Spotlight topic 3: Open Educational Practices and Generativism
Roberto Carneiro - Universidade Catolica Portuguesa - A locus to discuss Educational Policy and Innovation
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7 June 2010
OPEN EDUCATIONAL PRACTICES AND GENERATIVISM - a proposal open to discussion
OPAL departs from the idea that we may be standing at the threshold of an exciting new era in education and learning.
The potential lies there, right at the heart of OEP, to redefine the future of learning.
Indeed, the extraordinary development of OER witnessed over the last couple of years suggests that we can dream of a ‘Learning Utility Agenda’. In other words, the availability of a vast infrastructure of learning opportunities, accessible anywhere and anytime from a variety of devices and platforms, as easily as one accesses nowadays to electricity, water or communications, sparks bold new visions on pressing agendas such as LLL, key skills acquisition and informal learning recognition.
However, there is scant evidence that this ‘big bang’ of OER has lead into the effective uptake in the educational arena of freely available resources. Moreover, the real impact of OER on transforming actual classroom practices and inspiring new learning patterns remains astonishingly poor.
The gulf between an evergrowing supply of OER and the reluctance to adopt OEP comes as no surprise. The truth of the matter is that this apparent contradiction embodies the clash between two traditional paradigms: developing knowledge ‘objects’ (a supply driven strategy) vs. investing in learning ‘subjects’ (a demand driven strategy).
Obviously, reality does not have to be a pick between one or another. Both strategies should go together, hand in hand - which is rarely the case - to avoid major imbalances in the way how pedagogical innovation progresses.
Our existing portfolio of learning theories is barely enough to encompass the complexities underpinning a widespread policy of OEP. Behaviourism, Cognitivism and Constructivism were formulated in a pre-ICT stoneage. Furthermore, these theories could not anticipate a “brave new world” made up of tech-rich environments, of soaring interactions in social networks built around Web 2.0, and of content availability without boundaries.
As for Connectivisim, however ingenious the theory is presented and attractive it may be, its basic claims on technology enabled changes elicit the individual as the main locus of transformations – in brain functions and in behaviour. This understanding falls short of OEP to the extent that what may be fundamentally required are new sets of competences and different ways of enhancing social learning.
Having arrived at this juncture the case that I would like to put forward is that OEP will only take-off in a sustainable course if we invest in people (learning subjects) – in their personal, professional and social skills – to make OER a powerful engine of new learning experiences.
Two philosophical theories dealing with scientific knowledge establish a marked distinction between the received view (RV) and the semantic view (SV). While the former (RV) deals with the passive collection or recollection of existing knowledge, the latter (SV) involves a full-fledged reconstruction of received knowledge and presupposes a constant quest for value-added meaning.
I have proposed a complete value chain ascending from raw data to information (metadata), from information to knowledge (metainformatiom), from knowledge to learning (metaknowledge) and from learning to meaning-making (metalearning). The effort to bridge the gulf between information access, knowledge gaps, learning inequalities and meaning-making disparities is epitomised in three transitions: simple to complex, science of quantities to science of qualities, product to service (Carneiro 2008).
The opposition RV-SV leads me to formulate a new semantic-driven syntax for OEP, a sort of fifth learning theory, accruing to and expanding from the previous four theories, which I would like to call Generativism (as opposed to Adaptivism) (Carneiro, 2010).
Generativism lies in the intersection between innovative learning and learning for innovation and addresses the foundations of a creative society. In this sense, OEP challenge is to generate new knowledge (SV) out of previously codified knowledge (RV). Generativism understood as a constant re-creation of knowledge appeals to the unique human ability to derive new meaning from experience and to build sense out of a shared body of conventional knowledge.
My proposition that generativism may provide a solid theoretical foundation for OEP leads to a number of crossroads and to a set of related queries:
- Can generativism inspire a sustainable spiral of knowledge generation, sharing and re-generation, embodied both in new knowledge objects and new learning subjects?
- Does generative OEP conceal the potential to unleash the latent productive and creative energies of people in organizations in order that ICT and new media finally fulfill their promise to enable and empower vibrant learning communities of practice?
- If OEP are regarded as a key ingredient of new lifelong learner-centred designs how should we define a ‘competent learner of the future’: one who is endowed with the mastery and use of a whole new range of generative learning competences?
- Would enhanced generative skills in self-regulated (self-directed) learning and social (dialogic) learning spark a disruptive change in the pace of OEP uptake and diffusion?
- How may the OPAL quality guidelines and self-assessment tools for OEP be best shaped to support self-sustained generativism and advanced lifelong learner competences?
- Could generativism position itself as a central concept for a renewed Web 3.0 (semantic, learning, smart, user-customised, evolutionary and ontology-rich in nature), one that would leverage OEP and allow the intelligent use of open resources to become a truly transformative and creative learning experience?
- Should neotenia emerge as a major field of OEP research in order to allow for increased generativity in quality adult-adult (teacher-learner, HE and AE) interactions?
One final word of caution: Whatever line of pursuit we follow, may we bear in mind one essential quest for our joint deliberations - that we find generative ways of becoming more finely and deeply human.
In final words, that we may learn to cultivate wisdom as our first and foremost goal.
Portuguese Catholic University