by John Connell
I have been immersed in issues arising out of the conjunction of education and technology almost from the first year that I started teaching back in 1980. However, I began a very specific and personal process of development and of thinking in the very particular area of virtual learning more than a dozen years ago when I produced, with my good friend Robert Skey, the first ‘seed’ outline description of what would eventually become the world’s first national connected schools platform, Glow.
In 2007, with Glow already up and running and beginning to make an impact, I went to work for Cisco Systems, and for the next 6 years I found myself working across many countries, many school districts, many universities and other entities across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, all of them trying to do their own ‘Glow’. It was an exhilarating experience, and it also allowed me to continue that personal process of development and of thinking about the fundamental issues involved in virtual learning.
Today, I want to offer my thoughts on where I believe the next logical step ought to be in this area: I have gathered all my thinking, all those years of development, into a concept that I am calling CommonLearn – an automated, template-based service that will deliver a classroom in the cloud to anyone who needs such a platform. In the same way that anyone setting up their own e-Commerce site or anyone setting up their own blog have a range of high quality and reliable platforms to choose from when they come to implement their desired service, CommonLearn will deliver an infinitely configurable, pedagogy-neutral and content-free classroom in the cloud, whether you need it for just 2 learners, 200,000 learners, and possibly even for 2 million learners!
Why ‘infinitely configurable’? Because no two groups or organisations needing a virtual learning facility ever have exactly the same requirements, and also because, given that the Web is now the de facto platform for learning, the sheer breadth and depth of high quality tools, applications and services available to teachers and learners is there to be exploited for teaching and learning.
Why ‘pedagogy neutral’? Because, just as no blogging platform would ever care what subject matter a blogger writes about, so CommonLearn will never try to decide for those setting up a CommonLearn-based classroom what philosophy of education, what pedagogy, they should employ. That is for the person or group or organization themselves to decide.
Why ‘content-free’? Because, again, anyone setting up their own classroom in the cloud will decide for themselves what content is required to meet the needs of the teachers and learners who will be using the classroom. The Web is replete with wonderful content, but people will always want to make their own content or wish to make use of digitized versions of paper-based and other resources in the physical world. It is up to those building their own classroom in the cloud,and no one else, what content they should wish to use!
At this stage, CommonLearn is merely a concept, but it is one that I am already working to turn into a realisable vision. I am working with cloud architects – and I have met and worked with some of the best in my time with Glow and with Cisco – to draw up an outline architecture for the concept. I am also beginning the process of planning a project that will seek to build the partnerships and the capacity to fund and build the vision that CommonLearn embodies, to make CommonLearn real!
Watch the screencast above, read everything you can on the CommonLearn website and the CommonLearn blog (both still in their infancy) and then join in the conversation! Comment here, comment on the CommonLearn blog, comment on Twitter (https://twitter.com/I_Am_Learner #commonlearn), write on your own blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, or on any other outlets.
You can even comment using the wonderful Miituu video-feedback application. Just give your personal responses to a series of video questions from me.
Let’s talk about it.
FOR COMPLETE CLARITY, PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT COMMONLEARN IS MERELY CONCEPTUAL AT THS STAGE. I AM WORKING WITH TECHNICAL AND OTHER EXPERTS TO DEVELOP THE ARCHITECTURE AND TO SEEK OUT THE PARTNERS WHO WILL BE ABLE TO FUND AND PROMOTE THE DEVELOPMENT AND TO TURN THE CONCEPT INTO A REALITY.