Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stellar - Meeting of Young Minds

Last week I spent Monday and Tuesday at the Stellar Meeting of Young Minds in Leuven, Belgium. The point of the meeting was to get twelve leading young thinkers in Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) together to consider where the research is going and what should be funded through future European Commission funding calls. I was very lucky to be one of those twelve selected.

The instrument used in this meeting to consider what the future of TEL was scenario building. The JRC define a scenario as:
A scenario is a "story" illustrating visions of possible future or aspects of possible future. It is perhaps the most emblematic Foresight or future studies method. Scenarios are not predictions about the future but rather similar to simulations of some possible futures. They are used both as an exploratory method or a tool for decision-making, mainly to highlight the discontinuities from the present and to reveal the choices available and their potential consequences.

You can find more details on scenarios on the JRC website - http://forlearn.jrc.ec.europa.eu/guide/4_methodology/meth_scenario.htm or on the Foresight Horizon Planning Toolkit - http://hsctoolkit.bis.gov.uk/About-15.html.

To begin before even arriving in Leuven we were asked to come up with some trends that we believe are going to have a big impact on TEL and learning in general over the next 10-20 years. In a later post I will give more details on the trends identified. In this post I wanted to just outline my experience in Leuven using the Future Scenarios methodology. 

During the future scenario buliding we were split into three groups of four. The group I was in concentrated on the uncertainity of the future and how it is widely held that we are educating young people for jobs that do not even exist yet. What does this mean? We need to essentially equip people now with the skills and knowledge to allow them to adapt and remould themselves in the future. In essence to react to the needs of the world they live in, in a timely fashion. We need to train people to train themselves.

As a group we were transfixed on the backwardness of standardised eduction. We make kids conform to a norm so that we can measure them against their peers. This in essense supresses their individuality and their uniqueness. Granted there are skills that need to be taught to allow an individuals mould themselves to fit with the needs of a changing world but these skills can be taught through a medium that interests and motivates the individual.

We looked at how a more personalised curriculum could be achieved - where people learn about the things that excite in a way that motivates them to want to learn. In this environement a teacher facilitates the student by making sure the student has the right learning resources and experiences they need in a timely fashion. The teacher also facilitates, through technology, matching students with common interests and also matching students with experts in the subject area that motivates them. In this environment students are no longer assessed according to standardised tests, each student is assessed as to the how he or she has developed and the knowledge and skills he or she has mastered in the their chosen domain.

Our group also looked at whether we should still have compulsory subjects - perhaps language wont be an issue in the future, but maybe we should all have a basic grounding in things like history, science, maths, civics and world culture. This would be the responsibility of primary education, whereas secondary education allows the student to explore their own interests in a structure fashion. Secondary education would see students take progressively more ownership of their own education setting their own goals and development plans.

This was a very interesting and thought provoking session that I really enjoyed. Afterwards I was asked what three most relevant trends for the future, after some consideration I came up with:
  1. Training will be personalised to personal interest - you can set what you are interested and work towards your own goals
  2. There will be a need to train people to train themselves
  3. People will need to be skilled in a variety of core skills that will allow them to adapt to the needs of a changing world
We were also asked if we could get the commission to fund one research are what would it be, to which I replied:
Facilitating personalised learning using the abundant information available to people. Also look at how assessment could work if everyone had their own curriculum. I think we will move away from the standardised test to one that celebrates individuality.
I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.