I usually get stir crazy after a couple of days at a conference but yesterday afternoon’s plenary session really was inspirational.
First up was Jorge Sampaio, this former president of Portugal and now elder statesman, who reminded us that we can’t take democracy for granted. As a student he struggled against the dictatorship in his country and today continues to work towards improving global citizenship, a cause that needs all of our support.
Dr Narenddra Jadhav, Hon Vice Chancellor of Pune University in India was next. This former ‘untouchable’ has a wonderful story to tell of a rise from the lowest caste to become chief economist of India’s central bank. His current role (one for which he had the honour of taking a 90% pay cut) places him in charge of an institution with 650,000 students – yes 650 thousand! What a challenge but also an opportunity to transform his country that he clearly relishes. Some wonderful work going on around rural development, volunteering, employability, modernising the curriculum and supporting people to escape from poverty.
Next up was Charles Leadbetter [keynote speaker at the Scottish Learning Festival in September]. He picked up on the themes from his ‘We Think’ (therefore we are) book. He started by discussing the slow progress of technology. Suggesting that it might takes time for internet technology to make its full impact on society (60 years?).
But just look at what has happened in the first 10 years of the internet – iTunes and music, google, e-bay, the decline of regional newspapers and massive changes to publishing just for starters.
So what is going to happen next? Leadbetter’s hope is that the ‘We Think’ approach develops and extends our human capacity to solve problems collaboratively but recognises that this is not the only possible outcome of the internet revolution.
The next speaker was Professor Lawrence Lessig, the founder of the creative commons licensing model of not for profit content reuse. Breathtaking in its range, presented at breakneck speed with sublime style. The main thread of this presentation was trust and in particular the mistrust the public has for politicians. ‘Money has poisoned trust’. He claimed that in the USA less than 10% think Congress is doing a good job. The major problems we face are not just technical. Better machines, for example, will not fix democracy. The problems are more fundamental and need human solutions.
The final speaker was Guido Jouret, Chief Technology Officer of CISCO’s Emerging Technologies Group. He discussed innovation as a process and the power of disruption [LO’D think about what iTunes did to the music industry or the car to horse drawn forms of transport].
He suggests an innovation recipe consisting of:
Start lead and others will follow
Communicate often and simply
Believe with passion.
He also argued that if you can’t describe an innovative technology in 10 words you need to work harder at it. [LO’D – Glow in 10 words? ‘Connects learners, teachers and parents to support communication and collaboration.’ Can anyone do better?]
Just got off a train from Stockholm to Oslo and about to get ready to go out to dinner before attending a concert to celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize (: