Pyramide d'abricot à La bague de Kenza (Paris)

Bite-sized update: higher education in fragile contexts, discovery without analytics, and the epistemology of learning culture

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Travel

As much as I wish this blog could document my reflections as I read, research, speak, and listen… it cannot. Knowledge is a process, not a product, in this VUCA world we live in. I know that I am doing too much, too fast, to be ale to process everything. Accepting this is part and parcel of navigating the knowledge landscape. So here is an incomplete round-up with some schematic thoughts about where I’m headed.

Higher education in fragile contexts as a wicked problem: Most ed tech conferences I’ve attended are mostly male, and tend to focus on the education of those least-in-need. Inzone’s workshop on education in fragile contexts was at the other end of that spectrum, with a diverse team of scholars and practitioners coming together to tackle wicked learning problems such as how to ensure access to education for Syrian refugees in Turkey (access), what to do when refugee camp conditions are such that the committed Jesuit educators who staff the education program burn out after a few days or months, how to adapt courses to learners who lack resources or basic skills (quality), and  how to teach 21st century knowledge skills (spanning the range from keyboard typing to critical thinking) in such contexts. Workshop organizer, InZone director, educator, and interpreter (that’s a lot of hats) Barbara Moser-Mercer is doing an amazing job of building meaningful connections and collaboration with other teams from universities and international organizations. This is what a 21st century learning network should look like.

What use is discovery without analytics? Wednesday evening, I’ll be one of a jury of twelve for Semantico’s thought leadership dinner in London, which the digital publishing company describes as “as a way of bringing together leading influencers from the scholarly publishing ecosystem to debate a relevant topic over fine wine and food.” Sounds tasty. I read this as the question of epistemology: how do we know what we know about how people discover knowledge (packaged in containers like publications)? Are the analytics you get from publishing (number of downloads, time spent engaging with content) sufficient when education-based approaches can reveal so much more about what people do with our content?

Learning culture as strategy: The more time I spend with organizations and teams investigating their learning culture, the more it feels like a methodology that starts with diagnosis (measuring learning culture using Karen Watkins’s and Victoria Marsick’s DLOQ instrument) and then deepens individual and team understanding of the learning practices that foster continuous learning and connections with others. Asking questions about how we learn (beyond formal training) makes it obvious how little we reflect on experience. The lesson learned is what we tend to keep, rather than the journey that got us there. Without reflection, this is the Achilles’s heel of learning by doing. Epistemology again. The payoff when you figure this out is that actioning learning culture drives knowledge performance.

Knowledge performance: What is the relationship between individual creativity and an organization’s ability to learn? “We should just test people’s IQ and hire only the most intelligent ones,” is probably one of the silliest statements I’ve heard in the recent past blurted out by one of the smartest people (and dear friend) that I know. Leave aside the fiery debates about the biases of IQ measurements. Just consider that an organization’s ability to learn (no, organizations do not have brains but organizations that do not adapt and change, die) walls in your ability as an individual to exercise and productively apply your creativity, serendipity, and invention. In other words, no matter how smart you are, if your organization has low knowledge performance, you may come up with the most brilliant idea, but it is unlikely to translate into practice.

Photo: Algerian patisserie from La bague de Kenza (Paris), a personal favorite.