It's not really learning anymore

The final keynote of this morning's first plenary session at the EDEN Research Workshop in Budapest featured the Open University's Grainne Conole, who in her own inimitable style, crammed so much content into just 30 minutes of fast paced presentation, I found it difficult to take down any meaninful notes. It wasn't her fault though - it was rather a distinct lack of wifi connectivity and technology failure on my part that made me resort for the first time in ages to taking notes with - shock horror - a pen and paper! Well, at least I discovered that I can still write with a pen, albeit a lot slower than I remember doing when I was an undergrad. It's like riding a bike, apparently you never forget - but you do slow down with age. I still wish I could have typed down the notes though - it would probably have done Grainne a little more justice for a great speech. But, here goes:
Grainne talked about educational policy in relation to research, teacher practices and learner responses, and this triumvirate of outcomes can reveal a whole host of influences, including a clash of local culture versus global hegemony. Here she listed a host of learning theories, and linked them to existing pedagogies before weaving them into recent high profile e-learning projects. She cited the abject failure of Google Wave, and suggested that it was the shortfall between how the software could be used (its potential affordances) and the actual perception of its usefulness by users that did for it.

One statement Grainne made will stand out, and should be repeated to all undergraduate students. Acquiring knowledge and recalling it, she said, is no longer adequate - it's not really learning anymore. Anyone can copy and paste from Wikipedia and construct an essay (and I daresay pay for pre-written essays on just about any subject under the sun if they wish to get into wholesale plagiarism). Teachers, she argued, are not fully exploring the full potential and power of learning technologies in the classroom, or indeed outside of it. They perceive a lack of time, lack of skills and few rewards as the key barriers to adoption of new technology for learning. She recommended that we all need to choose between two models: the belief based (implicit) model and the design based (explicit) model.

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It's not really learning any more by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Anonymous said…
I would say that Grainne's comment about acquiring and using knowledge as inadequate should be repeated not only to undergraduate students but also, and perhaps primarily, to teaching staff who insist on an information-based curriculum, rather than helping their students develop deeper process skills and disciplinary discourse proficiencies. If students are required to regurgitate facts and figures, they will do so; if they are asked to approach things on a deeper and more critical or creative level, they will rise to the challenge. But the heart of the matter is curriculum and assessment redesign!
Lindsay Jordan said…
I'm sorry... what's this about the 'abject failure of Google Wave...?!"'

Google Wave is *brilliant*.
mvallance1234 said…
"the heart of the matter is curriculum and assessment redesign!"
100% agree but who does the curriculum redesign? One would presume practicing teachers/instructors. At the ALT-C conference in 2009 I co-presented a paper about curriculum mapping and to my surprise very few practitioners had curriculum design experience (lesson planning yes but curricula, nope). I followed this up with discussions later and it seems the UK national curriculum really has impacted on design/redesign expectations of teachers. A good place for any education practitioner to start afresh, thinking about the grander scheme of what he or she does, is curriculum mapping IMHO.

From Towndrow & Vallance.
Curriculum mapping is recognised as a continuing process for orchestrating the scope and sequence of a curriculum to inspire coherence across grade levels, avoid unnecessary redundancies and provide teachers with timely feedback on curriculum implementation so that positive modifications can be made (Hale n.d.; Wiggins and McTighe 2007). Yet, while some might be attracted by the pragmatic affordances of structuring learners’ understandings of important ideas based on the ‘givens’ of subject-specific syllabi, the input and significance of learning technologies in particular classrooms are less certain due to individual teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices.

FYI .. our case study proposal is still online at

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