Living with change The pace of change is accelerating and shows no sign of slowing. This necessarily has implications for education but ones that will not be answered by doing more of the same. An old history book I used to use likened progress to travelling downhill on a bike with no brakes but hoping that the end result will be rather happier! The video Shift Happens gives an excellent overview of the (I hesitate to use managementspeak) challenges we face. Listening to Kevin Kelly on predicting the next 5000 days of the web in the light of the last 5000 neatly illustrates the point that unpredictability and uncertainty need to be embraced by an education system that in many cases is still struggling with the mid points of the last century. The generation gap has always been with us but is never larger than in the realm of technology. Marc Prensky identified digital natives (young people) and digital immigrants (the rest of us). I’m working hard at losing my ‘accent’ but I’m still no native. I’ve also heard someone, I forget who, refer to digital holidaymakers. These are adults who go on a course, leave with great enthusiasm but experience no changes when they get back to work. The natives are now communicating and cocreating in ways beyond the comprehension of many and these behaviours together with the explosion in the use of screen media have implications for successful schooling. I’ll leave it to Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt, p. 95English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001) to sum up. “Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” The range of technology that has crept stealthily into classrooms is remarkable. First and foremost is the whiteboard. There is a sort of hierarchy for the use of stuff like this that is a necessary rite of passage to its use to transform. I’d love to know more about its impact on learning when it’s used by learners and they can actually ‘touch’ knowledge and understanding. Teachers are also finding effective uses of technology to track progress and identify target groups. If these two examples seem rather a superficial glance at teaching and technology then you’re right. Technologies are becoming ubiquitous in education as in life in general. Even your washing machine has a chip!
Back to learning and the days of, “Write a paragraph and draw me a picture.” (an oversimplification I know) are receding into history. Today’s learners are demonstrating learning by making presentations, blogs, podcasts, movies, animations, webpages, mindmaps, wikis and who knows what else. With this and the use of the Internet in its 1.0 form as a source of information comes the issue of information literacy. Is the site current, reliable, valid and what techniques can be employed to find out? Is this new literacy being addressed in schools? All these issues have an upside of providing access to higher levels of learning such as set out in Bloom’s Taxonomy and the development of more independence on the part of the learner. If learners are collaborating and able to network within a wider geographical range than before this raises issues of safety. If the one that hits the headlines involves entrapment by sex offenders, and let’s face it that must be at the top end of traumatic, we must also alert our learners to the dangers of fraud, identity theft, uncensored contact, cyberbullying, the theft of intellectual property and viruses to name but a few. Finally technology is already transforming learning but, to borrow from Doug Brown - Head of Learning Technologies at the then DfES, we still need to recognise that at the moment pioneers often isolated, best practice is not necessarily shared, curriculum structures are perceived as inflexible, economies of scale are not always realised and home/school communication not yet a cost effective reality for all.
Rob Ellis (http://www.icttalk.co.uk) (This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.)
Published on Feb 21, 2010