Ex-head Jim Wynn advises governments on changing learning. He believes point-of-learning tech will transform assessment

Educators have a lot in common with gardeners. But instead of growing fruit and vegetables we grow successful humans.

However, while agriculture adopts technology for radical change, education struggles to grasp its most exciting possibility. And that is to embrace technology to achieve what all educators want — to help everyone realise their potential both as individuals and as effective members of society

In their book, “Creating a Learning Society”, Stiglitz and Greenwald, argue that it is a person’s ability to be an active member of the communities which they belong to that makes the difference to their own economic capacity and when looked at as a whole, to the capacity of a country to grow both economically and socially. The implication of this point of view is that the traditional focus of education and training on skills and knowledge needs to change.

From WHAT you know to WHY you know  

Lengo creditsEgyptian teachers peer review their behaviours in their Teachers First projectUNESCO’s Riel Miller is head for foresight with UNESCO, the education arm of the United Nations, and is currently working on its forthcoming publication, “Transforming the Future: anticipation in the 21st century”. He articulates the shift in the purpose of training across the agricultural, industrial and, now, information eras as a move from what you know to why you know.

He argues that the learning systems set up over 100 years ago continue to believe that delivering knowledge and skills is the fundamental purpose of training. This approach has been with us for so long that those who have been driving change have seen very little, and most training experiences are as they were in the past.

It is only a little over 10 years since Facebook and other social media began to change our lives, and the extraordinary growth of these technologies is de facto proof that, as social animals, human beings enthusiastically embrace opportunities to belong to communities. As technology also enables us to have what we want, when we want it, we are all demanding more bespoke experiences and expect our own personalised needs to be catered for.

From WHO is serving us to HOW we are served  

Lengo screen Imagine Education's 'Lengo' appThe consequence of this is that when we deal with anyone delivering a service we expect that service to feel personal and special. Moreover, we expect a high-quality service and, as a result, give less credibility to the skill of who is serving us and give more credit to how we are being served. So we give more credit to a nurse that treats an elderly person with dignity than their ability to give an injection; we expect the latter but value the former.

There is a sea of literature on this topic and the retail sector, with its Point of Sale (PoS) devices and approaches has been the leader in joining service excellence to its products. The ‘internet of things’ has accelerated the success of PoS into other areas such as smart metering and home security, but I believe that it is in learning that technology can make the biggest impact.

I’m predicting that Point of Learning approaches will transform not the delivery of knowledge-based content but the nature of assessment. PoL will, for the first time, allow people to develop and record moments when behaviours, habits and attitudes have been demonstrated. This will transform the dominance of one-off exam room tests — a proxy for measuring skills — into the ability to show behavioural patterns over time.

The implications of the internet of things on learning will force a rethink of syllabuses of knowledge: they can become frameworks that individuals can navigate. And point-of-learning technologies will replace exam rooms with communities of practice than can assess action in different circumstances over time by different people.

From formal courses to competence frameworks  

Lengo behavioursLengo's Point of Learning aspect captivates teachers in EgyptIn today’s world the most successful people are highly skilled and able to perform well in many different circumstances. Which means that traditional approaches to learning and assessment used in the acquisition of knowledge and skills are inappropriate to the development of the attitudes, behaviours and habits of successful people.

The solution is to move from formal courses to competence frameworks, from one-off, isolated demonstrations of knowledge to the observation of appropriate behaviours over time in different circumstances in communities of practice.

This is achieved by moving from learning approaches of the past to Point of Learning systems. And the good news is that work on this is already beginning in various parts of the world. Imagine Education is working on a very popular teacher education scheme with the Egyptian Government. Peer learning and assessment are employed to bring large-scale changes in teachers' behaviours and professional development.

Known as the Teachers First project, it is supported and accelerated by the use of online and mobile technologies created specifically for it. Our Lengo app has excited and engaged teachers in the kinds of collaborations that we had only previously dreamt of.

Projects like Teachers First are indications of the powerful Point of Learning  approaches, enabled by technology like Lengo, that will help us to better ‘grow’ our learners into happy and successful citizens. Otherwise, we may very well miss the point of learning.

Jim WynnJim Wynn is chief executive of Imagine Education a UK-based company that has moved from teacher training to developing learning systems. Imagine Education has developed an approach to building behaviour frameworks for teachers, care workers and call centre operators. Imagine has presented these ideas to senior government officials from countries such as Egypt, Brunei, Brazil and Russia.  

More information  
Imagine Education's downloadable Point of Learning brochure   
"Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress" (Kenneth Arrow Lecture Series) (Kenneth J. Arrow Lecture Series) June 20, 2014

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