Posts Tagged ‘digital learning’
Someone asked me if I had written anything simple about learning in the digital age. I had (sort of). And I should point out that I write in a simple way because that is the only way I know how!
I searched my Diigo and Delicious bookmarks and was surprised how little I had there on digital learning. So I did a search and here is what I am reading and processing today:
- John Seely Brown’s Learning in a Digital Age (PDF)
- Bits of the Horizon 2010 K-12 Report that I have not read yet.
- Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s Can Video Games Promote Intergenerational Play & Literacy Learning?
- Educause’s Digital games have the potential to bring play back to the learning experience
- Added on 1 Aug 10: Game-based Learning for Quality Education in Schools
Dr Cheah Horn Mun, the director of ETD of the MOE, responded to a contributor to the Straits Time forum who asked, “What’s the update on digital learning?”
Horn Mun was a colleague of mine in NIE before taking the post in the MOE. I wonder if he (or one of his people) will read my blog entry as I have a critique on his response. I have nothing against him, of course, as he is a really nice guy and I think I know where he is coming from. I realize that he has to represent an organization, so his personal views may be clouded. It is the content of his reply that I critique, not the person.
I am glad that he informed the public about financial assistance schemes for bridging the technology divide [see text blocked in green]. I am also glad that he mentioned the cyberwellness efforts in schools. We in NIE have introduced this concept in our ICT course a semester ago and made it part of a graded assignment so that new teachers are aware of the concept.
In trying to provide a succinct reply, it was not possible for Horn Mun to list all the schools and all their ICT and “digital learning” efforts. But I was left wondering why the usual suspects keep appearing. Are there no other schools worthy of mention?
Why don’t stakeholders (parents in particular) know what is happening in schools with regards to ICT integration? Why do they have to wait for limited and selective coverage by the press? Every school should be proudly publishing its efforts in its Web 1.0 school site, or better still, taking advantage of Web 2.0 to regularly update the school’s blog, Twitter or Facebook account.
Perhaps most schools have little to say. Why? In my opinion, they are not, as the director of ETD wrote [see text blocked in orange], “well resourced with the computing infrastructure and digital resources to harness ICT for learning”. It might appear so administratively on paper and on VIP visits to schools, but the reality is that most schools do not yet have early 21st century tools in place because of industrial age hangovers.
Yes, a few schools have 1:1 computing programmes and campus wide wireless networks. The majority do not. A few more schools have IWBs and “special” rooms. But these tools and venues are of little use (and little used) if pedagogy does not change with the times.
How do I know? I have friends and former trainees who are school principals, heads of departments or teachers. I follow teachers on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs. As a supervisor, consultant and teacher educator, I visit schools regularly and make it a point to ask about their ICT infrastructure and actually see the rooms. I do school-based research and collect uncensored information from teachers about their schools. Finally, I was a teacher before I was a teacher educator, so I know how most teachers think and react.
Teachers will complain that the infrastructure is not in place. They are right but it will never be in place because technology changes so rapidly. Instead, they could use what the students already have or think of ways to work with businesses and the community to get what they need.
Teachers complain of a lack of time despite efforts to reduce curriculum time for more innovative instruction. The integration of ICT does make lesson planning and implementation more complex, but it does not have to be overly elaborate or time-consuming.
One thing I model for my teacher trainees is how to facilitate ICT embedded activities that are only 5-15 minutes long. Think about how you might conduct a 5-minute brainstorming session using a collaboratively generated online mindmap. Think about 10-minute learning stations that students visit and where they search for information, solve mini problems (that are part of a larger problem) and reflect on them… all using iPod Touches and a wireless router. Think about a concept that no one, including the teacher, is sure about and everyone uses their iPhones or netbooks to instantly get information from the Web and then have a class discussion to clarify that concept.
What schools should invest in are technologies that will support pedagogies and strategies that last. Pedagogies that build upon experiential learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning or game-based learning. Digital learning then becomes learning that is enabled, not just enhanced, by critical, powerful and meaningful forms of technology.
So what exactly do schools need? Wireless Internet access anywhere in school and mobile computing devices like iPod Touches, variants of the Nintendo DS, Sony PSPs, smartphones or netbooks. Do schools have these in place? Most do not. Do some students already have some of these kid-friendly devices? Yes, they do and half the need is potentially fulfilled. Are most schools taking advantage of this? No, they are not. They need to put technology in the hands and minds of the learners. After all, we are in their service and preparing them for their futures, not our past.
So it there digital learning in schools? From my point of view as a teacher educator, a researcher and a concerned parent, I’d say certainly not enough.
Yesterday I read two online articles that seemed separate enough, but I realized they were pointing to the same thing.
[image source, used under CC licence]
The first was provocatively titled and its premise was that historical and political baggage influenced the perception of standardized testing. The blogger then reasoned that if the baggage was removed and the form of testing was given a different purpose, specifically “to care more about child development and cognition rather than efficiency and saving money”, more teachers would jump on board.
I think that the word “standardized” is the more basic obstacle. It implies a fixed time, place and medium, as well as a one-size-fits-all manner of measurement. While these are good for the quality control of factory-produced goods, they are not neccessarily suitable for people.
On the other hand, consider how institutions like the School of One or Pershing Middle School, mentioned in the second article, approach learning and testing. The child does not adapt to the curriculum. Instead the curriculum is moulded to the child and it also moulds the child. Here’s a snippet of the report:
After introducing content, teachers can immediately test students using remote devices attached to their netbooks. Students are then assigned to appropriate practice activities or more in-depth lessons. “The wait time for getting feedback to children is sliced significantly. This is about the speed of learning and the depth of learning,” says Sarah Sullivan, the principal of San Diego’s Pershing Middle School.
How might we begin to individualize testing? The same article offers this approach:
Although the Burst program suggests only face-to-face lessons for students, its underlying assessment relies on sophisticated digital tools for gathering and analyzing data from individual students. “It’s this model of deeply analyzing the data in a way that no human teacher would have time to do, and mapping lessons to kids’ abilities, that’s fundamental to what education is going to look like in the future,” predicts Wireless Generation’s chief executive officer, Larry Berger.
Good stuff, but it sounds like something out of reach of most schools and teachers. Something that teachers can do now is what Shelly Blake-Plock does:
For several years, Shelly Blake-Plock has asked students in his Latin, English, and art history classes to summarize what they’ve learned from class and document their progress on assignments in daily blog entries… If he observes a lack of basic understanding or language skill in some students’ work, he says, he can suggest online resources and activities to get them on track.
I can vouch for this simple strategy because I do this myself when I facilitate my ICT course. Blogs give me deep insights into my teacher trainees’ thoughts, problems and interests. I look back at the RSS feeds of their blogs that I have archived since July 2007. Despite the course being long over, occasionally I will see entries of updates in their lives as teachers.
Monitoring these feeds and responding to them does not add very much more time to what I already do, which is to monitor the almost constant stream of other RSS feeds, tweets and email. It’s a digital world and we have to live, teach and learn that way to stay relevant!