Excitement! My course work for this year has begun arriving at my door.
To add to the excitement, one of my courses has decided to go paperless. What this means for me is the course work, text readings and resources can be downloaded from My University website – there will not be a large folder of paper texts couriered to my door!
This method of delivery is great for me, because I have spent a few hours (um…days, actually) downloading these same texts. My digital archiving is limited to content that can be sourced digitally off the internet and it still leaves me with a large pile of paper. I am tempted to shred, soak, strain and squish it into recycled A4 and then print my CV on it (so very tempting…highly impractical though). My inner Lorax gets uppity at the sight of all this paper getting filed in my garage.
Having instructions and resources digitally available is becoming a critical part of modern learning – I take great pleasure in being able to load my weekly text readings onto my Kobo and read them poolside while my kids are swimming. If I’m going somewhere for the whole day, I pack up my laptop and endeavour to read and do some written work. Modern learning is no longer tied to physical resources that are held in one place. Resources, if you are connected, can be sourced online and are only a click away. I can learn at a library, café, sports field or playground, if I so choose.
What could this possibly mean for future learning spaces? I’m not sure myself – there are some excellent people out there in the world crunching brain cells together on it. The one image that I do keep coming back to when I think about though is Nell and her primer, from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age.
A quick summary: Nell is a young girl growing up in the (future) slums, who accidently receives a book designed to educate its reader by responding to her environment and adjusting its content accordingly. Essentially, The Diamond Age explores the convergent dynamics of technology, education and relationships in a not too distant future. If you haven’t read it, please consider reading it. Even if you don’t enjoy it as a novel (surely you will) there are some interesting implications for what the future of teaching and learning might look like (note that this book was published in 1995).
One of the themes in the novel is that Nell’s book is interactive, not just between Nell and the book, but between Nell, the book and Nell’s teacher/surrogate mother, who plays a huge part in teaching Nell and keeping her safe, without meeting in person. Another theme is Nell’s constant movement through her real-world, she has no defined and constant learning place – her learning space comes with her, in the form of the interactive book (sound familiar?)
This suggests to me that no matter how compact, technical or proximal the delivery method of education becomes, that the student-tutor relationship will always be vital. Students need to know that their learning is planned with care, is responsive and appropriate for them, in both subject matter and level of challenge, and that someone is there to support them when they are stuck, wherever they are.
What do you think of, when you think about learning spaces of the future?