The classroom of the immediate future

 

Here’s a picture of the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales, sitting at The Tabard In at the start of their journey to Canterbury. This is the late 14th. century but technology has conspired to make this layout the way the general classroom will look like in the immediate future. We have gone full circle (or perhaps horseshoe shape). The only thing lacking here  for a modern classroom is evidence of a stinking good WiFi and each diner having a portable device to support or illustrate their contribution to collaborative learning. canterbury tales

We know that teachers and students  are more and more carrying their portable devices, content and technology and software with them in a bag.

The square ‘rank and file’ classroom requiring all to face one-way for instruction, questioning and answering has gone. We can sit and face our students as can each other and we now all address each other as we discuss the application of learning. All this  undertaken on-line, in our Flipped classes, with the ability to use the Wifi to find content and share in support of turning our student’s knowledge into personal understanding.

It isn’t a new idea to teach in this way; it’s just that technology is what now makes this method possible.

This won’t work of course in workshops and studios, kitchens and salons, where authentic learning is still the order of the day but the same principle applies to all general learning where the space itself isn’t the object of learning.

What is the classroom for?

  • To meet like-minded students and turn common knowledge into personal understanding
  • To practice and manipulate ideas, shared on-line before the class.
  • To ask difficult questions and tackle issues where their are no direct answers
  • To practice new skills and express new ideas in a safe place.
  • To benefit from the experience of others in the class along with a wise guide in the shape of the teacher

In short, and perhaps too simplistically, all the affective and psychomotor domain considerations that follow on from the cognitive domain work completed on-line.

There are also social elements at work in a sense of it’s immediacy and learning confronted ‘in the moment’, in a way that asynchronous learning is less affective and profound.

  • Classes provide a stronger sense of pace and progression and direction.
  • Learners use the classroom for mutual support and encouragement.
  • To share praise and rewards and reinforcement of learning.
  • To have a teachers endorse their ideas and suggestions.
  • Classes add to the sense of ‘effort’ needed to make learning worthwhile.
  • To share common resources such as a Library, tutorial help, a canteen full of like-minded others.
  • To enjoy an atmosphere where learning is valued and praised.

Specialist classrooms provide for authentic learning and places to practice skills.

Some of these things are quite ephemeral, but every teacher sees these at work in every successful class and they are not easily dismissed and the stronger there things are the better the class.

So, point no. 1, we still need classrooms to meet in though not as many (unless we offer more learning opportunities) and they don’t need lots of technology to make the learning work, beyond Wifi because everyone will have their own devices and software and content. We don’t need money to buy this as it is how we behave rather than what we spend. 

Secondly

Learning technologies are only one part of e-learning. There are two further types of technology in the mix, and the other two have been neglected, forgotten or, in some cases ignored.

I mean:

  1.  Vocational technologies – The technology used in a particular profession or vocation that are skills in the industry
  2. Structural or general technologies – The technology the college uses in its organisation and in its dealings. Preparing people for the digital world as active citizens, social connected, mature users, (see Digital Literacy). It leads to having a Digital reputation.

new 3 types of technologyWe need to provide students with access to all three  types to support their learning, to prepare them to work in their chosen industry and to be fully digitally literate. Colleges should not just teach technology but they should do technology in all their dealings so that students see no difference int the way a college conducts itself compared to other businesses. It turns the way a colleg works into a learning landscape itself. This is what I mean about the use of structural or general technologies that replace paper, letters, forms and cash.

One added benefit of this is that learning technologies are not that expensive because it sits on four pillars of a VLE, and ILP, a personal Portfolio structure, and the use of social media. All of this driven on personal portable devices with personal applications that teachers and students carry with them. All these things are now in place and we have reached a point with learning technologies where real gain comes from how we change our way and pattern of learning using these basic technologies that are already available. e-learning expenditure has moved from the college to the individual, so colleges can spend that money instead on vocational technologies.

This leaves us free to really put our resources into Vocational technologies. Consider the growth iff technology in every part of industry such as in the use of on-line software, GPS tracking, personal applications that are industry specific and software for planning, estimating, billing, reporting and hanging clients for the self-employed. Every land-based student should explore the use of drones, tracking technologies in animal care, estimating and billing applications in construction, publishing on personal websites and selling products in creative courses, using microscopy and learning to research in networks in science.

So in these classrooms, without the need for PC towers or IWBs,  no whirring of fans, or chattering of printers, UV lighting, comfortably furnished in circular rather than square styles, classrooms will be welcoming for enquiring minds with access to vocational specific software.

Geoff Rebbeck – February 2016

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Specifically, what is Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion is based on two big themes in using Technology

1. Digital Literacy

Such is the ubiquity of technology, it is is now thought that those who are not digitally literate will be less successful in terms of their future economic independence as well as in private and social lives. This provides a challenge to educators to make sure students contacts leaving them better equipped to realise their plans in a modern digital world.

Being better equipped is characterised as being Digitally Literate. Many students who come to college are already ‘tech savvy’ to some degree, often fluent in social and gaming areas of the web, but this does not mean they are digitally literate. They may have limited knowledge of the value of the web for learning and it’s management/presentation. For others, their lack of digital literacy will impede their ability to learn and thrive in the wider world as they would wish, limited in their ability to enquire, join wider communities of like-minded people, present, trade, and avoid the pitfalls of poor web practice.

Digital Literacy then is the ability of a person to control, craft and personalise the utility of technology successfully, safely, profitably and with pleasure.

2. Digital Reputation

The biggest change in the application of technology occurred around 6 years ago when it evolved from being ‘technology for groups’ to ‘technology for the one’. It moved from large central systems, requiring strict compliance in use of software and the concomitant behaviour to one of using personal devices, set with applications that were customised to work separately and together for the benefit of the individual.

It also allowed far greater use of technology to track individual activity and present accomplishments and outcomes. Students are able to use their digital literacy individually and purposefully, to manage their cherry-picking of applications to capture and demonstrate personal learning journeys and in the process manage a Digital Reputation.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion then is the processes and actions taken to ensure every student is Digitally Literate and, as a result, can foster a positive Digital Reputation

It requires colleges to act consciously and overtly to leave no-one out of the journey in equipping students and their teachers and those that support them in preparing for and taking part successfully in the modern world through the intervention of technology.

For colleges, this means:

  1. Colleges need to take their students where they find them and respond positively in terms of devices used, preferences, use of applications and choices about how best to capture and present learning and manage their interaction with college, within the boundaries of equality and the general good.
  2. Colleges need to make sure they use all 3 types of technology: learning technologies, vocational technologies and structural or general technologies so that technology becomes as ubiquitous and immersive as would be found in society generally and the wider world of work.
  3. College move their culture from one of e-safety (closure and blocking) to Risk Management (safety through education and awareness).

Consequences of Digital Inclusion:

  1. We need a mechanism to talk to students about making this arrangement work
  2. We need to teach digital safety or at least personal risk management. (The risk isn’t that students will come to harm through using the Web ‘per se’, but harm will come because we don’t teach them well enough to spot it. )
  3. We need to use and then teach front-edge vocational technology practices
  4. We need to ‘do’ technology, not just teach about or through it
  5. Where possible, paper should be replaced by electronic and content should be cloud-based

Effect on teaching and curriculum design

  1. How courses are constructed and made available to learners should reflect the way students will or might behave when working with others in the wider world. Students should be offered opportunities to become ‘work-ready’, not just in terms of literacy and numeracy but in digital literacy as well.
  2. Flipped and Directed Study should be used to encourage collaborative learning that is brought to college by students
  3. Learning from each other and by connecting to networks of ideas of like-minded people
  4. Where students are looking to present their accomplishments, they should be encouraged to complete portfolios that cover work skills as well as personability skills, such that each student can demonstrate their uniqueness and rounded selves.

Success is:

  1. evaluated by the way it supports the learning behaviour, circumstances and other pressures in each student and staff day in order to be improve efficiency, fun and quality of learner and learning experience, as reported by student and staff in response to directed questions
  2. evaluated by the way students are able to use personal, vocational and college technologies capture, marshal, reflect, represent and publish their accomplishments in a manner coherent to them and meeting their desires. All this is supported by success rates.
  3. Students know the college is being digitally inclusive and they provide direct evidence of an improved learner and learning experience as a result of it.

By Digital Literacy we mean

Personal active management and control of ones own Digital Reputation, where technology is:

  • chosen by the owner
  • operated in a risk-managed way
  • controlled by the owner rather than the owner controlled by the technology

and behaviour that:

  • finds ideas and connects with people in the ‘crowd’
  • takes pleasure in using Technology
  • creates more space to enjoy life beyond technology
  • benefits from a positive Digital Reputation that is managed

A change of approach in Teacher development for Digital Inclusion

Technology is changing rapidly and teachers must work with students in a way that mirrors how technology is used in the wider world. Preparation of teachers in supporting Digital Inclusion is leading to replacing much of the basic training in software knowledge by agility in exploration and adaption, based on confidence to do this, rather than system and process knowledge. Experience and craft support replaces process training as teachers work more with students in their technology.

Geoff Rebbeck – January 2016

Crowdsourcing and Collaborative learning – the real value of Flipped Learning and Directed Study

The value of Flipped learning and Directed Study:

Crowdsourcing and Collaborative learning

Introduction

Discussions in FE about Flipped learning and Directed Study have abounded and the desirability of doing it. However, the discussion is driven by an assumption that the Cognitive domain will be slept off and tackled on-line, reducing the whole thing to an ‘efficiency’ argument, (which has value but is not the whole story at all and not what is central to the quality of teaching). What teachers need to think about is what pedagogical advantage is there in doing this and rather than describe what student will do, get into the far more important discussion about how they will do it an why init will improve the learner and learning experience.

In my view, the great value of learning outside the classroom away from the teacher is having students learn collaboratively; the process of asking all to contribute to a central understanding that is available for review, consideration, and reaction, that in the process enriches what is learnt.

Crowdsourcing is a gathering of people made possible on a massive scale, where distance and place is no object where there is Web connection, where the value of what is achieved is greatly enhanced by the number of people (the crowd) who choose to participate. The greater the crowd size, the greater the chances of interesting. profound, unexpected yet positive things happening.

Collaborative learning is a description of the movement of learning away from a class based, teacher-led approach to learning. It is replaced by learning where 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.  One of the great things of crowdsourcing is that someone, somewhere will have expert knowledge from first-hand experience and, as a rule, that information would not normally be available. We have historically relied on formal routes to knowledge, through books and lectures from recognised experts but hearing or seeing from someone ‘who is there’. or ‘took part in it’ or has ‘current knowledge’ deepens the quality of learning. Better still to hear from two or more independent sources to provide a range of views or opinions or ideas…….

The value of crowdsourcing is to end up with great ideas being shared based on, rather than only abstracting facts or knowledge.

Characteristics:

  • Students share  and trust each other in the entries of learning
  • Students work together asynchronously, and not necessarily with a tutor present
  • Student develop critical thinking skills as they share ‘doubted learning’
  • Learning is based on filtering content repurposing and synthesising it rather than creating it
  • Learning is seen as a continuous process of varying intensity, not confined to critical time periods in class
  • Tutor is the Guide on the side who makes makes purposeful interventions
  • It is a component of Blended learning
  • It encourages students to manage their own learning journey
  • It encourages divergent thinking and pro-active learning
  • It occurs beyond the classroom
  • It is characterised by enquiry based and project based learning.

Through this collaborative learning, each of us can contribute to a central pool of knowledge, based on what we know rather than on what we find out from others and sharing it. What we learn will come from how well we collaborate and collaborating is how everyone develops and contributes in the ‘real world’ rather than doing it differently in the classroom.

We need to encourage student to work this way for three reasons:

  1. This is increasingly how we will learn through the Web
  2. This is an important study skill and by reacting we are exploring and testing and revising out own learning.
  3. In the world of work, this is how employees work together and we want students to practice these skills.

We want our learners to become co-authors of what they know, adding to what is generally known, drawing on special knowledge and to make improvements.

Wikipedia is an example of the value of sharing what we know, as well as reminding us of the need to test all that we receive (see Doubted Learning below)

There are five ways to contribute to the ideas of others:

Collaboration asks students to react and respond to what others share with them. There are five ways we should encourage students to respond, that improves the quality of what is shared for the good of all in the class.

  1. Refine the information – add further examples that improves the focus and quality of the information
  2. correct factual inaccuracy – make sure you are sure, but removal of error is important
  3. add detail to what has been said – find and add further data and evidence to improve the accuracy or certainty of the judgments and conclusions drawn
  4. find alternative sources that illustrates what has been said – add a different approach that improves what is understood through contrast and or different approaches
  5. suggest ways and provide links to how anything posted could be adapted or applied elsewhere

In posting, teachers can ask students to add one or more of 5 tags to demonstrate this skill:

  • Refine
  • Correct
  • Add
  • Alternative
  • Adaption

and one way not to react…

Student should never respond with a personal attack on the Author and attempt to simply discredit an argument or attempt it through discrediting the author. Anyone who does this has lost a friend and de facto lost the argument. Collaborative is not an easy skill. It requires a group to build trust that takes time and goodwill.

Collaboration outside of education

In Europe the Eurovision Song Contest is followed around the world by 200 million people this last May. It has an application for interaction, twitter feeds, and a FaceBook page. These interactions turn the whole event into a giant crowdsourcing activity around a choice of preferred music but is as much about different cultural, ethnic and National identities that are shared through comments and observations. Good crowdsourcing can lead those that take part in them to see more of what the crowd has in common rather than what separates as well as giving new insight and contexts on what is encountered and we might be learning to celebrate the differences more as we increase our exposure to new ideas as we see ourselves more in a global perspective rather than a country or two or village one.  This may be the real value of interacting on-line.

How crowdsourcing is developing 

Interestingly, companies are finding ways to make the ideas an energies of people meeting together on-line for mutual benefit. Rather than have crowdsourcing around an idea or interest, the ‘crowd’ is fragmenting into groups that want a particular thing from the crowd.

Buying and selling is an obvious example (look at http://www.etsy.com  for example). House sharing or holiday swaps is another. Booking at taxi can move from a local town transaction to a global booking facility (see http://www.infotaxi.org/taxi_service_c.php )

Trip Adviser ( http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk and other Review sites http://www.restaurant.com for example have huge influence because we place value in others who have tried out the exact experience we are after. Notice here how important it is to apply the ‘validity’ rules here and we will be visiting this idea later. We don’t know if an employee might be inflating the service or a disgruntled customer unfairly criticising the place.

One of the best crowdsourcing sites is Twitter ( www.twitter.com ) in terms of the sheer opens and organs nature of it. We will be using Twitter in the background to this MOOC, as much to explore its value as to use it as a commentary on what we are doing.

If you want to get an idea of the reach and consider the power of Twitter for crowd sourcing conversations go to http://twittercounter.com/pages/100 to explore who are the most followed Twitter users on the Planet.

Summarising Crowdsourcing:

The collaborative student will need to:

  • share  and trust each other in the entries of learning to a realistic level
  • work together asynchronously, and not necessarily with a tutor present
  • develop critical thinking skills as you share ‘doubted learning’ and think about testing the value of what you are taking in
  • think how information is based on repurposing and synthesising it rather than creating it
  • will think how learning is a continuous process of learning with varying intensity and it is not confined to critical time periods in a classroom

From a teaching perspective it is:

  • a component of Blended learning
  • encourages students to manage their own learning journey
  • encourages divergent thinking and pro-active learning (you decide what it all means and you are in charge of the effort expended)
  • characterised by enquiry based and project based learning.

Geoff Rebbeck – Jan 2016

Unit 3. What do you think?

Tags

,

Howard Gardner talks of 5 minds

and if, for argument’s sake we were to take this as a theoretical construct of a rounded person, we can use tags in our portfolio to thread other stories through the content. But we could add other skills to this. Ability to think creatively, able to respond positively to criticism, ability to adapt based on new learning etc. My point is the list of tags can be a simple set of 5 for the course but the student may choose to add others particular to them because they have a need to demonstrate something or wish to develop evidence of tackling a weakness.

Divergent thinking

Here’s another interesting possibility….One of the great benefits of this new level of personalised learning is the ability to accommodate and therefore encourage divergent thinking skills. This is not the same as creativity as such, but they do provide space to catalogue ideas, to reinterpret questions and find multiple answers and thoughts that flow from it that may have previously slipped through our mental fingers; we just didn’t hold the ideas. Each student can use this personal space to see how they might tackle problems, perhaps leading to error and correction at worst, and innovation at best. It allows our academic subjects to develop by celebrating imagination, individuality and the power of ideas. Portfolios do this by providing the recording space to plough the individual furrow of a new idea in privacy perhaps to start with, but ultimately to share.

Digital Practitioner History

An excellent summation and discourse written by Fred Garnett, around the work completed by Nigel Ecclesfield, Fred Garnett and me on the Digital Practitioner.

Digital Practitioner

Origins & Findings of Digital Practitioner Research

Overview; The ideas that underpin the Digital Practitioner Research have their origins in the Becta EMFFE project; E-Maturity For Further Education. A number of small development projects were then commissioned from 15 FE colleges to test some of the theories that had been developed. Geoff Rebbeck at Thanet College chose to investigate the digital skills development of practitioners. When LSIS commissioned what we now call the Digital Practitioner research in 2011 Geoff argued for a different model of framing digital skills, around critical thinking. The initial sample of 218 practitioners revealed a qualitatively different view of emerging digital practice in FE. This has both been verified by 3 subsequent rounds of surveys, giving us a sample size of almost 1,500, and amplified in value by the analytic techniques developed by Nigel Ecclesfield. What we found was that a) digital practitioners were driving the…

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In the style of Thousand and Villa

I think this has been done before but I used this famous chart to insert my own language to make the point about the importance of all elements being used in thinking to make good learning. I wrote it really to show the importance of Reflection but it is an equal amongst the others because absence of any element leads to flawed thinking. The sad thing is that in the pace of modern life, I miss elements as regularly as the next person.

 

 

in the style of...

Organisations are only now moving away from structures that are based on the property of paper.


Information technology is able to perform the same function as paper and in a much more efficient manner. But we are still over wedded to paper because paper is the historical method of creating storing, sharing, synthesising and presenting information. We have offices to store it. Secretaries and PAs in large part organise paper information for people whose need for paper exceeds their ability to control it. Staff rooms have members who are there because their need to communicate with others in it is greater than the ability of paper to support it. Departments exist on the same basis and it is why we don’t work on project bases but around functions. It is why Microsoft called Office office and Apple call their word processor ‘Pages’. It was done to help us start our journey away from paper from a position of comfort towards unknown technology. But we haven’t really achieved it yet. We see PCs as doing the work of paper but more so. We still design forms on screens (listen to that language). We lay them out with gaps to write in on screen. Desks and filing cupboards are the products of it as are shelves, trays, shredders and paper clips. We still see crowded desks and dishevelled piles of paper as signs of being busy rather than the architecture of the lost. But it doesn’t end there. 
Tutors are waking up to the increasing independence they can find in the use of a laptop or tablet, a mobile broadband connection and a cup of Coffee. A group of tutors from a College Section could make a viable business plan to run courses independently of the college. They may of course rent library space on a numbers license! So we should be talking to managers about the new importance of keeping a viable core of expertise in a college and buying skills and outputs rather than qualifications and inputs. My point is we are still building colleges with too many offices, walls cupboards, shelves, closed away areas and perhaps the biggest sin of all; making spaces whose purpose can’t change easily to accommodate these changes. 


Colleges must look to what gives them a unique selling point and to me that is the Library, and the collective consciousness of abilities and skills available, specialist physical work spaces and general meeting points and all of this at the disposal of learners at a central point with good transport connections and signposting. Add to that the social and collective learning capability offered in the classrooms and refectory/bar and you have your modern college. Most of all it’s the people that make it.

RAPTA and improved ways of evaluating and promoting the e-learning contribution

E-learning is first and foremost a way of working and behaving, rather than a list of deployed software skills, (see my comment on Capacity and capability). Impact in this sense is not strictly measurable. We need a different way to evaluate impact. Newton made it clear that impact requires a force in that is sufficiently large to lead to a consequence out. We need a language then that can describe the discrete effort made in the use of e-learning of a sufficient strength to lead to a consequence that was desired.

To do this in e-learning, we need to know

  1. what is it that e-learning brings specifically to the e-learning table
  2. How can we couch this in impactful language
  3. What impact means and how it is evidence in the case of e-learning
  4. What areas of teaching and learning this needs to sit in and where in that framework e-learning can make its unique contribution to the story of effective learning.

In short we need to Review and Plan Technology-in-Action.
Evaluation requires a narrative explaining what was done and evidence that there was a desired outcome that improved teaching and learning. I wonder why it is acceptable to evaluate e-learning in checklists when colleges report on their impact in narrative.
LSIS created the only current e-learning evaluation tool, capable of meeting contemporary requirements. RAPTA looks at the reach of e-learning into 18 areas of teaching and learning, led by a question, designed to create a narrative that can be added to SARs and Pre-Inspection Reports.
It provides 10 discrete e-learning teaching and learning capabilities and gives guidance on modern behaviours learning technology supports. Finally it shows where in the OfSTED Framework the impacts identified can find a home.
Check List approaches have little value. At best they tell the list owner if they have forgotten anything, and any provision will only be as good as the items omg the list.

The 10 areas where e-learning makes a discrete contribution to learning

The 10 areas where e-learning makes a discrete contribution to learning

Credo – what e-learning Champions do

These are my Rules of Engagement or, for the existentialists like me, e-learning- what’s the point?

This is a discussion looking at what I believe are the things e-learning champions do. I have 7 listed with an explanation or each added.

  1. We try to change behaviour rather than amass kit
  2. We want to see the application of technology in good teaching and learning 
  3. We make sure technology always expands options and methods not narrows or controls them 
  4. We help leaders and managers foster the natural evolution of technology in education
  5. We are central to the debate about the shape of the college of the future
  6. We champion the capture by learners of informal and contextualised learning
  7. We help learners manage more of their learning and teachers to come to terms with it

We try to change behaviour rather than amass kit

In the early days of ILT measurements were made in terms of ratio of PCs to users. The inference was the more you had the better you were doing. But that ‘use’ has diversified to such an extent that learners can have unique learning paths now, based on the way they choose to use technology to accommodate it. So having technology, ours and theirs, is only a starting point of this journey not the end. Excellent facilities that aren’t used of no value at all.

Today this includes making use of the technology the learner brings to their education. We are seeing the hosting of technology moving away from a complete college provision. This doesn’t stop with the learners. A tutor with a lap-top and mobile broadband is, apart from MIS and e-registers totally independent of college systems and the need to log in to college to work. Take a minute to consider the profound effect that will have an the working day of tutors who are still paid on contact hours (i.e. inputs not outputs) 

E-learning enthusiasts ask themselves what is good teaching and learning. Their ideas include the application or accommodation of technology in answering them.

Perhaps the easiest to agree with. Without making the connection to pedagogy we deal only with the abstract and the disconnected properties of various bits of technology. We have to be able to answer the ‘so what’ questions when working with teachers. Our expertise lies not in knowing what technology is available but how it might be deployed based on a sound theoretical construct of goof teaching.

It is based on an understanding of users that can be described as confident in their discovery and use of technology. In this respect we have a connection to the notion of e-maturity or confident explorers. 

We make sure technology always expands options and methods not narrows or controls them.

I think this is our biggest battle because many see the value of technology is the notion that what can work for one can be repeated for a whole cohort or even population. However it makes fatal flaws in failing to see the unique or simply peculiar nature of individuals. It runs contrary to the idea of personalisation or personalised experience in the utility of technology. All the best technology goes where the user leads rather than constrains the argument that centrality, repetition and uniformity is very beguiling. 

Another way of putting this is to think about the divergent pull of technology that centralises and attempts uniformity of behaviour plus technology that is free, decentralised and open to creative development. There is still a relentless march in the application of ‘behaviour certain’ technology. Uniform software merit but it is vital we adopt the right property of the right circumstance. With control some issues such as the elimination of wasteful work, the certainty of content and behaviour. 

Indeed there are many instances where huge central systems have been disastrous as they attempt to control or accommodate the individual niceties of all eventualities. I believe e-learning needs to be sceptical about huge central systems and should encourage technology, that is aimed at the individual, and utterly accommodates what the individual wishes to do.

We help leaders and managers foster the natural evolution of technology in education

Managers don’t have time to be experts at e-learning as well as everything else. But to have a manager who understand the value and supports is an enormous help. That is because the best practice in e-learning occurs naturally, sometimes by chance or accident in everyday teaching and learning often brought into college by the learners themselves who are ahead of the game. Leaders have not been well served by the LSCs and Ofsted Inspectorate who have given far too little attention to the impact of technology in education. Firstly this is brought about not grasping of the comprehensive value of technology in enhancing lifestyles for all, learners and staff. Technology is still too often pigeon holed as ‘new stuff to watch’ rather than driving the world we already live in. I don’t really innovate. I just try to wake the college up to ways of working that are already out there. Our research at Thanet has shown constantly that e-learning is valued for its life-style factors and not because it does a better job of teaching and at being a tutor. Crucially it is that ability to support lifestyle that allows learning not to be lost in the mass of other things going on in busy lives. 

I have noticed change recently in this respect with Inspectors. I think the work being done by BECTA to bring Inspectors up to speed on what is possible to be a very significant factor in helping us. 

We are central to the debate about the shape of the college of the future

This is based on three premises:

  1. Colleges are still designed and organised on the properties of paper 
  2. Tutors can leave college and set up their own learning group quite successfully because they can replace offices and paper with Laptops and Starbucks.
  3. College Managers still see modern colleges as doing the same thing but in modern design buildings.

 Let’s look at these three briefly:

We are still over wedded to paper because paper is the historical method of creating storing, sharing, synthesising and presenting information. We have offices to store it. Secretaries and PAs in large part organise paper information for people whose need for paper exceeds their ability to control it. Staff rooms have members who are there because their need to communicate with others in it is greater than the ability of paper to support it. Departments exist on the same basis and it is why we don’t work on project bases but around functions. It is why Microsoft called Office office so we could all start our journey away from paper from a position of comfort towards technology. But we haven’t really achieved it yet. We see PCs as doing the work of paper but more so. We still design forms on screens (listen to that language). We lay them out with gaps to write in on screen. Desks and filing cupboards are the products of it as are shelves, trays, shredders and paper clips. We still see crowded desks and dishevelled piles of paper as signs of being busy rather than the architecture of the lost. But it doesn’t end there. 

Tutors are waking up to the increasing independence they can find in the use of a laptop, a mobile broadband connection and a cup of Coffee. A group of tutors from a College Section could make a viable business plan to run courses independently of the college. They may of course rent library space on a numbers license! So we should be talking to managers about the new importance of keeping a viable core of expertise in a college and buying skills and outputs rather than qualifications and inputs. My point is we are still building colleges with too many offices, walls cupboards, shelves, closed away areas and perhaps the biggest sin of all; making spaces whose purpose can’t change easily to accommodate these changes. 

Colleges must look to what gives them a unique selling point and to me that is the Library, and the collective consciousness of abilities and skills available, specialist physical work spaces and general meeting points and all of this at the disposal of learners at a central point with good transport connections and signposting. Add to that the social and collective learning capability offered in the classrooms and refectory/bar and you have your modern college. Most of all it’s the people that make it.

We champion the capture by learners of informal and contextualised learning

This is perhaps the big one and the one least discussed about the power of e-learning and I have left it to last for that reason. By tacit learning I mean the ability to capture and reflect on the knowledge and understanding that comes as a reward of study that either was not expected or not at lease to the depth achieved but relevant to the individual learner. 

It describes the unique understanding we gain from placing learning in the context of our lives. It is the learning that goes on beyond the overt requirements of the course. This learning may or may not already occur but now we are talking about the viability of its capture in one of the many forms of the e-portfolio and the development of the digital identity. From it flows extra self-belief and a true sense of control over one’s own learning journey. It helps education develop more ‘rounded people’ and not just a qualification. From it flows the ability to decide ‘what next’. It gives a deeper understanding of who we are and what we want to do which have to be the ultimate goals of education. In short it takes us away from simply training into the wider uplands of life wide education. Technology supports this through personalised learning technologies. 

We help learners manage more of their learning and teachers to come to terms with it

This is help only because it seems learners are doing this more and more and learning technologies makes this realistic. Greater access to a personal plan that is written with teachers, setting own targets, deciding how to submit assessment. Collaborating with classmates instead of with the teacher is so much easier now. Learning modules are studied rather than whole courses, WBL is often defined by the needs of an employer and it is all supported by increased distance learning. Learners will continue to take charge of their own journey, negotiating and using what they want from learning. Here are the themes that underlie it:

  • The accommodation of technology that is hosted by the learner and not the college. Access to information that requires guidance, not the authority of the central font of knowledge.
  • The vast library we call the Internet and our ability to be in it rather than just drawing from it. 
  • Presenting what we know in new and personalised ways. 
  • Developing our independence in learning, developing ourselves. Leaving behind in the Mass education model.

Geoff Rebbeck – April 2013