What comes through most strongly from the accounts … is that there is a tension in students’ narratives between the ideal of an embodied, authentic, anchoring self, the self that goes along to tutorial classes on Tuesday afternoon, and the possibility of other, deviant, less authentic selves which emerge online and which threaten the anchoring subject with the possibility of their autonomy (Bayne, 2005).
In a workshop for teacher trainers a sole focus on participation may have the result that participants find it difficult to ‘transcend’ their practice, cross boundaries and develop new conceptual understanding. Too much focus on reification, for example by imposing a rigid lesson plan template, may create alienation and stifle creativity with participants, who feel they don’t have any impact on the design process. It lowers the status of the participants who are likely to formally comply without taking any ownership.
The concept of Communities of Practice (COP) was introduced by Lave and Wenger (1991) to highlight and conceptualize forms of learning that focus on participation and are not limited to the individual level (don’t stop ‘at the skin of the individual’). Legitimate peripheral practice is the conceptualization of the apprentice learning a craft with a master, thereby gradually gaining mastery in the subject. Learning was an inevitable aspect of all productive practices and not limited to a formal setting within schools or institutions. The communities in the COP can be characterised as:
Clearly bounded structure, with rules for membership.
- Single centre of supreme skill and mastery
- A hierarchical structure where new members (apprentices) start at the ‘periphery’ and gradually move toward the centre of the community as they obtain mastery. Also called a ‘centripetal’ structure.
- Boundaries become more fluid;
- Very high level of division of labour and diversity of knowledge;
- Authority based on knowledge and expertise instead of status;
- Values are orienting and motivating elements for members of the community.
- Increased importance of motivation follows from looser membership rules.
- A underground network of roots with interspersed nodes resembles a loosely connected and expanding network of individuals, exchanging information and with multiple loyalties.
- Visible fungi resemble the visible, erect, bounded and institutionalised structures that emerge from this network. Engeström uses the term ‘wildfires’ to describe sudden bursts of activity – in the same of a different place – with long dormant periods in between.
- There is no hierarchical structure in mycorrizhae as is the case in the root system of plants.
- The mycorrizhae work in symbiosis with plants as informal learning networks can work in symbiosis with formal structures.
- The mycorrizhae is hard to kill, but also vulnerable due to the lack of clear leadership.
Engeström, Y. (2007) ‘From communities of practice to mycorrhizae’ in Hughes, J., Jewson, N. and Unwin, L. (eds) Communities of Practice: Critical Perspectives, London, Routledge.
Jones, C. (2004) ‘Networks and learning: communities, practices and the metaphor of networks’, Association for Learning Technology Journal, vol.12, no.1, pp.81–93
Castells, M. et al (2004) ‘The Mobile Communication Society: A cross-cultural analysis of available evidence on the social uses of wireless communication technology, A research report prepared for the International Workshop on Wireless Communication Policies and Prospects: A Global Perspective, held at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 2004
I reconstructed my PLE, reordering the tools according to their main function. When I couldn’t decide, I put the tool twice in the scheme.
If you use a wide definition of ‘technology’, reading articles on paper and jolting down notes in the sidelinemight still be the most frequently used technology. However, whether using or not using a particular tool is often in the details. Since my discovery of Instapaper, for example, my e-reader use has increased sharply.
Another way to represent a PLE is to place them along 3 axes (based on Conole, 2008; link here):
– individual vs social
– information vs experience
– active vs passive (like in immersive language learning)
This allows to make the relation between the use of technology, notably Web 2.0, and pedagogy more explicit.
Technology arguably has an impact on education which extends beyond the teacher and the learner. The broader impact of technology on education has been described in various reports. In week 22, we had a look at the Horizon Report (2011 edition) from the New Media Consortium, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Cyberlearning Report (2008) and the Becta Report (Harnessing Technology: Next Generation 2008-14). I compared the key elements of these reports with the Cambodia Master Plan for ICT in Education 2009-2013 (Third Draft version, 2009).
All reports consider technology as a major contributor to improving education and to meeting upcoming challenges. In Cambodia challenges centre on dealing with an increasing influx of students as a result of demographics, reduced drop-outs and increased enrolments. In the US and the UK, they focus on globalisation and competition in a global workforce.
Both recognize the importance of aligning education with digital literacy and employability requirements for graduates. They regard technology in education as a prerequisite for improving the quality of education.
While reforming the public school system is well beyond the scope of our present task force, positive effects on schooling would certainly result from invigorating and inspiring learners through the rich new environments made possible by the Internet and developments in cyberinfrastructure.(NSF, p.12)
One might say the reports suffer from a light to severe form of ‘techno-utopia’, regarding technology as the solution for all educational ills. In this over-reliance on the role of technology in education, there is a lot of writing about ‘potential’ and ‘best practices’, but very little in the way of actual impact in real life contexts. There is hardly any discussion on the impact on students, teachers (apart from increasing training needs) and institutions. The Cambodian plan states the introduction of e-learning and a national Open University to reach remote areas and non-traditional students, but doesn’t mention deeply ingrained suspicion of e-learning and less teacher-dependent forms of education with students and the population. The NSF report considers all learners as ICT proficient ‘Millennials’ and brushes over indications that a deep digital divide persists, also in developed countries.
Ensuring effective use of technology in education requires that also content and pedagogical knowledge are sufficiently developed. Merely focusing on technology provision leads to teachers letting students copy their notes into a Word document instead of a notebook or reading from a PowerPoint presentation instead from a book. There is no strategy in the Cambodian Master Plan how teachers will be trained from basic skills up to efficiently integrating technology, content and pedagogy, through an intensive in-service programme. Lack of content knowledge leads often to a teacher-centred approach with little room for experimentation, discussion and exploration, since these activities may expose the teacher’s alleged weaknesses.
There are some striking differences between the Cambodian Master Plan and the other plans though. The NSF report stresses the need for ‘cyberlearning’. This is learning mediated by networked computing and communications technologies. Students could experience more authentic learning by using large amounts of data, like climate data sets or databases generated by sensors. They could learn finding meaningful patterns in the datasets, tweaking parameters and ways of representing the data patterns. These kinds of activities require multidisciplinary approaches and networking between educators and scientists. The NSF report refers to the relevance of the ‘long tail’ in markets for education, allowing catering for students’ interests.
The global scope of networked educational materials, combined with “recommendation engine” software, helps individuals find special, niche content that appeals to their needs and interests.(NSF, p.16)
The Cambodian ICT Master Plan on the other hand stresses the alignment with the country’s curriculum. Software, textbooks and all ICT resources are to be fully in Khmer and explicitly approved by the Ministry of Education. The focus is more on an ‘isolated’ desktop model of ICT where learners access carefully selected resources, in contrast with a ‘web 2.0’ approach to technology-enhanced learning, let alone stimulating them to create Personal Learning Environments (PLEs).
All plans are surprisingly vague in pointing out evidence or strategies in how technology may improve learning outcomes. Monitoring is focused on measuring outputs, whereas improved outcomes on learning as a result of technology seem to be taken for granted. The NSF and Becta reports argue that better data collection can allow for better individual tracking of learning progress and better information for parents and educators.
National Science Foundation (NSF) (2008) Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge, A 21st century agenda for the National Science Foundation, report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning, Arlington, VA, National Science Foundation
New Media Consortium (NMC) (2009) Horizon Report, report from the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, Austin, TX, The New Media Consortium
Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS), 2010, MASTER PLAN FOR INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION 2009-2013 , available online at http://www.moeys.gov.kh/ict_master_plan_2009-2013.php
The 2011 Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium (NMC) and Educause provides some clear indicators for key trends and drivers for technology in education. As ever the report outlines key trends, critical drivers and short and long term forecasts.
Time to adoption: One Year or Less
Time to adoption: Two to Three Years
Time to adoption: Four to Five YearsGesture-based Computing
There is an extensive collection of resources, although there seems to be very little in the way of critical reflection on the role of technology in education, its relation with content and pedagogy etc.
The fact that the NMC was founded in 1993 by a group of hardware manufacturers, software developers, and publishers might have something to do with that. Current corporate partners include Adobe Systems, Apple Inc. and Pearson College.
The report is great if you want a short description of the key characteristics and potential for education of the upcoming technologies, as long as you don’t expect a balanced account, supported by research data.
|My PLE …anno 2011|
- Encourage early adopters, the technology enthusiasts that are willing to invest the time and climb the learning curves to design activities. Although plenty of cases are available, translating them to the particular lesson context is often time consuming.
- Document. Stimulate these early adopters to keep track of their experiences, reflections and decisions, if possible publicly. Support them to monitor and evaluate the experiences of learners, in order to assess improvements or scaling-up options. The documentation can prove useful for later in-service training activities.
- Allow for time for trying out, ‘tinkering’ and experimenting with Web2.0 applications.
- Think about a policy, or at least some guidelines. How to deal with the privacy of students when using blogs? How to assess individual contributions when working with a wiki? How to avoid time consuming plowing through forum posts in blogs? How to deal with external software that is suddenly unavailable or behind a paywall?