Education in the Digital Age – What Does It Mean?

Is education – in a more classical sense, or “Bildung”, as the Germans say, – in danger of falling by the wayside in the digital age? Or is it possible to provide a personal learning environment that really serves a holistic, individual and lifelong learning experience? What could be done to encourage students to reflect on their own online-learning process? Frances Bell, Griff Richards and Per Skafte Hansen explore these questions from very different angles in the “Thinking About Learning” session at OEB 2009.

To rethink one’s personal attitude towards learning and how to organise it successfully is at the core of the e-learning discussion. A session at OEB 2009 dedicated to ”Thinking About Learning” will provide a thought-provoking platform to reflect on recent research and initiatives.

A very practical approach in this regard will be presented by Griff Richards, Althabasca University, Canada. With his team, Richards has developed a tailor-made, online coaching module for students who are planning to enroll in online classes. What he offers is a series of short videos helping students to develop appropriate meta-learning strategies to handle e-learning effectively.

The main emphasis is on networking and collaboration. Students should be given the necessary knowledge to enable them to set up their own support networks and communicate to help each other out. At the end, they are asked to reflect on the contribution of their actions to becoming successful online learners.

Click here to watch the video.

The importance of getting connected and collaborating will also become apparent in Frances Bell’s presentation on “Connectivism – Learning for the 21st century”. This new learning paradigm, offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, describes the learner not as an isolated individual but one who is connected. Connectivism means that learners are not only part of a network of individuals but they are also connected to knowledge itself. Given the fact that the network is always accessible and is becoming increasingly essential, learners need a deep understanding of where to find information. Consequently, meta-learning strategies become as important as learning itself. At OEB 2009, Bell will present a new study examining connectivism as a theory in use by around 2200 people who participated in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), a super-size open education course.

Fundamental questions concerning the use of e-learning tools are raised by the Danish Knowledge Manager Per Skafte Hansen: What he questions is whether “Bildung” in a more classical sense can still be delivered in a digital world with its pressure for more and faster factual learning. Hansen, however, not only wants to position himself as a media critic; he also seeks to depict his ideas of future-oriented solutions to integrate e-learning tools optimally in a lifelong learning scenario.

What comes to his mind when thinking about a personal “Bildung” environment is some sort of an “old-fashioned” diary containing logs of significant events and a repository of personal reflections. This would help users/learners to “craft” their own “Bildung”.

Frances Bell, Griff Richards and Per Skafte Hansen will present their ideas at OEB 2009 in the session “Thinking About Learning” on Thursday, December 3, from 14:15 – 15:45.

The German word “Bildung” covers a complex semantic field. A one-word translation might be “education”, but the overall concept is much broader.

The term “Bildung” dates back to sixteenth century Pietistic theology. At that time, it transmitted the belief that Christians should undertake the “cultivation” (Bildung) of their talents and shape their dispositions according to the image of God, which was seen to be innate in their souls. Most important German philosophers, including Leibniz, Herder, and Hegel, moulded their own individual interpretation of the complex idea of “Bildung”.

Per Skafte Hansen has chosen “Bildung” for his presentation at Online Educa Berlin in order to describe the synthesis and internalisation of education, experience and (sometimes almost subconscious) reflection that together form the basis of an individual’s lifelong maturity process.



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