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Supporting Learning in the Workplace

April 9th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Today is the last day for submissions to the Personal Learning Environments Conference being held in July in Barcelona. Here is my abstract for the conference, based on work Pontydysgu are developing through the EU funded Mature project. I will try to post a longer version in the next week or so.

Central to the idea of the Personal Learning Environment is it can assist learners in bringing together and reflecting on all their learning be it form formal education programmes, from work or from home. This would include both formal and informal learning.

According to Jay Cross, around 80 per cent of learning in work is informal. Yet much of the focus for work based learning is on courses, rather than practice. Apprenticeship systems usually combine learning in vocational schools with practice in the workplace but there are often problems in linking up theoretical school based learning with work based practice.

Researchers into organisational learning have focused on how workplaces can be designed to facilitate learning. Barry Nyhan (Nyhan et al, 2003) states “one of the keys to promoting learning organisations is to organise work in such a way that it is promotes human development. In other words it is about building workplace environments in which people are motivated to think for themselves so that through their everyday work experiences, they develop new competences and gain new understanding and insights.”

Yet without support for learning, organizational change may not be sufficient. Vygotsky (1978) has pointed to the importance of support from a More Knowledgable Other to support learning in a Zone of Proximal Development which which is the gap between the “actual developmental level” which a person can accomplish independently and the “potential developmental level” which person can accomplish when they are interacting with others who are more capable peers or adults.

The paper will report on work being undertaken through the EU IST programme to develop a Personal Learning & Maturing Environment (PLME), embedded into the working environment, enabling individuals to engage in maturing activities within the organisation and in wider communities of practice beyond organisational boundaries. The work centres on the design a ‘mini learning activities (Conole, 2008) utilising Technology Enhanced Learning to support learners in a Zone of Proximal Development. These activities will utilise multi media including infographics and Technology Enhanced Boundary Objects (Hoyles at al). Although the mediation of a MKO may be seen as being embodied within the technology, learners will also have access to support through an organisational people tagging service. The PLE applications will be available to learners both through desktop and mobile devices.

References

Barnes S.A., Bimrose J., Brown A., Hoyles C., de Hoyos M., Kent P., Magoulas G., Marris L., Noss R., Poulovassilis A. (undated) Workplace personalised learning environments for the development of employees’ technical communicative skills, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Conole G., Dyke M., Oliver M., Seale J (2004) Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design, Computers & Education, Volume 43, Issues 1-2, August-September 2004, Pages 17-33 21st Century Learning: Selected Contributions from the CAL 03 Conference

Nyhan, B. Cressey, P. Tomassini, M. Kelleher, M., Poell, R. (2003). Facing up to the learning organisation challenge. Vol. I. Thessaloniki, CEDEFOP

Vygotsky L.(1978) Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

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