Formal and informal, anarchy and surveillance, communities and learning cultures and greening of education.
The day started with the daily address by Gilly envisioning alternative forms of education and suggesting “Self Organising Learning Environments” as an approach.
Josie Taylor from the Open University, our keynote for the day, took up Gilly’s challenge and described the ways in which the Open University is expanding its role in providing further education regardless of the learner’s location and circumstances using personal networks and technologies such as Facebook and the iPhone to engage the informal learner and encourage her towards more formal qualifications. Josie’s talk generated a lively question and answer session, covering areas such as assessment and monitoring of students, copyright issues and learner (pre-)qualifications. In our Second Life campfire, the question of how discussions go beyond text and whether the avatar is a better representation of the true self than the physical person engaged the minds of participants.
Continuing with the theme on alternative forms of education Pal put forward a strong case for promoting a digital listening culture in education using podcasts. He presented two design approaches for learning and assessment to demonstrate the pedagogical value of podcasts and also introduced the ten-factor framework for learning design using podcasts.
James had a more radical view of how university education should be conceptualised for the future. In his “Anarchy in the universities: Beyond the student-teacher hierarchy” presentation, he challenged the current notion of learners as “customers” contending that such a view reinforced the banking concept of education. He argued for moving away from essentialist/humanist traditions to more social constructivist approaches to learning. The anarchist approach to learning rejects authoritarian relationship and seeks to influence rather than direct learning. Tutors become curators of connections with the student taking greater responsibility. One implication of such a radical approach is whether or not lectures should be abandoned and greater emphasis placed on tutorials and collaborative learning around the concept of communities of practice.
Cate in her presentation on “The electronic academic: Subversion, surveillance, disruption” described the way in which society’s control of people is changing and the demands this places on academics with universities moving from the institutional (lectures, F2F tutorials) to the personal (mobile devices, PLEs). In the electronically surveilled university the divide between the academic and personal life disappears as does individual sovereignty. There were questions around how academics may best respond to the changes. Should we embrace the change or fight it? What are the benefits and risks for embracing these changes?
Sheema reported on an attempt to bring about change in the Maldives. In her presentation on “Elearning experience of teachers and children in Maldives” she presented a case study of five teachers’ participation in an online continuous professional development course in Maldives, a small island of dispersed communities with poor internet connectivity and not enough resources. The key challenges identified in her study were course design and delivery, learning support and social issues around gender and how it impacts on collaborative learner to learner support. To Sheema the ability to succeed in elearning is partly dependent on the social and intellectual network.
I wrapped up the day with a presentation on “Teaching and Learning: How environmentally disruptive”. Using the GECKO pilot project which compared CO2 emissions of blended and face‐to‐face modes of teaching as a context, he invited discussions on teaching methods that are more environmentally friendly. Many participants were of the view that blending learning could impact less on the environment than traditional methods of teaching and learning.
Dr Sahm Nikoi