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Commentary 8 (Richard Hall)

Page history last edited by Martin Oliver 10 years, 11 months ago

ate: 18 June 2008


I've just watched the most inspiring conference presentation that I have ever seen. In it, Myles Dyer offered a pedagogy of hope; a 21st Century, progressive pedagogy that moves us away from constricted, subject-driven views of the curriculum, towards one that captures the student's non-educational, informal critical development and brings its outcomes head-on into formal education. Myles offered up a vision of collaboration, where knowledge, decisions and actions are co-created by the users of spaces in partnership.


Now I hold my hands-up here. My personal tags include: activist, democracy, voluntary, participation, user-centred, trust. I have a paper coming out on learner agency and have presented on this issue already [http://www.slideshare.net/secret/s2escJ0qs3y4AB]. For me, education is a democratic, political project and technologies are a means to that end. The Web 2.0 tools that we use have democratic, participative power and they affect the pedagogical and ontological outlook of practitioners and institutions.


Therefore, it is as this paper approaches its final burst, where the authors analyse the role of the Scottish Trasformation Programme [STP], and highlight the power of activity-based pedagogies, that I begin to look at the core of my work in a Pathfinder project that is trying to make academic sense of Web 2.0 [the read/write web]. I believe that there are a number of reasons why both Pathfinder/Benchmarking and the STP are critical in moving us forward collaboratively. These are illuminated in the paper and need wider, urgent dissemination and discussion.


  1. Institutional maturity: this is an issue with which I have been grappling. Our readiness, encouraged by the deployment of VLEs that upskill and develop the confidence of our staff, to grapple with technologies and to make savvy, thoughtful decisions about the tools we use with our students has matured. Staff are becoming more able to think through their pedagogic strategies and the tools that they and their students might use. This is not universal, but Pathfinder/Benchmarking helped DMU engage with these issues. This is critical within a HE sector that is ever more fractured, where the experience of an HEI is one of employer engagement, Foundation Degrees, the NSS and "traditional" learning. This might offer us hope that we can begin to move from 19th century models of practice and the curriculum to 21st century reconceptualisations of learning partnerships and activities between learners and tutors, that are enhanced by technologies. Activity-based learning, perhaps informed by the STP project focus on the learner in control, has to move front-and-centre, enabled through mechanisms like professional development and institutional strategies. Powerful stuff. Dangerous stuff. Important stuff.
  2. Progressive pedagogies: learning is a risky process. We need to work through new models of professional development, and many of the Pathfinder/Benchmarking projects have done just that, in order to think through course design from a partnership perspective. This is key - to marry the student focus of the STP to the strategic, capability-defining momentum of Pathfinder/Benchmarking. We need to deliver new approaches based upon key read-write principles before we are outpaced and outflanked by corporate providers or students looking elsewhere. The migration towards e-pedagogy outlined in the article is helping. Moreover, the partnerships that are emerging between academic and academic-related staff are helping create spaces for new discourses, where institutions become participative, and where service departments can accept or even lead innovations in programme design.
  3. Metrics: the e-pedagogies alluded to in the article are not metric-driven or metric-defined, so quite how they sit alongside a 10 year HEFCE Strategy, or the Government's obsession with targets and economics, or the vagaries of the NSS needs to be addressed square on. We have to make the case, as made possible by a proactive integration of the STP and Pathfinder/Benchmarking outcomes, for fusing enhancement and progressive pedagogies through emergent technologies. This is a long-term project and it is about social justice. It is about institutional confidence to make decisions about innovation. It is about programme team confidence to make informed decisions about their curriculum. It is about partnership with students. STP and Pathfinder/Benchmarking offer us hope that this can be achieved.


Where now? Feeding forward is critical. We need policy makers and funders to accept the power of the projects that are highlighted in the article. We need a national debate on the future of higher education in a complex, uncertain world, nformed by the affordances of the tools at our disposal. Students are reshaping their worlds beyond the curriculum and this article starts us on a reflective journey to grapple with that strategically. We need and to find active spaces within HEIs to demonstrate what can be done and to continue on an emancipatory path.


About the commentator(s)


Hi, I am DMU's e-Learning Co-ordinator. I am responsible for the academic implementation of technolgies in the curriculum. I am our Pathfinder Project Manager. I have written on participation in e-environments, learner agency, academic development and the links between formal-informal education. I am an accredited project and programme manager.


I am also a Trustee of a homeless charity, a Primary School Governor, and the Chair of a Trust of football fans.


As Billy Bragg once wrote "If no one seems to understand, Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman"

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