Monday, 2 August 2010

In Pursuit of Happiness: Open Learning in Moodle

Have you read the latest post on Dave's Educational Blog? If not then you should. It's here. Like Dave I am very interested in the notion of open learning and how groups of students learn together (on-line or in the classroom).

If you've read Dave's post then Hypothesis 7 I found particularly interesting: "Print controls our learning". The assertion is that the "historical roots and technologies of print have a profound and controlling influence on how we see education".

What intruiged me about this assertion (putting my Chomsky hat on for a moment) is the visual nature of the language used to express it. To the central point: is print a barrier to learning? As ever, that depends. As anyone reading this or Dave's blog using screen access software (e.g. Windows Narrator, JAWS, Supernova, etc) will tell you: you don't need to be able to see print to gain access to information. You need access to the technology. The printed word, after all, is a technology. Yes, there are ways of representing language in touch (Braille, blister paper) but - certainly as far as the UK is concerned - Braille readers represent a small fraction of the visually impaired population. Those visually impaired students I work with learn by being spoken to and from speaking to each other. The only communication medium available to many is language, thoughts, truth and logic represented in speech (often US English speech to boot). To the use of lanugage to express the sentiment: I'm wondering if it would be better using the word "experience" rather than "see".

Can there be such a thing as an "open" learning platform? How vital is an instructor to the learning process? This had me thinking about...

The Three Steps to Open Learning and Eternal Happiness

Step 1: Yay! My college runs a dedicated happiness course...

I'll click on that now.

Step 2: The secret to eternal happiness is only a click away...

Nirvana here I come...

Step 3: Oh hum...

How do you resolve the contention between providing a truly open learning platform and wanting to manage users in your Moodle? What do you think? Have you managed to create a fully open learning platform? I'm always interested to hear your thoughts.


  1. Hey there...

    INteresting spin on the discussion. The issue I have with print is mostly about the finality of paper. A project that works towards printing has to end, and this has lead us, i believe, towards trying to be 'correct' at the point of printing. To move towards the best/single way of looking at something rather than leaving things in the proper state of flux.

    As you say "as always, it depends". This is exactly my point. Print doesn't allow for 'it depends' nearly so well as a medium that can change and adapt. As Socrates said... the printed word can't defend itself.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for replying. I really am taken with the idea that a printed project has to come to an end - unless it's like the standard math text book here in the UK (Hall and Knight) which has been in print since the mid 1800s :-O

    And I'm sure we'd both agree that when your work finally goes into print we're never really happy with it.

    I'd forgotten about that quote from Plato. Thinking about it: that's an interesting point. I'm wondering how much that says about the culture of ancient Greece, where oratory was considered more important than the written word, than it does about our printed culture?

    Didn't Descarte say that holding a book was like holding a conversation, or something like that? I've just tried Googling this and ended up with a list of dating sites, bizzarely :)

    What do you think?