Future Learning Environments: Key Trends And Highlights From George Siemens' Media Literacy
How is the educational landscape going to change in the near future? Which are the key trends and new directions which are going to influence the most we study, research and learn?
Photo credit: pnrphoto
New, decentralized forms of learning such as personal learning environments, non-traditional and more flexible approaches like just-in-time and informal learning, are bound to shape differently not just the way you learn but more than anything the way you think and conceptualize learning as an activity.
How much the ability to share, to connect to other people and networks and to leverage collaboration technologies will directly affect your ability to learn?
In this digest on the future of learning, George Siemens brings together some of the most interesting pointers, news stories and data trends on this topic, allowing you to get a glimpse of the educational panorama awaiting us.
Personal Learning Environments
by George Siemens
Personal Learning Environments
Learning happens constantly. The formal education component receives more respect than informal learning.
As content and conversations fragment, I doubt existing systems of education will retain their shape. The real opportunity lies in how institutions think about "tying together" the multiple learnings across our daily lives.
Canadian Council on Learning introduces the multiple learning domains as "limitless dimensions of learning".
Two approaches are possible to serve as the glue to pull learning together in a manner that can be accredited or evaluated by traditional educational models:
Eportfolios have great potential, but little uptake.
Personal learning environments have similar potential, but the concept is a bit difficult for educators to grasp.
This PLE thing will yet take root :).
Photo credit: Yuri Arcurs
Words are a pain. Especially when they obscure underlying concepts of value. Take Personal Learning Environments (PLE) or Networks as an example. When PLEs were first advocated by a group of edubloggers, the concept was largely in reaction to learning management systems (LMS).
A concept, after all, is defined by the context in which it originates and how it is related to other terms. PLEs in this case, were a push against the structure and lack of learner control evident with an LMS.
That has changed.
Many people now have personal experience with blogs, podcasts, Facebook, wikis, etec. The concept of a PLE is less abstract; and as a result, more critical discourse occurs. Chris Lott expresses his frustration with the tools, concepts, and misunderstanding of PLEs (can we apply the notion of nominalism to PLEs?)
Tired of PLE Flak: "The majority of educators have no idea what resources are available to them and never leave their email client or their default MSN page. Thus, I have found it useful to sit people down and model for them the tools and techniques for networking. This often includes holding them by the hand while they sign up to follow and participate in particular groups and networks.
Many people have absolutely no idea that their network can extend beyond their email box and their passive browsing."
I'm not interested in the PLE: "All a PLE is, to my way of understanding, is a particular, personal selection of tools, contacts, and methods. Many of us are still at a stage in our evolution that we can learn much from knowing what tools others use, how they use them, and who they make contact with."
PLEs and NRC
I couldn't find a detailed description of the project, but from the hiring requirements (five positions) and length (three years), it's reasonable to assume significant financial resources have been allocated.
I'm familiar with smaller research projects around PLEs and the odd journal issue devoted to exploring the concept. The project Stephen is managing - due to size and length - is a milestone.
The informal theorizing of educational technologists requires a research base if PLEs are to move outside of our small network. I hope that NRC will be transparent in this project. A good opportunity exists to form a distributed research network, in addition to the core team, to brainstorm, reflect, evaluate, discuss, etc.
Distributed Learning Environments
"In the conversation over distributed learning environments, it is important to begin by recognizing that the question is not IF our learning environments can be or should be distributed but rather HOW...
Students' learning experiences are shaped by these distributed networks, and our pedagogies circulate through these networks. This may seem self-evident, but our discourse on emerging technologies in teaching regularly makes the error of situating the choice between a new "distributed" environment and an existing cohesive one (and in the case of face-to-face teaching, even an imagined "immediate" environment)."
The author makes a point I've been whining about for awhile: traditional classrooms "pre-make" too many of the connections for learners. Learners, in my own humble opinion, do not need their connections fully pre-formed. A bit of stress, a bit of ambiguity, and a bit of confusion are healthy contributors to learning. As long as we have a feedback loop where learners can contribute and faculty can respond and adapt, we have the basics in place.
Connections are the starting point of all learning. It's so obvious... and therefore so often overlooked. We really need to think about types of connections learners have with each other and content... and ways that we can extend the learning experience by critically analyzing and forming those initial connections.
The Decade (Century?) of Networks
The hype of network approaches to information creation, sharing, communication, and web search continues to grow (and so it should).
Perhaps the most substantive shift in our generation and upcoming decade (century?) is the move toward networked thinking. Once we start talking networks, a whole new mode of thinking emerges; one where cause-effect are slightly uncoupled and emergence and complexity theory play a greater role.
Networks - which are required in today's information abundant and complex world - have the potential to reorganize much of society and education in particular.
A few resources I've recently encountered on networks:
"The public web is made up of linked pages that represent both documents and people. Google Search helps make this information more accessible and useful. If you take away the documents, you're left with the connections between people.
Information about the public connections between people is really useful -- as a user, you might want to see who else you're connected to, and as a developer of social applications, you can provide better features for your users if you know who their public friends are.
There hasn't been a good way to access this information. The Social Graph API now makes information about the public connections between people on the Web..." (Source: Google's social graph API)
Networks of Everything
Apparently, by 2017, personal networks will consist of over 1000 devices. I'm not sure how they came up with that number, but it seems realistic.
Most of us already deal with hundreds of devices on a daily basis. They're not all networked yet... but they will be. The key to effective functioning with these multiple devices will be in how they are connected and in how we can use that connectedness in making decisions. Obviously, we need something more than just tying these devices together.
We need new approach to managing the overwhelming information they will produce. That's partly as software problem and partly a conceptual shift. As I've stated before, as information becomes more complex and abundant, we will begin to rely to a greater degree on technology to perform a grunt cognition role by deciphering and presenting patterns for us to consider.
Education Needs to Be Pulled Into The 21st Century
Short rant. Articles like - Education needs to be pulled into the 21st century - cause many educators to smile and nod in agreement.
The report broadly splashes all the latest and coolest terms that cause sensible educators to viciously agree:
"In an increasingly complex and competitive world, teachers must understand technology and connect coursework to the global economy, curricula should eliminate less relevant material and incorporate modern skills such as global awareness, technology and media literacy, and standardized tests must include these new subjects".
Ok. That's very nice. We are then treated with the typical mis-focused comment: "I hope to encourage policymakers to better equip our graduates for today's and tomorrow's jobs".
Education isn't only about creating employees. It's about assisting individuals to develop into the types of people that can tackle and handle the continual gyrations of a complex world. I don't buy into the "education must prepare people for jobs that don't yet exist" view. Education - as it always has - must prepare people for an unknown future. This isn't new.
When I was going to school, the particular job that I have today did not exist. How should we prepare people for, let's say, the current financial crisis? By training people to be stockbrokers? No. You can't prepare people for black swans. People must be capable of handling uncertainty, but also adapting as environments shift and change.
At its most basic, education must move from epistemology to ontology. Getting back to the report: give us something useful. Statements as broad as those provided in the article (i.e. "develop new programs, standards, partnerships and assessment measures") are hardly a basis for action. Perhaps it's time that we stop focusing on what our curriculum is and start focusing on how we actually do curriculum in the first place.
The Future of Universities
How are universities likely to be impacted by current technological trends? Two publications seek to address this question:
The emergence of the networked information economy is unleashing two powerful forces.
- On one hand, easy access to high-speed networks is empowering individuals. People can now discover and consume information resources and services globally from their homes. Further, new social computing approaches are inviting people to share in the creation and edification of information on the Internet.
Empowerment of the individual - or consumerization - is reducing the individual's reliance on traditional brick-and-mortar institutions in favor of new and emerging virtual ones.
- Second, ubiquitous access to high-speed networks along with network standards, open standards and content, and techniques for virtualizing hardware, software, and services is making it possible to leverage scale economies in unprecedented ways.
Technological innovation, long a hallmark of academic research, may now be changing the very way that universities teach and students learn. For academic institutions, charged with equipping graduates to compete in today's knowledge economy, the possibilities are great.
Distance education, sophisticated learning-management systems and the opportunity to collaborate with research partners from around the world are just some of the transformational benefits that universities are embracing.
Both publications are technology-centric. I can understand that emphasis, after all, technology is changing the rest of the world, surely it will soon make a more significant impact in education.
A view of educational change pressures needs to be more broad. Economic, societal, population trends, rise of education levels in emerging countries, may all apply as much influence in altering education as technology.
Peer 2 Peer University
This - Peer 2 Peer University - is one of those concepts that I would love to strongly endorse as a step in a different direction from traditional universities. It reflects much of what I write about on this site (parts of the proposed document read very much like my post on content, conversation, and accreditation).
Yet, as I reviewed the site, I find myself in disagreement with certain elements.
I like the approach of openness (it's hard to argue otherwise, especially in education where we can open doors to more hopeful futures simply through providing access to learning opportunities).
I like the view of shorter courses.
I like the grassroots "we had a good idea and did something about it" approach. I also like the participatory design of learning.
What do I disagree with? I disagree with the notion of "sense makers".
We make sense personally. No one makes sense for us.
I'm also somewhat unsure of the formality of this approach. It bears within it too much of the existing university model. Why centralize things? The only thing we really need to centralize is the accreditation (i.e. open accreditation).
Who really cares where or how people "got their learning"? Use existing networks of learning opportunities.
This is P2P University administered through centralized models (which, then means, it's not really P2P). I love the concept. I like the vision. I don't like the execution. It's foreplay when we need consummation.
Time to End "Courseocentricism"
Aside from winning the most awkward new term - courseocentricism (why not just course-centricism?) - this article makes a compelling case for the limitations of current views of courses. The author appeals for ending course silos as a way to improve consistency across curriculum and thereby produce a more integrated or connected body of knowledge. From the article:
"At a time when amazing new forms of connectivity are made possible by new digital technologies and when much of the best recent work in the humanities has made us more aware of the social and collective nature of intellectual work, we still think of teaching in ways that are narrowly private and individualistic, as something we do in isolated classrooms with little or no knowledge of what our colleagues are doing in the next classroom or the next building and little chance for each other's courses to become reference points in our own."
I like the idea of thinning our classroom walls and allowing connections to be formed between concepts from other subject areas. But that responsibility shouldn't rest on the educator.
"Getting on the same page" (author's words) seems a bit at odds with opening up class rooms. We need to all get on our own page, form our own connections, our own understanding of different fields. It seems that the desire still runs high for educators to apply increased organization when problems become intractable.
What is really needed is a complete letting go of our organization schemes and open concepts up to the self / participatory / chaotic sensemaking processes that flourish in online environments.
Boundary-less Living, Working and Learning
It's difficult to stay current and informed in a climate where everything is changing. Just trying to stay current in the educational technology field is a challenge, never mind trying to follow global political events, media trends, and related other changes.
I find I need a balance between taking in information and reflecting on what the information means. And, of course, experimenting with and implementing key concepts in actual learning environments.
The frustrating irony of rapid information growth is that the more information we encounter, the more time we need for reflection... but the less time we actually have. Boundary-less living, working and learning:
"Meeting the intellectual and creative challenges of the 21st century demands using every ounce of creativity available.
That means building and sustaining a creative environment for yourself, your employees and your family. As a knowledge worker, you need time to think. To innovate. To experience. To create."
About the author
To learn more about George Siemens and to access extensive information and resources on elearning check out www.elearnspace.org. Explore also George Siemens connectivism site for resources on the changing nature of learning and check out his new book "Knowing Knowledge".George Siemens -
Reference: eLearnSpace [ Read more ]
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