Tags: personalised learning, technology and education
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from Jorge Reyna
The way people learn is changing and it will change continuously due to new emerging technologies. Learners now have the choice to decide when, where and how they learn. These days it is easier, quicker and cheaper for users to access, create and post content through the mobile web. These web technologies offer many opportunities for learners and learning activities. I do believe that our mission as ‘next practice’ educators is to provide the resources to ensure ubiquitous learning is encouraged within our teaching units in our education programs.
Learners need to be able to access content on campus and also in their social spaces, such as coffee shops, gyms, work, and bus stops. They need to be able to access that learning using a device of their choosing, such as a laptop, netbook, smart phone, iPod, or iPads. It is in these places and spaces that social learning and collaborative learning can take place in an active manner.
Sometimes people believe that mobile learning is an individual activity. Mobile technologies such as 3G and Wi-Fi allow groups of learners to work together in a mutually convenient location, such as a cafe. There are many opportunities for learners to access learning wherever they are. Connectivity and mobile devices allow learners to access learning when travelling by train or bus, but also when waiting or queuing. Many may not consider a learner learning at home to be engaged in mobile learning, but that learner is still making a choice about how, where and when they want to learn. They may have chosen to come to the university, or meet with their peers in the library, or a café; however, they have chosen to learn at home. Mobile does not necessarily always mean ‘moving’, but simply engaging in the flexibility of mobility.
Employers will have a special interest in mobile learners who are able to access learning at a time and place to suit both the learner and the employer. A learner able to access learning at the office can save on time and travel costs and make it easier for employers to “release” employees for learning opportunities. We live in a world that is changing dramatically, a world in which the traditional barriers of time and space no longer apply. Are we ready to accommodate our pedagogical approach to the ubiquitous learning revolution?
Personally I believe that ageing occurs when we close our minds to new technology due to fear of the unknown. This is natural, especially in these times when it is getting hard to be up to date with the latest technologies. This can create anxiety in people as they feel they are behind new technologies. The key here is to identify the potential applications that can be used within our teaching units and to find valid references in journals/conference papers that give us a sign these technologies can be embedded in educational settings.
Next practice is discipline innovation, and this allows us to be creative and to break barriers to give our students a better way to learn. Technology itself is not learning, it needs to be supported by a pedagogical approach. Technology will never replace a good teacher; it will simply make that teacher able to reach more students and to deliver knowledge in more effective ways that suit student’s lifestyles. To watch a visual representation of this please visit the video I developed about ubiquitous devices, ubiquitous learning, and ubiquitous education (http://www.vimeo.com/9258419)
Jorge Reyna is an E-Learning Technical Officer and PhD candidate in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia
Tags: curriculum, exemplary teachers, technology and education
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From Jane Hunter
A few people have asked me about “the snapshot” of how a primary school teacher in a Western Sydney school used blogED with his class**.
Here it is …
“Imagine a classroom where there are no silent voices?” Mitchell Hooper, Assistant Principal at Blake Road Public School posted a comment on the ‘bloglog’ (used by the blogED project team to capture teacher feedback during the trial). The post said “Empowerment! I have a number of children who rarely contribute to classroom discussions. The blog has given them a voice. They’re impressed and so am I”.
Mitchell continued his commentary a few days later, “the posts and comments students made demonstrate that the blog was their preferred forum for expressing views and providing information – the fact that they could post from behind an avatar (and an) alias gave them more strength”.
Mitchell produced three class blogs for his Year 3/4 class of 28 students:
1. a ‘private’ blog that recreated the First Fleet voyage; a whole term activity that simulated Cook’s journey. Each day students made decisions and kept a ‘ship log’ of the voyage on the blog, they wrote about which course to set, weather patterns, food shortages, mutinies and disease;
2. a ‘public’ blog for parents to view their child’s ‘ship log’. Mike said, “parents were very impressed with both the standard of writing and the depth of knowledge and information the children were learning from the sailing simulation”; and
3. another ‘public’ blog to communicate with a students in a class at Barnes Primary School in the United Kingdom. Its purpose, “was to share and exchange cultural information about our two schools and countries. We have achieved some success and we built on this in the later part of 2009”.
Mitchell captured the experience in his short film, “A Day in the Life of Blake Road Public School”. In the film students describe, “being able to upload all kinds of photos, download homework” and “how the blog improved typing skills as well as being able to get answers to questions from peers”. The blog enabled Mitchell to embed many elements of the NSW Quality Teaching Framework, he used engagement, metalanguage, higher order thinking skills, narrative and connectedness, but particularly substantive communication. He said,
Using a blog for teaching and learning differs from other pedagogical approaches. Mitchell explained, “the potential for blogED is huge. Different interest/ability groups can be set up. For example, podcasts of a musical piece could be uploaded so that instrumental music students could practise with their teacher, outside knowledge experts from places like NASA could be invited to post and comment. The blog, in part, re-creates the child’s digital bedroom at school. In the hands of a passionate pedagogue, it is a powerful learning tool”.
** Names in this piece are pseudonyms. The conversation was recorded during the DET blog trial with teachers in 2009. The full release of the blog occurred in early March this year, to date more than 400 schools have signed up to use it.
An extra aside here – you might like to have a look at a new book on Australian blog writing edited by Karen Andrews “Miscellaneous Voices #1” – it’s quite stunning!
 A ‘private’ blog operates within the DET Intranet, with appropriate permissions to make a blog ‘public’ it is available on the Internet where others can view and comment (with owner moderation) but not post.
Tags: My School web site, NAPLAN, standards testing
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The temperature is rising as both the Australian and NSW governments insist that the National Assessment Program in Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) testing should go ahead in May. This is despite teacher union threats to ban teacher participation in the testing because the test results, published on the My School web site for the first time this year, have led to the construction and publication of school rankings or ‘league tables’ in national print media.
So, who is right? Our governments, which are committed to making school performance data public through the My School government web site? Or the teacher unions, who cite overseas experiences of how ‘league tables’ are used in a misinformed way to denigrate the performance of schools, teachers and students in low socio-economic status communities?
The answer is that they are both right, but that ultimately there is a higher principle to be considered which strongly suggests that teachers should not impede the national testing program. This principle relates to the availability of information in a democratic society, and the right of the public to access data of all sorts, including data about schools and student academic achievement.
Clearly, ‘league tables’ are simplistic (they only report results in basic literacy and numeracy, and clumsily attempt to rank schools on a simplistic and narrow construction of academic quality). Because of this, schools that have more students from educationally advantaged backgrounds inevitably look better in these tables. ‘League tables’ are open to misuse and abuse when their limitations are concealed or remain unexplained. Additionally, the NAPLAN tests do not capture many of the outcomes schools strive to achieve and which are very valuable to young people – creativity, their physical and emotional development and so on. However, though it could clearly be improved, the current NAPLAN testing regime is internationally applied and accepted, and it is quite correct for governments to conduct these tests to have some measure of educational outcomes. After all, we make a huge investment in our education systems, and all young people rely on its success to secure their own futures.
Some of the concerns about the most recent ‘league tables’ published in Australia will be overcome by the fact that, in future, the My School site will publish student ‘academic growth’ data – the progress students have made – rather than simply comparing performance data in which the most advantaged schools and students often do well. This is a welcome improvement as it will enable the recognition of every poor school which adds value to its students’ learning. From now on, any media outlet which continues to publish ‘performance’ tables, and ignores ‘improvement’ data, will be discredited.
Irrespective of this, we do need to defend and support the NAPLAN and My School systems, which allow us to have access to valid data about our schools and to make our own judgements. Teachers should not try to force the government to stop the media publishing results from the My School site. It would be far better if they contributed their energies to making the public more aware of, and more critical of, the dangers of simplistic ‘league tables’. Teachers should help empower us to effectively interpret educational data – not obstruct our access to it. We need to be educated – not subject to censorship. This is the key principle in this debate.