Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Balance between innovation & effective learning

While the idea of using e-tools, and e-learning strategies have a definate attraction, one of the things I am always trying to consider is what best suits the students.

I've been exploring the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, which has some wonderful food for thought on the topic. A few examples of the options I've been investigating for our course are Cloze-type activities (potentially using Hot Potatoes or some other similar piece of software, although Blackboard does have this facility already), Web-based roleplays, and the use of Games in learning.

All compelling ideas, and potentially useful, however a large proportion of our students tend to have fairly under-developed computer skills. Is it reasonable to expect them to spend the time familiarising themselves with the on-line/computer environment, and upskilling themselves so that they can interact in this way? It all comes down to how much benefit will they get from this type of experience compared to the effort/time/money required for (our students to access it) + (our department to develop it).

I have no doubt that some types of electronic/on-line media provide much more potential for full emersion and engagement with material than a class-room lecture, but is it worth the cost?


Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Dave, that is a really interesting question hey! I have often faced that one myself, and have tended to resolve it this way:

You know how most people agree that sustainable practices brought on by climate change, resource depletion and global conflict are said to be issues we must prepare for and best incorporated into education in all subject areas..? (see strategic mothership statements of all schools these days) Well media literacies are right up there with that level of change also I think.

I can't think of a sector that isn't dramatically affected by the Internet and computers. Whether it's selling things through Trade Me, watching/making news through Youtube, or learning online, there is plenty to say that the NZ society would benefit from having the best media literacy possible.

I guess the answer to your question is: will my students benefit from having reasonably sophisticated internet and computer capabilities in their work and life? Can I help with that?

I have asked myself that question in relation to teacher training... and the answer is absolutely yes! Teachers work in information and communication - and we have a technology here that is all about information and communication.

But my answer tends to go further. Will what I am showing people here be of use to them not only in their current choice of work, but in their future choice of work and in their personal lives? That's why I tend not to use Blackboard Learning Management Systems and the like. It is a technology that is too specific, and is not available to anyone, let alone useful to people outside our narrow field of teaching and learning online. I'm looking for ways to use common media in educational ways. That way it is less difficult to show someone how to use something because usually someone has had prior experience, and others can see the relevance beyond their current focus, eg. hey! my sister could use this to keep a travel diary...

But in saying that, the vast majority of Otago/New Zealanders have pretty low media capabilities (from my observations..) - so we have a pretty big problem either way we go. I guess that explains the millions of dollars that the governments all over the world are spending in an attempt to bridge this gap. Will it work? Has the spent money actually entrenched already out dated practices and impeded our abilities to adapt further? or is all this media and technology hype going to fade away or turn into something totally different?..

I found this reading a pretty interesting macro perspective in terms of teaching: Teaching as Performance in the Electronic Classroom

Shoshana Zuboff’s ideas on how managerial knowledge is transformed by technology help us understand how certain kinds of knowledge resist being textualized. These ideas help us understand the effects of new teaching technologies in terms of a long–standing struggle between two views of knowledge: knowledge as performance and knowledge as thing.

bronwyn hegarty said...

Yes Dave the age ole dilemma of whether all these innovations should be imposed on students because we think they are good practice.

Your question about whether it is reasonable to make them interact using computers is a good one.

It does seem to be the way our world is moving and the government is pouring lots of funding into supporting their Digital strategy to ensure NZers have connectivity digital content and confidence
- see: http://www.digitalstrategy.govt.nz/

regarding the whole thing being expensive - it needn't be as some of the best networking tools (as mentioned by leigh) are free.

Dave said...

Hi Bronwyn,

Yeah when I said cost I wasn't really talking about money so much. It's the time cost that seems to be more significant to me.