Flexible Learning – Putting the Stretch Back into Education

Everytime you learn something new, I believe that you are stretching. Stretching your mind to take in a new concept and build connections (neural and otherwise) around it, stretching your body and building muscle memory that enables automaticity and strength. Without the stretch, you aren’t making the connections, and without the connections, learning hasn’t happened.

Education does not equate to learning. Many attend educational activities and learn little or nothing. This may be due to a multitude of reasons. It may be that the individual is merely attending and not participating in the learning (they are physically there, but mentally elsewhere).  It may be that the individual already has developed connections and understandings around the concept or content being taught and is adding nothing new to their knowledge. How many classrooms have you seen where a percentage of those in attendance fit into these categories, as the learning experience is situated toward the middle ground, and is either not engaging or not challenging many of those there to learn.

I see flexible learning as an attempt to provide stretch (i.e. the opportunity to construct new meanings and understandings) for every learner – but it takes flexibility from all participants.

The term flexible learning is an umbrella term, and as the Conditions of Flexibility report shares, it may be exhibited on a number of levels; sectoral, institutional and pedagogical, as well as from the level of the learner. To offer true flexible learning, each level needs to make changes. These changes may conflict, and the path to flexible  learning is neither obvious or smooth, and it is also relatively uncharted.

It is impossible to reflect on all aspects of flexibility in one blog post; however having spent the week thinking and considering the thoughts shared by other participants in the Open Network Learning Moocin which I am participating, I have put together a summary of where I am in understanding flexible learning in the form of an infographic, below. One thing I have drawn upon in the construction of this infographic and in my thinking this week is the way that the Connected Learning Framework offers one way to develop a flexible approach to learning; a student-centred model which provides pedagogical advice and suggested structures for those just dipping their toes into the waters of flexible learning provision, as well as a way of embedding new media naturally and in a way that enables the affordances of social software to be effectively exploited. Read more in the Connected Learning report.

OPEN Networked Learning Post (1)

10 thoughts on “Flexible Learning – Putting the Stretch Back into Education

  1. veronica

    Hi, stretching is defintivily the right word for it, especially for the students, but can we see this in a stretching manner for the teacher as well, cause it´s not a challenge only for the students, it´s also is for the teacher, or maybe is it the same way of learning/stretching for both of them, yes probably depends on how you look at it – as you said, it´s multifaceted

    1. KayO

      Thank you, you totally got what I was trying to express! It is a stretch; for all of us, whether teacher or student. 🙂

  2. Hello Kay and thank you for the post and the links! I look forward to reading more about connected learning. Making a connection is so important when you are actively learning, and I think you’re right that for a lasting learning to occur the connections need to be obvious to the learner.
    When you wrote about stretching your mind as well as your body it got me thinking about a PhD thesis I recently read. Håkan Fleischer talks about stretched knowledge and although the thesis is in Swedish there is a short summary in English if you’re interested: http://hj.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:663330/FULLTEXT01.pdf

    1. KayO

      Thank you so much Charlotta for sharing that thesis, I will definitely check the English summary!

  3. Malin Pahlmblad

    Thanks for this Kay! I found your part on the importance of stretching very interesting and how education doesn’t automatically mean learning!

    1. KayO

      Thank you, I really am glad you got something out of my blog post 🙂

  4. Interesting, there are many obstacles the teachers has to overcome.

  5. I like your “stretching” concept – it describes the education process just perfectly! As we’ve got the streching, there would be also “shrinking”. When we not learning, we are loosing what we gained before. That’s why is so important to stay busy and hungry for knowledge.

    1. KayO

      Thank you Mike! It is true we need to keep our minds fit and engage in ongoing learning, so we can stay in touch and up to date 🙂

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