It was a week. In the corridors of power, media tycoons planned post-imperial escape routes. And we who were content to play in a corner with, in the Yeatsian line, a looking glass and some beads, found revealed wonders in the very simplest of things. So Rupert Murdoch did a McGrawHill and divided his imperium into Good bank/Bad bank, and the latter got all the stricken print, from the Times to Harper Collins. The image which stuck with me, with the hacking debacle somewhat in mind, was the US exit from Saigon. I tweeted that I could hear the helicopter’s whirling rotors above the embassy roof. The tycoon’s change of heart displayed just that sense of panic – “…OK , lets burn the papers and go …!” – leaving in the air the question of who can be persuaded to invest in the Bad bank, and at what price?
Back down at street level, two very encouraging developments took place in educational activities that I have been tracking for a very long time. While Mr Murdoch bundled Joel Klein’s educational division into the Bad bank category, I think we are pulling back round towards a very clear and obvious progressional framework for new service development. At the beginning of the month, in “After the Textbook is over” I tried to track the way in which narrative, especially in video base format, will change our approach – or, rather, allow it to revert to the ways in which learners have always learnt. And I looked at buy and build strategies aimed at creating real weight in the serious educational gaming markets. So now, at the end of the month, let me add two more elements to the mix. The platforms on which the new learning will be presented will be mobile, tablet and post-tablet, and their mobility will need support for teachers as narrative creators, learning journey planners, learning games implementors. The resources and assessments are even now being developed. And it will be critical to the success of all of this that teachers at all levels support each other, that successful learning journies can be adopted, amended and replicated, and that the behavioural tracking which we can do so much more effectively in these digital contexts is re-applied all the time to help get these environments grow responsively. (It remains an interesting question: why do we aspire so strongly to apply behavioural feedback to target advertising, yet use it so relatively sparingly to improve interfaces, online interactions, and, above all, the learning experience!).
Three news stories this week illustrate these matters for me. In the first instance I was very taken by the news (and it has been a long wait) that Global Grid for Learning (www.ggflondemand.com) is now an accredited part of the Microsoft Education Suite. Global Grid for Learning was developed by Cambridge University Press as the neutral storehouse and trusted broker for copyright-cleared information, allowing a teacher-facing aggregation of learning objects with good metadata connectivity to act as a quarry for lesson planning and narrative assembly. The service is now owned by EduTone in California, though why on earth Cambridge sold it last year when it was so close to success still beats me. The fact that it is now the supply point in the Microsoft Education Suite in the very week when Microsoft announced its entry into the tablet market via its Surface strategy speaks volumes for the importance of this type of work (and also perhaps says something sad about the inability of some ancient University presses to change gear – Cambridge has now effectively left its domestic education market and removed its bridge to global markets).
But not all teachers will plan lessons or make journies or write narratives. Many or even most will borrow, imitate or adapt. This means that good practise has to be available and exposed, and that teachers have to respond to it. So it was hugely encouraging this week to read the announcement from the American Federation of Teachers that their Share my Lesson site will become available in August. This is as a result of their collaboration with the UK’s TSL Education (the owner of the Times Educational Supplement, another Rupert Murdoch company dumped on the road to the Bad bank, but doing very well in private equity hands). TSL Education created TES Connect in 2008 as a way of creating a sharing environment for British teachers. The service currently has some 2 million members in 197 countries and they download about 2.5 million lessons per month (http://www.tsleducation.com/). So gradually a global architecture moves into place to fuel the resource provision requirements of an education world which now has the other infrastructure environments it needs (networks, VLEs and LMS technology for storing, serving, collating results and communicating with parents, employers etc.). It is often said, and I have sometimes said it, that the system is now dominated by assessment: in truth, we are moving not just towards continuous assessment, but to the point where every learner knows when they have learnt something, and so does the systems around them. In order to make that vision sustainable we have to up the quality of the game in terms of the learning journey itself, and no one is doing more for that than TLS Education. The US is currently, in the bundle of 34 measured countries taking part in the Program for International Student Assessment (Associated Press 19 June 2012), 14th in reading, 17th in Science, and 25th in Mathematics. Whatever this means, it also means that teething pains in re-engineering the teaching workforce should not be a deterrent when there is so much opportunity for improvement.
And the last story? It has nothing formally to do with educational, but it certainly demonstrates the feedback loop I was talking about earlier. Thomson Reuters launched its MarketPsych Indices (TRMIs) last week “in order to give real time psychological analysis of news and social media”. Here we are trying to “model the impact of investor psychology” and eventually develop “under the radar investment hypotheses”. In The whole field of learning more about what we know through analysis of how we talk about it, we are still in the nursery. Apply this in education and our learning journies may emerge in an interesting new light!