I started writing this post when I was at 38,046 ft in the sky, somewhere above the great state of Virginia, 3,670 miles away from Manchester. I’ve been flying for six and a half hours and in-between watching TED videos, listening to an audio recording of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and sleeping on the two empty seats next to mine, I have been thinking about how people decide on their career choice. This seemingly random thought has been nagging me for a while. This thought has nothing to do with me personally: I love what I do and I would do it again if I had the option. But going beyond my own experience, and leaving aside the cultural and need-to-work aspect of things, how do people decide on what they want to become? Sure, we take classes that sound interesting, appealing, or just different. Or, in some situations, we are forced to take classes from different domains (two thumbs up for liberals arts degrees). Or, we just stick with classes that we like or are forced to take (and two thumbs down for Anglo-type universities that force students to focus on one single discipline). Maybe we have role models or we have certain aspirations in life and figure out a career/job that allows us to achieve those certain aspirations. Or, our parents encourage us to take a certain path in life. Or, it’s all of these factors together or a combination of these. But this is all relative still. Where I want to end up is the magnificent (for those of us who aren’t yet parents) age of 14-17. That age is critical for one’s aspirations in life, for what one wants to become. Note that the emphasis is on having goals and becoming, and not on simply getting a job. So… at the age of 14-17, what guidance are we providing to students to help them choose socially important and personally meaningful, challenging, and interesting careers? When I went to school, I was given an outdated booklet describing (and stereotyping) jobs that would be available to me. I was also given the option to participate in a learning practicum. In Cyprus, this is still standard practice. I am interested in learning what schools worldwide offer for their students, especially when technology is involved. How do you introduce students to possible career options? Do you bring individuals to school to talk about their professions? Do you offer day trips? What do you do? Let me know!
Data on the influence and impact of interactions in informal social networks is difficult to come by. Dr. Jon Becker is trying to collect data on the influence of Dr. Alec Couros‘ work, in support of Alec’s Tenure and Promotion application. Data from this endeavor will go in Alec’s digital portfolio that supports his application. This is a great idea, not just in terms of evaluating one’s contribution to the community, but also in terms of celebrating the achievements of a dedicated, resourceful, and brilliant colleague. If you have benefited in any way by interacting with Alec – and if you have interacted with Alec, I am sure you have – say it here!
A few short weeks ago a colleague at the University of Nicosia-Cyprus asked if I could pay a virtual visit to her class and have a discussion on issues relating to educational technology. Below are the slides that I’ll be using to discuss the use of emerging technologies in primary education. I don’t usually post these, but this one is in Greek so I thought that some people may find use in it. Below is the same message in Greek.
Πριν μερικές εβδομάδες μία συνάδελφος απο το Πανεπιστήμιο της Λευκωσίας ρώτησε αν θα μπορούσα να κάνω μια εικονική επίσκεψη στην τάξη της για συζήτηση για θέματα που αφορούν την εκπαιδευτική τεχνολογία. Πάρακάτω θα βρείτε τις σημειώσεις μου για τη χρήση των νέων τεχνολογιών στην πρωτοβάθμια/δημοτική εκπαίδευση. Δεν συνηθίζω να τις δίνω αυτές αλλά μίας και είναι στα ελληνικά σκέφτηκα ότι κάποιοι μπορεί να τις βρουν χρήσιμες.
I’ve been thinking a lot about educational change lately. I’ve also been trying to connect a few ideas relating to culture, power, access, and responsible teaching. Though I usually return to Paulo Freire for these things, I’ve been reading a bit more on what other authors have to say. Below are two quotes that provide food for thought:
From the Foucault blog, “I lecture at a rather special place, the Collège de France, whose function is precisely not to teach. What I find very pleasing about the situation is that I don’t feel like I’m teaching, that is, I don’t feel that I am in a relationship of power with my students. A teacher is someone who says: “There are a certain number of things you don’t know, but you should know.” He starts off by making the students feel guilty. And then he places them under an obligation, saying: “I’m the one who knows these things that you should know and I’m going to teach them to you. And once I’ve taught them to you, you’re going to have to know them. And I’m going to verify whether you really do know them.” So there’s verification, a whole series of relationships of power. But at the Collège de France, students take only the courses they want to take. And anybody can sit in on classes, anybody from retired army officers to fourteen-year-old lycéens. They come if they are interested, otherwise they stay home. So who is tested, who is under power? At the Collège de France, it’s the teacher.”
From the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy of Education: “In Nietzsche’s thoughts, education and culture are inseparable. There can be no culture without an educational project, nor education without a culture to support it. Education in German schools springs from an historicist conception and gives origin to a pseudoculture. Culture and education are synonyms of “selective training”, “the formation of the self”; for the existence of a culture, it is necessary that individuals learn determined rules, that they acquire habits and that they begin to educate themselves against themselves, or better, against the education forced upon them.”
I’m very excited to announce my Spring 2010 course, EDC385G (Current Issues in Instructional Technology: Online Learning in the Participatory Age). Students enrolled in this course will study the research and application of participatory technologies for online learning. Given the topic of the course, and the breadth of expertise the exists in the various professional networks that I belong, I thought I’d ask for your help to improve this class.
Here’s your chance: Hack my syllabus! Take it apart, suggest readings, activities, additions, subtractions, whatever you may think will help. Your suggestions will not only improve these students’ learning experience, but will serve as a model example of how the network can help us improve practice. My weekly topic list is posted on digress.it, allowing you to comment on each paragraph rather than on the document as a whole.
I am looking forward to your suggestions! [edit: Please note that ALL readings should be freely and publicly available]
Another student of mine posted her MA dissertation on scribd (previous postings can be found here). Theodora picked a topic that was close to my research interests and looked at the complex issue of avatar appearance in virtual worlds. She studied (a) how students design their avatars in 3D virtual worlds and what factors influence those decisions, and (b) the relationship between students’ physical and virtual appearance. This area is wide open for more research -there’s enough speculation to go around, so we don’t need any of that ;)
The newspaper article below is in Greek and comes from a Cypriot newspaper. I don’t usually see educational technology news from the homeland (yes, indeed, dear blog reader, I was born and raised in Cyprus :)), but this one came through today and I was really excited about it. And then I read it… and my excitement plummeted… and I needed 2 dirty martinis to come to my senses.
The article basically says that Microsoft signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Culture for helping develop the conditions for integrating new technologies in primary education (there’s also some other big words in there like innovative schools, innovate teachers, and innovative students – indeed innovation all around!). The article ends by noting that Cyprus holds the second place with regards to computer:student ratio (I am assuming they mean worldwide, or at least EU-wide, though there’s no reference to the source), and that over 95% of teachers have attended basic computer skills training. It sounds like this is a great accomplishment, but, worldwide research shows that it’s not, and here’s why:
- Adding technology (computers, access to the web, laptops, ipods, whatever-the-next-thing-is) will do little to change the nature of education. The tool may allow efficiency gains (e.g. making grading easier), but just by giving tools to teachers, innovation isn’t the natural outcome, partly because…
- Teachers will simply use the tool to accommodate the dominant teaching style. And my experience in Cypriot schools, and my discussions with current students, tell me that the dominant teaching style is lecture and regurgitation. Critical thinking skills and a love for learning are not cultivated and are completely disregarded (there might be pockets of innovation here and there, but by and large, these aren’t the norm). One should also remember that…
- Basic training in computer skills does not enhance practice. Read some literature. What teachers need goes WAY beyond learning how to move the mouse or how to create a powerpoint presentation. You can also read an interview I gave to ednews.org last year, but the important point is captured in this quote: “We can work with teachers to mold technological solutions that target real issues and problems. We can start thinking of learning as something that is inherently enjoyable and fun, as an aesthetic experience that (as Patrick Parrish puts it) has a beginning, middle, and end. We can design for engagement rather than for strict notions of learning as demonstrated behavior change. Rather than training teachers to use generic tools and software, we can aim at enhancing their understanding of how technology can provide added value for particular topics and learners in specific contexts.”
- Finally, I also wonder if these people have ever been to a basic skills training and have ever observed the learners’ reaction. Below is an image that I took that captures (most) student feelings about basic skills training. The students are on facebook while attending a class intending to teach them basic skills bemoaning the training they are in. Oh, the irony! (…and before anyone jumps in to say that facebook is to blame, let me remind you that when classes were boring you used to do the same thing, by scribbling on your notebook and desk). [P.S half of the image is in greek, but it basically says “this person is thinking that s/he is teaching us how to use the computer” and the reply says “yes, that’s what s/he thinks.”]
Inviting a for-profit company to enhance education is a recipe for failure. If you are an official in Cyprus and really want to change education for the better, I suggest inviting a group of caring teachers, a bunch of students, some Cypriot ed-tech professors, a few Cypriot ed-tech professors who live abroad (hint, hint), some foreign ed-tech professors, a couple of education non-profits, and a couple of plain ed professors, to draft real plans for improving education (with technology) grounded on the local reality. Key words to think about: social. authentic, creative, critical, community, authentic, relevant, fun.
The newspaper article follows:
Σε υπογραφή συμφωνίας για υλοποίηση του Προγράμματος «Συνεργάτες στη μάθηση» προχώρησαν χθες το Υπουργείο Παιδείας και Πολιτισμού και η εταιρεία Microsoft, σύμφωνα με ανακοίνωση.
Στόχος της συμφωνίας, προστίθεται, είναι η περαιτέρω προώθηση της χρήσης της Τεχνολογίας Πληροφορίας και Επικοινωνίας στα δημόσια σχολεία της Κύπρου.
Η συμφωνία αφορά μόνο σε εκπαιδευτικές δραστηριότητες, για να δημιουργηθούν οι συνθήκες για την ενσωμάτωση των τελευταίων τεχνολογικών επιτευγμάτων στη διαδικασία της μάθησης, σε ένα πλαίσιο λειτουργίας ενός σύγχρονου καινοτόμου σχολείου, στο οποίο θα διδάσκουν καινοτόμοι εκπαιδευτικοί σε πρωτοπόρους μαθητές.
Στην ανακοίνωση αναφέρεται ακόμα ότι μέσα από το πρόγραμμα θα εξευρεθούν πρακτικοί τρόποι, για να εισαχθούν και να αξιοποιηθούν οι διάφορες εξεζητημένες τεχνολογίες στα δημόσια σχολεία και να καθοδηγηθούν οι εκπαιδευτικοί για το πώς και με ποιο επιθυμητό αποτέλεσμα θα χρησιμοποιήσουν τις μεθόδους και τα συγκεκριμένα μέσα.
O Υπουργός Παιδείας τόνισε ότι καταβάλλονται επίμονες προσπάθειες, για να παρέχει στους εκπαιδευτικούς τα τεχνολογικά μέσα που θα τους βοηθήσουν να αναβαθμίσουν τη διδασκαλία τους στην τάξη και να προσφέρουν στους μαθητές τις δεξιότητες που απαιτούνται ως εφόδια στη σημερινή Κοινωνία της Τεχνολογίας και της Πληροφορίας. Αξίζει να σημειωθεί ότι η Κύπρος κατέχει τη δεύτερη θέση σε αναλογία η/υ ανά μαθητή, ενώ πέραν του 95% των εκπαιδευτικών παρακολούθησαν προγράμματα βασικής χρήσης η/υ.
Κωδικός άρθρου: 906786
ΠΟΛΙΤΗΣ – 04/11/2009, Σελίδα: 22
I have just finished writing the conclusion to the book I edited that is to be published by Athabasca University Press (under an Open Access license) for Terry Anderson’s distance education series. It is tentatively titled Emerging Technologies in Distance Education.
I am posting the conclusion below. If you’d like to provide any feedback, I’d be glad to listen. Are there things that you’d expect to see in there but you don’t? Is something unclear? Anything that needs further refinement? Or is everything perfect? (I doubt it!) And, of course, I hope that when the book comes out, you grab your free copy and send us your feedback!
It has been a little over a year since this book was conceptualized. Notwithstanding important global events that happened during the period from July 2008 to October 2009, the period in which this book was developed (such as the worldwide economic recession and the election of Mr. Barrack Obama to the US presidency), technological advances during this time have been rapid. To cite a few, Twitter became part of the popular discourse and the web has seen increased activity and interest in real-time access to published information. In addition, this period has seen advances in the educational front. For instance, this was the first time Open Access Week was celebrated, calling for immediate and free access to scholarly knowledge, while two free online universities were launched (Peer-to-Peer University and the University of the People). It seems that both the web and the way we think about education are changing.
Regardless of the fact that both education and the web are in a state of emergence, this book provides evidence that we are moving towards a consensus with regards to how effective and engaging learning experiences should be designed. Whether as a result of technological advancements, as a result of a changing mindset, or a combination of the two, distance learning educators, researchers and practitioners are (a) moving towards a model of distance education grounded upon social, authentic, and community-based learning experiences, where (b) presence, communication, interaction and collaboration are valued, (c) and where emerging technologies are both used to enhance education and where good practice and pedagogy is used to appropriate the emerging technologies available. Reflecting on the finished chapters, the original submissions, and my discussions with chapter authors, I see three themes that can bring closure to this volume: (a) the broad focus of the book, (b) the excitement and motivation displayed by this volume’s practitioners and researchers, and (c) the prospects for future research. I will discuss these themes next.
First, while our focus lies on the use of emerging technologies in distance education, it is clear from reading the chapters and observing the summary of the chapters generated via wordle.com (figure 1), that the focus isn’t necessarily the technology. The authors in this volume focus on enhancing educational research and practice based on the notion that powerful learning experiences are social, immersive, engaging, and participatory. In turn these types of learning experiences lend themselves well to being enhanced through the emerging technologies that we have available at our disposal. [insert figure 1 here]
Second, the authors contributing to this volume have displayed tremendous excitement for their work, eagerness to receive feedback, and motivation to transform the future of distance education. These authors are not just writers and scholars but also activists in furthering meaningful, powerful, and just educational opportunities. To me this is very important. The work of an academic should not be limited to teaching classes and writing research reports to be read and analyzed by like-minded individuals. In short, academics should also see themselves as changemakers, and, academics in schools of education in particular, should focus their work towards developing equitable societies that are free of injustices, where opportunities for deeply personal and powerful learning experiences are open to everyone. Evidence to these authors’ commitment to the noble causes of education was the fact submissions to this book came as a direct result of it being open access. In particular, more than three quarters of the original 65 submissions noted that the reason for submitting to this project was because the book was going to be offered free of charge for anyone to use and download.
Finally, while each chapter suggests future lines of inquiry at the micro level, the work presented in this volume collectively highlights broader areas of interests that deem research attention. At the macro level, it is clear that we need longitudinal research that is multidisciplinary in nature. At the meso level, important areas of inquiry and research include,
• Further inquiry into the symbiotic and reinforcing relationship between emerging technologies, pedagogies, and the rise of the participatory web
• new pedagogies and approaches that embrace emerging technologies as natural artifacts in contemporary educational systems as opposed to add-ons to an existing pedagogy, approach, or activity,
• renewed emphasis on the role and nature of education and universities, along with an examination of the roles of educators and informal learning experiences,
• further research into understanding how social, immersive, engaging, and participatory learning experiences can be initiated in distance education contexts,
• development of research frameworks for investigating social, immersive, engaging, and participatory learning, and
• revamped efforts to understand how learning communities can be fostered (both in the context of formal education, as well as in the context of lifelong informal learning).
In closing, I hope you enjoyed reading this book and that you found it worthwhile for your research and practice. If you did, share the book openly and freely.
George Veletsianos, October 2009