Light Offerings

The challenge of digital 4 learning in School

Posted by jturner56 on January 10, 2016

I am pondering why after over twenty years for digital portfolios, and over thirty years for coding, School as institutions are uncertain as to where these and other digital transformations fit in.

Something also noted by Wan Ng (2015) in New Digital Technology in Education, who cited Holkner et al’s (2008) view that “there is still confusion about the use of technology in the classroom and widespread reluctance to move beyond tokenistic use.

I see this as part of an ongoing debate going as far back as Taylor’s (1980) differentiation of approaches to computer use in education, and pertinently examined by Seymour Papert’s (1997) in Why School Reform is Impossible (1997) where he highlighted the limitations, defensiveness, and assimilating powers of the Grammar of School as a self-serving bureaucracy.

Papert also put faith in evolution through teacher demonstration.

Fast forward to Mal Lee’s (2015) Digital Technology and Student Learning: The Impact of the Ecology, where he cited John Hattie’s criteria for success for educational institutions, including clarity of vision, high expectations, and clearly identifiable educational benefits.

Yet Ng (2015) notes, citing Holkner again, that “there is not a universal, shared vision regarding the use of technology in the classroom and teachers are confronted with many theories and instructional designs and bombarded with confusing, even romantic, views of what the technology is capable of delivering. It is not possible to definitively establish a direct link between learning with technology and improved outcomes.

If Digital is to play a part in Digital Age Education, then perhaps School needs to develop ‘digital-first’ mindsets and better communication of benefits, as identified in Why Digital Transformation is so Difficult, and 8 ways to Make it Happen (McKendrick 2015).

Only then might there be any chance to move beyond the first-order barriers (access, time, support, attitude) that are still in play.

If School wants to be effective then this will include commitments to organisation, expectations, leadership, and clarity of mission ( 2013). If Schools want to be great then an intentional culture must be created to be perpetuated (Bassett 2013).

At the heart of this would be evaluation of where School is heading with digital: Integral to School, Integrated to the Grammar of School (after all we’ve only been trying for 30 years), or Isolated (as a segmented disjointed consideration).

Only then can the educational affordances of digital 4 learning be truly understood. Affordances that range across Inquiry, Research, Connection, Meta-cognition and Literacy.

Despite what the politicians, limited edtech proponents and commercial interests might assert, this is a complex issue and there are no shortcuts (as Ng (2015) once again reminds us). But where would you start?




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