Archive for the ‘My Learning Journey’ Category

Learning and teaching with digital technologies is a mindset

December 7th, 2013 by Cristina Costa

A month or so ago, I was asked to give a lecture on learning technologies to Year 4 BEd students who are getting ready to do their last placement. The lecture was part of the Contemporary Education Issues Module and aimed to look at “more futuristic, cutting-edge practices”.

I’m not one to predict the future. I’d rather focus on the present, on the stage I am currently at and what I can do with the ideals I currently embrace and the tools, technologies, and support structures that are available to me. And so, with this in mind, I organised the lecture.

I started with a set of questions that aimed to elicit people’s ideas about learning and teaching in the “21st century classroom”. I know this type of phrases is not that great but they do help get the conversation started. The purpose of the lecture was to make connections between students’ use of digital technology in their daily life and the connection, or lack of it, with their professional life. I sensed that for many, connecting social and professional, daily and teaching practice was a hard thing to imagine, let alone do. And this has to do as much with preparedness as it has to do with entitlement to question established practices.

What I did not want to do was to dismiss current, “analog” practices as bad or useless, because they are not necessarily so. Rather, I wanted to trigger new ways of thinking about teaching practices in relation to the current changing society and our own practices outside the classroom, and what it meant for learning. Technology plays a massive role in our daily lives. As we grow more and more used to it, we only really notice it when it is missing. Who hasn’t felt some kind of “withdrawal syndrome” when you go abroad and all of a sudden you can no longer access mobile Internet?! … at least not at the same price. The Internet and the Web have become indispensable commodities for a large part of a society that relies of digital technologies to consume and produce information. Knowledge is still (a form of em)power(ing), and we can anticipate it will always be so. The same applies to Education. Mandela talked from experience when he said that

But as the world changes, so do our practices and approaches to living and working, and also learning.  Hence, for Education to keep its currency, it needs to keep up with the times. The way through which we can access and create information online provide alternatives as to how individuals can *be* successful learners, effective contributors and responsible citizens as they develop their confidence as active participants and learners (see the 4 capacities). As such this begs the following questions:

  • What is the role of education in ensuring that our current, and future, generations as prepared to address these new ways of being (members of a society that is progressively relying on digital forms of living, learning and working)?
  • What is our duty in equipping children, and learners in general, with the “adequate” cultural capital to tackle the challenges posed by the digital society?

This might just be me… but I do think the Curriculum for Excellence does touch on this matter, even if ever so slightly, with the 4 capacities (see above). If we place it in the context  of what Education Scotland calls  “literacies across learning: principles and practice” and their definition of literacy as a “a set of skills that allows the individual to engage fully in society and in learning (…)” then surely the debate of digital technologies needs to be a key item on the agenda. Yet, this is not only a topic for Scotland or for primary teachers; it is rather a crucial debate to be had with regards to all levels of education as well as different forms of learning! Getting back to my lecture, there were a series of key points that I wanted to get across and which I hope to go into further detail in future blogposts. For the time being, I just want to list them here for future reference. I would be interested in knowing of your views about this debate, which although is not new, it is still very relevant.

  • Teaching and learning with digital technologies is not only a new form of practice; it is a mindset
    • Not only a change of technology; a change of attitudes
  • Digital technologies provide tools for content and context creation.
    • Teachers as context facilitators
    • Learners as content creators
  • Technology dissonance: a clash of practices and approaches
    • The place of technology in and outside the classroom
  • The role of the institution, and policy, in harmonising practices
  • A curriculum for authentic learning and assessment
    • Changing the ways learners communicate learning

Above all, I am trying to answer the following question: Can digital technologies, and the philosophies of practice associated with it, finally deliver on the promise of critical pedagogies? What do you think? I’d also be interested in knowing which of the topics above you’d like to discuss first.

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    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information


    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.


    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time


    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”


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