STEAM Education
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STEAM Education

Learning Playlists to Capture Scientific Informal Knowledge

Access to learning that takes place outside a classroom is a complex task since informal channels that people use to acquire knowledge are not easily detected. A conventional way of doing this is to identify different scenarios where learning practices take place — mainly non-formal and informal learning spaces, such as associations, non-profit organizations, museums, etc. — and then analyze the communities of practice formed by people interested in acquiring knowledge. But beyond this linear approaches to educational research, some digital tools such as learning playlists are opening up more promising paths. The following is a proposal to use learning playlists to “embed” informally acquired knowledge, within the framework of a project that aims to identify the scientific skills acquired by citizens outside the classroom. A more detailed development of the proposal is available in the project website.

A learning playlist incorporate different types of learning activities around a topic, skill or subject, and may also integrate personal experiences submitted by individuals resulting from prior learning. Each person can take the activities proposed in the playlists and contribute with their own knowledge —both formally and/or informally acquired— to achieve the learning goals. Thus, the assessment of the playlist allows to certify both the the evidences proposed to validate activities and the knowledge acquired informally. Once the activities have been completed a digital badge can be released in order to recognize the learning skills (see figure below).

This approach was applied in a project dealing with the topic “SwafS-11–2017: Scientific education outside the classroom”, within the European Commission’s “Horizon 2020” call, the European Union Framework Programe for Research and Innovation. The purpose of the SwafS-11–2017 topic is to analyze the available knowledge about science education outside the classroom and its impact. Furthermore, it seeks to know how to strengthen and enhance the available scientific knowledge, the perspective of how this form of informal schooling can be accredited and whether there is a way to evaluate the quality of educational content.

In line with the SwafS-11–2017 topic a project called “Releasing Scientific Knowledge” (RESCIK) has been presented to “Horizon 2020”. RESCIK aims to identify relevant scientific practices experienced by informal learners — which nowadays occur mainly in digital spaces — so the knowledge obtained can be released and allowed to flourish, and to certify the acquired skills for different purposes. The scope is intended to:

  1. facilitate the identification of scientific practices and learning that occur in non-standard environments, particularly in digital mediated informal spaces;
  2. allow the knowledge obtained through these practices to emerge;
  3. and to evaluate and certify acquired skills for different purposes.

In addition, the project also aims to provide new ways of connecting scientific knowledge with areas where it may be required. So this general approach would be offering new possibilities for both citizens and agents working in the field of science:

  1. citizens who possess certain scientific knowledge acquired outside the classroom will have the opportunity to validate this knowledge and increase their scientific abilities by participating in non-formal learning processes on topics that are of interest to them;
  2. and also agents and stakeholders interested in the practice and dissemination of science will be able to use that particular knowledge for different purposes, such as participation in crowd-science practices, the identification of scientific vocations or transferring the scientific knowledge informally obtained to the professional field.

The project will provide educational non-formal agents who are in contact with citizens interested in science — libraries, civic/community organizations, media/city/maker-labs, non-governmental organizations, museums, non-profits or other youth-serving institutions/organizations, open projects — with a set of methodological and technological tools that allow them to provide, openly through the Internet, learning playlists in which to embed the scientific knowledge informally acquired as well as to certify the skills the participants obtained in that learning process (see figure below).

RESCIK project will develop a digital platform aimed at both non-formal agents and informal learners (see figure below):

  1. Non-formal agents. The system will allow them to create learning playlists, so they will be able to design a curated group of activities and experiences stitched together into a compelling media-rich narrative around a common scientific theme. The platform will also include a system of digital badges designed for citizens that will allow them to obtain recognition of the knowledge and skills acquired in informal spaces.
  2. Informal learners. Interested citizens will be able to utilize the playlists, incorporating into them the experiences they have acquired informally, and get digital badges that recognize the set of acquired skills.

A pilot process will be launched in which a representative group of European organizations will be openly offering online learning playlists on various scientific topics that will be accessible to European citizens. The playlists targeted for scientific learning will be published openly through the platform so that it will be possible to generate a repository that will act as a digital map on the scientific knowledge of the citizenry and the most common practices related to informal and non-formal learning of science.

The project is expected to produce two types of impacts. On the one hand, to advance in the field of open learning methodologies that are based on the aggregation of activities of diverse type around a topic. This is a very suitable methodology for digital spaces, which have the capacity to disaggregate learning practices and recognize acquired skills in an equally reticular way.

And there is a second type of innovations that result from giving citizens the resources to openly propose their own knowledge —whether acquired completely informally or also in non-formal or formal processes in different contexts— to be validated under regular processes, and also to be endorsed by certifying entities.

Note: Please feel free to fill out this form if you / your entity are interested in joining RESCIK project.



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Daniel Dominguez

Professor at @uned. Internet research, connected & open learning, cybersociety. Founding member @CoLabUNED. Board of Directors @CyberPractices.