The Wild West in Digital Education

Researchers at the Harvard School of Education led by Howard Gardner are carrying out the GoodPlay Project to probe into how young students’ use of digital media affects the development of their “ethical minds.” They are studying five main areas: identity, privacy, ownership or authorship, credibility and belonging to a community, with authorship and community being the most important questions in their discoveries so far.

In this interview, Gardner draws attenttion to something unprecedented in human history. Ethics and morality are lost in the faceless crowd of social-networking sites, blogs, online games, Wikipedia, and virtual worlds, such as Second Life. Along with this, there's a broad shift in how people think of authorship and information in an environment that everything can be changed. These issues have emerged while digital media is still evolving so people can hide behind ignorance. As teachers, however, we can help learners confront the consequences of their actions. Both teachers and stakeholders need to warn against the superficial use of resources and continue to educate reflective, thoughtful citizens. The implications for educators are on the table and the findings of the GoodPlay Project will help us restore order to the Wild West in Digital Education.

Education, Social Media, and Ethics: Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of EducationEducation Week on Vimeo.

Training Begins at Home

It is hard to imagine a more important aspect of teaching with technology than professional development.

Access to ongoing training opportunities, relevant literature, subscriptions, mailing lists, blogs, webinars, discussion forums, among others, provide a wealth of entry points to keep abreast of developments. Gavin Dudeney articulates some central arguments in support of web-based Teacher Development accruing benefits for the successful implementation of technology in the classroon. Of these, training is key. We can have the latest technology but, if we haven't been trained in how to exploit technology from a pedagogical point of view , the best computer lab can go to wastage. The bottom line is blending technology and teaching. There are two training fronts then: practicing teachers and trainee teachers.

The web opens up a window to otherness : contact with materials, knowledge, members of communities. Nobody expects us to be Web 2.0 experts. The big issue is joining others, sharing, learning together, exploring. What we need to to have developed to begin with is the capacity to send an email and access the Internet. If so, we're ready to move beyond. We're going to gain all the rest by contact with people. We can all become 'the more tech savvy' in the future and give back a little something of what today's 'more advanced ed-tech gurus' are doing in the name of literacy. Communities lie at the core of teacher development. They are home to ideas, perspectives, inspiration and that's where training begins.

The 'Holy Grail' of Ed Tech

As schools become more project-oriented, tech literacy becomes an important facet. There are big issues with many splinters. One of the biggest issues, perhaps, is the misconceived separation of teaching, learning and technology.

Tech-Literacy Confusion: What knowledge and skills really matter?
Although learners may be more technologically adept than their teachers, they have '
holes' in their knowledge. They need to fill in the gaps with content. In the Media Age, teaching reading and writing in many modalities, including web 2.0, enhances and expands learners' capacities. Web 2.0 helps comprise the literature of the 21st. century, and its importance will continue to grow.Media literacy has more of an emphasis on the content of messages generated and technology literacy has more of an emphasis on the tools and their uses. This is why we need to be careful that our curriculum focuses on underlyig scientific concepts, content and skills, and not on drag-and-drop education.

Media Literacy:
the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with media, driven by technology, in all its forms. Regardless of the technology, there are five key questions that form the framework for teaching writing (construction) and five for teaching reading (deconstruction):
1) What am I authoring? 2) Does my message reflect understanding in format, creativity and technology? 3) Is my message engaging and compelling for my target audience? 4) Have I clearly and consistently framed values, lifestyles and points of view in my content? 5) Have I communicated my purpose effectively?
Deconstruction: 1) Who created this message? 2) What creative techniques are used to attract my attention? 3) How might different people understand this message differently? 4) What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message? 5) Why is this message being sent?
: These questions can be expanded to encourage a process of inquiry. It is by learning to ask quesitons that learners become skeptics who realize that they cannot passively take in information. Inquiry-based learning is based on (a) making good judgement based on values and critical analysis and (b) knowing how to learn and what to do with the learning. Through these process skills, the learners acquire the content knowledge they need. In a sense, by teaching the critical skills, we also ensure that learners acquire the facts they need.
Goal: The ultimate goal is to prepare learners for life in a technology-driven world and this goal can best be reached by providing a context for learning whereby learners are observant and skeptical.

Technology Literacy: learning how to learn and relearn. When teaching is geared to solving problems and engaging with real-life issues, learners find answers and bring what they know to the problem. Content knowledge is needed, but in life no one spoon feeds answers to anybody.

In the quest of the Holy Grail of EdTech, we cannot lose sight that our mission lies in using technologies because they improve learning, not because they exist. The real power of technology happens when it encourages us to examine our pedagogy and find better ways to engage, inspire and educate our learners.

This a mapping web application to create your own mind-maps. Popularized by author and educational consultant Tony Buzan, mind-mapping techniques help learners to abandon conventional note-taking, sharpen creative problem-solving and make associations easily. They support learning, study and memory, and are useful for:
* Generating information
* Summarizing information
* Blending information from different sources
* Showing the overall structure of a subject
With, you can:
* Create colorful mind maps online
* Share and work with friends
* Embed your mind map in your blog or website
* Email and print your mind map
* Save your mind map as an image
Its features make it possible to improve the process by helping to you to produce quality maps, which can easily be edited, distributed and redrafted.

You Digital, Me Immigrant

Statistics speak volumes even years after Prensky's classic Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. However hard we may be trying to drop the 'accent', his article still reverberates across educational circles. In an exclusive interview for elearningpost he asserts that 'a big part of our current education problems stem directly from the fact that the Digital Immigrants -who comprise most of our teachers and trainers- are not very fluent in the language the Digital Natives speak.' Digital Land still needs to be explored and conquered. The Natives won't pick up immigrant dialect.

Technology or Pedagogy: Is it a question of one or the other?

We Blog Cartoons via kwout

The ELT profession is brimming over with Web 2.0. Enthusiasts plunge into a sea of tools and applications while reluctants avert the flow. The benefits of learning with technology are undeniable. What is at stake is how ICT deploys of pedagogy. Do we need a new science? Tech-pedagogy? Or do theories of SLA and FLL suffice? Plunging learners into Web 2.0 for the sake of novelty, force of habit or to be on the same digital wavelength is to deny the value of thoughtful planning. The whole issue of lesson planning exceeds the bounds of formality, recording or detail. It brings into focus the very essence of pedagogy.

Sitting at my 'ideas table', a message I've just posted to the Enhancing Lessons with Web 2.0 mailing list about lesson planning summarizes my perspective on the integration of technology into classroom practice:

"I wouldn't go for detailed lesson planning either. In fact, I haven't since my teacher training days. I can still hear myself groaning and moaning. anyway, I must have served its purpose then!

You said it Margaret: systematic reflection, self-examination, evaluation of potential uses. These processes are crucial to escape the Web 2.0 collective madness. To me, there's nothing inherently good, or bad for that matter, in Web 2.0 per se. Granted, much has been said about connectivity, creation of content, going public, a genuine communicative purpose, meaningfulness, real-life semblance and the like but if these don't go hand-in-hand with a principled rationale, the best tool or application can fall flat. In thought or in writing, planning is part and parcel of our profession. So why should it be a question of technology or pedagogy? The shelf-life of learning with technology could be short-lived if there were no sound underpinnings. If technology should be at the service of learning, then that's a plus. We have learned the ropes already, and fortunately, technology is user-friendly.

I'd say that lesson planning, in this sense, is a time-and-energy saver besides ensuring that we know what we're doing and why. How many teaching-with-tech attempts have dried because of lack of planning? And then, leaving technology aside, don't students realise when a teacher is going into a classroom without a lesson plan? So, why wouldn't they see that there is or there isn't any sense in learning with technology? Watch out!

There was another interesting thread about 'reluctance' going on. Would any colleague or principal be convinced that learning with technology does pay if we showcase the technicalities or cosmetics only?

Lastly, we're not alone. We've all given proof that we're up to it...."

Here, I would like to highlight the value of belonging to a CoP in working together towards a common goal: Educational Development.