I am continually thinking about my learning ecology these days. Earlier this week I made a breakthrough in understanding how I can use twitter to promote our work - basically you start following people, you notice what they are doing and you tweet the people who have a lot of followers. If they like your tweet they re-tweet to their followers. It's taken me a while to work it out for myself but better late than never. But once I started to follow people twitter started putting in front of me the names of other people I might be interested in following. So I checked out a few of these and this morning I began following Alison Link. The first two tweets I clicked on turned out to be fabulous resources for Lifewide Ed - an organisation called Connected Learning which I will talk about in another blog, and a website True Stories of Openness http://stories.cogdogblog.com/ produced by Alan Levine. One of the stories by Shawn White was about the serendipitous nature of Twitter describing his own story http://stories.cogdogblog.com/twitterdipity/ and coining the term twitterdipity. Well here I was experiencing the same phenomenon.
I have just finished the second chapter I was writing on learning ecologies and during the final stages of writing another example of a learning ecology came to me when my daughter explained how she had tried to develop her communication skills while she was at university. During the last twelve months she participated in half a dozen activities that involved her in using different forms of communication and creating new relationships and networking - both friendships and professional relationships. Most of the experiences involved her putting herself into unfamiliar contexts knowing that it would afford her the opportunity to learn something new. Through the whole process she has gained valuable insights into what she enjoys doing and what she is good at, and is motivated to explore further the potential of broadcasting as a career. She has also learnt the importance of forming professional relationships to gain the feedback she needs to improve herself. Her narrative helped me complete the chapter by enabling me to connect the idea of learning ecologies to students' experiences while they are at university..
This week we published Lifewide Magazine on the theme of learning ecologists. Using a combination of mail lists and placements on discussion forum's I recon I distributed a notice to about 15,000 people. It will be very interesting to see who actually downloads the page. It will also be interesting to see if there are any unanticipated consequences.
The magazine can be accessed from this URL
I have been struggling to explain how the idea of learning ecologies can be related to the experience of students studying for a degree. The answer, as so often is, was sitting right next to me in the form of my son who has just finished his archaeology degree. I explained to him what a learning ecology was and invited him to explain to me his own learning ecology. His excellent narrative provides a useful demonstration of how the idea of learning ecologies can be applied to undergraduate higher education.
Categorisation of my son's learning ecology using the framework I developed
While my son's course clearly provided the 'backbone' to his 'learning about' archaeology it was the other experiences that he engaged with outside the course and in some cases outside the university environment, that enabled him to appreciate and learn what 'being an archaeologist' meant to him. If we relate these experiences to the conceptual framework I recently developed (below) we can appreciate that his learning experience embraced all the conceptual spaces in this framework. His course (A) did not, for the most part, encourage him to develop his own learning ecologies, beyond the traditional ecology of reading and assimilating codified knowledge. The one pedagogic strategy within his course that did cause him to create his own learning ecology was his final year project and dissertation (B). Outside the formal educational context he involved himself in various excavations (C) that were directed by others and through this he received support and guidance. He also initiated his own learning ecologies (D) for example by joining the editorial team of The Posthole Magazine, participating in various conferences outside the university and leading/organising his own conference for students.
Overall, this seems like a very healthy learning ecology through which my son gained the development he needed and wanted. And from an educational perspective this would seem to be a good outcome. But it was not accomplished through design. Rather, it depended on my sons own agency and passion for archaeology that drove him to seek out and get involved with opportunities in his immediate contexts and the wider world.
If, as I argue in my e-book chapter, the ability to create a learning ecology is essential to future learning there is an issue as to how universities encourage this orientation and capability within their learners and how they recognise learning and development gained through their involvement in activities outside the planned curriculum.
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life