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EBSN podcast series on EPALE: Re-thinking Adult Basic Skills in the 21st century

I was interviewed recently for the European Basic Skills Network (EBSN) podcast. The focus was on the ways our understanding of literacy is changing as we deal with various digital opportunities and challenges.

Adult literacy, and basic skills in general, have become central to many sectors of EU policy from education & training to employment and social policy. The use of the term ‘literacy’ is expanding, different stakeholders understand it with regards to their own context, which leads to parallel interpretations. The increasing technological development and digitalisation trends in all fields of our lives, the green transformation, and the current focus on sustainability all contribute to the changing understanding of the term and our expectations toward it too, not to mention the influence of the ongoing pandemics that speeded up the adaption of digital solutions in adult learning.

The title of the current session is Re-thinking Adult Basic Skills in the 21st century and we chose this topic to allow for reflection on the changing nature of basic skills provision in the light of certain global phenomena that we all experienced recently. Our intention is to see how the understanding of basic skills training might have been affected by these processes. We present our sessions in two parts, firstly, in this unit we are addressing the notion of digital literacies while in the forthcoming part we will look into basic skills research, policy and practice.

We are accompanied by innovative educational thinkers, researchers, policy experts who will be our partners in analysing the constituents of adult basic skills in general. Our guest is Doug Belshaw.

[…]

We discussed the following topics in this podcast:

  • The impact of COVID on our digital behaviour: what lessons can we draw from this period of time? Is there anything that we should keep / let go / be aware of?
  • How can we create a balance between making digital skills training directed to individual needs and still applying certain standards?
  • Basic skills’ role to democratic citizenship: Lacking the necessary skills to read and write, calculate and more numeric behaviour, and especially applying digital tools consciously is becoming a must for all who wish to keep up with disruptive changes, crises, newly emerging policies in technology, social life, employment, learning etc.
  • Microcredentials, open badges: A tool that could turn out to be promising in making learning outcomes, training choices and acquired skills determined by individual needs are microcredentials.

It was fun! Hopefully the resulting audio is of use to someone or some organisation. The audio is also on the Internet Archive if it for some reason disappears from SoundCloud.

Bright green, blight green, and lean green futures

Vertical garden

Last month, Vinay Gupta wrote a series of three blog posts Can the World Computer Save the World? The trilogy is an attempt to reconcile the world of crypto and the climate emergency.

I’ve always found Vinay a compelling speaker, and I found a podcast episode embedded into the first post of the trilogy especially illuminating. Around 49 minutes in, he talks about three different approaches to ‘green futures’ which I haven’t seen documented elsewhere. So I’m doing so here, mainly for my own reference.

Bright green

A “useful lie” according to Vinay, who says that to suggest we’re going to zero huge, zero-footprint skyscrapers covered in solar panels and vertical gardens just isn’t scalable. You’d have to be making $250k/year to live in one but hey, at least you’re no longer part of the problem.

Effectively, bright green is “luxury branding for a sustainable” world which might end up paying for technologies which can then “cascade down”. It’s the “iPhone model of a green future”.

Blight green

This is “next door” to bright green, and is “blight as in leaf blight”. This is using technologies to solve the environmental crises which risk creating much worse crises by doing so: nuclear power and heavy biotech (e.g. salt-resistant wheat), genetically-engineering animals.

This area is “filled with hail-mary passes” like geo-engineering, but desperate people do desperate things. Our success rate for interfering with complex systems is “approximately zero” so things will inevitably go wrong and we’re going to be “totally screwed”.

Lean green

This is Vinay’s preferred option, and the only one he thinks is scalable and realistic. It’s “numerical” by which he means quantitative, not qualitative. You simply imagine that every human being has equal right to the planet’s “material bounty”, and then divide up what’s available, and how much they can emit.

This may vary from area to area, but, for example, Vinay has calculated the amount of copper would be about 5kg per human per lifetime. That’s not a lot, and would include the copper in cables providing power to people’s houses, for example.

This approach, he says, involves thinking differently. Instead of single-use plastics, we could have stainless steel which can be reused until it’s melted down and recycled.


So bright green for the few, and lean green for the many. As new techologies begin to scale up, prices come down and “more elements of the bright green lifestyle become infused into the lean green lifestyle.

Remember, Vinay says, half of the human population does not provide any barriers to sustainability at all as they grow their own food and have tiny carbon footprints. We in the west are the ones “in a fascist relationship with the future,” not them.

A conversation with Adam Procter about Project ‘NodeNoggin’

I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk last night with Adam Procter about his PhD and Project ‘NodeNoggin’. Listen below or click here:

Notes can be found here, ways to get involved in the project are on GitLab, and you can discuss our conversation in this thread at Adam’s forum.

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