Learning design and the miscellaneous

I was at the LAMS 07 conference on Thursday, and then at a follow up session on pedagogical planners at the London Knowledge Lab on Friday. I was showing how we have been using Compendium to aid the design process, and there was presentations from Oxford’s Phoebe and the London Planner as well as LAMS.

Like a lot of people I’ve read Everything Is Miscellaneous recently, and it is one of those books where you see its implications everywhere. I have had this uneasy feeling that my learning design work may not sit comfortably with the web 2.0 work. There is something perhaps a bit rigid in a lot of the learning design work, and maybe even a bit hierarchical. I feel this with the pedagogic planners where the implication seems to be that we should that there is a best way to teach, or that we should be educating practitioners in ‘proper’ pedagogy.

I was pondering this and I eventually came to a resolution that at least makes me feel less schizophrenic. It goes something like this:

i) Yes, content is miscellaneous and that adds a hitherto unprecedented degree of randomness and variety to learning, so learning becomes, to a degree, miscellaneous. Learning is just a lot less controlled than it used to be (and this is going to be the big change in education over the next ten years).

ii) But learning isn’t just content as we all know, it is also about activity, dialogue, engagement, social construction, motivation, personality, etc. These other dimensions are no less true, and in fact may be more significant, in a miscellaneous world (see previous post for a Facebook for learning type scenario which is very socially oriented).

iii) What you need then is a means of bringing together these two strands. Step forward learning design/pedagogic planning tools! The emphasis here for me is that such tools need to be very easy to use, sort of like Yahoo Pipes for learning. LAMS is a good example. In such a tool you can sequence activities, content and tools. These can be done by educators, but not necessarily and that is the key for me. They should be viewed as tools for learners, not teachers.

Let’s imagine I want to share some resources with some colleagues and we need to all develop our understanding of a topic (let’s say ‘Understanding the EU research bidding world’), then I might find some resources, suggest some areas of research we each might undertake, have a chat session, develop a joint proposal, have a virtual meeting with someone from the EU and then vote on whether we go ahead or not. That is both a learning and activity sequence. Now you might trust educators more than others to produce ‘good’ sequences, but like everything else in a miscellaneous world they don’t have any status except that which they earn.

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