Gavin Dykes: EFF, Learner Voice, and Enterprise

gavinGavin Dykes is a London-based education and technology innovations expert. He is involved with projects around the world. Gavin is also an Education Fast Forward Chair. Connect Learning Today caught up with Gavin for a short talk about EFF, the Education Fast Forwards debates, one of his passions.

Connect Learning Today: Gavin can you tell us a bit of the EFF, Education Fast Forward background. Many don’t know about these regularly scheduled education debates, and may want to join in.

Gavin Dykes: I was listening to the radio this morning out of Birmingham, England, and the reporter mentioned the Lunar Society. The lunar society is actually the basis of EFF. So, Education Fast Forward was built on ideas from the 1700s when people used to meet together to share their ideas, to discuss how they might develop those ideas, and learn from each other. They were called the Lunar Society, because they met on the night of the full moon, and guided by its light found their way home. Whilst EFF doesn’t wait for a full moon to meet, we do come together as a group of people with a strong interest in education to discuss the critical issues. Not only to discuss them, and share our ideas, but also to move from there and into action.

Connect Learning Today: What were some of the highlights from your experiences at the EFF Debates?

Gavin Dykes: There have been many highlights. The fantastic thing about Education Fast Forward is that it has demonstrated how technology really can be used to effect communications and good exchanges—wherever we are in the world at any particular time. Many of Education Fast Forward contributors, and participants live in different places around the world, and are internationally active. One of the first Education Fast Forward meetings I attended was in Seoul, South Korea. Being part of the continuing discussion at that time, using the telepresence technology was fascinating. A little while ago, I chaired one of the sessions from Seattle. I worked with extraordinary people such as Andreas Schleicher and Carol Bellamy, and all the people taking part in the debate.

Participants range from people who have been through so much in education to new people, and younger voices.

Connect Learning Today: Gavin, tell us about Learner Voice. What is learner voice, and why is it important?

Gavin Dykes: Learner voice seems to be, particularly as I get older, absolutely compelling. It’s my desire to invest in young people and their ideas, and learner voice is a vital component. Too often learner voice is seen as almost a tick box; we’ve asked learners their opinion—and that’s learner voice. I think if you do that you are completely undervaluing what you can get from learners, and from people who are really participating—not in somebody’s education—but in their own education. These are things that may challenge people, who are a little older, because that’s not the way their experience has gone, but those challenges are absolutely critical. Through those challenges we frequently learn new things.

Learner voice to me is part of a spectrum. And that spectrum, for me, runs all the way from learner voice, where we’re encouraging children to express their opinion, and young people to play a full part in organizing, and participating in their own education, through to emerging leadership. Because if you have a voice, what are you going to do with it? Emergent leadership is a really important part of that.

Connect Learning Today: Gavin, what do you mean by emergent leadership?

Gavin Dykes: What emergent leadership is, in my view, was described well by Tom Friedman in his New York Times article about how to get a job at Google. He talks about emergent leadership being the ability to weigh-up a situation, and decide when it’s right to step in—and to take leadership at particular points—and then step back. So leadership isn’t just something you’re appointed to, it’s not like being captain of the football team or the rugby team. With great sport teams you actually have a group of leaders on the bench, and anyone of them can show leadership at the appointed time, if they happen to be in the right place, or where the ball is at a particular point. They can make their own decisions and not wait for someone else to lead the way. So, emerging leadership is the next step after learner voice—and after that enterprise.

Connect Learning Today: By enterprise do you mean entrepreneurship?

Gavin Dykes: Entrepreneurship could be one form of enterprise, but by enterprise I mean something that can include social and other forms of enterprise. It doesn’t have to be commercial enterprise. If you have people who are enterprising by nature, if they are displaying those skills of creativity and innovation, being able to think for themselves, then why should they not take the next step towards being enterprising?

Enterprising people create their own jobs, rather than waiting for people to give them jobs. And that to me is absolutely crucial. There are levels of youth unemployment of more than 50 percent, and in developing countries I’ve heard figures of 80 percent. It’s not enough to prepare people for simple employment, as we have done in education for many years. We have to prepare students for a world that is quite different. In employment, those skills of enterprise are much more highly valued than once they were. Students should be allowed to develop their own ideas around a new social enterprise or business, and then build their own jobs, so that they are fruitfully employed once they’ve left education.

About Gavin Dykes:

Gavin Dykes is an independent education and technology advisor who works with governments, agencies, major corporations and institutions across the world on policy and strategy. 

He is currently working on projects and events in Finland, India, the UK and the USA. Before this role, Gavin was seconded to the UK government to support development of technology and learning in schools in England, and also worked on innovative projects in further and higher education. 

His current and past roles include Programme Director of the Education World Forum, Associate Director of Futurelab and Associate Director of the English Government’s Department of Education’s Innovation Unit.

Gavin’s key interest is in development of learning supported by technology to allow learners of all ages to enjoy education and realize their potential. Development of strategies and policies that support that interest and aim to enable system-wide change and prepare people for the future challenges we all will face.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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