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.