Diving platform on Graveyard Hill in Kabul from TV-Hill, Afghanistan. Sven Dirks, Wien

The significance of digital platforms to the business

Reda Sadki Learning strategy, Thinking aloud, Writing

Business gets done by groups in workshops and meetings and by individuals in private conversation. There is an undeniable cultural advantage for diplomacy that comes from looking your interlocutor in the eye. Emerging digital platforms are in the margins of this business. The pioneers are creaky in their infrastructure and, ironically, playing catch-up. They have long lost the initial burst of enthusiasm that led to their creation. Yet they are still here, alive and kicking with funding that can support, in principle, their reinvention. For this, they need courage and creativity, especially if they function in a bureaucratic environment. Then there are new platforms in search of purpose and the users it would bring. Sometimes, it is the other way around. No platform is perfect. All of them have strengths, experience, insights, and the potential to be more in the future than what they are now. Some have already achieved …

Walled garden

From ivory tower to walled garden

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Question: “So what learning platform do you use?” Answer: “The Internet.” I first remember hearing the phrase “Everyone hates their LMS” from a defrocked priest of higher education. That made so much sense. At the time, I was wrestling with a stupid, clunky corporate learning management system designed for the most paranoid kind of HR department, touting its 10,000 features, none of which could do what we actually needed. Moodle seemed equally clunky, its pedagogical aspirations lost in the labyrinth of open source development. The first breakthrough happened when, inspired by connectivist MOOCs, I figured out we could run an open learning journey without an LMS, using nothing more than a blog and a Twitter account. (That defrocked priest dubbed it “FrankenMOOC”, but he was also trying to sell me on using his preferred LMS.) There was something profoundly liberating about working outside the confines of a platform. However, the …

Sinistar Wallpaper – Beware — I Live! (Retroist.com)

Why gamification is a disaster for humanitarian learning

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Is gamification an advantageous strategy that can help increase knowledge and application when it comes to humanitarian responses? What are these advantages? Can gamification contribute to better humanitarian preparedness? Certainly, if you have been forced to maniacally click through 500 screens of a boring “e-learning” from the past – dressed up with multicolored bells and whistles or cute little Flash animation – to finally get to the stupid quiz that is insulting your intelligence by asking you to recall what you will have forgotten tomorrow but that you need to pass to earn your stupid gold certificate before your field deployment, “gamification” sounds enticing. After all, you figured out how to game that e-learning module… so maybe games are the key to the future of humanitarian learning? Not. Is gamification one of the “current innovations in the field of learning”? Well, arguably, this may have been the case… over a decade …

It's a dead end baby (Andrew Mason/flickr)

Debunking the “Social Age”, a dead end for humanitarian leadership practitioners

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

“And I can see no reason why anyone should suppose that in the future the same motifs already heard will not be sounding still … put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends, or by madmen to nonsense and disaster.” – Joseph Campbell, Foreword to The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, 1969 Humans are social beings. If there is one constant in our experience, this is it. Of course, the tidal waves of digital transformation are reshaping the cultures of how we learn, share, communicate, and grow. But this constant remains. Claiming that our entry into a “Social Age” is the key to grappling with change is akin to clamoring that we are entering a new “Age of Transportation”. There are obviously new means such as electric cars. But to try to understand what is changing – and how we can learn, grow, and lead to harness change – through such …

Keys abord the USS Bowfin

I want them to read it

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

“So… can you tell me how you would like people to use the guidelines?” “Well… it is difficult to say… I am not sure.” “What is the change that you are hoping to produce?” “Well… I don’t know. It was so much work putting these together already! Now they are available and people in countries just need to start using them.” “So… what do you mean by ‘using them’? Can you tell me what that looks like…?” “I want them to read it.” That is our point of departure. Image: Aboard the USS Bowfin in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, United States of America. Personal collection.  

USS Bowfin diving plane control levers

From guidelines to impact

Reda Sadki Global public health, Thinking aloud

Most global public health organizations issue guidelines that are of a high methodological quality and are developed through a transparent, evidence-based decision-making process. However, they often lack an effective, scalable mechanism to support governments and health workers at country and sub-country level in turning these into action that leads to impact. Existing activities intended to help countries build public health capacity carry potential risk for these organizations, as they rely on high-cost, low-volume workshops and trainings that may be characterized by startling disparities in quality, scalability, replicability, and sustainability, often making it difficult or impossible to determine their impact. In some thematic areas, stakeholders have recognized the problem and are developing their own frameworks to improve quality of training and improve capacity-building. A few stakeholders are experimenting with new capacity-building approaches to empower local actors and strengthen the resilience of communities. The global community allocates considerable human and financial resources …

Cover of BYTE Magazine, January 1986 (Vol. 11, No. 1). Art by Robert Tinney.Image: Cover of BYTE Magazine, January 1986 (Vol. 11, No. 1). Art by Robert Tinney.

Learning technologists are obsolete

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

These are some notes on one of several blog posts that are churning in my head about what digital transformation means for learning and leadership. Warning: these are the kinds of wild, roughshod, low-brow, unrefined contentions that might just make the reasonable and respectable Mister S. choke on his Chivito. Many of the pionneers of “e-learning” fought long and hard to have the value of technology for learning recognized and new tools put to use by educators. Their achievements are significant. Today, for example, many universities now have teams that support teaching staff in the effective use of learning technologies. (Ironically, the former may provide one of the rare occasions for the latter  to examine their teaching practice, but that is a different topic…). However, when I speak to young professors from fields outside of education, they describe such services as peripheral or marginal. At best, the learning technologies people help them set up a WordPress site to host their course content, …

Mission accomplished

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

We won. The former school teacher and humanitarian trainer who argued vociferously that nothing would ever supplant face-to-face training is now running a MOOC. The training manager who refused to consider e-learning is now running a distance learning, scenario-based simulation. People he trains are now working remotely – and a simulation, dirt-cheap and run by e-mail, is closer to modelling the real world than is the artificially and unrealistically “safe space” of the high-cost, low-volume training room. Work went through digital transformation before “training” did. The old-school learning and development manager is getting certified to run webinars. Through practice, she has surprised herself by how much she feels when running a session. A digital course run ahead of a face-to-face workshop mobilized ten times as many (people), for ten times less (money). Course participants produced tangible artefacts, directly applicable to work, through collaboration and peer review. And they did not need to …

Minecraft learning science

Insomnia against the grain – and putting Bloom to bed

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Summer 2016, Day 1. “So, that puts to bed Bloom’s Taxonomy… that reliable workhorse,” sighed C. “What do we use in its place?” “We don’t”, answered the Walrus. “There is no successor to neatly replace Bloom’s. It’s still there – and can still be useful. It’s about changing the way we think and do the design of learning. Just look at how we are building our course in real time.”  And we are. Observing the accelerating flow of applications for the #DigitalScholar course is more than a spectator sport. It is turning me into an insomniac. It is about feeling who is out there in the interwebs, somehow ending up with a course announcement from a brand-new (read: obscure) foundation based in Geneva, Switzerland. Reading motivation statements, trying to figure out how they connect to boxes ticked… It is on that shifting knowledge landscape of what is shared, across time and space, that we are sculpting the experience we …

Old cash register (Andrés Moreira/flickr)

Inventing by investing in new business models for humanitarian training

Reda Sadki Education business models, Thinking aloud

Through research and broad sector collaboration, a consensus has emerged on the recognition that uneven quality of personnel is a major limiting factor in humanitarian response, and that serious effort is needed to address the global gap in skills and build capacity of countries and local communities. At the same time, there is growing recognition that existing models for learning, education and training (LET) are not succeeding in addressing this gap, and that new approaches are needed. Structured learning has long been assumed to be an expenditure and, for a long time, remained unquestioned as a necessary investment. Yet learning advocates increasingly find themselves in a defensive posture, in part due to the complexity involved in correlating education initiatives with measurable outcomes for a cost centre. However, new business models point to education driven by demand that can not only cover its own costs but generate revenue to be reinvested …