Friday, December 5, 2008

Polly Waffle

The shape and size of the new Tasmanian Polytechnic emerged as a whole for the first time yesterday as we filled the Tailrace Convention Centre in Launceston.

CEO Belinda McLennan and a bevvy of Directors introduced themselves and their vision for the new post secondary educational institution for Tasmania. Much was said but for me some of the points that stuck in my mind were:

Challenging existing paradigms and cultures
This is possibly the biggest challenge of any organisational change - the more things change the more they stay the same. We are involved in a significant systemic change and while we may solve the logistical challenges unless we question our worldviews, assumptions and values little will change for students. While many are frustrated with the present lack of clarity in the roles, structures and processes of the emerging Polytechnic I see this as a positive sign that the nature of systemic change is well understood by those currently leading it.

Consultation - Collaboration - Co-construction
Several Directors spoke of entering a new phase of change now - one where the processes are more collaborative than consultative for most staff. As this happens more people are likely to begin to explore the possibilities and hopefully co-construct new ways to meet the educational needs of students and the community.

Applied, Supported, Connected and Flexible - Learning, Teaching and Assessment
It was good to hear new educational metaphors as Belinda and other Directors speak of connected learning and learning ecologies. This language and its underpinning 20th/21st century worldviews are essential if we are to move from an educational system founded on 16th-19th century materialism and reductionism.

Belinda also asked that we adopt a futures perspective and consider for example the jobs that are yet to be invented - or indeed have just been invented - that lead us forward into healthy, creative and sustainable lives at a time with many global challenges. I think this futures perspective deserves further exploration: How can we help students develop skills in problem prevention and problem posing as well as problem solving? How can we ensure social foresight informs our thinking and actions?

Adult Learners and Adult Learning
Ron Nash reminded us that we are dealing with adult or near-adult learners and that we now know much more about how adults learn and the flexibility and support that they require. We also need to address transformative learning which is a key element of adult learning that is being addressed in many leading tertiary educational institutions.

ICTs and Learning, Teaching and Assessment
Belinda noted the need for Web 2.0 and LMS technologies to enable and support learners and teachers in the new institution - something that resonated with me since it has been an important aspect of my work over the last few years. Of course I would add Web 3.0 - not that everyone needs a 'second life' but it has become clear that there are significant learning and employment opportunities in virtual worlds and serious games that are just starting to being realised.
Someone with a sense of humour convinced the organisers to give out Polly Waffles as we left - a treat and a challenge!


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