The conference season blows hot and strong.  Here is the third in three days, necessitating a 4 am awakening to get to Berlin.  Did I dream that I met and shook hands with Richard Charkin on the plane, or was it just my reverence for  that master blogger in these, my tyro years, that made him manifest himself there, as if he were asking “You’ve started, but do you, like me, know when to stop?”

Plainly the answer at present is negative.  I came here to Berlin to help in an ELIG session at Educa. This latter is a major educational software and learning systems show, full of real innovators and few publishers barring Pearson. ELIG is the European Learning Industry Group, a trade body created to represent the whole learning enterprise to Europe’s governments.  Today we were in the experienced hands of Richard Straub, its ex-IBM co-chair, and Matty Smith, in a symposium designed to stress test and sharpen ELIG’s manifesto.  In a meeting room at the InterContinental we had some 60 participants from all sides of the business of learning.  The wonderfully diverse Roland Deiser led off in typical fashion, but never revealed how you maintain a positon as a senior fellow at USC Annenburg’s Centre for the Digital Future in LA while being at once founder and chairman of the European Corporate Learning Forum.  He was ably supported by Mike Morris of Cisco and Mick Slivecko of IBM.  Incidentally, Cisco and its governing councils emerged as important avatars of change in the networked world.

Bringing up the tail were that passionate advocate of change, Fabrizio Cardinali. (CEO of Giunti Labs and ELIG’s other co-chair) and this blogger.  I tried to re-emphasize the shift in relative power from provider to user, reminding the group that we are all publishers now.  In the early years of online, when the battles were around content, the block to progress was often the elitism of some librarians.  Today it is some teachers who perform this function.  Education is the last frontier for the networked society: teachers have to be prepared to move from instructor to mentor, becoming ringmasters and advisors in a learning experience increasingly directed by the learner.

If the battles ahead are around behaviours and skills, and I supported other speakers in that view, then we must stop leaving the skills base at the classroom door.   We want citizens with better reasoning powers, with good spatial location sense, with enhanced estimating skills, with a taste for enquiry-led learning, and, above all, with a sense of the collaborative nature of the network.  The fact that these are all attributes of video games – and serious gaming – means that those things as well belong in the learning cycle.

We can all find short-term drivers of change, and here the Compliance word waxed strong.  But this is Trend, not Vision.  We were all convinced that digital revolution everywhere would complete when the education fortress fell, but at present the defenders of the status quo seemed to hold most of the firepower, especially in recession.  ELIG needed to come back with a bigger picture, and it had to be about society and values , not just productivity and ROI.

You will find more in this vein on the ELIG site in due course. It remains true that we are all still far from enunciating the full vision, but this session provided some strong  insights in how to flesh that out.


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