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Visual expressions of Open Learning

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PART ONE

 Sequence showing my conceptions of the shift in learning.

From traditional top down, to horizontal and collaborative and what’s goes in in the human brain – the interaction between different parts of the brain.

However, whilst this might be an expression of traditional classroom based teaching, through to collaborative Web 1.0 and the semantic Web 2.o as I have illustrated before, the reality is that all of these approaches are going on simultaneously: we still have, and benefit from top down learning – being told or shown stuff, there is collaborative learning, more so in certain subjects.

The second line suggests how things are changing: traditional learning being tipped on its head and on its side or at various angles as an institution, or policy changes, due to the influence of the teacher or because of the subject.

Horizontal learning from siblings, friends, family and extended family – always there in the past goes into hyper-mode as we can connect with ease with many of these people making every day like a family event if you so choose, following and joining in with the antics of others or sharing thoughts on school and life. I should add unconscious learning too – asleep, that sorting process we go through when we dream.

I doubt, from what I am coming to understand about neuroscience, that activity in the brains is greatly different or increased courtesy of the Internet or that stimulation has increased – this is for various reasons: our brain gets bored with the familiar, we turn off, we filter, we select. There is a limit to how much can be process. We give up other things to engage online – though I wouldn’t think giving up ogling at the TV all evening is any loss – the average viewing in the UK is 4 hours a day? Really!!

Open Learning is the last image in the bottom right hand corner – a lot going on, a good deal of connectivity.

But not less perhaps than living in a close, frenetic, village community – more akin to how we lived thousands of years ago with the world at our doorstep rather than our being squirreled away as we now are.

Traditional learning

Informal learning (circles look good, or a hub)

Neuroscience for Dummies (a great intro to the subject, I recommend it!)

Put it all together – as your brain does in sleep, and as occurs anyway as you daydream in class or have a parent help you with homework … 

Open Learn is kindle in the fire … it stokes it up, motivating, demotivating and distracting. Key is the continued connectivity to friends and family wherever they may be. That ‘hub’ of activity you may get after a family holiday or gathering can be with you in your pocket to support and advise. 

Is this what Open Learning looking like? More of what we’ve always had, but now, if you want him, your grandfather can sit on your shoulder all day – in our family my brother would have been asking advice on car maintenance, I would have been quizzing him on first hand detail of the war.  Cousins often get briefings from my father-in-law a retired Oxford Philosophy Tutor.

And now, courtesy of all learning online, open and formal, the action really gets going. Or does it? Is it not simply replacing something else? The very active person in clubs, societies, in a large extended family and so on would be getting this anyway?

PART TWO

This second A2 sheet works with Vygotsky and Engestrom and the idea of how we construct knowledge in a context.

The second image shows the familiar Activity System, an expanded version of how Vygotsy expressed how we learn. The activity system has six interacting components: subject and object, mediated by tools or artefacts, rules, community and division of labour. Enegstrom’s next generation expression of the Activity System is to show two systems interacting, the key here being the interaction of two objects or outcomes to produce a third.

This model is manageable, with set links between the components.

‘In the field’ it is possible to allocate roles to people or departments, to kits and guidelines but then on the second line you start to consider how many activity systems are connected. However, it is no longer simply the case that there is one point of contact – this drive to an outcome or objective.

Already authors wonder if Activity Theory (I have the reference I’ll dig it out for you) can no longer apply, that it has melted.

The middle image in the middle of the bottom row circumvents the set connections to indicated that everything can interact with everything else. Feed this into a multitude of Activity Systems (the final diagram in the bottom right) and you see what complexity is created – the suggestion being that the there is more direct connecting between people with no mediation factors or systems. This assumes that there are no gatekeepers or other barriers, but increasingly, in tertiary education you may find yourself in a discussion alongside the biggest names in your field, whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral student, no matter what institution you are signed up to.

In fact, it is far more open than that of course – by chance or because of an enthusiasm or wish to connect anyone in theory can connect with anyone else – or at least with those who are taking part.

Some 4% of the population in Great Britain who by all accounts should be digital residents don’t event visit – there lifestyle choice is not to use the Internet, just as in the past people may have chosen not to have a TV. Another13% don’t have access at all – no connection, no kit, no space or place to use kit that is shared. And this is the UK. So Open Learning, though not exclusive, cannot be called universal.

Of course, being a purist, if you’re interested in Vygotsky you need to study him in Russian. Now where is there an Open Learn course on Russian?

Models work, as do metaphors, but with the digital world are all such models melting like sheet ice in a warming climate? Merged and blurred like so much ink dripped into a digital ocean?

Though Engestrom sees this as things and institutions, I like to see two people here, say an Art Director and Copywriter working together to solve problems. Two heads better than one and all of that. Any psychologists out there might offer me person to person models as alternatives. 

And how many institutions can and do interact? Think of a $100m movie. Think of planning the Olympics. Think of six people with different skills and experiences working together. 

Is this what Open Learning looking like?

At what point does the model break down?

Become redundant? Even ideas of ‘learning from the periphery’ (JS Brown and Duguid) falls apart if there is no centre, and no periphery, if everyone is equally ‘linked in’ with no degrees of separation at all, where you are anyone else’s father, brother or son. (mother, sister or daughter).

Engestrom ends up using the metaphor of a Mycorrhizae fungi growth such as this.  I also found this rather beautiful image. But can art therefore fool? Something beautiful that is attractive and persuasive may not acutally be representative of the ‘truth of the matter’ – but what is?

Mycorrhizae = the real thing (apologies to the originator, when I can find the reference I will add it)

Which has me thinking of something more fluid, like the water cycle (think digital ocean into the could, then back again)

And in a system, as something more dynamic, with patterns behind the chaos.

In which case, to my mind, Open Learn and e-learning is like global warming to the climate – it is simply putting more energy into the system. Just re-annotate the above (which I will eventually get round to doing).

And if this doesn’t make your brain hurt or your jaw drop take a look at this:

Scale of the Universe

and click on ‘Powers of Ten’ which is, I feel, evocative of Open Learning too – scalable from the micro to the infinite.

REFERENCE

Engestrom, Y Various. I recommend ‘From Teams to Knots’

Vygotsky, L (1926 if you want it in Russia, 1974 for the first translations into English)

Rebecca Eynon from the OII  for ‘Mapping the Internet’ stats on GB Internet use.

(I’ll flesh this out in due course. There are a dozen references related to the above. But this is Open Learning. You get my thoughts on this in all its various drafts).

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