Archive for the ‘*Grow’ Category

Lifelong learning as calm learning?

I had a fabulous weekend in Bowral back in the last weekend of May, attending a Calmbirth workshop with my husband. Consequently, our first bub is now due in a couple of – ahem – days! 🙂

a labour of love

This is one reason I haven’t posted in a long while – too much going on and my brain has become more cottony than I had first anticipated! 🙂

Anyway, I’m moved to write following this amazing weekend experience as I see some links to lifelong learning, a phrase that seems to have dropped out of circulation of late (for whatever reason). Let’s first revisit the phrase and then I’ll draw some connections from the Calmbirth workshop itself. In essence, this is an ‘appreciative exploration’ of some thoughts really!

Lifelong learning, particularly as espoused by the OECD, champions the idea of learning for holistic personal, professional and workforce development, which occurs in various learning settings, informal and formal. Closer to home, DEST (now DEEWR) exercises a policy they claim is based on the OECD assumptions:

The lifelong learning policy agenda is built on assumptions about the importance of skills in the new economy. Almost all industrial sectors are increasingly ‘knowledge-based’ and economic returns are obtained from a range of ‘intangible’ inputs, one of which is workers’ skills. Participation in education and training is increasing and economic rewards are flowing to people with high skills…

…which in fact draws a parallel between productivity and further education, and extends further to lifelong learning and the ‘whole person’, especially where the VET sector is concerned. However, in today’s economic rationalist world we are not seeing this in its entirety. We are contending with the worker-learner and have yet to move to the whole person, in reality.

So how does this thinking link to what I experienced as ‘calm birth’ then? Well, from my view it means starting with the person, rather than the system in which the person likely operates. in essence it’s redefining what we have assumed to be learner centred approaches to teaching and learning. Still, we seem to take this as meaning providing options TO the learner to support and enhance their learning; rather, we should take the learner-at-the-centre approach and start there with their networks, their predispositions, their experiences, and so on. We require more discussion around the apparent preoccupation on separating ‘the system’ from the users/producers/agents (see for example, Mejias 2005).

person vs system

Thus, the science behind Calmbirth (as laid out in the workshop booklet and the various parents’ stories, where mums especially are co-teachers), contends with the human design, participatory methods, holistic therapies and healing work, beliefs and attitudes (e.g. Errington, 2004), cultural values and awareness, as well as the health sciences of midwifery and obstetrics.

So what is out there in terms of calm learning practices? How can we progress this to lifelong learning status? For example, Calm Kids, Smart Kids uses

…a mixture of:

  • Physical exercises proven to reduce hyperactivity & increase brain functioning and integration
  • Emotional stress release to help reduce anger and frustration, improve communication and increase self esteem
  • Unique Nutrition Plan identifies allergies and deficiencies specifically for your child.

What is of some interest here is the links made to factors that influence children’s ability to learning and grow, as discussed also in the Calmbirth workshop and booklet, particularly a stressful pregnancy, a traumatic birth, and medications and operations, as well as accidents, family trauma, and allergic reactions. As Peter Jackson stated in the Calmbirth workshop, ‘it all begins in the womb’. Check out Lyn Schaverien’s work on developmental learning (biological aspects of learning) too.

We may also draw links to appreciative inquiry (see also Cooperrider, et al, 2008) and inquiry-based learning which champions the inherent (and essentially positive) motivations of the learner from within. For me this also conjures links with schooling approaches such as the Montessori movement. We could effectively read open learning into this too. These approaches tend to focus on the learner’s self-guided interests, reminding me of a quote by Freire that champions the learner as teacher (as ‘learning by teaching’):

The teacher… is taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught, also teach.

I understand that I’m touching on a lot of potentially disparate areas of education here, but I think it’s worth noting that whilst we delve into supposedly ‘new’ thinking around learning and teaching, much has been developed in earlier times that remain credible and applicable today – in fact, possibly more so than they did in the past. The time for elements of schooling and education is ripe for change but not always to new and original ideas, but back to ideas that are now seen as befitting our current contexts.

Where can learning go from here? How do we continue to facilitate learning in ways that are relevant to our times? These are some loose connections which I hope to think more deeply about in coming months. I also see connections to networked learning here too, a draft essay of which I will post shortly (this essay picks up on action learning, ‘hot action’, and other action research frameworks that I’ve related to an investigation into VET pedagogy and practice).


Errington, E. (2004) The impact of teacher beliefs on flexible learning innovation: some practices and possibilities for academic developers, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(1), 39-47.

Cooperrider, D, Whitney, D & Stavros, J (2008), Apreciative Inquiry Handbook: For Leaders of Change (2nd Ed), Crown Custom Publishing Inc: Brunswick OH.

Business of learning and learning futures

I have a presentation lined up next week and have been reviewing my thinking on flexible learning and learning futures generally.

So far, I’ve returned to two slideshows I loaded to Flickr some time earlier this year and will likely focus my thinking on ideas from these for my presentation.

1. Quality through personalised learning

2. The business of learning (or, 21st century learning)

I think I’ll focus on learning futures and how flexible learning is defined and can be promoted through this thinking. Some of the key themes I’d like to draw out include:

  • learner as teacher
  • business IS learning
  • the learning design process is a collaborative one with the learner

I’ll start with that and see where I head – shall post an update soon! What do you reckon?

Who builds the bricks in the first place?

I have been stewing over e-portfolios and PLEs lately, particularly as we head into the new year and avenues by which to further traverse the (e)learning meta-scape!

I came across this recently:

A PLE is composed of a set of customized applications on the client side. Some of them will operate in a standalone way, while others will exchange information with server side applications. Thus, if a PLE becomes essential for the daily work of a user, the data flow between client and server side applications will allow the automatic feed of the social networks to which the users belongs to.

PLE bricks for social network construction « Personal Learning Environments

This short post on the PLE blog got me thinking about Donald Norman’s book Emotional Design (2004), particularly his closing remarks about design. It’s a dilemma many designers – educational, architectural, mechanical, etc contend with – that is, if we design it will they come? The quote above from the post doesn’t say ‘PLE’ to me, more it says ‘here are tools to generate your PLE’. Same goes for discussions around ‘e’portfolios – portfolios are methods, processes, learning approaches, outcomes, etc – adding an ‘e’ only says this is a electronically supported portfolio, another tool or space for me to generate some learning/living/reflection – or whatever frames the portfolio approach in a pedagogical sense (meaning that we are all pedagogues).

Donald Norman (2004),

We are all designers. We manipulate the environment, the better to serve our needs. We select what items to own, which to have around us. We build, buy, arrange, and restructure: all this is a form of design (p.224, my emphasis).

And further on,

We are all designers – and have to be. Professional designers can make things that are attractive and that work well. They can create beautiful products that we fall in love with at first sight. They can create products that fulfill our needs, that are easy to understand, easy to use, and that work just the way we want them to. …. But they cannot make something personal, make something we bond to. Nobody can do that for us: we must do it for ourselves (p.225, my emphasis).

And finally, this,

We are all designers – because we must be. We live our lives, encounter success and failure, joy and sadness. We structure our own worlds to support ourselves throughout life. Some occasions, people, places, and things come to have special meanings, special emotional feelings. These are our bonds, to ourselves, to our past, and to the future. When something gives pleasure, when it becomes a part of our lives, and when the way we interact with it helps define our place in society and in the world, then we have love. Design is part of this equation, but personal interaction is the key (p.227, my emphasis).

It’s not that we should give up and throw away design, or PLEs, or (e)portfolios; more that we can pass on the design decisions to others – which to me is what educational design should be about – learning the ropes, grappling with the concept, checking the landscape, reviewing and entering into the commentary, adding to the ‘research’, sharing the learning, and, ultimately, our lives.

PLEs are just this – US. We learn. We test that learning. We refine. We share with others. They share back, and with more others… it’s not the application, or the content, or the method even – it’s the interactions and the relationships that form and uniform as we learn, unlearn and relearn. Much like life really!

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Change: into the next phase

Catching up on my feeds and landed on Dave Pollard’s blog once again – if there’s anything I read up close it’s Dave’s blog.

# THE FIRST KEY TO CHANGE: Relate: You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. If you face a situation that a reasonable person would consider “hopeless,” you need the influence of seemingly “unreasonable” people to restore your hope–to make you believe that you can change and expect that you will change. This is an act of persuasion–really, it’s “selling.” The leader or community has to sell you on yourself and make you believe you have the ability to change. They have to sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or sources of newknowledge. And they have to sell you on the specific methods or strategies that they employ.
# THE SECOND KEY TO CHANGE: Repeat: The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you’ll need. It takes a lot of repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become automatic and seem natural–until you act the new way without even thinking about it. It helps tremendously to have a good teacher, coach, or mentor to give you guidance, encouragement, and direction along the way. Change doesn’t involve just “selling”; it requires “training.”
# THE THIRD KEY TO CHANGE: Reframe: The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. Ultimately, you look at the world in a way that would have been so foreign to you that it wouldn’t have made any sense before you changed.

How to Save the World

I’m not sure where I’d be (in my head, that is) if Dave wasn’t around to offer some points of focus!

Change is imminent in my workplace – the path is now set, and the time for transition is upon us. Dave has proffered these timely points regarding change management, which I’m blogging here as a reminder for myself, should I feel lost along the way! These points above remind me again of the notion of emergence, or emergent design. Following this, Dave posted a conversation he had with Rob Paterson about the future of education, which I’m now going off to listen to.

I’ll post more in response to this shortly :o)

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Education still the punchline for election 2007

Just listened to the Leaders debate. Rudd v Howard. Whilst both were conservative, I’d have to agree that Rudd carried more energy about him than Howard, as these comments show. Nice one too by the ABC to stream the debate live over the Web.

Debate 2007 - ABC TV

[Image: ABC TV]

So, all in all, nothing really new if you’ve been following the campaign before it become The Campaign!

To me, Rudd won with his education policy, or ‘revolution’. The only tete-a-tete was a short joust over education midway through [see short clip here]. Then, with Howard’s big chance to make an impact in his final 2 minutes, all he could do was respond weakly to Rudd’s education revolution, by stating that we needed to go back to basics with education. His initial statement was to say how strong the economy is, and that a strong economy is the most important way to carry Australia forward. That’s as big as saying tax cuts – boring BORING! He had no passion about him regarding anything, policy or otherwise.

I wonder if Rudd will get his wish for two more debates? After tonight’s effort, what do ya reckon? ;o)