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