By Miners, Zach
District Administration , Vol. 44, No. 5
THE NONPROFIT GROUP ANYTIME Anywhere Learning Foundation (AALF), established three years ago as an advocacy vehicle for learning through 1-to-1 laptop initiatives, has partnered with schools worldwide and held leadership-building conferences to make their vision a reality. President Bruce Dixon spoke to DA about the group's work--which encourages membership based on shared expertise--and the challenges to overcome.
DA: Why "anytime anywhere"? What are the benefits of that educational philosophy?
Dixon: There are a range of imperatives driving what is essentially a change in the way we view education, learning and, indeed, the institution of school itself. And they are coming to us now from the availability of information--being something that we don't go to school to receive and something that is available to us literally anytime, anywhere. And it's also acknowledging the increased awareness of the amount of informal learning that builds on successful participation in society, not just what we see traditionally as formal learning inside school walls.
DA: What is informal learning?
Dixon: Informal learning is everywhere. It's when I'm sitting down somewhere and someone asks me a question like "Why do I do that?" or "How do I do that?" Informal learning is something that can be as valuable and as rigorous as the sort of formal learning that might happen inside a classroom, but it doesn't happen in a necessarily structured way. It might be something I learned from my peers or a teacher in a more casual environment. It could come from online resources. It's a form of learning that we'll always have. It's the expansion of the availability of technology that has brought the reality of the benefits of informal learning to us. And that's the basis on which we're building.
DA: Are you advocating for informal learning in schools, or for better informal learning outside of school?
Dixon: Certainly outside is where we would see that. But our focus is to support what schools are doing, what teachers are doing, and expanding opportunities for students. The availability of technology at school gives students a far more diverse range of learning paths and learning styles than would be otherwise possible.
DA: What technology tools are we looking at? Multimedia, the Web, search engines?
Dixon: Yes. We see the core media tool as every child having their own personal portable computer, which would be a laptop. But we don't see that as the be all and end all. We believe there are a diverse range of technologies that are coming together. It's about collaborating and sharing ideas. The computer is the medium of their time. It improves access, it overcomes equity issues, and it helps lesser-privileged kids get access to information and share ideas with people they wouldn't otherwise have access to.
DA: What about administrators who may be reluctant to explore laptop initiatives, or question the need for 1-to-1 programs?
Dixon: We wouldn't want anyone to see this as an imposition, as something they had to have. …