The ecology of distributed education


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Slides to accompany a keynote presentation on online learning and sustainable rural development at a conference in Gothenburg, 2011

Published in: Education
  • Part of the answer to the bombardment is better filtered searching of the web, eg semantic web applications, and a (large) part of it is educating today's learners how to better discern and undertand what information is use, in which context. As educators we are notoriously bad at educating perople to learn how to learn, rather than simply pointing them in the direction of more infomation. When I was a student we were given HUGE reading lists at the start of every term (most of which was only marginally relevant and much of which was out of date) now, with the internet, the volume and the speed of infomation provision has hugely increased, but the basic problem remains the same. The modern context, however, is that today's educators are no longer to point their students to EVERYTHING that is educationally relevant, so I maintain my insistence that the role of the perfect educator is to assist the students to learn how to learn, how to identify and use information in context, and to FACILITATE the process of joining the student to 1) examples of trusted resources and 2) to learning appropriate proceses to enable the student to continue effective life-long learning well after he/she has left the learning institution.
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  • While I absolutely agree with the concept of distributed learning and that the individual now has far greater control over not only the access to learning but also the form and pace of that learning; my concern is with the conversion of information to knowledge that can inform practise. The sheer volume of information available to us is growing exponentially and while your model of learning is accurate to a certain degree, what you do not include is reflection - thinking....and this is crucial to the learning cycle. When we reflect is when we truly learn and my worry is that the information bombardment does not allow that reflection - where information becomes knowledge.

    You maintain the education facilitator role is actually more crucial - for which I am very glad to hear - being one myself. So my question is really how do we, as facilitators, ensure information conversion to knowledge, and conversion of knowledge to application in a meaningful way - that also validates the learning both in terms of the learner and the educational institution? And if the answer is appropriate assessment - what does this look like?
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The ecology of distributed education

  1. 1. The Ecology of Distributed Education<br />Professor Frank Rennie<br />Lews Castle College UHI<br /><br />
  2. 2. Complex Adaptive System<br />Dispersed interaction<br />Absence of a global controller<br />Cross-cutting hierarchical organisation<br />Continual adaptation<br />Perpetual novelty<br />Far-from-equilibrium dynamics<br />
  3. 3. Complex Adaptive System<br />
  4. 4. Complex Adaptive System<br />
  5. 5. The internet at a moment of time<br /><br />
  6. 6. Stability Domains<br />We often fall back into familiar areas of “stability”<br />
  7. 7. Stability Domains<br />The Managed Online Learning Environment is emerging as one form of a Stability Domain<br />
  8. 8. Self Organisation<br />
  9. 9. Self Organisation<br />Similarities with the personalisation of learning<br />
  10. 10. Complex System Cycles<br />Growth<br />Reorganisation<br />Equilibrium<br />Dissolution<br />
  11. 11. Complex System Cycles<br />Images from: and<br />
  12. 12. So, what’s new?How do we learn?<br />We see<br />We listen<br />We do<br />We discuss<br />
  13. 13. Learning Communities<br />Third Places<br />
  14. 14. Learning Communities<br />
  15. 15. Learning Communities<br />Trust<br />Reliability<br />Compatibility<br />Context<br />
  16. 16. Learning Communities<br />
  17. 17. Feedback Loops<br />Constant fine-tuning and learning by taking decisions<br />Supportive<br />Diagnostic<br />
  18. 18. Opportunities for further study<br />Build on stability domains<br />Layer the nodes of resources<br />
  19. 19. Personalised Learning<br />Fit the course to the student, not the student to the course<br />
  20. 20. Elgg Personal Learning Environment<br />
  21. 21. How far is too far?<br />
  22. 22. Levels of Course Networking<br />0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7<br /> <br />Delivered at one site Fully networked<br />Seven levels of networking:<br />1) Common Core Frameworks and Local Options agreed<br />Common Assessments and Assessment Strategy Agreed<br />Common Core Teaching Materials shared and developed<br />Learning and Teaching within an Academic Partner blended using ICT and face to face<br />Common delivery schedule agreed<br />Cross teaching of selected/ all modules <br />Learning and Teaching materials wholly online/ distance, with local facilitator support<br />UHI Network Learning Audit and Planning Guide, 2005<br />
  23. 23. Rural Sustainability<br />Reduced travel costs and travel time<br />Less environmental impact<br />Local economic multiplier<br />New social networks & diversity<br />New intellectual & economic skills<br />Higher quality of life perceptions<br />Retention/attraction of skilled citizens<br />
  24. 24. Graduation with a university degree<br />
  25. 25. Trends and Troubles<br /><br />
  26. 26. Trends<br />Digital<br />Networked<br />Open<br /><br />
  27. 27. Troubles<br />“Pick-and-mix” superficiality of “courses”<br />Tensions between Open and Closed resources<br />Tensions between Teaching and Learning<br />People problems – Old Habits Die Hard <br />New Technology versus Old Etiquette<br />Copyright, Amazon, and Lateral Thinking<br />Questions on the “half-life” of knowledge<br />
  28. 28. Lessons Learned<br />Increasing user (learner) control<br />Clear learning guidelines are required<br />Need to encourage inter-activity<br />The need to apply contextual relevance<br />Education for what…? Whose standards?<br />The importance of an educational facilitator actually increases.<br />
  29. 29. Key Concepts for online learning (<br />
  30. 30. View this presentation again at<br /><br />