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Defining the future of e-Learning at the Stellar Meeting

Last week I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Stellar Meeting of Young Minds in Leuven, Belgium. The point of this meeting was to get twelve leading young thinkers in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) together to consider the future of TEL and what should be funded through future European Commission research funding calls. I was very lucky to be one of those twelve selected.

The instrument used to consider the future of TEL was “scenario building”. The JRC define a scenario for building possible futures as:

a “story” illustrating visions of possible future or aspects of possible future. [..] Scenarios are not predictions about the future but rather similar to simulations of some possible futures.

You can find more details on scenarios on the JRC website or on the Foresight Horizon Planning Toolkit.

During the future scenario building exercise we were split into three groups of four. The group I was in concentrated on the uncertainty of the future and how it is widely held that we are educating young people for jobs that do not even exist yet. What does this mean for education? Our group looked at how TEL could facilitate an educational system that promotes life long learning, giving learners the knowledge to allow them to adapt and remould themselves for future jobs. In essence looking at how to train people to train themselves.

As a group we were transfixed on the backwardness of standardised education. We make kids conform to a norm so that we can easily measure them against some standardised metric. This, our group believed, suppresses individuality and uniqueness (I think we were all influenced by Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk – Schools kill creativity). Granted there is knowledge that, as a society, we value in people and this still needs to be taught to young people, but consider a more flexible educational system where this knowledge is taught using a medium that interests, stimulates and motivates.

We looked at how a more personalised curriculum could be achieved, whereby a person learns about the things that excites them, in a way that motivates them to want to learn. In this environment a student is supported by technology, that provides the right learning resources and experiences they need in a timely fashion. Technology also plays a role in bringing students with common interests together regardless of physical location. Learner groups may also connect with experts when required. The role of the teacher in the physical classroom becomes more of a coach and a facilitator.

Our group acknowledged that the biggest challenge to this system is assessment. With personalised curriculum we can no longer use standardised testing. We need to be a bit more imaginative about how we test learners. We need to assess each student on their own merits. Assessing how he or she has developed over a given time-frame, the meta-learning skills acquired (skills for learning) and the knowledge and skills he or she has mastered in the their chosen domain.

This was a very interesting and thought provoking meeting, one that I really enjoyed. After the meeting we were asked to put forward three trends most relevant to the future of TEL, after some consideration I came up with the following:

  1. Training will be personalised to personal interest – you can set what you are interested and work towards your own goals
  2. There will be a need to train people to train themselves – meta-learning skills
  3. People will need to be skilled in a variety of core skills that will allow them to adapt to the needs of a changing world

We were also asked if we could get the commission to fund one research are what would it be, to which I replied:

Facilitating personalised learning using the abundant information available to people. Also look at how assessment could work if everyone had their own curriculum. I think we will move away from the standardised test to one that celebrates individuality.

I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

December 8, 2011 In: Blog Written by: Mark Melia

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