Futurelab seminar on re-thinking learning networks

Feb 15, 2006

Miles Berry

A really interesting moring with some big names from academia and central government. Tim Rudd’s thought provoking ‘provocation paper‘ in advance, suggesting the importance of recipricocity in the relationship between school and home – that home-based learning has much to contribute to education, and that it has been thus far undervalued by schools, and moreover that this would allow for greater personalisation and opportunities for knowledge creations and understanding. My favourite quote was:

Despite the relatively large financial investment in ICT in UK schools, nowhere is there a clearer example of how the centralised arrangement and organisation of knowledge results in a limited use of the full potential of resources”

Since it often seems that learners have access to, and make better use of, more technology at home than in school. This view was confirmed by one of the speakers, who have a whole host of examples of the sort of technology available to pupils at home that’s banned or at least not made available at school, becuase, in part, of a risk averse culture.

Inspection and exams also were blamed for limiting the opportunities to ‘domesticize’ school learning, and thus transfer some of the benefits from home into school, such as

  • meaningful, authentic activities
  • strong motivation
  • a strong social dimension
  • access to the family’s and community’s fund of knowledge
  • access to wider cultural resources, including popular culture

However, others made the point that such enriched home environments are not the case for all, and attaching greater importance to their role could have the effect of increasing socio-economic divides.

I think though, that there is still, and will continue to be, a key role for schools. Now that we’re making use of Moodle, with lesson videos (including ones I record at home if I’m absent), interactive activities, discussion forums and online assessment, one or two of my pupils raised the question of what was the point coming to school, if all this learning and teaching could be done from home by the Internet. This provoked a really interesting disucssion – their view was that school provided the chance for them to meet up with their friends, an opportunity for socialization. I think that schools will continue to have this role, amongst others:

  • A place for reflection, allowing learners to step out of their own family/community contexts and take a different, more thoughtful perspective on life’s experiences;
  • broadening horizons: particularly for those from less culturally rich environments, but really for everyone, school provides a place where there are more activities and more diverse activities than might be available at home:yes,  trips to art galleries, the theatre, outward bound things,  but even the minimum entitlement that the curriculum provides, and the chance to learn with people who’re ‘experts’ in one subject or another.
  • Cross fertilzation – the chance to learn from other students, whose background and experience may be very different from ones own: being able to talk through home/community experiences validates that learning, but also goes a long way to broadening the horizons and enriching the lives of ones audience too.
  • Socialization: having to get on with a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds and communities is, I think, a force for social good.