Ignoring the Instructions and the Learning Comfort Blanket

If like me, you never read the instructions (until you’ve got into a mess and it’s absolutely necessary), you might enjoy @derekrobertson’s…: If Vygotsky played Minecraft… on the benefits of learners setting the agenda for their learning rather than following someone else’s instructions.Learning comfort blanket

Robertson focuses on children learning but I feel what he says resonates with adult learning too. In jobs that have required me to deliver pre-set (technology-related) training with adults, I have often found I’m in a race to get out of the way of their learning and have sometimes wondered why I’m even there, other than as a kind of learning comfort blanket. On the whole, the participants are happy exploring and my attempts to demonstrate anything often lag behind this exploration. I answer questions but even then, the participants will often answer them for themselves in the process of articulating them. I perhaps sometimes speed up their exploration in a ‘phone a friend’ type way, by maybe explaining the mechanics of a process or a more efficient way of approaching something but on the whole the participants will have their own agendas and objectives for how they will use what they are learning, which dictates their priorities and discovery. So imposing a rigid structure seems counter-intuitive.

I think this is why I am so drawn to the possibilities provided by Open Badges to open up learning and assessment. Competency based credentialling, that can be applied at micro or macro levels, seems to provide an opportunity for this kind of exploratory learning, where learners determine the instructions for their learning and assessment, as they go along.

This does perhaps raise and build on questions around:

  • The purpose of the teacher
  • How we structure learning
  • How we assess learning that has not been pre-defined

As learners develop their own learning pathways, meandering through ideas, activities and networks, wouldn’t it be great, if they could earn recognition for that learning as they go? I hope this is something that could develop as Open Badges developments grow. The Badge Alliance has created a great timeline of Open Badges developments in 2014, which highlights some of the projects and possibilities that are being explored.


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