Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ubiquitous Learning: An Exploration

At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the College of Education has launched an initiative to explore "ubiquitous learning."

As a part of this initiative Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis edited a book that begins to explore the idea of ubiquitous learning.

Beginning today and over the next several weeks, I am going to read this book and comment about the ideas.

First, what is the definition of "ubiquitous learning?" Several definitions are offered by the authors of this book.

1. the definition of "ubiquitous" [learning] include[s] the idea that learners can engage with knowledge about "anything", and that this learning can be experienced by "anyone" (Kalantzis & Cope, 2009, p. x).

2. "the process of learning and the products of learning are rapidly merging into ubiquitous knowledge engagement" (Kalantzis & Cope, 2009, p. x).

3. "Ubiquitous learning is more than just the latest educational idea or method. At its core the term conveys a vision of learning that is connected across all stages on which we play out our lives. Learning occurs not just in classroom, but in the home, workplace, playground, library, museum, nature center, and in our daily interactions with others. Moreover, learning becomes part of doing; we do not learn in order to live more fully but rather learn as we live to the fullest. Learning happens through active engagement, and significantly, it is no longer identified with reading a text or listening to lectures but rather occurs through all the senses-- sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste" (Bruce, 2009, p. 21)

So do we need a new term for learning? There many other new terms-- elearning, mobile learning, "learning anytime, anywhere," etc. Bruce's definition above captures for me the central idea that term is trying to convey-- this idea that learning is not set apart from the other parts of living. And, of course, it never was except that as education was formalized and led by professionals, we have tended to ignore the vast amount of learning that was taking place outside of classrooms and formal institutions. Using today's technology tools we can begin to rebuild an integrated learning platform that bridges informal and formal learning opportunities in new and and interesting ways-- this is ubiquitous learning.

But as Cope and Kalantzis note, "Digital technologies arrive, and almost immediately, old pedagogical practices of didactic teaching, content delivery for student ingestion, and testing for the right answers are mapped onto them and called "learning management systems" (2009, p. 4). In short, despite the opportunity to create learning opportunities that are different from our current classroom-based, group instructional model, we use our new tools to create the old model. So how do we do something different, some better? This is the problem that this book is designed to explore.

No comments: