Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Steve Molyneux - Are current Learning Platforms fit for 21st Century Learners?

Along with a couple of hundred other people I've braved / wimped through a downpour to come to the Riviera Centre to hear Steve Molyneux from The Learning Lab. The session aims (it says here):

This keynote will address the issues regarding Virtual Learning Environments and their possible unsuitability in providing support for 21st Century Learners. It will look at the characteristics of the Neo-Millennium Learner and offer debate as to the suitability of current software applications in exploiting these characteristics.

The session will challenge some of the current DfES/Becta thinking in this area and stimulate debate between practitioners, vendors and policy makers...

Sitting here with wet feet and legs isn't the best way to start the day.

Things don't start too well when one realises that lots of these slides have been seen before in other forms... covering similar sorts of things to what ALan November covers in information literacy.

Looking at the programme for this conference, I'm struck by how I really want to see lots of the parallel sessions (including ones running at the same time as mine) and could easily take or leave the compulsory sessions in the Learning Platforms theme. This presentation is OK, but it seems to be aimed at a particular generation - the overwhelming message appears to be "learners are capable and technologically advanced and the technology we're providing can't adapt to the way they work". The word "scary" even appears, which makes me wonder how much this is a sober, analytical take on VLEs other than a "ooo, look at the kids" sort of presentation. Apparently "digital natives are very different" - wow. There's a lot about "digital immigrants" as well - how they're not very good, how they still have an "accent" - but the problem with this viewpoint is that it puts the divide between children and adults - which is surely a false one. There are some kids who for a wide variety of reasons (SEN, culture, other factors) aren't comfortable with some technologies and lots of staff are comfortable with new technologies - but they wouldn't describe themselves as digital natives.

Lots of this presentation consists of videos demonstrating points, and a section lifted straight from Marc Prensky's original Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants article. There are the usual "ooo, isn't Web 2.0 exciting" slides - blogs! wikis! isn't it exciting! Aren't technologies amazing!

A feeling I've had often in sessions such at this, whether at Naace, Ultralab conferences, other Becta events, is that so much of this is people Of A Certain age getting excited about learners using technology,

OK, so now we're moving to VLEs/E-Learning. There are some very spurious points about E-Learning ("it comes from industry not education" - well that all depends on what your concept of E-Learning comes from) and so many misconceptions about what's actually going on in schools now - a really minimalist view of E-Learning with a complete lack of apprecation about what's happening. Steve Molyneux has just said that blogs, wikis and RSS feeds aren't effectively used in current E-Learning - well all I can say is get into some schools and you'll see what's happening.

Now it's a slide entitled "redefining the VLE" - let's incorporate blogs! Let's incorporate wikis! Let's have different roles! Apparently it's all about content repositories.

Once again it's another non-parallel session at Naace that I'm really disappointed with - but it's just a set of personal opinions I guess.


  1. I really liked the presentation. At least it challenged many people in the Audience. As for the Marc Prensky, Alan November links. In fact I have heard Steve Molyneux speak on the subject back in the 1999's (Before Alan Noverber hit the Curcuit).

    e-Learning did emerge from the corporate sector for 'adult' learners not children - so I would not be surprised if it is not fit for purpose.

  2. Yes, I think it was challenging and interesting, but my main issue was that I don't think it did covered what it was titled as - apart from the piece at the end which started to touch upon the title. When it did, I don't think it was fully informed - there is lots of practice out there which involves Web 2.0 (etc) and more collaborative work - it either seemed to ignore that activity or not be aware of it. I'm not sure which is better!
    Also, I think there are a number of different models of E-Learning - so if you settle upon an "inappropriate" one, of course it won't be fit for purpose.

  3. It was a pity he over-ran. I spoke to him afterwards and he told me that most of the challenging elements of DfES was in the latter part of his presentation. He siad the reason he over-ran was that the audience was so good.

    I enjoyed the video element - whilst there were a lot of them they do break up the usual 'Death By Powerpoint'that many other presenters gave.

    It is true that there is a lot of good practice in using blogs and wikis in Schools but I think the message was it was not celebrated enough (which is true) and in many instances OFSTED have real problems in understanding how our innovative authorities such as Bucks, Telford and others are using the technology to get real results.