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Grant Title: Lifelong Learning - Bringing Learning Activities to Life (National Science Foundation)
Sponsor: National Science Foundation: Applications of Advanced Technologies Program
Gerhard Fischer, Michael Eisenberg, Alexander Repenning, Hal Eden
Period of Support: September 1996 - August 1999


Project Summary

Lifelong learning integrates and mutually enriches the cultures of work and education. This integration should not be interpreted as adult education, nor as giving children jobs; rather, it frames a vision in which people learn continually in the course of authentic, self-directed, and creative activities. Central to this vision is the notion of design activity, a model of work that is open-ended and long-term in nature, incorporates personalized and collaborative aspects, and combines technical and aesthetic elements. Examples include, the activities that architects perform when producing a new building, or teachers perform in creating a new learning environment, or city planners and community groups perform in modeling the impact of a new transportation system. The commonality that crucially binds these and other design activities together is that they are centered around the production of a new, publicly accessible artifact.

Just as the business community has begun to express a sense of disappointment in technology when computers merely mechanize older ways of doing work so has the educational community become frustrated with technology that serves only to extend existing practices instead of causing society to rethink what learning is and what it can become. Older frameworks of education associated with notions of instructionism, rote learning, and decontextualized learning cannot be shaken merely by the presence of technology, whether in the form of intelligent tutoring systems, multimedia, or worldwide connectivity. Our proposal introduces an alternative vision of how education and work may be seen as interwoven elements of creative design activity in general.

The research will develop theories about lifelong learning, will create computational environments necessary to support lifelong learners, and will contribute to the restructuring of our national educational infrastructure. In addition, the research will provide a unique opportunity for extending not only technological developments but also the societal networks of working and learning.

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