Ubiquitous ecology of learning

In this article, I would like to emphasize the emergence of ‘ubiquitous ecologies’ in the new world of connectionism in school systems.

I would like to come up with the two most profound and relevant sub-systems of virtual space architecture (VSA) and heutagogy which are potential game changers. These have the power to replace ‘physical boundaries’ and ‘confined real-time spatial interactions’ and hence need a slow but definite treading. Critics will immediately jump to argue that any VSA will need mobile devices, regarded as naturally distracting, and start giving examples of elite institutions like Waldorf School in San Francisco banning the use of laptops for their students. On the contrary, I would rather flip the apprehension to strengthen my arguments and say that the school, in the middle of Silicon Valley, dared to devise its systems and sailed against the winds of change elsewhere, to establish new norms suiting them. I do not propose taking away laptops/computers in our school as it might not serve a similar purpose. I also do not know for how long Waldorf can keep a ban on computers, now since the interactions between the learners are being virtually augmented even by Artificial intelligence (AI), disrupting the prevalent pedagogical notions. UNESCO has also been promoting ideas to bring about measurable changes in teaching-learning processes, and AI-based impacts. This essentially indicates how far the reach of AI has been in developing pedagogy.

VSA, in its fundamental form, seems to be more of a support system and much less a learning platform. It provides some elements of self-directed learning strategies, though this virtual space is used to engage with the regular and additional study materials, commonly used in our classrooms. This kind of communication architecture is primarily based on the incubation of resources taken from various domains, mainly the internet and a few old-time tested handouts and worksheets. The structure in its purest form is nothing but a customized version of a textbook for a suitable audience. Primordial unidirectional communication is embedded in the system, used occasionally by learners as per their needs. The higher-order cognitive self-evolving systems of communication architecture addressing the century’s requirements of collaboration and skills are a far cry. Today technology in education is not being used for dumping or replicating resources but for creating a communication architecture which can ultimately lead to heutagogical approaches. Ubiquitous ecologies are based on such advanced architecture. This looks quite unbelievable in our context but actually, Office 365 used in any school is a potential keystone for that architecture. Unfortunately, we have not realized it yet. In the absence of a progressive VSA in the school system, the students are clueless about how to get engaged with the coursework even though they have advanced versions of mobile devices.  It is quite funny to see these sophisticated resources being used as music & movie systems more often by learners than for any academic purposes. We have to understand that these machines are entry gates to a vast virtual space for advancing the learning continuum.

In the last few years, we have seen the emergence of virtual learning environments (VLE) in schools. Still, it has been mostly restricted to reproduction of documents, minor data processing and self-motivated activities. It is quite bemusing though, that few who have been venturing into VLE for pretty long, did not even bother to develop their personalized communication architecture for the new learning. The virtual space could have been used to evolve a system to enhance the learning of the main coursework. I understand that graduation to heutagogical levels of engagement requires an intrinsic desire to incorporate academic discipline as an inherent character. I think given the level of relationship with technology we require at least a decade to establish such a system. On the other hand, in advanced school systems, which do well in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the ubiquitous ecology keeps on advancing. They are now looking at AI and bringing in quantum change. The best systems have already started adopting AI-based communication architecture and are now emphasizing the need for such systems to be included even at the primary level. It is hence quite frightful to see us missing out on developing a realistic virtual platform and further losing out on establishing the augmented and virtual reality-based ecology. It seems that the majority of the school systems are stranded on a much lower plane and as of now, there seems to be little intention to end this self-imposed status quo.

Any institution of repute that dreams to be among the best makes no real headway, if they delude themselves with pseudo pursuits of growth that are regressive. If we can’t even handle a simple machine that can otherwise change our lives, then how do we prepare for the future? I recall Oren Harari’s quote that is quite relevant here and I quote ‘The electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles’.

Rajesh Majumdar


Written by rajeshmajumdar

After three decades of extraordinary experience and learning in premiere residential schools across the country, I feel privileged to be an educator. Wearing multiple hats of a teacher, Housemaster, Head of Department and Dean of Academics, I was able to refine my educational perspectives with time. Attending conferences, workshops and professional visits across the world gave me opportunities to add unimaginable values to my journey.

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