Knowledge – or what is accepted as useful knowledge by a certain community – is maintained in educational institutions. We may perceive by this that this maintenance of knowledge is a powerful form of social control, and in effect, a maintenance of reality.
On the other hand, there are different perceptions and understanding of what learning is and the purpose of education. Dewey, for instance, “worthwhile learning was that which was ‘fruitful’ in enabling people to adapt successfully to new situations and to identify (and deal with) problems as they arise.” (Pring:2000). In other words, through education, people are not left as they were before being educated; they are transformed into becoming a different person.
However, one’s perception, understanding and practice of education is a transaction between one’s underlying values. These transactions are never static; they are fluid, mediated by one’s experience and deliberations between what one has learnt and the point in time where one finds him/herself.
Just like in the world of ELT, where there have been streams of bandwagons (e.g. dogme is a recent example of debate in the blogosphere – what is it? a theory? an approach? a re-invention and re-labelling of what educators have been doing for decades? a clique for others to follow an by doing so, feeling an exclusive right of belonging?), I have come to the point where I can no longer read another article speckled with bandwagon terminology in regard to today’s learning environment. Yes. Learning is changing. Yes. Education is changing and still needs to change more. Nevertheless, change does not occur in a vacuum nor overnight.
To disrupt means to make it difficult for something to be done in the”normal” way. “Normal” is relative, for even at this point in time, what may be “normal” for me may not be for someone else. Relativity is part of life. However, I do not agree with how digital technology in education is “disruptive” – for digital tech in classrooms serves a multitude of purposes, namely to prepare learners for their world. Would teaching a foreign language be considered “disruptive”? After all, when learning a foreign language, one learns a foreign culture as well. Nevertheless, I have never heard of learning a foreign language being considered a disruptive activity in the world of education. The more often the term is used, the less meaning it carries. Bandwagons come and go mindlessly.
As an educator of over 20 years, my students have always worked in pairs and small groups. I have always collaborated with other departments for the benefit of learners, have participated and contributed to others’ research projects, and have always supported and encouraged the collaboration of different classes and levels on projects at the institutions where I have taught. When there was no internet, there were study visits and pen-pals; there were visitors to my classrooms to answer questions about the working world beyond the education institution’s walls.
Yes, with the web collaborative learning today has taken another dimension. A greater, wider dimension, but it is not particular only to today’s digital world.
As a child growing up in Montreal, I clearly remember lessons during which we were connected with classrooms in the Northern Territories. At that point in time, they were some of my favourite lessons – being able to communicate across such distances in realtime! There was one television screen and and at times, interference, but the class remained silent, enchanted, holding our breathes for the continuation of the transmission.
Over the years, I have taught both content and language subjects. In both situations I have set readings for homework and self-study. With the presence of the internet, I have often set videos for viewing as homework. Hence my question, what exactly is novel in flipping classrooms?
On the one hand I cannot argue with the possibility of providing education to those with no other option but to study online. Yet online studying does not equate to watching videos and then doing work in class the next day. E-learning is far richer and complex than that. On the other hand, I can understand how the notion of “flipping classrooms” may be new to certain fields of learning but it is not in any way a major characteristic of digital learning.
Digital Native Divide
Although I have used this expression, I no longer think it means anything of much significance; nor do people who grew up without the internet need to justify how they are as native as any youngster with a desktop/laptop at home. The divide that concerns me most, is the population who have restricted or no access to digital technology; those who would wish to learn, to learn to have a voice for their own culture and not have foreign cultures of education imposed on them, throwing chaos and failure among learners. Divisions of knowledge and knowing come in many forms.
Drama of Change
The dramas of social change should never be underestimated. We are caught in a point in time when societies claim to be broken (e.g. broken Britain), where other societies are creating strong middle classes while in the countries known for being industrialized and “progressive” are facing economic decline. Power shifts, social unrest, educational changes.
As George Siemens points out, “The current generation of students will witness the remaking of our education system. Change is happening on many fronts: economic, technological, paradigmatic, social, and the natural cycles of change that occur in complex social/technical systems.”
In Siemens’ blog posting, he includes the following diagram on change:
Rather than focusing on bandwagon terminology, the issues highlighted about change are the ones educators should be inquiring and reflecting on: how to implement change, how to contribute to positive change and how best education can fulfill a meaningful role in our society today.
N is for Nik – an interview with Nik Peachey on Flipped Classrooms and more
Pring, R. – 2000, Philosophy of Educational Research, Continuum
Siemens, G. – 2012, Remaking Education in the Image of our Desires
Wheeler, S. – 2012 What the Flip?