Reflection 1: “The Modern Learner”

This week we started by reflecting on the modern educational landscape and the unique challenges and opportunities presented by education today. One thing that immediately struck me was trying to have discussion around identifying what the “modern learner” is. It seems like a misnomer to treat and discussion today’s learners as a single entity. One of the key characteristics of education today is that the ever increasing diversity of learners and learning experiences. One could argue that trying to define the modern learner is akin to trying to define education. An impossible task.

Instead of trying to define what modern learning is or who modern learners are, I think it’s better to try and understand the complexity of the modern learning landscape in order to really appreciate the infinite number of configurations of learners, tools, learning spaces, learning cultures, interactions, motivations, learning objectives that a learning experience could be. Every one of these factors could drastically impact the effectiveness of a given learning experience. 

This is really important when we consider recycling materials- even the same lesson or course delivered at a different time to a different audience can have wildly different effects. When I was in the classroom, I never taught the same lesson twice. I often reused materials or activities, but I was constantly redesigning the structure of my lessons and classes to fit the unique group. This could have been as drastic as targeting entirely different learning objectives if a group was stronger or weaker in a certain topic. Or it could have been as simple as changing the topic of a discussion to bring in the personal experiences of a different cultural mix. 

The benefits of personalizing are problematic when we are talking about designing digital artefacts (like videos, interactive digital lessons, recorded presentations etc.) rather than designing live classes. Is it possible to create a one-size fits all learning experience? Or is there a way to build in flexibility to allow the learners to forge their own learning experience? The first seems unlikely. The second seems incredibly complex. This is a topic that I’m quite interested in revisiting as I explore the world of knowledge media design in greater detail. 

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