I find that my learning occurs in surges in my life. For ages, I’ll mark time, just working pretty hard, and mainly reinforcing what I presently understand about an issue. And then, all of a sudden, I’ll have a few days where it all takes off again. And these surges are generally sparked off with a specific trigger eg a brief conversation with someone; or maybe a hard-hitting blog that I read; or even an Aha while I’m watching a sunset.
I’ve had one of those surges this week. Thank you in part to Jo and David (amongst others) at Benowa State School on the Gold Coast for this. And it’s all to do with what we could call Digital Pedagogies.
The title has been around for a while. It’s just that the impact has now hit critical mass in everyday classrooms. Including ones in which I’ve been teaching over the past few weeks. We’re not talking ‘integration’ of ICT into learning, either. We’re talking a seamless alignment of our learning experiences with what can be offered through ICT. No more ‘let’s do the ICT lesson now’. It’s not an add-on. It’s a natural flow of learning with 21st century tools.
And it takes new ways of thinking, which are sometimes referred to as paradigms. Essentially, they’re a set of glasses through which you view your world. If you’re an educator (read: teacher / parent / principal / lecturer), you are going to need some new glasses pretty soon.
George Siemen’s theory on Connectivism sparked a chord a few years ago with the techno-intellectuals in terms of new learning theories. If you haven’t read this before, it’s worth a quick look. In short, most earlier theories focused on what you knew, and on how you would acquire it. Connectivism focuses not on what you know, but on how you can find it out when you do need to know it. F’instance, through your networks (offline and online).
However, while the theories are great for establishing solid understandings, I’m very much into the practical. How does this so-called ‘digital pedagogy’ and ‘e-learning’ translate into everyday schools and classrooms?
Now, I need to facilitate quite a few workshops and keynotes over the next few weeks; and I intend to build some e-learning ideas into those sessions. So, as I steadily prepare for them, here’s my thinking (to some degree) right now.
I propose that e-learning can be further segmented into four areas, namely:
e-curriculum / e-pedagogy / e-assessment / e-reporting (OK, so the E’s are a bit full-on. Still, bear with me here, with one at a time).
e-curriculum. Curriculum is WHAT you teach. Rich content is still critical in great learning. However, what really are the essential learnings needed in the 2nd decade (and 3rd. And 4th) of this century? Which content is truly worthy of inclusion in a packed day and year? Does an historical study on Second Life become more important than a study of WW2? Is it more worthwhile to teach children how to resolve an argument with their friends, rather than how the first white settlers negotiated with the indigenous custodians of your country? Is it either / or anyway?
e-pedagogy. Pedagogy is HOW you teach. The Ed Qld Productive Pedagogies are still one of the best frameworks in the world. Copies abound everywhere. Yet how do elements such as ‘Substantive Conversation’, ‘Social Support’ and ‘Deep Understanding’ translate in a campus environment (or global for that matter) in which primary students are accessing the ‘lesson’ from a remote device? I love good processes within a classroom. However, I’m still pondering how I can build an academic controversy (one of my many favourite lessons. Click on to Handout 2) into such a learning environment.
e-assessment. Up to now, assessment has been segmented into summative (class test-based), formative (self-monitoring) and diagnostic (individual analysis). If a 14-year-old is constructing an online gaming environment as an Assessment Task, how specifically do we measure its quality? What if a 9-year-old has created a two-month alliance with a team of five different 9-year-olds from all over the planet, and is co-creating a musical performance ? What if she then intends to publish it online, and begin her own business with the sales that are generated?
Maybe the assessment could be based on the number of hits that are received for their performance? Perhaps even (shock horror) the amount of money that she makes. Which she could then donate to charities for children in poor countries. And this, of course, opens up some even more intriguing options with assessment. If she wants to make a difference to the world, does that count for something??!
e-reporting. And after we finally work out how to assess for the quality of the work, how do we report to parents, let alone to the students themselves? Will teachers eventually be employed predominantly to monitor and support and report on the ongoing viability of these projects? Will tracking devices and mini-cameras constantly record, and then edit, the ongoing efforts into a succinct online report?
And after all of that, how do we retain our deep humanity? How will we maintain our core values, the ones that have served great educators for so long?
In a way, it’s simple. Treat ICT as a wonderful servant, but a lousy master. They are superb tools, and can categorically advance the quality of the learning experience when we consider them as our servants. Unfortunately, they’re a dangerous master, and can suppress and even twist our true personality.
Just remember to retain your humanity (and theirs). Revel in being alive. Experience the sunsets and sunrises in your life. Focus on core values that have always been a foundation for your existence. Values such as: Trust. Responsibility. Diligence. Courage. Excellence. Gratitude.
If we each and all can manage to do that, then this new paradigm of e-learning will lead in to the most astonishing and life-altering era in human history.