Branching out

Gilly Salmon opened the EDEN Research Workshop in Budapest this morning with a keynote entitled 'The tree of Learning: Nurturing the Growth. In it she used her now very well known drawing of a tree with its branches bathed in 'Techno-shine', representative of her argument that all education, whatever it's hue, is now dependent upon and influenced by technology of some kind or another. I guess this is true for the Western industrialised nations of the world, but in Africa and parts of Asia, the shine has a little farther to go to reach their branches. But I digress slightly. Gilly traced the history of education from it's roots to it's new shoots - and in doing so reminded us all that although we have a rich history of pedagogy, some of the branches are falling away, and others are growing in surprising directions. Her metaphor extended to the evolutionary theory of Darwin, and a prediction that some of the unfit practices would not survive. But how to nurture the new growth necessary to keep education healthy? 'The longer you have been in education' she argued, 'the more difficult it will be to shift resources and energy into new ways of teaching and learning.'

There's nothing special about web based learning (and in particular distance and open learning) she argued. They're normal now and anyone who is in education, she said, must use technology. This of course opens up an entire area for discussion - what of the digital divides we still see in society? What about those who cannot or will not engage with new technology in education - will they simply fall away like dead branches on Gilly's proverbial tree of learning? Or will they need to be cut away? Her parting shot was interesting: Quoting John Richardson she pointed out that when it comes to the future, there are 3 types of people: there are those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened. I guess regardless of what happens though, the tree will continue to grow - it just depends on how fast, in what direction, and how much fertiliser is required.

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Branching out by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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