructions on how to install them at home and connect them to the Internet. The sensors consist of a base station which connects to the household broadband router and a remote sensor that detects changes in air temperature, humidity, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO). We chose Arduino because I’m familiar with the coding environment and I can perform any necessary calibration in situ by uploading sketches. These sensors will be used in tandem with a number of more expensive sensor devices provided by project partner, Intel Collaborative Research Institute (ICRI).

 

The installation of so many air quality sensors in a relatively small catchment area provides us with a unique opportunity for the children to consider and learn about the air quality around the school and the routes to and from it. The data from these sensors feeds a central website that will inform conversations that we will encourage with the children in school time. It provides a chance to think about and discuss possible reasons for different air quality readings from different locations and circumstances such as weather, temperature and traffic density. The quality and accuracy of the data from these sensors won’t be to the same standard of the devices that cost about the same as a small car but they will provide a contextual hub that will inform learning that travels across the curriculum effectively catalysing new conversation, explorations and learnings. More importantly the child and their family will own the device that provides open public data to the rest of the world.

 

Thus we are flipping the science laboratory where the experiment and measurements are occurring at home but monitored from anywhere over the internet and discussed at school with their co-learners.

 

Each child’s parent/carer will be provided with a wearable activity tracker that comes with free apps for Apple or Android smart phones owned by the parent. The data is anonymised and fed into another central website that can be studied at school. This will allow the child to study their parents walking activity and dietary impact against this activity then make comparisons and consider reasons. The objective of this experiment will be for the children to study their parents attitude and behaviour to walking when it is being quantified.

 

citizenscientist3It may be, for example, that air quality around their school might improve if more people walked rather than use their cars for short journeys of less than 1 mile. But might there be other benefits to walking? By flipping the science lab, we’re encouraging the children to become “Citizen Scientists”. We hope that they will engage with the design and creation of experiments with their parents to learn more about their environment and participate in decisions about it. We also think there’s a lot of fun to be had in this activity and that the experiential nature of it will embed the knowledge and understanding that they will discover together with their co-learners, parents and teachers. We wonder if this understanding will inform future behaviour and decision making at the community level.

 

Of course, all of this might not work but that’s the thing about science and innovation, failure is always an option. Besides, if we can encourage new conversations with the children around some of these important subjects whilst at the same time engage them in science practice, I’ll take that as a win!

 

If your school or city borough whether you are in London, New York or Beijing would like to get involved in this programme then please get in touch. It’s not a free programme but you will be part of a new movement that empowers communities to make smart decisions about their environment.

 

I’ll update this blog in a month or so and let you know how we get on but in the meantime please feel welcome to follow me on twitter via @GrahamBM and in the meantime you can follow my air quality sensor here.

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Sugata Mitra – Education and Empire

Famed for his “Hole in the Wall” experiments with children and computers in slum districts in India, winner of the $1 million TED Prize, proponent of emergent learning theory and advocate of self organising learning environments (SOLE), Sugata Mitra has successfully challenged what many of us think we know about learning and technology. Not for him, the suggestion that we use technology to simply reinforce the teaching practices of the last century nor should it be used to simply replace the teaching profession. Mitra seeks a complete rebooting of our educational systems to reflect the information infrastructure that todays children are born into.

 

On the day of the launch of the Learning {Re}imagined book I wanted to share this excerpt from my interview with him where in 5 minutes he succinctly describes how we arrived at where we are and why we need nothing less than a total transformation in the way we approach learning, teaching and assessment.

 

He tells me:

 

Coming back to technology. Now paper becomes cheap, pencils become really cheap, so now you can have all that in the hands of children. Books become really cheap. You can give them to children. The teacher’s role starts to change. Then comes technology and to my surprise, technology was allowed inside the examination hall. You were allowed to use paper. You were allowed to use pencils. You were allowed to use rulers, straight edge, set squares, protractors, compass. Everything that the last generation used for solving real world problems were available to the person being examined.

 

Somewhere along the line, we seemed to have lost sight of it. We have come to this ridiculous situation of saying, only the past technology is allowed still, but nothing more than that. We went up to the point where we said, logarithm tables and slide rules are allowed, but then we stopped. We stopped at the calculator most of the time and when it came to the Internet, we said, not at all. I wonder sometimes if I were to go back a hundred years to the Victorians and show them our world, what if those same Victorians were to say, well why on earth aren’t you allowing all this inside the examination hall? How are you going to test them for their real world skills?”

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Learning [Re]imagined – the app

Ready to go? Get the App QuickStart Guide

 

Those who have been following the last 18 months of my Learning {Re}imagined journey will know that during our travels we were filming and recording documentary material that will augment the physical printed book, available from Oct 1st 2014.

 

Over the past months I have been busy working my way through more than 50 hours of recorded material to create short interviews and documentary material that is exclusively available to owners of the printed book via a free app. So in addition to the unique stories and interviews that you’ll find in the book itself it has been designed so that you can augment your journey through the pages using your smartphone or tablet device. Exclusive video interviews with Sir Ken Robinson, Noam Chomsky, Seth Godin and more plus documentary material on case studies from every country we visited can be discovered amongst the printed pages and brought to life via your mobile device by simply pointing it at the pictures.

 

Driving a digital experience from a physical analog book may seem perverse when some might have thought the days of the printed page were numbered, yet I believe the imminent death of the physical economy at the hands of the digital has been greatly exaggerated. The physical world is going through an analog reboot whether this is via, for example, 3D printing, or in this case book publishing reimagining itself so that information isn’t frozen in time. Neither did this take an army of video editors or software developers to construct. In addition to writing the book, I also edited all of the videos using Final Cut Pro on standard iMac computer and then scripted the digital augmentation using Aurasma.

 

The result is a living book that can be added to at any point in time and that, if you follow me on social media, will remind you long after you bought it that something new is available for you to discover.

 

It doesn’t stop there. After you’ve downloaded the Aurasma app you can create and share your own journeys through the book, adding your own materials and insights for the community of readers to explore. If you create an Aurasma journey then please share and tell the world by using the #LearningREimagined hashtag on Twitter.

 

I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did creating it. I’m now excited to see what you make!

 

To get started I recommend that you navigate to this page using your mobile device and download the free Aurasma app from either Apple’s App Store (iOS devices) or from Google Play (Android). Then all you need to do is use the apps search function to find and follow “Learning Reimagined“. Once you’ve done this you’re all set. Active images in the book at the time of publishing are marked with a red circle but more of the images will become active over time and don’t forget to look out for “Easter Eggs;)

 

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Technology as a “Sat Nav” for learning?

Digital learning entrepreneur Donald Clark is someone that I find myself often in complete agreement with, or in fierce opposition, but always entertained. On the board of numerous e-learning organisations he is a bonafide contrarian, regular speaker at conferences, and a prolific blogger.

 

I’ve known Donald for nearly 30 years as we both ran digital design companies that produced learning materials since the 1980s when “new media” was genuinely new and came in the form of 12″ Laserdiscs. It has to be said that he was a more shrewd businessman than I and by focusing his attentions on the corporate training market while I decided to go and disrupt the music industry he made a tidy return when he sold his company, Epic Group, in 2005. He has won numerous awards for the design and implementation of e-learning, winning the ‘Outstanding Achievement in e-learning Award’ at the World of Learning Conference (WOLCE).

 

I met with Donald at the WISE Summit last year and asked him why he thought digital platforms had not made as much progress within our educations systems compared to their impact in other sectors. His position is that higher education and schools are resting on their laurels and tradition rather than embracing the future. Here’s a short excerpt from our conversation:

 

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Teachers as designers

What is the role of today’s teachers?

 

Are they like commercial radio DJ’s who are given a prescribed playlist and are left to try to innovate within those limitations or are they able to design their own show?

 

John Dewey in The Child and the Curriculum (1902) suggested that there might be at least two alternate schools of thought within state-directed education. One school, he says “fixes its attention upon the importance of the subject matter of the curriculum as compared with the contents of the child’s own experience.” Thus he suggests that, “Subject matter furnishes the end, and it determines method. The child is simply the immature being who is to be matured; he is the superficial being who is being deepened; his narrow experience which is to be widened. It is his to receive, to accept. His part is fulfilled when he is ductile and docile.”

 

The other school Dewey suggests is where “The child is the starting-point, the centre, and the end.” He continues, “To the growth of the child all studies are subservient; they are instruments valued as they serve the needs of growth. Personality, character is more than subject-matter. Not knowledge or information, but self-realisation is the goal.”

 

More than 100 years later these arguments are still being debated as successive policy makers and educators lurch from one side to the other.

 

I spent a day at High Tech High in San Diego, who are a case study in my book, Learning {Re}imagined, and I left inspired by what I saw. The school is built around the Dewey traditions of project based learning where subject material and disciplines are taught within their application and across disciplines rather than the subject silos that are so typically of our high schools throughout the world. I met with their founder and CEO, Larry Rosenstock, who is a force of nature if ever there was one. His full interview and discussion of High Tech High will be published in the book but here is an excerpt from my interview with Larry where he discusses teachers as designers.

 

Larry tells me:

 

So the idea of teacher as designer means that the teacher has control over what they’re basically doing. There’s nothing canned about it. And it has not only teacher voice and choice but student voice and choice. What I want to see kids doing is creating new knowledge and I want teachers creating new knowledge and doing so means that basically the teacher is the designer

 

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Teaching as an Art

Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.”

Seth Godin

 

 

During my global journey for Learning {Re}imagined, I learnt about the absolute importance of the teacher and their engagement with their students. Indeed research by Gallup presented at the WGSI Equinox Learning 2030 Summit in October 2013 by their executive director for education, Brandon Busteed, showed a direct correlation between teacher and student engagement in relation to learning outcomes and wellbeing. The research also suggested that up to 70% of the teacher workforce were not engaged.

 

“We definitely want to show that these ‘soft’ measures move the ‘hard’ measures, like grades and test scores,” Busteed said. “But we’re also asking: is engagement more important or are grades more important? If you ask a parent whether they’d rather have a kid who is getting mostly As and is only mildly interested in what they’re learning or mostly Bs and is super engaged, I can tell you what most parents would pick.”

 

 

Quest to Learn, a school in New York that uses gaming mechanics within its practice and curriculum design, are a featured case study in my book. On the subject of teacher engagement Quest to Learn’s Co-director of School, Arana Shapiro, goes further telling me that when recruiting teachers:

 

We’re also looking for teachers who are really open to learning new things who are risk takers, who are passionate about kids learning, not just passionate about them passing the test. We’re looking for that kind of teacher who thinks of themselves as, for want of a better word, an artist

 

This certainly resonated with my experiences “on the road”. No matter how much, or little, technology was being used within a class or school it was the teacher who made the difference, who brought the room to life and engaged students in their learning. That’s not to say that the technology wasn’t valuable when used intelligently and with purpose but I would suggest that the technology-centric, teacher-less classroom is not only some way off in the distance, it isn’t even desirable. We may, however, need to think about the skills we are looking for in the teachers of tomorrow, or even today.

 

Learning {Re}imagined is published by Bloomsbury/WISE on October 1st 2014 and is available for pre-order now.
 

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Experience vs Qualifications

Yesterday I caused a bit of a Twitterstorm in a cyber cup by suggesting to young people that being able to demonstrate their ability rather than their qualifications might give them a better chance at winning a job.
 


 
Admittedly it was a tad brash and I do admit to  taking a certain juvenile pleasure in teasing the Twitter attack dogs over breakfast. I received more than 150 replies, got sucked into Facebook “holy wars” and then finally had to get back to work. Like all good Twitterstorms it was a mixture of derision, agreement and knee jerk reactions suggesting that, well, I might be a bit of a jerk.

My tweet was conceived after reading an item on a section of the BBC website aimed at young people titled “It’s not too late to learn code and here’s why you should“. The gist of the message for young people was that if you learn to code you’ll get a well paid job. Another article that caught my eye had the headline “BBC aims to make programming sexy with new coding TV shows for kids” which pretty much had the same message about the road to riches.

 

It’s coincidental that both of these articles refer to the BBC. It’s not their fault as they can be easily forgiven due to the tsunami of nonsense that has now permeated every conversation, conference or policy that has anything to do with digital technology in education. It’s as if technology was supposed to be the outcome of learning with it, and as for the path to riches angle, they might as well recommend kids to learn to play guitar so they might be a rock star. That isn’t to say  I don’t think kids should have the opportunity to experience computer programming but, in so far as future employment, programming is a craft as much as playing the guitar and if you all you do is copy the notes then you might play music but you won’t be a star.

 

But why all this latest noise around “coding”?  Well, here in the UK, after much pressure from the business community including privacy dilettante, Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, computing has been made part of the school curriculum where kids as young as 5 are expected to tinker with code. Given that the UK and the BBC have a fondness for nostalgia when we led the world in computer programming as a result of a national programme based around the BBC Micro in the 1980’s this seemed, at first glance, a good idea. And I think that it’s probably a good thing as after our 80s heyday the UK drifted into teaching kids how to become office workers with technology which was also the advice given to government by business at the time.

 

These rather strange lurches in education policy present a rather polarised view of how our kids might engage with technology and somehow the digital community managed to steal the words “making”, “makers” and even “creativity” to mean exclusively digital pursuits which is as stupid as teaching STEM disciplines without the arts. But then again when kids are genuinely creative or provocative with technology, amassing a huge following along the way, they getcriminalised by a legal system designed to protect property rather than citizens.

 

The emphasis around computing in our schools shouldn’t really be on coding at all but providing our children with an understanding of how the digital world, their world, the world we created for them, works. By this I don’t mean staring at a Raspberry Pi and naming components which is what we did in the 1980’s when we learnt about computers. What I mean is understanding how proprietary algorithms work and how they shape and bias our view of the world. This, I believe, should be the learning outcome of the new computing curriculum so that our kids leave school with a degree of intellectual self-defence in the digital world.

 

Perhaps we could commission a YouTube series called “How to Train your Algorithm” for surely these are the dragons that present and future generations might need to slay.

 

So coming back to my original tweet which is really about experience vs qualifications. Is it more important to demonstrate skills or show a certificate? I wonder if I read about swimming enough I’ll be able to swim?

 

I don’t think this is an either/or question but if you could only pick one which would you choose?

 

While you ponder on that I leave you with this talk that I curated from graffiti artist, Evan Roth, who applies a hacker philosophy to an art practice. It’s a 40 minute talk and absolutely worth watching until the end. The clue is on his T-shirt.

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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What do we mean by “Transformation”?

One of the key things that I learned on my journey, and discuss in the Learning {Re}imagined book, is that transformation is contextual. By this I mean, for example, that a lightbulb can be transformational where there has been no light. The Worldreader programme in Ghana provides school children and their families with basic Kindle devices that provides them with access to the worlds books in places where the printed versions were scarce. In Jordan, school children are encouraged to create learning experiences and share them with their friends via Facebook. A school in Lebanon provides every student with an iPad so they can connect with each other and their teachers in and out of the school day. In rural India one of the world’s largest deployment for mobile learning uses the most basic of mobile phones to promote maternal healthcare and well-being.

 

Here in this 10 minute excerpt from a discussion hosted at last years WISE Summit I am joined by some of the people featured in my book plus learners from the WISE Learners Voice programme to explore what we mean by transformation.

 


gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Malcolm McLaren on Learning and Technology

Malcolm McLaren, artist, innovator and provocateur, former manager of the once notorious punk rock band The Sex Pistols, passed away on April 8th 2010. One of the last public speeches he gave was to an audience of educators and technologists at a conference series that I curated for more than 7 years.

 

Whilst looking through my archives I happened once again upon his talk that is in equal parts challenging, biographical and thought-provoking. If you have an hour to spend to watch theentire talk I recommend it but only if you don’t mind language that some consider risqué or adult themed. It is however the last 5 minutes of the talk where I think Malcolm really nails it in regard to the debate around how we use technology for learning.

 

He says:

“Technology has unquestionably put something else in its place. But it’s not used necessarily correctly. If you can use technology to rediscover the idea of a flaneur, the idea of the romantic notion of learning for learning’s sake, the idea of art of art’s sake not career then maybe. Because information is accessible now, of course, and at extremely low cost, of course. Everyone knows that. We can’t fall into the trap that you can just flit around online. Use the internet and technology to discover new ideas maybe, be a virtual flaneur maybe, debate, go further and deeper maybe.

 

 

Don’t take information for granted just because it’s free. One did at school and we learned back in the fifties that the UK was a nation of liars and simply taught a culture of deception. Use technology in the right way, don’t become a slave to it. That is don’t become so reliant on it that you can’t calculate or read a map, because how do you know then to turn left rather than turn right? How do you know how to even spot a lie? Use technology as a tool just like a pencil for learning. It’s not a replacement for applied learning basically, it’s not a replacement either for experience. That’s it.”

 

 


Graham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.

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Vietnam – Learning Agility

My visit to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam last week was not an official part of the Learning {RE}imagined journey, but what I learned there I felt was both valuable and reinforced much of what I have discovered within the research and writing for the book that will be published in the autumn.

 

I was invited to design and deliver a learning experience for an international cohort of 40 high potential leaders from a UK FTSE 100 organisation active in the financial services sector. The module I designed was part of a 6 month “Agility Programme” developed by a faculty that included senior representatives from a leading UK university business school and several other leading executive and management training experts. Agility has become a vital area of skill development amongst large corporations facing challenges presented, for example, by sudden changes in regulatory framework or new and unanticipated competitors entering their market. In a nutshell, none of these corporations want to become the next Blackberry. An agile leadership team can successfully adapt to rapidly changing market conditions to maintain the success of their organisation.

 

Whilst in my past career I have built fast growth start-ups and sold them to large corporations I have not had the experience of a corporate career and so I was initially unsure of the value that I could add to this programme when first invited to join the faculty. My fellow faculty members and the cohort itself were all impressively qualified with MBA’s from leading business schools and degrees from leading universities. This was a very smart, high powered, group that I had found myself part of. The programme consisted of a number of residential periods plus online sessions and 1:1 coaching. Vietnam was chosen as a destination by the organisation to host the final residential week of the programme where the cohort would come to share and learn together.

 

The focus of my module was “Learning Agility”, what it is to be an agile learner, and in this context my presence made sense. Having not pursued a traditional educational path myself I’m effectively unschooled and have, since the age of 15, identified mentors and directed my own learning. During this time, where I have built and sold several disruptive organisations since my early 20’s, I have had no other option than to be an agile learner. A challenge for me then, was whether I could impart what I knew about learning to a group who, on the face of it, came from a radically different background, in a way that was relevant and useful to them.

 

The more I looked into the area of learning agility the more I discovered that it was an area flooded with jargon and consultants who could decipher it yet, in practice, it’s something that we’re born with naturally, but we’re almost taught out of. Traditional learning is measured by IQ and grades in tests based on certainty whereas agile learning would be determined by curiosity and quick thinking based on intuition. That’s not to say that you don’t want a balance of both but it’s these latter skills that are now being sought by some of the worlds leading corporations in candidates for senior leadership positions. These highly-prized individuals cope well with ambiguity and complexity, they don’t accept the status quo and they easily learn new functions.

 

I could be wrong but I don’t think that you can teach learning agility. I believe this kind of agility to be more like a set of “habits of mind” so in designing the module I considered what these habits might be and how I could encourage the cohort to think about them. I was interested in the ways we think about innovating, abstract problem solving or approach risk, how we reflect on our own performance, how we stay present and how we react to feedback. It occurred to me that many of these habits are present amongst children who are playful, curious and open-minded to new experiences that contribute to their learning. Thus a challenge for me was how to create a safe environment for the cohort to re-engage with their childlike state of curiosity in order to explore the habits and embed some of the theory that I was discussing during what was a 4 hour module in their, already, very intense week.

 

With the help of a colleague in London (Stuart Swann) I designed a set of activities using basic LEGO kits that also could be bought locally in Vietnam and provided to each member of the cohort. I chose LEGO after considering a variety of platforms from iPads to Raspberry Pi’s and even PlayDoh on the basis that the kits were inexpensive, available quickly in Vietnam and had a “low skills threshold” to their immediate usage. By this, I mean that the cohort could immediately work on my exercises without prior knowledge of the medium or any initial “training” in its use. It was also useful because I was hosting the module on the 50th floor of theBitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City where I was unsure of technical details like Internet access or power sockets etc. In essence, I could host this learning experience almost anywhere which, given the theme of the Learning {RE}imagined project, interests me a lot.

 

From the first of opening of their LEGO boxes it was clear that the cohort, who had no prior warning of the impending games, enjoyed the opportunity to return to the kind of experiential learning that they’d had as children. This established a playful environment where we could explore some quite weighty subjects and test them out as a team. It also meant that the formality of the lecture format was changed where the cohort, unprompted, felt comfortable enough to rearrange the environment to be more lounge like so they could continue to build during the talking parts of the module.

 

Altogether, I really enjoyed the session. The feedback I received from the cohort and faculty colleagues was highly positive. Whilst it was my job to teach I also learned a great deal that made me reflect on how todays leading corporations and employers are now actively seeking ways to energise their leadership to encourage out of the box thinking and agile problem solving in complex situations. It seems to me that what we need to do now is make sure that these skills are valued across the educational spectrum and that, in our quest to measure and standardise, we don’t lose the very thing that makes us valuable.

 


Graham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.