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Milken Institute

Over the next few days I will be blogging from the Milken Global Conference in LA. I’ve attended many education conferences, but the feel of this conference is dramatically different. Part of the spirit is driven by the nature of the speakers and the nature of the challenges they are trying to address. CEO’s, leaders, and celebrities dot the speaker list. The problems being explored include global economics, health care, cultural/societal conflict, and education. While I highly doubt clear solutions will be provided (these problems are simply too complex, situated in too many cultural contexts with different value points), simply having the conversation provides a sense of optimism.

Interesting statistic: health care – the US has almost half of the global expenditures in this field (and 50% of the people in the history of the world who have ever lived to be over 65 years of age are alive today). Two major challenges in the world: Growing middle class (developing world), aging population (developed world). Michael Milken is currently speaking – the tone is strongly on globalization (primarily in health care), but the concern of emerging and developing economies has application for the education market.

I’ve stated in the past that the two biggest exports of North America (specifically USA) will be entertainment and education. Unfortunately, the education element is not prominent among these global thinkers. What is the vehicle for better markets, better health, and better societies? Can we really talk globalization without focusing on education? Aging, healthcare, disease prevention, capital markets, etc – all of these fields are perpetuated, maintained, and fostered through learning structures.

Learning, as probably the most critical human activity for the development of better (defined as low crime, available health care, standard of living) societies is the structures of learning. The challenge we face is that our approaches to learning (as I’ve often said) is that our structures don’t meet our needs, our society, or our global world. Learning, perceived as an activity outside of the structure of daily living, is simply not working. Learning happens continually (as natural as breathing, as constant as a beating heart). We need a new vision for learning. I’ve tackled it from the end of connectivism, but it is depressing to see that so many organizations continue to see learning as an add-on, not an enabler to better functioning on every level of life and business. One message that is coming through, in health care (and I would posit in education), is that the technology is at a sufficient level to make huge changes and transformations. Potential and capacity are not the missing elements – vision and will are the bottlenecks.