If you could give me any comments or other feedback on this draft article by Thursday, I'd be very grateful! I've written it for the newsletter of the Association for Learning and Technology, so the audience is mostly learning technology professionals in Higher Education and Further Education.
Comments welcome either in the comments field below or by email to me, david at alchemi-dot-co-dot-uk. Many thanks!
Like the future, the impact of a colder climate is not evenly distributed. I guess there must be some areas where current economic challenges are experienced as business-as-usual, plus some pressure to trim a bit of excess fat. But many of the people I speak to have a sense that we are going through — or just heading into — a period that is qualitatively different from the cyclical ebbs and flows that education has gone through over the past decades.
My sample is in no way balanced of representative but last year I interviewed people involved in learning from a home educator to a university professors, and from a social software entrepreneur to a photographer who is committed to helping people learn yet refuses to see this as teaching (recorded on my blog, and collated in abridged form in a self-published newspaper). I was trying to do two things: to get a sense of what might be common across these different contexts, and to get a sense of the longer sweep of change, beyond the horizon of recent funding cuts.Changes bred of necessity and opportunity
This article is a reflection on what I am calling "agile learning", drawing on some of the themes that emerged from these interviews. Hopefully this term is fairly self-explanatory: agility involves letting learners manage, direct and adapt their learning with minimum constraint. It is not intended as another packaged solution, with proprietary paraphernalia of trademarks and methodologies; more an umbrella term to allude to the particular kinds of invention that are bred of necessity in a challenging climate.
Over the space of 10-20 years, learning activities that were once marginal and supplementary will move into the mainstream as institutions lose their historical monopoly on the capability to process and share resources. We are already seeing what self-organising groups can accomplish with powerful tools but without formal lines of command.
What happens if and when the resources in the commons outstrip those controlled by gatekeepers as a matter of course? If Wikipedia is seen in some quarters as an irritant — its use to be cautioned and policed – imagine how learning might feel if the wiki model were to pass a tipping point, and classrooms to be seen as rare and peripheral events.