The most important thing I have learnt in Module 1 is critical thinking. Critical thinking is based on criteria, is self-corrective, and is sensitive to context (Lipman, 2008).
Critical thinking means re-examining previous experiences, ideas about learning and facilitating learning as well as habits in light of new ideas presented in this module. It must involve more than just being aware of my thoughts but also examining the accuracy, validity, and impartiality of my thoughts (Lipman, 2008). Critical thinking then involves an awareness of one’s thought processes and the willingness and openness to challenge firmly held beliefs and ideas. Critical thinking involves unpacking an idea and allowing it to stand for closer inspection and evaluation.
Part of the exercise on critical thinking was to examine hegemonic relationships. Hegemony is associated with Antonio Gramsci and is defined as “the process by which we enthusiastically embrace” culture that promotes the ideology of the dominant group/s in society (Brookfield, 2005, p.9). Critical thinking will allow adult learners to think about their roles in society, examine themes and occurrence of oppression and dominance, and then to take action to free themselves from their current state of oppression thus enforcing change (Brookfield, 2009). I started thinking about my ideas about education and compared these with Gramsci’s notion of adult educators as organic intellectuals always challenging the status quo and “learning to blend revolutionary theory and practice” (Brookfield, 2009, p.21). Critical thinking allowed me to realise that I have unknowingly embraced hegemony in the past by taking on extra hours at work supporting the idea that teaching is a vocation, and by allowing common perceptions about E-learning go unchallenged.
Technology is changing fast due to progress in science and research which could be overwhelming for educators. It is important to at least be aware of emerging Information and Communication Technology (ICT)to make education relevant to our students and responsive to changes in technology and society. Educators are called on to be at the top of their game by exploring and embracing available and emergingICT in the classroom. The teacher needs to be able to model life-long learning to learners but the idea that digital technology enhances the teaching and learning process should be given a closer inspection. Selwyn (2011) described external and internal imperatives for using technology in the classroom and emphasised that not all digital technology will improve learning and that these imperatives merit a second look. He asked the important questions – does digital technology enhance learning and if it does how does it enhance learning?
And so we look at the concept of integrating digital technology in the context of learning with a critical mindset. Elearning is defined by Nichols (2008) as the use of digital technology driven by pedagogy. This definition shifts the focus from disseminating information to managing the learning experience (Gilroy, 2001 in Coutinho and Bottentuit Jr., 2010). Coutinho and Bottentuit Jr. (2010) discussed a new generation of Elearning technology called ELearning 2.0 which is technology that is content-focussed, and involves the active participation of the community of learners publishing content in a networked environment thus promoting a collective shared experience within the community. Technology should enable the learners to actively participate in the learning process giving the onus of learning back to the learners. Technology associated with E-Learning 2.0 include Learning Management Systems, wikis, blogs, podcasts, media sharing services, social bookmarking and social networking, Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, Google suite of tools such as pages, calendar, documents and spread sheets. With so much variety in our tool box to enhance the learning process educators now have the opportunity to combine the advantages of learning taking place in a traditional face to face interaction, typically associated to a classroom environment, with the advantages of online and networked environments. The definition of blended learning is still evolving but Watson (2008 In Caner,2012, p.24) defines it as “combining online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student-to-student across a diverse group of learners.” Blended learning allows the instructor to spend less time on face to face interaction and more time to develop resources and provide feedback to the learners. It also makes it possible to individualise instruction and allows the community of learners to provide feedback to their peers (Caner, 2012). Clearly there is an imperative to incorporate digital technology to enhance learning but instructors will require professional support from their peers, the school authorities and policy makers to be able to do this effectively. A continuous professional developmentprogramme organised by local school authoritiesanchored in a framework providing an ICT plan needs to be streamlined with the efforts of the policy makers in promoting the use of ICT in the classroom. The programme should enable instructors to reflect on their motivation for incorporating ICT in the teaching and learning process. Yuen and Ma (2008) conducted a study to understand teacher acceptance in integrating technology in learning activities using 5 constructs and the Teacher Acceptance Model (TAM). Furthermore one must have a digital mindset to successfully integrate technology. A digital mindset is described as an openness to interaction in a networked environment including random interactions, and is supportive to the interaction and the culture that promotes this interaction (Power, n.d.).We were encouraged to use TAM to reflect on what has helped and what has hindered in terms of integrating e-learning technology. In my case subjective norm and computer self-efficacy have allowed me to integrate technology while perceived ease of use has hindered me from doing more. Digital mindset forced me to reflect on my openness to random interactions with my peers. I have to acknowledge that there was some resistance to interacting with my peers who are near strangers to me but I am willing to work on it in the spirit of learning.
How will critical thinking affect my future practice? Critical thinking now forces me to re-think and re-evaluate common perceptions about learning whether it’s traditional face to face or blended learning or distance learning. Which E Learning 2.0 tool is best used to tap into skills and knowledge of colleagues who have been with the company for years? How can I get them to share and collaborate? Research findings support that technology can enhance learning but this must be driven by pedagogy/ies. Critical thinking enables me to unpack ideas, to evaluate an idea based on its merit and context, and to ask important questions about incorporating technology using a set of criteria. This will come very handy indeed as we move into module 2: Pedagogy, Technology and Society.
Module 1: The Big Picture
Kristine Mendoza Openshaw
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