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Dream big, start small

Creativity, flexibility and the digital world – Task #1

April 6, 2015 by meghastie   

What I know so far…

I am passionate about learning and creating vibrant learning communities for students and teachers. How students learn has been my passion for a number of years.  I have always seen technology as an important tool but one that should be guided by good learning.  Whilst I still hold strongly to that, it is becoming increasingly important to engage creatively with how to use technology to help foster lifelong learners who are creative, collaborative, resilient and flexible.

I love the work of Thomas and Brown (2011), who focus on the importance of play, creativity and imagination – at the time when many people are obsessing with technology, they explore the paradigms that need to shape learning for the future.

Each day that passes, it seems to me we cannot deny how essential it is to engage with the digital environment.  There is a need to envision a more complex relationship than we have previously with the digital world in learning, and to explore more actively how learning can be enhanced through the digital environment.

One of my biggest concerns is that in many schools I have seen (and experienced) that the digital roll-out has been poorly integrated into the learning of the school.  That staff (and students) have not been adequately prepared, and the results have been to create cynical and suspicious staff.  Similarly, the technology has been conceived simply as a replacement to paper and pen, failing to see the bigger changes in learning that are inevitable working with students who are immersed in digital worlds, and where the rate of technology change is astronomical.

I am at a school in its second year of a 1:1 .laptop program in the High school, and where a whole school (Pre-K – 12) Learning Management System is  now a central platform for delivering learning and communicating with families.   I have also found myself in a new role this year where I am helping drive pedagogical frameworks in learning – across all aspects of the school from learning enrichment (support and extension) through to the library and the digital programs, and probably most critically, staff professional development.

 

What I’ve learned so far….

I have always struggled with the simplicity of the division between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”. It was a comfort to read  Kuehne’s observations (2012), and hear someone articulate more clearly than I could, some of the questions and queries I have had around this idea – students today may be comfortable using technology, but they are not necessarily adept at navigating it critically or creating digital products.  I have noted in my own life that some of my older friends are far more comfortable using technology than some of my students – in fact some students hate it – or hate using it for learning anyway!  Kuehne also comes up with a non-age-specific terminology of “Visitors” and “Residents” – I’m yet to commit to that!  Additionally, other researchers have identified  that many younger people are often are not skilled in using IT for learning, and without the adequate technical assistance some students won’t engage (Nasser, Cherif & Romanowski 2011, ECAR 2007).

In the reading so far, I have been fascinated by some of the discussions around storing and managing knowledge in the digital era.  As I am not working in the information management field, these were new ideas to me – I had assumed that the digital world had made it easier than ever to store and manage our documents. Whilst the wonderful work of the Vatican demonstrated the wonderful capacity to make some very old documents available to the present world, it became increasingly obvious just how much information we are now having to navigate and therefore how easy it is to lose control of our past.

As a student and teacher  of literature and history, the importance of maintaining our texts, our key to the past, of keeping records has been a real passion of mine.  Our past is our key to our future.

I have also been encouraged by the concepts that creativity, flexibility and critical thinking are central to future-focussed learning.  These are not reliant on any technology, and have been a core platform of my pedagogical focus.  These core metacognitive skills are still at the heart of good learning for life.

Equally as fascinating has been reading the work of the Institute for the future on Future 2020 that explores the requirements of workers for the future and change agents such as the ageing workforce, smart technologies – the graphic tells the whole picture.

future work skills

 

Similarly Haste’s explorations of young people’s need to be tool-users  and the essential  “five competencies”  they need for the future (2009) also highlight the need for adaptability and complexity.  Significantly, these are character traits rather than technical competencies. Having said that, the digital world opens up so many more possibilities to help students be creative, be imaginative, produce wonderful new ideas collaboratively and share them easily.   This is particularly true with technology – staff need to be regularly supported and trained (Sutherland et al 2013, Buchan 2009).

As I’m fairly new to the digital concepts and practices, I found Bawden’s (2208) discussion around the nature and complexity of digital literacy very helpful. His discussion on Gilster’s early but seminal work helped frame my understanding of the “squishiness” of the concept.  Particularly his observation –

Digital literacy in this sense is a framework for integrating various other literacies and skill-sets, though it does not need to encompass them all; as Martin (2006a) puts it, we do not need “one literacy to rule them all.”…

Following on from this, another key reading for me in this early stage was Downes and Bishop’s 2012 study on integrating technology into learning.  They also confirmed the importance of training staff in the integration of new learning technologies, drawing on the work of Norris and Soloway (2010)  and Cuban (2003), identifying phenomena I have seen on a number of occasions across a number of schools –

While there certainly have been effective attempts at educational technology integration, school reformers too often expect educators to know instinctively how to incorporate technology into their teaching.… [Furthermore] poorly implemented technology integration is unlikely to benefit learners and, in fact, can detract from proven, less expensive, and more readily applied education reforms.

Yet again, ignoring staff training and staff preparation is dangerous in introducing systemic, technological or pedagogical change (see also the works of Fullan eg 1991, 2013).

I hope to learn by the end of the course…

Some of my personal goals for this subject are to

  1. Forge a stronger connection between my current pedagogical knowledge and innovative concepts and technologies that can be used to enhance learning
  2. Take some risks in exploring new approaches and new ways to learn in a digital world
  3. Gain a stronger sense of familiarity with a range of digital tools
  4. Stronger insight into the nature of the how knowledge is stored and maintained in a digital environment

My ultimate goal is to

Gain a clearer insight into planning today’s learning for a future-focussed learning environment.  That means being able to articulate and help lead school-wide and systemic change by training and equipping staff in

  1.  how the digital environment can enhance creative and imaginative learning
  2. how to create more flexible learning experiences for students through the digital environment

As always, I dream big, but need to start small and plan effectively…

 

 

References  

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In Digital literacies: concepts, policies & practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Bollacker, K. D. (2010). Avoiding a digital dark age. American Scientist, 98(2), 106-110.

Buchan, J. (2008), Tools for survival in a changing educational technology environment. Where are you now in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings Ascilite Melbourne 2008 Melbourne. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/buchan.pdfCuban, L. (2003). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dahlstrom, Eden, Davies J.D., Dziuban, Charles, (2013), ECAR Study of Computer use in education, Educause, http://educause.edu/ecar

Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis. M. (2011). Future work skills 2020. Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute: California

Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technologyMiddle School Journal, 43(5), 6–15.

Fullan, M.G., (1991), The new meaning of educational change. 2nd edition. London: Cassel Education Ltd

(2013) Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy and change knowledge , Pearson, Toronto

Haste, Helen (2009) – Technology and Youth

                       Problem-Solver Vs Tool User (Part 1 of 4), Harvard Education,  Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/YZRoS5QlJ44

                       Five competencies (Part 3 of 4), Harvard Education, Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/pqt3ZmtBTOE

Ito, Mizuko, Gutiérrez, , Livingstone, Sonia, Penuel, Bill, Rhodes, Jean Salen, Katie, Schor, Juliet, Sefton-Green, Julian, Watkins S. Craig,. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, http://clrn.dmlhub.net/publications/connected-learning-an-agenda-for-research-and-design

Kuehn, L. (2012). No more “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants.” Our Schools / Our Selves, 21(2), 129–132.

Nasser, Ramzi; Cherif, Maha; Romanowski, Michael. Factors that impact student usage of the learning management system in Qatari schools. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 6, p. 39-62, sep. 2011. ISSN 1492-3831. Available at: <http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/985/1956>. Date accessed: 02 Oct. 2014.

Norris, C., & Soloway, E. (2010). One-to-one computing has failed our expectations: The laptops are being used as add-ons to existing curriculum [Electronic Version]. District Administration, Retrieved from http://www.districtadministration.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=2405

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

Sutherland, R., Sutherland, J., Fellner, C., Siccolo, M. & Clark, L. (2014). Schools for the future: subtle shift or seismic change? Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 23(1), 19-37. doi: 10.1080/1475939X.2013.869975

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011).  A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.


1 Comment »

  1. kmalbon@internode.on.net says:

    Hello Megan
    I share your concerns about poor planning with digital roll-out and the importance of professional learning for staff. As you point out age does not determine whether or not you are comfortable using technology so we shouldn’t make assumptions about our students or teachers.

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