Learning for Life: UK Grand Challenge

March 18, 2008

Grand Challenge Learning for Life web siteI have spent the day at a workshop/think tank about a “Grand Challenge” for the Computer Science community. This particular challenge is Learning for Life and the sessions today were led by Josie Taylor. The day was structured around a set of presentations and discussion – I will put up the live blogged notes from those in a separate post (not actually posted at the time as I couldn’t get the wireless to work reliably). The intention with the Grand Challenges is to push the targets and set an overall agenda, for this particular case there is also the idea of brining the learning research and computer research communities together.We had an interesting day and it will be well worth monitoring what happens next. Josie was going on to an overall conference to discuss the Grand Challenges at GCCR’08. I expect that there will be a fuller report still to come as well.I think that we are at a point where the opportunities for developing new approaches to learning are very apparent. Some of what we were talking about related to short term needs – but with the right input from those who can envision good ways to bring systems together we can offer an improved experience. With my bias towards openness  I see this as being a route to achieve connections and get early results to help break down barriers. On the other hand for this to deserve to be called a grand challenge we should also be very forward looking and think about what neuro-science, massive advances in computing power, changes in how we act to produce things and new attitudes to what learning is all about might lead.

The end point of the meeting was reviewing whether we can sum up our goal in a few words. Josie started with suggestions about the overall goal and how would you know when you have succeeded:

  • When everyone can learn (or teach) wherever, whatever, whenever.
  • When all computers can talk through channels without obstacle.
  • When educational institutions exist purely for their social functions.
  • Keeping people smarter than computers – learn deeper adapt better. (Tom Boyle’s suggestion)

I will be interested in how Josie has managed to summarise!



One Response to “Learning for Life: UK Grand Challenge”

  1. simonfj Says:

    Well if what you (we) are trying to do is find “good ways to bring systems together”, then we should look beneath the computer (PDA, smart phone, etc) towards the networks, So the goal might be, “to allow a user the same (level of) privileges on any (.edu) network”.

    That’s why i pointed you at janetcollaborate. Alex has done great things with making the transition from msg to chat to flashmeeting easy (as one e.g,), but it’s only on one network = OU’s. Tim & his mates at Janet has done similar things with a national system of videoconferencing. And Janet’s peers work on similar things, all with only a National perspective. As it was put (well) at a conference at aarnet recently, we are trying to figure out “… how to switch between different levels of communication as opposed to the delivery of a pure rich single solution”. I’d add, “and give the communication (and its associated files) a memory in the same directory”. (more on that if you want to go down this path)

    The thing which makes it become unstuck is that the network guys only think they should be doing development on behalf of their National institutional wagepayers, when ultimately they are trying to support clusters of interest, who are buried inside different TYPES of institutions, both locally and in other countries.

    I’m pretty sure if Alex showed Tim what he’s done, and took his approach to introducing a few in-between levels (E.g.group chat, voice), and open source conferencing widgets, and got Tim to janetcollaborate with his peers in a few countries, to parallel their developments, we might start to see a new global P2P model fall out of the remote woodworks. It would sure be better than watching all the “me too” duplication.

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