Friday plenary: Talking the talk to inspire action


Left – Nick van Dam; Centre – Shyamal Majumdar; Right – Jeremy Auger

As panellist Nick van Dam from McKinsey & Company and the e-Learning for Kids Foundation stated in his introduction: “Today it’s all about collective wisdom.” It was in this spirit that the interactive plenary session called upon the audience for questions and comments to fuel discussion around the theme: ‘Less Talk, More Action! Meeting Tomorrow’s Needs Today.’


By Annika Burgess


Steering the conversation and filtering questions coming through social media was broadcast journalist Nik Gowing, who started by throwing out many tough, yet strategic talking points of his own. Each speaker was prompted to introduce the audience to the practical steps that need to be taken to change the dynamics for learning processes today for tomorrow’s learning organisations; and how business and academia can work together to find solutions.


Shyamal Majumdar, Head of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, highlighted that while we may turn to technology to improve education and training this is not the only answer: “How many times have we tried to change the world with new technology?”


“At UNESCO, we see the world and we see that there’s a huge digital gap there. We still have a long way to go,” Majumdar said. “Technology alone cannot change education. We need proper integration.”


Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer from Desire2Learn, backed up these comments by stating that “a tool is useless without the proper application.”


According to van Dam, who has 25 years of experience in the field of training and development, mastering current and future realities requires deep learning capabilities; however, we need to know where to start. “Organisations don’t know where capability gaps are and how to close those gaps,” he said.


In regard to how to tackle this problem, van Dam emphasised that it goes back to the learner. “We need to develop a learning mind-set. People in careers now are really responsible for their own development.”


At this stage, audience input such as: ‘We need to constantly build capabilities – this is the talk. How do we put that into action in the workplace?’ And ‘Learning is learning. It’s an age old principle that hasn’t changed. True, but learning competences do change as tech changes,’ moved the conversation towards skills and capacity building.


Majumdar said we need to think about the requirements of the employer and the shelf-life of skills taught. “People need to be skilled very fast so you need a foundation. We are training learners knowing very well that after six months or one year new technology will come,” he said, also stressing the need to gain “a cluster of skills.”


Auger added: “When you’re hiring you need to be looking for graduates that have the ability to learn and the ability to learn quickly.”


According to van Dam, this ability to learn all comes back to motivation. “We all know that people can learn if they do something they are excited about. You need to build on people’s strengths,” he said.


“We know that if people can do what they are good at then they will accelerate. You don’t need to tell them to watch a 10 minute video because they will be excited about it.”


The conversation also touched on personalising learning. Although we still value coming together and learning in the same place, we should not confuse face-to-face with personal. This then led to the speakers defining the role of technology in learning – all agreeing that technology is not the only answer.


“We can use technology to take things to the next level,” van Dam stated. While, Majumdar said that “technology is only complementary to the entire learning process.”


After much talk on how to take action, a final summarising point came from an audience member: “If we want to turn talk to action, we need to instigate change tomorrow; not next week, next month or next year – tomorrow.”


WATCH: Interviews with Nick van Dam, Jeremy Auger and Shyamal Majumdar from OEB 2014




Shyamal video

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