Learning Spaces: Industrial to Information Age

classroomHow important is the physical space in which learning occurs? "Learning spaces" has become not only a educational topic, but also a field along with learning space design and human-centered design.

According an online EDUCAUSE eBook on learning spaces:

"The emergence of the constructivist learning paradigm has led to a focus on learning rather than teaching. It allows us to reevaluate classrooms and to consider informal learning spaces as loci for learning. If learning is not confined to scheduled classroom spaces and times, the whole campus—anywhere and at any time—is potentially an effective learning space... learning doesn't just happen in classrooms; learning also occurs outside the lecture hall. New strategies for enabling learning and accommodating the multiple demands on student time have led to rethinking the use, design, and location of learning spaces...

Space, whether physical or virtual, can have a significant impact on learning. Learning Spaces focuses on how learner expectations influence such spaces, the principles and activities that facilitate learning, and the role of technology from the perspective of those who create learning environments: faculty, learning technologists, librarians, and administrators. Information technology has brought unique capabilities to learning spaces, whether stimulating greater interaction through the use of collaborative tools, videoconferencing with international experts, or opening virtual worlds for exploration."

Can be that changes as simple as rearranging seating in a classroom can have a positive effect on learning? In Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, TodaySheninger and Murray discuss the transformation of physical spaces and how that affects pedagogy. Murray calls the typical desks in row model the “Cemetery Effect,” a design that goes back to the early 1900s.

More than a 100 years later, this industrial era model survives. Those classrooms of 100 years ago were preparing students to work in factories. Those students would become workers that probably spent their work day performing the same routine task, and often spent their entire career at the same company. That is not the current worker model, but classrooms frequently don't reflect any change.

 

Education Versus Training

training

Factory training, 1941

Professional learning, often referred to as training, has been in companies for a long time.  But as a history of  training would show, that training is different from education and their evolutions have differed and crossed paths at times.

Education is instruction in more general knowledge, such as the history of the society, or mathematics. Training teaches how to do a specific task, such as building or running a machine.  As societies developed, there accumulated more knowledge than people could pick up on their own or learn informally from others.

That training history would reach back to antiquity when "On-The-Job Training" was the way people learned a job or career. In the Middle Ages, the apprenticeship was the new trend - learning from an expert while on the job. The Industrial Revolution brought about actual classrooms and factory schools with more formal training inside the company. 

I thought about this history when I was reading about the work of the Director of Learning at Slack, Kristen Swanson. Her job is to develop training for the tech company's employees and to help explain their messaging tool to customers around the globe. Swanson came to the company after an earlier career in EdTech. She started in education as an elementary school teacher, then served as a district director of technology, moved to directing a research department at BrightBytes, and then founded the Edcamp Foundation. That last role helped teachers run free, grassroots professional-development workshops. 

Directing learning at a company like Slack, must be very different, right? 

Amazon operates its own education division, Amazon Education. It currently offers products and services aimed at K-12 classrooms, such as TenMarks, an online math and writing program, and Inspire, a directory of online educational materials where teachers can find and share teaching materials. And Candace Thille, a professor of education at Stanford University, is now Amazon's Director of Learning Science and Engineering

A newish trend is for large technology companies to hire former educators to lead training and education efforts. Is professional learning outside academia becoming more like learning inside academia?

Returning to that training history, we saw that "vestibule training" emerged at the start of the 20th century blending the classroom with on-the-job training or "near-the-job" training. The training room was located close to the workplace and equipped with the same machines, equipment and technology that are used in production. The trainer was usually a skilled worker or supervisor, much like the much older apprentice model.

During and after the two world wars, there was a need to train large numbers of defense workers because of increased demand for products and a loss of workers to the military. Several shifts occurred during this period. Training was done by supervisors who were being trained how to teach. Training classes were smaller, generally 9-11 workers.

As training departments became established in many companies, so did ways of providing more efficient, less expensive methods of training. Individualized automated instruction came into play, and was the basis for CBT (computer-based training) which is still used in various forms in companies today.

Has training been learning from education, or has education been trying to include training in the curriculum?

Rhizomatic Learning

rhizomeRhizomatic learning is a way of thinking about learning. A rhizome, sometimes called a creeping rootstalk, is a stem of a plant that sends out roots and shoots as it spreads. One idea is that, like learning, a rhizome has no beginning or end.

I heard about it years ago probably on Dave Cormier's blog. It has been associated with critical pedagogy, but it came into the zeitgeist again when MOOCs were surging around 2012 along with other emergent online learning practices.

It goes back further to a rather unlikely book, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (French title: Mille plateaux). This is a 1980 philosophy book by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the French psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. It talks about the work Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Wilhelm Reich and does not seem like a book for educators. From what I have read about the book, it is a difficult read, or at least possibly a confusing read, because it is itself like a rhizome. The book is non-linear and the reader is invited to move among plateaux in any order. It has been both influential and criticized.

It spawned the idea of rhizomatic learning as pedagogical practices. This is something very much in the realm of learning theory and initially it was considered an application of post-structural thought to education.

It has also been used in discussions of methodologies for net-enabled education. As I said, the rise of the MOOC gave it a shot of interest again. In rhizomatic learning, the path is not goal-directed in the way of hierarchical theories of learning. If you follow this rhizomatic path, you would believe that learning is most effective when learners are allowed to react to evolving circumstances. In that way, this path is fluid and evolving based on the current task and how the participants deal with it. Therefore, it reminds some people of the way roots and rhizomes grow, avoiding obstacles, branching and connecting to other rhizomes while constantly seek nutrients and water as objectives for growth. 

Though most online learning in formal courses does not follow this methodology, MOOCs and some less formal online learning where "the community is the curriculum" do not follow the traditional "instructional design" models. Most of us are used to setting objectives before students are involved in learning, but rhizomatic learning would allow most objectives to emerge, or at least allow for the order of objectives and the ability to add new objectives along the way.

I fall more on the side of George Siemens (who was one of "inventors" of the MOOC) who questions the usefulness of the rhizomatic metaphor. He prefers traditional network analysis, and though rhizomes are a way to describe the structure and form of learning, it doesn't provide a true methodology.

Dave Cormier continues to work on adapting rhizomatic concepts to learning and developing the ideas that he first wrote about in 2008

 

Education Trends Are Technology Trends

lines

I title this article "Education Trends Are Technology Trends" but I'm not sure I really agree with that statement. It does seem that way though if you look at the many articles about education trends and developments that appear at he end and beginning of years.

Reading one article by Bernard Bull about things to watch in this new year, he lists ten curricular trends to watch. But what I first noticed was how many involve technology.

Some from his list are obviously rooted in digital technologies:
AR and VR Education Software Tied to Curricular Standards
Citizenship and Digital Citizenship Curricula
Cartoon-ish and Simplistic Game-Based Learning Tied to State Testing
Increasingly Sophisticated Game-Based Curricula Across Disciplines
Reductionist Data Analysis Driving Curricular Decisions
Curricula Focused upon Non-Cognitive Skill Development
Self-Directed Learning Management Tools

I have been reading for years about how gamification and then it combined with applications of AR and VR would change education, but I still don't see it happening to any great extent. I wouldn't ignore it, but I don't believe 2018 will be dramatically different than 2017 in these areas.

But some items on his list that seem less tech-based, such as "Integration of Curricular and Co-Curricular Learning," still use tech. In writing about community-based programs, after-school programs, informal learning, self-directed projects, personal reading and experimentation, personal learning networks, and in-school and out-of-school extracurricular activities/hobbies/sports, Bull brings in things like digital badges. And the competency-based education movement, workforce development, corporate training, and continuing education are all areas that rely a great deal on digital applications.

Obviously, big data and learning analytics have made inroads into education, more at the administrative level I would say than in with individual teachers. This will expand this year. I agree with Bull that unfortunately we will pull more and more data, but still have "data-illiterate people trying to make sense of new data sources, dashboards, and incremental reports." This in the short-term will not be as useful as it could be.

Perhaps I am just old school, but I am still more interested in things like experiential education curricula and student-centered and self-directed learning projects that may not require any additional technology. What they may require is better partnerships with places that can offer students experiential education.

If you can look beyond test scores and ways to document progress based on state and national standards - and that is not easy for someone in a classroom, especially in K-12 - then self-directed learning can grow. I'm not sure that "Self-Directed Learning Management Tools" will be the reason it succeeds.

You could flip this post's title and ask if technology trends are education trends. If the new things for TV and media consumption is on-demand and streaming, will that move into education? It already has moved in. 

But who is driving the changes - technology or education? I would say it is technology, though it should be education. 

If I had to make one prediction for education in 2018, it would be: More of the Same.

Groundhogs and the Turn of the Year

 

groundhogToday is the anniversary for Serendipity35 which begins its thirteenth year of in existence. It's easy to remember because it is also Groundhog Day here in the U.S.

This is a rather silly celebration that is based on the notion that if the groundhog sees its shadow as it comes out of its den today, we have six weeks of winter to go. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog sees no shadow, it is a sign of coming spring and so it stays above ground. Why a cloudy day would signal an early spring and a sunny day would mean more winter has never made any sense to me.

If there is any fact or even some science to this silly day, it would be in the past. The ancient peoples and our own Native Americans knew that the behavior of animals, insects, and plants could help predict the weather. They took that to mean that these things might also be indicators of the coming and going of seasons. 

Consider it weather lore, but there are lots of ideas about how to predict the severity of winter based on natural indicators. If I want to make some leap to education here, I guess I would have to say that we do look to trends outside education (business, technology, media etc.) as ways to predict where education might be headed. I'm working on a piece for next week today about how corporate professional learning is pulling educators into top roles at companies like Amazon. Will that affect higher education?

My Groundhog Day tradition has become to watch the film, Groundhog Day, which I have seen many times (which is actually pretty meta if you know what the film is about). I believe that the film is a whole lot more than just a comedy, and I am not alone in that opinion. Connect the movie to education? Well, I have seen in my 40 years in education a lot of repeating of things with little changes in the hopes of making things better - a theme of the film. Most of the time it results in minor improvements, sometimes in worst results, but we keep trying new approaches. Sometimes we see sunshine or clouds and think it will indicate what is to come. It is a 50/50 possibility, so why not predict.

I do know that the vernal equinox will arrive on time, but even that may or may not mean that springlike weather will arrive. And I do know that the spring semester will end on time and a new one will begin whether or not we see a shadow.