Thursday, April 25, 2013

Need to re-assess: The DPD of Education.

With the fast changing world of technology the way we approach our teaching changes. It also causes a change in emphasis. I remember a time teachers thought they needed to show children how to use a mouse or how to type (unfortunately there are still some of these teachers around). Today - it is a different world. I have already done a posting about how the iPhone changed our view of computing. I think the big change there was it de-mystified computing, made it personal, easy, task centered. The ongoing effort was what caused a change in the Educational approach. Cloud based, touch based and personal devices made teachers re-assess what they were teaching and how they were using technology. Suddenly you didn't have to worry about teaching HOW to use the technology ( the kids have always been ahead of you on this game), but how to utilize it for effective pedagogy. It became an exciting time for both teachers and students ( including their parents - because they could related to this technology). Sure- early adapters have made some mistakes, but they have paved an incredible path in a very short time. All of this has happened in less than 5 years ! This is incredible speed in education. 
 It is probably time for us to regroup. I think the next wave of innovation will be a littler slower to impact on Education. Google glass comes to mind. Radical innovation - but a few issues to work around before it will be adapted for wide education use, mainly around privacy. I can see this one needed a little working around before it becomes widely used in education.
Now we have time to “breath” - we need to re-assess what is around us. We have a myriad  of tables/touch devices being released trying to break into the market that the iPad created. Sometimes with misleading information.
 I recently sat through a talk by a Microsoft educator who certainly presented misguiding information to a room full of educators and education leaders. While trying to convince the room of the educational benefits of his product, he displayed some very inaccurate knowledge around ipads. Most of the room who were new to the educational uses of touch devices certainly lapped it up.  The static design of ibooks , can flip a page - not interactive. He obviously hasn’t seen the interactive books that a lot of teachers (and companies) have made. Or used iBook Author to construct his own. The aspect of iTunes U to set courses. He thought it served best as a personal device (true) that was passive (not creative) and could not be utilized in education. I think he must have been asleep in the Microsoft office for the past 3 years ! He totally missed the video, audio, music, creative aspect that could be shared by Apple TV or  cloud hosting services. His main thrust was the ability to run MS Office. Sorry to inform you -we have already worked around that one and MS Office is not the giant it once was. Even the NSW Department of Education is dumping MS Office and going to Google Docs. He  went into a session on “Project Based Learning”. Good - but many others (including Apple) have been doing this for more than 7 years now. I think it is a fabulous method of learning - but be aware when people are passing it off as something original or new. There has been a lot of research and information regarding this approach under a variety of names (Challenge Based Learning, Community Learning, Project Based Learning, Life Centered Learning and so on).
So with the scramble by other companies to “get a slice of the pie” we have to be a little careful of what information we are being given and by whom. Many “theorists” and “product leaders” are simply trying to cram, what we did on a computer 6 years ago, onto a touch device - without any change in educational thinking or pedagogy.  
For the innovators : 
Technology has reached a temporary plateau  , we got memorized by the shiny ( when the iPad & iPhone came out - saw the potential but didn't quite have it figured out. We are now finally talking pedagogy. 
 A side affect of the “personal devices” boom is the aspect of wifi and the need to be always connected. In our homes, businesses and schools -this is becoming the norm. Computer banks in our Libraries are being re-thought. Everything is now cloud based. The internet is bigger than ever. For some, the internet is the “only” thing. Personally I feel this is the reason that Google have grown so massively in the last 3 years.  
Regardless of what technology we are using there are three main aspects that are raising their head and need to be incorporated into our teaching approach. I call them the DPD of education.

The first one is Discrimination :- discrimination of information. Our students live in a world where anyone can post information (and do)- regardless of how accurate it is. For many this is the only  information they go to. Our students use of social media has empowered them to post their own information on the net but they often don’t make the connection between their own postings and the possibly totally inaccurate postings of others. Wikipedia has become the default (often only) encyclopedia. We must educate our students to save them from the “I read it in the paper so it must be true” type thinking that our parents grew up with. Paper books at least had a process before being finally released. Not necessary always accurate but a number of people read and checked them before release. Not so with the internet. Therefore one of the 21st century learning skills we have to instill in our students is one of critical analysis. Being able to evaluate and discriminate between information. 

The second one is fairly straight forward but essential with younger students especially. That of Plagiarism: we have to teach the aspect of creating your own points of view - not cut and paste. I know that this is a major issue with University students - but most Uni’s have checks on this. But it now becoming a major issue with our younger students. It is so easy to cut and paste. Often in language that the average 10 year old couldn’t possibly understand. I’m not only referring to words here - but images and sound as well. Younger students feel that there is so much information,photos, sounds out there that they are up for grabs - they can use it as they wish. 

The third one is Digital Noise. There are so many distractions from the task we need to focus on , it never gets accomplished. This is a problem for all of us, regardless of age. But one we have to assist our students with. One thing about always being connected is the fact we are distracted by - “I’ll just check my email, what is the weather tomorrow ?, I looked at that website for information - oh I saw a news bulletin about the death of Chrissy Amphlett-  I’ll just YouTube a few of the old Divinyls songs “. Before we know it 2 hours have gone by and I have done nothing on my original task. Many claim that younger students can multi-task and keep focussed. I disagree with this. I think they are affected by Digital Noise just like the rest of us. We need to assist them with the skills to cut through all this to be able to accomplish what they set out to do. I try to encourage my own students to use the “reader” function in Safari - which just brings up the web article (minus all the adds, connections etc). 

These three skills I see as essential for helping our students make productive sense of 21st century learning. 
Discrimination: critical analysis of information.
Plagiarism: using original wording, media and therefore thought.
Digital Noise: cut through the distractions- staying focussed on the important tasks. 

1 comment: