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 …

MAVEN Atlas V Launch

A question of such immense and worldwide importance

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Scale: Predictions over the impact of climate change and globalization suggest that we will see more frequent disasters in a greater number of countries, along with more civil unrest in those states less able to cope with this rapidly changing environment, all generating a greater demand for humanitarian and development assistance (cf. Walker, P., Russ, C., 2012. Fit for purpose: the role of modern professionalism in evolving the humanitarian endeavour. International Review of the Red Cross 93, 1193–1210.) Complexity: The world’s problems are characterized by volatility, uncertainty, and complexity in a knowledge society. The industry to tackle these growing challenges has expanded rapidly to become increasingly professionalized, with a concentrated number of global players increasingly focused on the professionalization of more than 600,000 paid aid workers and over 17 million volunteers active worldwide in UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and the main international non governmental organizations (INGOs). …

Lifebuoy soap for health

Sustainability

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

In a complex, knowledge-driven society, learning, education and training are key to sustainability. Sustainability initiatives need to explicitly make learning strategic in order to succeed in the face of growing challenges. No organization, no sector can do so alone. Professionalization alone is not the answer. Education is failing to prepare humanity for disasters, climate change, globalization or conflicts. Existing partnerships do not address this gap. Attempting to do more of what has been done in the past is not the answer. There are three main reasons why a profit-making enterprise has a shared interest in sustainability: To increase and maintain stability To resolve crises so that business can continue To improve the economy This is what links profit and non-profit sectors. Learning is the unexplored conduit. Photo credit: Under the floorboard

Chicken crossing the road

Panamanian chicken

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud, Travel

Why did the chicken cross the road? Lunch time, after a jet-lagged conference morning. Hand shakes and smiles, mingling Spanish and English. Forks and knives scrape plates as we skewer the plump, roast chicken. Within the first 90 seconds, I am being mandated or tasked to request funding immediately upon returning to headquarters. Before dessert, we are exploring how Caribbean and Asia Pacific island nations could – should – work together on sustainability. There is funding for that, too. Pause. Smile. Eyes light up.  Puckers his lips. Whispers. Confides. “Cross-cutting.” “It’s a magic word,” he bursts out. Say this word and you are skewering the organizational silos. You are cutting through the red tape. You are opening the doors to the world. You are bridging the gap. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course.

There is no spoon

There is no scale

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

So, you are unhappy with a five percent completion rate. Hire tutors (lots of them, if it is massive). Try to get machines to tutor. Use learners as tutors (never mind the pedagogical affordances, you only care about scale and completion). Set up automated phone calls to remind people to turn in their homework. Ring the (behaviorist) bell. Or not. Google’s Coursebuilder team has an interesting take on completion rates. Let’s start by asking learners what they want to achieve. Then examine their behavior against their own expectations, rather than against fixed criteria. Surprise, surprise: take learner agency into consideration, and it turns out that most folks finish… what they wanted to. Bill Cope has an interesting take on scale. He says: there is no scale. It is not only that face-to-face/online is a false dichotomy. The intimacy of learning can be recreated, irregardless of how many people are learning. …

Château de Divonne

Divonne

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Demure, soft-spoken, personable, affable, no-nonsense. All those things, in that peculiarly North American way. Those words don’t do justice to B., the uniquely compelling individual I met for the second time last night in Divonne-les-Bains. To describe him as a living legend in the world of learning and development is accurate, but far from complete. The first time we met, our lunch turned into a nine-hour knee-to-knee exploratory journey of the linkages between corporate learning and the wicked problems of humanitarian education. Reflecting on his insights kept me awake at night. When I finally found sleep, it was only to find myself wrapped in vivid dreams in which the ideas became colors and shapes, many moving parts dancing in complex patterns. B. shared three lessons from a time when he set out on his own, leaving the comfort of an established organization. Lesson #1: Autonomy. Learn that being independent means …

Complexity & Networks

Know-where

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Six months after starting to develop LSi.io, I have 64 ongoing conversations with 150 interlocutors, connecting humanitarian and development learning leaders, Chief Learning Officers and academic researchers. Being independent has given me a unique vantage point from which to examine the humanitarian and development sector’s learning, education and training strategies. I believe that such perspective is indispensable if we are to give more than lip service to “cross-sector” approaches, in an extremely competitive industry faced with shrinking resources (think ECHO budget cuts) and growing needs (think climate change). And I’ve found learning leaders from our world to be a smart, thoughtful and active bunch, finely attuned to the sector’s changing landscape. I’ve also enjoyed profound and promising  discussions with CLOs from the corporate sector. One of the most humble I’ve met manages two large brick-and-mortar campuses, one in Asia and the other in Old Europe, running hundreds of courses and …

Street view in Oxford

Learning Technologies in London and European MOOCs in Lausanne

Reda Sadki Events, Thinking aloud, Travel

My feet hurt. I’ve just returned from a week-long trip for LSi.io pounding the pavements of London and Oxford, meeting 26 humanitarian, academic, and corporate people in four days. I wish to thank every organization and individual who took the time to welcome me and share thoughts, insights, and experiences. The common thread is that all these amazing people are working on the same wicked problem: how to transform learning in the crazy VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world that we live in. Right after leaving IFRC, I tried to formulate the problem statement to a potential partner. Excerpt: Currently, the humanitarian sector has no global platform for learning, education and training (LET), despite a widely-acknowledged human resource and skills shortage. In addition, the sector is deeply ensconced in face-to-face training culture, with many humanitarian workers earning at least part of their livelihood as trainers, and training events are key …

Are you nuts?

Badges for online learning: gimmick or game-changer?

Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

As I’ve been thinking about building a MOOC for the 13.1 million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers, I’ve become increasingly interested in connectivism. One of the platforms I’ve discovered is called P2PU (“Peer To Peer University”), which draws heavily on connectivist ideas. Surprise: on P2PU there is a debate raging on about badges, of all things. I initially scoffed. I’ve seen badges on Khan Academy and have read that they are very popular with learners, but did not really seriously consider these badges to be anything more than gimmicks. It turns out that badges are serious learning tools, and that makes sense from a connectivist perspective. A white paper from the Mozilla Foundation summarizes why and how, drawing on an earlier paper from P2PU’s co-founder Philipp Schmidt. George Siemens’s (2005) connectivism theory of learning is said to go “beyond traditional theories of learning (such as behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism) to include technology as a core element”. So badges in this theory would use …