From Access to Content to Context

Beyond Open; #fslt12 MOOC Reflections

Overview; This is my fifth in a sequence of six reflective blog posts on how I developed my teaching and learning practice and reflects on my practice in the noughties. I spent time running workshops in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in Community Learning, become a Visioneer with Culture Online in 2001, an early attempt to create a digital public space. The DfES asks to me develop a ‘Digital Divide Content Strategy’ and we started the Metadata for Community Content project looking at modelling informal e-learning.  I also start work on the Cybrarian project, a Facebook for e-learning that had a working prototype social network, built by Fujitsu before Zuckerburg started his “Hot or Not” coding. It was rejected on the advice of management consultants (who charged £4.5m for that deathless advice), we form lastfridaymob (a pubic technology group), which later reconfigures as the Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group. We present the Open Context Model of Learning at the launch of Open Learn; John Seeley Brown call it the ‘most exciting thing happening in England’. The OU refused to publish it.

Developing informal e-learning nationally; The £250m Community Access to Lifelong Learning (CALL) initiative in 2000 followed the school-based NGfL (1997) and the College-based FERL (VLE’s & Learning Objects) in creating a programme of digital Community Learning. This 4th e-learning initiative from the government (UfI was the first) had a fourth pedagogy (which is good) and was a joint initiative between NOF (your lottery £s), DCMS, MLA, Becta and the DfES, which made it interesting. New Centres were funded, Community Grids for Learning were created, new digital content (NOF-DIGI) commissioned with UKOLN (Brian Kelly) & AHDS (Alastair); a complex national project from which we learnt much. Ironically the DfES were in charge of the buildings (yep, buildings – government gets worse, much worse in this story, no really it gets much, much, much worse).

Culture Online; So due to my tangential involvement in NOF-DIGI (which had technical digital standards but no learning model) I was invited to be a Culture Online Visioneer & ended up dinking champagne for breakfast with the Hollyoaks & Brookside crews (the fragrant Claire Sweeney) but that’s salacious. Given £100m to develop the online resource for the Cultural sector its future was cut away by the Foot & Mouth epidemic of 2001 so instead of building an ongoing digital cultural offer £90m was diverted just to burn cows. I think we have a global lead on government investment on burning cows, we spent £8bn in total; pity the cultural sector is still a long way behind digitally. Mind you Jon Drori and his crew did a good commissioning job for Culture Online with the residual £10m, BAFTAs were won, but were probably over the hills and far away from creating a Standard Operating Procedure for a digital public space. The £90m could have built ongoing expertise across the sector instead of a beacon of brilliance (fires burning bright today).

Metadata for Community Content; One Tuesday in February, 4 months ahead of the 2002 election I received phone call from the DfES asking if I could develop a “digital divide content strategy”, “oh, yeah, that would be really interesting”, “Good! Can we have it by Friday please?” Which means it’s a manifesto headline call, not a thought through initiative. “Well actually the Children’s Partnership have just done something similar in the USA, which they researched first for over a year; I think we need to do some research first”, “Hmm, we’ll get back to you”. Phone rings Wednesday, “We can spare you £85,000, can you do anything with that?”, “Yeah sure (my catch phrase)” “good, we need it spent by the end of the financial year.” Click! And so began the Metadata for Community Content project, which Ronan O’Beirne and I have just written about for Stewart Hase’s (author of “From Andragogy to Heutagogy“)  new Bloomsbury book “Self-determined Learning“.

Why Context is Queen; I could say a lot more about the MCC project but in terms of this Open Academic Practice project, but I will confine myself to the following points. Firstly CALL was an Access initiative back in the day that Open Access was thought to be socially inclusive and the Digital Divide Content Debate was the element that started it off. This was an online conference over a week debating how we created “killer” content that would solve the digital divide. We came to 4 conclusions, captured in this talk that I gave at Oxford Universities Shock of the Old conference in 2008. They were open access only created a new problem of appropriate content and commissioning that wasn’t the best solution, rather we needed context-specific content as part of a “community-responsive curriculum” (Alistair Clark’s – one of the MCC – phrase). We realised we needed a “fit for context” solution;

1) Tools & Skills (not pre-written content)

2) Content Creation Toolkits & training

3) Local content for local people; the co-creation of content

Hence we discovered that rather than “content being king” as Time-Warner, AOL (remember them), Facebook, Huff Post, and now the Big Famous xMOOCs, and newly into “open” “learning”, Universities, and many more, tell you, but for us, both pre-Web and post-Web 2.0  we think that “Context is Queen”

The UK Facebook for Learning; The Learner-Generated Contexts group of 10 people emerged from the failed Facebook project, and our ideas about learning being a “coincidence of motivations leading to agile configurations” were discussed at a talk we gave at the launch of Open Learn in 2007. One of the key issues we discovered when we organised an away day to discuss how best a Learner-Generated Context was that we had all failed in the formal education system, then designed our own way through it. Apart from me this included Professor Rose Luckin, Professor John Cook, Dr Drew Whitworth, Dr Tom Hamilton, Dr Wilma Clark, Dr Judy Robertson, Dr Peter Day, Nigel Ecclesfield, Jon Akass and me Fred Garnett FRSA, who have all become successful educationally despite early ‘academic failure’. We all wanted to design a better education system, based on felt learning experiences, than the one we had experienced; and it had to be learner-centric. In fact we wanted it to be generated out of shared learning needs, which would be supported by agile institutions rather than institution-centric serving academic careers..

The Open Context Model of LearningActually I was going to discuss this in-depth here, but I have written about it a lot and I finally covered it really well in Heutagogy and the Craft of Teaching which I gave as a Salford Method talk, invited by Cristina  Costa because David Roberts wanted to investigate heutagogy. So don’t read this read that.

Reflections on this post; I’ve realised that this is about teaching practice, so I will comment more on how we involved teaching practice with technology in the MCC project

To be completed and include COP & Identity (Gotcha!)


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3 thoughts on “From Access to Content to Context

  1. Pingback: Building Democratic Learning | WikiQuals

  2. Pingback: Context is Queen | The Heutagogic Archives

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