As the education community seeks to envisage and plan for the future of learning most are too light on their fingers to consider that aspect that hasn’t changed, nor can its form or functioning be changed – the human brain. Is there a difference say between a child born into Pharoah’s Egypt several millenia ago and one born in Stoke on Trent this morning? Or a child born in the Belgium city of Liege on the 4th August 1914 and a child born in Nagasaki on the 4th August 1945. My challenge is to say examine the raw goods – what has a neuroscientist or a phsychologist got to say about the way we learn?
However and whatever sweeps us up we have an extraordinary capacity, as each new child is born and the next generation takes its place in the world, to stay true to form: our parents raise us, we learn both informally and formally, we are exposed to whatever chance provides us with – coloured by – to whom, and where, and when we are born, and how raised, and because of, or despite this, our ‘true nature’ is revealed, burried, or in other ways transmogrified.
We probably crave affection, recognition or security, we fall in and out of love, and probably mate, raise a child or two of our own, grow old as they grow up and see them on their way. In the scheme of things, on our death bed, do we reflect on what opportnities the education we were exposed to did to us or gave us? The perspective that needs to be taken is to see education holistically, especially as those parts of it that are still contained and made exclusive by books and institutions are freed up.
The latest Open University module that has my attention, H818:the networked practioner, uses a challenging approach whereby the cohort of students are to learn what ‘openness’ means through sharing and collaboration. However, already, I can see that far from being open, we have been coralled into tutor groups and the real boundaries that these create. In 1999 when I started blogging, in time, out of the hundreds I engaged with, three of us recognised eachother as likeminds and worked together on various creative writing and creative blogging projects – we found each other, we weren’t made to ‘be’ together. We stumbled upon eachother’s words and beyond liking what we read saw and came to see a common willingness to hangaround. Why this will struggle to work amongst 60 people divided into four groups is that ‘teacher’ has decided with whom we will work … not just teacher, but of course the cost, timing, platform, access and accessibility to the course content and its affordances.
There is no accounting for human nature. I can fluff up like pom-pom or prickle like a thistle; I can be as cute as a hedgehoge with its snout in the palm of your hand or fold into a ball of spikes because of a desire to be left alone. We all have these phases in various guises and can to a lesser or greater degree control them. In the vastness of the total Internet community we can be these things, whereas inside a the formal walls of an online learning module I suspect there will always be someone with some kind of stick, whether it is a tickling-stick or a club.
On reflection and baring in mind what I suggest above about the unique qualities of human nature – I like to chose the ‘gangs’ I join or to form my own. My default position is to be peripatetic. The point is, the default position of others will be as unique as they are. Across numerous modules and other collaborative activities I have seen groups wax and wane. To work the mix of people in the group generally needs to be highly diverse, with clear sets of skills to contribute and a variety of personality types too. There is good reason to build a professional team based on their skill set – take the creation of a film: not everyone can direct and produce, nor can everyone having a go at presenting or play the lead. The script can be composed collaboratively, though who did or does what, or gets credit for a line, character or scene is as complex as human nature and the sensibilities of the creative in all of us.