Voices of Education: Richard Millwood
As part of the Public and Stakeholder Engagement activities within BCH, we’re talking to a number of people who are important in developing others’ ideas of (and in) education. We call them ‘Voices of Education’ as they are important writers, thinkers and speakers who are listened to, and whose views are often magnified by conferences, blogs and as the sparks of many new ideas within education.
One such ‘Voice of Education’ is Richard Millwood, currently leading CORE and the development of the National Archive of Educational Computing, Richard was a key part in building Ultralab (and the many activities that has involved) and has an incredible ability to bring together hindsight and insight.
The bold text are questions posed to Richard, the lighter text his reponses.
If you could talk with the Oracle at Delphi (or ask questions of the data we’re collecting and generating), what would you want to find out to inform educational policy and practice?
I’m not too fond of static data-of-the-moment – rather I would ask for live data relating to learner satisfaction with learning activity – something which could feed-back into learning environments to inform both learner and teacher.
On a slightly longer time-scale – feedback to the system on learners’ next steps in learning or career.
In scanning the horizon, we often look for ‘weak signals’ – new developments and ideas that may play out in the future in many different ways. What current developments (policy, practice, tech etc) have you noted that you think have possibilities for making a big difference to education in the future?
Collaborative documents, both synchronous and asynchronous as found in SubEthaEdit and GoogleDocs. The capacity to identify individual contributions to collaborative outcomes may be a clue to helping us to recognise learning achieved in group work.
Forecasters talk of ‘inflection points’ as a way of identifying big changes to come – they are often highlighted by ‘things that don’t fit’ (for example the mis-match between car crashes and developments in sensing technology). Can you highlight any real world problems within education, with possible developments/solutions outside of it?
The problem of ‘authority’ in knowledge as observed in the debate between supporters and opponents of Wikipedia. Solutions will come from a re-alignment based on real-world utility – people will ‘vote with their feet’ by their use of collectively authored sources.
The problem of marking summative assessment products, as we move towards personalised learning and digital creativity in expression. Sustaining fairness, cost-effectiveness and validity may mean adopting more widely the radical technology-supported methods such as those proposed by Alistair Pollitt and employed in the eScape project.
What do you not want to see in any education in 2025?
A continuation of an overemphasis on selection, elitism and individualism at the cost of collaborative learning & attainment.
What are your hopes for education in 2025?
A democratic and fair system for accessing learning at all ages that fulfils citizens needs and interests, as they identify them.
There’s plenty in this short Q&A that is of interest, for examples notions of voice and empowerment, but one element specifically is assessment. Assessment is often seen as a force that controls practice – sometimes to its detriment (perceptions here of ‘teaching to the test’) and sometimes to its benefit (the wide range of practices undertaken by sprinters and their coaches, as they absolutely know the specific details of their measured performance). Richard points to collaborative authoring environments, not solely from a standard point of view referring to how they can support collective and collaborative endeavour, but of how they can be used to help identify individual activity, as well as the benefits of working with others. As one of the challenges to collaboration is the individual nature of assessment, investigating how collaborative technologies can support the identification of both individual and collaborative acts is an important step in reducing the resistances of change in developing collaborative practice. The marvellous eScape project that Richard refers to also highlights how the processes of learning can be made explicit through appropriate use of digital technologies, allowing more formative assessments.
If digital technologies can be used to make explicit these developments and they are linked to the live-student data, Richard refers to, a truly dynamic learning environment can be created that builds around the learners’ interests, satisfaction and of the moment needs. Personalisation indeed.