Thanks to a wonderful day we spent with Jutta and everyone else at the Evaluating Open Learning Scenarios conference at FH Joanneum, in Graz, I too have learnt something unexpected about Footprints and emergent learning.

I had always thought that what Footprints do is to tell you, at the end of the day, whether the way the learning event was designed and delivered was appropriate for the aims, and was fit for the (learning) purpose. But the more I thought about it during the day, and particularly during a conversation with Denny, and the feedback session in the Drawing Footprints workshop that Jenny and Jutta ran at the end of the day, the more I realised that there is much more to it.

For starters, the idea that a Footprint (just) tells you whether or not the event was appropriate or fit for the learning event itself is far too narrow, too 'technical' or 'instrumental' (as Habermas would say). What it also tells you, is whether the learning event was fit for personal and professional development, and for 'being' and 'becoming' (as Heidegger might have said). Or to put in another way, a Footprint tells you about the micro-narrative of the learning event, as well as about the macro-narratives of the user's context of application - which consists of many, interdependent narratives: professional, cultural, familial, political, and social - all of which, in turn, are embedded in histories and memories, as well as framed within future aspirations / narratives / and goals (individual and collective).

This brings in (for me, at least) the relevance of Jutta's question: she asks people who have reflected on learning experience (either as a designer or as a learner), "And ... do you like your footprint?" At first I was puzzled by this; I didn't understand why she asked this question. But now it strikes me that what this question does is to link the specific tacit knowledge of learning experience - in a particular event - to the (even deeper) tacit knowledge of personal development, within the much broader context of professional practice and social and cultural values.

For example, someone might say "my Footprint tells me that my learning experience was very challenging - almost on the edge of chaos". Then they might on go further, and say: "... and that's great, I am looking for challenges, because that is where I want to go, and to be at this stage in my life / learning / career, etc". But on the other hand they might say " ... and that's really terrible, because at this stage in my life I have so many (other) challenges, and stresses, that I really don't need any challenges right now". In other words, footprints are deep tacit knowledge about experience and learning, but within a whole range of contexts, not just what one might call the "didactic-technical" context of the 'course' (if I can indulge in cross-cultural semiotics here for a moment).

If you put all this together, you end up with a framework, a perspective, on learning which says that value comes from two sources, or streams: from whether it was appropriate for the (micro) purposes of learning, per se, and from whether it was appropriate for the (macro, social) purposes of personal and professional development.

These two value streams are interconnected and inseparable. In fact, they are actually experienced as two parts of a single value stream, regardless of the (misguided) attempts of some people to insist that the 'proper' business of education is confined to delivering value just in terms of teaching and learning outcomes and effectiveness, and that all the other stuff - the value for personal and professional development, can be treated as something quite separate ( if not even ignored).

Food for thought ...



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