I’m not a teacher, but both as an education researcher and as an adult learner the importance of flexible forms of learning are evident to me. Trying to combine work, family life and learning is daunting at times and classroom teaching is not always feasible nor is it the way most of us approach learning today. We explore things of interest to us through books, magazines, web-content or videos. We share what we have discovered with friends and strangers on facebook, pinterest or other platforms. Sometimes we learn in a classroom, sometimes we learn in online platforms and sometimes we don’t even realize we are learning.
But reflecting on the different ways we engage with information today, we acquire and share knowledge is interesting and would be useful to enrich learning that takes place in different settings, including in the classroom. Rather than seeing digital media as a distraction, I think it can also be of benefit to create a new learning community within and outside of the classroom, where learning is co-created by teachers and students and everyone can share their discoveries of what has been helpful for them for the benefit of all.
So I was excited when I got the opportunity to test a course that explores the various aspects of digital pedagogies from open education resources (OER), to Wikis, digital education resources and games, curation of content etc through the project EDUHACK (https://eduhack.eu/).
Being mostly geared towards educators, parts of the course were clearly more relevant to how to best harness the potential of digital pedagogies in the classroom. But as co-creators of knowledge, the things that spoke to me the most were the use of Wikis, digital education resources and the curation of knowledge.
Adult learners tend to spend less time on campus or have face-to-face interaction with teachers or fellow students, which can have a negative impact on their sense of belonging and engagement. So having an opportunity to exchange can be helpful to create that sense of belonging. As long as this takes place in an organic, non-forced and easy to use manner and on a topic of relevance to them, I think this could be an interesting aspect to explore, especially in the area of adult learning.
The benefit of digital education resources is that it allows learners to follow part of the programme at their own pace, whenever they have time available. Delivering part of the content of a programme through these means could free-up time in the classroom to discuss challenging aspects of the curriculum or raise questions requiring clarification. Digital education resources sometimes also bring with them the benefit of having more immediate feedback, which can be beneficial for the learner and time-saving for the teacher.
Finally, the most beautiful aspect of adult learning is the experience the fellow students bring to a classroom and picking up on their suggestions for further material and reading related to the course. This is what is curating and organizing digital resources is all about, namely getting recommendations on what has proven useful on a given subject and why, rather than merely sharing a reading list.
In that spirit, as a learner of Maltese as a Foreign Language I have started a pinterest pin with materials I found useful along the way and will be sharing it with my fellow students and my teacher encouraging them to populate it with material they have come across. And, indeed, the spirit of collaboration is already strong among adult learners and teachers, which might be due to a strong intrinsic motivation and self-directedness of learning among adult learners?
It would be great to harness this further by promoting digital pedagogies in adult learning.