How splendid is Larnaca in September! The weather has an almost equatorial feel with perfect conditions day and night. It is pleasantly warm from sunset until late morning and bearably hot during the day; the sea has a calming presence with its magic blue and the colourful umbrellas peppered along the beach, and palm trees happily giving the final stamp of approval for everyone to stay worry free, relax and have a good time with friends.
Meanwhile at the Sun Beach hotel, a team made of colleagues from UK, Australia, Greece and Cyprus met in a big and bright conference room to discuss Learning Design. The group that gathered in Larnaca representing many years of experience in this field planned to establish a broad conceptual framework as a springboard for the further development of the Learning Design as a methodology.
This has been a perfectly timed workshop. The idea came up last year in December during the LAMS Conference in Sydney, to develop something that would bring all the research related to Learning Design into one contiguous body of work that captures the essence of Learning Design for the benefit of those who are interested in this methodology. The ICEM Conference 2012 (starting in the second half of the week) in Nicosia and Professor James Dalziel’s work on the ALTC National Teaching Fellowship proved to be a great catalyst for excellent collaboration.
Two important things came out of this work: (1) a comprehensive timeline of major events, formation of communities, publications and initiatives that occurred in the field of Learning Design over the past ten years or so, and (2) a high level map of the field of Learning Design (see below).
This is a great beginning for the consolidation of the knowledge generated through research, publications, conferences and many projects implemented in the past decade. The shared view signals an opportunity not only for a more productive academic research in this field, but also for helping teachers around the world, software developers, educational consultants and institutions to adopt Learning Design methodology for a more effective way of teaching students acquire knowledge and learn new skills.
The workshop and its outcomes felt like a strong direction setter and the team agreed unanimously that this event will be referred to in the history of this field as Larnaca Declaration on Learning Design.
The notion of sharing learning designs in schools is not new. It goes back to many, many years and it has been practiced in form of sharing teaching experience since the beginning of time. Thousands of years ago, in its simplest form, the transfer of learning design as “design knowledge” applied to a certain context, meant copying, mirroring others’ way of teaching students or trainees, meticulously keeping instruction details intact.
One of the oldest practice took place in the military. The learning design was shared by many instructors in an effort to discipline their soldiers. Closer to our times, generations of teachers learned the learning designs and applied them over generations helping student acquire simple knowledge that barely changed over time. Later, while the number of learning designs were quite reduced at the beginning of the industrial revolution, as the education system become more sophisticated, various disciplines started to form learning designs modelled around their history and cultural background differing more and more from one another.
It is only recently that we came up with the idea of learning design as a template that can be replicated as a step-by-step repeatable process and be used as a tool to support effectively the pedagogical practice. Why the need? Firstly, teachers have to deal with an increasingly complex curriculum and performance requirements. Secondly, the body of knowledge has grown so much, something needs to be done to help the teachers do administrative work faster so that they have more time to focus on interacting with students and perform higher order activities.
This is where the technology is both the culprit and the saviour. While it is widely recognised learning design implemented with technology can make things much easier to re-use, the actual sharing could be costly. There are technologies that offer improved solutions (LAMS International), but their patchy adoption prevents major productivity achievements. Education system need to adopt learning design systems across the entire organisation (meaning region, state, country) to make real progress in reaping the potential rewards.