That vision thing – Part III – “Learning {Re}imagined”

Graham Brown-Martin’s “Learning {Re}imagined” was the third and final book from my Easter 2015 reading project. I have reviewed Martin Robinson’s “Trivium 21c” here and Steve Wheeler’s “Learning with ‘e’s” here.

Learning {Re}imagined

I’m actually rather pleased with myself. The books were read in what I feel was the *right* order in terms of preparation for a significantly different role in global education as Principal of The British School in the Netherlands – but more of that in my next post.

Brown-Martin’s boWilliam_Ford_Gibsonok is an eye-opening representation of the famous quote from William Gibson:

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” (William Gibson 1999)

A collection of reports and interviews based on the impact of technology across the globe, the book is difficult to pigeon-hole. It’s not the experience you might be expecting based on the subtitle: “How the Connected Society is Transforming Learning.”

I must confess to bracing myself for a paradigm-changing distillation of re-booted educational structures and a collection of case-studies presented uncritically to be cherry-picked and chosen for our schools. The book is provocative but far more nuanced.

Rather than presenting Ed-tech as panacea, the book reinforces the importance of teachers in delivering the leadership of ideas. “Context is king,” is one of the truths I took from its pages. E-readers raising literacy in Ghana is as impressive a project as the community-building taking place in war-torn Lebanon, both as significant as the challenges facing the BRIC economies (minus Russia, tellingly) in scaling up education for their vast populations.

The book is a geopolitical grand tour, a world cruise of thought away from our unique frustrations and obsessions in the UK. Reading “Learning {Re}imagined” explodes mythologies surrounding International Comparators and exposes the use of PISA by policy tourist politicians as pernicious.

Not only an educational coffee-table topper (it is a thing of beauty – the photography of Newsha Tavakolian provides stunning visual hooks), it’s an academic text of narratives delivered in the participants’ own voices.

And I’m not offended by texts containing views I don’t agree with. When Seth Godin says, “If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth looking up,” you are given a compass point for your own beliefs and values.

The impressive access to thinkers and academics will leave the reader with a new perspective on their own context and the courage to embrace the technological uncertainties that have accelerated into our lives. Keri Facer’s good sense in asserting that technology won’t change a culture but that it can be used to intensify its aims was just as simple and pleasing as the question she believes should underpin the designs of all educationalists: “What does it take to live well in the world?”

Some of the other nuggets that shone:

  • (Perhaps in answer to Facer’s question), Abdul Chohan – Director of ESSA academy in Bolton – asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”;
  • The built environment is a reflection of the learning culture in schools;
  • “…data is the new oil.” –  how happy should we be that search engines’ algorithms capture and share our interests, mirroring and monetising our thinking?

I tabbed Brown-Martin’s think-pieces, subtly woven between the countries explored and although it was published as long ago as 2014, this book is still one of the most useful and relevant texts for our times.