Erasmus+ KA1: ‘We need to understand why people want to learn and forget about preconceived ideas’

30 Jan 2020
AONTAS Chariperson Tara Farrell shares her reflections on a recent trip to Finland as part of Erasmus+ KA1 Mobility.

Digitalisation poses many challenges for our learners and communities and was a key topic for debate and discussion at the FutureLabAE workshop on changed-oriented adult education in Helsinki (December 2019).

The opportunity to take up this Erasmus+ KA1 mobility was very timely – adult education providers and learners are increasingly faced with the challenges of digitalisation, particularly in rural areas.


The focus on change-oriented adult education as a method of addressing these challenges generated important discussions including ensuring that we as educators are part of the process and not just being swept along on a tide of technology.

The workshop used a variety of interactive methods to explore what we mean by the term ‘change-oriented adult education’ and also why it is important for learners and providers as well as wider society. Critically, we are not just talking about an adjustment to an ever-changing society but also how we can actually shape and influence the societies that we need. The keynote presentation was expertly delivered by Professor Jyir Manninen, UEF.

‘We need to understand why people want to learn and

forget about preconceived ideas’

Of all of the excellent input at the FutureLabAE project workshop on Helsinki (December 2019), it was the opening quote above from Megan Schaible (@technicallyMeg) that really resonated. Presenting on the topic of artificial intelligence, Megan spoke about the need to understand learner perspectives as a critical element of supporting learners to participants in change-oriented adult education. Attendees were encouraged to ‘rethink education’ in order to understand learner motivations.

Further discussions on the day focused on key questions such as ensuring that we, as educators, are the drivers of change and not being pushed.

An excellent open discussion using the ‘fishbowl’ method allowed rich conversations which examined a diverse range of topics from active citizenship to digitalisation for rural learners.

The ‘Bad News Game’ (Netherlands) and ‘Seriously’ (France) are also strong examples of change-oriented programmes and this mobility highlighted the continued value and importance of knowledge exchange with our EU counterparts.


The workshop provided much food for thought as we move further towards a digitalised society. There are many excellent examples of critical work being carried out in Ireland in the area of democratic engagement e.g. LWL’s Women’s Manifesto and SHE (See Her Elected) projects and digital learning e.g. An Cosán VCC and it is important that we look at the learning of these projects, and those of our EU counterparts for future endeavours.


Tara Farrell is the Chairperson of AONTAS the National Adult Learning Organisation and Deputy CEO of Longford Women’s Link (LWL) and Tara participated in the FutureLabAE workshop as part of an Erasmus+ KA1 Mobility in December 2019. You can keep up with Tara on Twitter - @teefarr.