US social media expert Howard Rheingold kicks off "Rethinking how we learn" from Norway next week

Photo of summer bliss on the Heath

So, if roughly a quarter of UK young people are unemployed, and in the same boat as a quarter of young graduates, there’s not much point to education? That was the myth that was laid to rest by the OECD’s learning expert Andreas Schleicher at the 12th Education Fast Forward debate (EFF12) which kicked off BETT Week in January.

On May 7, UK election day (12.15pm BST), he will close “Rethinking how we learn” (EFF13), broadcasting globally from Norway, which features ground-breaking US educator, writer and social media expert Howard Rheingold.

This debate promises to be lively as Howard Rheingold is a colourful (see pic above) and charismatic character whose presentations are packed with insights from the witty to the profound. He was in on the social media revolution from the get-go and is happy to share his own views on teaching and learning, as this quote from Jack Kenny's "The Innovators – 8 Howard Rheingold", demonstrates:

"The hardest thing to learn as a teacher is when to shut up. A lot of kids are used to receiving, rather than being active participants in their learning. I start by asking them to commit to a new way of learning. Sitting in a circle is important, there is no back row in a circle. Firstly I want them to know what they are getting into. Secondly, I require the students to teach with me." You get more of a flavour from the YouTube video (below) in which he talks about internet 'crap detection' (search and credibility).


'Education isn't changing quickly enough'

"Education Fast Forward was set up because many learners and teachers feel that education isn't changing quickly enough, which is why we are absolutely delighted to welcome Howard Rheingold," said EFF co-founder and chief executive Jim Wynn. "He immediately recognised the power of technology to initiate and accelerate change, and has pioneered this cause ever since. And of course he will be joined for the debate in Trondheim, Norway, by other esteemed educators, and by our fellows and guests in Polycom studios around the world."

The Scandinavian debaters include Lars Persen (@LarsPersen), a leader in pedagogy for Scandec Systemer, innovative teacher Øystein Imsen (@oimsen), who was named “Most creative ICT teacher in Norway” in 2012, Marianne Hagelia (@mhagelia), a lecturer, writer, debater and teacher, and Kjel Atle Halvorsen, an expert in school leadership and technology and a lecturer at the Faculty for Social Sciences and Technology Management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. As with the other EFF debates, live participants will join by video conference from Australia, France, Germany, South Korea, the UK and Zimbabwe.

Howard Rheingold will spark the debate with a 10-minute presentation about the implications for learning of social media and virtual communities (a term he is credited with coining). The debate will then explore how, in a world of ever-growing connectivity, schools, teachers and students are under a lot of pressure. The kinds of skills demanded by companies are changing rapidly, and the qualities they want new employees to exhibit include, increasingly, innovation, problem solving, collaboration and digital literacy.

A digitally literate person is currently thought to be someone who can learn, unlearn and re-learn, and he or she must adapt to a number of platforms and choose tools and processes appropriate for each specific task. So how does learning have to change to allow students develop in this way?

At the same time the social context for learning is continuously shifting. Children are relatively fluent with social media and collaborative tools, but what many schools provide them with for their learning is still often quite traditional and, for them, one-dimensional. How will education meet these challenges and what has to be rethought to change their experiences?

 The debate should be lively in Trondheim and outside before it is amplified and fed back on Twitter. He may now be a Lord and an executive with TES Global, but Jim Knight, who will be taking part from Germany, was, as Labour schools minister, the last UK politician to exhibit a deep understanding of technology for learning, and he has retained his interest and commitment.

You can also expect challenging contributions from Toshiba adviser and former headteacher Bob Harrison, taking part from London. While a more academic approach will come from South Korea's Professor SeYeoung Chun who teaches at the department of education of the Chungnam National University.

On the Twitter front, Marianne Hagelia, one of the debaters in Trondheim, will also monitor the EFF13 Twitter stream along with Dawn Hallybone (@DawnHallybone) and Tony Parkin (@TonyParkin). EFF co-founder Gavin Dykes will be chairing the debate.


Photo of summer bliss on the Heath


EFF13 is free – EFF12 reached a Twitter audience of 2 million+

There is no need to register for the Trondheim EFF13 – the debate is free to watch and will be streamed via the EFF13 landing page and extended by social media. You can join the debate and have your say on Twitter – simply follow @effdebate and the Twitter hashtag #EFF13. The last event, "Turning School Performance to Economic Success" (EFF12) at the Education World Forum in London in January, generated 2,606 tweets (around 1,800 on the day) for an audience of 2,026,270, with 14.65m timeline deliveries (data courtesy of @TonyParkin). (See Cathy Rubin's article on EFF12 in the Huffington Post).

Since its creation, Education Fast Forward has pioneered the  concept of online debates via streaming video and social media and has moved out from the sole sponsorship of Promethean to become an independent entity. It has been challenging because, while people want more detail and depth, they are also pressed for time, especially in education. The organisation has also switched technology partner from Cisco to Polycom and had to build new relationships and spread its net for sponsorship.





Photo of summer bliss on the Heath


Education Fast Forward chief operating officer Mary Lenehan relished the challenge. "We have been working with some of the smartest educators around, and they have been incredibly generous with their time, so it has been a wonderful opportunity and experience," she says. "We are now focused on building the organisation on a strong raft of support and sponsorship and would welcome new people and organisations to our community.

More information

“Rethinking how we learn” (EFF13), May 7, 12.15pm BST
Follow @effdebate and the Twitter hashtag #EFF13
"The Innovators – 8 Howard Rheingold"    
Cathy Rubin's article on EFF12 in the Huffington Post


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