03 April 2008

Reading Assignments

"I'll lever let technology change the way I teach," is a statement I hear all the time from university professors and secondary teachers. I think that they think this makes them sound principled. But I think they sound ridiculous. After all, we know they would teach differently if they did not have books, chalkboards, chairs, a roof over the classroom, calculators (or sliderules), or science lab equipment, or even pens and paper. They teach the way they do because of the technologies they choose to use. But let's take their statement and run with it.

"I'll never let technology change the way I practice medicine." "I'll never let technology change the way I build your house." "I'll never let technology change the way I travel."

We are humans. We define ourselves by our tools. We live in the information age just as surely as the Trojan War was fought in the Bronze Age. So I am not so sure, for example, that our ways of comprehending science have changed dramatically over the past 2,500 years, but I am certain that our technologies for exploration have changed tremendously.

Thus, we need to know the technologies that our students use today, and will use tomorrow, and we must adjust what we, as educators, do to those realities, and train our students in effective tool use. Thus, there are important new works out that you should probably be reading. The good news is, they are quite readable, and they are free and easily downloadable.

First is the 2008 Horizon Report, which has over the years proven to be one of the best predictors of the potential of educational technology.

A few quotes:

"The growing use of Web 2.0 and social networking— combined with collective intelligence and mass amateurization—is gradually but inexorably changing the practice of scholarship. The proliferation of tools that enable co-creation, mashups, remixes, and instant self-publication is remaking the traditional model of academic publication and has growing implications for tenure and merit systems. Web 2.0 and social networking tools are increasingly being adopted for educational use. In the sciences especially, amateur scholars are juxtaposing data into “data mashups” and creating sophisticated visual representations that add to the body of knowledge in compelling ways. Taken together, the increased use of these technologies indicates a steady change in the way scholarship is undertaken and perceived."

"The fact that many students already own and carry mobiles remains a key factor in their potential for education. Added to that is the tremendous pace of innovation in this sector, where intense competition is driving continual advancements. The feature sets of the most recent high-end phones have moved these devices into an entirely new class. Just as we have seen with cell phone cameras, as innovation continues, prices for established features will drop considerably. Over the time frame of this adoption horizon, it is expected that mobile broadband, full-featured Internet, touch-screen interfaces, remotely upgradeable software, and high-quality displays will become as common as cameras are today."

"The gap between students’ perception of technology and that of faculty continues to widen. Students and faculty continue to view and experience technology very differently. Students have embraced social technologies like Facebook and many similar platforms in unprecedented numbers, yet these technologies remain a mystery to many on campuses. Webware tools with clear potential for education are meeting the same reception: faculty are often either unaware of tools like Google Docs and Swivel, or have difficulty integrating them into educational processes. Serving to expand this gap is the withering pace of emerging technology, and even old technology hands often tire at the thought of learning yet another new way of working. At the same time, student expectations are important, and successful learning-focused organizations have long known they ignore these expectations at their peril."

Also now out: Becta's Emerging Technologies for Learning (No. 3).

To quote:

"Students expect cross-platform access to content, the ability to download and upload material, and the integration of digital media in their learning tasks. They ask that course content, class notes, lectures and syllabi be searchable with common tools such as Google and available 24x7. Students also suggest that a wide array of courses should be available online, providing greater flexibility than traditional class schedules and that lectures be available as video-on-demand."

"The ways institutions communicate with students today, mostly in text, are described by students as ‘flat’. Students suggest more visual options. They see opportunities to use multimedia to enrich services as well as courses. For example, students suggest that information in a degree audit would be more understandable with a graphic interface rather than lines of text. They advocate maps pinpointing open parking spaces or open computers in the library. Students also suggest that institutions might do more to foster a sense of community among students. Remembering that our current generation of learners does not limit the definition of communication to face-to-face interaction, suggestions include integrating social technologies in institution websites, allowing students to share photos, using social bookmarking, and blogging."

"In sum, cloud computing is fundamentally changing the way in which we use the internet in our daily lives. Thomas Vander Wal, Principal and Senior Consultant for Infocloud Solutions, describes the shift in use as going from the “I go get web” (people accessing static and information in proprietary formats created by others on a desktop computer) to the “come to me web” (people creating, finding, using/re-using, sharing and storing information in open formats across multiple devices in different locations). Consequently, whereas the focus used to be on the technology, it has now shifted to the person, demoting the technology to a serving role and following the user wherever he or she goes."

Previous editions:
Emerging Technologies for Learning #2
Emerging Technologies for Learning #1

Also, just a reminder of of one of the best documents of this type. Norbert Pachler's (the University of London) Mobile Learning: Towards a Research Agenda. That is important reading.

Plus: Building a course in and around Wikipedia - teaching content and information literacy and writing skills all in one semester from Jon Murray. A wonderful piece discovered through the bizarre debate on Wikipedia on Inside Higher Ed (also see below). (Who knew that a party filled with encyclopedia editors would be more cut-throat than a a night of drinking at Rasputin's house?)

- Ira Socol

Entertaining tech conversations: I always think that using a few tools of discourse analysis we can really entertain ourselves when we watch tech arguments break out in higher education. Notice the incredible anger in these conversations on Inside Higher Education on Wikipedia and student text messaging in class and on university classroom technology on the Chronicle of Higher Education. Then ask yourself - is any of this about learning? or is it all about power? Anyway - I always learn from these exchanges, both from those I agree with and those I debate. So encourage people to join these types of exchanges. I do believe they deal in important conflicts which will help lead us to new forms of understanding - and educational action. And especially - cheers to Landrum Kelly! (if that is this Landrum Kelly). Thanks for the challenge!

The Drool Room by Ira David Socol, a novel in stories that has - as at least one focus - life within "Special Education in America" - is now available from the River Foyle Press through lulu.com

US $16.00 on Amazon

US $16.00 direct via lulu.com

Look Inside This Book


Steve Lee said...

It's also worth checking out Futurelab in Bristol, UK.

They like game tech applications and also have some great Mobile (Cell) based educational experiences in their project portfolio. I loved Mudlarking in Deptford and Savannah

irasocol said...

Excellent recommendation Steve. FutureLab really deserves a post of its own.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Becta link. I'm especially interested in the net generation material there, since I think we will see them emerge as the 'haves' and their poorer peers as the 'have nots' in ways that will overshadow today's inequalities. Education could diminish those inqualities if it made up its mind to.