Skip navigation

Tag Archives: learning

ICT and learning are a trending topic. There’s no need to make a deep search to find many conferences, meetings, workshops… In many occasions, technology and innovative practices in teaching and learning seems to come together. Obviously, one cannot generalize and reduce all initiatives to such a simplistic approach. However, at some point it is also interesting to forget a bit about technology and new media – despite all the enthusiasm and expectations, at the end we are talking about tools – and have a look to what’s the final goal. Certainly tools condition what we can actually do, and what’s more, how we think and what we can imagine. But, again, I insist what do we really want?

Are we encouraging techno enthusiasts with no autonomy if there’s a blackout?

Do we foster collaboration?

Are we promoting knowledge building?

Creativity?

Problem solving?

Active citizens, or to say it differently, “prosumers”?

Critical thinking?

All these can be achieved through technology. But without it as well. That’s why I consider that, now more than ever, is crucial to develop a critical approach towards what can we get by using new media in teaching and learning.

I don’t have the answer. Hopefully, the 3rd European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight will be a good meeting point to hear interesting points of view, as well as exchange doubts and impressions. The conference will be held in Barcelona, next February 1st, 2nd and 3rd 2012. For those interested in presenting a communication, the call for papers is open until September 30th, 2011.

Advertisements

Overview

Since March until mid-April, the Advisory Board (AB) of the Horizon Report: iberoamerican edition has been working collaboratively, first through a wiki and later in a face-to-face meeting in Puebla, México, to select and identify those technologies, challenges and trends with a greater potencial throughout next 5 years in iberoamerican Higher Education.

The 14th, 15th and 16th of April, Puebla became the scenario where took place the final vote of the emergent technologies. Collaborative Environments and Social Media are the ones considered to have a greater impact in less than a year. According to the results of the vote, Open Content and Mobiles will be adopted in a time horizon of 2-3 years. Finally, in a long term (5 years), Augmented Reality and Semanteic Web are forseen as the main promises for education.

After the meeting in Puebla, a report with the list of selected technologies, examples of use, as well as main challenges and trends of High Education in Iberoamerica will be written. The final document is expected to be presented in the Summer Conference of the New Media Consortium that will take place at the beginning of June 2010.

The Horizon Report Ib. follows the same methodology as main Horizon Report editions. The process is structured according to Delphi Technique. It’s a very oriented technique in which participants have to answer a set of questions in order to identify those emergent technologies with more impact on learning, teaching and creative inquiry. Through a two round votations, the general list of emergent technologies is reduced to 12, and later to a short list of 6 technologies.

The Horizon report: Iberoamerican edition is an initiative of the eLearn Center, UOC and The New Media Consortium.

Some impressions

  • Despite the technological approach of Horizon Reports, discussions in the iberoamerican edition tend to focus attention on issues related with pedagogy and methodology of use. Personally, I was happy to hear those reflections. Probably, it’s impossible to develop a pedagogy before adopting a technology. However, institutions (and nobody in general) can fall in the trend of adopting new technologies just because “they’re cool”.
  • Process is important. Something I’ve learn from the Horizon Report: Iberoamerican edition is that questions not only guide but can also determine answers. What do we ask and why? The way the vote was organized had an important effect on the final selection of technologies. Delphi technique is interesting, but at some point it would be important to be more flexible. The same questions and methods doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Too much diversity in a single report. Talking about Iberoamerica is the same as referring to a huge diversity impossible to include in “the same box”. Personally, I feel it’s very difficult to take a picture that captures the implementation of emerging technologies in Higher Education in Iberoamerica in a single report. Giving voice to all parts is certainly a challenge.
  • The notion of digital natives is starting to loose strength. Mark Bullen would be happy, finally young people are not seen as a group of geeks who create fear among older generations. Possibly they’re more used to technology, but it doesn’t mean they’re more efficient in searching for information, collaborating, filtering information… in one word, learning.
  • Technology, alone doesn’t change anything. On the contrary, it can easily generate new dependencies. I don’t want to mean we shouldn’t adopt technology. Currently is part of our lives, so it’s necessary to develop competencies and a digital literacy. However, I wonder if emphasis shouldn’t be put on critical thinking rather than on the tools we use.
  • Some of the selected technologies imply values and ways of being completely opposite to the logic of capitalism. The idea of promoting collaboration and content exchange (through open content) is really exciting and promising. However, a mainstream adoption requires something else than simple access to technology. Are we ready for this?
  • Despite the final product being a report, there are very interesting materials, opinions and exchanges in the wiki of the project. Of course it can take some time to read it, but… it’s the best way to acquire a deeper insight of the project.

The balance of the meeting in Puebla was positive. It is true that many things need more discussion and reflection, but in general participants of the Advisory Board left the room feeling they had learned something. It has also been a starting point for the creation of a community of experts, from Iberoamerica, focused on the educational applications of emerging technologies in Higher Education.

Let’s see what happens, but at least right now future looks promising.

The idea that the school isn’t the only place where we learn isn’t new. In fact, in many of seminars I’ve attended lately, one of key ideas was the need of rethinking school and the type of learnings that students are supposed to achieve there.

Among critical voices towards how is organized formal education, the notion of informal learning seems to be something to pay attention to, or at least to give it a more carefull look. Briefly, informal learning can be defined as:

Informal learning is never organised, has no set objective in terms of learning outcomes and is never intentional from the learner’s standpoint. Often it is referred to as learning by experience or just as experience.

We are constantly learning, even if, at first, we don’t value the amount of time and effort invested in a certain activity, that’s to say, even all that learning remains invisible. Sadly, so many times it seems necessary to have a certification coming from a renowed center or institution in order to get some recognition. Now, some institutions, teachers and researchers are starting to question the validity of formal education as the only channel to manage learning, specially the one required in Knowledge Society.

At this point, the project headed by Cristóbal Cobo, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales en México (FLACSO-México), and John Moravec editor of http://www.educationfutures.com is proposed as an initiative to identify and recognize the value of all this informal learning that is kept invisible.

Invisible Learning is collaborative book (in English and Spanish) and an online repository of bold ideas for designing cultures of sustainable innovation.

In case you want to take part in this project, just have a look at www.invisiblelearning.com.

Finding the right title for noting down some of the ideas arisen during any seminar is difficult. Finding an unique title for summarizing some of the key aspects of George Siemens’ and Alejandro Piscitelli’s presentations during the VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning about Open Social Learning seems me impossible, specially when my intention is to collect some personal ideas and relations their speaches have suggested me rather than writting a proper report about the event. In short, this is the reason why I’ve decided to name the posts about the seminar under the label “Open Social Learning Bits”.

Anyway, despite these initial words, titles matter and can/should be helpful. So, is fair that, despite my subjective approach, I include the titles of the presentations I’m referring to:

George Siemens:

Connectivism: Socializing Open Learning.

Briefly, the aspects in which I want to focus of George Siemens’ presentation are sensemaking and the idea that “the social” is understood as something continuosly build. According to Siemens, sensemaking is defined as the ability to participate in the place we live meaningfully. Taking into account the strenght paid to connections (rather than networks) in connectivism, it seems that connections are a key issue of sensemaking. Here there is educators’ power as “the way they design the course determines the kind of connections that are build”. However as it has been also mentioned, educators don’t have the last word as learners adapt their own connections to what they feel meaningful for their context. After this, Open Social Learning should be:

-Responsive to needs of individuals.

– Adaptative.

– Fluid, variable and contextualized.

Up to here there’s a very short summary of his presentation. From here, there are some questions I haven’t manage to answer. First, I’ve some doubts about sensemaking definition. Can sensemaking be defined as just building connections? What’s the difference between learning and sensemaking? How can an educator promote a critical attitude that affects sensemaking processes? Sometimes I have the feeling that too much attention is focused on technology, but not in questionning it (why we use a certain tool, what it implies, but overall what are we – as learners – supposed to learn and why) by using that technology.

On the other hand, there are some questions dealing with the practical implementation of this connectivist approach of Open Social Learning. What should be the role of educators? How could encourage students building connections? Are all connections equally valid in a specific learning context? How this approach woul affect big institutions such as universities?

Alejandro Piscitelli:

The Facebook Project. Edupunk and the redesign of power/knowledge relations in a public university setting.

Trying to keep brief, Piscitelli’s presentation narrates the use of Facebook as a way to break traditional teaching paradigm (teacher’s monologue with low or nule students’ participation). Inspiration for this educational approach can be found in edupunks’ ideas, connectivism as well as the idea of fun applied to education and learning (please, visit thefuntheory.com, it’s worth – at least to have a good time). Main key issues for the use of facebook in class have been listed as the following:

–         Participation.

–         Media conversion.

–         Virtual communication.

–         Arquitecture.

–         Construction of identity.

–         Economy.

From a point of view of changing class dynamics and engage students to actively participate, the course was, according to Piscitelli, successful. Anyway, the idea isn’t to spread the benefits of Facebook as a learning tool but to arise collaborative knowledge production, that’s why he mentioned that, most probably, next course they would try another tool/platform. Piscitelli’s presentation was engaging and from an edupunk point of view, it seems that using Facebook suited their intention of changing a certain way of teaching. However, personally I lacked a more reflective attitude towards the limits of the tool, at least from an educational point of view. At some point during the speech, Piscitelly commented that what was really important was information visualization, how to think with images and use visual metaphors. Personally, I consider there are many different fields under these words. However, if the idea is to develop a visual literacy among students, I consider crucial to, first, learn to interpret visual discourses in order to fully understand the implications of visual metaphors… Producing nice and enganging videos, graphics… can be valuable, but in a learning environment I would expect that among the necessary skills, students develop a critical attitude towards visual narratives than invade our everyday life.

Digital learnersThe title of this speech it’s a clear allusion to Prensky’s definition of digital natives and digital inmigrants. Obviously Prensky isn’t the only one who has approached this issue, but have been really constated that those persons named as the net generation (that’s to say, those ones born after 1982) are experts in multitasking, needing fast feedback, prefering teamwork and collaboration, experienced learners, social, ambitious, career-oriented, willing fro freedom and customization?

Rather than making strong strong statements, what Mark Bullen faced during his talk was the lack of rigor of many studies in the academic world. What methodology have they followed to arise that conclusions, was the sample really significative or just by studying 100 students who already use technology are they making assumptions for a hole generation? Who is financing the study? These were some of the questions that he introduced before taking any position.

Really, I must confess how, step by step, he build a devastating and well-sustained criticism about studies and research in the academic field. I couldn’t avoid smiling when he mentioned the name of the blog in which they publish the results of their research about digital learners: netgenskeptic.

In relation with the dilemma already raised in the title, mainly what he said was that there hadn’t been proper research to define what students need. The assumption that immersion in digital technology is making net generation fundamentally different has to be reviewed. The use of technology isn’t just a generation issue. It affects all age groups as the use of technology is growing. Therefore, it can be considered that educational institutions are facing the consequences of a social change rather than a generation one.

Last Friday, I attended to the “Innovation days” organized by the Innovation office of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. During the morning, there were several innovation projects’ presentations. They were grouped in four categories: Tecnologic Resources Development, Educational Use of ITC, Educational Metodology and Processes and Institutional Quality.

As the session was organized in corners, presentations happened simultaneously. Here, I must confess that, mainly, I attended to the projects selected for they Educational Use of ITC.  In short, I would summarize the main topics in: content organization, communication (development of an annotation tool), image (hipervideo and machinima) and simulation.

In the afternoon, Laurence Johnson presented the Horizon Project. Seven Ways Technology isUnfolding, Everything We Look. Again, main points of his presentation can be summarize in 3D visualization, use of games in education (concretely: serious games), development of new interfaces which are no longer seen as technology due to its intuitive and friendly use, user content creation, collective intelligence, ubiquitous networks (people can connect wherever they are) and cloud computing. He also notted that internet is becoming a third place, that’s to say, people is using the net as place to socialize.

Of course, this a very short summary, but as further information about technologic trends in education can be found in the on line Horizon Project, I prefer to just make the link and note down some of my impressions after the talk.

First of all, oks we are living in each time more tecno-society , or whatever you prefer calling it, but…what happens when there aren’t the condition to use all that online applications that are changing the way we learn, work, socialize? What happens for those who don’t have fast broadband or just can’t pay it? There’s no alternative to avoid “that phenomena” called “digital divide”?

Second question is quite related to the first one… are these trends really global? As far as there are many different contexts, it’s a bit strange that everywhere can be applied same trends (even in some cases, to guarantee a general access to technologic developments can be quite far in time speaking terms).

Finally, technological developments can’t be understood aside cultural/social aspects. What I mean is that for the normalization of a new technology is necessary some social measures/attitudes that ensure the future of that technology. For instance, nowadays, collaboration and mash up seem to be keywords of web 2.0 phenomena. However, strict copyright laws can difficult the work of those who “mash up” content. May be, strict laws won’t stop individual acts, but certainly they will, at least, make the generation of mashed up content much lesser than if it was completely allowed.

Thus, how are technologic developments affecting the social sphere? What kind of societies are arising as a consequence of the introduction of these tools?