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Thoughts from Plymouth

April 25th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I am extremely tired today – travelling from Bremen to Ilmenau for Educamp and back to Bremen, then on to Manchester for a Jisc conference and then to the Plymouth eLearning conference and now back to Bremen was a little overambitious I think.

But I have had some great conversations on the way. A longer reflection will require a little time and peace but here are some quick thoughts. The Educamp confernce was remarkable because of the participants. The largest group were teachers and this meant the conversation changed from the wonders of educational technology to effective teaching and learning. And it was the unconferecing format and the i9nformal approach which encouraged so much participation. Also, the fact that it was free. Teachers cannot afford the high registration costs that are charged by the ‘traditional’ elearning conferences such at Alt-C and Online Educa. And so these conferences become dominated by the educational technology community (in the case of Alt-cC) or the corporate elearning market (in the case of Online Educa). This is not to say that these communities have nothing to contribute. But the participation of teachers (and students) makes for a much richer discourse.

I presented a keynote in Plymouth. Steve Wheeler said i could be as controversial as I wished. In contrasting Learning pathways to traditional approaches to schooling based on curricula, I questioned the future of educations systems. One of my concerns with this approach, however, is the danger of exclusion. Whilst the introduction of universal education through the Taylorist schooling system was designed to meet the needs of the economies following the industrial revolutions, it did provide opportunities for learning for those previously denied access through income and class background. And moving beyond that industrial model of schooling which now increasingly looks very tired does endanger that right to education. However, the argument seems more complex to me. Although many working class kids have profited from access to school, the forms of organsiation and curriculum have also excluded or alienated others. Research suggests achievement is still class based and access to higher education is still problematic for those on low incomes. Furthermore, as learning moves beyond the institution and becomes distributed in the community through the use of new technologies, it is opportunities to participate in those wider forms of learning that is critical to equity in access to learning.

I will try to address this issue in subsequent blog posts. But now it is time for a break – I am off to watch the football!

3 Responses to “Thoughts from Plymouth”

  1. Graham, thank you from all of us for your outstanding contribution to the Plymouth e-Learning Conference yesterday. It was certainly food for thought and the delegates were still discussing your presentation long after you had gone! I have posted my own initial reflections including a link to this post from my own blog at

  2. I am a German, (still) living in mid-Wales – working with open-content, open-standards, e-learning, etc. – but I am a fan of Hertha BSC football team. @nettys on Twitter.

  3. There is now a link to Graham Attwell’s keynote speech at the 2009 Plymouth e-Learning Conference here:

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