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Andragogy and the Future Learning Experience Project – Science Fiction?

by Jay Allen (ADL). Jay serves as the Instructional Design Team Lead for the ADL Initiative. Jay retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after flying helicopters for over 16 years and serving as the Coast Guard’s ADL Program Manager. He joined the ADL Initiative after three years as the Department of Homeland Security’s Enterprise Learning Technology Team Lead. He is pursuing his Ph.D. in Education at George Mason University with a focus on the application of Adult Learning Theory in ADL within the Federal workplace. He resides in Alexandria, VA with his wife, three Papillons, and twins due in March 2011.

If you have been following the Future Learning Experience Project Blog from the beginning (it’s okay if you haven’t, you have plenty of time to catch up and here’s a brief recap), you should notice that ADL is taking a distinct approach to this effort combining the expertise offered by both Instructional Systems Design (ISD) and Information/Instructional Technology. A true blending of theory and practice/application serves as the inspiration and foundation for how ADL believes that, together with you, we re-define learning enabled through technology.

To reiterate what Aaron Silvers posted, the Future Learning Experience Project is not the next SCORM. I propose that this effort is an entirely new direction intended to harness “The Power of Global Collaboration” (ADL’s tagline) in order to create the way(s) learning is accomplished.

By “create” we mean the technological development of API(s) or communication methods that will permit “the way(s)” that are available to us now, as well as future methods not yet at our disposal. By “learning” we mean the process by which human performance improvement is attained and by “accomplished” we mean the management of all of the above.

The “create” portion is that collaborative effort which is, in part, being tackled by Project Tin Can. “The way(s),” “learning,” and “accomplished” portions of the Future Learning Experience Project are all elements of the ongoing conversation which I hope to advance here.

When Dr. Shane Gallagher described what a learning experience is, he took a very global approach to describing the “learning experience” altogether as the coming together of content, methodology, and the results of interaction (e.g., learner-content, learner-learner, learner-facilitator, etc.). Shane concluded with pointing us to “model that will allow higher order learning outcomes to be realized.” Although not explicit, I believe Shane was pointing us to Levels 4-6 of Bloom’s Rose.

Peter Berking followed with his reflection on two particular “ways” – Socratic Learning and Intelligent Tutoring Systems – in which “higher order learning outcomes [can be] realized.”
What I wish to share is intended to further frame the Future Learning Experience Project in terms of a theoretical foundation which might serve to guide expectations.

We really must ask ourselves: What is the end-state that we are striving for? What does learning look like today, given technology’s advance, and what will it look like tomorrow?

To help answer such questions, I harken back to a recommendation I was given (and still heartily recommend) when I first entered this field to read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (OSC). From a learning theorist’s perspective, the brilliance of the “way(s) learning is accomplished” in Ender’s Game involved the following:

  1. Capitalizing on the self-concept of the learner as they move from the perspective of being a dependent personality to the perspective of being a self-directing (independent) human being (Ender had to grow up very quickly in leading his team in the simulation),
  2. Acknowledging and leveraging the learners’ reservoir of experience (Ender capitalized on his “thinking outside the box” to advance his team in the simulation),
  3. Understanding that the readiness of any learner to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks of his or her social role (Ender understood that his personal leadership performance was necessary to advance team success), and
  4. Understanding there is a change in perspective as we mature – from future application of knowledge to immediacy of application (i.e., learning which is more problem-centered than subject-centered).

Do these four attributes describe a learning experience with which you may already be familiar? If you’re engaged in creating learning experiences which promote “higher order learning outcomes to be realized” in the world of workplace learning, then I hope that you recognize these four key elements as the foundation of andragogy as described by Malcolm Knowles in 1968. Doesn’t this also describe what we are hoping to promote as “the way learning is accomplished” given our technological capabilities today? I submit the answer is, “Yes!”

So, with andragogy as a theoretical foundation upon which we can build, how will we, together, create the Future Learning Experience which will re-define learning as learning is enabled through technology? We decide together.

[By the way, I haven’t spoiled Ender’s Game for the uninitiated, particularly as related to attribute #4 above. In future blog posts, I am sure that we will visit “stealth assessment” and other cool topics. Until then, I will have to leave you to read “OSC” for yourself.]

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