Examining and shaping our learning future
From wearable technology and gestural interfaces, to new ways of teaching, the future of learning has some exciting possibilities believes e-learning guru Steve Wheeler. Here he talks to INTERFACE ahead of next month’s Telco Technology Services (TTS) mLearn events where he will be a keynote speaker.
What excites you about technology in education?
It’s the huge potential and great possibilities to move learning beyond the traditional walls of the classroom. Learning has always had a large informal component and now we’re witnessing its fruition in mobile learning, augmented reality, gaming, and other technology-supported learning on the move. We’re also in the age of the learner as their own node of production – it’s exciting to see students working with their teachers to create, organise, repurpose and share content on a global scale through social media and personal devices.
How would you define digital learning?
Learning is learning. Whether you use technology or not is relative. Using the tools and technologies I outline above will enable you to connect with more content and peers, more quickly and effectively. However, learning without technology is also a reality for all of us.
What do you expect to be the main trends for ICT in education in 2014?
I expect a proliferation of touchscreen devices, more mobility due to better broadband provision, and more personalisation of learning. I think augmented reality and other more exotic technologies, such as wearables and gestural interfaces, are just around the corner.
What are the biggest tech-related challenges facing schools?
It’s about encouraging reluctant teachers to adopt, embed and apply new technology effectively within authentic teaching and learning contexts. We also need better in-service training and orientation. If teachers use new interactive whiteboards in the same way they used ordinary whiteboards, they’re missing the point, failing to capitalise on the excellent functionality and, worse still, depriving students of diverse interactive learning experiences.
What do you think are the key elements schools need to address in a digital strategy?
Anti-cyberbullying guidelines, e-safety and acceptable use policies – all of these are important, but the best way to formulate them is to get teachers and students together around the table to discuss the best ways forward.
Is there anything you’d like to see schools do differently?
Far too many schools are throwing money at new technology, without fully understanding what it can do for their students. Some purchase large amounts of technology without a real plan for its implementation. First identify the problem and then seek the technology solution that best addresses it.
How does pedagogy need to change to accommodate the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies?
We need to ensure that learning is driving the choice and implementation of technology. Many of the older theories of pedagogy were formulated in a pre-digital age. Some are still applicable but new ones are emerging to explain the new kinds of learning. See, for example, Paragogy, Heutagogy, Rhizomatic Learning, and Connectivism.
If a teacher is looking to make more of technology in their classroom, what advice would you give them?
Find the problem you are trying to solve and then shop around to see what solutions are available – don’t buy into something just because its shiny and new, and ‘the next best thing’.
You’re keynote speaker at next month’s TTS mLearn events. Can you expand a little on what you will be talking about?
I’ll be talking about the future of education but also referring to the past and examining current trends. My argument will be that each of us has a hand in shaping the future and we’ll need to be proactive and engaged fully with our professional field at a global level to be able to do this effectively. I will showcase some of the new and expected emerging technologies, and theorise on their impact of learning in the next few years.
If you had one wish and could change something that’s already happened in technology in schools, what would it be?
I would like to see technology used in a normal, run of the mill way, instead of being vaunted as something out of the ordinary. If teachers stop thinking of ICT as special and see it as just another set of tools, they’ll begin to embed them more effectively into the learning environment. We should do away with computer suites, because this is sending kids a message that ‘this is the room where computing is done’. We don’t have pencil suites, so why do we have computer suites? Let’s send kids the message that computers are ubiquitous, that learning can occur anywhere and at any time.
STEVE WHEELER IS A WEB 2.0 RESEARCHER, AUTHOR OF ‘THE DIGITAL CLASSROOM’, AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES AT THE UK’S UNIVERSITY OF PLYMOUTH. HE’S AN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED EDUCATIONALIST AND YOU CAN HEAR HIM SPEAK AT NEXT MONTH’S TTS mLEARN EVENTS.
ABOUT TTS MLEARN
TTS mLearn 2014 will explore global learning trends, examine new ways of learning, address transformational change, and discuss the vision and leadership required to drive change.
There are four events to choose from: Christchurch (3 March), Wellington (5 March), Hamilton (6 March), and Auckland (10 March). They run from 1pm to 4.40pm. Early bird tickets are available (saving $40). For more information and to register go to www.tts.co.nz/mlearn2014
© INTERFACE February 2014