There is a tension in education caused by two ways we perceive the value of technology and how we use it. On the one hand, technology is understood to be a great organiser, where scale is no object, and reliance is found in the reports it produces. It organises information well by indexing, cataloging, sorting and listing. Technology brings order and control to large scale activity and endeavour. However, every student has a unique reason and context for studying and with student numbers comes greater risk of a tension between the freedom to explore learning and the control placed on the process by the institution. Ordered learning can stifle individual revelation.
The tension comes from the technology revolution that moved us all from working as thousands on one platform to each of us having our own suite of custom platforms. The wider world now accommodates the ‘personalisation’ revolution but in our education world, it means the models of batch education or rank and file classes no longer work. We really don’t all need to be facing the same wall to learn anymore.
But it is possible to see beauty both in order and also in serendipity, exploration and the feeding of the imagination. The tension arises from the desire of those that manage education to be drawn to and rely on the former, whilst the pull on teachers and their students is to ever great degrees of personalisation and unique learning journeys.
We can describe this problem as the tensions between personalisation and standardisation and it comes about because we can’t find a way to have the words ‘personal’ and ‘standard’ in the same sentence.
Here’s the problem. In our excitement to use technology to create order, economies of scale and attempt to ‘marketise’ what we can hold onto, we achieve it only at the expense of asking for compliance (everyone must follow the same process), uniformity (everyone must follow the same actions) and completeness (everyone must do the same thing), which in turn harms the ability of technology to create the unique learning experience we tell our students they will enjoy.
It’s easy to see how this comes about. If we are organising a database for example for paying car tax, then order and regularity makes sense because we expect everyone to behave in the same manner and want the same thing in using the service. We can predict very accurately the behaviour of each applicant and formulate the software to match it. But it has a very limited place in learning itself because the outcome of education needs to take account of students as individuals who are a mass of conflicting requirements.
We also want education to be progressive which means the best learning journeys are those where the next steps are informed by it’s own progression and not always prescribed in the traditional sense of learning.
The stress lines occur around the issue of personalisation of education. Ideally we want everyone to follow their own path in education because every student comes to formal learning with a personal context, circumstances and set of requirements. But personalisation is not clean, efficient, nor easily measurable and all this non-compliance confounds the very systems set up to administer our organisations. At the moment, the best technology seems to be those systems that are best able to bend and make exceptions without falling over. It is why technology is considered ‘robust’ rather than good.
Can we find a way to standardise the personal? - The house and cloud split.
What we want is to get the best out of both approaches and avoid the dangers and it can be done by using the advantage of order and scalability to support the administration of learning and personalisation to capture uniqueness of experience in teaching and learning. In other words, it is an acceptance that in using technology there is in the e-learning world a split between the administration of learning and the enterprise of learning. This split uses different technologies to different purposes. It is the temptation to conflate the two leads to a fall in the quality of learning.
The whole joy of technology for individuals generally, and even more so in education is that it opens up new possibilities at every discovery for every student; a genuinely progressive form of education. We can talk about widening horizons, making experiences appear ‘first hand’, deepen the quality of thinking and learning, provide room to encourage ideas to form, allowing exploration where the student wants to go, supporting reflective thinking and collaborative learning. From a student perspective it allows these unique learning journeys and peculiar explorations, to be guided by a teacher, driven by student curiosity and imagination. As a result it brings pleasure in learning, sharpens imagination, feeds curiosity, makes demands of intelligence, rewards imagination, celebrates the unforeseen and excites with the new.
Sadly, it is in the gift of every institution to take the fun out of that exploration in order to ensure compliance and standardisation. Rather than finding a balance it might be better to see them as separate purposes and treat them as such. One in the control of managers of learning and the other under the guidance of teachers.
Geoff Rebbeck - July 2017
E-learning, when well crafted makes a critical contribution to improving student and teacher accomplishment. But making changes in this field always happens at the leading edge which is why, in this end-of-year paper, I refer to the need to be heroic. Here are 6 suggestions for action that makes the best of e-learning possibility for equipping students for employability and maintains competitive currency with others. The 6 suggestions interact with each other and are not discrete activities.
In recent years e-learning has divided into the administration and the enterprise of learning. Administration of learning is now based in Central information systems, that includes student learning plans, targets, records etc. Putting all the administration eggs in the one data basket ought to allow everyone to make the best of the emerging learning analytics services.
being heroic then concerns the changes made by students, their teachers and their managers to the other part of the e-learning divide: The enterprise of learning.
The four main reasons for considering these changes are as follows:
Moodle is a tool designed for collaborative learning. Providers should consider how to help teachers re-design courses to encourage Flip learning and Directed Study that enables continuous learning beyond the classroom. In supporting collaboration, it would include design for project-based learning and enquiry-based learning. Flipped learning and Directed study is more than simply splitting cognitive and affective/psychomotor domains.
b. Curating learning accomplishments in portfolios, supported by Moodle
A more advanced application of VLE design for students who are following an e-portfolio based programme (both mapping and reflective types). We will need to help teachers redesign VLE communities to focus on the consequences of students having personal rather than shared learning space. In effect the primary locus of learning moves to personal from shared space and VLE becomes the residual technology.
Whilst there are many on-line portfolio options, they are currently either reflective or mapping in design. We need to offer students portfolios that allow reflection with mapping and vice versa to present professional competencies and personal accomplishments).
2. Designing a House MOOC in generic form
Providers will need to design a generic or ‘House-style’ Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC). MOOCs can be hosted on Moodle or other platforms.
There are two main and immediate uses for MOOCs:
a. Share knowledge
Knowledge is now ubiquitous because of the Web. Many Universities have responded by starting to place knowledge components of learning freely on-line in open but badged spaces. Altruism aside, knowledge is not owned by an institution or a course but it can be used as a means of persuading users to attend courses to develop understanding and skills, based on what is published. For providers, knowledge presented well is marketable in terms of enrolments. It is used to develop trust and familiarity with the institution. MOOCs also act as tasters and teasers by packaging open knowledge.
Prep MOOCs can include study skills, health & safety, Induction etc. all available and open to be completed prior to starting a course.
Conditional offer MOOCs include working to support a dropped GCSE grade, or satisfying an entry requirement.
b. Devise common learning objects and attributes
Using the House MOOC, in support of Collaborative learning, providers can produce (or buy-in) common study modules such as ‘Validity and Reliability’, ‘e-Safety and Risk Management’, ‘Study skills’ and ‘British Values’ for enrolled learners. These can be completed at some point during the course of study. An example of bought-in learning resources includes the Worcestershire Blended Learning Consortium. These are different from Learning Objects that teachers will devise for their students.
In support of a set of ‘student attributes’, students can study on-line at some point during their course, common units that should be completed by particular student groups (e.g. creativity, cultural awareness, respect for diversity, community work etc.) as part of a whole-college offer towards a ‘college alumni’ award.
3. Development of Personal Learning Space for students
Mahara remains the popular choice of reflective portfolio in FE although others are suitable for more personalised requirements of course, particularly among the creative arts. (Flickr, One Note, WordPress, Dunked for example). Teachers need to share and support each other in learning how to use Mahara to develop the presentation of learning, achievements, accomplishments and attributes. This is following a national trend towards the use of personal and personalised learning content presentation, utilising personal and mobile devices. (see Moodle design B. above). We need a merging of the mapping and reflection portfolios so that each provides access to the other in a more seamless manner. It also needs to be able to house a learning contract for every individual apprentice against which accomplishment can be assessed.
4. Revision of an e-learning Strategy in one of three ways
a. The ‘Education Table’ approach, with separate appendices for each campus
Firstly, e-learning strategies should not be manifestos for the use of technology but explanations of how the learning and learner experience will be affected positively through the use of technology. It starts by being based on a learning and learner approach and identifies the application of technology to what it brings to those experiences and how it contributes to purposeful pedagogy. This process of thinking through the next revision should be done with explicit involvement of teachers who should be knowledgeable enough to make contributions. The involvement of teachers can count as contributions towards their CPD.
b. A Digital Inclusion Plan to re-purpose e-learning as a skill in its own right
Secondly, rather than describe e-learning as a contribution to the learning experiences, it is possible to assign it value for its own sake. We can argue that e-learning is sufficiently well understood in support active citizenship and commercial independence. It would include life-long and life-wide learning. This utilises the interaction of digitally literatestudents, managing on-line reputation, achieved through organisation focussed inclusivity. The Strategy could reflect this larger picture of the purpose of e-learning that transcends 'the college life'.
Thirdly, it is possible to conflate these two approaches.
5. The development of web-based meetings of like-minds
for the Curriculum and for active citizenship
Notwithstanding the need to have MOOCs for common study modules, a particular area of importance is teaching all students about on-line socialisation in the curriculum and the use of industry specific methods of communication. These are Digital Literacy skills-in-action. It includes developing students from being ‘Tech Savvy’ to digitally literate. It includes teaching risk management, recognising that safety is built into the user, rather than relying on the technology to protect. This could be an over-arching requirement for all students and part of the distinct 'provider offer'. It is aimed at the broad development and management of a positive on-line reputation for every student.
6. Explore Google EduApps as next generation e-learning for the Group
Providers need to see where the journey towards personal and personalised technologies is heading and how that might affect what might replace the VLE and other provided software. Cloud based service is already in wide use. Google, Microsoft and Apple are already competing for users thereby attracting future students to their platforms, creating an expectation to use these when entering any learning episode.
and don’t forget…
The success of these changes depends on the attitudes of teachers to make the changes with their students. The imperatives listed in the Introduction might be incentive enough (unless of course teachers leave to work for private providers). Success is dependent on teachers understanding first and foremost the concepts in pedagogy. Using e-learning is simply an extension of those already mastered skills. If this is achieved, mastering the technology by teachers is less of a hurdle and often welcomed.
Geoff Rebbeck FSET QTLS
e-learning is not just for education but for life by Geoff Rebbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
e-learning isn’t just for education but for life….
We have always been clear that technology adds value to education. We see that value in the way we organise learning for better efficiency and greater profundity of learning and in steering what we learn into unique episodes of activity and learning journeys. But might we now start to think about ‘doing’ e-learning for a purpose beyond its role in learning? DO we know enough about e-learning so we can describe e-learning as an outcome in its own right?
Perhaps e-learning isn’t just for education but for life….
To answer this question, we need a purpose, a way of working to get there and a method of organising education to make it happen and I would describe all that as follows:
The processes and actions taken to ensure every student has Digital Literacy and, as a result, can foster a positive on-line reputation in supporting their economic, personal, private and social lives, and that this is achieved through colleges being digitally inclusive.
It requires the college students, and every member of staff to act mindfully and overtly to leave no-one out of the journey in equipping students and their teachers and those that support them in preparing for, and taking part successfully, as they would wish, in the modern world through the intervention of technology. It includes those that would prefer to be left out and those with special needs in learning who might be challenged by this approach.
Who then has to do what
What is meant by Digital Literacy and Reputation
We can start with the Jisc definition of Digital Literacy as:
‘those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society’.
We can add to this that an emphasis of the value of technology in all aspects that are beyond seeing this as purely to do with employability. In practice this is the ability of a person to control, craft and personalise the utility of technology successfully, safely, profitably and with pleasure in its widest meaning.
The idea of a on-line reputation comes from the recognising that it is impossible to escape a digital identity and where it is not cultivated it can be unflattering and perfunctory, often based on the contributions of others. It is always better managed by the owner of the identity. Recognising that an identity can alter over time, it is better thought of as a Reputation. It is believed the those who do not maintain a positive digital reputation are seen to be at a life long disadvantage in the ability to make connections in commercial, personal, private and community dealings. As education is seen as a nurturing experience to achieve these ends, educators are increasingly taking on the importance of helping develop the digital reputations of students as an indicator of ‘success’.
Consequences for lead roles in College
Implementing Digital Inclusivity will have direct consequences for the role of:
The elements in detail
Digital Inclusion is based on two big themes in using Technology: every individual achieving a level of Digital Literacy such that they can manage and foster their Digital Reputation
1. Digital Literacy
Such is the ubiquity of technology, it is is now thought that those who are not digitally literate will be less successful in terms of their future economic independence as well as in private and social lives. This provides a challenge to educators to make sure students contacts leaving them better equipped to realise their plans in a modern digital world.
Being better equipped is characterised as being Digitally Literate. Many students who come to college are already ‘tech savvy’ to some degree, often fluent in social and gaming areas of the web, but this does not mean they are digitally literate. They may have limited knowledge of the value of the web for learning and it’s management/presentation. Being a ‘digital native’ born into a tech savvy world is no longer enough. A lack of digital literacy will impede their ability to learn and thrive in the wider world as they would wish, limit their ability to enquire, join wider communities of like-minded people, present, trade, and avoid the pitfalls of poor web practice.
Digital Literacy then is the ability of a person to control, craft and personalise the utility of technology successfully, safely, profitably and with pleasure.
Digital Literacy-in-practice means active management and control of one’s own on-line reputation, where technology is:
2. Digital Reputation
The biggest change in the application of technology occurred around 6 years ago when it evolved from being ‘technology for groups’ to ‘technology for the one’. It moved from large central systems, requiring strict compliance in use of software and the concomitant behaviour to one of using personal devices, set with applications that were customised to work separately and together for the benefit of the individual.
It also allowed far greater use of technology to track individual activity and present accomplishments and outcomes. Students are able to use their digital literacy individually and purposefully, to manage their cherry-picking of applications to capture and demonstrate personal learning journeys and in the process manage a on-line reputation to a large degree as they would wish.
Digital Inclusion then is the processes and actions taken to ensure every student is Digitally Literate and, as a result, can in the broadest terms, foster a positive Digital Reputation.
It requires a college to act mindfully and overtly to leave no-one out of the journey in equipping students and their teachers and those that support them in preparing for and taking part successfully in the modern world through the intervention of technology.
For colleges, this means they:
Geoff Rebbeck FSET QTLS
In helping students to prepare for the world of work, this Paper considers what do we need to do to match the process of learning to the way people work together to develop in the world of work. To do this, I want to explore the relationship between the ideas of ‘Blended learning approaches’ and the use of ‘Learning Objects’. In the process I want to define the outcome of this exploration as 'String Learning'.
A modern possibility in using using Technology in learning has been the increasing management of the whole process by the person who wants to learn and it has come about through the personalisation of technology and the ease of availability of information. But learning has traditionally been done in volumes, based on a standard class-based process. Until recently, the ability to capture and marshal personal achievements and attributes that can be added into a coherent story of learning wasn’t possible. But the ability to have personal technology accommodates a personal record of learning and development. Actually we are just now using technology to capture, marshal and make new sense of all the things we learn; all of us, every day. But when people engage with educators to learn they are happy (or someone else wants them) to trade-off some of that independence for authoritative guidance and structure and to join a group of like-minded people for company on the learning journey around particular aspects of learning.
People in work don’t learn in rooms, all facing the same way but through collaboration with peers and team colleagues, applying critical thinking (testing) to what is available and making judgements and coming to understandings.
Perhaps our next big change in education then is to change the way we expect students to behave in these episodes of learning who often come to formal learning, thinking of education as a passive process, that is ‘provided’ rather than ‘acquired’; as if it is all student get from education is taught, rather than caught and acquired. Learning in college should not differ from the methods and tools used when students work in a team or for an employer or simply for pleasure.
Collaborative learning supports sharing and filtering knowledge readily available, using validity and reliability skills to filter sources and synthesise understanding. It requires critical thinking as students collaborate with each other’s ‘doubted knowledge’, found, through the web and elsewhere. It promotes enquiry-based and project-based learning in place of instruction. It requires an enterprise of learning rather than classroom passivity under instruction by receptive students. In short, students can increasingly manage their journey and their approaches to synthesising knowledge that they bring to class for debate and challenge and application.
Learning this way mimics the way people already in employment and self-employment learn, many working in teams, testing and discussing ideas and approaches. It helps prepare the ‘work-ready’ mindset making learning a lifelong and life-wide habit. Such is the profundity of the effect of this ubiquitous technology, we are teaching students how to work and not just what they need to know to fulfil tasks.
The behaviours of Blended Learning prepare students for modern learning
We know that employers are as equally interested in student attributes and aptitudes (the process of modern learning) as they are in the mastering of competencies (what is learnt) and blended learning helps develop these characteristics. It is hardly surprising as we move from a manufacturing to more service-based economy employers want to employ people they are comfortable to place in front of their customers and represent their organisation.
Employers and customers say they want students who ‘know how to’, but they are more willing to show flexibility, in terms of ‘finishing off’ those hard skills if they are ‘the right person’. What makes a person ‘right’ is a complex set of personability attributes that demonstrate personal potential. In cases of preparing for self-employment it includes making the right connections to find, engage and retain customers.
Hard skills are seen as a measure of working to a standard or competence. Aptitude relates to ‘potential’ in its broadest sense (i.e. agility, imagination, personal ability, warmth of character, reliability etc.) and, in an employment/self-employment that is increasingly service based, these are important factors to be able to demonstrate. If we can’t (as we are told) prepare students for jobs that are not yet invented we can prepare them with the mindset and character to deal with such fluidity to make the most of opportunity.
So then, in our new Blended learning world….
On Learning Objects
Learning Resources are almost invariably made by their authors for their own use with their students and they are made with enthusiasm and pride (which is what you want!). But Learning objects are learning resources written for audiences beyond the reach of the author; they are made for sharing and use by students the author does not know or teach.
The golden rule about learning objects is they should be designed around how they affect what happens with the student and teacher in the spaces in between studying the objects. Once a ‘resource’ becomes an ‘object’, that relationship is broken.
This is less so for basic learning components that are purely knowledge transfer, but becomes very important in anything produced beyond this that requires understanding. It explains the reluctance of teachers to work with resources other than their own so as to provide an efficient and coherent progression for the students. Where information is so readily and plentifully available, colleges are not the repositories of knowledge they were, but they should still be repositories of wisdom in how to find and act on knowledge and skill in application of what is learnt. With so much competition in on-line content is that authors fall into subjectivity, over-enthusiasm and complexity for recipient teachers who aren’t willing to give up so much control.
Here are some characteristics then of successful Learning Objects in FE.
Over-stretching the reach Learning Objects
Personalised learning supports and accommodates students where their learning takes them, but there is a danger that some see technology as a mechanism for efficiency. This is short-hand for enforcing compliance, uniformity of approach and seeing virtue in process (like following the rules of shopping in a supermarket). Compliance and efficiency works in the administration of learning but has no place in the enterprise of learning. Over-reaching Learning Objects are often designed with one approach to learning in mind. Technology should open out and accommodate new ideas, processes and approaches, allow individual exploration, imagination and creativity and expression and not require compliance. In short, in the enterprise of learning we should not try to standardise what should be personal. and learning Objects should never be valued for providing the same way of learning everywhere.
The String learning approach
By string learning, I mean then the choices, number, order and manner in which learning objects are strung together by the teacher to provide a coherent blended journey for each student. The choices made are based around how students and teachers want to confront the issues in terms of order, pace and progression and challenges raised by collaborative endeavour.
This String Learning approach adds real value to course design. It allows every student to collect Objects to study that relates to what they want. (Students don't want choice, they want what they want!).
It provides a unique route, perhaps formalised in a learning contract, that provides a front sheet of the learning episode in a portfolio that captures both hard and soft skills that student can then marshal and publish. Students can pick learning from what may have historically been separated into courses in a college offer. Student can also study common modules such as thinking skills and other universal attributes for all students to acquire etc. that are relevant to students, regardless of whether they are following a vocation, academic or practical course of study. It allows what is learned to be as personalised as how it is learned. It supports apprenticeship learning as easily as other forms of study and may have more relevancy to apprentices. It also allows development in learning technique as students can progress from private learning to collaborative learning to enquiry-based and then project based learning. Finally it allows the development of learning into more complex routes of study, all of which can be captured as unique learning journeys that discerns each student from the next.
Geoff Rebbeck - October 2016
String Learning by Geoff Rebbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.geoffrebbeck.com/learning-blog.
It is usual to see how the discussion about the role of FE, particularly in higher circles always starts with the success rates argument as if the value of FE is to simply prepare students for work, rather than preparing people for the world of work, and there is a massive difference between these two approaches.
The former sees success in a student who moves from course to job in one simple movement. It is driven by political need for ‘easy catch’ statistics . FE is reduced to a placement service to put young people into a job as if it is some kind of extension of a careers service; it provides the advice but then goes on to prepare the student for the advice given.
FE needs to be much more than this and it was borne out in the conversations we had with employers and those looking to contract with the self-employed (as most FE students will be at several points in their working lives). It is why in our work we dropped the term employment and substituted employability.
We were well supported by employers in this. What they really wanted was the right people for the jobs and the ‘rightness’ didn’t mean only the qualification.
Employability recognises that the ‘rightness’ may not last in the longer term as the world of work is under constant redefinition requiring flexibility and agility on both sides. We all need to be adaptable to withstand a world in constant change. It wasn’t tested but I bet most FE students would not want to be trained for one job that would define their whole working lives. The modern world offers change and choices for those open to explore them.
Perhaps part of the employability problem is students who come through and out of FE who are not well prepared for the realities of what employers and customers want and expect. In part it is because demonstrating the hard skills, (the ‘this is what I can do’ part) is evidenced by qualifications but has a short shelf-life, whilst the the soft part (or the ‘this is who I am’) which is of more enduring importance through a working life was and still is only assessed in a short few minutes over an interview. Students are drilled in the hard skills but not formally supported in understanding the softer skills. All highly unsatisfactory. No wonder employers are frustrated at the lack of evidence to draw on in deciding who to ask to attend an interview when confronted by students with identical certificates.
The opportunity we found in the enabling role of technology has come about because of the revolution in technology in the last 10 years from shared and central software to personal applications; from ‘technology for the many’ to ‘technologies for the one’. Personal devices provide the platforms on which apps now orbit around each of us as we choose and customise them. We now have (students included) as a consequence a very good mechanism, usually some form of personal e-portfolio to be able to demonstrate the soft skills on an equal footing with the hard skills and it can be done en masse from the employer perspective. Critically portfolios can be published around the planet from the student perspective. Colleges really can prepare students to show who they are and what they can do (in that order maybe?) when searching for job opportunities and not just to those within physical interviewing distance. It renders the phrase ‘local employment’ redundant. In fact working with local employers might be considered to be under-striving for colleges.
What we need is a realisation of the value of technology not just help with the administration of courses and delivery, but to allow students to use it to develop the unique learning stories and outcomes and publish them to anyone anywhere who might value them. Paradoxically, for many, there isn’t even a need to travel, as technology allows a lot of businesses to trade from their front room. I have seen a student interview successfully in East Kent for a job in Washington USA using Skype for example. This is the vision part that managers have to explore. We need a vision that sees technology having value in the enterprise and personal celebration of learning (which is a student centric view). Both are important but the enterprise must lead the administration and not the other way around. For teachers it is to inspire students to think globally and redesign courses to allow this capture of education as a force for developing the person and not just seen as training in a skill. As for students, they need to broaden their horizons and wake up to the importance of their on-line reputation and aspire and see how technology allows them to better manage their learning activity and learning journey, because they all have great stories to tell.
What was equally exciting is how technology supports these new ways of learning that helps prepare students for this new world of work. Collaborative learning, sharing ideas and testing the value of them, synthesising new understanding and reflecting on it. Learning through project based and/or enquiry based activity on-line with classmates; all of these solid ‘world of work’ skills. These are all ways of learning in college made possible by technology, replicating how we learn in the workplace to the way we learn in the classroom.
Geoff Rebbeck - July 2016
Here’s a picture of the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, sitting at The Tabard In at the start of their journey to Canterbury. This is the late 14th. century but technology has conspired to make this layout the way the general classroom will look like in the immediate future. We have gone full circle (or perhaps horseshoe shape). The only thing lacking here for a modern classroom is evidence of a stinking good WiFi and each diner having a portable device to support or illustrate their contribution to collaborative learning.
We know that teachers and students are more and more carrying their portable devices, content and technology and software with them in a bag.
The square ‘rank and file’ classroom requiring all to face one-way for instruction, questioning and answering has gone. We can sit and face our students as can each other and we now all address each other as we discuss the application of learning. All this undertaken on-line, in our Flipped classes, with the ability to use the Wifi to find content and share in support of turning our student’s knowledge into personal understanding.
It isn’t a new idea to teach in this way; it’s just that technology is what now makes this method possible.
This won’t work of course in workshops and studios, kitchens and salons, where authentic learning is still the order of the day but the same principle applies to all general learning where the space itself isn’t the object of learning.
What is the classroom for?
There are also social elements at work in a sense of it’s immediacy and learning confronted ‘in the moment’, in a way that asynchronous learning is less affective and profound.
Some of these things are quite ephemeral, but every teacher sees these at work in every successful class and they are not easily dismissed and the stronger there things are the better the class.
So, point no. 1, we still need classrooms to meet in though not as many (unless we offer more learning opportunities) and they don’t need lots of technology to make the learning work, beyond Wifi because everyone will have their own devices and software and content. We don’t need money to buy this as it is how we behave rather than what we spend.
Learning technologies are only one part of e-learning. There are two further types of technology in the mix, and the other two have been neglected, forgotten or, in some cases ignored.
One added benefit of this is that learning technologies are not that expensive because it sits on four pillars of a VLE, and ILP, a personal Portfolio structure, and the use of social media. All of this driven on personal portable devices with personal applications that teachers and students carry with them. All these things are now in place and we have reached a point with learning technologies where real gain comes from how we change our way and pattern of learning using these basic technologies that are already available. e-learning expenditure has moved from the college to the individual, so colleges can spend that money instead on vocational technologies.
This leaves us free to really put our resources into Vocational technologies. Consider the growth iff technology in every part of industry such as in the use of on-line software, GPS tracking, personal applications that are industry specific and software for planning, estimating, billing, reporting and hanging clients for the self-employed. Every land-based student should explore the use of drones, tracking technologies in animal care, estimating and billing applications in construction, publishing on personal websites and selling products in creative courses, using microscopy and learning to research in networks in science.
So in these classrooms, without the need for PC towers or IWBs, no whirring of fans, or chattering of printers, UV lighting, comfortably furnished in circular rather than square styles, classrooms will be welcoming for enquiring minds with access to vocational specific software.
Geoff Rebbeck - February 2016
Discussions in FE about Flipped learning and Directed Study have abounded and the desirability of doing it. However, the discussion is driven by an assumption that the Cognitive domain will be slept off and tackled on-line, reducing the whole thing to an ‘efficiency’ argument, (which has value but is not the whole story at all and not what is central to the quality of teaching). What teachers need to think about is what pedagogical advantage is there in doing this and rather than describe what student will do, get into the far more important discussion about how they will do it an why init will improve the learner and learning experience.
In my view, the great value of learning outside the classroom away from the teacher is having students learn collaboratively; the process of asking all to contribute to a central understanding that is available for review, consideration, and reaction, that in the process enriches what is learnt.
Crowdsourcing is a gathering of people made possible on a massive scale, where distance and place is no object where there is Web connection, where the value of what is achieved is greatly enhanced by the number of people (the crowd) who choose to participate. The greater the crowd size, the greater the chances of interesting. profound, unexpected yet positive things happening.
Collaborative learning is a description of the movement of learning away from a class based, teacher-led approach to learning. It is replaced by learning where students are more dependent on each other for their learning. It is part of a blended approach that combines with teacher-led learning but is not Distance learning. One of the great things of crowdsourcing is that someone, somewhere will have expert knowledge from first-hand experience and, as a rule, that information would not normally be available. We have historically relied on formal routes to knowledge, through books and lectures from recognised experts but hearing or seeing from someone ‘who is there’. or ‘took part in it’ or has ‘current knowledge’ deepens the quality of learning. Better still to hear from two or more independent sources to provide a range of views or opinions or ideas…….
The value of crowdsourcing is to end up with great ideas being shared based on, rather than only abstracting facts or knowledge.
We need to encourage student to work this way for three reasons:
Wikipedia is an example of the value of sharing what we know, as well as reminding us of the need to test all that we receive (see Doubted Learning below)
There are five ways to contribute to the ideas of others:
Collaboration asks students to react and respond to what others share with them. There are five ways we should encourage students to respond, that improves the quality of what is shared for the good of all in the class.
Student should never respond with a personal attack on the Author and attempt to simply discredit an argument or attempt it through discrediting the author. Anyone who does this has lost a friend and de facto lost the argument. Collaborative is not an easy skill. It requires a group to build trust that takes time and goodwill.
Collaboration outside of education
In Europe the Eurovision Song Contest is followed around the world by 200 million people this last May. It has an application for interaction, twitter feeds, and a FaceBook page. These interactions turn the whole event into a giant crowdsourcing activity around a choice of preferred music but is as much about different cultural, ethnic and National identities that are shared through comments and observations. Good crowdsourcing can lead those that take part in them to see more of what the crowd has in common rather than what separates as well as giving new insight and contexts on what is encountered and we might be learning to celebrate the differences more as we increase our exposure to new ideas as we see ourselves more in a global perspective rather than a country or two or village one. This may be the real value of interacting on-line.
How crowdsourcing is developing
Interestingly, companies are finding ways to make the ideas an energies of people meeting together on-line for mutual benefit. Rather than have crowdsourcing around an idea or interest, the 'crowd' is fragmenting into groups that want a particular thing from the crowd.
Buying and selling is an obvious example (look at www.etsy.com for example). House sharing or holiday swaps is another. Booking at taxi can move from a local town transaction to a global booking facility (see http://www.infotaxi.org/taxi_service_c.php )
Trip Adviser ( http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk and other Review sites http://www.restaurant.com for example have huge influence because we place value in others who have tried out the exact experience we are after. Notice here how important it is to apply the 'validity' rules here and we will be visiting this idea later. We don't know if an employee might be inflating the service or a disgruntled customer unfairly criticising the place.
One of the best crowdsourcing sites is Twitter ( www.twitter.com ) in terms of the sheer opens and organs nature of it. We will be using Twitter in the background to this MOOC, as much to explore its value as to use it as a commentary on what we are doing.
If you want to get an idea of the reach and consider the power of Twitter for crowd sourcing conversations go to http://twittercounter.com/pages/100 to explore who are the most followed Twitter users on the Planet.
The collaborative student will need to:
Flipped learning is well understood as a process but not much discussed as a matter of god pedagogy. If we know what Flipping is the next question is what should be flipped, closely followed by how what is flipped is to influence what is then done.
In a nutshell, what works well on-line is cognitive domain learning so it is a matter of fleshing that out from a course design perspective.
The more advanced the level of study, the greater the expectation of students to learn with the help of learning technologies, ie. to self-manage aspects of their learning so the greater the expectation of students to be able to learn this way.
So pedagogically speaking, and in terms of design, cognitive elements tackled on-line should be built around collaborative learning activity between students. Students work towards finding things out, singularly and together, testing knowledge and their sources through applying the tests of validity and reliability, ready to bring it to class for affective domain and psychomotor domain learning (i.e. the application of knowledge, turned into personal understanding and application with the help of a teacher). Learning on-line is the process but e-learning here is the craft of collaborative activity designed and overseen by the teacher.
Students have the added value in learning collaboratively in developing a ‘work-ready skill because this is what we all do every day in the world of work. (what we are doing here is in effect collaborative learning on-line). What I am arguing for here is that the nature of learning can be improved through craft and we aren’t simply taking a chunk of classroom learning and putting it on-line in some clumsy process-driven way.
Flipped learning is how we do this singularly (homework preparation for classes) and Directed Study is how this is scaled up over a longer time period of studying and learning (periods longer than a week of redesign).
I think the pedagogy behind Flipped Learning is so important. What I would argue is that the targets achieved through course re-design should be better learner and learning experiences, greater preparation achieved for economic independence and active citizenship, all of which come from student feedback to targeted questions on the grounds that we are deliberately trying to enrich education and make it more relevant and fun through technology. This is what crafted e-learning can achieve…...
Here is a way we can better engage with local employers through taking the best of what e-learning can do with the best of free, yet targeted Mini MOOCs.
A Mini MOOC is of course an oxymoron. These aren’t massive (necessarily) and they aren’t public (necessarily) but they are the same kind of new approach to having learners engage with what college a collectively knows and the expertise that sits in the content section of the courses teachers run for the benefit of the learner initially but in the hope of developing a relationship with learners who then enrol as a result and then developing a reputation with employers and others for the quality of it’s expertise.
FELTAG looks to colleges to become the training departments of local employers. This could include have them rent space on college VLEs and ILPs and e-portfolios and join social learning groups. Apart from ‘hosting’ training, teachers can provide the curriculum design expertise and offer assessment services as well as general tutoring and access to college libraries etc. for local employees.
But colleges, like universities are sitting on the accumulated knowledge of its teaching staff and e-learning is particularly good at supporting cognitive domain learning, so the time is right for colleges and other providers to start moving a great local asset (what they collectively know) on-line in order to support training around, and engage with the world of work.
Another way to describe this as seeing colleges and others delivering learning that is taught, caught and acquired. With a miniMOOC, what is taught is put on-line, encouraging learners to come to college to work with others on what is caught and acquired in preparing for the world of work. This is an extension of flipped learning of course. MiniMOOCs sit between Distance Learning and Blended Learning with elements of both yet very different.
But rather than open up all we know to the world, miniMOOCs allow the harnessing of knowledge in support of learning and development and act as a huge advertisement of what and who colleges are. In short, mini MOOCs offer what we know but in a structured form to allow learners to explore it in a non-chaotic way.
So MiniMOOCS are taylor-made learning episodes consisting of cognitive learning objects, that can be singular or strung together (perhaps like beads on a string of learning activity) in short course format that provides basic skill knowledge or basic practice or contain something a college is very good at.
This is such an important development that every course leader should be looking at putting ‘knowledge’ on-line to advertise their course, target it to local employers and beyond to showcase the college and develop a reputation with employers.
The great contribution of using technology in its broadest sense to learning is that it has passed the management of it to the person who wants to learn. In the world of work, the internet is the place of crowdsourcing knowledge and ideas, and we all ‘learn’, all of us, every day. The reason people engage with educators to learn is they are happy (or someone else wants them) to trade off some of that independence for authoritative guidance and structure and to join a group of like-minded people for company on the learning journey.
Blended learning is then the balance found between these two great centres of learning that takes the best of formalising learning with the best of collaborative learning with the best of managing it all. Getting it right is a craft for teachers and a joy for learners.
We really do now lead with e-learning in this blend because education has to match the way the world of work learns and develops and blended learning means we can no longer teach and learn in closed communities as if education is somehow different from the real world and it is a professional skill of teachers to craft it well. Such is the profundity of the effect of ubiquitous technology , we are teaching students how to work and not just what they need to know to fulfil tasks.
Perhaps our next big change in education then is to change the way we expect students to behave in these episodes of learning who often come to formal learning, thinking of education as a passive process, that is ‘provided’ rather than ‘acquired’; as if it is all understanding is taught, rather than caught and acquired. Learning in college should not differ from the methods and tools used when students work in a team or for an employer or simply for pleasure.
Students will work collaboratively on project based and enquiry-based learning, learning the finer arts of filtering information rather than waiting to be fed it. These learning objects will be threaded on a string by a teacher who will provide the connections between them.
The other huge change is what we want formal education to produce in those who go through it. We know that employers are as equally interested in attributes and aptitudes achieved as they are in the mastering of skills.
It is hardly surprising as we move from a manufacturing to more service-based economy where customers have closer links to employees.
In fact hard skills are seen as a measure of working to a standard of competence. Aptitudes relates to ‘potential’ in its broadest sense (i.e. agility, imagination, personal ability, warmth of character, reliability etc.) and, in an employment and self-employment world that is increasing service based, these are important skills.
So then, in our new Blended learning world….
Collaborative learning is a description of the movement of learning away from a class based, teacher led approach to learning. Students are more dependent on each other for their learning. It is part of a blended approach that combines with teacher led learning but is not Distance learning. It is how we behave together at work.
Students share and trust each other in contributing ideas. They work together asynchronously, and not necessarily with a tutor present and develop critical thinking skills as they share ‘doubted learning’
Learning is based on filtering content repurposing and synthesising it rather than creating it in a continuous process of varying intensity, not confined to critical time periods in class
The Tutor is the Guide on the side who makes makes pedagogical purposeful interventions often from beyond the classroom
It encourages students to manage their own learning journey through thinking differently through the filters of their own experiences and contests, drawing on enquiry based and project based learning.
So what does this mean for educators in the FE sector?
Geoff Rebbeck - October 2015