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Posts Tagged ‘technology

I often reflect on how we might leverage on technology in the contexts of schooling and education.

But what might technology (aided by change agents) leverage on? Unfortunately, the unfortunate. Disasters of different types, be they weather-driven, geopolitical, or other, are problems seeking solutions.

Several years ago at a conference, one speaker shared a story of how he finally managed to implement e-learning in Thailand. Floods had forced the shutting down of schools, but the idea of “business continuity” appealed to decision makers.

Earlier this week, I read this article on refugee education in Kenya. The refugees prioritised their phones for both life and learning, and this forced refugee educators to rethink platforms, delivery, and interaction.

Tech companies have flooded this space with possibility—new apps, online learning portals, libraries. But, often lost in this rush to help, the best ideas may start very simply and originate within refugee communities.

What were some general principles of technology integration that worked in this context? The Kenyan case study revealed these:

  • Ground-up: The teachers decided what they would use and how, e.g., using Facebook groups for feedback on essays.
  • Authentic and logical use: Teachers there already used Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to communicate. They extended their conversations to discuss teaching topics and challenges.
  • Seamless use: The teachers did not seem to have an “either/or” approach, i.e., either face-to-face or virtual; no-technology or technology. Their use was not based on distinction by medium or tool, but on a seamless application of “and”.
  • Going beyond classroom walls: Recognising the need to change social norms (e.g., sending girls to school), face-to-face classroom discussions with males were continued in WhatsApp outside the classroom.

The principles that emerged from a refugee camp in Kenya are generic enough to apply to a “first world” context.

Technology and change agents might leverage on what teachers and learners already have with them and what they already do. Learners value their phones and they already use them authentically. Design for that instead of our preconceived notions of what schooling should look like.

If you live under a rock, watch this video first.


Video source

If you do not, you know that everyone and their grandmother watched it and had something to say about it.

This is what I saw and say from an educational technology perspective.

Technology integration
This was an example of technology integration, not just technology use. While the effort was just a recreation of a face-to-face interview, it would not have been possible without the video conferencing software.

One alternative would have been to find some other expert nearby. But the BBC either did not have one or know one.

Yet another alternative would have been to fly the expert over, but this would have been costly and probably would have lost its impact by air time.

Technology integration makes the edtech indispensable, not just good to have. It is necessary, transparent, and practically indistinguishable from the strategy.

Managing the environment
Good technology integration is just as much about managing the environment. In hindsight, most people might have wondered why he did not lock the door.

In a subsequent interview, the expert revealed that he normally locks the door. The day he forgot, his kids took advantage.


Video source

Technology integration looks effortless only if it is planned meticulously, rehearsed diligently, and when the environments are managed skillfully.

The environment might include the physical (e.g., lighting, temperature, noise), infrastructural (e.g., availability of tools, access to electrical points, reliability of wifi), social (e.g., individual space, group space, reflection space), pedagogical (e.g., instructional tools and platforms, strategies intertwined with the previous elements) and so much more. All must be considered, balanced, and managed in when contexts change.

Keep on keeping on
When novices try and fail, it is easy to give up due to the unwanted outcomes like embarrassment, poor participation, or negative feedback.

It is critical not to give up during and after something like this happens. The professor in the video soldiered on and he had the timely support and intervention from his wife.

He behaved professionally. He shared his burden with someone else. He reflected on the experience. He showed he was human.

No matter WHAT you teach, it is ultimately about WHO you are trying to teach it to. Making that human connection — in this case, it was family and kids — is what learners remember. Those are arguably more important lessons than what is in the official syllabus.

I had a few reactions to this tweet.

I see what it is getting at, but left critically unchecked, it can do more harm than good.

I disagree with the tweeted thought both at face value and after digging deeper. Learning technology is:

  • learning about technology
  • learning from the technology
  • learning with the technology
  • not just about the pedagogy

Compared with the other items on my list, learning about technology is the lowest order skillset teachers need. But it could also be the most important mindset barrier to breach because without it the rest are not likely to happen.

Learning from the technology is what teachers new to technology might expect. The technology use is relatively superficial and either augments or replaces what the teacher can already deliver. Vendors love delivering on delivering and teachers might appreciate being partly relieved of a burden. But this is still a low-hanging fruit because it does not shift the focus from teaching content to learning how to find and process it.

Learning with the technology is where change starts to happen. It is:

  • uncertain but authentic
  • less teacher or school-controlled but more student or  co-managed
  • not just about content but also about context

Such technologies include social media, augmented reality, and mobile games. They are not created by education companies but are co-opted by teachers and students to reach and teach, and to learn not only just-in-case, but also just-in-time.

Learning with technology necessitates a paradigm shift in mindsets. Technology is not just used, it is integrated. It becomes so essential as to become transparent because it just-works and it is practically impossible to learn when it is not present. Such technology is viewed less as a tool to be used sporadically and more like an instrument to be embraced constantly.

Learning with technology is not just about pedagogy, although that is important. The pedagogies, like problem, case, team, or game-based learning are mediated by technology. But pedagogy is not the only driver: There is the nature of content and the context of its use.

There is another reason why pedagogy cannot be the sole driver. Pedagogy tend to face backwards and changes very slowly; technology faces forward and changes very quickly. One of the slowest and least effective pedagogies is didactic teaching. A didactic-focused pedagogy can make technology improve or optimise what a teacher does, but it does not necessarily focus on learning nor guarantees it.

If you do not help yourself, someone will sense an opportunity, offer their help, and charge you for it. That is what I thought when I read this tweet and the embedded article.

You can help yourself. You should help yourself.

There is so much information and so many resources you can get for free or for a low fee. Much lower than a provider would bilk and milk from you over an extended period.

But you say that it takes time to learn? I say make the time.

Then you say it is too difficult? I say everything is difficult the first time round.

You say you would rather just pay someone else to do it and then not worry about the issue? I say it does not work like that.

Web filtering is not just about tools and protocols. It is about setting expectations and parenting. It is about discussing and rationalising.

Now be just as savvy when it comes to learning how to be a better person or worker. You can help yourself. You should help yourself.

If you are going to pay someone else to help you, first make sure that this is about something you absolutely cannot do yourself. Then make sure that the other party can actually help.

My hunt for an elusive video brought me to the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Facebook page.

While I did not find what I was looking for, I found a series of images. They served as a helpful reminder of what teachers should stock up on to prepare for the new year.

What MOE teachers will use in 2017...

It was also a stark reminder of the mindset and expectations of teachers. The technologies are not current. If they were, there would be reminders to change passwords, renew VPN plans, update software, check digital archives, etc.

The call to arms was: You will be needing these and more to make a lasting impact on that one student. I get that message and stand behind it because it is a call to individualise, difficult as that will be.

I hope that teachers read this as reaching out to more than just that one student because all students are that one student. However, this task is impossible with the traditional tools and methods because they are largely about centralisation, standardisation, and control.

The newer tools are about decentralisation, individualisation, and self-regulation. This will only happen if school leaders and teachers change their mindsets and expectations about which tools to focus on and how to use them.

 
The old saying about technology integration was that the pedagogical horse should lead the technological cart, and not the other way around. It is about what to prioritise.

The problem with this analogy is that each can function on its own. The horse can move or be ridden independently of the cart. The cart does not need the horse (it could be decoration, just like interactive white boards).
 

 
The saying has been updated. Now some like to say that technology integration is like a driver (pedagogy) in a car (technology). This seems more current and apt unless you realise some people who say this still insist pedagogy should always lead technology.

What is the person alone? What is the car alone? Alone neither gets anywhere. They need to be integrated without one being promoted over the other in order to go on a journey and arrive at a destination.

If you use this analogy, then you must also acknowledge that technology and pedagogy go together. One is not more important than the other.

The small things matter. So do the little actions. Technology can amplify both.

The local press almost gleefully reported how a Singaporean teenager might have played her part in helping Trump win the US elections.

Hrithie Menon charged S$140 and took two hours to create a Prezi presentation that was “shared across various colleges and university campuses in the US aimed at capturing young people’s votes”.

Trump might describe her an example of a foreigner “stealing” jobs from the US.

I would describe her not as a “digital native” — that was the paper’s overused and poorly understood phrase.

Instead, I would describe her simply as efficiently and effectively using the tools available to her, just as her parents did before her, and their parents before them. The difference now is the reach and impact of the technology she had access to.

The paper listed some of her other tools: Adobe After Effects, VideoScribe, and Instagram. Though different, all the tools have one thing in common — they are tools of creation, not consumption.

While many vendors and schools still push for tools of consumption because they can be controlled and limited, learners of all ages who are unfettered outside of school have found tools of creation on their own.

For example, they learn from YouTube and they create and share on the same. When they do, they extend their reach. The audience is not automatic. The creators learn to amplify their voice, like Hrithie did when she advertised her services online.

The tools are free, the learning is meaningful, and the learner takes ownership. These are just three of many things that those behind the walls of school should learn.


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