On my way to meetings in Italy I had plenty of time to reflect on an afternoon spent with Microsoft and CUP’s Global Grid for Learning (GGfL) on Monday. The slides from my presentation will appear here under Downloads, from which you will see that I am still pursuing arguments around the atomization of learning content, and its reconstruction as teaching plans or learning journeys. This deconstruction commoditizes shared and unprotectable content, but it gives “publishers” a chance to re-emerge as educational engineers, ringmasters in assembling support services for teacher/moderators and pupil/personalized learners. Components include the need for atomized resources with which to do this (GGfL) and workflow tools to create such environments (Office 365). So you see why I was speaking between these two vendors. And how important it is as a validation of Learning as Workflow that players like this recognize the change in demand. They know that it is not all teachers who will work in this way, and that the percentage that do will exchange resources and allow others to use and adapt their work in the network. TES Connect (http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resources/) in the UK, like www.teachersPayTeachers.com in the US already facilitate this. GGfL facilitate it by clearing copyrights in advance and allowing schools the ability to keep compliant by becoming a subscriber. The more I listen to GGfL the more I recognize its absolute necessity as a business model in these emerging markets, though I can also see that larger textbook publishers, always trying to buy off change with a halfway house, might have shied away from doing this. After all, only market leaders like Pearson, in this sector, get time to use their current trading as a shelter within which to rethink their market positions and experiment. All credit then to Cambridge for this initiative. In tribute, I used the meeting to launch SABL, the Society for the Abolition of Blended Learning, and was gratified when several members of the audience asked afterwards for application forms!
And tributes were due too to Microsoft. They have their heads around the nature and dynamics of change in learning markets, and rightly see the opportunity to re-orientate the ultimately most fundamental of workflow toolsets in that direction. Already launched in the US (http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/desktop-apps/2011/01/12/microsoft-readies-office-365-for-education-40091397/) this seems to me a demonstration that Sharepoint, a communications environment like Lync, a souped -up PowerPoint and the rest of the Office package take users a long way down the track towards a situation where teachers can effectively migrate to moderation. Microsoft are effectively providing a migration path that moves school users to the new tools-based environment, and this is one of the conditional factors in change in school practice.