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The power of learning

November 6th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

We have just finished the two day online Conference on the training of teachers and trainers organised by the Networork for the Training of Traners in Europe and Evolve.

It was – at least I felt – an inspiring event. Although I don’t have accurate figures I guess at least 70 people attended at some art of the conference – including particpants from more than 20 countries. Despite the usual technical annoyances, the technology never got in the way of the exchange of ideas. In fact, rather the reverse. The discussion was more interactive and reflective than in most face to face events I have attended. We had 15 presentation in four two hour sessions – allowing about 15 minutes presentation and 15 minutes discussion for each presentater. As we had hoped, bringing together researchers and practitioners in the training of teachers and trainers and e-learning practitioners allowed for a productive interchange of ideas and practice.

We will be provding access to the outcomes of the confernece in a variety of different media over the next seven days. Here are just a few of my impressions about the themes of the discussions.

One theme was the increasing prevalence of work based learning. This is expecially so as the divide between initial training and continuing training becomes blurred. As learning becomes embedded in work processes then it becomes increasingly bound by context. Technology can help greatly in capturing learnng from practice in the context it occurs. But this does not really fit with the idea of predeterminded outcomes specified in qualifications. Furthermore the competences required today are changing with a focus on collaboration, working in teams and the ability to support others in their learning and work. Two different approaches were put forward to deal with this. One was to support more community based learning with facilitalors to support enquiry based learning. Another was to move from seeing learning as primarily a question of individual qualification to see it as an integral aspect of innovation. An inovation approach would lead to a focus on learning rich work.

The role of teachers and trainers is also changing with a move from didactic teaching to supporting learners especially in scaffolding learning and developing learning pathways. In many ways we are all beoming teachers and learners. The best teachers, it was said, are learners. It is no longer possible to merely absorb a body of knowledge, especially given increasing job flexibility. But how much employees need to acquire basic competences before being able to learn from work and what those competences are was an issue around which there was no agreement.

Given that more and more people are having responsibility for supporting the learnering of others, the issue of how they are supported in that role becomes an issue. Traditional training the trainers courses are not enough. Rather there is a switch to encouraging peer group support and facilitating the development of communities of pracice. The many web 2.0 tools are valuable in this repect. However, many teachers and trainers are not confident in the use of such tools. There are different approaches to how to deal with this, ranging from targeted courses, the provision of interactive web based resources and fostering self directed learning networks. For all this motivation, the willingness to invest time and effort and above all self-reflection are critical. There is an issue about in whose time learning should take place and to what extent we should be personally reposnsible for our learning and employability. Web 2.0 tools can allow us to link self directed and networked learning to practice. Especially important are the wide range of open learning opportunties being developed through the web.

Three buzzwords emerged from the conference – sharing, collaboration and openess.

Sorry for all I have missed. But please feel free to comment below and add to what I have said – or correct me if I misrepresented what people said.

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