The next decade.. my predictions

In response to Andrew Marcinek’s ideas about developments in the next decade:

Personally I feel that although we have made a lot of headway with the development of new technologies such as the iphone, the developments in social networking and the exponential growth of computing power, the world that I live in is still remarkably like the one that I have always known in my 56 (nearly 57) years on this planet.

Yesterday I answered a tweet in respect of why we have not made further progress towards the futuristic world that Andrew mentions that we had represented to us in “2001  A Space Odyssey” and “Back To The Future”. I spoke about the concept of inertia, which as you may well know was described by Isaac Newton as the fact that a body at rest will remain at rest but, with a push it will gain momentum  (i.e. once things get started there is a progression and movement!)

I think the lesson of history is that we tend to progress in fits and starts. The industrial revolution did change things in our world on a permanent basis but it took time to happen and it was not accepted by everyone.

In education I see that there are really amazing things that can be done with the power of technology as it exists now no mind how it will develop in the next ten years. But what about the forces for continuance of the old regime… those that say that we need to return to chalk and talk? Then there are those that see the advantages of technology but do not wish to see the world as they know it transformed overnight.

Which is why I can walk my dog down my road which has 1960’s houses that look a bit faded but can in many respects have looked the same way anytime in the last fifty years. there are still the old petrol guzzling cars, maybe a bit more environmentally friendly but hardly space ships flying around. I am getting ready to leave in my Renault Clio for a New Year’s Eve party which could be the same kind of thing that my parents went to half a century ago.

I believe that we need to change and that the brave new world of the science fiction writers will come about in some fashion in the future, but I am not so sure it will be as sudden or as easy as some might make out.

My predictions for the next decade will be:

(1) The continuing advancement of the power and usage of the mobile device and the introduction of these into schools (they can’t resist the phones and their power forever!)

(2) The continuing personalization of the web.. getting the technology to fit our needs… just what do we want the web to do for us? How does it fit our interests?

(3)  The continuing development of networking tools. Social networks will get bigger and involve more and more people.

(4) The rise in the number of people who will need to learn Chinese as China becomes the most important nation in the world closely followed by an increasingly powerful India.

(5) We will end 2020 with a very similar world to 2010 outwardly, there will be no teleporting or small space vehicles flying around but there will be more people working at home, more schools with mobile technology within them and children/pupils following their interests with teachers interacting with them and the technology. There will be more opportunities for people such as myself to develop their interests using the power of the internet.

(6) The most futuristic development will be in the use of Pranav Mistry’s “Sixth Sense” machines (see his brilliant TED Talk

Summing up my 2009 e-learning

2009 has been the year of e-learning for me. I have come a long way since I did my very first Tweet in June of this year sitting in a Shopping Centre (Mall) and telling the world that I was just sitting around and waiting for my wife who was clothes shopping!

For weeks I did little else on Twitter and had 1 follower ( a Filipino girl if I remember rightly whose reason for following me or ability to pick me out of the ether of Twitterers amazed me!). I did though have a breakthrough called TED Talks.

I have explained elsewhere the influence that these talks had on me. In regards to the start of a learning journey though my breakthrough to the power of Twitter as a networking tool came from following Chris Anderson the man who runs the TED organisation.

I received a direct message from him on Twitter. It detailed how to condense text using a URL shrinker (I initially used and now use hootsuite) This allowed me to write large amounts of text for a blog entry such as this and then shrink the URL and use this as a hyperlink in my Tweet.

I attempted this with a piece I had written In Praise of Ted which I posted to an online blog called “Posterous” that Chris had suggested as a quick and easy way to post thoughts, reflections or even  articles and then hyperlink it for Tweets.

I received back a URL for my “blog entry” and then posted this as a shortened URL into a Tweet and it really worked. This was a powerful moment for me as I was turning from a passive user of the technology to a contributor.

I started to learn that web 2.0 was all about contributing. That we all had something to say and opinions that we could send to others and also that we could receive their views, ideas and links. There was a brave new world emerging for me from the mist of online watcher, I was now a participant!

My next breakthrough came from finding a Tweet from a certain Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby). This publicised an “Educator’s PLN“. I had no idea what a PLN was but as an educator who now knew I could participate, I felt I could investigate this further. I followed the hyperlink to the site.

I found that this was a Ning site and that Nings were Social Networking sites that allowed like-minded individuals to discuss items with each other and also get to know who other were (I  picked up a number of colleagues to follow on Twitter from this).

I also found a number of really good videos had been posted about such things as the #140 Conference, social networking and also an organisation called Classroom 2.0 which was run by someone called Steve Hargadon  (@stevehargadon). I found these Ning sites to be a mine of in formation. I got to know about other leading figures in the “2.0 community”  eg., Eric Sheninger (@NMHSprincipal)  (a High School Principal who has done some great things using Twitter in his school), Shelly Terrell,an EFL teacher who lives in Germany but is a dynamic proponent of web 2.0 and how it can transform education and Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) who to use his own bio from twitoaster is a Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat, Character at the #140Conf and Winner of the  1st Ever NOW Award!

It was #edchat an online discussion forum that runs in Twitter twice on Tuesdays every week (5 p.m. GMT, 6p.m. CET) and (Midnight, GMT, 1 a.m. CET) that marked my next development as a participator in the discussion about how technology is transforming our educational world.

I got home at about 4.55 p.m. on a Tuesday evening in late November and went online through Twitter. The discussion  was about the value (or otherwise) of lengthening the school day (as president Obama wants to do in the U.S.). I had my opinions on the matter and found that there were literally dozens of others online at the time who also had their opinions. We challenged each other, agreed with each other and talked to each other (via twitter) it was exhilarating! I came to the end of the discussion mentally exhausted but excited.

I picked up a few more contacts from the discussion. My Twitter followings had now risen to above 300 and I was pleasantly surprised to see that over 100 people were following me.

The next step was to become a blogger! I tried doing the online posterous as mentioned above but wanted something more permanent that I could see. I went to “edublogs” and started my own blog.

I had never really done a blog before but now felt empowered to tell others what I thought and what I had found from my online investigations and what I picked up from the  seemingly never-ending supply of links and ideas from Twitter friends.

I found that I could not get the Edublog that I had created to do what I wanted it to. I felt somewhat frustrated that I could not download videos easily and that the look of the site did not look as I really wanted it to.

So I came to WordPress and the blog that you are reading this post in is the result. It is not yet the finished article, but I am quite proud of what I have managed to achieve in such a comparatively short space of time.

As 2009 ends I have much to look forward to. I am now a small presence in the debate about the future of education. I have contacted with a number of really important thinkers, movers and shakers in the education world and I have been given the freedom to contribute my voice, my ideas, my learning to the debate.

One of the most important people that I have found out about this year is Curtis J.  Bonk. I am presently reading his book “The World Is Open” which I have written about as another post in this blog ( The World Is Open). I was particularly pleased when Curtis took the time and trouble to respond to my posting about his book. If you have the opportunity please look at his comments and also look up his website .

The World really is open and there are lots of exciting developments ahead. There are problems too, as I  said yesterday in reply to a tweet from @thecleversheep we have a problem with inertia from teachers who (as he said) are beneficiaries and successes of our present  educational system. I pointed out though that inertia is a fascinating concept (to a non physicist like me) that a body that is still will remain still but once it is pushed and starts to roll it will continue to gather momentum. I know that the revolution in educational technology will move the still body some day soon and then the future will be exciting for all of us learners.

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers!

Just the start

As we reach the end of another year and, according to some, the end of our first decade of the 21st century, I am aware that I have still much to learn.

In my next post I shall be writing more extensively about my reflections of my learning journey in 2009. In this post though I just wanted to highlight one learning “event” that happened today.

It came,as so many of these things do nowadays, from a Tweet. I opened up a hyperlink from Simon Haughton, a Primary school teacher who I follow on Twitter (@simonhaughton). He is preparing to use “Google Earth” again for his Year 6 pupils. He wanted some advice on places to look up and he later gave an Etherpad address where we (i.e. the  Twitterers) could leave some advice.

He gave us a hyperlink to some work that he had done using “Google Earth” to tie in with a geography topic on Pakistan. I opened the hyperlink : and discovered an amazing project with year 6 (10/11 year old children) really getting excited in looking up and using ther power of the “Google Earth” software. It also gave me an introduction to a site called which I had never heard of before but which I have now bookmarked for future investigation.

It struck me that my learning in the wonders of technology and the way that it can change education is merely at a starting point. I saw in someone like Simon, as I do in so many other  technically aware practitioners, the learning journey that they have been on and how the more they know enables them  to enrich the lives of their pupils and students and advise novices such as myself.

I also appreciate how far I have to go.. but learning is an adventure. I have started to “Follow the Yellowbrick Road” but the Wizard’s Palace is still far away and there are many things that I must learn on the way.

Sir Ken Robinson’s NYSCATE Talk

Here’s a chance for you to see a brilliant speaker talk in a very humourous way about a very important subject.

This talk appears on the Educator’s PLN which I belong to. It is well worth looking at this Ning site of you get the chance as it has a mass of other information as well as the chance to network with some really interesting educators many of whom have really interesting blogs that are worth looking at if you are interested in web 2.0 and its applications for education.

Basically Sir Ken’s main thesis, which he outlined so well in his Ted Talk which I refer to in an earlier post,  is that not everyone can benefit from the Victorian “industrial”  concept of an academic education. He has written an excellent book called “The Element” In this book he outlines the stories of people (many of them now famous) who have excelled in their life by following their passions. He believes that aesthetic is the opposite of anaesthetic because so much of education is boring and does not appeal to the passions and interests of the children.

The talk is well worth your time and, like me, it will probably lead you to read the book. If it also gets you to look up the Educator’s PLN then this post has been very worthwhile.

Curtis Bonk: The World Is Open

I have been avidly reading the book “The World Is Open” by Curtis Bonk. I am halfway through the book and this is not intended to be the full review that I promised Curtis I would write for Amazon.Com as soon as I finished.

I have so far thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The thing that comes across is Curtis’ massive enthusiasm for the potential of technology to transform education. Not only is the world open but Curtis is too.

I contacted him by e-mail and almost immediately received a reply back! We have been in contact a few times since and he has asked me where I come from (Hockley, U.K.) and told me about his past visits to my country and how much he had enjoyed coming here.

The key to Curtis’ book is the acronym “We All Learn” and it is this emphasis on the potential of web technology to open up the world of learning for all of us lifetime learners is what  drew me to find out about him in the first place.

The acronym stands for:


  • Web Searching in the World of e-Books (i.e., Darwin)
  • E-Learning and Blended Learning
  • Availability of Open Source and Free Software (e.g., Moodle)
  • Leveraged Resources and OpenCourseWare (e.g., MIT)
  • Learning Object Repositories and Portals (i.e., shared content)
  • Learner Participation in Open Info Communities (YouTube)
  • Electronic Collaboration and Interaction (sync and async)
  • Alternate Reality Learning (Online Massive Gaming, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds; e.g., Second Life)
  • Real-Time Mobility and Portability (e.g., iPhone)
  • Networks of Personalized Learning (Blogs, RSS)

The book is  a journey through all of the above things. Curtis has met and worked with or interviewed so many of the leading figures in the advance of web technology that you feel you almost know them personally. He is also able to highlight the little known figures who are playing such a big part in bringing advances in e-learning to countries throughout the world.

I was particularly moved when he discussed the accident in Hanoi that almost killed Seymour Papert and how he was able to use social media to find out about his condition.

Throughout this book you are involved in the excitement of  being at the forefront of what is an obvious revolution in our way of life. I read the book because I felt I knew so little about it all other than what I had picked up from becoming an Active Twitterer and finding I could become part of a worldwide learning community of educationists.

It was from a link from Steve Hargadon (@stevehargadon and @futureofed) that I first came across his name and then did the inevitable Google Search!

The rest, as they say, is history. I ordered the book from and it arrived very quickly. I have been ploughing through its 470 pages and so far have just finished the chapter on Open Course Ware (OCW) and the explosion of online learning from great universities like MIT that has opened up higher education for so many students throughout the world.

The thing that has impressed me so far, as much as a review of the technology and the main people involved has been the sheer international aspect of it all. Curtis is very much an internationalist in the best sense, he sees no barriers to learning throughout our planet and sees the web revolution as opening up the potential for us all to learn and be influenced by others wherever they come from .

I shall be posting my eventual review of the book. You can go to his site where there are lots and lots of resources including a prequel and postscript to the book. He is coming out with a free e-book on the same chapter headings but with different material which will be available soon.

He also has a very entertaining blog:

I shall finish by suggesting that you look at the short video which I have uploaded below… it shows you the man and his ideas. You will get a feel for the humour and the enthusiasm of the man. Hopefully this blog entry will get you to learn some more about him and what he has to say.

My TED Top 15

As is fairly obvious from posts elsewhere in this Blog, I have been very influenced by the TED talks.

Yesterday I noticed TED had their very own list of 10 talks for the holiday

This got me thinking about making up a list of my top 10 talks. I found a spreadsheet of 500+ talks!

The point is.. how does one choose from so many?

Well of course I haven’t seen all 500 so I still have a lot of potential viewing to do just to catch up and they release new videos daily!

I therefore decided to make a list from the ten videos that I have enjoyed, learnt from, been moved by.

They are as follows:  (in no particular order.. they are all excellent in my eyes)

1.  Hans Rosling:  Debunking Third World Myths

2. Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

3. Nicholas Negroponte: One Laptop Per Child

4. William Kamkwamba: How I harnessed The Wind

5. Ben Dunlap: Ben Dunlap Talks About a Passionate Life

6. Chris Abani: Chris Abani On the Stories of Africa

7. Emmanuel Jal: The Music of a War Child

8. Doris Kearns Goodwin: on  learning From Past Presidents

9. Pranav Mistry:The Thrilling Potential of Sixthsense Technology

10. Jill Bolte Taylor: Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight

11. Temple Grandin: The World Needs All Kinds Of Minds

A brilliant talk by an animal expert who has autism herself and has achieved so much in her life… worthy of joinint the ten original entries above.


Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity A  wonderful talk by an inspiring individual about redefining disablement but most importantly….. human potential.

13. Benjamin Zander: Classical Music With Shining Eyes: A brilliant talk that is simply life enhancing.


TEDxSaskatoon Dean_Shareski The Return of Barn Raisings and Pop Ins A great talk about the  return to community that the internet has given us… and the implications for education.

15. TEDx Toronto Neil Pasricha “The Three A’s of Awesome” A wonderful life affirming talk about self belief and fighting against life’s downs and continuing to experience the wonderful world we live in.

Emmanuel Jal

I first came across Emmanuel Jal in a TED Talk the talk was

Emmanuel,as the picture from his hip-hop album suggests was a “war child”. He comes from Sudan where there was a terrible civil war and he saw his mother killed, his brothers die and became a war child, a child, who, at the age of eight went out with a gun in his hand to kill others

He experienced things as a child that no child should ever have to experience. He was rescued from the hell by a young British aid worker called Emma McCune.

She took him to Kenya at first and later on he finished up in London.

He could have been scarred for life by his experiences and finished up a bitter and twisted person. But he has a strong Christian faith and a belief in the potential of humanity and the power of reconciliation.

I cannot do justice to this marvellously talented young man who is a poet, a gifted hip hop recording artist as well as  a writer (he has written his own life story called War Child ( link:

What hooked me was his desire to do something positive for Sudan so as to look forward and not back at the tragic past.

He has started a charity called Gua Africa which is the spearhead of his campaign to build a school in the Sudan to be named after his “rescuer” Emma McCune (who tragically died in a car accident in Nairobi, Kenya in 1993 at the age of just 29).

To help build this school he has just one meal a day and saves the money he would have spent to help build the school. So far they have raised $134122 of the $250000 needed to build the “Emma Academy” .

In the words of Gua Africa themselves:

“GUA Africa has been granted 15 acres of land in Leer, West Upper Nile, by the government of South Sudan. Our goal is to build a high quality education centre for the whole community, which is to be called the Emma Academy, as a legacy to Emma McCune who lies in rest in Leer.

The twenty year long Sudanese civil war has meant that schooling in South Sudan today mostly consists of teaching under trees. Many former child soldiers have not found their way back into education, and traditionally only 1 in 5 girls are supported to finish High School.”

I have taken it upon myself to do what little I can to use the power of the networked communities that I belong to to publicise Emmanuel’s quest to build this school.

If it wasn’t for TED and the power of technology I would probably never have had the opportunity to know about Emmanuel, enjoy his music and maybe, in a small way, add my voice to those who are trying to help him build this school. It will not provide the solution to all of Africa’s problems and Emmanuel knows that, but it makes a statement about education as a means of change and education as a process to overcome the many deep sores caused by the madness of the past.

If you get the chance please follow the links in this posting and maybe join the campaign or make some small contribution to Gua Africa.

I thought I’d end with just one act of fundraising taken from the “Gua Africa”  site. The “Emma Academy” campaign is worldwide and they will build the school.

Emmanuel Jal and Jacqueline Atri Mercado

A big thank you to…

Whilst our founder Emmanuel Jal performed at an event in Mexico City, Jacqueline Atri Mercado, was so moved by what she was hearing she spontaneously decided to run around the crowd asking for donations for GUA Africa! She raised an amazing 15,520 Mexican Pesos (around $1,200). Jacqueline handed over the money to Emmanuel’s management with a letter that said: “I am a jewish woman who fights for humility and honesty; with these two principles together, I have gathered a few showings of love, empathy and respect. Every coin represents a moved heart, these hearts that respect every tear in the life of every human being. God Bless you!