Technology, learning and inclusion

4 January 2007

I have just returned from a very useful conference-cum-seminar-cum- network meeting on inclusion and special educational needs. This was held at my own Nottingham Trent University (NTU). The themes were research and inter-agency working in the areas of special educational needs and inclusion. Hopefully the embryonic network that came together to plan the day will be a basis for future sharing and collaboration.

There was a useful (for me) distinction made by paediatrician Linda Marden between inter-agency (agencies working together) and multi-agency (many agencies not necessarily working together). The background for this, and my reason for being there, is of course the all-pervasive Every Child Matters agenda where multi-agency is the preferred term… but I think Linda makes a very valid an pertinent point.

It was good to hear of research in this field, to hear to phrase co-researcher again when applied to research group including the young people at The Shepherd School Nottingham who have been round the world helping disseminate findings of research projects. These projects include those of the Virtual Reality Applications Research Team at the University of Nottingham and the Interactive Systems Research Group at NTU.

The work of these projects in engaging young people in learning with and through technology reminded me of the excellent work done by my former colleagues at the now-vastly-downsized Ultralab. Established and led by Stephen Heppell and the Richard Millwood some of the lab’s legacy into digital creativity is being carried on by Matt Eaves, Hal Maclean and others under the Cleveratom banner.

Continuing the ex-Ultralab theme and maybe more directly aligned to the theme of inclusion (at least if one defines inclusion as trying to include those who are excluded (!)) is the ongoing work of NotSchool and of Jonathan Furness at the Stepping Stones School for children with hemiplegia.

What’s this to do with my PhD? Well for me it resonates well with the themes of authentic learning and ICT. If ICT becomes so enmeshed in the learning, as all of these projects demonstrate, how is it possible to assess it?

Recognition of non-formal learning: EFVET

19 December 2006

The European Forum for Vocational Education and Training have a report that lists “Six key messages for lifelong learning”. The report appears to be date 2006 but I only divine that from the URL..

Key Message 4 is “VALUING LEARNING”. In here EFVET talk of valuing non-formal learning. There is talk of common recognition of ‘portfolios’. I agree with the sentiment but wonder about the effect of imposing standardised portfolios. Does the nature of informal learning make this difficult. Does the nature of ICT skills also work against it? You see a fully-functional spreadsheet – how do you know what skills the author actually possesses?

NB Although ICT is not mentioned explicitly in this section, it is a specified ‘skill’ elsewhere int he report. That it refers to ‘skills’ is another problem when thinking about education (as opposed to training). Are mere ‘skills’ enough?