Is institutional technophilia preventing (even damaging) learning?

20 08 2009

Those who follow me on twitter will know that I posted the following quote a few days ago from Andy Carvin’s blog –  (originally from Mike Wang)

It’s better to have a good teacher teaching by candlelight than a mediocre teacher surrounded by technology

This was immediately branded as convoluted by @digitalmaverick – who replied with

…a Good teacher doing ANYTHING is better than a mediocre/poor one doing ANYTHING but Tech still has a place

As it happens, I absolutely agree with this. The reason I tweeted Mike’s quote was in response to some schools’ attitude towards their technology.

Danah Boyd has just published a blog post on technophilia in which she really hits on some of the cultural issues that seem to exist in some institutions.

It’s really easy to get in the habit of seeing a new shiny piece of technology and just assume that we can dump it into an educational setting and !voila! miracles will happen… Dumping laptops into a classroom does no good if a teacher doesn’t know how to leverage the technology for educational purposes. Building virtual worlds serves no educational purpose without curricula that connects a lesson plan with the affordances of the technology. Without educators, technology in the classroom is useless

This is demonstrated particularly well by the use of interactive whiteboards, the likes of which lots of teachers seem to use as merely a projector screen. As Boyd proclaims, perhaps we need to invest more time and money in training educators to use the technology they have in new and interesting ways. Innovative practice and excellent learning is not the product of technology, but of the educators use of that technology.

Boyd also goes on to say that students use technology in a very different way to ourselves; do they use social bookmarking sites, or twitter for instance? Can it be assumed that students will want (or even be able to) use these tools to develop their own personal web? She also says that using Web 2.0 tools in classrooms (such as social networking sites) may cause the students to experience

…severe cognitive collision as teens try to work out the shift in contexts

I had not previously considered that using tools that force students to review their social norms could have a detrimental effect on their learning. This said, if we invest enough in educating those teachers and institutions who are going to be using this type of technology, I am confident that we can overcome any and all of the problems Boyd describes.
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Virtual Learning Environments

14 08 2009

I’ve just finished an undergraduate Education degree at the University of Plymouth. Some of the module leaders there decided to make some use of the Universities VLE (Microsoft Sharepoint?!). This use was generally restricted to sharing documents with students (e.g. a copy of the module documentation, hard-copies of which were provided anyway). Some branched out to using a discussion forum, with limited success. Students often only commented once; they usually did not interact with others, but merely stated their viewpoint.

Steve Wheeler recently made another bold statement about the demise of VLEs and gave them a two fingered salute in his recent blog post. Perhaps Steve has a point when it comes to VLEs being used in a way as described above. Indeed, I propose that they must change in order to survive in my recent article on VLEs.

They are changing and they will survive. Why shouldn’t they? Steve argues that they constrain and control, but it is James Clay’s comments that really ring true for me:

Using an institutional VLE does not preclude using other Web 2.0 services and tools, on the contrary, a VLE  and web tools can be used together.

Bingo! We need to be able to support colleagues and learners in building their own personal webs and PLEs. What better way to do this than to allow them to experiment from their institutional learning environment. Once they feel empowered and confident about learning using these sorts of tools, they can begin to venture outside of the VLE. Of course, for myself and many others who have had the opportunity to experiment and begin building a PLE there is no contest. But for those who are yet to understand the power of Web 2.0, a VLE may just be the springboard they need. It may even be that use of the VLE itself encourages the learner to build a better, more flexible and personalised solution for them, such as their PW/PLE, instead!.

So, the VLE:

Dead? No. In need of renewed confidence? Yes. The first rung on the ladder to building a PLE? Definitely.

Welcome to Learning Connections

13 08 2009

Welcome to the very first Learning Connections post.

I’ve been a fly on the virtual wall for sometime, reading other people’s blogs. Perhaps, I thought, it’s time to contribute myself. I decided on the name Learning Connections because for me it really hits on what learning is – connections. Connections between people. Connections between what we know and what we are finding out.

Please read the ‘Who is Daniel Kennedy?’ page to find out who I am. For now, I’d like to describe what I’m not. I’m not a psychologist, a sociologist, or a politician. I don’t have all the answers. As a trainee teacher, i’ve set up this blog to join the discussion about, contribute to the debate on, reflect upon, ask questions about and attempt to make better – learning.

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