A few of us have been working on a proposal for the new framework 7 funding from the European Commission. Our idea was around the central question of how do learners work in a world where content is free, can be reused and remixed. What type of learning environment is needed and how does this affect the learning process? After some discussions with people at the commission it became apparent that they weren’t keen on proposals that focused on, or even mentioned, content. The feeling is that this was addressed in frameworks 5 and 6, which looked at learning objects. For us this meant we couldn’t make a virtue of the openlearn work, which was central for us.
But more significantly I think the division between content and environment is not a valid one to make any more (if ever it was). In an RSS/AJAX world I find the distinction between tools and content is increasingly blurred. As educators are fond of pointing out ‘content isn’t everything’, and I am fond of responding ‘it may not be everything, but that doesn’t mean it’s nothing’. The interesting research question for us is the interplay between the two in a web 2.0 world. How do learners create, share, remix, subscribe, blend content in an environment that they create, share, remix, and blend? This is the key difference with e-learning 2.0 – what you do with content you do with the environment too. Initially you had the content and the environment fixed and packaged. Then there has been some loosening up in terms of content with more exploratory pedagogies. Now the central control over the environment is liberated also, so the key thing to explore is the interaction between the two.
Maybe the next round of funding will be more amenable to exploring this, but given the enormous effort it takes to put together a European bid, I won’t bother this time around when it’s clear that they are after something different.