Earlier this week I gave a talk at a UK university. The audience was made up of lecturers from a variety of disciplines, and the theme was "Learners in the 21st century". My opening gambit was to poll the audience on a number of issues - "How many social networking channels do you use", "How much of the assigned reading do you think your students do", things like that. The polling itself I did via polls set up at http://www.smspoll.net, a neat website that lets you set up polls that allow people to vote via SMS from their mobile phones. So, the first thing I did was pull up the first poll, ask the audience to get their mobile phones out, and to vote via SMS. The purpose of the whole exercise was 3-fold - 1) so I could get a feel for the audience, 2), to prime them on a number of issues I'd be discussing, and 3) to show them that mobiles can be used meaningfully for teaching and learning.
After the session, one of the delegates came up to me and said that she and a number of her colleagues had felt excluded (her word) because they didn't have mobiles, or that their mobiles didn't have the necessary functionality. I accepted her feedback, but also pointed out that it was almost certainly the case that any mobile would be able to send SMS messages, and that maybe they just weren't familiar with doing so. She was, however, clearly still somewhat upset at having been excluded. (Turns out that the polls received 24 votes out of about 80 people in the audience).
I must say I was taken aback. I hadn't anticipated that there would be anyone in the room who didn't own a mobile (though I anticipated that some of them may have left theirs in the staff room or whatever), but this is clearly the case. I've been pondering ever since whether I was unreasonable to expect all members of my audience - university lecturers - to have a mobile. So there's a question for you - was I being unreasonable?
In terms of a bigger picture, even if I personally was unreasonable to have that expectation, what should we (society as a whole) expect from our educators? The theme of the conference overall was "Designing Learning in the twenty-first century". So there's clearly a theme here: we know that our learners learn/live their lives differently from those in the 20th century, and we need to keep up with developments. So there seems to be an acknowledgement here that we need to understand our learners better in order to serve them better. If this is the case, then isn't it our duty as educators to farmiliarise ourselves with our learners' lifestyles? I'm not saying that all teachers should go out and buy themselves every games console under the sun along with all of the most popular games, but isn't mobile-phone literacy nowadays as much of a 21st-century skill as computer literacy? And how can we as educators prepare the next generation of the workforce if we're not comfortable with the major trends of today ourselves?
So, over to you - was I unreasonable in my first expectation (that all lecturers would have mobile phones), and do you think it's fair to expect educators to be familiar with current "currency" if they're the ones educating the next generation?
Keynote: Alan Mulally, Chairman and CEO of Ford. 8 January 2009, afternoon
Ford Work Solutions + Sync: large screens, voice-activated, wireless devices in cars. Music, Office apps etc.
“Automotive leader in Connectivity”. Infotainment.
Link up with Sony for hardware
Mobile phone central as well
“We're a car company, but we're learning to act like an electronics company”. Working with partnerships
Unifying home and office etc. Culturally specific?
Cell phones will always evolve quicker than cars.
MyKey – key that works in conjunction with car which can be programmed by parents for e.g. Highest speed, stereo volume etc.
HD radio in 2010
Car can automatically dial 911 after accident. Speaks to operator or lets you do it.
Vehicle health report – informs user of state of vehicle
Traffic, directions services. Gathers data from millions of cars such as speed and location in order to plot traffic and reroute drivers
Systems will detect whether your phone has a data plan. If so, it'll stream more services through that plan.
Sync will be able to access Apple apps etc
Access Facebook etc messages through voice commands
Lots of info about vehicle economy so that driver can adjust driving
Ford Focus more economic than some hybrids
Configurable displays in future. “Intelligent” systems, giving driver information depending on habits, time of day etc etc. E.g. At lunchtime, suggesting local restaurant that suits preferences.
Sync available globally in 2010. Europe first, then Asia
At the keynote speech of Day 1 (8 January 2009). The speakers are Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, and Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman and CEO of Sony Corp. There are 3D glasses on the seats which should make it a fun session! 3D glasses have come a long way by the way – no longer are they cardboard and one lens green/one lense red, but they're hard plastic and both lenses are the same colour, a sort of coffee colour.
Very entertainment-focused intro – movie trailer while getting seated, videos of PSP and games etc.
New service launched – Yoostar. Allows user to personalise old films (e.g. Putting own head into films, splicing in new content etc).
Shapiro: recession time for innovation – new inventions, re-examining what we're doing.
In day of 24-hour news easy to focus on micro, need to look at macro.
Entertainment industry not going cap-in-hand to government, unlike automobile industry. Need to be self-sufficient.
In 1930s radio blossomed, helped lift Great Depression by creating jobs in itself, help spirit, help disseminate information = knowledge.
Industry has had 7 years of uninterrupted growth. Only paralysis during 9/11. 5.4% growth in 2008, not quite the 6% anticipated, but still positive. 2009 – revenue growth unlikely, flat growth. Unit sales will grow but prices will fall, i.e. No revenue growth. Larger leisure costs (e.g. Vacations) likely to be cut by consumers, larger spending as a result on smaller-cost items (films, games etc)
Obama has won on message of change. Change defines entertainment industry; consumers' willingness to engage in change heralds good news for the industry.
Obama first digital president, can offer US industry opportunity to grow through innovation, globality..
CEA's job to educate politicians who while they're trying to legislate for technology may not be sufficiently knowledgeable about it. CEA has created an “innovation Checklist” for politicians (“does it create jobs? Does it spur new technologies? Does it encourage the best and brightest to come to the US? Does it reward risk taking? Doest it promote exports? Will it help deploy broadband?”)
Green electronics big growth field.
How many technologies have been stifled by fear of litigation? Sony & CEO had to take to court battle for devices that will allow users to record TV shows.
Transition to Digital TV will be complete by February 17th 2009 (US). Government got involved in transition by offering coupons for digital converter boxes.
DTV ideal for new applications, not just one-way TV broadcasting.
CES more than just platform for launching new products. Networking key component – single most important platform for business making for the industry.
Sony – recently named one of 10 most innovative global companies
Intro – trailer of Angels and Demons, with Tom Hanks (a Sony film of course). Tom Hanks comes on stage to introduce Stringer. Very entertaining and quite unflattering to Sony! Lots of scripted product placement which he did with a LOT of tongue-in-cheek.
Good rapport between Tom and Stringer who's just come on.
Demonstrating new glasses in development that replaces a screen basically. Allows you to watch a film while seeing reality as well. Also gaming etc.
Excellent exit by Tom Hanks – I wouldn't want to have been in Stringer's position!! Took it all with very good humour though.
Stringer: no quick fixes to economy, can't say it'll all be positive. But entertainment industry probably more resilient than many. Consumers have reasessed their spending; must offer customers products and services they actually want to buy.
1.Embrace the Fusion of Industries. Devices must be created to operate seamlessly across industries.
2.Adopt a Service-enhanced Philosophy.
3.Products must be multi-functional. Access multiple sources of content. At heart of product development for at least 10 years.
4.Support Open Technologies. Consumers expect choice, services to work with any devices.
5.Advance the shared experience. Virtual worlds, social networking etc.
6.Create new value chains. Technologies that offer better user experience. New HD tv screens will lead to purchase of other relevant devices.
7.Go Green. Consumers want it. Big screens, big sounds, but small carbon footprint.
By 2011, 90% of Sony product developments will be connected wirelessly.
New devices such as the Bravia TV models which are wirelessly enabled to access new films etc next generation.
Sony Cybershot cameras will have tie-in with AT&T so that users can upload images to file-sharing sites, Bravia TVs etc.
Clock radios on bedside tables. With wifi, it can collect customised content immediately and serve it up with your wake-up call (movies coming to town, new song releases of favourite artists, weather etc)
New screen technology – OLED. Allows for thinner screens. Flex OLED – flexible, foldable screen. Ereader of the future, but not just static text but also video etc. Wireless again.
Bluray at centre of HD.
John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Disney and Pixar on stage to talk about Bluray.
Wants customers to always have best experience possible – so they can see what creators see in the studios.
Showed clip of new films, straight off Bluray. Given the gigantic size of the screens in the auditorium the resolution and quality is very impressive.
Not just high-quality film, but also features. Internet-connected. Allows for example to pull in weather report and time of day from location and impose that on a film. People can watch same film in different locations while being connected, can talk about it while watching it.
Can pull in information off the web while watching something – e.g. A car in a film etc. This is neat; say you're watching a film and want to know more about an actor; highlight them and they could be recognised, then info on them served up from imdb or whatever.
With home projectors can introduce 3D videos in cinema quality at home.
3D version of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 coming out; Toy Story 3 in 2010.
PSP and PS3 integration ideal – can transfer content from one to the other wirelessly.
President of Sony Computer Entertainment, Kaz Hirai, on stage.
Play, listen, watch, learn, discover, communicate, create, and share. Elements of next-gen consumers want these. All enabled on PS3 and PSP. Games introduced that tap into both platforms.
Beyond games though – networked content and services (PSN – PlayStation Network).
LittleBIGPlanet – indication of where mass media is headed. Allows user to create/design games and content. Launched with 50 levels; with additional UGC, over 300,.000 levels.
Sony Online Entertainment brand.
FreeRealms – online 3D environment. Launch on PC, then PS3.
PS Store. Content is portable – played on TV, PS3 etc. Downloadable titles and games. MTV partnering for additional content.
Area of learn and discover. Life with PlayStation. 900,000 unique monthly users. Can use it to activate interactive mode while watching something, pull in information from Life. Demod weather again; is this all there is?!
Home – 3D virtual environment. EA has come on board to create online place for gamers.
Dr. Oz on stage – big name in the US, about to have his own show. Lots of show placement and telling us how to be healthier. Lovely.
On stage now – baseball player. Sony putting products into Yankee Stadium. One room containing lots of Sony technology..
New energy-efficient line of TV screens – 40% less electricity use. Also take-back recycling programme.
New solar cell which collects light emitted in rooms and re-uses it.
Concept phone by Sony Ericsson.
Digital cinema. Time now to try the 3D glasses at last!
First short film in digital 3D. Version of Cars. Excellent!! Very good quality.
Also 3D games – Grand Turismo. Live TV – demo of recording of football game. Very good; really does bring it closer.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO Dreamworks, on stage to talk about 3D.
Two equally big developments in film: talking films from silent ones; and colour from black and white. 3D next big shift equal to those.
Dual projectors synched to display it. No longer causes viewer to feel sick, unlike previous 3D attempts!
All new Dreamworks films will be authored in 3D. Another demo of first Dreamworks 3D film. Wow, very good – especially action/chasing scenes etc.
Sony bringing out new “lifestyle notebook” - slightly smaller than a netbook, slimmer in sense of being able to fit into a pocket.
New Sony Ericsson phone connected to music store. Can also recognise music playing in background and offer song to user for purchase.
All in all a good session though very long (2+ hours). Some talk of merging between genres (entertainment and learning).
I attended the University of London Centre for Distance Education conference on "Research-based teaching for flexible and distance learning" yesterday.
Various points that struck me from the literature, before the conference began [my notes/personal reactions are in square brackets]:
- In two years' time the University of London will have been engaged in distributed learning for 150 years
- The UoL has recently completed an internal review of the External System (as it is known) and as a result a Dean will be appointed "to provide overall academic leadership"
- More research into current distributed learning will take place, in particular with regards to seeking and responding to student feedback [this nowadays seems obvious, but under the older model this wasn't really taken into account - materials were produced and sent out to the students, and there was no real feedback mechanism]
- The relatively new Centre for Distance Education has received funding for a number of research projects within the past year in areas like assessment methods, student support, learning technologies and more
- A new Fellowship has been set up for the CDE; Fellows are academics at one of the colleges and are instrumental in the guidance and running of the CDE.
The conference - or at least the keynote speeches - was also webcast via Elluminate, with a handful of participants in Australia and a few other places. There were about 150 face-to-face participants.
David first used Computer Mediated Communication from the 80s, when at the OU. Interesting that this conference focuses on research, and how research can be applied to practical online teaching.
David's background: designer of online courses for teachers in higher education, with special interest in group work and learning communities.
Online tutor using VLEs such as WebCT, Lotus Notes & Moodle. More interested in using ready-made technology.
Educational researacher - online groups and communities
Issues in online learning
- High dropout rates. Harvard Extension School: dropout rate on correspondence online degrees is 98.5% [!!]
- Poor quality. A quote by a Penn State students stating that he found the course too easy - notion that it's too difficult to make an online course of sufficiently high quality
- "the ways in which the Internet is used for teaching and learning is of equal importance to the tool itself" (Alexander & Golja, 2006) [Well yes obviously!!]
The Independent e-learner - some problems:
- learner may experience negative feelings of disconnectedness [but surely this is less the case than more traditional paper-based courses, in which students had NO communication with other students?]
Underpinning values and beliefs:
- need to use technology in a way that underpins/reflects our values and beliefs of teaching & learning
- teachers often teach intuitively; need to actively & consciously become aware of our values & beliefs, will help us design online courses that reflect them
- new paradigm is emerging - notion that communities are the focus, and a main way of supporting students and motivating them to complete a course
Benefits of online communities:
- not enough to learn from "artefacts such as textbooks"; instead, must learn to learn in an expanded sense - from others, with others, cultural artefacts other than books, learning to mediate others' learning. (Saolomon & Perkins, 1998, p 21)
- Nature of learning and achievement: student learning is usually individualistic and competitive. Collaborative/cooperative forms of learning instead?
- Research done on impact on achievement of competitive, individualistic, and cooperative learning.
- Cooperative/collaborative learning: mastery and retention of material: higher. Quality of reasoning strategies/focusing strategies used mor eoften: higher level reasoning greater, problems solved faster. Production of new ideas greater. Transference of learning: group to individual transference high.
- Most distance teaching treats students as individuals; should be moving towards collaborative structures. The more you deliberately design a course for cooperative groupwork, the group effectiveness is higher. "High performance cooperative groups" commonly used in industry/commerce - forming of groups to achieve outcomes that individuals on their own couldn't achieve.
Developing Learning Communities:
- sociocultural and constructivist views of learning - importance of learning together in social settings
- Two important questions: what social engagements provide the 'proper' context for learning? And what forms of co-participation might be required when engaging learners in these forms of learning?
- focus away from individual, towards the collective and the individual within the collective
Different kinds of communities
- Learning communities. Focus on learning together, sharing, developing relationships
- Communities of practice. Focus on developing professional practice
- Community of inquiry
- Knowledge community.
- Depending which one we choose/set up/strive towards, different expectations will be in place.
Example: Masters in E-learning
- MEd - two years part time
- completely online through WebCT
- synch and asynch communication
- collaborative/shared knowledge production
- strategic scaffolding of learning
- community spaces, group spaces, cafe
- workshop reviews
- resources area
- offers new opportunities for global/distance education, in particular to sustain learning
- have to develop new pedagogies
- need to research our practice
- learning theory is important
- relationship between theory-led designs and learning experiences is complex and requires considerable research
Comments from audience:
- Question I raised: how can the 98.5% non-completion rate be explained given that the UoL has been offering paper-based distance courses for 150 years which had no community at all? Answer - perhaps expectations of students - studying online different than via paper, expectations of collaboration are different.
- will always be a tension between collaborative learning and teaching, and assessment.
- must remember that some students learn better individualistically. If they join an online course based on collaboration, what will the effect be? May lead to dropout.
Open University - "Everything for students is electronic". Therefore all the thinking is electronic.
Gave various statistics about OU - Largest UK university, 35% part-time undergraduates. Over 2 million have studies with OU. 16% under 25, median age of new undergrads 32. Relatively new - now teaching to younger students. 60% of students have 2 A levels or less. 21,000 students studying outside UK. 1,100 academic staff/7,500 tutorial staff. 3,300 other staff (library, support services etc)
Lots of excellence & awards
Transforming the university:
- Personal Leadership Programme rollout (behaviours)
- VLE. Looking at beyond just putting up content
- Enterprise Content Management
- Customer Relationship Management to gather feedback from customers
- Open Content Initiative
- Gateway to global resources, but moving towards content-light model of teaching.
- thousands of journals & books
- designing learning activities where students interact with a variety of materials. Librarians doing this.
- Links to websites
- Information skills tutorial
- Librarians On Call - live chat with librarians
- Virtual tour of library
Librarians work with course teams & leaders to create & embed resources.
Showed us screenshots of current/old VLE; currently in process of moving to Moodle.
Safari (self-study tutorial on information retrieval) designed to be dipped in and out of, available for free on OU website.
Have to embed Information Literacy into curriculum. Introduced into learning strategies, and now mandated.
Stand-alone course (10 points) - up to now called MOSAIC - Making Sense of Information in the Connected Age; changed name to Beyond Google.
University-wide levels indicators for key skills including Information Literacy.
Students of the future?
- Always connected
- Independent learners
- Oriented to working in groupos
- Experiental learners
- Producers of content as well as consumers
- Chunked; bite-sized
New vision for digital library services
- Meeting individual needs
- Increasing personlisation
- Federated searching
- Managing new types of content (audio, video, images)
- Integrating e-resources into the pedagogy - integrating internally and externally produced content (metadata/digital preservation)
- Providing advice and support
- develop new roles in teaching, metadata development, digital preservation....
- be involved in horizon scanning
Throw away rule boook... start scenario planning and imagine that Skype, Google, Nokia and Amazon provide the tools and the content is free... what then is the role of Libraries?
[very good question!]
Comments from audience
- Should call themselves "information engineers" instead of librarians!
- What about copyright and confidentiality - how will this be dealt with? Answer - will be ongoing issue. Password protection will be needed [generally quite a vague answer]
- will the OU set up/encourage content production and contribution by students? Answer - yes
Will be looking specifically at communication tools, heavily on mobile tools and m-learning
Niall Winters, London Knowledge Lab
Engaged in research in mobile learning. Many communities define it in their own way.
- extension of e-learning
- use of mobile and wireless devices
- juxtaposition with 'formal' education
What's the potential?
- knowledge building
- enable construction of understandings
- enable changes in patterns of practice
- focus on learning, rather than mobile?
Can m-learning be transformative?
- may enable change in patterns of practice
Mobile environments as mediating tools in the learning process
- help towards an end, not an end in themselves
- interwoven with other tools, not standalone
- taking into account four cs: context, curricula, cultures, communication
Comment from audience - over 259 mobile platforms right now (mobile phones, PDAs, browsers etc), unlikely to ever be resolved. My comment - the distinction between e- and m-learning is likely to become more and more blurred and artificial as everything becomes wireless. 5 years ago laptops were considered e-learning, now m-learning that they all have wireless cards?
Jon Gregson, Imperial College London, Wye Campus: Investigating m-learning in South Africa
Nearly 1200 distance students on a spread of courses
Jon's background: lived and worked in Kathmandu, Kenya and other far-flung places. Took distance courses through power failures, riots, long dusty bus journeys etc.
Developing an educational model for delivery and support of postgraduate distance learning in Southern Africa that incorporates m-learning
Pilot project, testing activities, investigating appropriate pedagogy. Scaling up and involving tutors next phase.
http://www.gapminder.org good website for identifying trends in global development (electricity availability, internet bandwidth etc). From it - mobile phone coverage significantly better than internet access.
[My comment: with the advent of the $100 laptop will this be temporary?]
One of first things project did was survey students for available technology - computers, mobiles etc. Nearly everyone had a mobile phone. Most computers & Internet access were at work rather than home. Still, probably higher proportion of computer users than reflective of Southern Africa in general; self-selecting groups of students?
Occasional rather than regular access of VLE. Higher use of CDs instead.
Preferred medium for study: highest for audio tape or CD (over books, video, internet, CD-ROM and books)
Most studying went on when travelling (commuting, field visits...)
Lots of money spent on voice calls and SMS - up to $100 a month
Major problems when using cell phone: power supply top, over price for instance, or theft
Jon was going to show us videos of 4 students describing their various usages and scenarios, but audio didn't work.
comments/question from audience:
- What about the $100 laptop, how will that change things? Answer - not known, really, some user-resistance perhaps. Mobiles are something people have anyway, and are likely to continue having personally, so useful to tap into that rather than relying on the distribution of a new piece of technology.
- Examples of how they were actually using mobiles? Answer - not actually using them yet, in the phase of trying to identify activity types that can be used.
Talking about formative assessment (rather than summative). Has no real experience in distance learning, so this largely pertains to f2f learning, though many of the elements and concepts are likely to apply.
- experimental and control groups, pre- and post-tests, numberical data on learning gains
- about 30 studies found
- all show gains: effect sizes 0.4 to 0.7. Very convincing that formative assessment is effective.
- the positive effect is greater as the range of the formative feedback is expanded.
King's project work with schools in which formative assessment was introduced:
- standards were raised
- teachers were happy about the way they had changed.
"An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information to be used as feedback... in assessing themselves and each other, to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged."
Feedback is two-way between student and teacher
Feedback in Discussion: questioning in class
- Questioning: my whole teaching style has become more interactive... instead of showing how to find solutions, a question is asked and pupils given time to explore answers together.
Average length of pause between teacher asking a question and either answering his own question or asking a new one is 0.7 and 0.9 seconds. What's the point asking a question if you're not going to give enough time for students to think and answer?
- No hands. unless specifically asked pupils know not to put their hands up if they know the answer; not putting up hand a form of showing they don't know answer.
- Supportive climate. Pupils are comfortable with giving a wrong anaswer. Can be as useful as correct ones.
[Interesting that he interprets interaction between students, and amongst student and teacher in classroom, as formative assessment. He's quite right I suppose, it's at the lower end of formative assessment in that teacher asks a question and then evaluates answer in some form, even if it's throwing the answer back to other students]
From Questioning to Dialogue
- Teacher: delivery style
- teacher-pupil: recitation style; questions are closed with right answers expected
- teacher pupil: interactive style; questions are open
- teacher pupil & pupil-pupil: collaborative style.
Despite heralding of interaction/collaboration, depressingly little of this actually goes on.
Learning Principles 1 - Cognitive
- Start from a learner's existing understanding
- Involve the learner actively in the learning process - not something that can be done to someone, learning not a passive process.
- Controlled study, three groups with different kinds of feedback: marks, comments, marks+comments. Marks - no gain. Comments - 30% gain. Marks + comments - no gain. Because students first look at mark, then disregard any comments; no incentive for improvement. Mark can initially be withheld, comments discussed, then grade can be told.
- helpful - can highlight misconceptions.
- "kids are not skilled in what I'm trying to get them to do. Invest time in training students to do this, but then useful as it encourages students to take responsibility for their own work."
Indicator words used by pupils reflecting deeper thought, reasoning and arguing: because, I think, would, could. Post-intervention (after having a "challenger" in a discussion whose role was to challenge statements), use of these words went up substantially, displaying more reasoning and reasoned arguing going on.
In order to be a good learner, you need to know where you are in learning, where you're going, and how to get there.
Get away from competitive, marked-based assessment to "assessment" for collaboration, self- and peer-improvement.
Within distance learning: look carefully at the type of feedback that's given in writing - away from judgemental, and towards advice. Give examples of good works, to show them what to work towards.
Steven Warburton, King's College Longon: (distance) learning 2.0? blogs and social software in educational settings
"distance learning - social software's killer ap?" I.e. distance learning as something to do with the tools that are available.
"social software - distance learning's killer ap?"
Social software - contested term at the moment. "connects people's inner thoughts and feelings"
Rise of social recommendation systems - user-ratings cause people to listen to/read content
- social nature of learning
- socio-technical and cultural changes
- web 2.0 -> elearning 2.0? Technology influencing our thinking of/approach to teaching & learning
versatility of educational blogs:
- supporting conversational learning
- creating or augmenting a social presence
- encouraging reflective practice
- providing a record of learning
Community of inquiry
- Social presence: students can project themselves as real people
- cognitive presence: ss can construct and confim meeaning through sustained thought
- teaching presence
Network of blogs: no-one at the centre, everyone has everyone else in their RSS aggregators.
Easy to use. But - can be seen as toy, being told to write something which wasn't necessary or content-rich.
Tim Neumann: ICE CReaM - Social? Collaborative? Emerging?
Starts by saying that his talk doesn't fit into the theme - not social software. But the issues in his issue - audiographic software - the same as in social software. Hmmmmmm.
Goes on to describe Elluminate which is being used to simulcast this event. Subject of his study - use of such synchronous software.
Not sure how easy it is to use this synchronous software for formal educational scenario. Challenges/dangers: pedagogy not well planned; network/computer problems; lack of mastery of technology; instructor not well informed about media.
Pedagogy needs to be explicit to learners (e.g. good study guides)
Instructors should consult experienced teachers
Example: Diana Laurillard giving presentation to 450+ people in 41 universities. First hour: presentation with polling activites; second hour: local group discussions.
Yishay Mor: Design patterns for collaborative learning - Some things that work, some things that don't
WebLabs. Allows teacher to create activities, tracking of results etc.
Today I attended a "Keynote Seminar" by the Westminster Education Forum on "eLearning - does 'e' add value?" Speakers came from the government, independent bodies, schools, and the BBC. The main areas covered were as follows (my thoughts and comments are in square brackets):
Question by chair: Should we even still include the "e" in front of learning, seeing as it's become ubiquitous?
David Jaffa, SAM learning:
Revision & exam practice online. Used by 60% of state schools. Usage - 58% out of school, from home, in students' own time.
Independent analysis showed 4.6% improvement in 5+ A*-C with 10+ Task Hours used. According to speaker, E-learning DOES add value.
Usage of e-learning doesn't happen by itself; requries huge amount of work, support and cost. Biggest issue is promoting usage at basic level.
15% of schools early adopters; 70% mainstream; 15% laggards. Without champions in schools very difficult to establish e-learning
Reports: E-learning tools too complicated, too many features, no clear learning outcomes/educational purposes.
Effective implementation requires face-to-face implementation/support
Schools won't buy training separately from resources, so needs to be sold/bundled.
Overview of how NIACE implemented e-learning.
Recipe for success:
Trained staff (Pedagogy and Technical)
Confident and Competent Learners (Technical and Learning). Learning skills as important as technical skills. Adults who have had negative learning experiences earlier in life will need support in learning skills.
The digital camera has revolutionised adult learning. Using it you can provide feedback to learners; materials for portfolio (e.g. forestry course).
Training of guides - co-teachers as mentors. Attains its own momentum.
Main message: Without training, support and good implementation, e-learning won't be used.
Frank Flynn, Head of Learning, BBC
Term eLearning: interesting that "e" is small, and Learning capital L - as it should be, e should be an adjunct. However, might be viewed as separate, which it shouldn't be - should be part & parcel of learning.
Why are we constantly seeking to implement e-learning? And how can we move from a focus on e, and towards a view of a comprehensive whole? Shift away from view that e-learning is a holy grail that will fix all problems. Away from telling learners, teachers & learners what e-learning will do from them, and towards listening to learners to find out what they want. Power to be flexible & responsive to needs of learners. [My note: is this really so? Isn't this a rosy view of it?] Power needs to shift away from those involved in creation of resources and to body of users.
Need to do more in-depth research into what effect technology has, much that is vague and unproved. Many teachers have healthy scepticism. Up to us to provide evidence to convince them.
Need to be clearer on definitions. "elearning", "Personal learning", "personalisation" will hold different meanings to different users.
Andrew Bethell, Teachers' TV
Former teacher, Head teacher, then set up Teachers' TV company.
All programs also available on broadband. Developing flagship e-learning model.
Want to make link between use of the programs and to help teachers capture use of it for their professional development portfolios. Allow them to set own training goals, identify materials & programs from Teachers' TV, and then put into e-portfolio. Key to engaging e/distance learning into teachers' lives.
Lessons learned: Importance of peer-to-peer. Not about delivering content from on high, but to facilitate peer-to-peer sharing & teaching.
Should be deliving stimulus, not transmitting view on how things should be done. Start of a process, not end of a process.
Only going to work if pulled by teachers & learners, less likely if pushed. Important to create circumstances that encourage teachers to pull. [My note - how is that achieved?]
Danger of being beguiled by early adopters - make us feel good and are enthusiastic, but only a tiny minority of teachers, and challenge is getting to the others.
Margaret Wallace - EPICT UK (Europoean Pedagogical ICT Licence)
In the UK, population falling - shift in demographic; above 50s will in effective be triple of under-18s. Students are therefore precious to the future of our economy.
In the past decade, learning about computers - word processors, spreadsheets - was an aim. Now it's that's a given; move now towards focus on concepts.
Professional development for teachers needed. Not just training of technology, but training in pedagogical implementation of ICT. Training designed by educators for educators.
Questions from floor:
Research all well and good, but the trick is asking the right questions. Student peer-to-peer: is this taking power away from teachers, are they threatened by it? Yes, teachers who are adverse to change may feel threatened.
Until such time as all students have access to IT at home/independently of schools, this is academic; and once all students do, it becomes a non-issue because it will be a fact of life. Answer from panel: research has shown that in many cases where homes don't have IT it's because the family doesn't value it, rather than lack of resources. Many families do have computers even though they can't strictly speaking afford it, but they value it so they buy a computer.
Students "downskill" when they go into school - have more IT, and more advanced use, at home. Point is that we have to move away from notion that teachers are luddites; they're not - they use it at home as well, but don't see a need/value of it in schools.
OUr job to sell teachers the benefits. [My comment: but what ARE the benefits? Is enough time/money being spent on evaluation what's actually good and useful? In particular, to what extent are teachers being consulted rather than companies who have vested interest in the sector?]
[Question of mine: is all of this a non-issue? If students are IT literate enough for future employment purposes, and teachers don't see a need to integrate it in the classroom because the classroom works fine without it, what's the point/need?]
[All in all my view:
- The right questions aren't being asked - what, in fact, is the purpose of ICT in schools? It seems to be a given that e-learning is a good thing, and that it needs to be introduced into education. Not enough questioning of this, and the research into the useful of it (or lack of it) seems to be glossed over.
- Seems to be a lot of focus on personalisation and peer-to-peer (amongst students as well as teachers). This isn't necessarily related to ICT - this is a pedagogical issue to do with teaching methodology independent of ICT. If it is felt that these are skills students will need for their future, the methogology needs to be changed whether ICT is used or not
- Again, need to go back to the grassroot level. Why are we so keen on using ICT in education? It's just a tool, and if IT-literate teachers choose not to use it, is this perhaps because it's not really useful within the classroom teaching & learning context? We need to look at the scenario: we've got children going to schools; they're there, physically; is it necessary to employ distance-learning tools? ICT for adult learners who learn by distance - yes; in schools? Perhaps no?
- The panel was working from the point of view that elearning is good and necessary, and it was a matter of how to implement it. No room for doubt?]
Technology is key to our lives; fundamental to communication and where, when, and how we learn.
Mobile phones ubiquitous, PCs as well. MP3 players, digital cameras etc. Important to use enthusiasm for technology to engage & enthuse learners.
Physical infrastructure not enough, need to offer useful use of it as well.
Technology will help raise learning results. Have to have in place common infrastructure and common services & standards.
Personalised learning the crux/the future. Supporting of learning whenever and wherever the learner needs it.
Targets are disadvantaged homes - £60 million for ICT for underprivileged homes
New group within government formed to look at: a) how can we make it easy for institutions to buy at right price; b) how to train teachers; c) how to work with industry to create useful content; d) data, identity and security issues
Difficulties brought about by schools making their own buying decisions - can't get leverage of scales
Note: His paper will be online at the Westminster Education Forum website within 2 weeks.
Question from floor:
Special needs falling under the table as a result of focus on e-learning? Answer - not aware that this is the case.
[My notes: Again, coming from a point of view that ICT in education is good and crucial; not at all critical, questioning where its use actually lies.
Enthusiasm for any particular technology will only last so long amongst learners - e.g. CDs. Perhaps leave the enthusing to champions (15%) since by the time mainstream has adopted it it'll be outdated?
Individualised content supposedly key. Without real Artificial Intelligence, is this a realistic expectation?]
Started by looking at a project they're engaged in that evaluates:
- understanding employer's needs
- work based e-Learning needs - engaging the supply side
- Individuals at work - improving skills choices
Employers using "technology" for much longer than it's been a catchphrase, e.g. military, that has been engaged in distributed learning for decades. Many employers could make better use of e-learning, though.
First, to put it all into perspective within the context of employers: productivity and performance key to businesses/employers. Also competition (e.g. China); quality of their services; customers (keeping, winnning...) income and growth etc. Basically, interested in pretty much anything other than training, unless it enhances their business.
Elearning: adding another layer of training jargon? Or is it a tool for business productivity?
A number of drivers in larger organisations: greater flexibility, accessibility, quantity, effectiveness, record keeping of learning, and with better focus on business requirements.
Market forces are pulling e-learning into organisations - increased sales, talent management and retention, systems implementation and integration, sales and customer loyalty strategies, driving organisational change. Note though: cost savings a benefit, but not a crucial driver.
Smaller businesses: drivers similar to drivers in larger organisations
Myth amongst employers: e-learning will replace classroom training. Reality - won't take over entirely, though it is increasing. Workplace e-Learning expected to double in next 3 - 5 years. However, rise of informal learning accounts for up to 70% of total learning.
Myth 2: e-learning is a particular thing (CD-ROM, LMS, an online course....) In reality, anything content-driven.
Myth 3: e-learning only suitable for IT-skills. Reality - across skills (management, health & saftey, customer care...)
Myth 4 - learning professionals are the main influences. Reality - range of stakeholders that influence learning (line managers, learners themselves, peers)
Myth 5 - e-learning essentially unpopular. Reality, by blending it in various ways learners like it, and may not even be aware they're using it.
My question: are employers looking for e-learning skills in employees when recruiting? My thinking is that the government says schools must prepare learners for e-learning because that's what employers will require. Is this in fact the case? Answer - no, not really. Employers require work-related skills; no employer she's aware of makes e-learning skills/experience a requirement.
Learndirect: largest single provider of learning and skills within UK further education sector
biggest learning organisation outside China
focus on skills for life for adults
2 million learners on over 4 million learndirect courses since May 2000; works with over 200,000 employers
Even if current initiatives are successful and targets are met, UK will still not have the right skills mix for the employment market by 2020.
Why successful: appeals to reluctant learner who had a negative learning experience first time round. Flexible, self-directed, offers choice of when & where.
Capacity to scale up network to meet new targets. Experience of working closely with partners & integrating employment and skills objectives. Value for money.
Personalised learning for mass market.
Dr Martin Westwell: Institute for the Future of the Mind, University of Oxford. Interested in how technology changes the way people think, and within that context how people learn. How can technology affect the way creativity develops?
Teachers have the ability to react to nuiances of learners' statements, outputs; e-learning currently doesn't offer that reactive capability because of complexity of interaction between facilitator and learner.
Showed video of basketball bouncing & gorilla, to highlight notion of attention focus and how it affects learning. Children who were read a story straightforwardly vs group who were read it excitingly, interactively. Interactive group enjoyed it more, but when asked about narrative content, didn't perform as well. Careful about song & dance for its own sake.
Joe Elliott, Magic Lantern Productions. Education is the only market where it's still questioned whether e adds value. Joe claims yes. Shows range of technologies used by kids. Young people spend more time with media than in class. Outside lesson than in time. Most teenages have access to whatever media they want. Media are raising our kids as much as anyone else is.
Quick runthrough of media kids use - interactive video games, podcasts, MP3s, creating own media with free software, interacting online. On to myspace.com, telling each other about themselves. Learning virtually how (real) communities work, with buying & selling virtual land, dogsitting virtual dogs etc.
How does school integrate with this? How do we measure success in integrating media & learning?
jam - BBC (podville): integration of gaming & learning (MathsFi as opposed to SciFi) - coming soon
Peter Maher, Capita. Talking within schools context, not beyond. "The engine that drives the effective use of ICT in education is data". Data is used (attendance, performance etc) everywhere in learning. Ought to be collected in e-portfolio, and is vital in education.
How many schools actually understand what management information is about and what it can do to support learning? Somewhere between 5 - 25%. How many headteachers know this? 0, by some accounts. Data informs e-learning.
Tony Burgess, Learning and Skills Council. Fund post-16 learning. Distributed learning important development. Focus on staff training; materials design & publishing; infrastructure; support.
Regional support centres for giving advice and support on embedding e-learning.
Difficulties in measuring whether investment in e-learning has had returns since other factors need to be taken into account.
E-portfolio big development, and online assessment - lots of time saved.
Final questions from audience - I raised question about whether it's necessary to re-evaluate the integration of e-learning given my thoughts above (the fact that students are IT literate already). General agreement from panel; main point "against" is that integration of technological & cognitive skills is needed, given that this interplay will be happening in the future.
Comment from audience: "Does elearning add value? It better had", given the funding that's being spent by the government on it to the detriment of number of teachers.
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