Research Centre for Digital Education
A proposal for research on the future of digital learning environments
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Class: Trends and Strategies of the Creative Industries 2009-2010
Lecture: Matthijs Leendertse
Hand in: January 15th, 2010
On paper and via blog
Abstract page 3
Introduction page 3
New media page 3
Media wisdom page 4
Technical options page 4
Wisdom of crowds page 5
Costs page 5
Theoretical perspective page 6
Methodology page 6
Conclusion page 6
Financial proposal page 7
Literature page 8
Reflection page 9
The world of education is changing. There is free use of information from the internet, fast
emerging of new technologies and increased use of digital tools in the classroom. But how
can the quality and consistency of education be guarded for the future, with the evolving new
ways of teaching. This paper shows several developments that need to be kept in mind when
researching the future of education. From open source software to peer production, it leads to
a methodology called backcasting that can be used to research the possibilities for the future.
The world is full of new media. We have pc’s, laptops, smartphones, wireless internet, digital
television channels. You name it and there is a possible way of retrieving all sorts of
information. All these new and technological advanced options make us capable of reading
and learning much more information nowadays then we ever imagined.
This pitch is looking what can be done in the future to incorporate the new media into
the educational system. What is new media? What needs to be thought of when considering
new media in education? This pitch revolves around the question:
What are possibilities for the future of digital learning environments?
This means that we first look at what is new media? When we know what is new, we
can research possibilities for the future. After describing some possible things that can be used
in the future, we will discuss the methodology for future research.
New media is about refashioning old media and creating a new experience of retrieving the
same message (Lister, 2009:47). Adding new abilities to old media and converging old media
together creates a new way of delivering a message. A word for this creation of new media is
remediation (Lister, 2009:47).
The internet is the best example of the convergence of old media. On the internet, one
can read newspaper articles, watch television, listen to radio and that all at the same moment.
You can even create your own world have your own input out there for everybody to be read.
This creates a lot of possibilities for education.
Information that is to be reached by everybody is a very interesting idea for education.
You can think of new ways for teaching, learning, education and the creation of new sources
for education. With new media, a student now can create its own world of education, where
the student can learn what he or she wants and learn it on their own pace.
A critical note here comes from a research by Ophir et al (Ophir, Nass, Wagner,
2009). From their research into the use of new media and the convergence of media, they
found that people that are doing a lot of things together at the same time, cannot concentrate
well when doing one task. It means, that when people are multitasking, they forget how to
concentrate on one thing. Thus, when bringing new media into the classroom, we have to
think of the fact that multitasking might not bring the preferred effect of learning to students.
With the emergence of new media, new technologies arise that carry or connect to these new
media. In the business of education, this means that there are new ways for education. As we
already have seen, there is the internet. A computer for everybody in the classroom is another
option. These are all new tool for teachers and students. With these new tools, education can
A problem with new technologies is that people have the tendency to lag behind. New
technologies need to be implemented in a way that everybody can work with it, especially in
education. If a teacher does not know how to work a computer, the lessons fall short of
educational value. Students have to keep up with new technologies, or they will not learn
what is required. For a future with new education, there needs to be education on how to use
The Dutch government understood that new media is the future, but that people have
to keep up with it in order to keep up with education. The government recognized that the
internet (as example of new media) is a powerful tool that can be used for education, but that
people have to learn how to use it. Users on the internet can put everything they like online
and not everything is good. The users are “important actors in virtually all elements of on line
services.” (Slot & Frissen, 2007). So to educate the users, especially the people in the world
of education, from children to teachers, the government has put up a program, Media
Wisdom, to educate on how to use new media (Plasterk & Rouvoet, 2008).
Wisdom of crowds, peer production
Educating on what is the right information is a good and important step in learning
what is good and what not, because of the fact that everybody can put information online. But
that is also a powerful instrument that can be interesting for education. Wikipedia is such an
example where everybody can put information online and where people can learn from. Lister
argues that ‘the wiki process offers knowledge that is part of an ongoing conversation’ (Lister
et al, 2009: 207). Why not use it then for education? Or at least create a world that the
educational field accepts as “true”. Wheeler points out the idea of Illich, ‘to establish learning
webs where everyone could share their expertise with their communities and learn from each
other as the need arose’ (Wheeler, 2009).
Another point that comes with the wisdom of crowds is peer production. Teachers now
can use a vast space of information that is created by experts and use it in their lessons.
Teachers can help each other out on new education methods or give each other tips on how to
present a new subject in class.
Unfortunately, with new inventions and creations, new and maybe higher costs are there to
deal with also. First, there are some logical things. There are high costs of new tools for
classrooms. Computers that are needed to connect to the new information can be very
expensive and the education on how to use all these new things take also a lot of time (and
money). Ots shows that ccompanies that were once founded as an altruistic collaboration to
launch new creativeness, are now faced with huge money investments and branding to keep
up to technological standard (Ots, M: 2008). One can see that schools and other public spaces
in the world of education will have a lot of costs to.
Open source media is a solution in cutting costs. Open source means that everybody
can use the media for free or for far less then in a commercial setting. Benkler shows that
open-source media is a solution for cutting cost (Benkler, p: 5). It is now also possible to cut
costs on books, distribute free information over the internet. In the end the educational
information will become cheaper, easier available and probably qualitatively better because it
is perfectly adapted to what a student needs or want to learn. It also like ‘Minksy's dream
come to a reality, where you can imagine all the books in a library actually starting to talk to
each other. It's the interconnections between ideas that teaching is really all about’ (Baraniuk,
The perspective from what we have seen so far, is one of remediation. There is
actually nothing new in education. Children need to learn what is set as required, teachers
have to teach it. But the way it is tough has changed. As Listers says, from the old comes the
new (Lister, 2009; p. 58). It is not a linear way of learning from the past and creating new
things, but a genealogical way (Lister, 2009; p. 58). It means that, in the case of education, the
way we teach things evolves with the time and the technologies that are at our hands.
Media use in education is not something new, but through remediation and the
digitalization of media creates for education a new learning environment.
To research the possibilities for the future, I would like to advise to use a backcasting
methodology. Leendertse et al (2009) describes this method in his paper on education for the
future. Backcasting aims to outline a future situation and evaluate the preferences of people
for that future to test the feasibility of this desired future (Leendertse 2009; p. 5). Thus, by
researching different scenarios for the future, the best possible way can be choosen.
Via backcasting, you first specify milestones that need to be conquered to change the
future. Putting them on a timeline, you create a roadmap of what to achieve in the future.
(Leendertse, 2009; p. 6).
Via interviews, literature research and expert advices, you can create the possible
future that you want. In the case of education, specify what you would like to see in the future
of education and see if these specifications can be reached.
The future is wide open for education and it’s challenging to change the future for the better,
for better education. Creating new and challenging education is a lengthy process and all the
options and possibilities need to be researched carefully. New and digital education bring also
about policy changes. What is to be taught, is it open for everybody and it is a reflection of
what people need to know (Cuilenborg, 2007). In the end, this research is about the future of
the delegation of knowledge in a new era.
The cost of the research is based on the time it might take and the cost of the researcher. The
estimated time of the research is two months. This includes setting up the research, making all
the contacts, taking the interview, making evaluations and of course making the conclusion
and advice for the future of education.
A researcher costs €80 an hour. This is a junior consultant within the Research Centre
for Digital Education under supervision of a senior consultant who leads multiple researches.
€80 per hour for 1 consultant
Time: 2 months (based on full time work, 40 hours a week)
Total costs: €25.600
Lister, M., J. Dovey, S. Giddings, I. Grant & K. Kelly (2009) New Media. A critical
Introduction. Second Edition. London: Routledge (ISBN: 0-415-43160-3)
Benkler, Y. (2006) The Wealth of Networks 2006
Slot, M. & V. Frissen (2007). Users in the Golden Age of the Information Society. In:
Observatorio Journal. 3 (2007), pp. 201+224
Ots, M. (2008). Media and Brands: New Ground to Explore. In: Ots M. (ed.) (2008) Media
Brands and Branding. Jönköping, Sweden: JIBS. Pp. 1-7.
Van Cuilenburg, J. (1999) ‘On competition, access and diversity in media, old and new: some
remarks for communications policy in the information age. In: New Media & Society vol. 1,
issue 2, p. 183-207
Leendertse, M., M. Manschot & A. de Korte (2009). Creating the ideal ICTenabled learning
space. Paper presented at the International Conference of Education, Research & Innovation
in Madrid, November 16-18 2009.
Ophir, Nass, Wagner. September 15, 2009. Cognitive control in media multitaskers. PNAS
Richard Baraniuk’s presentation for TED on open-source learning.
Wheeler, S. 2009. Blog about learning technology. http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/
The main thing that had to have gone better was my own planning. There was enough time
but, as it is a student’s habit, planning fell short. The concepts of the literature was something
I understood quit well and also the search for literature was not hard. I had a great resource
through the blog that we created (http://joindigitallearning.blogspot.com) as a group for the
Trend and Strategies class. My main focus was to show that there are a lot of options for
digital learning, but that when researching the field, one has to specify what is important and
to focus on that.
In the end, I thought it went quit well, but I always make so hard on myself when I’m not
working by the planning and thus creating personal stress.