For my course, Learning with Technology (EDUC5101G) at UOIT, we have been using the Problem Based Learning format of examining educational issues. Here is my first draft of my paper examining the question as outlined below utilizing this model as a framework. I welcome any thoughts, comments or suggestions that might help me.
Paper question: Based on the scenarios studied in class, and considering all four basic issues (technical, social, informational and epistemological) how does or can digital technology be best leveraged to transform the traditional pedagogical/andragogical relationship between learner, teacher and content in order to avoid the four major problems raised in the course?
A look at Transforming Current Educational Practices into the 21st Century using Technology
Students, teachers, parents, administrators and politicians, all want to see improvements to education. While each of these perspectives is not necessarily unique, they do bring elements that are distinctly their own, which in turn can affect the speed of reform.
Educational reforms and practices appear to be evolving at a slow pace, encumbered by tradition, a rigid curriculum, red tape, special interest groups, various perspectives, and a general lack of understanding of what the future goals of education should be. Most would agree that technology should be a big component of this change.
Technology is changing at an exponential rate around us and its evolution and related innovations are less hampered by red tape, public opinion, and those afraid of change. While we need to consider technical, social, informational and epistemological features, the possibilities technology provides for education are almost limitless.
So is education and technology a good pair? Perhaps the rapid evolutionary pace of change of technology will pull education forward to meet the needs of the 21st century learner despite all the resistance.
In this paper, I hope to explore how digital technologies can be best leveraged to transform education. While the ideas and concepts discussed could be applied globally (hopefully), I will focus on Ontario, Canada.
In Ontario, our model of education is one that Sir Ken Robinson best describes as from the industrial era(Robinson, 2006). Students are lumped into age specific categories and are put onto a conveyor belt that cycles them through classes with one teacher and lots of students.
According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Toronto around education issues (Hart, 2012), researchers found that “Despite the improvement in satisfaction levels and, more recently, grades given to schools, public confidence in schools remains relatively low; 44% in 2012” … “The contrast with satisfaction levels suggests that in the midst of positive views of the current situation, uncertainty about future directions persists. That said there is evidence of some growth in confidence over the past five years.”
In Ontario, there is a standardized curriculum in all subject areas from Kindergarten to Grade 12. There is sparse mention of digital technology in these documents, even the Science and Technology document, has limited references to technology. Standardized tests are used to make sure that curriculum standards are being met, along with teacher written report cards.
While there is much discussion around 21st century learning skills, there is little implementation at this stage in classrooms. It is likely that we have not reached any consensus about the meaning of 21st Century learning yet.
Educators, students, parents, administrators, and politicians have varying attitudes/visions about education and technology, and these groups have a rwide ange of technical confidence.
There is also a social divide amongst all groups – including education, and socioeconomic circumstances, which has an affect on learning in our schools, whether through education or socioeconomics or circumstances. This also adds to the digital divide we see.
Coincidently, there is a growing movement to utilize personal devices in classrooms to support learners (BYOD), but this is often classroom specific. Students often use personal devices ubiquitously outside the classroom. School labs can be used, but sometimes are not large enough to house an entire class. Time to use technology is often limited as well. In many schools, there are structural issues, such as space or the age of the building, that impede the use of technology effectively (Graham & Richardson, 2012). At my own school, there is limited access to electrical outlets, and the cost of adding more is expensive (~$1000 for one).
How can digital technology be used to influence transformational change in learner-teacher-content relationships from traditional to those of 21st Century learners, given technological issues, anticipating future societal needs and expectations through the lenses of all interest groups?
Within this larger problem, we also need to consider other key issues. Can e-pedagogy/e-andragogy meet 21st Century individual needs of learners to help them into the future? Can we move to more Techno-pedagogical competency? Can we use technology to make sure that there is accountability in learning opportunities? Can we use this technology to address social injustice? Can we use technology itself to reduce resistance to itself in education?
In an ideal world, education in Ontario could be more functional for learners. It would meet Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (McLeod, 2007) for learners – allowing for “cognitive needs”, “aesthetic needs”, “self-actualization needs”, and “transcendence needs”. Students could think critically about their own learning and set goals for themselves. This could be accomplished more effectively with technology , though it is important that pedagogy and technology work together, and that technology does not come before the pedagogy (Graham & Richardson, 2012).
Students could all be employing 21st century learning skills and strategies. Students could connect globally with other learners. Learning could be 1:1, in small groups or large groups depending on the activity or needs. Learning could occur in various learning environments (home, school, almost anywhere ). Individuals outside the traditional classroom might be used to support learning, and the community might come into the classrooms more, whether supporting their own learning or that of others.
The curriculum content could be shared digitally, be more open and allow for seamless evolution. There could be more technology education in the Science and Technology curriculum document. Curriculum could be individualized based on experiences in and outside of our schools.
Parents, teachers and administration could be technologically competent to understand the processes of learning new and evolving technologies. It would allow them to converse with students more readily using all kinds of technology and social media.
Authentic assessment done digitally could accurately measure student performance, share results with families and schools, and could engage, not stress the learner. Assessment could be ongoing, and throughout the year as students were learning new concepts. These assessments could consider learner experiences, to make connections with them, and remove biases based on lack of understanding by lack of experiences. There could be no confusion on an EQAO standardized test about what something like “Fly Fishing” might be.
There could be ubiquitous use of technology in as well as outside the classroom supporting all types of learners with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. The schools could be ‘tech-friendly’ with charging centres, and free wifi everywhere. Much like university libraries, not only would technology be readily available, technology support for learners could be given.
Society could shift to see social media as a collaborative learning and communication tool. It could see serious educational gaming as an engaging format to keep education fun and a stress free way to give standardized testing.
The traditional role of teacher-student-content would be significantly altered with the use of technology allowing many possibilities. Self-directed learning using mobile devices, elearning, blended learning, flipped learning and other forms of evolving education models, allow the teacher to be a facilitator of learning. Students become directors of their own learning, and the content becomes more personalized , meaningful and connected.
There would be no student dropouts, as each person would feel their needs were being met. Parents would be happy in turn, and the administrators and politicians would be supporting learners.
Knowledge and Resources
To help bridge the gap between the desired outcome and the current state, we need to consider the available knowledge and resources we could use to make it successful.
Teachers, students, parents, support workers, administrators and politicians would be invaluable along this path, especially those with expertise in leadership, e-pedagogy/ e-andragogy, and technology. Outside groups, such as People for Education, and unions also have resources and strategies that could be shared by teachers through professional development. School boards could also support this process with the release of control of technology so that the needs of the individuals could be met. Teacher Technology consultants could share ideas of how to help teaching staff.
Open source resources would be cost effective support and social media could be used to support change in schools. Student personal devices should continue to be a resource in the classroom – BYOD should be encouraged.
Large and small corporations and organizations could support school reform through technology initiatives such as Google Classroom and Apple iTunes U. THey could also provide direct support through funding, or opportunities like code.org (free online learning opportunity to learn programming). Universities could do research to provide resources and knowledge.
How do we cross the gap?
In order to cross the gap from our current situation and journey to our desired situation, we need to take many steps. Technology has to be seen by all as a tool that supports and enhances learning. It is not just a fad. It has to be seen as a way to improve the future prospects of individual students. This also has to be seen as measurable. To get things started, big technology based pilot programs could be done and the results shared, so that eventually it would spread to all. Advertisements by ‘big’ names in the technology world, such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, or Bill and Melinda Gates, could use social media, digital media, online learning opportunities, and provide funding. They could also help create community technology spaces, including Makerspaces and they could showcase technology related events, such as Maker Faires.
In discussions with my peers, we have talked about: the idea of using crowdsourcing to get funding for schools at low or no cost to the province or school boards; a massive reuse and recycling program to get more technology into schools, complete with tax credits; leveraging free opportunities through open-source, free web 2.0 tools, and utilizing and supporting Creative Commons.
To help support teachers, administrators and parents to reach technology competency, individual/ differentiated learning opportunities would need to be put into practice. Kitchenham (2006) who looked at transformative learning theory examined the development of teachers in education with respect to technology. He found that the four main factors that supported this “perspective transformation” were: “collaboration on all levels, administrator support, time practising ICT skills and strategies, and funding targeted in consistent ways the teachers saw as important.” He also noted that “the presence of a gauleiter (someone who is authoritative, overbearing, and megalomaniacal), an absent or weak infrastructure, and administrator pressure to engage in ICT for reasons other than the promotion of student learning” negatively affected this transformational process. The “EdCamp” model, recently gathering in Peterborough, Toronto and Barrie (September, October 2014), might be an excellent way to facilitate that, allowing staff to choose what they want to learn. This model might help to motivate more students to utilize technology for learning. Technological criteria would be in addition to the criteria used for hiring new staff. Universities would ensure that all teacher candidates were very technologically competent.
The curriculum would have an inquiry based learning focus. In schools, going paperless would force collaboration using technology (although there would be natural opportunities to use paper, in areas like visual arts classes).
Authentic assessment would be done in the form of digital games, which would accurately measure student performance, share results with families and schools, and would engage, not stress the learner. Assessment would be ongoing, and throughout the year as students were learning new concepts. These games would be programmed to consider learner experiences, to make connections with them, and remove biases based on lack of understanding by lack of experiences. Serious Educational Games or Digital game based learning, “can allow learners involved in the game to accomplish specific learning goals and learn effectively” (Chen et.al. 2012). We would also need to advocate for a culture that values more than marks as part of this process.
Connecting with the world outside could see the creation of Educational Learning Centres, where the community could share the resources at the school to facilitate the technological proficiency of the community members and increase their acceptance. It could also lower social divides.
We can use digital technology to influence transformational change in learner-teacher-content relationships from traditional to those of 21st Century learners. Considering the viewpoints of all stakeholders, giving more education to these groups about the value of technology in education, or at least a belief that schools are making plans for a digital future, then we will see change happen at a quicker pace. Hopefully making plans, and utilizing our resources and knowledge, we can overcome the resistance we are seeing now, and it will happen.
Thank you to my group, Bridgette Atkins, Colin Ng, and Andrew Peacock, along with my classmates, and our professor, Francois Desjardins, for their thought provoking ideas and in class discussion which contributed to this paper.
Cheng, Y. M., Lou, S. J., Kuo, S. H., & Shih, R. C. (2013). Investigating elementary school students’ technology acceptance by applying digital game-based learning to environmental education. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1). http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/submission/index.php/AJET/article/viewFile/65/34
Desjardins, F. (2008). Implementing PBL online as a collaborative learning strategy for teachers: The COLE. In Proceedings of the 11th IASTED International Conference (Vol. 614, No. 097, p. 85).
Graham, R., & Richardson, W. (2012). Leveling the playing field: Assistive technology, special education, and a Canadian perspective. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 2(1), 6-15. http://www.aijcrnet.com/journals/Vol_2_No_1_January_2012/2.pdf
Kitchenham, A. (2006). Teachers and technology a transformative journey. Journal of Transformative Education, 4(3), 202-225.
Hart, D. J. (2012). Public Attitudes Towards Education in Ontario, 2012: The 18th OISE/UT Survey. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/UserFiles/File/OISE%20Survey/18th_OISE_Survey/OISE%20SURVEY%2018.pdf
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Retrieved 8 November 2014, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
Peopleforeducation.ca,. (2014). People for Education | Home. Retrieved 8 November 2014, from http://www.peopleforeducation.ca
Robinson, K. (2006). Changing education paradigms. Ted.com. Retrieved 8 November 2014, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms