The power of technologies for conceptual change September 9, 2012Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: democracy and education, learning communities, learning theories, technology and education, values education
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from Dr Chwee Beng Lee
Conceptual change remains one of the most essential outcomes of learning. It is an intentional and constructive effort to bring about deep understanding. Conceptual change theories describe how people revise their conceptual frameworks and their belief systems as a result of cognitive perturbations.
In the past, conceptual change research tended to focus on the change of individuals’ conceptual frameworks, and relied on creating cognitive conflicts to achieve conceptual change. However, in recent years, researchers have raised issues of the motivational, affective, and contextual factors implicated in conceptual change (Gregoire, 2003; Murphy, 2007) and the importance of a sociocultural perspective in understanding conceptual change. There are also considerable efforts in discussing and exploring effective strategies to foster conceptual change.
Although conceptual change can be induced through strategies such as using structural alignment as analogical learning (Mason, 2004), collaborative reasoning, (Anderson et al., 2001; Clark et al., 2003), knowledge building (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006) and many other approaches, technology is increasingly playing a powerful and critical role in the process of not only fostering individual (Lee & Jonassen, 2012) but also social conceptual change.
Jonassen (in press) argues that conceptual change is more than a realignment or restructuring of ideas but rather, it results from interactions of minds with other minds in the world. With the exponential growth in online communities such as Facebook, learners’ ideas and conceptions are constantly exposed to the challenges posed by the community members or even others outside the community. The power of social media is fast altering the belief systems of individual and social groups. Mainstream media no longer plays a dominant role in disseminating information. On the other hand, social media is highly efficient in delivering the most updated information as well as influencing our belief systems as it has the affordances of multimodalities which mainstream media does not.
What is most intriguing about social media is that it has the power to achieve large scale and immediate conceptual change. Such change includes changes in conceptions of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech as they are defined among these social groups. In some Asian countries where governments were once considered unchallenged, ultimate authoritative bodies are now being constantly questioned for their roles, functions and actions in these virtual realities. The formation of online communities not only forms “group beliefs” or “social beliefs” but also influences one’s identity and belief systems. With this in mind, educators must acknowledge the power and influences of social media in changing the conceptions of individuals and social groups.
Instead of relying on instructions and technologies that may foster the individual’s conceptual framework, there is a more urgent need to explore ways to integrate social media into classrooms for positive individual and social change in conceptions, as well as belief systems. However, this may be a daunting task, as conceptual change is a highly complex process and we have yet to fully understand the affordances of technologies for deep learning, let alone the complexities involved in propelling change among social groups. Possible research questions that deserve our attention may include: what are the roles of social media in fostering individual as well as social conceptual change? How do we capture and assess such changes? What kind of instructions can drive positive change?
References: Anderson, R. C., Nguyen-Jahiel, K., McNurlen, B., Archodidou, A., Kim, S. Y., Reznitskaya, A., Tillmanns, M., & Gilbert, L. . The snowball phenomenon: Spread of ways of talking and ways of thinking across groups of children. Cognition and Instruction, 19, 1-46. Clark, A. M., Anderson, R. C., Kuo, L. J., Kim, I. H., Archodidou, A., & Nguyen-Jahiel, K. . Collaborative reasoning: Expanding ways for children to talk and think in school. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 181-198. Gregoire, M. . Is it a challenge or a threat? A dual-process model of teachers’ cognition and appraisal processes during conceptual change. Educational Psychology Review, 15, 147-179. Jonassen, D. H. (In press). The impact of technology on conceptual change: Past and future. In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning. Lee, C. B., & Jonassen, D. H. (2012). An introduction: technologies for conceptual change. In C.B. Lee., & D.H. Jonassen (Eds.). Fostering Conceptual Change with Technologies. Cengage Learning. Mason, L. . Fostering understanding by structural alignment as a route to analogical learning. Instructional Science, 32, 293-318. Murphy, P. K. . The eye of the beholder: The interplay of social and cognitive components in change. Educational Psychologist, 42, 41-53. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. . Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In R. K. Sawyer [Ed.], The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences [pp. 97-118]. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Chwee Beng Lee is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where she lectures in learning design and pedagogy in the Master of Teaching (Secondary) program. She joined UWS from the National Institute of Education, Singapore, at the beginning of 2012.
Tags: Education and community, holistic education, parenting, values education
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From Dr Leonie Arthur
In this piece Dr Arthur argues that, for more effective outcomes for children in 21st century learning, there needs to be greater understanding and support by the school education sector for the values and goals of early childhood education and curriculum.
As Associate Professor Christine Woodrow has discussed in her previous piece on our Blog, Australia now has a national curriculum framework for early childhood. This document – Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (DEEWR, 2009) – has the potential to strengthen the continuity of learning between early childhood settings and schools, yet it is disappointing that there is no indication in the current drafts of the national school curriculum documents (for example English K-10 or Mathematics K-10) of how they will interface with the pedagogies, principles and learning outcomes in the Early Years Learning Framework.
If schools are to promote ‘equity and excellence’, as agreed to by all education ministers in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008), then they need to build on children’s existing experiences and knowledge through partnerships with families and early childhood settings. It is vital for children’s successful learning that teachers in the school sector are aware of, and extend the learning that is occurring in, prior to school settings. With the national early childhood agenda including the provision of preschool education for all children in the year before formal schooling there is even more need for strong connections between schools, early childhood centres and preschools to ensure smooth transitions and relevant curriculum.
One of the features of the Early Years Learning Framework is its equal emphasis on belonging, being and becoming. The importance of children feeling valued for who they are and having a sense of connection with a community of learners – a feeling of belonging – is highlighted. At the same time there is a focus on the significance of the here and now – of being – and the value of children having time to play, explore and experiment. There is also a focus on the learning that is taking place within these communities of learners – the becoming. The draft national K-10 curriculum with its focus on teaching a pre-determined body of knowledge and skills and moving children onto the next step, places teachers’ attention on children’s becoming and gives little recognition to belonging and being.
Greater consideration of the connections between homes, early childhood settings and schools, and recognition of the ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll et al,1992) that children bring to school, would support children’s sense of belonging and their engagement with learning. More time for experiential learning and play would enable “children to make connections between prior experiences and new learning”, support concept development and enhance positive learning dispositions (DEEWR, 2009: 9).
The Melbourne Declaration of Goals for Young Australians highlights the importance of personalised learning in the achievement of ‘equity and excellence’ in Australian schooling (MCEETYA, 2008). While individual pathways of learning are clearly the focus of the Early Years Learning Framework, the national school curriculum seems headed towards a homogenised curriculum with a focus on whole class teaching of a fixed body of content. It is not clear how this approach will support the MCEETYA (2008) goal that young Australians are successful, confident and creative learners, or how learners who have been active participants in a co-constructed curriculum in early childhood settings will cope with this loss of agency. It is hoped that there will be room in the new school curriculum for teachers to be responsive to individual students’ ideas and experiences and to include these in the curriculum in ways that promote independent and creative thinking, so that the curriculum is ‘reforming’ or even ‘transforming’ rather than ‘conforming’ (Mac Naughton, 2003). There is much potential for teachers in the school and prior to school sectors to work collaboratively to support children to become effective communicators and critical thinkers able to transform themselves and society.
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Canberra: Author.
Mac Naughton, G. (2003). Shaping early childhood: Learners, curriculum and contexts. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.
Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation.
Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. & Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms, Theory into Practice, 31(2), 132-141.
Leonie Arthur is the Head of Early Childhood teacher education programs at the University of Western Sydney