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Archive for October, 2014

Will BYOD go the way of 1:1?

Posted by jturner56 on October 11, 2014

In the ever thickening forest of digital’s impact on school (replete with falling tress and poison ivy aplenty) where lies the path to the promised land?

Perhaps a revisit to MLC in 1989 as the first 1:1 laptop school might be instructive. It’s basis of constructing knowledge was well founded on strong learning and pedagogical principles. Yet where does it lie today up against standardised knowledge and conflicting demands as its students transverse towards the higher reaches?

Too often digital ‘solutions’ are presupposed on Field of Dreams expectations. “Build it and they will come.”

My thought is that any digital consideration to be truly valued it should first find a place in a sustainable curriculum. Education after all is about agreement on what should be “value added” and in what ways. Increasingly I see this as needing to include a digital base. While digital remains as not “mission critical” in education this might be a tall order.

But such a curriculum would need Digital Literacy benchmarking as a foundation for processes of learning that enable constructive thinking, dynamic problem solving and valued approaches to social learning (such as balance, identity and connection). Areas to be reconceptualised would need to include Information Literacy, Informal Personal Learning, Opportunities for Authentic Specialisation, and Lifelong Learning (for teachers too). Assessment would need to be dynamic, not standardised.

Opportunities for deep learning could then be supported through personal projects that lead to authentic outcomes (authentic in that the project outcome is valued without having to be “graded”.)

To this end it is increasingly in the cloud where lies the possibilities and the risks.

BYOD needs to start there; if not, we are likely to be decrying its lack of systemic success in similar ways to all the other digital developments in education that have come before. Proponents will be left hanging their hats on individual or sub-group “justifications.” Or perhaps this is enough to justify a assimilation approach with how school has operated for over 100 years.

In any case, as put forward by the Alberta Government through Bring Your Own Device: A Guide for Schools, if combined with the right pedagogy and used responsibly, BYOD technologies can add value in a changing learning landscape facilitated

by web-based tools and resources.

So what changes are we making to the educational landscape to support this? Is this primarily a resource question that has seen us bogged down in not being able to see beyond this to the promise of digital as a personal learning device? Or will school evolve through new accommodations with digital in ways foretold by the likes of McLuhan: “It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.”

Week 1: Bridges
Week 2: Busyness
Week 3: Beliefs
Week 4: Build (1) School Community + Digital Learning Ecosystem
Week 5: Blog (cross posted here)
Week 6: Build Learning Opportunities
Week 7: Balance
Week 8: Beliefs
Week 9: BYOD


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Do you believe computers improve learning?

Posted by jturner56 on October 2, 2014

This week I was drawn to a call to ban laptops from the classroom because “research on learning (which) has consistently and overwhelmingly demonstrated that even the proper use of laptops does not further student learning“(1). This was supported by more formal findings by Carrie Fried that “laptop use posed a significant distraction to both users and fellow students“(2).

Yet elsewhere there is strong support for the positive effects from the impact of technology of learning, as reflected by Susan O’Hara and Robert Pritchard that “research literature throughout the past decade has shown that technology can enhance literacy development, impact language acquisition, provide greater access to information, support learning, motivate students, and enhance their self-esteem“(3).

It seems that the reality lies in an understanding of the differences between education and learning (4), and what educators sees as the objectives of education.

A good formal insight is provided by leading cognitive psychologists, Robert Sternberg and David Preiss that reported “computers do not improve academic achievement per se: Their impact depends on a positive confluence of several variable, such as student engagement, group participation, frequent interaction and feedback from mentors, and connections to real-world contexts“(5).

Such complex considerations are not helped by language misuse, misrepresenting intelligence, learning, education, school etc depending on the perspective wishing to be advanced (which includes commercial interests and can extend even into formal research practices.)

But this is not a new question, even if new technologies give the appearance of changing opportunities and needs.

Roy Pea and Midian Kurland in the mid-1980s, when looking at the cognitive effect of computer programming raised concerns that “available evidence, and the underlying assumptions about the process of learning to program fail to address this issue adequately”(6). Pea went on to look at the capacity of computers to amplify and reorganise cognition, concluding that “the cognitive technologies we invent serve as instruments of cultural redefinition (shaping who we are by changing, not just amplifying, what we do), defining educational values becomes a foreground issue“(7).

Yet educational change experts such as Michael Fullan largely ignored the relationship between digital and educational values (8) until more recent times (9). As Fullan notes “the meaning of change will always be “new” because it is a human endeavor that is perpetually dynamic. Educational change has meaning because it pursues moral purpose and does so by bringing best knowledge to bear on critical issues of the day“(10). He also sees “changes in beliefs and understanding (first principles) are the foundation of achieving lasting reform” and that “the keys to successful change is the improvement of relationships.

Therefore if one, or a group, or a school, or a system, is truly committed to trying to advance school education through digital means, a basic understanding of the ecosystems at play (both locally and globally) is a primary prerequisite. As Neil Postman postulated over twenty years ago “technological change is neither additive nor subtractive. It is ecological” (11).

One part of this relevant for the digital age is appreciating the Cognitive Load (12) that comes with taking on new digital technologies, be they productivity tools, programming constructs, multimedia constructions, web-based information, social media or personal mobile interface. All digital change is demanding and tiring, but then so is all worthwhile education and change.

While there are many, including myself, who can attest to the learning benefits that have accrued from taking on the challenge of digital in education, one should not underestimate the complexity that has to be taken on to extend forward momentum across curriculum teams of diverse views, changing teacher groups, school curriculum’s yet connected across K-12, while taking into account school cultural needs and priorities, changing relationships between home, personal and school computing systems, and the changing impact and relationships on classrooms as traditional learning ecosystems.

King Canute, Icarus and Thamus all have salient lessons for this.

  1. Banning Laptops from Classrooms (updated July 2014)
  2. In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning
  3. What is the Impact of Technology on Learning?
  4. Difference Between Education and Learning
  5. Intelligence and Technology
  6. On the cognitive effects of learning computer programming
  7. Beyond Amplification: Using the Computer to Reorganize Mental Functioning
  8. The New Meaning of Educational Change (1981-2007)
  9. A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning
  10. The New Meaning of Educational Change (2007)
  11. Technopoly: The surrender of technology to culture
  12. Integrating cognitive load theory and concepts of human-computer interaction

Week 1: Bridges
Week 2: Busyness
Week 3: Beliefs
Week 4: Build (1) School Community + Digital Learning Ecosystem
Week 5: Blog (cross posted here)
Week 6: Build Learning Opportunities
Week 7: Balance
Week 8: Beliefs

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