Agile learning: How to make the best of Internet potential
In this article, David Jennings comes back to the proposition of developing agile learning, using available resources such as broadband and online content that is available for free.
By David Jennings
Towards the end of last year I wrote a series of NMK articles about agile learning — the exploitation of broadband and open educational resources to create "pop-up" learning experiences, outside traditional classrooms and organised flexibly to adapt to changing learner needs.
The first explains what's encouraging this shift, from budgetary pressures to the demise of the rigid "walled garden" approach to virtual learning environments and growing awareness of the viability of self-organised learning, as demonstrated by the "Hole in the Wall" experiments in India and elsewhere. In the second article I explore the kinds of free and open resources that are now available to enable individuals to get started with their learning, from basic maths to specialist university-level subjects. The final piece in the series describes the tools and methods that take us beyond self-study to provide a rich, social learning experience.
That agile learning is possible doesn't mean that it's inevitable. Going up against the inertia of the status quo is challenging at the best of times. Education, especially in the state-funded sector, is is rife with vested interests, well-practiced in lobbying to protect their ground. Hence, when I spoke to the annual conference of the Association for School and College Leaders at the end of March, I had a hunch that what I was going to say might divide the audience.
Building on a session on Learning Futures at the previous year's conference, my focus was on learning in crisis environments, when the usual educational infrastructure, support and teaching just isn't available. My argument was that, in these contexts, learning has to get more agile, and quickly. I then made the case that creative solutions invented in these circumstances might have something to teach us even in situations where there is no crisis. (My session at the conference came directly after Michael Gove's keynote, so that's why I refer to him on the audio at the beginning.)
In one of the slides I quote Donald Clark's claim that there has been more pedagogic innovation in the last 10 years than in the previous 1,000 years. After my presentation, I was challenged about whether we are really seeing pedagogic innovation or just more pedagogic variety, with many recent developments still unproven. At the time, Donald had only made his arguement in a blog post, but has since gone on to develop it as a talk, recently given to TEDxGlasgow. Have a look and decide for yourself.
About the author
David Jennings is an independent consultant who helps people learn and discover online. He is accredited as an occupational psychologist and learning technologist, and is author of Net, Blogs and Rock’n’Roll: How Digital Discovery Works and What it Means for Consumers, Creators and Culture (2007).
About the company
David is director of DJ Alchemi Ltd, a consultancy whose client list includes learndirect, the National College for School Leadership, BSI, CIPD, Nesta, PA Consulting, unionlearn and several startup enterprises.