Posts Tagged ‘article’
[image source, used under CC licence]
I have mixed thoughts on this article, Insidious pedagogy: How course management systems impact teaching by Lisa Lane.
The article is based on the premise that course management systems (CMS) like Blackboard have an inherent pedagogy, which is limited to traditional forms of teaching, and this in turn impacts instructors. I do not agree fully with the premise, but I agree with much of the rest of the article even though it is built on that premise. It is an insidious article!
I think that the premise is technologically deterministic, that is, the outcomes of using a tool are defined by its design. But as I wrote earlier, there are technological, social and pedagogical affordances of modern technologies. Affordances are not guarantees of use. The pedagogical affordances of a CMS are but one aspect that influence its use. How they are used socially can make a difference.
Technology is largely neutral even if it is designed to harm. Let us take an ammunition round for example. It is designed to kill. It can be used in a mindless mall shooting. It can also be used to hunt in order to feed a family.
There are limits to a CMS but it is still neutral. It allows the pedagogy of the instructor to take centre stage. If you only know a delivery-oriented model, you will use a CMS that way. If you have constructivist leanings, you will use a CMS to that end. So while I agree with Lane that a CMS limits users, I think it does not determine how they teach.
I agree with her that novice instructors may know no other way of teaching than to attempt to deliver content. I also agree that CMS tend to support that model of teaching and that learning how to use a CMS might be a barrier to developing your own teaching style. So I agree with her advice to novices to ask themselves what they want to do first, rather than do what a CMS demands of them.
[image source, used under CC licence]
If you do, you might abandon an institute-sanctioned CMS like me. The CMS is Blackboard here in NIE. I stopped using it after one semester in 2006 and have been using blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 tools in my courses since 2007. Why? I started blogging and using wikis in 2004 and began to see their potential for learning.
BlackBoard did include some of these tools as add-ons (in a desperate bid to stay relevant I might add), but they are closed off to the rest of the world. Worse still, my trainees would not have indefinite access to them. Worst of all, my trainees would be put only in the shoes of students, unable to administer, customize and add to the tool itself. I did not realize it then, but I was trying to get them to use what all of us already have access to: Get your own blog, your own wiki, your own online mindmap, your own VoiceThread, your own Google Docs, etc.
A technology learning curve is expected of any tool. It would help if the curve was shallow and short and if pedagogy took centre stage. Bringing in tools that students or teachers-to-be are already using is logical and necessary. (Think about Facebook as an example.) First, the tools are relatively easy to learn. Second, the learning and tinkering is already done outside of class. Third, you can focus on formal learning processes and content with your students or trainees. Finally, the learners expect to be able to use them at work and at play. This way learning becomes naturally seamless instead of just constrained to a time and place.
It’s about killing a few birds with one stone. A stone that has an expected use, but if used innovatively, might redefine how we teach.
[image source, used under CC licence]
Education Week’s article, Mobile Learning Makes Its Mark on K-12, is mistitled. Mobile learning hasn’t made a dent!
The article starts by stating the need for large scale research to determine impact that will convince decision makers to adopt mobile devices so that they become the norm rather than the exception. It then outlines oft cited reasons for not adopting these technologies: the cost of mobile computing devices (MCDs), teacher training, curricular integration, and suitable instructional content.
But even if you handed these things for free on a silver platter at the end of a red carpet, teachers might not bite. If they do, they will have to change their pedagogy to suit the technology. Case in point?
As more educators have started to move beyond the simple mobile applications for education, such as multiple-choice quizzes, flashcards, and polling, they are learning that adapting existing lessons to the miniature viewing area of a cellphone or personal digital assistant does not always work.
On a related note, Steve Wheeler calls these MCDs “child friendly technologies”:
Such devices, including Nintendo game consoles (Wii and DS), mobile phones and iPod Touches can be identified as ‘child-friendly’ technologies, because they are fun and culturally relevant to children, yet they are perceived as either troublesome, or having little relevance in a formal education setting. Teachers often use technology to support their own teaching, but may often fail to see the relevance of child-friendly tools as a means to support children’s learning. Further, many schools have banned the use of such devices due to a perceived threat of misuse and abuse.
So these are some of the barriers for not adopting mobile technologies in meaningful ways. But what are the costs of not adopting mobile technologies logically and meaningfully? Somehow we collectively think of ways to maintain the status quo. We react less quickly when implementing change (not for the sake of change, mind you, but for the good of our children).
In the Singapore context, I can think of one strategy to galvanize the troops. Parents recognize the importance of getting a head start, e.g., enrichment classes and tuition. If we could sell the idea that having and using MCDs (these child friendly technologies) in class is not just useful but critical for the education of their children, then half of the battle is won.
Yes, I am referring to the same parents who use their phones to arrange business deals, get information on where to eat and how to get there, monitor the stock market, receive the latest news, update Facebook, conduct online banking, ad nauseum.
This isn’t exactly breaking news. But I only just found out that the School Technology Innovation Centre (currently occupied by the Centre of Excellence for Learning Innovation) will be located beside the MxL (which I used to run) right here in NIE.
[source, click screencap for larger version]
So what could I possibly have against it? Not much. I am glad that we will have this venue. It will showcase possibilities (and I hope some realities) that teachers might appreciate.
But I think that every school should be innovating using the resources and within constraints they have. Yes, it helps to have a place to help you think outside the box and to meet other practitioners, but surely any room filled with innovative people can do the same. I think I get some good ideas meeting up with folks in the canteen, hallway or even the restroom. I get the best ideas via RSS, Twitter and Facebook and I can do this anytime and anywhere with my iPhone!
I also think that a centre tends to be viewed as a template to be applied elsewhere. Having been to different schools to conduct workshops for teachers, I am brought to “special rooms” that look and operate like other special rooms. Yes, it helps to have certain layouts and technologies in place, but innovative practices should not be tied to a particular place; they should be transferable elsewhere.
STIC sounds like stick. Some group must have thought itself very creative with the acronym, but it may not have considered the connotation of a stick as punishment (as in the carrot or the stick) or a hindrance (a stick in the mud).
But most of all I object to the “school” in STIC. I think what STIC wants to stand for is technology-mediated pedagogies that enhance and enable better teaching and learning. Why? Currently, the majority of “School Technologies” are far from being innovatively used. Their associated affordances and pedagogies make them sticks in the mud instead. I am talking about rarely or improperly used IWBs. I am talking about death-by-PowerPoint pedagogy.
The focus could instead be on learning and learning technologies. This would then challenge teachers and parents to think about how to create, manage and evaluate learning that takes place anytime and all the time, whether in school or not.
Is another man’s treasure.
[image source, used under CC licence]
A new centre in Cambridge is to study computer games and comics as forms of literature consumed by learners.
The short BBC report reveals why:
“If what we regard as trash is popular with young people, we need to know why and whether, as researchers and teachers, we can offer them something that addresses the same needs but also deals with these themes in a critical and ethical way.”
She [Professor Maria Nikolajeva, director of the centre] added many trainee teachers did not understand the significance of the latest children’s books or films when they went into the classroom.
This is something I must definitely keep tabs on!
Here is an interesting article from The Chronicle: Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students.
The recommendation of the study is:
for instructors… [to] not waste any time or energy trying to determine the composition of learning styles in their classrooms… Instead, teachers should worry about matching their instruction to the content they are teaching. Some concepts are best taught through hands-on work, some are best taught through lectures, and some are best taught through group discussions.
So we are we talking about content styles then? I hope not.
I think that teachers need to be learning experts first (something the article alludes to). If they can figure out how people learn, they can figure out how best to teach (or not teach) a topic. This then requires deep knowledge and skillful application of teaching styles, learning styles and content styles.
But all this is practically moot if you read deep in between the lines. By this I mean understanding what the researchers are arguing about, i.e., study design and drawing conclusions from them.
Studies in education have largely been designed along experiments. Real classrooms are not laboratories and the participants are not rats. You cannot control all except one variable in social studies. This is why we now have design experiments.
The content nearer the end of the article resembles a mud-slinging match more than academic discourse. But being an insider, I don’t see much difference between mud slinging and academic discourse!
Ever wonder why education evolves so slowly? Here’s one good reason!
When I read the BBC news article Great writers ‘fail’ online test, I was not surprised. Why? Two reasons.
First, one of the writing samples was actually a speech. Writing for a speech is not the same as writing for print. Yes, you are writing a speech, but not for someone to read like a book. The words don’t leap out of the medium the same way when they are delivered by the speaker.
Second, technology cannot (yet) replace complex human judgment, emotion and subjective interpretation. While this might have been a case of pushing the limits of technology, I also thought that this was using technology when it did not fit the situation.
Do educators make the same mistake when pushing the envelope with technology? Sure we do. But the harm is not in trying. The harm is in providing fuel for the naysayers to say “I told you so!”
But to the naysayers I reply:
Or as James Arthur Baldwin originally put it: Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.
Scientific American has an article titled Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn. They might be surprised, but I am not. Educational gamers might refer to this as productive failure or safe failure.
The elements mentioned in the article are what gamers experience all the time. Challenging tests, trial and error, learning and strategizing from error, experiencing/trying before reading texts/manuals, etc.
The article describes word-pair experiments that, while well-established, lack context. Gamers have context: The game scenarios. So whether you are playing games or using gaming strategies, you might just get your students to get it wrong in order to get it right!
Jon Bower of eSchool News believes that “netbooks are all the rage, but they don’t really meet the needs of today’s students”. He goes on to say that netbooks are 1) not that cheap, 2) too small, and 3) not powerful enough. He could not be more misinformed or misleading.
Bower gives an example of a more powerful laptop that can be bought, after a rebate, for US$50 more than a typical netbook. But he failed to mention that few laptops have rebates and that rebates are not guaranteed. In the USA, rebates are a scheme to get people to buy on impulse. But if buyers do not complete the rebate forms in a timely or proper manner, they do not get their rebates. Even if customers play their part, things might get “lost” in the mail. The bottom line is that netbooks are cheaper than laptops and within most school or family budgets.
The issue of netbooks being too small is relative. To an adult with large hands, a netbook’s keyboard is cramped. But to a child, it might be just right. Also consider how most new netbooks are larger than when they first made their appearance about two years ago. Their keyboards are now large enough to touchtype.
Netbooks are meant to be light, lean and longlasting (in terms of battery life). Their power lies in what they allow students to do online, not just what they can do locally using the lightweight processing power CPUs of netbooks. This “limitation” of netbooks is actually a strength: Paired with well-designed curricula, netbooks allow students to develop 21st century skills like communicating, collaborating and creating with people outside the confines of the classroom, being a responsible netizen and having empathy for others.
Ultimately, netbooks are just one element in a suite of powerful tools for learning. To dismiss them as not meeting the needs of students is to miss the larger picture and to ignore a learner’s point of view. The smallish screen and keyboard of netbooks opens the world to learners and this in turn provides learning opportunities that can help them the rest of their lives. If we can do this at a lower cost, I don’t see why not.