PERVASIVE LEARNING AND
RESPECT FOR CULTURAL
DIVERSITY
Jan Visser
Learning Development
Institute
Learning Without Frontiers
UNESCO
[email protected]
[email protected]
http://www.learndev.org
http://www.unesco.org/
education/lwf/
Cues:
 Learning in a networked world
 Open learning in response to diversity
 Knowledge and learning in a global context:
strategies for the development of the learning
environment
The mind boggles at an exponential curve…
(Koestler, 1967)
Global population patterns from 1600 B.C. to the present
Reproduced from Sakaiya, T. (1991). The knowledge-value revolution,or, a history of the future
(p.111). New York, NY: Kodansha America, Inc. (Original source: Jean-Noel Biraben.)
Challenges
EXPLODING CHANGE
COMPLEXITY
Time for reflection
We live in a world of exploding change...
 How do we see ourselves in relation to the universe;
the world; the biosphere; humanity; ourselves?
 If we have a vision of where we come from, who we
are, and where we are going, then how does it impact
on how we live together and in harmony with our
environment?
 What significance does the above have for how and
what we learn, individually and as communities, and
the meaning we attribute to learning?
Two related perspectives
 Learning and diversity
 Learning and values
(today’s talk - 19/5/99)
(Friday’s talk - 21/5/99)
 diversity as necessary
condition in the
environment for growth
to be possible
 learning as dialogical
process that mediates
among diverse learning
entities
 value of learning
(including the value of
learning to learn and
live together
 learning of values
(including learning of
the value of learning
and learning of the
value of diversity)
This is about learning
For the purpose of this talk it is considered
 irrelevant to artificially stress the distinction
between learning in distance education and
in face-to-face contexts
 irrelevant to try to draw lines between such
domains as formal, non-formal and informal
learning.
LEARNING IS ONE!
The essential nature of learning
 It is social.
 It is dialogical.
 It takes place not ‘in’ ourselves but in “the
momentary relational spaces occurring
between ourselves and an other or otherness
in our surroundings” (Shotter, 1997).
 It is a process of continual construction,
deconstruction and reconstruction.
More about learning...
It is about
 yes, indeed, gaining knowledge, acquiring
skills or behavior, being able to understand
and manipulate symbols
 but also about much more than that
 and if it wouldn’t be about more, it would
have missed much of what it could have
been.
LEARNING IS GENERATIVE.
Constructive interaction with change
 Learning dispositions us to interact
constructively with change.
 ‘Constructive interaction with change’  ‘reaction to
change’ or ‘adaptation to change’ (which assumes that
change is a ‘given’).
 Instead, ‘constructive interaction with change’
envisions human beings as part of the changing
environment, i.e. as actors who engage in intelligent
behavior as they see things change around them, aware
that by doing so they, too, produce change themselves.
Important issues:
 Learning is pervasive.
 Learning is lifelong.
 Learning is essential ingredient of sustainable
human development.
 However: The creation of the conditions of
learning at societal level tends to concentrate on
limited segments of the learning needs:
 intentional learning in formal settings
 closed learning spaces
 acquisition paradigm (Sfard, 1998).
Rich learning environment
 Learning before, during (inside and outside)
and after the school
 Intended and incidental learning
 Formal, non-formal, informal settings
 Multiple spaces for learning
– Physical: closed and open architecture
– Virtual: varied media infrastructure
– Social: different social connections
Poor use of
rich learning environment
 Learning before, during (inside and outside)
and after the school
 Intended and accidental learning
 Formal, non-formal, informal settings
 Multiple spaces for learning
– Physical: closed and open architecture
– Virtual: varied media infrastructure
– Social: different social connections
My argument
 Perspective on learning requires
– broadening
– diversification.
 The learning environment requires greater
integrity, completeness, and inclusiveness.
 Any distance education event must be
conceived as an integral component of the
learning environment at large.
 Design concerns must reflect different
levels of organizational complexity.
Learning environment
 Broad conception.
 Ecological metaphor of the learning
environment, based on vision of nested
frameworks with
different levels of organizational complexity
different timeframes
different connotations of space.
 Learners and learning communities (learning
entities) as complex adaptive systems.
Learning entities and the learning
environment
Learning entities
 live in the learning environment
 use resources present in the learning
environment
 are themselves resources that make up the
learning environment.
LEARNING
COMPLEXITY
Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)
Characteristics:
 multiple interacting agents
 aggregate behavior over and above behavior components
 non-linear interaction among agents (aggregate behavior  sum of




behaviors of constituent parts)
agents both numerous and diverse
capable of self-reorganization (diversity recognized by system)
system evolves due to self-reorganization (perpetually novel
aggregate behavior [growth] rather than settling for steady state)
behavior of agents based on internal models of anticipation
Source: Holland, J. H. (1995). Can there be a unified theory of complex adaptive systems? In H. J. Morowitz & J. L. Singer (Eds), The mind,
the brain, and complex adaptive systems. Proceedings Volume XXII, Santa Fe Institute, Studies in the Sciences of Complexity. Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
Timeframes
 Learning timeframes
 Instruction (lesson / term / instructional program)
 Incidental learning (e.g. media, play , community, culture,
etc.)
 Validity timeframes
 ephemeral learning experiences
 < lifetime / = lifetime / > lifetime
 historical timeframes
 evolutionary timeframes
Critical point
 A critical point is reached when information and
technology become obsolete faster than the
approximately 20-year timeframe in which the
leadership of one generation is taken over by the
next one. “At that juncture the experience of the
older generation is no longer all that helpful”
(Abraham Pais, 1997).
 Need to rethink the concept of culture: What should
be passed on from one generation to the other? And
what is not worth passing on? And what do we in
fact pass on?
(Virtual/Real) Space-Time
 Learning spaces, and particularly their
architecture (static as well as dynamic),
transmit different expectations regarding the
timeframes implicit in the learning that takes
place inside them.
 To accommodate greater diversity in
timeframes of learning we need to break
through the architectural monotony of learning
spaces. DEOL has insufficiently delivered on
its promise to break with traditions.
Diversity issues
 Communities vary in size, complexity,
purpose, ethnicity, belief system, social
fabric, language, etc.
 Individual learners vary in how they pertain
to different communities, their thinking
styles, learning styles, motivation to learn,
aesthetic sense, the stories they grow up
with (male/female; old/young), etc.
“Adding wings to caterpillars
does not create butterflies –
it creates awkward and
dysfunctional caterpillars”
Stephanie Pace Marshall
Director, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
DESIGN WITH THE INTEGRATED
CONTEXT IN MIND
 Environmental responsibility of the designer of
learning opportunities
 Traditional instructional design relates to restricted,
well-defined contexts
 Not a call for sloppiness
 Care for the environment:




learning skills
metacognitive behavior
aesthetic sense
participation (empowerment)
 Design as a participatory activity
 the learner as participant designer
 the designer as participant expert designer
Opportunities for DEOL to contribute
to learning ecology fostering diversity
 Develop learner autonomy (self-directed and self-motivated
learning) and learner self-consciousness.
 Transform roles of actors, (tutor/mentor, learners, others)
creating flexibility and transcending the dichotomy between
learning and teaching.
 Rethink DEOL provider concept and think of roles as hubs
and nodes, and opportunities to configure and reconfigure
knowledge creation networks, in a networked world:
 working across languages and cultures
 exploring integration of learning contexts and modalities
 accommodating themselves and seeking accommodation in
increasingly open structures (comprising the school context, the
community, the technology/media environment, etc.)
 Be conscious of complexity and change.
References
Holland, J. H. (1995). Can there be a unified theory of complex adaptive systems?
In H. J. Morowitz & J. L. Singer (Eds), The mind, the brain, and complex
adaptive systems. Proceedings Volume XXII, Santa Fe Institute, Studies in the
Sciences of Complexity. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
Koestler, A. (1989). The ghost in the machine. London, UK: The Penguin Group
(Originally published in 1967).
Pais A. (1997). A Tale of Two Continents. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press.
Sakaiya, T. (1991). The knowledge-value revolution,or, a history of the future.
New York, NY: Kodansha America, Inc.
Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just
one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13.
Shotter, J. (1997). The social construction of our 'inner' lives. Online. Available
http://www.massey.ac.nz/~ALock/virtual/inner.htm [1999, March 16].
Notes
 Acknowledgement
The conception of Slide 22 in this series is Manish Jain’s, Coordinator of
Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking of Education and
Development (PIRED), Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.
 Use of these slides
In the interest of dialogue and the growth of understanding, use of these slides
is permitted, provided that clear attribution be made to authorship (Jan Visser,
except for Slide 22 - see above) and the Learning Development Institute (LDI)
<http://www.learndev.org>.
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