Innovation and the Novelty Factory

My ears and eyes seem to have been bombarded by one word so often over the last couple of weeks that I’m now developing something akin to shell shock. A nervous tick here, a Tourette-esque outburst there, a cringe and a cry, a bewildered look in my eyes and a wanton desire to disconnect and float away.


Over hyped and over used the mere mention of innovation makes me wince.

You see

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

What scares me about this trend is that now innovation is being talked about in government policy, institutional strategies and every goddamn mission statement known to man – and yet, I don’t think there is any understanding about what innovation is: what it really means, what it entails or the implications of adopting it actually are.

Horace Dediu posits a taxonomy which I think is extremely useful to help discern innovation and reduces some confusion:

Novelty: Something new
Creation: Something new and valuable
Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful

Using that model we can see that a lot of what people declare as “innovative” should be re-graded as simple novelty, and what people want in their mission statements isn’t innovation but creation. Innovation is not for everyone. It is not something that everyone should aspire to or need to achieve. In fact the pursuit of innovation often means that quality, sustainability and longevity are put at risk.

Innovation is a lot harder and more difficult to achieve because it is essentially change. And the reality is that most people don’t want to do that.

People want the same, but better. Faster and cheaper, but not different.

Change is hard. It’s disruptive and scary. Innovation isn’t additive, it’s subtractive – you have to lose or destroy something in order to attain it. It’s not the same but better, it’s different and better. It requires the embrace of something new, different and foreign.

Innovation is not something everyone should be striving for, and the reality is that they’re actually not. They use the label of “innovation” but if you listen to the pundits in government, technology and finance sectors what they actually want is Novelty. They want something that generates “new” at scale and from very little real investment or effort. What they crave is the Novelty Factory where you can package something differently, appify it, give it a new spin, change the colour and produce it at scale, but never actually do anything different. The reason for this is that novelty has the potential for massive profits, simply because who doesn’t like new? It’s engrained in our psyche to be curious and that’s exploited ruthlessly through an array of psychological manipulations that drive the cravings of a consumerist economy.

You’ll hear plenty about “disruption” but how much of that is actual innovation? How much is actually changing? Isn’t it just the same as before? Isn’t it just like the other thing? Isn’t it simile rather than metaphor? If we actually think about it, it’s distraction rather than disruption.

People don’t want to invest in innovation because change is really hard. It’s complex, expensive and risky and more often than not takes time – years if not decades. It requires behaviours and mindsets to adapt to entirely different concepts, inputs and environments. It requires people to leave behind what they did, what they built reputations on, what they trust and tacitly know, and replace it with something strange. Innovation is about trust and relationships more than anything else. It’s about building, shaping and learning not just coming up with ideas.

What most people want is novelty – simple, cheap, dumb and easy to sell. You can invest in that. You can profit from that.

Silicon Valley isn’t the hub of innovation – it’s a perfect model of the Novelty Factory churning out vast quantities of “new”, but affecting little real change. Sure there are innovators operating there, but they simply share the space rather than dominate it.

Real innovation requires change, not from the product but the audience, user or consumer. That’s where the complexity lies – it’s not about coming up with something new, its about convincing people to change. To let go of traditions and to trade in status, comfort and power from the old model to embrace something new and different. It’s for this reason that true innovation is exceedingly rare. There are plenty of new things we do, but how many require real change? How many were really just the same, but better? How many were subtractive and forced you to give away, give up and destroy?

Innovation is not as pervasive as we think, nor should it be as widespread as we’re led to believe.

I think there’s a need for a more nuanced approach to innovation, invention, creation and novelty. The distinctions are important and there’s a growing need to articulate the difference, to accept it and to choose what it is they need. If we want governments and institutions to embrace innovation we need to really understand what that means and what’s at risk. Maybe when we think about it novelty is enough, or that creativity is more important. Maybe that’s the real innovation.

*Image used


The Value of Exploitation

At the core of our societal structures, economic and political systems is exploitation.

Exploitation creates value in the most simplistic way by imposing a basic deficit model – I have, you do not.

Exploitation is systematic unfairness. It divides and separates people. It motivates the worst aspects of our human nature and utilises our innate ability to blinker, separate and abstract ourselves. It divorces us as individuals from what made us successful as a species the very idea of what is shared and common.

Value is created through exploitation which is then represented by “wealth”. Wealth is the abstracted concept of value and the process of having what others do not.

Money is the evolved representation of wealth. Before money wealth was tangible through physical manifestations such lands and treasure. Easily seen, easily coveted, easily taken. Money, in particular it’s digital form, abstracts wealth into something more pure and fitting of the modes and methods of current exploitation. Rather than simply act as a tool to simplify trade and exchange, money allows wealth to be accumulated in truly unimaginable amounts. Hidden and locked away as digits in a database its form is disguised – no longer an object easily identifiable, coveted or requiring armies to protect it. Wealth is removed from social constraints, removed from communities and removed from any need for redistribution.

The abstraction of wealth, and it’s associated value, into money allows exploitation to go on unfettered, unmonitored and mostly incomprehensible. How can you rebel against something you cannot imagine? How can you revolt against that which you cannot see? How can you reclaim that which isn’t tangible?

The current economic model of globalisation amplifies exploitation into a form that is trans and multinational. Exploitation can be systematised and localised – Asia becomes the hub to industrial exploitation, Australia and South America the environmental, North America and Europe is informational and economic while Africa is only pock-marked with points of exploitation due to its violent instability. Global exploitation is now almost complete – and for what? And for who?

The global disparity in wealth has never been higher. There is only an incredibly small number of humans on the planet actually benefiting form this global form of exploitation. As we charge into the Anthropocene leaving an indelible mark on the land, water and air around us – who benefits? As we poison the air, land and water shouldn’t we be asking why? As we destroy the planet piece by piece what do we gain as a people?

Capitalist ideology will simply attach value to something new – from land to industry, from industry to labour, from labour to information. Whenever a limit is reached you simply change the game, change the rules and move the goal posts.

Every equality is eroded.

Every commons is enclosed.

The value system that we’ve created has become so abstracted that people, the environment and the relationships we form are anomalies and impediments of the system. They are the dark areas, the externalities that affect the system but are not of it.

How did we develop a system that doesn’t recognise us or the ecosystem around us as part of it?

It has to change.

We need to move to a post-capital mindset. As an idea it is about finding and attaching value to something else – us. This is how you redistribute wealth. You assign value to each and every individual. The same value. In this way wealth is truly democratic and is untethered from the deficit model. Our footprint and ecosystem are not external to the notion of wealth, they become are part of it.

Can we effect this change now or will it emerge from the ruins? Will it require exploitation to reach its conclusion before we are ready to transform? How much needs to be exploited to the point it collapsed and is destroyed? What are we willing to lose in order to live appropriately? The forests? The oceans? The ice caps? The air we breathe?

POSTSCRIPT – After writing this post I listened to Can accountants save the planet? and Jane Gleeson-White discuss the idea of Six Capitals. It’s an interesting concept but there are some big caveats to this kind of approach. Monboit’s comment sums this up perfectly:

‘… everything will be fungible, nothing will be valued for its own sake, place and past and love and enchantment will have no meaning. The natural world will be reduced to a column of figures.’
– Guardian, 2014

I’m not sure if this is the right approach, but the singular model of financial capital has passed its use by date.

Image used

The Current State: Mobile Learning

I’ve written a couple of opinion pieces over the years about the Current State. There’s this one on the The Education System, this one on Society Transitioning, and Educational Technology and my personal state. They’ve been a nice way of articulating a specific view of space and time relating to a theme. They’re interesting as markers in the sand, for wayfaring and digging around the past. They’re also a way to think more deeply about what we’re doing. So in that tradition, here’s the current state of Mobile Learning.

I’ve been working around mobile in higher education since 2010. I’ve written a few papers, done presentations, developed mobile content, systems and apps – so feel I’ve got a good handle on it as a topic. While it’s true that mobile is now part of the conversation, I still wonder if Mobile Learning is even a thing yet.

Here’s some observations:

  • Single app adoption is widespread, but that seems to be the extent of “mobile learning”. A single app for a single use in a single subject with a single purpose. That’s nice and all but is that what we would call mobile learning?
  • Students and staff are ill prepared to use their devices for learning. They lack the knowledge, practice and skill to integrate the technology into their learning and teaching. Those fresh faces out of high school have just emerged from an environment where mobiles have been contraband, so have little concept of how or why to their mobile in a learning environment. Staff and mature age students have barely got beyond mastery of text messaging (see parents that text) let a lone anything more complex. It’s an interesting dilemma as far as technology goes because for maybe the first time the issue isn’t access or event equity. The issue is cultural and what we are willing to invest in.
  • Content is still rarely mobile friendly. There’s limited use of “eBook”s – ones that go beyond text on a page and cater for on screen reading experiences and interaction with content (highlighting, notes etc). There’s also the systemic reliance on PDF which means that content is locked away in an A4 page and nothing is “mobile friendly”.
  • The administration systems we tend to use are still only designed for the desktop. They still only ever support a full and rich experience from a desktop browser. Mobile is a poor cousin and the experience shows.
  • Institutional web teams are often too small to affect the kinds of redesigns at the kind of scale that’s required. Instead the result tends to be a set of piecemeal components that shatter any hope of a coherent user experience.
  • The only system or practice that seems to have a consistent increase in use and reach is…. email. Yep, it now infects every device we own with pings and vibrations that we attempt to ignore. Email – the most un-mobile of technologies. It fundamentally fails to provide a good experience – for reading or writing – or utilise any of the amazing affordances of todays mobile devices that open up the opportunity for improvements to communication.

Yay us!

The reality is that institutions (and the entire edtech industry) have under estimated the paradigm shift required to embrace mobile. It’s still treated as just a feature, or a nice to have rather than the future of computing.

In fact it’s the failure to actually treat mobile as a legitimate computing device that is perhaps the biggest problem.

Mobile is still treated like a toy rather than a serious device.

This is despite the fact that mobile is more contextual, more powerful and packed with more affordances than any PC. Somehow if it doesn’t have a keyboard or mouse it doesn’t seem to count. Mobile just doesn’t seem to justify investment in the eyes of most IT departments. This is despite the fact that the mobile device we have in out pockets is in most cases newer and more powerful than the junky PC we, and our students, are working on. Compare working with video on your phone vs your PC. Which one struggles? Which one drops frames? Which one renders longers?

The underlying fact is that mobile represents a significant change – in the type of technology, the kinds of affordances it makes available and more importantly, in the way we interact with it.

I published this table in 2013 to illustrate the kind of shift that mobile represents. It sticks out to me because I don’t think that much of the change or transition has actally occured. I think we’re still too PC in our mindset and have yet to actually embrace the reality that mobile represents. The current state of Mobile is that we’re not there yet – we’re stuck in the PC Age. Thinking PC thoughts. Doing things the PC way.

I developed this table at the end of 2013 as a way to express the diffferences I could see between the PC and Mobile mindsets and the way the thinking defined the two Ages. The idea was to encapsulate the change in affordances that each technology bought with it.

PC Age Mobile Age
tethered location mobile
static environment dynamic
slow speed of change rapid
separate technology embedded
formal structure organic
low level of convenience high
abstracted authenticity situated
centralised resources distributed

Since I published that earlier table I’ve worked on developing a more expansive list.

Version 2 Additions
passive interaction active
broadcast communication dialogue
institutional data sovereignty personal
linear timelines polysynchronous
curated content contributed
physical storage digital
possession content communal
concealed practice shared
isolated learning connected
generic interaction personal
consumtion information creation

The Current State?

So what’s the current state of mobile learning?

We’re haven’t even started.

Critique & Creation

I started this post about 6 months ago and after observing the to-and-fro between Audrey Watters and Stephen Downes I went looking for it. I found it laying in a drafts folder, something started but not finished. Over the last couple of days other posts have come out, Debbie Chachra & Mike Caulfield, and it’s highlighted for me again the importance and role of critique. So I decided to push it out as the sentiments can perhaps add to the conversation but also explain my deep admiration for the work that people who don’t “make”, but instead think, care, connect and give.

I’ve written a few critical blogs and tweets in my time. What’s interesting is that they’ve been read, shared and replied to more than any of my positive, happy and (perhaps) thoughtful pieces. I think I am often at my sharpest when being critical, but being critical is not necessarily being negative. I am not an overly negative or pessimistic person – in fact I feel I’m the complete opposite. I’m a happy, optimistic, positive and passionate person. It’s this passion drives me to do better, to transform, reform, rebuild and create – not for their own sake but to be better than before. I’m an optimist that’s based in reality. I need to understand what is wrong in order to make it better. I think I have a talent for rooting out causality and seeing past the obvious, and perhaps that’s why those particular posts resonate more strongly with people.

It’s for these reasons I am such a fan of Audrey’s work. She has a way of clear communicating her insight to a broad audience and of explaining the nuance of quite complex themes and ideas. Her work is well researched and often provides the missing historical perspective from many of the deep conversations we’re having around EdTech. She has a talent for clearly communicating complexity, unveiling the hidden and asking questions that have been left unasked and unanswered. Her critique is sorely needed in educational technology where hype and hyperbole are the mainstays of communication. I often think that maybe the problem some people have with her work is not the criticism, but the fact that it’s all been done before (usually by more talented and progressive people a decade or more ago).

My education in art and design which baked in the critique as part of the creative process. I’ve learnt to appreciate it deeply because when it’s done well but someone who knows what they’re talking about it can change your life. It’s opened up my eyes to a different way of working and creating that is less self indulgent and more rigorous and defined. You see critiquing isn’t a review where you let fly with your opinion, no the purpose of the critique is to make the work stronger, better, and more fitting.

To be effective doesn’t just entail listing all the mistakes. Instead it requires a deep level of empathy and understanding. There must be understanding of the subject but also an empathy of the person and context to make it a critique and not an attack. One cannot simply critique the work, you must understand where it comes from, what is it’s context, and what is its purpose so that you can offer something back to the work. For this to occur critique requires work, and it’s damn hard work! It requires rigour not just an opinion. In the critique your not entitled to your own opinion, you have to actually earn it.

Critique is so important that it’s what good creatives leverage to do & be better. It’s how you grow, learn and change. It’s how you get better and actually improve. For that purpose alone a good critique is more important than the act of creating itself. Doing something wrong (repeatedly) or making something is not good or better because it’s “creative” – it’s stupid. Both the work and the critique have equal importance. They are symbiotic and by themselves ultimately futile.

The creative work might exist, but the critique is a plan for where it can go and how it can evolve. That might mean starting again from scratch, tweaking or taking an idea in a new direction, but it is not a dismissal of the contribution or the effort of making it.

The art of a good critique is a fine line but it can be guided by one sentiment – what are you offering back to the work?

  • If it is nothing but criticism, it is not a critique.
  • If it nothing but your opinion of what you would have done without any mention of the works context ,it is not a critique.
  • If it is criticism aimed at the person, it is not a critique.

Critique is important for any practice because it is a tool that improves that practice. Despite the old saying, practice does not make perfect – it simply makes it permanent. Critique is one of the most effective way of learning and improving.

From reading Audrey’s work for some time I find her critique of Educational Technology valuable and important because they demand we pay attention. They demand those that do make, to make are better things. They demand that we ask questions about ourselves and what we do to, for and with others. This critique asks us to do better and provides insight into where we go wrong and where we can do better.

We should want Educational Technology that addresses real problems, not manufacture new ones or answer a need we never, ever had. We should want EdTech that’s more authentic, more caring, more open and more free. Technology that humanises.

A Lost Pony

@seriouspony is no more, and it makes me really sad.  

My experience of @seriouspony borders on the profound and I’m extraordinarily happy for having that experience in my life. I would not have thought it possible to deliver any wisdom that would change your perspective or your outlook and force you to rethink your entire mindset in 140 characters – until I encountered @seriouspony. I’m extraordinarily grateful for being able to interact a couple of times in that weird space between technology, learning, education and experience. She’s enabled me to experience the ocean while living in a fish bowl

I wish @seriouspony all the best. I hope she’ll return one day and as I’m grateful she littered our feeds with majestic Icelandic ponies and gallons of insight. 

There’s no blame here – the decisions she’s been forced to make (more than once) are unimaginable – but I am sad and mad at the Internet. Sad that it can be used to shut someone down and force them out rather than empower them. Mad that it can be used with such malice and enhanced the powers of those seeking to do damage. It’s wrong and it needs to change.

For starters Social Networks have a duty of care. Free speech is a nice ideal, but not at the expense of safety. The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence. What constitutes safety isn’t rocket science. When any social media is being used as a vehicle for threats of rape, death and violence – that’s not a good thing. Threats are not “free of speech” and they don’t promote safety – they force people to flee. Instead of working on an algorithm to improve advertising how about you concentrate on making your environment somewhere people actually want to be. You can think of it purely as a business decision – no one wants to feel unsafe and you will loose customers if they do, impacting on those remaining and your monetary potential. Quick lesson: that’s really shit UX. 

But more importantly is we have to have a real conversation about this idea of “free speech”.  

It’s not free speech if there’s a cost involved. It’s not your right to say anything you please – you’ve missed the fucking point if you think that – it’s the right to say things without the expense of silence, alienation, violence, intimidation and fear. As I said before:

The cost of free speech shouldn’t be somebody’s silence

Literacy and the Digital Self

I’ve been mulling two separate ideas over the last week – but I have a nagging feeling that they’re somewhat related.

The first is that “digital literacy” is a poorly defined concept and there’s a significant gap between the idea and the reality.

I’d suggest that there’s a significant difference between learning software and becoming literate in digital technology – yet the two are more often than not considered the same. One is said to signify the other but to me the way we learn to use technology is akin to learning to memorise a book rather than learning to read it. Learning to read requires us to learn the mechanics, vocabulary and grammar – it’s developing knowledge and understanding of the way things are constructed that allows us to become literate.

With technology we seem to just skip that process and in its place we memorise processes and technique that are specific to a certain circumstance (application, operating system, version) which aren’t transferable across contexts. Without an understanding of the mechanis every new technologies requires tremendous effort to learn, just as it would to memorise a book. However, if we become literate in digital technology – if we’ve learnt how to read – new applications, systems and software can become akin to picking a book off a library shelf and instantly being able to make sense of it. While the story, the character, even the way language is used might be different our literacy allows us to make sense of it. It’s not about homogenisation but rather the skills to adapt to complexity, variety and diversity.

I’m on board with the idea that digital literacy is something vital for 21st century society. I feel that it can equip us with the tools and knowledge to become active in determining our technological future rather than just responding and adapting to the technology placed in front of us. The big caveat here is that it requires effort – quite a lot. Becoming digitally literate requires a similar effort to learning to read – taking years to develop and improve through incremental exposure to new concepts and increasing complexity.

The other idea is that of creating a student centric technology ecosystem.

I’ve been toying with the idea since the end of last year and it came from thinking through the concept of transferring ownership and custodianship of data back to students. It’s been fuelled over the last month by the blog discussions from Jim Groom, Mike Caulfield and others collated in this post from Ryan Brazell. Their discussion and suggested frameworks are similar to what I had in mind for a system that would transfer ownership and control back to students in terms of their data and the content they generate as part of their studies. Think blog + LinkedIn + eportfolio + badge backpack rolled into one but managed by the student not a commercial entity looking to commercialise data. Think then about integration of this system into institutional systems (LMS, student admin etc) via APIs using profiles that the students have control over. They can decide levels of access institutions can have to their data as well as things like preferred communication channels and contact details. This kind of system could work with the traditional LMS but it would be transform it into an aggregator, returning it to the status of an actual management tool, rather than the source and container of all content. It would create a distributed ecosystem of self managed services performing a range of functions from identity management to online publishing, records of learning and displays of achievement. This would work just as well for staff within the education sector too – and could form part of establishing their digital literacies. Essentially it decouples the student from the confines of institutional systems while also supporting the institution in providing more seamless and collaborative offerings. It opens universities to new models of working, collaborating and the associated income streams possible.

But … (and in this case it’s a big one) … this system would require greater digital literacy to get off the ground than say an LMS, especially in terms of executive management. It’s a huge shift away from how digital technology has been sold and has worked in the past. It’s a move away from the control, concentrated resources, monolithic system and captive data that most institutions are used to (perhaps depend on) to something open, distributed, personal and fundamentally mobile. It’s a situation that this cartoon I retweeted sums up perfectly:

Perhaps what links these idea together is what I perceive as the mismatch between rhetoric and reality.

We want students and staff to be more digitally literate but that currently is equated to knowing software or performing rudimentary tasks not an understanding line mechanics of the digital environment. We want personalised learning but think that we can achieve this by containing students within the LMS rather than on the web and by measuring vast amounts of data rather than actually giving students the power to make their own informed decisions. The intended outcomes aren’t reflected in what is being done, even on a strategic level at most universities, let alone what happens in the majority of individual classes.

Putting this all down in this post is an attempt for me to come to terms with what I’ve been thinking. It’s not particularly clear – but it’s a description of events that I see as the come into focus. I’m not trying to be pessimistic – instead its my way of licking my finger, sticking it in the air and trying to see where the wind is blowing.

I’m not pessimistic on what lies ahead – far from it. The work that people like Jim Groom and the team behind Domain Of Ones Own have been doing actually fill me with hope – because someone out there is doing something. I’m also interested reading Mike’s posts because I can see at least someone is starting to develop a vision for what’s next. The work ahead is about trying to draw a line between the two!

Thanks to @jimgroom, @holden & @ryanbrazell for sharing your work so openly!

The EdTech Revolution – According to Pearson

A colleague of mine posted this video of Juan Lopez-Valcarcel the Chief Digital Officer at Pearson on Twitter.

It comes from the Next Web Conference and I was immediately taken aback by the tone, theme and points made in the talk, so much so that I wanted to actually critique it. That’s what this post is a critique and an argument. You might get the most out of it by opening up a couple of browser windows – one with the video the other with this post – as I’ve time coded my points and arguments as a rebuttal.

0:37 – Opens with the standard “nothing has changed in education” rhetoric. It’s interesting how room configuration and furniture layout somehow relates to the pedagogical practices of the teachers in the room. Behaviours, practices, content etc don’t make a pretty pictures but they have changed in this time frame.

0:58 – If the problem is  the look of the classroom why doesn’t Pearson sell furniture? I don’t understand how the aesthetic of the classroom reflects what is happening inside it. Teachers have been moving and changing furniture configurations for decades now.

1:20 – Now here is an actual real life issue – university retention rates are a massive issue.

1:25 – Another real issue – many of current degrees lack relevance and authenticity in terms of the skill sets required of graduates.

1:32 – Tuition rises in the US are a problem but quite complex and often relate to decreasing government investment – but still a valid issue.

1:38 – “lots of opportunities to rethink the model” that’s an interesting conclusion based on those figures, their cause and responsibilities.

2:08 – Prensky’s concept of the Digital Native as an actual real life thing has been disproven. The quote from Tapscott – I call bullshit – what about the generation who went from steam to electric, horses to cars, canons to machine guns? First generation not afraid of technology! My ass!

2:38 – Here’s where I have another issue. Education isn’t an industry as such. It’s fundamentally a service, an investment by society to benefit its people. It doesn’t fit the language of industry, product or marketing. Yes, money is spent which can stimulate and support other industries, but it is not industrial in its nature. There are no products here, there is just an is investment in people.

3:06 – Education is not ripe for the transformation you have in mind. Setting it up as an industry in no way addresses the problems you outlined at the beginning of your talk – retention, relevance or tuition cost. I’m starting to lose any sense of credibility about now.

3:20 – One place, method, instructor & speed. This seems to outline where we are going now.

3:44 – The ‘current model’ – which is what? You haven’t explained that bit Juan. I would say that despite the ‘One list’ you just gave there is great diversity within that model. Great places, great practice, great instructors allow diversity of task, interaction and speed. They actively cater for that. So is that your solution – make things great?

3:52 – Nope – it personalised learning. 😦 Taylor would be proud. Break everything down into individual components and make them efficient. Funny, I don’t think that’s what business wants from potential staff anymore and I predict, nor will those jobs we don’t know about.

4:03 – I would argue this – to me education is the environment, the process and the practice that we create to facilitate learning – and you can do that in a learner centric fashion. I would say that we are already moving towards (particularly in K-12) at the moment and distinctly away from something that is ‘done’ to someone.

4:42 – So people are the most important part of the process? OK thanks Juan, I’ll keep that in mind as we go through the rest of the talk.

5:08 – You need to work with research and teachers? Lets see where we go with this one, because you’ve already bypassed a century of pedagogical thinking, practice and improvement.

5:15 – Tablets are here and next we’ll see “Invisible computers”. OK but the technology is not the barrier it might have been, you just told us these kids were the first not to be afraid of technology. Why then would they need it to be invisible? Besides this wasn’t one of the issues you highlighted earlier.

6:03 – Now it’s Smart Data which can predict how you’re going to perform on Dumb Assessments and Dumb Practice. Predictable. If you’re going to be learner centric and personalised shouldn’t the student already know how they are performing? Seriously! That’s one thing I would expect for my ‘personalised’ learning experience.

7:10 – Next body language. OK so you’re proposing to video every student? Wow that’s not big brotherish or highly invasive or so prone to abuse at all!!! Privacy issues might just be the start. So a student is doing math, he looks a little uncomfortable therefore he mustn’t understand. What if he’s bored, tired, horny or hungry as teenage boys are prone to do? He gets extra homework, extra assignments, a robot tutor? And a quick aside – is there any scientific evidence that demonstrates a clear link between body language and the cognitive process of learning? *crickets*

7:42 – Remember the “people are the important” bit? Here’s when we don’t need them any more.

7:49 – This is a story that seems to have more to do with the resilience and innate intelligence of children rather than the amazing abilities of technology. What about the slower students? The ones that didn’t get it? The ones that needed support? Did the machines do that too…. and why did they end up hacking the device? Seriously! Why would they need to?

9:01 – So the solution is robots? What about connecting students to teachers around the world? You know the global village? Seems like it might be smarter and cheaper too, seeing how people are so important!

9:22 – Research shows kids connect better with robots than devices? What happened to the people???? I bet there’s more emotional attachment to an actual person and I bet there’s probably some research to back it up too. People are more important remember? (oh and connect to research and teachers too … oops we seem to be bypassing them too)

9:55 – Hong Kong tutors are not something to showcase. Have a look at Marcel Theroux’s doco on them and see if you’d be willing to send your kids into that! No QA, no measure of success – it’s purely a tool to mitigate guilt and create a false divide. AlsoFYI – Superstars tend to want Super $$$ and to drive around in a Lamborghini. Just to back track too – which issue was this addressing again – retention, relevance or tuition cost?

10:40 – And what access are we going to have to these superstars? We can watch and view them, but when do we get to interact, discuss, talk, debate? Access to consume is not a selling point – it’s a new version of the model that serves a similar role to the traditional library – an archive of ideas. It’s also a little irrelevant in the age of YouTube and the open web.

10:53 – Gamification and ‘stealth learning’ – oh god. Really that’s it? No understanding or credence given to the actual creativity, problem solving or strategy that games encourage and promote? Nope, relate it back to maths and then its ‘educational’. Is this intelligence by stealth?

12:06 – So when you get to school it no longer replicates real life social experiences? Come on!!! Are you even trying here? For a kid – social is school – home is the boring bit! Kids want home to replicate school,not the other way around! They want face-to-face action, their peers, time to play and interact. I thought you said people were important – maybe you should talk to some of them!

12:50 – Yep, Pearson = Open. Didn’t you know that?

13:00 – … and we’ll just skip over all that stuff about content (that we as a publisher  seem to know nothing about) and onto an area where we don’t compete or aren’t threatened – Hardware. Deft segue.

13:23 – So that’s the seven key trends… and that’s it. Applause

As you can see those trends map so well to the issues highlighted at the start of the talk… retention, relevance or tuition cost… hey hang on!

Look I don’t begrudge the tech industry becoming involved in education – but be a bit smarter. Know what you’re talking about and start basing some of your ideas on actually addressing the issues we face – not the ones you just made up! Most of the ed-tech available at the moment falls into two categories: the same but different or inevitably unnecessary. Both of these categories rely on marketing, spin and hype to sell. They miss the fact that education wants technology – but they just want the good stuff. If we are going to revolutionise education maybe we should start with revolutionising EdTech – just not in the way espoused by Pearson.