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Terminology in education is a fascinating thing. Words are after all concepts. Concepts change, evolve and mutate frequently more quickly than the words associated with them along the way. Learning once meant to go to the place of learning associated with what one wanted to know, the monastery to learn about religion, the blacksmith to learn about metals, learning was learnt at the foot of the master. As European notions of learning evolved so did our concept of what was valuable to be learnt. The book gave rise to libraries, and libraries to Universities. Where else would one go to study the ‘learning’ in the books?

Our concept of learning has now reached well beyond the word itself, and so we have created prisms through which to view its process, pedagogy, andragogy, heutagogy; and an array of theoretical lenses, constructivist, social-constructivist, connectivist.

No where is this mis-match of word and concept change more evident than in the very new domains associated with e-learning in its multitude of forms. Even a ‘simple’ concept such as ‘online’ when associated with learning in the 1980s usually meant CBT (Computer-Based Training and a dedicated PC ), in the mid 1990s with home based dial-up browser based access (lots of CMC- computer-mediated-conferencing), in the mid 2000s with moderately rich multi-media VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments). In 2011 being online can mean all of the above, and access through tablets, television, game-stations and hand-held devices, in the office, at home and literally anywhere there is a wireless or data access point. Being online is changing.

Blended is the perfect example of this. Blended as a concept becomes fairly meaningless the more it is discussed. The addition of some online (see above!) activity to a campus based programme was in the 1990s deemed ‘blended’, although many would suggest a blending of lecture and self-study, reading and discussion had long been a feature. Blended meant blended with technology. But, as the technology environment evolves (the current notion is the ‘digital ecology’), the nature of the ‘blended’ learning experience necessarily changes. This environment or ecology is fluid, variable (by social-access and geography most notably) and so the nature of the learning opportunities associated with it are also fluid.

It is not only the contemporary nature of technology, its ‘here and now-ness’, it is also the contextual nature of technology. The choices I make about what I am prepared to access and when are not the same as someone who happens to be my age, or share my job title, or live in the same street. My context is unique to me. Hence my ‘blended’ opportunity is totally unique to me. Mark Brown's summary of
The Golden Rules: Review of Distance Education Literature is insightful.

Learning designers who attempt to design effective ‘blended’ learning opportunities frequently fail to satisfy their students’ expectations. Not because some are digital natives and some are not, as Open University research demonstrates. So why? Because my notion and your notion of blended are simply different. What I can do as a learning designer is to design into your opportunities for study, into the learning that I am able to support and believe is appropriate, the flexibility for you to make the very best use of your context. Your digital ecology context, your prior learning context, your social context and professional context, we can design learning that allows you to ‘blend’ it into a meaningful learning pattern for you. It doesn’t matter if we mean different things with the words we use. Blended should come to represent as a concept the choices we facilitate not the technology we provide.

The SOLE model was presented to colleagues in Zagreb (via Webinar) on December 8th as one possible way to explore staff preparedness for each cohort of learners they must design for.

I am delighted to be continuing my relationship with colleagues in Croatia at Centar za e-učenje and SRCE. I was asked to present Webinar on staff ‘integration’ of e-learning in their contemporary practice. The presentation for the Croatian National e-Learning Event on Wednesday 8th December comes at a rather opportune time as I have been writing about the myth of the ‘net-generation’ and the extent to which we are preparing academic staff adequately to work within contemporary expectations.

I’ve written a draft presentation entitled: Developing existing and new academic staff to integrate e-learning into their practice, that explores the need for each cohort of academic staff to revision, revitalise and reposition their teaching to suit the appropriate context in which they teach. It therefore becomes less an issue of whether there exists such a thing as a ‘net-generation‘ (I think not) but rather whether they have the reflective skills to enable them to position their practice appropriately and whether there exists learning design models that can support that practice. I cite the SOLE model as one possible approach but others certainly exist.

Webinar Image ScreencaptureIt was a great pleasure to work with colleagues at SRCE in Zagreb on Wednesday 8th for the 2nd National e-Learning Day (Here’s a full programme for the day http://bit.ly/eqk68w ) My Adobe Connect Webinar was recorded and is available online. It’s always interesting to watch yourself but I do feel confident at least about the argument. There is a need to ensure that teaching staff see the process of professional development as one that prepares them to support the learning of each successive cohort of learners in an appropriate way, not as needing to find a technologigy solution to meet the ‘current’ perceive need.

The 40 minute webinar itself has also been shared and is available from SRCE online here: https://connect.srce.hr/p39469103/

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