You need a box to think outside the box.

When I went to primary school there was one class that really scared me – the art class. I remember sitting in the school´s big art studio, the room had beautiful canopy and all different kind of paintings on the walls. But I was just terrified.

But it wasn’t my bad skills in drawing or even the much awaited war with rubbers that scared me. It was one sentence that scared me, one sentence from the teacher. The sentence that scared me was:

“Today you can do whatever you want”

What should I do now! I could do whatever I wanted, but I didn’t know what I wanted! The room was full of so many tools, equipment’s and material to do I was overwhelmed. I just couldn’t start doing anything.

As I was reading the material on flexible learning my thoughts were drawn back to my experiences from the art class in primary school. My experience that when everything is set to be very flexible it sometimes ends up in mess and stress.

Sometimes I think flexible courses try to be a bit like my old art studio full with tools and equipment… but with no good assignments. Just like a felt overwhelmed in the art-class I can really feel overwhelmed with all the digital tools… Prezi, google+, wordpress, Adobe connect etc. But I have hard to see what I should use them for?

In my opinion we have plenty of tools for creating flexile learning but we don’t have enough of assignments and projects that fit for flexible learning.

Just as Alastair Creelman mentions in his video it’s vital that flexible course have clear scaffolding techniques. There must be clear structures for collaborations. For example just creating an online forum or a google+ group won’t create collaboration (Of course!).

If the course goal is clear and set in real-life context, students will themselves be able to find and chose the right tools for solving the problem. This is the essence of Problem based Learning. Just as Kearney et al. (2012) discuses learning environment and goal must be set into “real world” contexts. It will then be clear that the important thing is not what tools you use, but that the real problem gets solved.

Here I think that Kearney et al. (2012) two other parts in their framework (collaboration & personalization) should be subordinated creating a “real-life” experience. Don’t create an assignment with the purpose that students should use twitter. Instead we should think of creating assignment with high degree of authenticity where the only way of solving the problem is to use twitter.

Back to art-class… 

One day we had a new trainee teacher at Art-class. He gave us a very strict assignment. We were to make a poster for upcoming school game in football.

The best poster would be used. The aim was clear. The thing the still strikes me is how diverse the output became. All kind of tools and techniques where used. Some students put a lot of effort on the task other did not. Some collaborated for a better result and some did not.

That´s how I think flexible learning should be.

A learning environment with a clear and well-defied framework. The students know what the goal is but they can choose how to reach the goal in whatever way they desire.


2 thoughts on “You need a box to think outside the box.

  1. with that sentence it´s also important that the teacher clearly define, what she/he mean by ” do what you want”, the frame should be obvious anyhow, that´s what I think is important, cause the teacher is also the person who´s going to assess the students…… and how is that possible without the frames or undefined instructions


  2. Thank you Marcus for your reflections on flexible learning. I recognize the situation you describe from school and I felt the same way. I didn’t like the ”whatever we wanted to do” lessons and it often killed my creativity no matter the subject. I also didn’t like when we worked in groups and the teacher didn’t help us to divide into groups because it took the focus away from the assignment when you had to worry about coming in the ”right” group. Flexibility to me isn’t about giving all the choices and decisions to the students but as you write to give them ”real life” and challenging assignments that could be solved in different ways. Inquiry based learning or PBL work is two ways of doing this. No matter what assignment it is I also think it´s important with frames, scaffolding and clear goals so that the students can focus on solving the ”real problem”!



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