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JIME paper Introduction

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago



The idea of a Learner Generated Context arose from a desire to find a way to describe learning contexts and the learning-teaching process or the process of obuchenie1 that recognizes that the rapid development of technologies makes it possible for people to access data and resources in their environment, to share information in multimedia formats, and to collaborate, publish and track their lives beyond the constraints of physical space or temporal constraint. In this paper we develop the concept of Learner Generated Context as a way to describe the learning-teaching processes which take account of these advances.  It is based around the democratic principle that:


"ordinary people are intrinsic participants in technical processes. They can transform technology through enlarging the margin of maneuver they already enjoy in the technical networks in which they are enrolled." (Feenberg 2002: 174).


The Learner Generated Context concept is based upon the description of an educational context as a learner-centric ecology of resources. These resources may be organised to meet the needs of a learner or group of learners by various individuals including teachers, parents, the government and learners themselves.  The resources within a learner’s ecology include:


  • the subject they are learning, the way in which it is recognized and validated as a valid skill or knowledge, and the epistemic community built around the subject in formal and informal ways;
  • the social and physical environments with which the learner interacts and the way in which these are organized;
  • the communications technologies (books, handouts, the WWW, etc.) which allow the learner access to the knowledge of others;
  • and the prior cognitive structures which exist both in the learner's subjective consciousness and the objective world, embedded into technologies, organisations and other "persistent structures" (Nardi 1996: 83-86) such as norms and legal procedures. 


This definition of context moves away from the idea that a context is a physical location to the idea that the context is the combination of interactions a learner experiences across multiple physical spaces and times.  It is personal to them.  The proposition made by Learner Generated Contexts is that through a constant series of adjustments to this dynamic environment, learners can now take greater agency in the creation of their learning contexts.  The implications of this for policy and pedagogy are considerable. (See Luckin, R., in press; Luckin, du Boulay, Smith, Underwood, Fitzpatrick, Holmberg, Kerawalla, Tunley, Brewster & Pearce, 2005; Luckin, Shurville & Browne, 2007 for more detail on the learner centric ecology of resources framework and for more detailed examples).


The Learner Generated Context concept is evolving and is itself developing through the shared understandings emerging within the Learner Generated Context group. The current working definition of a Learner~Generated Context is:


"A Learner Generated Context can be defined as a context created by people interacting together with a common, self-defined learning goal. The key aspect of Learner Generated Contexts is that they are generated through the enterprise of those who would previously have been consumers in a context created for them".


As the group work towards a clearer understanding of the Learner Generated Context proposition they are themselves operating as a distributed Learner Generated Context and are defining the processes that might support Learner Generated Context activity. The LGC group share common concerns to ensure that learning is a participatory experience that is about: participative technology, participative education and participative democracy. The current popularity amongst learners for the creation and publication of their own material, combined with the open content and open source initiatives offer the tools for increased educational democracy. These tools support the potential for the boundaries to be redrawn between learners and teachers, formal and informal education and the producers and consumers of knowledge. However, learners still need support to scaffold their skills and understanding (Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976) as part of a Learner Generated Context process.


The agenda is not about technology use per se. It is about contextualising learning before it is supported with technology. Nonetheless the issues we have highlighted have been prompted by thinking about the affordances and potentials of a range of technologies and practice; web 2.0, m-learning, participative media, learning design and learning space design. In order to develop a research agenda for future research and development we propose that the following four questions provide a useful focus:


1. How can we facilitate the development of context-based models as the organising principle for designing learning; and what institutional practices will retard their development?


2. How should we re-conceptualise the relationship between informal learning and formal education?


3. How can we integrate the roles of learners as consumers and producers in the learning process?


4. How can we recognize and evaluate an LGC?


In the paper that follows we address each of these questions in turn.




1obuchenie is a term coined by Lev Vygotsky to encompass the combined processes of teaching and learning. It is derived from the Russian verb, obuchat'sia meaning to learn, to teach yourself, and/or to be taught. So, it is used to reflect both active and passive activity, hence the common translation of the word as "teaching and learning" or "teaching-learning". For more on this, however, see Section 2 and the obuchenie context model.

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