The School in Context: New Models for Learning (an extract)
London Knowledge Lab
The current social context is one where we see a convergence of parallel developments in technology, education and design, which means increasingly people have the technological means to determine how they learn, where they learn and with whom they learn. Arguably therefore, education will be based less around physical spaces such as formal institutions and more around the individual learner and the resources with which, and people with whom he or she interacts. Education needs to prepare learners of all ages to be able to take advantage of the resources available to them: the people, the places, the information and the tools that can help them to learn.
We need to open up the process through which knowledge is constructed and understanding is gained and facilitate the development of context-based models as the organising principle for designing learning. This requires us to embrace the idea that a learner’s context is made up from the combination of interactions that a learner experiences across multiple physical spaces and times. The interactions that constitute each person’s context are individual to that learner and represent their personal learning experience. As technologies increasingly underpin these interactions and enable the different spaces, times and resources with which a learner interacts to be linked together, they offer the opportunity for this personalisation of a learner’s world to be transformed into the ultimate form of the personalisation of learning. A form of personalisation in which learners can take greater agency in the creation of their learning contexts through a constant series of adjustments to their dynamic environment. This offers the opportunity for moving beyond the generation of content for learning by learners to the generation of contexts for learning by learners.
However, the implications of this for policy and pedagogy are considerable. Institutions such as schools have a key place within this ecology of learning resources, but their importance is as much about how they enable learners to build links between their experiences outside the school as it is with the way that they support learning experiences within the school.
One way forward in tackling the challenges and requirements discussed here is through involving stakeholders in the design process around BSF and the strategy for change. There must be more emphasis placed on the importance of a learner’s wider context and the need for us to develop an education system that supports learners to construct knowledge and understanding from the multiplicity of interactions they experience across a wide range of places, people, information and tools. These experiences are situated in the wider environment in which learning is to take place. Every interaction of each learner is defined by its history and by the part it plays in this wider cultural, social, political and economic system. It is important to take these influences into account when designing learning experiences that are to be enriched through technology. Some of these influences can be encompassed through the use of participatory design approaches in which those who will be using the technology are themselves involved in its development.
The BSF design process could benefit from adopting a participatory design approach to the exploration of how learning interactions can be supported both within the bricks and mortar of the school buildings and beyond. In particular, the process needs to:
• identify the school as just one of the resources that learners will interact with, and to investigate how the school can be a key resource in fostering relationships with other resources in a learners’ ecology, such as people and other learning locations;
• explore how the school can be designed in a manner that enables it to continue to evolve;
• encourage people to see the school as a dynamic entity ensuring that there are mechanisms in place through which stakeholders can participate in decisions about its continuing future development;
• identify the roles that need to be fulfilled by people and technologies within and beyond the school building in order to support the school as a key resource in a learners’ evolving ecology of learning resources.