A learner-centered education is being driven by the development of social learning theory and the advancement of participatory web technologies. The information and communications technologies have influenced in three dimensions:
· our ability to create and share information and content
· our ability to connect and dialogue with others
· our ability to experience a simulated reality
that leads to:
· a diminishment of barriers to the creation of content and information and challenges the validation of information accuracy and quality
· the ability for conversations to occur, no longer confined by space and time
· experience events previously unattainable for individuals to due to cost and access.
This is bringing challenges to traditional education:
Knowledge fluidity: Knowledge has become increasingly fluid.
Competition: Border-less education, private for-profit and corporate universities
The ability to continue to learn and develop new knowledge replaces the importance of existing knowledge. The development of certain type of person with certain mindsets exceeds the importance of being in possession of a particular type of knowledge: becoming in contrast with knowing.
This trends and innovations impact on the spaces and structures of learning which claims to rethink classrooms, courses and programs. At the same time, new affordances arise. Societies and organizations generally value learning that occurs in traditional classroom models above other forms of learning. Yet learning occurs in many places, formats and process. Learning occurs also through games and simulation, mentoring and apprenticing, self-learning, communities of practice, personal learning networks, informal learning situations like conferences, reading, volunteering and hobbies, in summary: a broad-spectrum of learning situations.
Three concepts will form the foundations for reconsidering the spaces and structures of education:
1. Long-term trends influencing information creation and structures of education;
2. The nature of systemic change;
3. The multi-faceted, dimension-less nature of learning.
Our ability to learn, grow and adapt to chance pressures is directly linked to the nature of our learning environments. But traditional education is defined by bounded classrooms and hierarchical organization and mindsets of information and content. So, a need for a different metaphor arises to guide learning design. Metaphors of learning ecology and learning network are suggested as encapsulating the needed shifts.
Ecology: Can be viewed as an environment that fosters and supports the formation of communities and networks, the space of learning. Learning is seen as bounded, structured, managed by a single expert (the teacher) and occurring within the confines of a small group of peers. Information filtered in advance, by the educator and presented in a fairly coherent form defines the classroom. In contrast, the internet can be seen as an ecology of learning with different affordances, a hub of creative chaos.
Networks: Can be viewed as the structures of learning. Networks arise in a space that both supports and confines their creation. This centrality of networks as an organizing scheme is also reflected in education, teaching and learning under the concept of connectivism. The distributed nature of knowledge and the growing complexification of all aspects of society require increased utilization of technology to assist our ability to stay current, manage information abundance and solve highly complex problems.
Thus, a call for a new pedagogy arises. In the 70’s Paulo Freire called for reform based on the changing power structures in society and Ivan Illich founded his motivation for systemic reform in the growing costs of education and the inability of the existing system to scale and meet new challenges. The reform calls of today are limited by lack of effort assigned to date on conceptualizing innovative and creative uses fo existing participatory technologies. A participatory pedagogy is one that does not fully define all curricular needs in advance of interacting with learners. Learners are able to contribute to existing curricula.
Education is concerned with the act of becoming. A highly connected and well educated populace appears to hold the greatest prospect for preparing individuals and societies to participate in the information and knowledge age.