Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Learner's Charter

An interesting document from the NESTA Futurelab in the UK: The Learner’s Charter for a personalised learning environment

It's a simple one-pager of bullet points of what they think learners will be (or are already) requiring. You can tell that they're still having trouble separating learning and education (this week's topic, it seems), but much of it is still thought-provoking and worth digging into. I picked a couple of points from each category to give the flavour:
• To take joint responsibility for and be seen as an active agent in determining
my own learning priorities.
• To understand the potential implications of these choices personally, socially
and economically.

Skills and knowledge
• To be supported to co-design my own curriculum and learning goals.
• To develop my expertise and understanding in knowledge domains that are of personal
significance to me.

Appropriate learning environments
• To have access to people who are able to extend and develop my understanding in my
chosen areas.
• To have access to learning environments and resources that enable me to develop my
understanding and experience in authentic and appropriate contexts.
The "Feedback" section appears to be based on the idea that we will continue to depend on institutions to assess whether we've learned anything of value, but perhaps I'm reading it too narrowly. Anyway, there are 10 more pages explaining and expanding on the ideas in the charter. It also includes little case-study overviews of innovative educational programs and some good thinking about the role of PLEs (across institutions, outside of institutions, YES!).

section covering choices is representative of the rest of the report -- the authors appear to be shooting for the middle ground between truly self-direct learners and students jumping through hoops in institutional programs:
"On the face of it, being in a position to make choices about where, how and what you learn in light of your long-term goals and ambitions is a positive and exciting entitlement. However, this is only true if the necessary support is provided as unguided choice is intimidating and could even be disempowering as the learner is faced with an apparently unending series of options and possibilities. The current state of careers guidance suggests that the education system as it stands is not in a strong position to support learners in making informed choices. The contribution of digital technologies in this area is often limited to unhelpful psychometric tests. In reality, the potential is much greater."
So, to summarize in my own words:
"Once the ability to pursue things that interest us has been beaten out of us as children (in school), we become incapable of deciding for ourselves what we'd like to learn...and so if the benevolent authorities ever let us choose what we want to learn, we'll need 'support' from the system to help us do so. Unfortunately, the only existing institutional model we have for this kind of support is career guidance and it's been a total disaster. Meanwhile, technology has been underutilized in this area, but it probably has the potential to deliver us."
If I've interpreted this correctly, I actually believe that most of what they're saying is on the right track (even though my summary is a touch facetious). And they've collected all kinds of ideas that look promising -- so many, in fact, that it's a lot to digest at once. I'll have to go back in to dig again.

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