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15 June 2007 / erikduval

Panel of Eden

During the panel with the keynote speakers at the EDEN conference, I got to understand Michael Moore’s position (see yesterday) a bit better – I think. We both agree that the current educational practice is terribly inefficient, especially in high school. We both feel a certain urgency to deal with this in a more serious way than has happened so far. We both think it is important for researchers to be more aware of results of decades of research in this area. His remarks yesterday led me to discover The Great Seduction – which will be on my reading list for the coming weeks… Thanks, Michael!

Several remarks from the audience sparked some interesting discussion. Two topics stood out for me:

  • Quite a few people were concerned about the tension between formal and informal learning. In my view, that is not such an important distinction. First of all, this is more a continuum than two different kinds of learning anyway. A much more important distinction for me is that between relevant learning and irrelevant learning. The problem is not that kids spend too much time in school or universities where formal learning takes place. The REAL problem is that much of what they learn, especially in highschool is completely irrelevant to them. That is why younger kids LOVE to go to school as they experience the empowerment of learning in very direct terms. Really: my own kids “play school” when they come home: this is too much fun to them to stop doing it when school is out. But around the age of 10 or 12, what happens in school is so disconnected to the lives of the students that they no longer enjoy going to school and start equating learning with boring-stuff-you-have-to-do-because-you-have-to…
  • Someone in the audience challenged Teemu’s emphasis on serendipity. He pointed out that we prepare things for school, so that the process can be efficient. If we replace this preparation with serendipity, then we may make the process aimless and inefficient. Teemu tried to answer, but I wasn’t sure he was really convincing, so I added my own comments. In my view, learning is a bit like travel or tourism: when you want to explore a city like, say, Naples, you don’t go wandering aimlessly, without any background on the history, or the geography, or the function of the buildings, etc. Rather, you prepare, read, ask advice, google, maybe study a map or book a guided tour. However, after all the planning, when you actually start walking around, you don’t just mechanically work through a strict plan. Those of us who’ve learned to travel do prepare, but also allow serendipity to take over when it offers unexpected options – a coffee at a bar on a busy Napolitan street to take in the smells, sounds and sights or half an hour at the seaside watching the boats come in and go out. The point is: you do want to prepare, but you should mostly prepare to be able to change your plans and play by ear. In many schools and universities, teachers and students are too uncomfortable to take advantage of the opportunities for Real Learning and settle for pointlessly going through the motions of the prepared plan instead.

I had to run catch a flight immediately after the panel – MANY thanks to all of you who shared your questions, remarks and insights with me. This was Serious Fun… THANKS!



Leave a Comment
  1. Teemu Arina / Jun 16 2007 10:23 am

    Thanks Erik, it was great to meet you. Your combination of intelligence and humor really strikes me.

    I explored the topic on balance between black and white thinking between efficiency/variation, codification/personalization and routine/improvisation in my paper and slides (see slide number 23) at Online Educa Berlin.

  2. Erik / Jun 16 2007 9:57 pm

    Thank YOU, Teemu: you have a good sense of humour 😉 and a great attitude!

    You slides seem quite similar to the SECI Spiral model of knowledge creation – see for instance

    I’m sure we’ll run into one another at some other event – already looking forward to continue our conversation then!

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