A Work in Progress :)

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.
Many thanks!

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.

Current Situation

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?

Desired Situation

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.

In Conclusion

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.

References Cited:

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

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One Response to A Work in Progress :)

  1. Hi Cat,
    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts around the discussions and experiences in this course. Here are some suggestions based on what Francois outlined for the peer review. I have also sent you the word version of these comments via Blackboard mail as I was not able to properly format some of the points below using this Reply box.

    General Comments:
    I think you’ve done a great job outlining the current situation and raised some very good questions. Your problem statement is concise and I like how you’ve broken it down and addressed the key problem areas for examination in the form of questions. Part of the paper question refers to considering the 4 orders of technical competencies (technical, social, informational and epistemological) that we discussed during class. These issues did not seem to be referenced throughout the paper in relation to the problems under investigation. How can the possible solutions you’ve suggested address each of these issues later in the paper? I found the following article to be very helpful as it defines each of the technological competencies in detail on the second page of the document labeled p214. http://tinyurl.com/pvqtyhp

    Addressing the problem of resistance to change seems to be missing from the paper. There are some solutions presented that suggest they would foster better adoption of technology, but there doesn’t seem to be much attention given to that problem in particular. Why has education been so slow to adopt and integrate technology into the curriculum? How can current barriers be addressed in order to shift from a culture of resistance to one of acceptance and adoption?

    Desired Situation Section:
    The reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the Desired Situation paragraph near the beginning of the paper presents a great opportunity to bring a graphical element into the paper that would enable the reader to visually understand the concept.

    I can see that you’ve structured the paper based on how we have been dissecting the problems in class however I found it hard to link the desired situation ideas for each problem (curriculum relevance, assessment, socio-economic & resistance to change) with the “how to cross the gaps” when they are separated in this way. It might be easier for the reader to follow if you address one problem at a time; state the desired situation, then immediately outline the required knowledge and resources required while making suggestions on how to cross the gap for each. There are many wonderful ideas presented in this section but I found myself asking “How could this be done? What technologies or strategies could be used to accomplish this?” while I was reading. When I got to the Crossing the Gaps section I didn’t have a direct link back to the ideas from the desired situation to measure if the solutions met the wants or needs.

    Knowledge & Resources Section:
    The knowledge and resources section mentions that professional development for teachers, admins and parents will be required in order to reach the desired situations. How could a sustainable and capacity building PD model be developed and implemented for all those involved? I remember in one class you mentioned that introducing new technology hasn’t worked well for your school because thus far it’s been techs showing you how to use the equipment; not how it can fit into the curriculum or pedagogy. What do you think could be done differently to help you in these cases?

    Your point about leveraging powerful technology companies/figures to become spokespeople or provide funding (ideally both) is great! Are you familiar with Apple’s classroom of Tomorrow initiative? That might provide some further insight into what is currently being done as well as lessons learned and what could be done better going forward. http://ali.apple.com/acot2/

    Crossing the Gap Section:
    The following paragraph in quotations below found within the Crossing the Gap section contains wonderful ideas, however I’m not sure that it fits in where it is placed. It feels as though it’s a standalone point and while they are great suggestions, it’s not clear which of the four problems they are addressing. Could these ideas be massaged into some of the specific solutions you present? How could these ideas address any of the 4 orders of technical competencies?

    “In discussions with my peers, we have talked about: the idea of using crowd sourcing 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.”

    Proofreading Comments:
    The following items are somewhat nit-picky but will require attention for the final draft. I’m not sure if they should be included in a constructive review but I wanted to bring them to your attention none the less. They are more in relation to proofreading and are based on formatting, spelling or awkward sentences. The word version I have sent has the problem areas highlighted and in red for you to see.

    Current Situation Section:
    • 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 (should be effect) on learning in our schools, whether through education or socioeconomics or circumstances.

    Problem Statement section:
    • Can we use technology itself to reduce resistance to itself in education? (One too many itself in this sentence.)

    I think you’ve put together a great paper and hope you find these suggestions helpful when completing the final revision. If you have any questions about what I have written or would like further explanation please feel free to email me through Blackboard. Thanks!

    ~Alissa Bigelow

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