10 posts in 3 days. I'm on a roll!
For an awkward nerdy type I found myself terribly busy talking to people for the entire three days.
Today I met a deputy principal who restored my faith (oh let's face it - yesterday's rant about the education stream was a reaction to what I was hearing and didn't reflect the good work that a lot of people are out there doing).
He was talking to another man who was asking, "If you had to put in an application for money to improve education outcomes for say, $100,000, what would that application look like?". The question came up about how to measure the success of any such project. And then it hit me. It was very "Dead Poet's Society". The scene where Robin Williams is telling his students to rip out the first two chapters of a poetry text book. That poetry could not be judged in scientific terms. It's a bit like my thing about art. Art is a very personal thing. The same piece of art has different contexts and relationships to different people. On my wall I have a piece of art entitled "Opening Doors" which features the skeleton of a bird. It could be perceived as negative (i.e. death) but there's a very positive message in there. I should probably take a photo and post it up on this blog at some point. Actually, I'm going to be doing a blog post about the "Orcon Great Blend" - which is going to be on art.
So, how do you measure the success of a student? As far as I'm concerned, it's not quantifiable. Besides which, teaching has to be around the ability to adapt and change for the ever changing world around them. There was a computer game designer at the conference who got up and asked educators if there was any area of the National Standards that he could focus on for educational games. This is an attitude that I feared. If we only teach to National Standards, we're on a horribly slippery slope. It means that we're no longer focused on the students but rather, the standards. Remembering that each and every student learns in different ways on different days.
I've been thinking about the whole idea of valuing contribution to society. As a volunteer I was using up quite a lot of money - bus fares and the like. I was tapped on the shoulder by someone who might actually have a solution for me. The proliferation of cheap cell phones (mine cost around $200 and in terms of functionality isn't as far away from an iPhone as you'd expect given the price differential) and the emerging standards around payments via cellphone (Parts of Africa have been doing this for a while) make it a real possibility that we could value volunteers a lot more highly than we currently do.
By combining both of our efforts we could probably put together something quite usable. My thought was that people genuinely want to do more but are time poor. Those that aren't time poor generally (we're talking very general terms here) quite often don't have the support or funds to be able to take on the costs of volunteering.
What if a volunteer was able to get some sort of token of value based upon their contribution measured on some criteria such as the amount of time spent or scope of the work done (hell, it could be a set of different tokens - more on this in a second)?
How does this differ from money? This wouldn't be as much of a closed system. At the end of it, you'd have a "sink" - i.e. somewhere that the value would have to disappear. Where is the value?
Say I have built up volunteer value. I want to hop on a bus. The bus company could chose to accept this "volunteer value" by allowing all or partial payment to be made by this volunteer value. That would make the bus company a "sink". What do they get out of it? They're doing something positive for the community by supporting those who are out there doing the work.
And how does this fit in with cell phones? Cell phones are essentially computers. They're able to calculate and store value and pretty soon, we'll all be seeing ways of paying for goods/services using our cellphones. A single swipe/tap could have the bus fare paid taking what it could from the volunteer value (based upon the value stored and the conditions set by the payee) and a monetary value to pay off the remaining difference.
You could even have differentiating values. i.e. if I were to work on a project that involved a particular suburb and the merchant/sink only wanted to support work done in that area, then having a tag on that value - i.e. Kansas - would allow them to make that differentiation.
So fun times ahead. And if anything comes out of it - you'll have heard about it here first ;)
I get the feeling that traffic to the blog is about to explode. A lot of people seemed interested in visiting the blog to see what I had to say. So watch that little monthly counter on the side. I guess that it's almost a measurable metric of how well I networked.
Anyway - the most value to be had at these conferences is in meeting people and gaining perspective. Perhaps finding points of collaboration (I also want to see if I can work with libraries to get some interesting hacking things going on - around Arduinos and Raspberry Pi's when they become more available). I had the rather odd situation of someone having heard my name before. After a while of talking he mentioned Tangleball - the creative space that I helped establish in Auckland. I had a very excited "That was one of mine!" moment - as if I had done a great deal of those sorts of projects.
Next year NetHui is in Wellington. I've got a year to decide if I'm going. In terms of conferences with value, NetHui would have to be the best for me (thus far). Oh - and there's another TEDx event in Auckland on the 11th of December. Unfortunately pricing doesn't appear to be up (I expect that it'll be horrendously expensive. I wonder if I could a presentation on Manaiakalani in exchange for a ticket)...