Humanity’s relationship with technology is changing almost as fast as technology itself, and our hopes and dreams for learning ride the wave of that relationship.
For example, just twenty years ago we thought computers might ‘automate’ learning. Then the Internet happened and we saw a potential to ‘globalize’ learning. Then digital games blossomed and we wanted to make learning ‘interactive’. More recently people started talking about the semantic web and we strove to make elearning ‘meaningful’. Web 2.0 made us concentrate on ‘social’. Current catchwords include ‘personal’, ‘mobile’, ‘analytical’ and ‘collaborative’. All that in twenty years! None of these perceptions are wrong – the Internet can be all of these things. However, its power, flux and unpredictability make it a difficult wave to ride.
Meanwhile, other waves of massive change are also sweeping the world. Global competitiveness, for one, means that learning technologies are increasingly being identified as an essential solution for modernizing government services and workforces, not just the traditional K-12, higher education, adult, corporate, and industry training sectors.
Canada has invested heavily to make this country one of the most connected nations on Earth. A core objective has been to reduce the “digital divide” (making the opportunities related to excellent connectivity, applications and services evenly accessible to all Canadians) as a strategic advantage for the entire country on the world stage. Most developed nations have similar strategies for digital literacy and capacity.
In the developing world, learning technologies are seen to provide acceleration for emerging nations. Such nations typically work with international development agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international development banks to plan the infrastructure for learning technologies deployment into schools, community centres, etc, for formal and informal education, training and even workforce development.
Another growing dynamic is the free and open source software movement. Organizations dedicated to this dynamic include Free Software Foundation, OpenSource.org and Moodle. A major part of ETEC522 is devoted to collective exploration of this and a number of similar dynamics – the thrilling rising waves of learning technology we will consider as “emerging markets”.
A final dynamic is the open innovation paradigm, which is part of the reason ETEC522 exists in a public weblog. Open innovation suggests that in a fast-paced, incredibly diverse world the solo, secretive innovator (whether an individual or a team within a company) is a defunct concept. The more current idea is that breakthrough innovation can proceed much more rapidly and effectively through myriad open conversations – a concept that’s highly analogous to the educational theory of connectivism. The key to making open innovation work is to find the right balance between what elements of your venture are deeply strategic (and therefore need to be protected) and which can be animated and enhanced through open discussion.