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Teaching and technology - built in obsolescence?

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 17 Jul 2018, 16:48

An activity this week has been to read a long, but helpful, chapter by Conole about the ways technology has already impacted both learning and teaching, and the implications of these changes for future practice. 

This section caught my attention:

"The teacher–student nexus is also under threat. In an information-rich, Web 2.0 world where the focus is on user-generated content, peer dialogue, and co-construction of knowledge, the notion of teacher as “expert” and student as “receiver” makes little sense. Therefore, there is a disjuncture between student use of the technologies and academic use, with students increasingly developing their own sophisticated personal learning environment of tools and resources to support their learning" Conole 2011

The readily available, and vastly broad and deep, resources available to students could easily be imagined as a threat to the future of teaching as we have known it. For centuries the teacher's currency has been their knowledge - what they knew (and to some extent what they also knew about how to teach) was what they sold to the market. Now everything they know - plus a thousand times more information - is available at the click of a button. A book tells one story, a teacher may be able to tell a few stories, the internet has billions of stories. 

I asked my daughter (just finished A-levels) and a friend of hers this question:

If you had access to a wide variety of books, papers, articles, videos and other resources, could you have learned your A-levels without the teacher's input?

The answers I received were:

 "Yes totally." and

"Yes.... I think so. I would have missed talking about it with other students." 

Bearing in mind that these two are both highly motivated, mature students who needed no additional pushing to keep them on track (not necessarily typical!) I would not draw a firm conclusion. I am not even convinced it is true of them either but certainly the perception of 'teacher knows the stuff so I must listen in class' is not something they hold. 

But yet I don't like the idea of the teacher becoming defunct. Something in me resists the idea that humanity will cease to be the primary teacher of humanity. 



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The narrowing of the digital divide

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 23:00

One of the activities I plan to write about in my TMA is the Global Digital Divide. When doing this activity a few weeks ago I looked at the region (ha!) of Africa (a pretty big region!) and speculated that the provision of OERs by western universities would be unlikely to be helpful to most people in Africa as internet connectivity was both rare, poor and expensive. I looked up infographics to show how the undersea cabling simply didn't reach Africa as strongly as it reached North America and Europe.

https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/

I assumed that the vastness, and relatively emptiness, of the African continent meant that stretching the infrastructure from the coast inland simply hadn't been done and therefore, the videos, quizzes, resources and lectures being provided 'for free' would not actually contribute to the improvement of the learning environment for Africans but rather sit there uselessly - an unusable but expensive white elephant. 

However - this was based on the information linked to by H800 - mostly at least 5 years old. 

I've now done some much more up to date research (aided by the hive mind that is Facebook and specifically three computer-y friends who exploded with geekiness upon being asked for advice and information!) and see that the global digital divide is narrowing - pretty much before our eyes in a visible way. 

This website is full of very up to date information about the whole world and if, how and why it connects to the internet. 153 pages of fascinating data. Yet not one which expressly refers to learning or education. Lots about social media, banking, commerce... but no learning.

I also was linked to this initiative by Facebook which also fails to explicitly refer to education and learning except for two video diaries of learners - one school boy and one adult learner. It addresses connectivity and some of the technical efforts they are making to address the shrinking inequality. 

Other projects were linked to which had the aim of both strengthening the internet connection in Africa, and utilizing it for the common good in various ways - though education was, once more, notable in its absence. 

So it's back to the drawing board! I think that 10 years ago my planned plea for OERs to be made in text form, avoiding bandwidth munching pictures and videos, would have been right on the money! However - now I think I will have to rethink. Maybe the same problems which always faces schools in Africa will be the key - simply having buildings, teachers, uniforms and equipment will continue to be the challenge. The equipment may be more technological, and the teachers may need more training and the buildings may need internet connectivity.... yeah - there's still 1000 words in that!

 


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School yard gamifications

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I've been pretty occupied with the TMA in the last few days but I made time for my weekly coffee break with a group of friends this morning. One friend, Viv, is an early years teacher with oodles of experience. She asked what I was doing and I gave some vague response (if I get too specific I get too excitable and then talk about it for too long) and she immediately began to muse of the usefulness of gamification (she didn't use that exact word) for repetitive practice tasks with young children.

Learning times tables, or spelling, or basic maths and science can be boring. A child may have some basic tools but the current pedagogy (as has ever been so it seems!) is to require a lot of repetition and testing to drill down these skills. She cited the times table competition web sites which can turn an hour of times table homework into a class competition complete with certificates!

I began to muse that with touch screen tablets children could actually write our spellings and software could actually interpret and mark their efforts. Viv then suggested that the software could also record the type of words a child was struggling with (a specific phoneme, words with non phonetic letters) and assign more of these words to help them crack it; personalized and responsive lessons and learning. 

She has a rather negative view of technology enhanced learning overall - it seems because it has become 'required' of her (despite the fact she teaches 4 year olds) to create and teach from PowerPoint presentations. Despite the fact that she immediately could see potential in a technological approach and was mentally devising algorithms to utilize screens in the classroom, she has already been turned off the idea of a new pedagogy by the blanket and inappropriate imposition of an existing one.

Most of our studies in H800 have been about adult learners but technology can, does and must also enhance the learning environments of children.   

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Richardson's helpful bullet point lists

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I do like a list! And this paper was full of them! 

Firstly was the three approaches to studying:

  1. A deep approach based on understanding the subject
  2. A surface approach based on memorizing pertinent facts
  3. A strategic approach based on getting good grades

In fairness to the author it was explicitly stated that most students will employ all three approaches at some point in their learning which made a lot of sense as I really could identify with all three! The tension between approach one and three is most interesting - a genuinely engaged learner will really want a broad, deep and satisfying engagement with the subject - to really 'get it' and make the connections necessary to put their new knowledge to work somehow. However - the genuinely engaged learner may also be busy and overburdened and pragmatic enough to know that reading a fourth journal article about a particular subject is unlikely to make any difference to their final grade and therefore lay it aside for striking out into a new curriculum area which may appear on the exam. Tempting as it may be to dismiss approach two - lets be honest - we've all done it!

The next list, how students perceive (define?) learning, began as a five pointer but a sixth was added later:

  1. Learning as the increase in knowledge
  2. Learning as memorizing
  3. Learning as the acquisition of facts or procedures
  4. Learning as the abstraction of meaning
  5. Learning as an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality
  6. A conscious process, fueled by personal interests and directed at obtaining harmony and happiness or changing society

Students who reported their learning as being points 1 - 3 were reported as being more 'surface approach' learners whereas the deep learners were more likely to define learning as points 4 - 5. The sixth point was added later and include a more specific purpose to learning. Again - I am pretty sure I could have defined learning in any of these six ways depending on who asked, when and about what. My gut feeling is that this is less about dividing students into groups (the point 2 definers) and more about students defining individual learning experiences. The article also suggests that learners move from points 1 - 6 (presumably in a somewhat linear fashion) as they progress on their learning journeys. 

The final list is a five point list of the approaches employed by teachers to their educating. 

  1. Teaching as imparting information
  2. Teaching as transmitting structured knowledge
  3. Teaching as an interaction between the teacher and the student
  4. Teaching as facilitating understanding on the part of the student
  5. Teaching as bringing about conceptual change and intellectual development in the student

Unlike the other lists - it seems that this one is more fixed. The researchers were 'surprised' that a move towards the bottom end of the list did not seem to be measurable as teachers became more experienced. There is some discussion about how the subject matter a person teaches may necessarily result in a somewhat different approach and also that teachers give the students what they expect and want from their studies. 

We are discussing this paper in our Tutorial later this week; and there will be a forum about it (which I haven't looked at yet as I wanted to read the paper, and jot down my initial reflections before I read what other people had thought.)

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