Creating Learning Environments LO30200

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 05/23/03

Replying to LO30187 --

Dear Organlearners,

Ellery July <> wrote under the
Subject: Working Smarter vs. Working Harder LO30187

>Lastly, I listened to this group for a number of years off/on
>and have found many the latest set of e-mails to be counter
>to the tenets of what I see as creating learning environments.

Greetings dear Ellery,

Thank you for your serious complaint which deserves the carefull
consideration of all of us. The environment of a learner is as important
as the learner self. Both ought to form a whole which is more than the
mere sum of both. This means that the interaction between the learner and
his/her environment has to lead to the emergence of knowledge.

I will not claim that the latest set of emails to be counterproductive to
creating a learning environment. I would rather point the finger to myself
and say that some of the latest emails left me cold. But when i forced
myself to go through all the loops of learning:
 1 What did the person WANT to tell?
 2 HOW did the person tell it?
 3 WHY did the person tell it?
 4 WHEN AND WHERE did the person tell it?
 5 What can you learn from the personality of the person WHO wrote it?
i soon realised that i had much to learn from an email which left me
initially cold.

However, you are right by implying that our list should not become a
chat-room. I am subcribed to several other lists too and what puts me off
from them are the superficial and inconsiderate nature of the many
contributions to them. As soon as someone makes a serious attempt to
foster evolving minds, it is left out in the cold. So let us explore a
little the learning environment to let the balance swing back.

What should a Learning Environment (LE) involve and how do we create it?
I think that before we go into this, there is a fundamental choice to be made
since it determines the nature of the LE immensely. The choice is this:-

   Should the learner self-organise (evolve) spontaneously in terms of
   what the LE makes available OR should the LE prescribe and
   audit the progress of the learner?

This choice depends on the paradigm with which we look at all life -- it
is evolution or it is an industry -- the learner is a living being within
society or the learner is the specified product of an educational system
-- the learner is autonomous or the learner is passive. I myself always
had chosen and will choose self-organisation while resisting prescribed

Once we have made this choice, we have to recognise the role which
creativity will have to play. In the case of self-organisation the
development of the learner's own creativity becomes crucial. In the case
prescribed production the learner has to depend and conform to the
creativity of society's leaders.

Thereafter we have to consider the essential facets of the LE. The first
two are information and accompanists. In the case of self-organisation
information has to be presented in layers of increasing complexity so as
not to overwhelm the learner with all of it at once. As for accompanists,
they have to act as mentors rather than tamers or as coaches rather than
dogmatic instructors.

Another essential facet of the LE is learning resources other than
information sources. In the case of self-organistion all these sources
have to enhance the creativity of the learner and not merely serve his/her
learning. Thus they are far more than IT and instruction equipment -- the
machines of modern society. Foremost among these learning resources i
perceive what i prefer to call the Elementary Sustainers of Creativity
(ESCs). Identifying these ESCs is a complex and tedious process. After
more than two decades i can come up with only five:-
thoughts-exchanging (dialogue), exemplar-exploring, game-playing,
problem-solving and art-expressing.

Next we have to ensure that the LE acts coherently/consistently with the
very nature of both authentic learning and profound knowledge (Deming). As
for authentic learning, qualities such as observation, reflection,
critical thinking, goal-setting, self-monitoring, honouring alternatives,
multi-loop learning and intensionality are important. As for profound
knowledge, qualities such as comprehension, organicity, wholeness, general
literacy, skillful applicability and complexity are important.

Learning is not restricted to what happens inside four walls. It is
primarily the dynamics interaction between the learner and society which
affords the learner experiences and which care for the learner's physical
and spiritual needs. What is a LE without a toilet or a shoulder to cry
upon? What is a LE without a plate of food or a friend to share joys with?
In other words, a LE needs a healthy society to become functional. Here in
South Africa the majority of learners have to cope with a most inadequate
LE. The lack of amenities and nutrition shipwreck many a LE.

Perhaps i have written too much. But creating a learning environement is
actually a complex business. It is not merely lumping a teacher, learners,
learning resources and accomodation together, hoping for the best. On the
other hand, if I have written too little, fellow learners may have a look
at the following to sites which i find instructive for self-organised

< >
< >

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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