I recently took part in in an interesting discussion in the JISC Moodle-UK email list. During this discussion I suggested that the manner in which the use of the online learning platform Moodle had evolved:
has been to some extent dominated by modules with lots of functionality (e.g. complex enrolment systems) for controlling people's learning.
I implied that there was an ethos of ‘command and control’ in the world of education that was at odds with the original ideal behind the development of Moodle, namely:
to build a platform that could promote social constructionist/constructivist learning.
A later message in the same thread (posted by my good friend Philip Butler) implied that my advocacy for ‘opening up’ access to learning resources meant that I might not be living in the real world.
I have chosen to take the suggestion that I am not living in the real world as a great compliment. Who would want to live willingly in a ‘real’ educational world in which (to quote Sheila Lawlor writing in the Guardian):
… thanks to the interference of officialdom, teaching is barely a profession: the teacher must follow the strategies, frameworks and tasks devised by semi-educated officials for careerist politicians.
As an independent practitioner aged 63 I can, of course, define (and to some extent live within) my own ‘real world’. But what are those who are younger and employed within institutions to do? How can they help to move the ‘real world’ forward? Alison Wolf, in her book An adult approach to further education, seems pessimistic about the possibility of improving the system:
The current system is opaque, wasteful, unjust, fails to achieve its own narrow economic objectives and is effectively unreformable.
Frank Coffield goes even further in his description of the dysfunctionality of top-down command and control in the education system in From exam factories to communities of discovery:
The main driving force for change in England has become fear: fear of poor exam results, fear of poor inspection grade, fear of sliding down the national league tables, and fear of public humiliation and closure. Fear is inimical to learning.(p.48)
The relationship between, on the one hand government and government agencies and, on the other, institutional leaders is... that of a parent dealing petulantly with wayward children… (p.50)
The ‘real world’ of education is, I think, so strangled by 'top-downism', by the command and control myth that I find it hard to know what individual practitioners can and should do. I hope to return to this in the future and to be able to make some positive suggestions. In the meantime, if you, dear reader, have any ideas, please do submit a comment to this post.