Learning #LOTE Session

Here's a report from your session.
I must say thanks to Joe and Mariana for the hard work in synthesizing all of this.
Hope it will be useful!

We split into groups and discussed LEARNING versus EDUCATION. What is the difference between each and what is the purpose of each? 

Key Points:

  • Learning takes place through enthusiasm and is a lifelong process
  • It is (or can be) fulfilling in itself
  • Education is typically more formalised
  • Grading/certification
  • Has a startpoint (enrolment) and an endpoint (graduation)
  • Learning is a bottom-up process; Education is top-down.

For one segment of the LOTE Learning breakout session, we split into three groups of variable size. Each group established a CHALLENGE to learning and/or education, identified the STAKEHOLDERS involved and proposed a SOLUTION to their challenge.

Notes on these follow:

Challenge: Empower teachers to develop their practice

  • Teachers
  • Students
  • Headmaster / Institution
  • Policy makers
  • Enterprises
  • Community
Working towards a solution:
The knowledge to improve learning processes already exists at the ground level, within the teachers. Good solutions for improving learning processes should be found by asking teachers what they need, what they want to change and how they want to change it.
The current system (in the UK) is based on a national curriculum which, while providing a framework that ensures all children are educated to at least a certain level, also restricts the teachers and depowers them. It may be possible to achieve better results by putting more trust into the teachers and enabling them to implement their own ideas and projects - this can be extra-curricular, if the national curriculum need not be subverted.
  • Set aside a fixed budget of perhaps (to choose an arbitrary figure) €1,000,000.
  • Split this budget into, say, 1,000 equal portions.
  • Allow for teachers and educators to apply for a portion that can be used to enable them to implement a learning project of their own design.
  • First come, first serve
  • A minimal application process should be used in order not to filter out good ideas too early
  • With above figures this would enable 1,000 individual projects. If 900 of these projects turn out to be bad ideas, then that is not a bad outcome. It means that 100 of those projects were not bad, and some portion may, in fact, be excellent!
Evaluation (does it benefit stakeholders):
  • Students benefit from the projects that are good if it improves learning outcomes or student engagement.
  • The headmaster or the institution hosting the project benefits from successful projects; improves standing of school.
  • Policy makers benefit from successful projects because learning outcomes are improved
  • Very successful projects can be rolled out into larger projects
  • The reflected glory is good for them personally!
  • Teachers benefit from the scheme because their projects have been enabled and their ideas are being taken into account and are immediately actionable.
  • Basic motivational theory indicates that this is a good thing.

Challenge: A new mechanism for evaluating education without damaging access to job market

  • Students
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Neighbours
Working towards a solution:
It may be important to overcome job profiling and aiming to anticipate the future needs of industry and employers. By focusing instead on the skills needed to facilitate lifelong learning, you can enable the possibility of work in different jobs and/or places.
No marks or grades, no scoring or competition. A different mechanism is required for a less reductive form of feedback and evaluation that shows individual competencies better.
Evaluation (does it benefit stakeholders):

Challenge:    Access to resources and expertise

  • Resources includes e-resources, spaces in which to work, peers/communities and other teaching and learning materials.
  • Access to sources of expertise is required for advice, assistance, knowledge-sharing, real-world experience. 
  • There is no reason why relationship with experts could not or should not be peer<->peer.
  • Barriers to access include cost, travel requirements, lack of awareness wrt what's available, time/scheduling.
  • Student-peers
  • Mentors/Mentor-peers
  • Social Partners: Employers/Industry, Employees/Colleagues, Government, Community
Working towards a solution:
  • Remote learning platforms (e.g. Khan Academy, Open University) provide excellent access to resources and good access to expertise.
  • Resource access is typically enabled by technology (video and e-resources) 
  • Better use can be made of resources as recording (for example) can be paused, repeated, and even annotated/commented by users
  • Typically at a lower cost than centralised platforms
  • Minimal barriers for travel/distance and for time/scheduling
  • Provides no access to spaces as a resource
  • Centralised education (e.g. traditional colleges/universities) provide variable access to expertise and adequate access to resources.
  • Typically at a massive cost
  • Access to expertise damaged by:
  • Full deployment of teacher->student model with often limited access to teacher
  • Expertise levelled within peers by grouping into year blocks (reduced peer<->peer learning).
  • Large barriers introduced by travel/distance and by time/scheduling.
All   institutions should create and share resources in a free (as in beer) and open way, enabled (but not exclusively) by digital technologies. 
  • It   is clear that e-resources and written or otherwise recorded resources   offer benefits that, for example, lecturing does not (rewatching,   pausing, etc). 
  • In such environments, users can even improve resources through peer-rated commenting and public questioning and answering.
  • It   is also clear that e-platforms can enable better peer<->peer   learning by encouraging groups to mix; open collaborative spaces (e.g.   hackspaces) are even better for this.
Institutions  should recognise where they are failing to create and share resources   that could easily be shared - e.g. recording and uploading of lectures   as a matter of course, sharing printed or presented workshop materials,   sharing spaces and tools with ALL stakeholders.
Evaluation (does it benefit stakeholders):
  • Mentors/mentor-peers benefit from reviewing each other's practices
  • Learners/students benefit from:
  • Remote access to a wider range of resources
  • More diverse access to expertise
  • Fostering of peer<->peer learning environments. 
  • Social partners benefit from closer involvement as this allows them to communicate their real needs directly to learners
Other notes that, for some reason, I don't have a category for, aka
  • There are cultural difference throughout Europe that affect the institutions of education and also the learning culture. In any 'solution' these must be accounted for! A solution that can be effectively applied without accounting for cultural differences may not exist, and may actually be damaging (monoculture of learning?).
  • A common problem in changing education systems is validation/certification of skills for the job market. It is important that evaluation accounts for personal differences and individual competencies but an evaluation system must also be understandable by employers.
  • Unless we take a different approach towards employment ;)
  • Autonomy is important on every level: At student level, at teacher level and at an institutional level.
  • Policies are likely to RESTRICT rather than enable; without care, they can end up reducing autonomy in a dangerous way.
  • Trust is important between all stakeholders.
  • Students must trust mentors and teachers to teach them the right things and to teach them well.
  • Teachers must trust students to be self motivated learners
  • Teachers must trust industry/employers to provide realistic and correct guidance as to what they need! (This is probably not happening right now)

Empowerment, agility, trust

Awesome report! It must have been an amazing session.

Empower the teachers… Uh. OK. This is a lovely idea, it would probably be a very good thing to do. However, this empowerment of individuals or government employees, I must warn you, it has been hoped for, in the open government area. But no considerable leap was reached these past years. Unless we change the leadership model, and redistribute power from a vertical to an horizontal level, there can be no empowerment of individuals. As you mentioned, a national prerequisite, or program, tends to limit the empowerment levels.

We see this in business too. Managers are used to plan first, and then apply the action plan, without paying much attention to external factors, or input from employees or clients. Unexpected contributions can hardly fit in this managing’s approach.

There has been a lot of discussions and debates about agility in open governments. Agility in education would not be so different from agility in open government, right?

You know, I have been blogging about individual, community and institutional empowerment for a couple of years, and nobody pays attention. What is empowerment? What contributes to empowerment?

How can a government integrate new information (or education) flows, without compromising on the process and accuracy of the delivery of services?

Agility leads to be much clearer about the limits of knowledge. You can not claim the expertise and authority, without being able to support these claims, because people expect to receive it.
Do you think that trust could be a possible solution? More trust in teachers would empower them? In open goverment, transparency was seen as a means to quickly establish that trust - not to mention that working together is done more efficiently, while people can see clearly what others are doing.

Digging deeper

Andrea, Mariana, Joe, I read this with a great deal of interest, as there are many ideas worth exploring further. While I think changing evaluation and reforming systems altogether is too large a plan (letting go of grades will have a looong way to go…), I believe the key is in the teachers: they’re the ones mediating between policy and the end receivers of learning/education. In breaking down what empowering would mean, I’d also add  what in my country at least is the key: INCENTIVIZING them to consider and be reflective about their practice.

An example of empowering attempts at policy level - I don’t know to what extent it worked - were European financing schemes for professional development of teachers - e.g. Comenius LLP-Lifelong learning programme. They would be trained to move beyond traditional teaching in their field and become proficient with soft skills, use creativity, increased interactivity etc. I’m guessing some knowledge does exist, like you mention, but not a clear way to new forms of practice and their evaluation. hence the missing empowerment, which is as well rooted in contextual constraints (prioritization of productivity vs. reflective learning,  time demands, cultural norms etc).

*About group C proposal: All institutions should create and share resources in a free (as in beer) and open way, enabled (but not exclusively) by digital technologies. ->  Here’s a declaration on Open Educational Resources we could use, it was launched last week in Paris and it calls for widespread adoption and distribution of open educational resources.

OER= teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

What about learning outside education systems, did your discussions at Lote reveal something Edgeryders would like to pursue at policy idea?

Added my comments as a new post, became to long… http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/where-edgeryders-dare/mission_case/learning-my-scattered-thoughts-and-response-learning-lote-session

More actionable? focus on HOW

Hey guys, a quick note: I was re-reading today Karl’s great post on Open University http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/classroom-wire/mission_case/digital-learning-open-learning

We tend to talk about online learning in comparison with traditional classroom education… the strong advantages it has are contrasting with what schools lack to offer, and viceversa to a certain extent.

How about ammending this solution:


All institutions should create and share resources in a free (as in beer) and open way, enabled (but not exclusively) by digital technologies.

so that it becomes clear where exactly collaboration can happen. Is there some way that online learning platforms can help institutions in moving towards e-resources and peer to peer learning in a way that doesn’t make them obsolete, especially teachers? How can school translate this idea of community of shared resources into their environment?

For example, can it be via local networks of schools and divisions in charge with putting content online and using it as complementary to handbooks? also maybe underline that this is for a more extensive home learning as opposed to replacement in classroom learning  (if that’s what you had in mind…)

Can we agree on specifics?