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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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October062006

Avast, Ye Matey - It’s Time for Global Learn Day 10

This week, I finished a 30-month odyssey reading Patrick O’Brian’s naval epic, the Aubrey-Maturin series. (Remember that Master & Commander movie with Russell Crowe? It was inspired by several of the 20 books in the series.) As proud as I am of that accomplishment, it doesn’t hold a candle to the work of the First Lord of the Edtech Admiralty, John Hibbs. This weekend, he’ll kick off the 10th annual Global Learn Day (GLD), a round-the-world virtual odyssey for technology-using educators.

John Hibbs is the founder of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education. After a long career in the import-export business that took him all over the world, he decided to focus his international acumen on distance education. In 1996, he launched the first Global Learn Day. The idea was to take educators on a virtual journey around the world. Using a combination of Web publishing and conference calls, educators could listen to edtech luminaries spanning the globe.

Because of its international scope, GLD respects no borders, bringing together teachers from six continents, beginning in the South Pacific and working its way westward over the course of a weekend until reaching North America. Presentations are broadcast online, over tradition and Internet telephony, even over broadcast radio in different parts of the world. The goal is to bring together teachers and learners in all 24 time zones.

“The ‘sailing’ idea is of course metaphor linked to discovery,” Hibbs told me via email this week. “The metaphor and the round-the-world showcasing of exceptional people will help to accelerate use of the new tools; that a safer, saner world runs through classrooms that feature innovation, motivation, collaboration and pluralism.”

GLD is an all-volunteer effort, involving hundreds of educators worldwide. Its limited budget has made it a challenge to utilize the latest technologies, but that hasn’t deterred Hibbs or his colleagues. In some ways, this reality has been beneficial, given GLD’s global reach —and not every educator in the world is fortunate to have regular access to the Internet, let alone broadband. That’s why the telephone remains the lynchpin that holds the event together—something that comes into play across Africa and other parts of the world where mobile phone access has skyrocketed. “The telephone is still the most interactive, friendly tool ever invented, and will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in our lives,” Hibbs said.

This year’s GLD features an extraordinary array of speakers, including open keynoters Vint Cerf of Google and Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning. Working their way westward, participants will also get to interact with people like disability advocate Dr. TV Raman, who has used his personal experience as a visually impaired person to develop online accessibility tools. Buthaina al-Osman, currently based in Kuwait, will talk about her experience as an educator in war-torn Lebanon. For Africa, we’ll get to meet people like James Kariuki at the University of the Western Cape, and digital divide activist Janet Feldman. Down in Trinidad & Tobago, open source advocate Taran Rampersad will offer a Caribbean perspective on learning. And in the final stretch, all-around blogging genius Stephen Downes will offer his thoughts on pretty much every edtech issue you can shake a stick at.

While hundreds of other edtech initiatives have come and gone, Global Learn Day continues to make its impact, one year—and one time zone—at a time. “We live in a flat world where lots of brainy people can now collaborate in ways never thought possible — really possible,” Hibbs concludes. “You you better get ready to update your brain like you do you a mobile phone - Or you won’t be able to compete.”

Aye aye, cap’n—steady as she goes…. -andy

Filed under : Events

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