1 - This topic briefing is titled Modernising the Curriculum and I hope will demonstrate how technology can enable greater personalisation & learner engagement and in effect help to bring the learning experience up to date.I’ll look at Meeting the needs of learners todayChanging pedagogiesTechnological solutions
2 - You’ve probably heard references to “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” coined by Marc Prensky. He suggests that how students today think and process information is fundamentally differently from their predecessors, as a result of being surrounded by new technology. He characterises differences between the younger and the older generations. But I think it’s a very broad a generalisation. You’re maybe also familiar with the phrase “Google Generation” – David Nicholas (UCL) – He suggested that young people tend to skitter over the surface of the web rather than going deep into particular areas saying that “It appears speed and convenience are superior to content, depth and understanding.” But perhaps they always behaved this way because it’s only technology that’s enabling behaviour to be accurately tracked. He has discovered though that this is true of adult behaviour as well - suggesting that we have all become the “Google Generation” - it’s actually the way we all work these days, preparing a presentation and flitting to emails, checking your travel arrangements. WimVeen has developed the concept and the term "Homo Zappien“ that I quite like. He suggests that in our schools, colleges and universities we have a generation that were bought up in a digital age – Homo Zappien. Homo Zappiens are used to having many feeds, capable of holding a number of online conversations, watching TV, listening to back ground music and doing their work! A much more “random” way of working. I certainly don’t operate like that and don’t have the capacity for assimilating multiple channels of info at the same time so that’s maybe why I liked this notion as it describes a difference that I can relate to better. WimVeen is a professor at Delft University of Technology, where his research focuses on new concepts and strategies for ICT enhanced learning.
3 - If you take age out of the equation though, a learning theory that provides an interesting alterative to the constructivist model that I think best describes the model that we generally use in FE comes from George Siemens. He suggests learning is determined by context not age.Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where -When knowledge, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the needs is a vital skill – an understanding of where to find knowledge is what’s needed. That might be within a community of practice, within a database somewhere, through personal networks. He calls it Connectivism and so it’s understanding and making the appropriate connections that enable us to learn which are more important than our current state of knowing. The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.
4 - So we really do have to take these differences into consideration. Increasingly learners are ICT literate with high expectations of ICT availability, interactive teaching resources & learning materials and want to be able to use their own technologies along with institutionally provided tools. Peers play an important and often unacknowledged role in the learning experience. Whether through one to one text messages, instant messaging or facebook groups it mostly occurs without the support or knowledge of their tutors. I would argue that the significance of informal social activities for learning is underestimated and this places more emphasis on having effective communication channels.In terms of developing a more reflective attitude to their own learning – having good access, being familiar with new technologies and being able to make choices about what and how they use them means that they’re almost half way there.
5 –just to illustrate this, the JISC - Learner Experiences of eLearning Theme – a Project focusing on Learner Voices I feel reinforces this – just take a moment to read what our learners are saying ……. so we need to be able to harness this experience somehow and exploit it for teaching & learning. I use a lot of MSN and forums to communicate with fellow students and teacher, where I can ask questions and discuss with my colleagues (Lead)You chat to your friends on MSN to see if you missed anything if you don’t go in. (BLUPS)The people in my course created a Facebook group where we discuss logistical stuff like availability of books or clarification of certain concepts or sometimes even, outlines of formats etc (Thema) Although there’s a clear message from learners about their desire to use technology and indeed how the actually use it - I don’t think that digital literacy and learning literacy can be assumed – these testimonies show that initiative + technology can provide a great enhancement to the educational experience – but it is happening in an ad hoc way and I do think that mechanisms to support the development of digital skills & learning skills are needed. (e.g. good and thorough support & induction to learning platforms, templates to assist reflective writing or digital storytelling, a consistent approach to the use of technology across a whole course, considerable development of staff skills and confidence and clear policy and guidelines on e-Safeguarding ) – it’s a joined up and more strategic approach that’s needed in my opinion.
6 - The problem with exploring pedagogy is it’s highly theoretical nature – and so it’s hard to find concrete examples of Pedagogies that work. The research that I’ve done over the years either point to research conducted by Faculties of Education that by their very nature provide theoretical perspectives. There have been a lot of JISC projects which I guess are an effort to apply theories in a more practical way - curriculum design projects that look at the processes involved in designing learning experiences that have a technology focus. They always seem to take a very systematic approach, developing various design models which I suppose if you’re trying to determine models that are scalable and sustainable is necessary but I find it quite hard to relate that to my own experience teaching in FE for over 10 years and I don’t think I’m alone. So I’m not sure how helpful it is to describe curriculum design models here.I find it easier to think in terms of types of learning activities that we can now aspire to because of the technologies that are becoming available. I like to think that by doing this it accommodates the need to address differing learning styles, different learners needs and the different needs of the broad curriculum that is delivered in post 16 Education.
7 - The impact of new and ubiquitous technologies enable new paradigms of learning & teaching to be developed which increase the possibilities for Personalised Learning and improve Learner Engagement. Although online instructional materials are widely available and make use of digital images, video animation and are great for understanding and replaying processes – they are still in my opinion rather passive so it’s more about learning activities that engage learners to process & assimilate information in new and more exciting ways. Discovery learning and enquiry based approaches / like structured web quests using eResources(e.g. simple activity sheets with hyperlinks to rich resources – means that the onus shifts from being given information to learners finding out information & sharing it with peers – a much more proactive activity)Collaborative learning / with collective outputs that exploit new technologies (e.g. planning an event or constructing a and information resource using software features that enable co-editing that results in tangible output of the collaborative process – WIKI, Google doc)Reflective activities using online tools which measures distance travelled and learning taking place rather than assessment of knowledge or skill and demonstrates to learners their own progress. (using Blogs or ePortfolio to record diary type journal entries) Using multimedia creatively and for assessment purposes. Internet access is all that’s required to access, record, store and stream video and audio to the desktop. (e.g. Digital images may provide a mechanism for students to demonstrate and record skills acquisition, using audio may be a vehicle which would allow learners to provide a much richer account of what they have learnt than a written account )Peer Review – a formal term to describe the process of commenting or adding to others’ contributions (tools that enable comment , discussion or enable a star rating for example) eAssessment / both formative and summative which can provide quick and relevant feedback to learners and support personalisation of the learning experience. (and you know designing e-assessments – especially those that address higher order skills a critical area for staff development) Technology holds the key to enabling new pedagogies and I’ll provide an overview of them here and try to outline how they can impact on learning & teaching. Together these technologies that you see here are collectively becoming known as “learning platforms” and there are more alternatives now to choose from and I guess that’s making strategic decisions even more difficult. If you add to that the move towards open source software & the range of free web based applications that are available now its not hard to see how difficult it is for an institution to accommodate individual preferences. There are more details topic briefings on each of these on our website each of which last no more that 15 minutes.
8 – All the organisations that we support have a virtual learning environment. Essentially is comprises of a number tools required for learning allows online access to course materials and has communication, eAssessment and administration tools embedded in it. You can see a typical structure here.Perhaps the most common use of VLEs is through blended learning where the VLE can be used to provide additional content and support to the student, reinforcing face-to-face classes. Accessibility whether for accommodating learners with additional support needs or simply for providing more flexible access is greatly improved. For formative & summative assessment – results can be stored as evidence & tutors able to see what level of understanding each student has achieved with the tracking tools available to identify problem areas. In my experience these most useful tools i.e. communication, assessment tools and tracking are used very little. VLEs are largely used as a content management & delivery system with learners taking a relatively passive role. Any discussion that do take place tend to be highly formal, often a part of a assessment, and tutor rather than student led – with other learning platforms in use now - ePortfolios and web 2.0 technologies - the emphasis is on learner ownership and control and that’s a tricky area of tension.
9 - An e-Portfolio is not simply the digitisation of paper-based portfolios used to document evidence of achievement. Rather the functionality of e-portfolios enable learners to assemble, demonstrate and reflect on the skills, knowledge and achievement they have built up during their learning experience and document their progress towards personal goals. Here’s a model of a typical system. The content can be any type of electronic document and could be images, video or audio. There will also be some sort of journal or blog facility for reflection, and an area where the learner would be expected to identify skills, achievements and ambitions to enable them to document their own personal development plan. I do think the potential for learners to include multimedia is a great attraction and can provide a platform for learners who might struggle with text heavy work to excel and reduce barriers to learning.Usually an ePortfolio is private unless the learner releases content for others to view – and that content can be constructed differently depending on purpose,. e.g. it could be for assessment purposes, for career progression to showcase skills or for private use.In my opinion the level at which a learner is working at will determine the degree of support that’s needed to fully exploit the capacity for deep learning and reflection that an online ePortfolio could provide.
10 - Lines blur between Web2.0 applications – all are online services, all are accessed using any browser application like internet explorer, Firefox or safari, all allow users to interact and share data with other users – so the key is the “social” element and they are also sometimes referred to as Social Software and I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of these icons on web pages that you use. It assumes people are “always on-line” either on PC, laptop or mobile phone, applications are easy to use and although web based still WYSIWIG and things can be published in real time and from different devices without the need to understand the methods of uploading to servers. These are the new tools that have become very widely used over the last few years. They link to the idea of personalisation where learners can use their preferred applications and if they’re used with a degree of imagination could improve learner engagement and help to reduce the perceived chasm between education and real life.Keeping an online Blog encourages deeper and more reflective learning. Reading and commenting on others’ postings is a method of peer review. WIKIs (websites that can be edited on line) are prefect for collaborative work and most tools are easy to use and can incorporate images & multimedia which as I said before I think is a big draw. So Web 2.0 is challenging our understanding of how IT works –sharing & showing is a cultural shift for many – and I think in terms of modernising learning it’s more a change of a “attitude” that’s needed rather than any particular technical skills.
11 – Whether you describe mobile or handheld technology as a gadget, tool or device there is certainly a choice to pick from if you're considering developing mobile learning in your organisation but in essence, most mobile devices have similar functionalities. Here you can see storage devices, audio players, games consoles, and of course mobile phones which can be all of these. All, to a greater or lesser degree, can help manage and support teaching and learning. The critical elements that enable them to have potential for useful learning is their size, anytime, anywhere wireless connectivity which enables access to learning resources & communication with tutors and other learners. The organisational tools such as alarms, calendar, text messaging – SMS messaging both to college and from the college is proving popular providing announcements of timetable or room changes. Electronic reminders invaluable for many learners including learners with additional support needs.Note taking facilities - whether text-based or with the use of voice recording - can really support learners inside and outside of the classroom. There are many devices with in-built cameras to enable a user to take still or moving images and many easy to use applications that allow you to manipulate images in many different ways. Tall of these mobile technologies have provide the means to exploit different media – use images, video and also use web 2.0 tools & social software e.g. Blogs, microblogs, mobilicious, media sharing sites etc and upload from mobile phone without having to go through a computer to do it. And I would also mention that in a survey we did in 2009 98% of students we surveyed had mobile devices with three quarters of them internet enabled. Institutions are not currently exploiting this opportunity for supporting learning in any planned or strategic way.
12 - So I’ve tried to give you some food for thought in terms of the part that Technology can play in modernising Learning. I’ve tried to demonstrate the potential for technology to meet the changing needs of learners and the pedgagogic models it can support which can help to achieve greater personalisation and better learner engagement.
ModernisingLearning<br />Pedagogy for the 21st Century<br />
Modernising the Curriculum <br />Meeting the needs of learners today<br />Digital Natives<br />(Mark Prensky)<br />The Google Generation<br />(David Nichols)<br />Homo Zappiens<br />(WimVeen)<br />
The pipe is more important than the content of the pipe<br />Siemens (2005)<br />Constructivism V Connectivism<br />
The way people learn is changing<br />Institutional Tools V<br />Individual V<br />Information V<br />Passive V<br />Knowledge V<br />Dis-engaged? V<br />Personal Tools<br />Social<br />Communication<br />Interactive<br />Reflection<br />Engaged?<br />
Learner voices<br />“I use a lot of MSN and forums to communicate with fellow students and teacher, where I can ask questions and discuss with my colleagues” (Lead) <br />“You chat to your friends on MSN to see if you missed anything if you don’t go in.” (BLUPS) <br />“The people in my course created a Facebook group where we discuss logistical stuff like availability of books or clarification of certain concepts or sometimes even outlines of formats etc” (Thema)<br />
Modernising the Learning<br />Changing Pedagogies<br />