New Opportunities for Education

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Class Etherpad:

ICTs hold great promise for improving the efficiency, reach and character of learning opportunities in developed and developing countries. Yet many (most?) of these potential gains are undocumented. Among the obstacles that we will explore are the familiar structural and cultural issues embedded in educational programs around the world and a newer variety of Internet-mediated challenges.

E- learning is just one aspect of ICT, which allows one to learn in unconventional yet stimulating ways. E-Learning can result in a more productive work force as discussed in Hawkins article Ten Lessons for ICT, if not be the catalyst for new educational opportunities. Can E-Learning be used as a tool that fosters new skills for today's society? Reasoning, communication, judgment, engagement, and preparation for society, to name a few, will be credited to E-learning because it's that effective. Would you define this as result driven? Integration of computers and learning leads to enthusiasm, not only on behalf of the teachers but for the students as well. Now it's time to take this enthusiasm and merge it with the value that has evolved from the classroom environment. How should this be done? This merging of the classroom and innovative and interactive learning via ICT is like bridging the gap in the digital divide as Hawkins speaks of in his article. As Benjamin Franklin professed, Power is knowledge put into action. Here we must question, what is knowledge without action? Is it perhaps education without E-Learning?


NOTE: The above Jenkins link is broken. This link should work [1]

Readings added 4/21 worth reading if you have time! Mark Prensky, "Engage Me or Enrage Me"

Additional Resources

A case for beginning OLPC at home: [2]

Sites Visited/Referenced in Class

Class Discussion

Observations on the New Opportunities for Education class description above, the readings, and my own opinions.

We need to be looking at educational reform through the lens of searching for solutions, not through the lens of revisiting the same problems and challenges.

Yes, Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) do hold ‘great promise for improving the efficiency, reach and character of learning opportunities’. Hawkins tells us 'governments around the world are focusing on strategies to increase access to and improve the quality of education'. There is no argument employers are demanding an educated work force that 'understands how to use technology as a tool to increase productivity and creativity'.

We have the technology to 'transform how and what people learn'; and there is the possibility of a 'learning revolution' in education. But it will not come, Hawkins warns us, until we address how students learn and how teachers teach. Resnick supports the need for education reform with a call to 'rethink our approaches to learning and education' – and our ideas of how new technologies can support them. Computers do not just speed up communication flow; they can also be seen as universal construction tools 'greatly expanding what people can create and what they can learn in the process'.

In short, technology has revolutionized education, but no one has taught teachers how to use the technology. Hawkins has it right when he says 'teachers need to be transformed from information consumers…to information producers.' (1)

Steve Jobs even understands the problem when he quips 'what is wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology.' One Laptop Per Child may make us feel good, but it does not address the issue of building learning environments, and communities of learners. We must introduce teachers to the new technologies, show them how it can be integrated into the classroom, and where necessary help them overcome their fear of technology.

If the educational system is broken, as Hawkins, Resnick and Prensky suggest, we should be looking for solutions. Resnick’s 'reforming educational reform calls for rethinking how people learn and what people learn’. Hawkins, at minimum, suggests 'schools should be transformed into active learning environments.' Prensky says Engage me or Enrage me. [I don’t think kids know they are enraged. Or, if they do, why.] Students are bored because they are not engaged.

Hawkins and Resnick are in essence saying we need to give-up the conventional didactic teaching model in favor of a constructivist approach. The constructivist model has proven 'when technology is used in concert with constructivist teaching practices students tend to perform well; and when used in concert with didactic teaching practices, they do not.' [Wenglisky].

There are some practical solutions to the technology integration piece of the reform movement. We should be reading Using Technology Wisely, The Keys to Success In Schools, Wenglinsky, Harold; as well as The Technology Fix, The Promise and Reality of Computers in Our Schools, Pflaum, William D.

To address how learners learn, there is Universal Design for Learning [UDL] and differentiated instruction. Educators are constantly being challenged to teach a standardized curriculum to a community of learners with various learning styles. The UDL initiative provides educators with a blueprint for creating flexible methods, materials, and assessments that can accommodate learner differences.

These teaching / education reforms are not restricted to brick-and-mortar facilities. E-Learning or On-line learning is affected as well. The challenges of developing a constructivist On-line teaching model based on the affordances of 21st Century technologies are even greater, when many On-line courses are still taught asynchronously.

If, according to Benjamin Franklin ‘power is knowledge put into action’, then I believe knowledge is education in action.

The class discussion should be interesting, and informative.

Scott McCutcheon a/k/a

--Charlesscott 02:49, 4 May 2010 (UTC) ________________

(1) Many professional development initiatives that address these issues can be found in Chris Dede’s, ONLINE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT for TEACHERS, Emerging Models and Methods.




In a broad summary, this week's readings stress two unique challenges in the realm of education reform and technology. The first problem/opportunity is the technological development of third world academic institutions – the methods, results, necessity, and short-comings. This is explored in the Hawkins piece, the material on OLPC, and the Resnick article. The second issue is of first world education reform, which becomes more and more necessary as the profile of the average student changes as he/she now comes from a new world of technology, social networking, hi-tech games, etc. Jenkins and Prensky thoroughly explore this quandary, but also showcase the possibilities for reform opportunities.

Hawkins reviews the World Link program, a program set up by the world bank to test and assess strategies of getting third world schools access to computers, internet, and related technologies. He sees these programs as generally successful given the limitations of infrastructure. Students in the remote Congo are using email, and girls under Islamic regimes get a peak at freedom. From this point of view, programs like World Link suggest that technological progress is possible in these underdeveloped countries, and hopefully the students given these skills will carry the torch and open up opportunities for their nations.

However, Resnick adds an interesting caveat in his article: “In most places where new technologies are being used in education today, the technologies are used simply to reinforce outmoded approaches to learning." Simply, if computers and the internet are being used in third world countries to simply enhance traditional education, that is not exactly “reform.” Instead, by introducing the technology of modern western culture, a new type of student will be produced – one who does not respond to traditional education. In other words, third world countries may be simply trading one problem for a new one: the problem which modern first world countries are currently struggling with.

In the developed world, students arrive at school with method-skills and mindsets unique to students of the past, thus not particularly compatible with traditional educational platforms. For the most part, this is seen as a challenge to educators and administrations as students now come from an outside world which is incredibly interactive, collaborative, and engaging; and the educational module does not apply to students of the modern technological world.

Prensky points out that students of the past “didn’t expect to be engaged by everything they did. There were no video games, no CDs, no MP3s—none of today’s special effects... [also less] creative opportunities for students outside of school. Many if not most of them never even knew … real engagement." The modern student is the opposite. The Jenkins article stresses that modern students are already developing really strong skills outside of class. Even if it is unbeknownst to them, children now a days are collaborating on digital projects every day, whether it is a friend's Facebook page, a complex online video game, a meta-life, or special interest forums. Most of these games and scenarios are way more complex than algebra, but how can scholarly studies be as engaging? Why should society expect these children to learn the same way as students 100 years ago?

The biggest challenge arises within educators. If teachers need to work under a reformed system which caters to the new type of student, they themselves have to be equally apt at the technologies – and this is not usually the case. So the real reform necessary in first world education is likely redefining teacher training, and even the role of the teacher; as the modern student is one who is constantly learning and exploring on their own – and doesn't want to just sit and listen.

--Timothy Sandusky 13:49, 4 May 2010 (CDT)




As there are already a few great summaries of the reading material, I hope to expand the thinking on this week's readings.

The readings from this week are, in a very brief summation, regarding little about how the internet can expand education, and more about how education has failed to evolve. As Lessons for ITC puts it, we have "a changed world with unchanged classrooms." I have done much personal reading on this subject, particularly in Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott, and am glad that the class is ending on this note. For all of the glamour and excitement of the tech industry, and after spending a semester discussing the frontiers of the growing digital environment, it is an important and sobering reality that very few, even in the United States much less globally, are even being educated in a way which prepares and empowers them to take advantage of all that the past few decades of innovation have to offer.

I would expect most people in the class to be familiar with OLPC prior to the class, but, to put it briefly, the aim of the 'One Laptop per Child' project is to place a cheap, but highly useful, laptop in the hands of every child to educate them. In many ways, its aim is to even the playing field in the areas of computer-literacy and problem-solving/critical-thinking skills as much as meet standard education needs. The program is operated by partnering technology firms, and has been met with a mix of praise (for its aims and ambitions) and criticism (for questionable decisions and motives) since its inception. If nothing else, the OLPC has been credited for pushing technological innovations to affordable and mass market availability with impacts far beyond those of project.

Interestingly enough, however, is how the Participatory Culture report opens - "A central goal of this report is to shift the focus of the conversation about the digital divide from questions of technological access to those of opportunities to participate and to develop the cultural competencies and social skills needed for full involvement." While the report goes on to examine a multitude of ways in which technological access can enhance, and bring some necessary reform to, education (which is useful), it is a fairly strong move to claim that the conversation is ready to move forward. While it is true that those educational avenues that do provide technological access need to be thinking about how to use their tools wisely, it would seem more prudent if the reports aim was to augment the access conversation, rather than shift it in another direction. It is true that in many cases, such as the OLPC program, there is an assumption that technological access equals 'good' with little justification as to why, and such an attitude is unlikely to produce a cultural/institutional shift towards curriculum integration even if access is improved (which, itself, is surely to run into it's own cultural/institutional roadblocks). The ideas put forward, though, are, I feel, spot on, and I am hopeful to read the full report when I have more time.

In effect, Lessons for ICT brings the access issue into more concrete light. I feel to discuss too much on the reading would be to regurgitate it, but, in essence, the paper makes an argument toward technological adoption, and explains not only how to do it, but also how to do it well. It does take a full spectrum approach, addressing not only local school issues, but also policy solutions and roadblocks.

Finally, Enrage Me examines the problem of education and its failures to engage with students on a level that causes them to want to learn. The writer does a good job of examining the role of external factors on classroom engagement; to state it simply, the world outside the classroom is interactive, customizable, and their relevance is more evident to the student. The author points out that most students are learning things far more complex than what is in the curriculum, but struggle to even desire to learn in the classroom. Generally, it is a call to educators to consider how to bring this external influence into the schools, and one that also address a principle criticism of technology in the classroom as letting the students bring their toys with them. The piece does try to demonstrate that students are receiving all kinds of informal learning through these tools, and simply takes the next step of visioning about what it would look like to simply formalize some of these systems. Personally, I wonder how effective some of the ideas that are alluded to (such as educational video games) would work. Students can't be tricked into something they don't want, and I wonder if there wouldn't be some level of rejection if the programs felt 'too much like school' - my experience has been that many educational games mirror the regurgitation model, only with bubbly characters with encouraging voices. I feel the author looks over that point, and missed an opportunity to address the fact that the program described will not be solved by digitizing a lecture.


As noted in the commentary above, the reading selections focused on either the third world (OLPC, Hawkins), or the United States (Jenkins, Prensky) to explore existing efforts to integrate technology within the classroom and engage students and teachers. Although the challenges facing third world communities are broader because they lack the technology infrastructure enjoyed in this country, the similarities were striking in terms of using that technology within the classroom. As Hawkins notes, “[I]f you were to compare the average classroom of a hundred years ago with with an average classroom today, you would recognize it immediately.” Whether students are accustomed to using computers and the internet outside the classroom or these are entirely new devices, they are not accustomed to using them in a formal learning environment. Nor are their teachers, which is why the educator training in developing nations would not be amiss in the US. Prensky points to students developing skills such as concentration, multi-tasking, and problem-solving in their spare time, and displaying none of them in school. In contrast, Hawkins gives the example of Muslim girls who, when given access to the internet within the classroom, quickly expanded their on-line activity to personal learning they are otherwise denied. Teachers must be willing to give up some control to create a more collaborative environment in which they and students can learn together and from each other.

Of course there are other ways to move from a traditional lecture class to one in which students are more active participants, such as Harkness discussions. Whether children will be motivated to participate is another question. In the end computers are tools, and a fundamental part of the knowledge and skillset students will need to move in the broader world, one they and their teachers must learn to explore together.

--Erin Golden 21:27, 4 May 2010 (UTC)