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Learning Layers and Co-design Mobile Learning (#mlearning)

Learning Layers is a large-scale research project co-funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme.The consortium consists of 17 institutions from 7 different countries. It aims to develop technologies that support informal learning in the workplace.

The concepts and technologies we develop help to bridge the gap between scaling and adaptation to personal needs. By building on recent advances in contextualised learning, Learning Layers provide a meaningful learning context when people interact with people, digital and physical artefacts for their informal learning, thus making learning faster and more effective. Building on mobile learning research, we situate learning into physical work places and practices to support situated, faster and more meaningful learning. Learning Layers provide a shared conceptual foundation independent of the tools people use and the context they are in.

We take a design research perspective and build open technologies so others can build on our results. For this reason, we have created an Open Design Library to involve stakeholders interested in our design ideas, and an Open Developer Library through which we showcase our prototypes and involve developers interested in our work.

We develop a set of modular and flexible technological layers for supporting workplace practices in SMEs that unlock peer production and scaffold learning in networks of SMEs. We apply these technologies in two sectors that have been particularly hesitant to take up learning technologies, i.e. health care and building and construction. Involving two representative and large-scale regional SME clusters allows us to involve end-users in co-design of the system and later scale up the approach to more than 1,000 learners within 4 years.

Learning Layers, Mobile Learning

Good mobile learning design can create a learning layer in our work and lives, this project is a demonstration. A special approach adopted by this project is Co-design which might be worth your attention:

Co-design is flexible for parallel design activities and process, it is an iterative process as are the agile software development methods used in the Layers project, it requires that all stakeholders take part in the process – especially the end-users, the actual users who are/will/should be using what ever is designed. The not so obvious and what might not always be mentioned are: the artefacts of the iterative cycles, e.g. mock-ups, wireframes, testing results, created practices, from low level to high level prototypes are valuable outcomes and research results as such, and that the process attempts to engage the end-users for sustained activities, thus lastly it is a process that can go on long, it just changes its focus during the journey toward most enjoyable usage experiences. (continue reading)

Can teachers co-design pedagogy and curriculum with students? Can instructional designers co-design courses with learners? Can the education system co-design schools with educators and students? Will that create a more engaging and learner-centered learning experience? There are some hints for design-thinking in education here.

Serge Ravet had proposed a model called COOLE (CO-constructed Open Learning Environment) by making learners the designers, builders and operators of their learning environments, the authors of their learning contexts!

While, thanks to the rise of knowledge media, we now have many practices based on / leading to user generated contents, what we now need are technologies and practices leading to user generated contexts. Why not build digital learning environments based on the MineCraft paradigm, i.e. using a technology accessible to everybody? Why should Moodle and the like be left in the hands of the teaching high priests? The issue is not just to make Moodle more ‘open’ or to give students authoring accounts (to mimic what their teachers do?) but to create new tools, with which they would be empowered to design their own learning environments.

Make learners the architects of their co-constructed learning environment(s)! This is a very different view from the individualistic PLE, or the course-focused MOOC (prefixed with either a ‘c’ or an ‘x’). A User Generated Context should be more like a co-designed / co-constructed / co-operated open learning environment,  a self-generated learning context — autopoiesis.

user generated context

One example of COOLE to elaborate the concept is this:

Let us assume that the society we live in has defined a number of key competencies everyone should master by the end of initial education, one of them being entrepreneurship:

Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. (Source: Key Competence Framework, European Commission)

The un-COOLE approach would be to look at and try to find a lesson plan, a game or a text-book on entrepreneurship — and jump of joy if the OER is SCORM-compatible so it will be integrated seamlessly into the school’s LMS. The COOLE approach is more about using digital technologies in a way that is consistent with the very essence of the goal to achieve: using COOLE as effective practice of entrepreneurship.

An open education space (OES) with technology tools like Wikis, blogs, calendars, tags, social networks at learners’ disposal would allow students to be in charge of their learning platform. To make learning really COOLE, we need to move away from the teaching/OER centric model towards the learning/OES centric model.

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