1996 - The Valladolid Manifesto

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The Valladolid Manifesto. Lifelong Learning in the Information Society: Combating Exclusion through New Technologies of Learning.

An international assembly sponsored by the Forum International des Sciences Humaines and the European Commission (DG XXII)at the Monasterio Ntra. Sra de Prado in Valladolid, Spain from 25-28 September 1996


Starting about 150 years ago most of the then-industrializing countries began to introduce universal compulsory education. In a time of considerable social, political and economic unrest, this remarkable undertaking had as its primary goal to ensure a more educated work force for industry, and a more integrated citizenry. Education was thus removed from the hands of the family and taken over by the state. Not surprisingly, this new enterprise took as its model the most modern and promising processing system of the age, the factory floor. Teacher in front, students lined up in a compliant row, the model was distinguished by its reliance on one way communication flow from authority to would-be learner, print support where available (then and now called books), and a firmly closed door on the street and turmoil of the outside world.

Over the last century and a half this model had remained largely undisturbed by the on-rush of communications and information technology developments which have in the interim utterly transformed most aspects of people’s daily lives. At the same time, however, while many reforms have been attempted and noble remedial efforts engaged that at times have met with real success, many of the basic trends in our educational systems of late are, to say the least, troubling. On the one hand, for example, our school/factory has become not only larger – as the old industrial model suggested --- but also physically more distant from home and family. This geographic separation is troubling, and doubtless has been among the main factors that have led to weaken links between parents and children, and families and schools – with disquieting impacts in all too many cases on formal education and personal development. We have also witnessed a significant fracture in the linkages between the schools and the communities around them, which is doing little to prepare our children for the complexities of life that they must face once their formal education is achieved.

It is thus reasonable to expect that there may be opportunities for the prudent application of these technologies not only in the classroom and in the context of the formal education establishment, but also to citizens of all ages and groups across society at a time when information, education and knowledge are the main currencies of success and full-blown social integration. In an Information Society (by whatever name) our education is never completed.

Continuing learning is the key to both success and self-fulfillment in modern society, and thus our focus, as we look around for new models and new instruments, must be on learning at all ages and in all stations of life.

In front of this challenge, the Valladolid Symposium assembled an international expert group, roughly half of whom professional educators and the remainder learners and teachers who have been questioning the old models and looking into ways for harnessing the best of what we have in hand by way of technology, and all of the organizational and human skills that at best go with it. The Symposium spent three days reviewing the state of progress in these new systems in order to see if we could arrive at a thoughtful, responsible and useful consensus statement – in the hope of arriving at some recommendations concerning things that could be done by the group and others by way of specific, hands-on follow-up to the meeting to take better advantage of these available new tools.

We constituted – it must be said –a thoroughly skeptical audience. Virtually no one at the meeting intervened as a wholesale proponent of technology per se. Moreover, considerable concern was expressed that anything that might be proposed or done be handled in a way so as not to make things even worse for students, would-be learners and teachers alike. We thus have emerged from this confrontation of ideas with a prudent if activist set of recommendations. These we have decided to put in the form of the Valladolid Manifesto that follows.

The Valladolid Manifesto

1. Given the advances of communications and information technology in other areas of our society, and in recognition of the fact that the education/learning sector has by and large lagged considerably in these respects, we conclude that this is an area of activity that is worthy of closest attention and concrete action.

2. These new learning technologies in fact cover a considerably broader spectrum than is often understood, ranging from more extensive and imaginative uses of conventional telephony, broadcast and storage media (voice, video, CD, etc.) to email, Internet, World Wide Web, videoconferencing, distance/group work technologies, whiteboarding, etc. All these technologies are of course in extremely rapid evolution. Any demonstration program or follow-up effort should therefore take into account this full range of technologies and alternatives, as well as the speed with which they are developing (which calls for deep knowledge in selecting the technologies and implementation paths, extensive reliance on feedback systems, built-in monitoring and fine-tuning devices, etc.).

3. However, in many instances in recent years where attempts have been made to introduce these technologies in schools and other learning places, there was often too much emphasis on getting the hardware into place -- and not nearly enough on the fine detail of how it is to be used to advance the educational objectives that are, or at least should be, their only motivation. We note that in many learning places the considerable investments of the last ten years have resulted in equipment and facilities which are being used only a small portion of the time and in ways which do not reflect the full potential of the technology. We recommend therefore that the point of focus must be shifted to the end user and away from the equipment per se. Moreover, future projects and development should be carefully integrated into the full curriculum and detailed cycle that constitutes the learning process.

4. We note the considerable uncertainty on the part of many teachers and educators concerning the value of such initiatives, which are often seen by them as intrusive, irrelevant to the main tasks at hand, and possibly more threatening than potentially useful. This highly cautious, not to say negative attitude by so many important central actors must be taken into account when it comes time to articulate a strategy for the sector. Furthermore, this attitude is in part the result of the fact that many such projects in the past have not been sufficiently integrated into and supported by the members of the learning establishment.

5. There are not as yet enough convincing models which demonstrate how best to profit from these technologies and all that could go with them. We further note that for any such demonstrations to be convincing they must take place close at hand so that they can be directly inspected by any given community, school system, teacher or parent group before getting their support for local implementation. This suggests that follow-up initiatives should be widely dispersed and not decentralized.

6. The challenge calls for not more conventional academic research and general debate, but a cycle of carefully prepared and meticulously monitored demonstrations, New Learning Projects. These independent initiatives should be structured so as to

· Profit from cumulative experience of past initiatives in the sector. · Be able to "learn" (and adjust) as they develop. · Be opened up for commentary and inputs from the very beginning. · Share interim information and results (failures and successes) in the hope of getting useful feedback as early as possible in the project cycle.

7. The appropriate conclusion to this Symposium will be not one more thick "final report", press conference, or call for yet more meetings and expert groups. Rather we should band together to prepare and support a series of specific, on-the-ground follow-up initiatives which directly engage those of us who assembled here in Valladolid, as well as bringing to bear other resources and actors whom we shall endeavor to implicate in such specific and useful follow-up.


1. We propose to give our collective weight to back and carry out an informal program of independent but cooperating "new learning" demonstration projects that will prudently explore new models of use in schools and other learning situations, organized in such a way that the results can be easily and quickly accessed and shared by others.

2. Whereas such approaches have great potential in the class room, it will be important to explore possibilities for innovation also at the level of the

Neighborhood or some other community cluster (formal or other) City or administrative district State, county or national level 3. We can strongly recommend that great stress be given to demonstrations aimed at serving

Hard core urban areas (high crime rates, high unemployment, blighted tracts, etc.) Isolated rural communities (also with high unemployment rates) 4. These collaborative projects could and should:

Emphasize "cross-learning" (implying close informational linkages)

Be strongly self-motivated and aimed to enhance local "ownership" (as opposed to being parachuted or forced on passive partners) Be structured so as to provide a strong challenge to and opportunity for cooperation and supporting inputs from the European Union 5. As a precondition for selecting demonstration sites, and more generally in getting support for and improving our understanding of what needs to be done next, we propose that cities, regions, countries, educational administrations and others concerned organize New Learning Audits. These surveys will look within each place or institution to identify their present situation with regard to facilities, hardware, software, technical support skills, teacher and administrator attitudes and possibly even student skill and attitudes, in order to establish a series of informed baselines for demonstration site selection and preparation. The cumulative impact of these audits can be considerable.

6. As part of the concrete follow-up to this assembly, Eric Britton of EcoPlan has undertaken to establish a Web site for the purposes of continuing this conference and seeking new ideas, exchanging information about new initiatives, as a means for seeking opportunities for international and cross-project collaboration, results sharing, etc. (A first iteration of this site can presently be reached at http://www.the-commons.org/einstein).

7. An informal consortium of participants has agreed to come together under the direction of Carmen Sanz (Berenfield, Britton, Murga, Visser and perhaps several others) to create and support a regional New Learning/Global Labs demonstration project in the coming year in the Basque Country in Spain under the Einstein project. Full information on this cooperative international pilot program will be made widely available as it moves ahead.

8. We invite UNESCO to consider these results and determine how these approaches might be put to work for learning support in the developing world and some form of involvement and support for the overall effort – if nothing else as an external monitoring and information source accessible to schools, non-school learning groups, etc. around the world. Within UNESCO, the potential for links to their Learning without Frontiers program are particularly appropriate.

9. We invite the European Union to consider these results and weigh carefully the potential for creative involvement in and support of these initiatives.

(Drafted by Eric Britton of EcoPlan, Paris on 2 October 1996 and submitted for group review and approval on that date)






URL: https://web.archive.org/web/19970707214145/http://www.the-commons.org/einstein/ein-vall.htm

Wayback Machibe: https://web.archive.org/web/19970707214145/http://www.the-commons.org/einstein/ein-vall.htm