Monday, February 09, 2015

Learning Disconnect?

The arrival in the mail today (ooohh....hard copy!) of the latest Education Technology Magazine, Australia, reminded me I meant to post this to my blog. The following 'Have your say' commentary appeared in the November 2014 EdTech Magazine
Don't forget to look at the Feb/March 2015 issue:
  • Connected classrooms - Anne Mirtschin
  • Digital tattoos - Rob McTaggart
  • Transformed learning with Google apps - Anthony Speranza
  • and lots more!

Learning Disconnect?

Is the current use of technology in schools fostering a learning disconnect? As a global educator I have had many experiences and developed perspectives on the use of digital and online technologies in classrooms across continents. There are many ongoing conversations about the best way to implement and use emerging technologies and these typically focus on the school as an island, rather than the school as a connector to the world. With the ‘ island'  approach learning designers fear the worst from outsiders and build strong walls to prevent penetration from the unknown, or provide access to technologies that cannot be transplanted into the everyday life of learners, such as learning management systems that are only accessible while ‘on the island’. This has the effect of disconnecting learners, or causing a ‘partition’ between what is ‘school work’ and what is social or ‘at home’ access to learning.

Just the other day I was speaking to a NSW Distance Education language teacher who physically has to drive to an ‘office’ in order to teach students at a distance. While in the office technologies are not always friendly and many ‘lessons’ are held using the reliable, but these days not sufficient, landline telephone. In addition, students while in school have trouble accessing tools such as Skype and are effectively cut-off from the real world while learning. There is no real expectation to learn while at home, or if there was the teacher in this example would be given autonomy to teach from home at flexible hours that suit learners, using technology that is readily available beyond the school.

What we are really seeing here is a restriction, a blockage, a deliberate attempt to disconnect learners from the learning. The future of learning, and the future of work (business, employment, careers) is connected and collaborative. The future is about using available technologies, the best tool for the job at the time, to connect and foster collaborations, to build empathy between learners both online and offline and to build trust so that collaboration leads to co-creation and problem solving. The future is about digital fluency rather than digital fear and ignorance.

The barriers to ubiquitous learning while using digital technologies are varied. Misdirected leadership, unaware teachers, disengaged students - sound familiar? Although teachers and school leaders may be enablers or barriers, students also need to claim technology independence and find bridges to new learning modes that take them beyond their immediate environment. Online technologies make this possible. Online technologies make learning with the world possible.

The future of learning using new technologies is bright if we focus on what learners really need to connect and interact and if we, as educators and leaders, get out of the way of the learning thereby encouraging digital flexibility and fluency that builds a bridge between ‘home’ and ‘school’. We have a lot of work to do!   

What are your thoughts about this?
Director, Learning Confluence. Founder, Flat Connections Learning about the world, with the world.

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