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 …

Young man at a vocational education and training center, Marrakesh, Morocco. © Dana Smillie / World Bank

Making humanitarians

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud

The industry to tackle growing humanitarian and development challenges has expanded rapidly since the mid 1990s, but not nearly as fast as the scope and scale of the problems have spiraled. Professionalization was therefore correctly identified as a major challenge of its own, with over a decade of research led by Catherine Russ and others clearing the rubble to allow the sector to make sense of what needs to be done. The bottom line diagnosis is a now-familiar litany: a shortage of people and skills, lack of quality standards, inability to scale. Despite the growth of traditional university programs to credential specialized knowledge of these challenges and how to tackle them, young people armed with multiple masters find that they really start learning upon entering their first NGO. They face a dearth of entry-level positions (sometimes spending years as “interns” or other forms of under-recognized labor) and discover professional networks closed to them …

Contradiction – Kyoto Train Station (Stéfan/flickr)

Dialectics

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

4:35 p.m. “My working hypothesis is that the learning that matters is mostly incidental and informal.” “Maybe,” he smiled. “Yet, my conviction that we need to explore this is grounded in my formal training in knowledge management.” 5:17 p.m.  “When we are under-funded and overwhelmed,” he sighed, “is just not the right time to go off on a tangential project!” “I won’t argue with you. Let us go through with it to determine how useless it is to trade short-term survival tactics for long-term strategic thinking.”   Photo: Contradiction, Tokyo train station (Stéfan/flickr).  

Boats on the sea shore

Who are we and why are we talking?

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

As learning leaders, we share a personal passion and commitment to solving wicked problems. We recognize that no one organization can solve these problems alone. We use our talent to advocate for new ways of doing new things, both inside and outside our structures. We see continual learning as the key to preparedness in a hyper-connected VUCA world. We believe that creative, collaborative, and networked business models are needed for both communities (“resilience”) and businesses (“sustainability”) that serve them (including humanitarian organizations) to survive and grow. The small farmer or grocery store perspective is the community-based perspective. Sustainability is the business. The point of our continued conversation is to determine how we can move to collaboration and action. Photo: Boats on the sea shore (Despite straight lines/Flickr)

TRS-80 Pocket Computer

The Law of Halves

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

How many people do you need to recruit ten thousand learners? The preliminary questions are: is there an established network of learners? This requires that learners are connected to each other, and not simply end nodes in a pyramidal structure. And, do you have access to the network? These questions may be answered empirically. Publish your course. Build it and they may come – through the network. This is the value proposition of the MOOC aggregators: sign up for one course and you become part of its network. Expect to receive frequent communication as the aggregator’s value to the institutions who feed it content depends on its ability to convert one course enrollment into a lifelong pattern of registrations. What if they do not come? Much seems to depend on the level of computer literacy. If your target learners are computer software engineers, offer a relevant, quality course and they are likely …

Autopsy

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Knowledge management has met its timely demise. No matter how sophisticated or agile, knowledge management (or “KM”)  remains fundamentally embedded in a container view of knowledge. Where the ephemeral and superficial nature of social media reflects the failure of communication in the Twenty-First Century, KM’s demise stems from the Chief Information Officer’s view of knowledge as discrete packets of data, each one destined to be filed in its own pigeon hole. The death of KM is a soulless one, because it is devoid of culture. Even though KM shares commonalities with publishing (static knowledge, expertise frozen in time), the latter adds the significance of culture (whether organizational or literary) to the flow of knowledge. A book as an object (physical or electronic) does not confuse the container with the message or the processes that infuse the former with meaning. Photo: Tables in disused autopsy room (Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr)

Walking with a drone

Reda Sadki Personal, Thinking aloud, Video

We went up the Semnoz this afternoon, taking our two-and-a-half year old baby on a no-pram-allowed walk for the first time. In addition to the usual suspects (cows and goats, mostly), we also ran into Benoit Pereira Da Silva, an application developer at the helm of a contraption he uses to code and walk at the same time. If I understood correctly, he has programmed the drone to document his walks. Today, his 13-year-old son manually guided a small, buzzing quadcopter equipped with an onboard camera to capture HD footage.   Our baby sized up the little machine and its four buzzing rotors, perhaps with his recent interactions with the family Roomba (plastic and metal, moves and makes noise) and the flies (the buzzing and flying things around the cows) as reference points. Given the accelerating pace of technological change (cf. The Second Machine Age), I’m expecting that he will be growing up in a world populated …

Opencast Mine / Tagebau - Garzweiler / NRW / Germany

Opening workplace learning

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Writing

For organizations, the paradigm of workplace learning remains focused on internal development of staff, on the premise that staff need to be learning to improve, if only to keep their knowledge and competencies current. In the past, education advocates struggled to gain recognition for the need to continually learn in the workplace. Opening workplace learning was difficult to justify or finance due to the economy of effort required to deploy educational activities. In today’s hyper-connected world, organizations can no longer afford to restrict their educational activities to their own staff. Nor can they rationally allow for such activities to be limited to ad hoc face-to-face ‘trainings’ that do not scale. They need to reach their target audiences through education if they want the knowledge they produce to have more than superficial impact. This is part and parcel of sustainability. Closed learning restricted to the workplace is the knowledge economy equivalent of strip-mining. Photo: Opencast Mine, Germany (TablinumCarlson/Flickr).

Summer leaves near Annecy Gorges de Fier

In the leafy month of June

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Travel

June is good busy. Here are three highlights. Wednesday and Thursday 4-5 June 2014 I’ll be at the second Google Course Builder Faculty Workshop in Zurich. Google engineers built their own platform to host courses internally, but soon offered public-facing courses like “Power searching with Google”, and then open-sourced Google Course Builder. For an organization that seeks to retain full control of its content and data, Course Builder is one of only two MOOC-era open-source platforms available. (The other one is OpenEdX. Moodle is the elephant in the room). The workshop will bring together 30 learning leaders from universities, companies, and non-profit organizations to share diverse experiences, ranging from citizen math to entrepreneurship and global health. Only downside: this workshop overlaps with EdX’s Future Edu. Then, for two days, I’ll be in the open online symposium on scaling corporate learning, on 18-19 June 2014, organized by George Siemens and hosted by Corp U. Last but not …

Philadelphia, early morning

From communication to education

Reda Sadki Content strategy, Thinking aloud

There is of course an intimate relationship between communication and education. In many universities, both sit under the discipline of psychology. However, in most international organizations, these tend to be siloed functions. Communication often focuses on external media relations and, in the last few years, has expanded to take on the role of organizing social media presence. Education is reduced to ‘training’ or subsumed under staff (or talent) development, sometimes (but not always) inside of human resources. Worst-case scenario: an organization may not even have a centralized learning function, even though a quick survey would probably reveal that learning, education and training are at the core of its knowledge production and dissemination. Communication counts eyeballs, downloads, or retweets. Education tracks what is happening behind the eyeballs – and changes it, in measurable ways. This is equally true of the industrial-age classroom (and its organizational corollary, the training workshop) as it is of online learning environments that maximize technology’s amazing economy …