Something old, something new...
There are signs that a new learning ecology is emerging. As you will see, it arises largely from the interface between humans and their technology, and is mediated through their need to connect with each other. It is propagated within the digital habitus and amplified through the free sharing and repurposing of content. It rides on the back of the willingness of some maverick teachers to practise new forms of pedagogy where learning takes precedence over teaching, and where being a content expert is less important than being a co-learner with one's students.
'I don't believe education is about centralising instruction any more.... it's the process of establishing oneself as a node in a broad network of distributed creativity.' said MIT Media Lab's Joi Ito. In so doing, he described a juncture in educational history where some teachers have transgressed the age old boundaries laid down by traditional, realist educational philosophy. These visionaries and mavericks have begun to establish new curricula where conversation becomes the conveyance and community becomes the subject as well as the recipient. Such teachers are considered radical, because they fly in the face of what many consider to be tried and tested methods.
One of the most important facets of the new ecology is the act of supporting personalised learning. There is a movement toward teaching and assessment that focuses on the needs of individuals. There is clearly tension between this stance and the constraints imposed upon state funded schools where massified education is conducted through the delivery of homogeneous content, teaching children by age group and standardised testing. Alternatively, personalised learning approaches are generally student centred, and where teachers take a supporting role in the process. Some personal learning approaches also enable learners to determine their own routes through education, and where assessment is process rather than product based. Personalised Learning Environments (or PLEs) are generally, but not exclusively, based upon each student's personal selection of personal devices, web tools and learning communities.
Another important component of the new ecology is the choice of progressive pedagogy. Teachers who elect to facilitate forms of pedagogy that involve learning by making will discover that less content is required, and that learning outcomes are generally much more open and unpredictable than those resulting for more formal, traditional lessons. Students tend to collaborate together more, and conduct more personal research than those who are engaged in traditional forms of education. Learning by inquiry and the solving of problems are major elements of this kind of education, and the learning tends to be deeper and more meaningful than didactic approaches. Students have a purpose for making and as they make, and as Phil Shapiro has pointed out: 'Teachers who incorporate making into their teaching are not at all interested in what their students are not able to do. They focus on what their students are able to do. They look for hidden talents and help uncover those talents.'
Both of these approaches are heavily dependent on digital media and personal technologies. I intend to write more on the concept of new learning ecologies in future posts.
Photo by Ian on Flickr
Something old, something new... by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.