Ecosystemic perspective on new literacies

On April 21—22, 2021, the 4th International Research and Practice Conference “Lifelong Learning in the Context of the Future: An Ecosystem Perspective on New Literacies” was held at the MCU’s Institute of Lifelong Learning. More than 1400 participants from 20 countries have registered to take part in the discussion on lifelong learning transformation in the context of the ecosystem perspective on new literacies.

The Conference’s main directions were:

The ecosystemic approach in the practices of working with new literacies

The Conference’s basic reports have underlined that the ecosystemic approach allows deepening the understanding of the trending emergence of new literacies in the transformation of education, their influence on lifelong learning development. The Conference has observed international and Russian research to discuss the landmarks of the development of educational systems and practices.

The idea of the ecosystem and the future image of education

At the Conference, diverse versions and concepts of the ecosystemic approach were presented: cultural-environmental, anthropological, system-, thinking- and activity-based approaches, as well as the concept of ecosystem, based on the international experience and methodology of foresight.  The basic point of the discussion has been related to the distinction between the systemic and ecosystemic approaches. Diverse variants of how the perspective on the consistency of education changes, have been suggested.

New literacies of the lifelong learning ecosystem

In this context, new literacies have been observed from the point of how they should be interlinked in the lifelong learning programs to create holistic ecosystems of knowledge, skills, and competencies that ensure the quality of life. The Conference has focused on such types of new literacies as health, futures, technological and engineering, financial, legal, ecological, media, and digital literacies.

In his welcoming speech, MCU Rector Igor Remorenko has recalled how the mission of illiteracy eradication sounded relatively recently, in 1919:

The entire population of the [Russian Soviet Federative Socialist] Republic aged from 8 to 50 years, who cannot read or write, is obliged to learn to read and write in their native language or Russian if desired.

Nowadays, it is not enough to can read and write for a modern person. Recent research at MCU and HSE University has revealed more than 50 skills and abilities that compose modern literacy.

Igor Remorenko has suggested the Conference’s participants three questions defining the essence of new literacies:

Do we need literacies in lifelong learning, or they are the subject of competition?

What is the relationship between the setting of teaching goals and the selected teaching technique?

Should we “technologize” digital technologies and how?

Can the model of modern education efficiently form new literacies? How should it transform? The education model that meets the requirements of the 21st century, should develop in the direction of personalization, variability, improvement of techniques and content. There is a gradual shift from hierarchical management to a system of network and partnering collaboration.

In his report, Kirill Barannikov, MCU Vice-Rector for strategy, has analyzed the international experience of successful ecosystemic solutions in education. It has been underlined that the ecosystemic approach changes not only the content and methods of work but also, in general, key organizational and managerial models and institutional foundations of education systems.

Vadim Rozin, a chief research fellow at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, thinks that cultural-environmental and anthropological approaches allow considering modern changes in the life of society as interrelated processes of one ecosystem:

The ecosystemic approach in education combines the ideas of environmental and cultural approaches but is not limited. The ecosystemic approach integrates the requirement of thought-out knowledge -mediated management of real changes, the account of comprehensive systems and human activities, understanding that the objects of management are not inert but complex organic systems that interact with each other, that these systems include active individuals and personalities with their stories.

The issue of the specifics of the ecosystemic approach has been raised by Maxim Osovsky’s report on the system-, thinking- and activity-based approach which sets the basis for building models of competencies as types of thinking and activity. The question of the correlation between the systems of modern competencies and the trend of emergence of new literacies will be one of the questions at future conferences.

The issue of new literacies and the meaning of building education ecosystems in regions has been discussed in the report by Elena Sukhanova, Vice-Rector of Tomsk State University, based on the development programs of university education in Tomsk.

Research on new literacies has brought up diverse experimental practices in education. Based on futures-literacy, Doctor Rocco Scolozzi, University of Trento (Italy), has shown how the ecosystemic approach determines the mutual influence and connection of new literacies, precisely, how one type of literacy connects literacies in educational projects. At the conceptual level and on examples of several cases, it has been presented how the ecosystemic approach to futures-literacy is studied, based on the methodology of systemic thinking and the methodology of foresight, at the University of Trento.

The connection between the concept of Smart City Ecosystem and the emergence of new literacies, the role of futures-literacy as a configurator in the field of new literacies, have been reviewed in the report and workshop by Tatiana Yakubovskaya, TREDU Regional Vocational College (Finland), Tomsk State University). The experience of the ecosystemic approach in vocational education, related to the special aspects of a Smart City region (Tampere, Finland), was presented by the Director of the Department of Education Export at the TREDU Regional Vocational College. Helena Koskinen:

The college is one of the subjects in the regional ecosystem of Smart City, a complete participant in the Smart Tampere strategic program.

During her workshop, Anna Elashkina, Head of the School of Entrepreneurship at the TechnoSpark Company Group, has considered the concept of the ecosystem through the ideas of the density of business environment, diagnostic business games, and the company’s other developments.

Moscow City University delivers the ecosystemic approach to the development of the lifelong learning system. The experience of developing the partner network and using the urban environment to change the content and personalize education has been presented by Marina Shalashova, Director of the MCU’s Institute of Lifelong Learning, and Andrey Terov in his report focused on the Silver University project.

In his report, Gennady Blinov has suggested the capacities of the ecosystemic approach for the development of new ideas and effective transformation of lifelong learning, that form a bridge in the program lines of further research in the field of new literacies.

Within the sessions, workshops, discussions, and final session, it has been suggested to continue the profound consideration of the issue of the ecosystem in education, the development of versions of new literacies didactics, key changes in the institutional system of lifelong learning, and deep transformation of the target and value orientations of lifelong learning. The Fourth Conference has become a laboratory of new meanings and program directions, which will be discussed in subsequent conferences.

The Conference proceedings will be published as a collection of articles and report abstracts.