Ipods for Learning

Ipods are the new learning tool in higher education: downloaded lectures, storing files, learning languages and a whole array of other uses are described in Ipods for learning and teaching.

I read an article which described how a teacher downloaded lesson files to help students of lesser abilities to prepare for tests. The students felt less self-conscious listening to their lessons on ipods and their test scores increased considerably.

This brings up the issue of digital divide: not all students own an ipod.  Who provides the ipods for educational purposes? Whereas most higher education students are likely to own an ipod, this is not the case with all school students.   Similarly, some students will have computers at home and others will not.  This imbalance is an issue that needs to be addressed for equity of learning.

21st Century Learning

Those teachers who are passionate about Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning have a reason for their passion.  They can see the potential for increased learning.

What about students?  In From Their Perspective, Ryan Bretag has identified amongst his students:

  • students use technology when it adds value to their life not just for the sake of using it.  Therefore tools that help them collaborate, manage their time, experience more were valued.
  • students don’t know everything about technology but they are more open-minded compared to older generations.
  • students want a learning space that moves with them rather than remaining static.
  • students were excited about connecting locally, regionally and globally.

Although on a small scale, the above is probably indicative of students’ views of Web 2.0 tools.

Making Changes

I recently came across an article by Dale Spender “What’s a good education” (about embracing technology in schools).  Although this article was written in 2002, it refers to bringing education up to 21st century standards.   Why are some schools lagging behind 21st century standards and others embracing it?  I think the answer is that where school leadership is strong and supportive and where teachers are embracing change themselves, it will spread through the school.

Consider  the ICT culture in your school.  What is the attitude towards ICT integration – is it supportive or reticent?  If ICT is to be successful in schools there needs to be a strong commitment in the values, beliefs and norms towards it.  There is no denying the way that computers are transforming the work and lifestyles of people in society today.     In order to fully integrate ICT in schools, this may require some major mindset changes towards learning and teaching.    A key factor to promote change is a strong culture supporting the necessary implementation and changes it will bring about.  Without this, changes in the classroom will not occur.    However, despite external government policy expectations, in reality, is ICT being fully embraced?   

Despite an overall belief by teachers that ICT is beneficial for learning, there remains a degree of uncertainty (in its application) which can only be diffused by teachers being given the opportunity to realise the potential it has for enhancing learning and obstacles related to implementation minimised.  In order for practice to meet policy, change includes a paradigm shift in learning and teaching practices; teaching via ICT is not suited to the traditional didactic form of delivery.     A pedagogical overhaul is required to facilitate ICT integration; school policies need to reflect new demands of learning. 

Today’s Generation X and Y communicate, learn, access information differently (to previous generations) and multi task (listen to music, surfing the net and doing their homework!).   Without school-based changes, ICT will not be fully embraced or utilised.  The school curriculum needs to drive the technology, not that technology is used as an add-on to existing curricula.  Across the board new changes need to include learning outcomes reflecting ICT integration and ICT competencies need to be linked to educational outcomes.    If primary measuring tools remain unchanged, teachers will resist ICT.   To not adapt to change, is inhibiting the potential of learners today and not fully equipping them for the future society.  

We are faced with living in a continuously changing society and just like other areas of our lives have been revolutionised by technology, education needs to be at the forefront of change to enable schools to deliver the highest possible standards to the knowledge generation.   Change in schools will not occur overnight but overcoming the culture shock is a step in the right direction.  Hooray to all those teachers who are already blogging, wiki-ing and twittering! 

Meeting needs: special education learners

Although I have worked in a mainstream school with a group of special learners, this is my first experience in a dedicated special needs environment.  Students have varying needs from low to high.   The challenge for me is to integrate my new found skills to enhance students learning.   I love wikis, blogs, del.ic.ious, twitter and all the resources I come across via my educational networks which totally enrich learning.  My head becomes full with ideas and the potential of all these tools. However,  I am keeping in mind the wise words that I have heard from my teaching buddies (online):  to take baby steps!

My first baby step: to get a computer facility up and running. This felt like a huge endeavour.  I wanted a working space with about five computers.  My goal was to run a technology class for seniors.   It involved borrowing tables from other rooms, sourcing unused computers within the school, putting them together, and the frustration of realising some of them were so old, had no operating systems on, were blocked for use and so on … It took weeks.     As most other schools would have experienced, having computers in the school is not enough, it requires a team effort between teachers, administrators and the powers that be to get them up and running to standard.

My second baby step is to introduce unitiated teachers to wikis, the special needs resources wiki I have put together for their use and samples of what other students in schools are doing such as Anne’s ejourney with technokidsMy third baby step is to introduce the idea of senior students being involved in preparing their own digital portfolios, hopfully as a blog.