‘Question Night’ our e-learning programme, was a cracker. Loosely based on ‘Question Time’, we had a panel of politicians, an expert and a journalist, who answered questions from the audience. You were clapped, ignored or jeered by the audience, depending on your answers. It was beautifully produced but, sadly, never used. If it had been rolled out we may have avoided many of the excesses we’ve see over the last few years. Politicians, it turns out, are always carping on about skills and training, but refuse to accept the idea that they also need to learn.
Politicians and e-learning
So, it was heartening to hear that Brown’s bedside text this week is Leadbetter’s Me-Think, a book on user-generated content. He’s an internet freak, loves email and shoots them off to Junior Ministers at all hours. He was also the man who gave us UFI, an organisation I’m proud to support, and one of only two public e-learning bodies to have actually delivered anything of worth (the other is the OU).
Tony Blair is an altogether different creature. I once asked him whether he thought e-learning had a major role to play in education and training. Typically, he answered with an anecdote, “I visited an education centre last week,” he replied, “and completed an IT assessment test. I looked at the guy next to me and congratulated him, as he had a much better score than me. ‘That must make you feel quite good’, I said. ‘Not really’, he said, ‘You’re the Prime Minister and I’m one of the long-term unemployed!’
I’ve met lots of politicians over the years and most were sultry creatures, simply doing the rounds. I thought I’d show Robin Cook some medical e-learning, as I knew his wife was a GP in
Heseltine, was an open and witty guy, genuinely interested in the web. When I recommended that he get a hold of the Michael Heseltine web address, he quipped, ‘You know, I think I’ll need it!’ This was just before he resigned from his cabinet post.
Aitken was just a crook, Galloway a charming chancer, but one who really did understand the importance of the internet and television, as opposed to newspapers (a medium he despises), Margaret Beckett was sour-faced and shadowed by her husband who stood behind her in an old anorak and took copious notes.
Michael Gove is, without doubt, the one I dislike the most. I had a spat with him last year, when, during one of his rants about declining standards, he claimed that, “School pupils need to know the relationship between, the planets orbiting the sun in the solar system, and electrons orbiting the nucleus in an atom’. My request was that he find a better example of useful knowledge, “As the quantum positions of electrons around a nucleus have absolutely nothing to do with the gravity controlled orbits of planets in our solar system”. He glared at me, and simply answered another imaginary question.
My favourite politician was the best Prime Minister we never had – John Smith. He was smart, friendly and polite. I got to chat to him, on TV, two days before a general election. How very different the
Politicians and e-learning now
Most politicians are cosseted from technology by layers of civil servants, advisors and lackeys. It’s all face-to-face posing. Their clumsy attempts to appear homely on YouTube are laughable. There’s absolutely nothing honest or spontaneous about any of this – it’s all polished, over-produced, central office nonsense. They really don’t get it.
What’s much more interesting are the YouTube speeches and assorted videos made about politicians, posted by ordinary people and the political blogs. Blogs, especially have breathed life back into politics, apart from those over-moderated marketing blogs by BBC journalists, another mob who really don’t get it.
Similarly, the higher echelons of Government civil servants are full of ageing Boomers who really don’t understand, or even like, the internet. The policy makers are, unfortunately, on the wrong side of the new Digital Divide (see previous post).