When learning means teaching, and learner means teacher – thoughts on #learnersrights

Like many others I was introduced to A Bill of Rights for Learners in a Digital Age” yesterday. And like a few others was slightly confused by it. I think there is maybe a slight tendency for us the UK to be slightly skeptical of anything claiming to be a “bill of rights”. It’s a bit too American, too explicit for those of us used to having an unwritten constitution underpinning our version of democracy. 

After reading the document, lots of questions ran through my head: what can a learner do with this constitution? how does it protect their rights? who/how/what/why signs up for it? Which brought me to thinking is this really for learners? Or is it actually for teachers/ educational institutions/governments in terms of giving them a framework for providing the “right” context for learning to take place? Is this actually a teachers/teaching bill of rights?  

Perhaps because I’m taking part in #oldsmooc which is about learning design, the subtleties of distinctions between learning and teaching are higher than normal on my agenda. As it has been pointed out on many occasions, learning design could actually be called teaching design as it is in fact in many ways more about the teaching side of education than learning. Sometimes we have a tendency to use learning when we mean teaching, and teacher when we mean learner. This again was highlighted by Stephen Downes in his response to my review of the Larnaca Learning Design Declaration (which isn’t really a declaration but let’s not get caught up in more semantic circles). 

As someone involved in the drafting of “the Bill”, Audrey Watters has written a really useful post on the process and her own thoughts on the the process and terminology used. I found this extremely useful in understanding how, and by whom, the document was written. Audrey’s article highlights another conundrum in terms of the use of “student’ and “learner”. Again bringing me back to my questions about who this is bill is actually for.  

I do think there are some fundamental issues and some which will become increasingly important i.e. ownership and use of data which “the bill” highlights. As with the other announcements from the folks at Hybrid Pedagogy, Audrey is advocating hacking this initial document and getting much wider involvement in its development.  

I’m not sure I’m really adding anything constructive here, but I do think if this is to gain any traction it needs to be clear who this is for. Maybe this needs to evolve into a set of “bills/manifestos/declarations” call them what you will, explicitly directed at students, learners, teachers administrators but with some common underpinning themes to ensure we are all contributing to building successful learning cultures. 

5 thoughts on “When learning means teaching, and learner means teacher – thoughts on #learnersrights

  1. I’m with Gardner/Elliot on this one: “That is not it at all/That is not what I meant at all.”. So much I can agree with, yet so much I cannot allow to stand.

    I’d better write something. 🙂

  2. Really useful response. I think your question of audience is an important one. I think you are probably right that the audience right now is “teachers/ educational institutions/governments.” I hope that what rises out of this, though, is more student involvement in thinking about pedagogy and hacking our institutions of learning. I’ve been at too many tables talking about pedagogy and the future of education where not enough students were present. So, my hope is that hacks, forks, and reboots of this document are constructed by students and have students as their audience. Pedagogy is going nowhere unless students and learners are at the center of it. As a side note, I’m an “educator,” but when I’m working with students, I consider myself first and foremost a learner right alongside them.

  3. Hi Jesse
    thanks for the comment. Yes we do need to get more students engaged. Wondering about what the NUS over here would make of this? What they would rights they would like to see enshrined.

    Will be really interseting to see where this takes up.


  4. I’m glad to read your thoughts. My first reaction was “nice ideals” but not seeing much that can have an impact. But maybe an increases awareness on student perspective can be good?

    I doubt it was meant as imposition if an American idea with the name, and I would have argued for something else.

    The biggest problem? A Learner Bill of Rights that is not written by Learners? It feels a bit hollow in that regard.

    If this is to be hacked, lets get it in the hands of Learners and get out of the way.

  5. Thanks for commenting Alan – and yes totally agree we need to get students to engage with this and give their views. i’n sure there are lots of issues they feel are important which aren’t represented yet


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