Saul Nassé named BBC Learning chief

The Guardian reports this today:

Saul Nassé is to replace Liz Cleaver as controller of BBC Learning when she steps down at the end of the year, the BBC announced today.

Nassé is currently based in Mumbai where he has been general manager and creative head of BBC Worldwide Productions India since 2007.

I don’t know Saul and wish him all the best in his new job. And for you cynics: no, I didn’t want it or apply for it.

I am however worried about the tone of the announcements surrounding his appointment. They sound more and more like a BBC retreating from offering anything truly substantial aimed at schools or for use in the classroom – George Entwhistle is reported to have said

[…]His mission is to build on the success of services like Bitesize and Class Clips, and on campaigns such as Breathing Places, by forging ever stronger links between Learning, Knowledge and the rest of the BBC[…]

This sounds very much like Learning is becoming absorbed into a mission to educate in its widest – and least controversial – sense. It doesn’t sound like it includes a mission to challenge, complement and enrich what is going on in schools. I am worried the BBC has finally completely caved in to the vested interests of a few powerful commercial companies, and we are left with no organisation to challenge orthodoxy. I hope I am wrong.

Culture and strategy

Been wanting to post this for a while – heard in a presentation at NESTA/ Steve Moore’s Reboot Britain event earlier in the year. I forget who said it – I think it was Charles Leadbeater – but it has stuck in the brain:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

In other words, however clever your vision, however fine your organisational structure, whatever your methodology, if the people aren’t with you, don’t get on and/or can’t be bothered, forget it. Very true!

Wish I’d done this…

Just found, via a slightly circuitous route: Creative Spaces. A shining and alas very isolated example of an open, exploratory “web 2.0” learning resource. The user – whoever they may be – is invited to engage with museum artefacts through story (see the celebrity videos like Tony Robinson’s), other people’s comments, and a tag cloud, hopefully driving them to reflect further and comment themselves. It’s got a lovely clean design, too. Love it (tinge of envy – I was once working on similar ideas that never came to fruition).

Here we go again?

I was rather surprised to learn that the BBC Trust’s service review of children’s services and content, published yesterday, also covered “content to support formal learning for primary school children”. I was less surprised – but weary – to discover that “As part of this review some commercial education content suppliers raised concerns about the competitive impact of the BBC’s formal learning provision. Under the terms of the BBC’s Charter, the Trust has a duty to have regard to the competitive impact of the BBC’s activities and has written to establish whether these concerns should be treated as a formal complaint.

Oh, not again. The review document emphasizes how CBBC and CBeebies are there to promote education and learning. As I have said ad nauseam before, the BBC must have a role to play in education. This should be curtailed by and complement the (usually) bread-and-butter stuff that commercial publishers can do, but that’s because the BBC is the only organisation that can innovate and question the prevailing teach-to-the-test zeitgeist, and so that’s where it should spend time, effort and resources. Ewan McIntosh’s excellent blog pointed me to something I should probably have seen years ago – Ken Robinson’s February 2006 TED talk – in a wider-ranging and thought-provoking post about what we’re getting wrong.

Is there any chance that we can move away from threats towards collaboration and dialogue in the wider interests of society?

Lord Puttnam at Handheld Learning

Lord Puttnam made a typically passionate and rousing speech at the end of the Handheld Learning conference. It’s available online to view here – you’ll need to scroll to the very bottom of the page.

Leaving aside his (entirely justifiable) attack on some elements of the press (which I read to mean my bugbear, the Daily Mail), his comments were an interesting view on the credit crunch.

His approach as understood by me:

  • the UK should now focus its efforts on building an economy based on green technologies and the creative industries, not on financial services;
  • we should think of education as “vocational” in a new sense – that of a child finding his or her vocation;
  • there is a real need to re-engage the large number of disaffected learners;
  • technology is key to this as it’s what the learners expect and understand.

You may agree or disagree (mostly I agree) but I was desperate to ask about public service educational content in this respect. The BBC seems currently to be worryingly quiet on this matter, Channel 4 can’t do it on its own, and allegedly some not-for-profits and LAs are now so scared in the aftermath of BBC Jam that they won’t develop content for fear of being accused of having state aid in a free market. This is absurd. Will somebody in politics or public service broadcasting stand up and be brave, please? We need to be building stuff of the quality that the independent sector were creating for Jam. But we just can’t do it right now with no funding and no evidence of ambition.