Online learning doesn’t happen online …

Jo McKenzie tweeted a nicely tidied up comment from me at the ISSOTL conference recently.

Jo tweet

One of the reasons I wanted to mention this at the conference is that good empirical research into the study practices of “online” learning is surprisingly scarce. We have a couple of nice examples of research on people configuring their learning spaces in the next book to come from the Laureate project. The book is called “Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning” and should be published by Routledge in 2016. Two chapters that are right on the topic:

Chapter 6: STUDENTS’ PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL SITES OF STUDY: MAKING, MARKING AND BREAKING BOUNDARIES (Lesley Gourlay and Martin Oliver)

Chapter 7: THE SONIC SPACES OF ONLINE, DISTANCE LEARNERS  (Michael Sean Gallagher, James Lamb and Sian Bayne)

If you are interested in this area, see also: Kahu, E. R., Stephens, C., Zepke, N. and Leach, L., 2014. Space and time to engage: Mature-aged distance students learn to fit study into their lives. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(4), 523–540 ( http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02601370.2014.884177 )

The Art and Science of Learning Design

There’s a chapter from the work of our ARC Laureate team featuring in this new book. Really pleased with it.

Goodyear, P., Thompson, K., Ashe, D., Pinto, A., Carvalho, L., Parisio, M., . . . Yeoman, P. (In press, 2015). Analysing the structural properties of learning networks: architectural insights into buildable forms. In B. Craft, Y. Mor & M. Maina (Eds.), The art and science of learning design (pp. 15-29). Rotterdam: Sense.

Here’s the Overview

OVERVIEW

A good repertoire of methods for analysing and sharing ideas about existing designs can make a useful contribution to improving the quality and efficiency of educational design work. Just as architects can improve their practice by studying historic and contemporary buildings, so people who design to help people learn can get better at what they do by understanding the designs of others. Moreover, new design work often has to complement existing provision, so the sensitive analysis of what already exists is an essential part of enhancing, rather than undermining, prior work (Goodyear & Dimitridis, 2013). Since many factors can affect what and how people learn, the scope of analysis for design is broad. In fact, it has to go beyond what has been explicitly designed for learning, to take into account the various configurations of things, places, tasks, activities and people that influence learning. Part of the skill of analysis is knowing how to put a boundary on what one studies (Hutchins, 2010). We believe that analysis of this kind can help improve the design of all kinds of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) systems. But to focus our argument, this chapter draws on our recent collaborative analyses of learning networks (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). Our thinking has been influenced quite strongly by the writings of Christopher Alexander on the properties that ‘give life’ to places and artefacts. The first part of the chapter has an ontological function – since analysis involves some decisions about the nature of the existence of its objects of inquiry. The second part illustrates the application of some of Alexander’s ideas to the analysis of the structural properties of learning networks, where the goal of analysis is to inform design.

TELS-Craft_PB.indd

Book review: The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning

Review of Hodgson, V, de Laat, M, McConnell, D, & Ryberg, T. (eds) The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning
Springer, Heidelberg, 2014.
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-01940-6

Note: this is my pre-publication version of this invited review, which appeared in the journal Technology, Knowledge & Learning in Jan 2015. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10758-014-9243-3)

The review is structured according to standard sub-headings used for book reviews in the TKL journal. Unfortunately, the published version of the review omits the final word of the book’s title. The journal published an erratum to this effect (http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10758-015-9247-7 ). To help make up for that, I’m posting the pre-publication text here too.

Author(s) and Contents of the Book

This book draws together a selection of outstanding papers from the 8th biennial Networked Learning Conference, held in 2012 in Maastricht, The Netherlands. The editors – Vivien Hodgson, Maarten de Laat, David McConnell, and Thomas Ryberg – are well known, within Europe and more widely, as leading figures in the field of research and development that has emerged in the last 15 years or so under the name ‘networked learning’. Indeed, Hodgson and McConnell are among the originators of this field, which focuses on researching situations in which people learn in collaboration with others, with much or all of their interaction being mediated through network technologies (Steeples & Jones, 2002; Goodyear, 2014).

Conference proceedings can be of uneven quality and sometimes offer an unsatisfactory sampling of contemporary work. This is not the case here. The editors have been able to select from among strong papers, which authors have revised in light of feedback at the conference itself and from the editors. Overall, this makes for a good representation of the field, with contributions from a number of its best-known researchers and educational innovators. The coherence of the book emerges from several sources, in addition to the editors’ judgement and commentary. This is quite a tight-knit area of work, with substantial overlaps of interest, not just in substantive issues but also in terms of theoretical perspectives and pedagogy.

The book contains 12 main chapters preceded by an editors’ introduction. They are grouped into three sections: “Networked Learning Spaces and Context: Design and Practice”, “Networked Learning in Practice: The Expected and Unexpected” and “The Practice of Informal Networked Learning”. It should come as no surprise to hear that many of the chapters take a practice-based view of learning: there is not much here that reflects cognitive psychological perspectives. Moreover, the book includes a number of contributions that are influenced by socio-material theorizing, with more than a smattering of Actor Network Theory. It would be unfair to some of the authors to try to capture the flavour of the book in a single sentence, but the essential elements that come together here are: learning as engaging with others in substantial projects of shared concern, drawing together and held together by complex assemblages of people, digital and material tools and other artefacts. Teachers’ work then becomes a matter of designing for such learning, guiding and facilitating some of the activities that unfold, and promoting reflection on the shared experiences and their outcomes. Dewey, Illich, Freire and Schön meet Latour, Schatzki, Hutchins and Orlikowski.

This book will, of course, be read by researchers who already identify with the Networked Learning conferences and with the spin-off book series in which this volume sits (see also Dirckinck-Holmfeld et al., 2009, 2012; Goodyear et al., 2004). It should also be required reading for other researchers who are serious about the broader field of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). One can still see the joins between European and North American traditions of research in CSCL. The latter still appears to be mainly concerned with small group learning, by school-aged students, in formal educational settings, using framings that mainly derive from educational psychology and/or sociolinguistics. The European tradition in CSCL is more diverse, with a wider range of interests, drawing on a richer set of theoretical and methodological resources. This book sits closer to that tradition: indeed there is some overlap in personnel between the networked learning and European CSCL research communities, and naturally enough some shared interests in adult learning, informal learning, practice theory and socio-material studies.

For example, the last four chapters in the book are all concerned with networked learning to which the label ‘informal’ can be applied. Two are concerned with continuing professional development, one with investigating the ego-networks of school age children and one with serious hobbyists. Most intriguing of these is Steve Wright and Gale Parchoma’s chapter, based on Wright’s PhD research, which uses Actor Network Theory (ANT) in a careful tracing of the network of interacting entities (human and not) implicated in the practices of home-brewing.

“we follow non-human actors, tracing the movements of recipes through two different breweries, enmeshing and assembling a network of actants including a brewer, brewery equipment, an iPhone, apps, podcasts, YouTube videos, grains, yeast, hops and more.” (Wright & Parchoma, 2014, p247)

The authors acknowledge Steve Fox’s seminal contribution to the use of ANT in networked learning (e.g. Fox, 2002) and take this much further by giving us an exemplary illustration of the power of ANT in helping identify how people assemble and hold together learning networks. In formal education, it can appear that learning networks are defined by educational providers – as if they can be brought into being by fiat. Wright & Parchoma’s example shows how ‘informal’ learning networks need to be mapped empirically. The additional step that needs to be taken is to assert that all learning networks need this kind of scrutiny – the network which is defined by the educators organizing network learning is usually only a part of the network experienced by participants, whose learning activities and other life projects extend the network into areas that may be invisible to the providing educators (Goodyear & Carvalho, 2014).

In many of the early writings in what has become the networked learning field, there was a strong focus on online facilitation – how to provide guidance in online discussions, for example (Mason & Kaye, 1989; McConnell, 1994; Salmon, 2000). More recently, there has been something of a swing towards design, with less attention, relatively speaking, being paid to understanding the tutor’s role. So the chapter by Hilary Periton & Mike Reynolds, in Part II of the book, is a welcome corrective. Their focus is on ways in which networked learning tutors can collectively tackle emerging difficulties in online groupwork. They don’t offer tips and tactics. Much better than this, they offer some productive ways for teachers to think about, and discuss among themselves, the dilemmas that it is sensible to expect in collaborative learning. They do this using an imaginative methodology – one in which a group of experienced networked learning teachers react to a fictionalized online discussion among students. Anyone with teaching experience in this field will smile with recognition at the contradictions that emerge between our idealized and embodied ‘pedagogical selves’.

The final chapter I want to pick out in this review is by Janne Gleerup, Simon Heilesen, Niels Henrik Helms and Kevin Mogensen, in Part I of the book. It is concerned with the use of networked learning approaches in the education of apprentices, with the express goal of strengthening connections between learning and work. Gleerup et al (2014) can be recommended as a compelling example of how to analyse needs and design for vocational learning in a way that reflects the best of what we know about learning in practice, learning with others, and learning as authentic engagement in innovation. It builds on activity theory and the Scandinavian tradition of participatory design. It offers a compelling picture of design for learning as a learning activity.

I have picked out a favourite chapter from each of the three parts in the book. There is much more to be enjoyed in this collection. Nina Bonderup Dohn offers a beautifully constructed lesson to those among us who are not so careful in our use of theory – pointing out how ‘practice’ is an ill-used construct in much of the networked learning literature, and how we are prone to favour explicit over tacit knowledge, and to work with very hazy images of how learning matters in our students’ lives. Bart Rienties and colleagues give us a nice analysis of ‘knowledge spillovers’ in networked learning, showing how a construct from regional economic development, combined with empirical research using network analysis tools, can illuminate some valued learning processes: collateral benefit, when it works well.

Evaluation

It should be clear by now that I like this engaging, useful book. Its contributions are well-written and well-judged. They are cautiously positive, which I find refreshing when contrasted with the self-promoting salesmanship or jaded critical analysis of much of what one finds in today’s ed. tech. literature.

That said, I think it would be fair to make the following remarks, particularly as there are likely to be more books in this series, and book editors and conference organisers have a responsibility to offer some leadership to a dynamic field.

First, it is clearly time to make a rapprochement with psychologically-informed accounts of human action, competence and learning. Some of the most interesting research and writing about these complex phenomena is drawing on recent developments in grounded and distributed cognition as well as on ideas about materials and materiality (e.g. Clark, 2003, 2008; Clark & Chalmers, 1998; Hodder, 2012; Hutchins, 2010; Ingold, 2011, 2013; Kirsh, 2013; Malafouris, 2013; Malfouris & Renfrew, 2010).

Among these insightful thinkers, Tim Ingold is particularly insistent on the need to take materials seriously. So my second, future-oriented, point is that networked learning researchers should be taking a few more gambles about the likely nature of the tools and artefacts that will be bound up in networked learning in the next decade or so. There has been too much (premature) fuss about the ‘the internet of things’, but we do need some strategies to ensure our research methods and problems aren’t locked to technologies that were new in the 1980s. David Kirsh puts this very nicely, if provocatively, writing about the ‘magical future of interaction design’:

“Good design needs good science fiction; and good science fiction needs good cognitive science” (Kirsh, 2013, p2)

The surge of interest in materiality across the social and human sciences has not been accompanied by (a) a proper interest in the importantly different qualities of materials (Ingold, 2007), or (b) convincing treatment of the qualities of complex digital-material objects in human activity (Faulkner & Runde, 2011). Archaeologists and anthropologists have been developing some useful ways of framing relations between tools, human cognition and collaboration, but (understandably) have not paid much attention to the digital (Malafouris, 2013, Sterelny, 2012). Some of the French ergonomists have been finding interesting ways to trace the coupled evolution of (digital) tools and human capabilities, but are not much interested in education (Rabardel & Bourmaud, 2003; Lonchamp, 2012; Ritella & Hakkarainen, 2012).

An obvious opportunity for networked learning researchers is to make some significant contributions to this space – for once, adding to theoretical developments in the human/social sciences and not merely drawing on them.

Summary Statement

This is an invaluable overview of research in the field of networked learning. It’s a very accessible introduction to the mix of theory, pedagogy and experimental practice that characterises this field. I recommend it highly to all researchers interested in contemporary developments in educational technology, collaborative learning, and the entanglement of digital tools and resources in human activity.

References

Clark, A. (2003). Natural-born cyborgs: minds, technologies, and the future of human intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clark, A., & Chalmers, D. (1998). The extended mind. Analysis, 58(1), 7-19.

Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (Eds.). (2012). Exploring the theory, pedagogy and practice of networked learning. Dordrecht: Springer.

Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L., Jones, C., & Lindström, B. (Eds.). (2009). Analysing networked learning practices in higher education and continuing professional development. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Faulkner, P., & Runde, J. (2011). The social, the material, and the ontology of non-material technological objects. Paper presented at the 27th EGOS (European Group for Organizational Studies) Colloquium, Gothenburg. http://webfirstlive.lse.ac.uk/management/documents/Non-MaterialTechnologicalObjects.pdf

Fox, S. (2002). Studying networked learning: Some implications from socially situated learning theory and actor-network theory. In C. Steeples & C. Jones (Eds.), Networked learning: perspectives and issues (pp. 77-92). London: Springer.

Gleerup, J., Heilesen, S., Helms, N. H., & Mogensen, K. (2014). Designing for learning in coupled contexts. In V. Hodgson, M. de Laat, D. McConnell & T. Ryberg (Eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning (pp. 51-66). Heidelberg: Springer.

Goodyear, P. (2014). Productive learning networks: the evolution of research and practice. In L. Carvalho & P. Goodyear (Eds.), The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Goodyear, P., & Carvalho, L. (2014). Framing the analysis of learning network architectures. In L. Carvalho & P. Goodyear (Eds.), The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Goodyear, P., Banks, S., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (Eds.). (2004). Advances in research on networked learning. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Hodder, I. (2012). Entangled: an archaeology of the relationships between humans and things. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hutchins, E. (2010). Cognitive ecology. Topics in Cognitive Science, 2, 705-715.

Ingold, T. (2007). Materials against materiality. Archaeological dialogues, 14(01), 1-16.

Ingold, T. (2011). Being alive: essays on movement, knowledge and description. Abingdon: Routledge.

Ingold, T. (2013). Making: anthropology, archaeology, art and architecture. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kirsh, D. (2013). Embodied cognition and the magical future of interaction design. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, 20(1), 1-30. doi: 10.1145/2442106.2442109

Lonchamp, J. (2012). An instrumental perspective on CSCL systems. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7(2), 211-237. doi: 10.1007/s11412-012-9141-4

Malafouris, L. (2013). How things shape the mind: a theory of material engagement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Malafouris, L., & Renfrew, C. (Eds.). (2010). The cognitive life of things: recasting the boundaries of the mind. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of Cambridge.

Mason, R., & Kaye, A. (Eds.). (1989). Mindweave: communication, computers and distance education. Oxford: Pergamon.

McConnell, D. (1994). Implementing computer supported cooperative learning. London: Kogan Page.

Periton, H., & Reynolds, M. (2014). ‘Here Be Dragons’: Approaching Difficult Group Issues in Networked Learning. In V. Hodgson, M. de Laat, D. McConnell & T. Ryberg (Eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning (pp. 109-129). Heidelberg: Springer.

Rabardel, P., & Bourmaud, G. (2003). From computer to instrument system: A developmental perspective. Interacting with Computers, 15(5), 665–691.

Ritella, G., & Hakkarainen, K. (2012). Instrumental genesis in technology-mediated learning: From double stimulation to expansive knowledge practices. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7(2), 239-258. doi: 10.1007/s11412-012-9144-1

Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan Page.

Steeples, C., & Jones, C. (Eds.). (2002). Networked learning: perspectives and issues. London: Springer.

Sterelny, K. (2012). The evolved apprentice: how evolution made humans unique. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Wright, S., & Parchoma, G. (2014). Mobile learning and immutable mobiles: using iPhones to support informal learning in craft brewing. In V. Hodgson, M. de Laat, D. McConnell & T. Ryberg (Eds.), The Design, Experience and Practice of Networked Learning (pp. 241-261). Heidelberg: Springer.

Peter Goodyear

University of Sydney

 

 

New article on taking over someone else’s design

Karen Scott (CoCo PhD 2012) has an article in the latest issue of Research in Learning Technology. Details below.

Taking over someone else’s e-learning design: challenges trigger change in e-learning beliefs and practices

Karen M. Scott

Abstract

As universities invest in the development of e-learning resources, e-learning sustainability has come under consideration. This has largely focused on the challenges and facilitators of organisational and technological sustainability and scalability, and professional development. Little research has examined the experience of a teacher dealing with e-learning sustainability when taking over a course with an e-learning resource and associated assessment. This research focuses on a teacher who was inexperienced with e-learning technology, yet took over a blended unit of study with an e-learning resource that accounted for one-fifth of the subject assessment and was directed towards academic skills development relevant to the degree program. Taking a longitudinal approach, this research examines the challenges faced by the new teacher and the way she changed the e-learning resource and its implementation over two years. A focus of the research is the way the teacher’s reflections on the challenges and changes provided an opportunity and stimulus for change in her e-learning beliefs and practices. This research has implications for the way universities support teachers taking over another teacher’s e-learning resource, the need for explicit documentation of underpinning beliefs and structured handover, the benefit of teamwork in developing e-learning resources, and provision of on-going support. Keywords: e-learning sustainability; e-learning beliefs and practices; reflection; longitudinal research (Published: 30 July 2014) Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2014, 22: 23362 – http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v22.23362

Discovering Processes and Patterns of Learning in Collaborative Learning Environments Using Multi-modal Discourse Analysis

Great work by Kate Thompson from the ARC Laureate team. This paper is available on open access from the journal website. It’s published in Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning (RPTEL), the official journal of the Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education (APSCE).

Full reference: Kate Thompson, Shannon Kennedy-Clark, Lina Markauskaite and Vilaythong Southavilay (2014) Discovering Processes and Patterns of Learning in Collaborative Learning Environments Using Multi-modal Discourse Analysis, Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning 9 (2), 215-40

Abstract:

Multimodal learning analytics, with a focus on discourse analysis, can be used to discover, and subsequently understand, the processes and patterns of learning in complex learning environments. Our work builds upon and integrates two types of research: (a) process analytic approaches of dynamically captured video and computer-screen activity and (b) learning analytics. By combining previous analyses of a dataset with new analyses of the processes of learning, patterns of successful and unsuccessful collaboration were identified. In this paper, the results of the application of a heuristics miner to utterances coded with the Decision-Function Coding Scheme, are combined with the results of First Order Markov transitions and in-depth linguistic analysis of the discourse to analyse the processes of collaborative problem solving within a scenario-based virtual world. The analysis of dependency graphs extracted from students’ event logs revealed problem solving actions enacted by students, as well as the dependency relationships between these actions. The addition of in-depth linguistic analysis explained the micro-level discourse of students, producing the observable patterns. Integration of these findings with those previously reported added to the depth of our understanding about this complex learning environment. We conclude with a discussion about the design of the tasks, the processes of collaboration, and the analytic approach that is presented in this paper.

The architecture of productive learning networks

Cover - The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks[1]

Really pleased with the latest book from our ARC Laureate project.

It’s been a pleasure working with Lucila Carvalho (post-doc on the project and lead editor of the book). Lucila has done an amazing job in picking case study networks, assembling the team of authors, helping everyone tune in to the analytic framework and managing the million other tasks needed in getting a book from initial concept to final publication.

APLN has been a really useful way of developing skills, shared understanding and research profile within the Laureate team too: all the postdocs and PhD students have played a role in co-authoring chapters.

On Amazon here.

Networked Learning 2014

NL2014 banner

We’re really looking forward to presenting at the 9th International Networked Learning Conference in Edinburgh next month. Four papers from the Laureate team:

Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P. (2014). Analysing the structuring of knowledge in learning networks.

Goodyear, P., Carvalho, L. & Dohn, N. (2014). Design for networked learning: framing relations between participants’ activities and the physical setting.

Pinto, A. (2014). Design and functioning of a productive learning network.

Yeoman, P & Carvalho, L. (2014). Material entanglement in a primary school learning network.

and also one by our recent Visiting Scholar, Nina Bonderup Dohn:

Dohn, N (2014) A practice-grounded approach to ‘engagement’ and ‘motivation’ in networked learning

all to be found in Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning 2014, Edited by: Bayne S, Jones C, de Laat M, Ryberg T & Sinclair C.

Australia’s National Broadband Network – framing costs and benefits

I wrote this in 2011 when the Liberal party and others were calling for a ‘cost-benefit analysis’ of the NBN. They are calling for it again – and last week launched their own proposals, which would bring fibre to a (local-ish) node rather than to the home. 

What cost the future? Education and the National Broadband Network

Peter Goodyear

19-May-2011

When Julia Gilliard pushed the button to activate the National Broadband Network in Armidale on Wednesday, the complaints were not long in following. ”There goes $18 billion,” said shadow treasurer Joe Hockey in Canberra, stating that the government was rolling out a Bentley to every Australian when the nation can only afford a Commodore.

Complaints about the cost of the National Broadband Network, the NBN, are not going to stop any time soon. It’s easy to see the expense but assessing the value of the NBN will take far more thought.  Supporters of the NBN have been quick to argue that it will strengthen education. Unfortunately, they’ve been slow to anticipate a damaging counter-argument: namely, that technology does not improve learning.

If you read studies that have tried to assess the effects of digital technology on learning outcomes, you have to conclude that technology does not – in itself – make a significant difference. No doubt opponents of the NBN will eventually pick up on this research. When they do, it will be important to put it in context.

People with a stake in education need to point out that studies of the impact of technology on education often miss the key point. What these studies end up illustrating is that the benefit you get from using any tool depends on whether you know how to use it properly. These studies aren’t – in themselves – much help when it comes to assessing the intrinsic value of something like the NBN. They don’t help us assess its potential, and it’s the potential of the NBN that matters.

Let’s turn to the potential of the digital technology available in Australian homes right now. Your teenager, for example, probably enjoys access to the web and all the educational benefits associated with it. If, however, they’re downloading music and playing Tetris in the corner of the screen while supposedly using the Web for research, the potential of the technology they have is not being realised. It’s not the tool that’s at fault though, it’s how it’s being used.

So how does broadband help learning when used wisely? There are five rock-solid benefits.

First, and most obvious, is access to a world of information. We shouldn’t take this for granted. My primary school’s library in the late ‘50s was a single, narrow cupboard. In a few months, you could read every book it contained. The first public libraries provided a lifeline for learning for the socially disadvantaged. The Web is filling this critical role today.

Secondly, the Web doesn’t just offer raw information, it’s also populated with explanations. Thirdly, the Web features recommendation systems that let you follow in other people’s footsteps and see what resources they found useful. Fourthly, you can network: you can find other people to learn from, learn with, or help you change the world. Finally, there are powerful tools to help you figure out complex issues – tools for visualising data, modelling systems and asking the big ‘what if?’ questions.

This is a snapshot of the benefits associated with digital technology today. But the NBN is not about the present, it’s about the future. Despite the fact that we know technological change is accelerating, it remains perversely difficult to frame a public debate about the future that’s not based on the delusion that it’ll be just like the present, only more shiny.

Imagine people connecting to the NBN six years from now. What do you picture? Smartphones, laptops and iPads? This time last year almost no-one in Australia had seen an iPad. Six years’ ago we had no iPhones or Kindles. We weren’t using YouTube, Google Maps, Facebook or Twitter. What potential technologies and developments that we haven’t even imagined yet will the NBN enable?

Assessing the future benefits of the NBN is not going to be easy. It has no intrinsic value. It will only help us if we learn how to use it wisely. And Australians will have to. Big challenges are on the way: from climate change, globalising competition, food security, peak oil, obesity, chronic ill health, and drug-resistant superbugs.

There’s no doubt the next generation needs to be better educated. After all, they’ll have to fix many of the problems we’re leaving in the too hard basket. They’ll need to be bold in unravelling complexity and quick to innovate. This ‘innovation generation’ will need a world-class broadband network, not a cut-price lash-up made of fencing wire and wishful thinking. It’s up to us to deliver it and let them maximize its potential. The costs of failing them, due to a lack of nerve on our part, are unaffordable.