Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Meanwhile in the Informal Education Sector…

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I participated today in an event on Non-Formal Educational Business in Egypt. I was moderating a panel on eLearning after lunch. The event reminded me a little of an event I had participated in a year ago on Alternative Education in Egypt, partly because I found myself surrounded by people who are advocates edu outside institutions.

I am used to being the advocate for radical, non-traditional edu within my institution. Then I find myself with these guys, all anti-establishment and stuff 🙂 it’s refreshing. And so interesting coz people are so diverse in theri background, expertise, and approach, and all they have in common is they care about education, and care in spite of instiutions. It made me realize how much I believe in that sector, what with all my cMOOC activity, but it also kademe  think about why I stay in highered. I’ll come to that in a sec.

For the panel I was moderating, I invited George Siemens to join us virtually, and he generously  accepted, even though it was 7am on a Sunday his time (might be even 6am, coz 2 days ago he was on a diff timezone). Having George there was a big deal to me because he’s not a close friend like Dave Cormier or Bonnie Stewart or Jesse Stommel or Alan Levine – so I was really grateful that he agreed right away and it was actually a good opportunity to get to know him a little. I loved how he tried to imagine the audience (an audience I myself did not know beforehand, so I couldn’t tell him) and how he (the initiator of this whole MOOC thing) talked with such humility about it all as he shared the wider perspective on open source, open education, and eLearning as a whole. Before our session, people were debating the value of eLearning and stereotyping it as xMOOCs. I jad to leave after our session but I sensed that our session and especially George’s contribution, helped broaden people’s views. Audience members were a little shy to ask questions at first, but they asked good ones and it was a good discussion. I like that someone asked point blank how George felt about the direction xMOOCs were going, different from his initial vision. I am pretty sure he answered this in a Chronicle article before, but it was great hearing it live. Another good question he was asked relates to models like dalmooc that mix between expertise and constructivist learning. I like how, in general, he consistently mentioned the work of others. I doubt many ppl in the audience know Downes, Wiley, Couros, Groom, Crosslin or Caulfield, and some (but not all) know what George meant about Maha’s networking… But it wasn’t about that. It was about the recognition that there are many people doing the work that we do, and he pioneered a lot of it, but he recognizes the work of others in that landscape.

Back to my earlier point about staying in highered despite my passion for informal learning. Geroge talked about how ppl tend to dismiss institutions of highered in discussions of the future of edu. I don’t want to misquote him, so what I say next is not what he said. But my general feeling coming out of the session (and this may be an internal bias i am just beginning to articulate) is that these new developments in tech that allow for connection have potential to oen opportunities for formal edu if we allow it – people will still need universities, but universities can do more.

Now let me say something more. We had a good tech day, mostly. Thankfully no electricity/connectivity issues, and George could hear the room well, we could hear him well. This is possible. I recently guest-spoke at an event Cindy Jennings and George Williams invited me to at their campus. Tech setup seemed fine.

So I am unsure why conferences won’t officially take on the task of bringing in virtual co-presenters. It,s not costly (we use hangouts) and the setup is simple if you test it. My et4women panel at et4online was difficult for me coz i could not hear the other presenters (I need to check out the recording of that). The setup seeme straightforward enougj but i guess we hadn’t tested it. For George, Anastassia (organizer) and I tested two diff techs with each other at the event until we found the best sound quality; we did a check w George 2 days before the event.. These things are doable. Why don’t we just do them? I have seen it done (e.g. A recent thing where Jesse Stommel joined virtually for something). At work, we often use sophisticated video conferencing tech to be sure of robust connections, but the free options are there, simple, available.

When people talk about the limtations of eEarming they forget to mention its affordances. Sometimes getting OUT of the house to go to a physical meeting is the hardest thing for me to do. Let alone traveling! I would have a much worse grad degree , worse research, less experience, and a smaller community without ed tech. So I am grateful.

But anyway 🙂 few things show the value of connected learning than someone agreeing to join a local event virtually at an inconvenient time on their timezone 🙂 I wish I had had time to talk to folks afterwards. I guess I will hear from them soon 🙂 

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