Here Come the Clones – A Slant on Multicultural Learning

In a globalised world, filled with the richness and risks of multiculturalism, how does one maintain a sense of being unique while at the same time, having a sense of “belonging”? Does the sense of “self” maintain its individuality or with the increase of networks and connections, with the far reaching consequences of globalisation, is one left to become a shadow of self, a clone of contemporary “selves”?

Because  London Fashion Week was recently taking place, I asked my female students what was the first piece of clothing which came to their mind when they thought of black for women.  Immediately their replies were “abayas”, “sheilas” (the black cloak and headscarf which is characteristic of female clothing in the Arabic Gulf). Women in the Arabic Gulf are as trend conscious as women anywhere else (if not more, as financial wealth is widespread), yet it was not biker jackets,  nor black boots,  nor LBD (little black dresses) which were initial references for these students. Their references were local,  and directly meaningful to their everyday lives.

An anecdotal example, but one that is significant when it comes to multicultural learning. Any teacher asking similar questions to their students will have responses which are mostly rooted in a local context. (I would like to make a note here: when referring to “multicultural learning”, I am referring to learning across cultures/with other cultures,  and not to political policies of social engineering).

Which brings me to ask whether in today’s scenario of social media entwined with learning and knowledge creation, if there is a risk of cloning in education. On the one hand, the same or similar digital platforms and tools are becoming widely used – for instance, Moodle as a learning platform for distance learning and Fotobabble as a digital tool. On the other hand, learning, sharing and creating knowledge through social networks is increasingly entwined in educational practices. How sustainable is this for the individual who is learning, to maintain his/her individuality?

When discussing  sustainability and authenticity  in higher education, Kaviola (2006) highlights how

“In transformative learning method students construct their own information and solutions to problems in co-operation and dialogue with the others involved in the learning process. When a student practices decision-making related to sustainable development in a collective learning situation (e.g. problem based or contradictory information), his or her ability to manage conflicting situations (which are inevitable in changes that promote sustainable development) will improve. This is also a way to develop students a sense of ownership in the learning process (Wals 2006: 49). “

This ownership in turn becomes personal, localised and individual. Rather than cloning, one has contextualised learning, which provides a degree of authenticity and meaningfulness in learning. Again, turning to Kaviola (2007) who explains that,

” A human cannot live in isolation away from society. Constructivism stipulates that learning and the object of learning are an indistinguishable part of the socio- cultural framework in which the learning takes place. This implies that information is always constructed in a certain context and that a person will put together a picture of the surrounding reality and him or herself by selecting and interpreting information and by reflecting on the feedback that s/he gets on his or her actions. ” (Kaviola, 2007)

A step further is of course Connectivism, where through connections and networks, knowledge is shared, distributed, and transferred. Individual learning through networks, chaotic as it may initially appear, is an inherent characteristic of Connectivism (Siemens, 2004). This informal learning lies on a set of principles, namely,

* Perceiving learning and knowledge in a diversity of opinions

* Learning as a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources

* Nurturing and maintaining connections is necessary to facilitate continual learning

* The ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill

* Decision-making is itself a learning process

Learning contexts will take many forms, whether those be personal,  institutional, or national. Learning cultures are even broader, with some sharing similar characteristics. However, despite the similarities, despite connections and learning networks, I doubt that today’s education panorama with Open Access, MOOCs and the myriad of online learning resources that exist, will lead to cloned education models or learners. These may push individual learners out of their comfort zone,  may provoke them into a richer, more critical analysis of knowledge and learning, but will not necessarily create clones. Clones are indeed among us (Korea’s Plastic Surgery Obsession Is A Glimpse Into The Futurebut hopefully will remain in the domain of other social concerns. 

Learning, like much else, remains an individual perception; a perception fostered and shared by a localised culture. That culture may indeed be transnational, international, mulitcultural (pick your choice) but it is left to the individual and fortunately, individual differences are still what makes us individuals – both as learners and humans.

 

References:

Kaviola, T., 2007, Towards Sustainable Development in Higher Education

Siemens, G., 2004, Connectivism

Wheeler, S., 2012, Theories for the Digital Age – Connectivism

Digital Delights : Connecting Online Education – Connectivism – A selection of articles and posts on Connectivism

The Cyborg Within

1xcom259106oppressed

Who am I?

Who are you?

Simple questions, yet where does one begin unravelling the complexity of being a “someone”?

It was over the summer,  that issues of identity came again to linger on my mind. When I first visited Laos years ago, there was hardly a mobile phone in sight; to access the internet you needed to find an obscure, dark internet cafe, where you then struggled with connectivity. Today, that world has changed dramatically, like so many other places around the world. Today, one may find wi-fi in practically almost all public cafes and restaurants; everywhere you turn your gaze to, there will be someone taking a selfie, checking their photogenic image and uploading it to a social network; when silvery, Mekong evenings spread across the jungle skies, there will be throngs walking, jogging, running along the bank, with their smart phones,  some in Adidas track-suits,  most with  ear-plugs and an eye on their mobile screen. You could be almost anywhere else in the world – if not for the natural surroundings.

If asked who am I, I sometimes grin and say “I’m a cyborg. Whatever else?” Others’ reactions are usually quite interesting; often their associations are with dark, menacing Sci-Fi  films, where cyborgs are threatening beings, their powers far beyond mere humans. There is a lurking fear, a lurking mis-trust of cyborgs. Being a cyborg, simply put, is not desirable.

However.

Those jogging on the bank of the Mekong with their smart phones held dearly and tightly in their hands and those who possibly are reading this blog entry, are equally as much of a contemporary cyborg as I am. There are different interpretations of being a cyborg,  e.g. those who wear technology for enhanced digital experiences, those who participate in digital worlds, forming an identity within simulations, and those, like myself, who are equally comfortable in and out of digital worlds. As Turkle (2012) explains, “We are all cyborgs now”, in regard to how we “wander in and out of the physical real”. This element of being a cyborg has another characteristic as well, for one is in the digital world and somewhere else simultaneously. In other words, as cyborgs, we not only wander in and out of digital dimensions, but even when connecting with others, when digitally communicating with others, we are inhabiting two worlds at the same time.

Technologies and identity are complex issues. As someone who has had an interest in the digital since the internet became publicly available, it comes as no wonder that “who I am” will necessarily include the digital mix of who I am. In other words, I am my “life mix” (Turkle, 2012), moving quietly between worlds, between connections, between digital devices.

1xcom272947hangingThere are times when both my real and virtual self need breathing space as well – for instance, there may be times I don’t participate as much on one social network but with time, will return to it. There are times when I feel the need to disconnect, feel the need to think and dream without the ongoing connection which I do have in my life. This is not a rejection of my digital, cyborg self; merely a pause and one that I must ensure by silencing all my mobile digital gadgets. My “life mix” is both asynchronous and synchronous. Time to disconnect, briefly,  becomes a necessity. “Hanging up”, being “off the grid” is also necessary downtime for cyborgs.

A word of caution though: one may choose, re-invent or play with identity. This is not my case. Perhaps because it is not my case, I am equally at ease with my “life mix”.  Within my mix I am often a learner and educator, (though definitely, not only – e.g. I watch movies, connect with friends and family at non-professional levels, listen to music and so on). In these complex times of deep changes, I seek answers, I ask questions. I participate in online communities with others who likewise share the same concerns and questions. These communities range from social networks such as Twitter and G+, to VLEs where I learn and share with other members.

Which brings me to learning – once again. Leppisaari and Lee (2010) highlight how images are an integral part of constructing knowledge. By taking up visuals of footwear (Leppisaari and Lofroth 2013), one can visual one’s identity and role within multicultural learning.

From cyborg, from wandering in out of digital and analogue worlds, my footwear reflects the type of learning I engage in . Sandals – open, strappy, comfortable in twilight zones of being a cyborg. Sandals are ideal for treading lightly in a hyperlinked world.

Sandals are also practical for informal learning – which is how I would say most of my learning is today. I learn with and through my social networks, reading open access journals, reading articles online, participating in MOOCs, taking open online courses, and daily,  with my PLN, sharing and taking  part in on-going conversations. I attend webinars and belong to professional networks, where conferences are sometimes held online. Both these last two examples offer me the possibility of learning and participating in contexts which otherwise I could not attend. And I learn as I always have, even before the internet, i.e.. by learning from other fields of knowledge. Hence it is no surprise that I am a supporter of cross (or multi) disciplinary learning.

At times, I also take part in more formal learning, i.e. a structured course, where, ideally I will submit assignments on time. Hence, a pair of red shoes dangling, expressing on the one hand, a certain degree of formal artifact and on the other, the eternal quest of balancing time.

As a learner and educator I have lived and worked in different countries with distinct cultures. Though fascinating as it may sound, living and working in different cultures may be walzing through a mysterious field – one knows the footsteps to the dance but the music is different. Every time one thinks one finally understands the tune and attempts to dance, the steps will be different, for cultures are complex and forever changing. Every culture will have what is easily noticeable and learnable – with so many other steps hidden or disguised and which are essential for its understanding. And yes, there are times when simple sandals are more convenient to live within those settings, leaving light footprints, opening paths of learning for others who, in turn, will create meaningful knowledge and learning for their own cultural contexts.

When Downes (2013) speaks of learning, he mentions how:

“To teach is to model and to demonstrate; to learn is to practice and reflect“.

In a multicultural setting, whether F2F or online (e.g. distance education), this requires sturdy (but comfortable)  boots. Not only does one need to be sensitive to the culture, (e.g. in terms of what is or not appropriate) but the modelling has to be meaningful to it as well. Tapping into what may or not be meaningful to learners requires patience, resilience and time. Boots are often necessary for learning.

Much like Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), I dream of the perfect lesson, the perfect learning path where as an educator, it would only take a snappy click of heels for my students to become inspired, creative, and critical thinkers. In my cyborg mind, this is simple, with a myriad of tools and platforms to offer. In my “real”, analogue classrooms, this is much more challenging. At times, simply hard to do. After all, there are days and days – with a mix of 20+ learners in a classroom, there are bound to be days where the flow of learning just isn’t happening as one would wish it to.

Yet, I cling to the notion of a perfect lesson, where tasks are meaningful, motivational and fun for all. There are days when no click of heel is necessary and objectives are accomplished. And there are days when I return to the dream of a perfect lesson.

Today I have chosen 3 variations of footwear that perhaps define my days. When reflecting on the nature of being a cyborg and  a multicultural learner/participant, one also needs to add the digital dimension to multicultural learning. On the one hand, there is the culture of digital identity as an integral  part of the notion of identity, while on the other hand, there is also a cultural  field on online learning/distance education. Both of these, in my eyes, have different features; features which overlap at times, and which add another dimension to multicultural learning. In other words, it is not just the analogue world which has multicultural learning – there is a digital world as well.

When technologies and identities blend, “simple” issues of identity become more complex. In my mind, often richer as well.

Do you ever consider your cyborg self?

How do you perceive yourself as a cyborg?

References:

Leppisaari, I. and Lee, O., 2010, Modelling Digital Natives’ International Collaboration: Finnish-Korean Experiences of Environmental Education

Turkle, S., 2012, Alone Together

Over the Rainbow and into Reality

Overlooking a city intoxicated with dirt, air pollution and prayers for tomorrow, I am already caught between worlds. I linger on Twitter, catching up on tid-bits of conferences and opinions which are to influence educational practices and positions, I sip my coffee while trying to out-wit the never ending swarms of flies. I am lucky to have a connection to view the web world, to interact, to be myself.

And I wonder – how much does the developed world actually include the have-nots?

In an attempt to bridge the increasing digital divide, I came as a personal volunteer to train EdTech.ON MY WAY

(To those who do not know me, yes, I live over the rainbow, I live with hope, I live with belief).

Nonetheless, it takes much more than good will and possibly monetary donations, for change to happen. Change, as many know, takes time.

When it comes to EdTech, there is undoubtedly an awareness of what is happening in the rest of the developed world. There is an acknowledgement that digital learning skills are necessary for development and educational prestige. However, for EdTech to be effective, – or any professional training for that matter – it takes a profound shift of attitudes.

By no means am I an favour of imposing change from other models and countries; I believe that each environment, whether classroom or society, needs to implement the changes that are best suited to its needs and participants. However, there is a need of bridges. No one can progress, no one can introduce change without the aid of bridges. When it comes to professional training in developing countries, those involved need to make the effort to create bridges of understanding and performance – both ways. It is not acceptable any longer that bridges are to be built only by one world. If there is to be success, then both parties, both sides of participants are required to make the effort to reach out and elliminate possible stumbling blocks and cross-cultural differences, in order that the training experience is as  successful as possible for all participants.

Rainbows and realities. Neither are meaningful without a tremendous effort to achieve success. It is not a question of lack of cutting-edge hardware, nor ill will,l nor lack of material resources which lead to risks of possible defeat.

It is the required shift in perceptions and learning attitudes. And these are the most challenging features to change – anywhere, at any time. In regard to EdTech, these are most urgent to deal with, the most urgent to reflect on, if there is ever to be effective educational change.

Rainbows and realities. An urgency for each to meet, interconnect and blend.

Resistance and the Re-Imagining of Knowledge

With distance I regard my educational expectations, hopes and whims. I look out the window of my regular comfort and into the lives of the disenfranchised, the disconnected, the illiterate and wonder what  knowledge is today, what would  knowledge be for these who dig up roads and what is knowledge for those in clean connected classroom.

There have always been gaps of knowledge between the haves and have-nots. Today is no different, despite the hope that is pinned on the Web of Open Access and Open Education.

I think of my own students and how their profiles have changed over the years. I tell myself to accept these changes in their attitudes towards educators, towards their studies. If, as an educator I have always encouraged change, if, as an educator I have always supported creative ways of learning, then why do I find it uncomfortable (at times) to accept that students’ profiles have changed? Society has changed. Social norms, social rythyms have been altered by digital technology. The world of education has opened its door to a broader background of students. Their diversity brings creativity but also frictions to classrooms.

Challenge: how does one  guide those frictions into constructive learning?

When considering knowledge today, it is necessary to bear in mind the changes brought about by Open Access. Increasingly there are more open journals, more academics who blog, sharing resources and reflective considerations on their teaching context. Knowledge production has changed, just as students and social environments.

Challenge: how does one make sense of all this open knowledge?

Again I think of my students, of the changes I impose on them in regard to learning with digital devices. As I scrutinize their faces, I am aware of their resistance to digital learning – at times. In this paradox of learning, where students are happy to bring an iPad to classes yet refuse to become autonomous learners, I ask questions and know that I am not the only educator to face this.

Pearce (2013) explains:

“Students are actually quite conservative in their use of open educational resources (OERs),” she said. “The students in our sample were clear that while many made use of them in their own learning, they were much more likely to do so when it was part of their course and it had been suggested to them by their lecturer.

“Where lecturers do not value OERs and do not signal that the use of OERs will help in their learning, and in particular where students are not offered technical support in their use of them, they absolutely won’t use them.”

She added: “I was quite surprised to find that students will absolutely defend to the death the lecture – a mode of learning that many of us are getting used to thinking of as an out-of-date method of teaching.”

If educators are to actually instigate, inspire and hopefully encourage learning, then one must take students’ approaches to learning more in account. Despite the benefits that educational technology may bring to learning, it is non-productive without students taking on board those same values.

What strikes me most in this excerpt above, is 53% of students who wished their teachers used more F2F interaction. This holds true in 1:1 classrooms – no matter how much creativity and autonomy iPadology may bring into lessons, students still expect educators to explain, to hold their attention at the front of the classroom.

Challenge : how does one make students understand that the requirements of jobs have changed today? How will demands of more collaboration, more creativity in job posts become relevant to the young, when they live the now, the moment and post-pone a future of accountability?

I look out towards the hazy sky filled with fumes, dust, incense. Distance from my regular social environment raises questions.

If , as an educator, I adapt to local circumstances, may I talk about adaptive learning?

An adaptive learning approach in classrooms which allows me to deal with student resistance, the re-imagining of knowledge and a more flexible path to educational change?

How do you deal with student resistance?

How do you make sense of the re-imagining of knowledge?

References:

Five Ways Students use Technology in the Classroom

Parr, C., 2013, Students Will Defend Need for Traditional Learning

Challenges and Opportunities in Higher Ed

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Were it so simple in the world of education. I often compare (naively?) the educational field with the field of medicine. In the medical world, the aim is to save the patient’s life or cure his/her disease. Cutting edge approaches are welcomed and doctors endeavour to practice these approaches as much as their working context allows them to.  Team work is no oddity, for it is not only nurses and doctors who provide health care, but a wider group of professionals, from lab researchers to anatomo-pathologists who work behind the scenes.

The educational world is changing rapidly and yet there are times when I feel as if left behind in time. What is holding education back?

Roscoria (2013) points out the following challenges in regard to adapting technology  in higher education, which were highlighted in an Educause  Learning Initiative in the 2013 Horizon Project report:

1. Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues to rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession.

2. The emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching outpace sufficient and scalable modes of assessment.

3. Too often it is education’s own processes and practices that limit broader uptake of new technologies.

4. The demand for personalized learning is not adequately supported by current technology or practices.

5. New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to traditional models of higher education.

6. Most academics are not using new technologies for learning and teaching, nor for organizing their own research.

Perhaps it is the first and fifth points that immediately jump out at me. I have yet to become familiar with a curriculum that openly acknowledges the role of digital literacies across the board; equally, despite MOOCs being a constant headliner in journals and newspapers, there are still many educators who are not familiar with MOOCs nor the concept of such open learning.

Another aspect that I wonder about, is why so many institutions do not offer more blended courses to better suit the population? Often institutions do have the hardware and the professionals who are able to offer such courses. I believe that these changes will occur – the challenges and barriers will fall on the way as increasingly a student population wishes to study online, or at least within a blended approach of F2F and online learning. There is no lack of platforms and the technical requirements for students at higher education may be simply met with training sessions on campus before the course begins (should this be necessary).

Then there are Open Educational Resources. These are not meant for only a developing world, but for all.

One needs to bear in mind that only a selected group in developing countries are privy to OER – not only are there  regular struggles with hardware, electricity maintenance and wifi, but often those who would most benefit don’t speak the language which OER are published in. Nevertheless, this too is changing as more universities around the world open up their libraries and resources.

Personally I find the sixth point difficult to understand – for many years now academics are able to access libraries online, for instance. What I do find curious is how in academia, skills that academics use, are not taught to students more systematically.  For instance, how best to use search engines and not merely Google. A simple example,  but one which I regularly encounter when speaking with under-graduates. By the same measure, academics who claim to support open learning will continue publishing in closed, paid for journals. Blogging? Definitely not part of academia. These are but some contradictions which I encounter and am perplexed by.

Michael Horn, co-director and co-founder of Innosight Institute, believes that many of the challenges and opportunities for higher education will eventually happen as major changes will occur at secondary level. Horn also points out how:

“University professors, while they’re really good at research, are not really good at teaching and learning,”

adding that

Different students have different learning needs at different times,” as well as pointing out   that that situation may provide big opportunities for disruptive models to step in and offer more efficient solutions to individualized instruction. Disruptive models, in this case, being online education which opens up opportunities for more members of society to study.

Online learning may be understood within different models as Hill (2012) describes:

The last challenge I’d like to point out for now, is how we are living on the edge of Web 3.0 yet so much of what happens in classrooms still belongs to a world of Web 1.0. In Gerstein’s  (2013) discussion on User Generated Education, she includes the following visual which clearly defines each stage of the Web and how it is being used in education:

At a time when so many changes are happening around us, when iPadalogy, whether for the better (or not) is rapidly spreading across countries, when MOOCs are raising their heads everyday to the point of even offering accreditation,  it is time to take these changes into more serious consideration through conversation and reflection. Each challenge will provide further opportunities for both students and educators, contributing to a more open world of knowledge.

References:

Gerstein, J., 2013, User Generated Education

Hill, P., 2012, Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View

Horn, M., 2012 Disrupting College – Video of Horn’s talk

Roscoria, T. (2013) 6 Challenges to Higher Ed Technology Adoption

Wiley, D.

Warmoth, B., 2012 Educause 2012: 5 ways online learning is disrupting education

Note:

If you would like to read more on OERs and other Open Access for Education,  and Change in Education, please visit, re-visit,  use, re-use, re-mix, re-vise and re-distribute!

Blurred Boundaries

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With a tool here, and a tool there,

And pretty  iPads all in a row”

If I were to change again the well known nursery rhyme, I would surely ask  how do  my learners learn?  Yet, when thinking of learning, what exactly is one referring to? What is considered knowledge?

Up to recently, knowledge was controlled and shaped by those in power – mostly by  university professors, journal editors, publishers and book reviewers. I say ” up to recently” because in postmodernism, knowledge is characterized

culturally and intellectually by a revolt against this control and by an assertion of different modes of cultural expression” (Pring, 2000).

Pring (2000) goes on to explain how this shift was caused by communications technology and how it frees one from restrictive practices. Additionally,  “Communications technology opens up other avenues for engaging with others in pursuit of knowledge” (Pring, 2000) thus providing alternative venues for learning.

This is relevant to bear in mind when reflecting on learning and learning processes today. Our postmodern world is characteristically eclectic, a constant flow of negotiation and re-negotiation of meaning, of understanding, of interpretation. It is through this process of of interaction that knowledge grows, and once again turning to Pring (2000), “Knowledge grows through the encouragement of of criticism, not through suppression” (123:2000).

As an educator I experience the blurred boundaries of learning and teaching; I am expected to provide knowledge of a particular subject, while at the same time, teach my students how to engage  and use specific digital technology. And this is the crux of the matter – whatever digital tools I may introduce in lessons are vehicles of learning, not only the tool itself. The digital tools I select serve both learning the subject matter as well as life-long skills. My boundaries blur as I daily consider appropriate pedagogy, content and digital technology.

I sometimes hear that students don’t need to blog, for instance, don’t need to use digital technology, that students will learn without tech, that learning how to use digital tech in the classroom is unimportant –  despite their lives being surrounded by digital technology. I often hear how students learnt in the past without the digital tools available today. And I question, for today is not the past. Education holds the  strands of the past with the stands of today,  providing knowledge and skills  for the future. If one is to engage students, then it should be with pedagogy which is appropriate for today and not only for the past.

In previous posts I mentioned iPads and elements of chaos. Change will often bring about elements of chaos and complexity. These changes affect all in education, especially when engaging with digital tech, as more than the 3 elements I mentioned above (pedagogy, content and technology), are involved. Precisely because of what tech enables us today, to be connected to others,  to openly exchange and pursue knowledge, this “Connectedness requires a distributed knowledge system; knowledge is not centrally located in a command and control centre; ” (Morrison, 2006). Possibly, it is this deep change of paradigm that provokes the concept of “disruption” in education. Personally, it is this element of connectedness which I feel lacking in my teaching practices.

On the one hand, I am in tune with a postmodern pedagogy; I am fully able in the field of content and a keen learner of digital tech (see CristinaSkyBox and Digital Delights for Learners as examples). I believe that literacy is not static and therefore teaching and engaging in digital literacies is fundamental today for the workforce of tomorrow. However, owing to my educational and cultural context (furthermore, cultural contexts should never be taken lightly nor underestimated), elements of connectedness are missing.

Yes, my learners engage by learning and creating with digital tools – both online tools and iPad apps. (Digital tools may not mandatory for learning but denying learners to access and use them is a breach in the purpose of education.)  There are many which may be adapted according to students’ needs, contexts, and content while  there is a wide choice to meet teachers’ teaching style.

Connecting. Connectedness. Connectivism. If literacy should not be regarded as static, then how can knowledge be accepted as static? It is precisely through connections that new ideas evolve, that creativity is fostered and new knowledge develops into something more tangible.

Perhaps it is time to stop focusing on lists of tools and apps. Perhaps it is time to focus instead on the transferable skills that these digital technologies enable and what is necessary to learn in order to use them.

Perhaps, it is time to live more comfortably, more at ease with the messy chaos of learning, accepting that knowledge has no centre, that knowledge is alive and constantly changing. And perhaps, that is what educators need to enable today in classrooms – a connection between content and skills (e.g. how to do research online, how to collaborate on projects online), bringing  more connectedness to classrooms, opening up windows of thought and collaboration to a generation living in a digitally connected world.

References and further reading:

Hall, I., 2012, Tools Are Just That

Mishra, P. & M.J. Koelher, 2006, Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A Framework for Teacher Knowledge

Morrison, K., 2006, Complex Theory and Education

Pring, R. 2000, Philosophy of Educational Research, Continuum, London-New York

Siemens, G., 2005, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Learning Mobility

Cordelia – Nothing

King Lear – Nothing!

Cordelia – Nothing.

King Lear – Nothing will come of nothing; Speak again.

Silence. Stillness.

Disconnection. Nothingness.

Having recently experienced a tech meltdown ( CristinaSkyBox), issues regarding the relevance of being connected, of teaching digital citizenship/identity, of engaging learners and teachers with technology for education, it is no surprise that concerns about mobility have been most on my mind.

It is never sufficient to explain how mobility needs to be integrated into classrooms. Mobility of being able to connect without firewalls, mobility to use mobile phones – above all, the mobility to inspire minds. In many institutions world over, the rule of no mobile phones in the classroom is still strongly preached and enforced.

Question: what exactly are educators afraid of?

Are they indeed concerned for their learners or the fact that their classrooms are dull, boring, lifeless?

Or,  is it the threat that a younger generation,  who is more tech-savy, has the power to dismiss the teacher who does not wish to update him/herself both technologically and pedagogically? Were I student today at school (and please do note that I am in fact currently a student as well), I would be on my mobile device throughout boring lessons. Why would I even want to attend school if I was not learning how I wanted to, how I needed to and above all ,not  be respected as a 21st century learner?

Mobility to learn is not just related to M-learning. Mobility to learn is our reality today with OER, Open Universities, MOOCs, Web 2.0, mobile devices and so very much more.

Mobility is an attitude. A state of mind. A state of learning.

Question: what right do “teachers” have to censor learning?

What right do “educators” who are unwilling to keep up with current pedagogical approaches, with the needs of their learners, with the demands of real life outside the classroom, have to maintain silence? To establish educational censorship?
Bauer (2012)  explains how “Today’s students aren’t interested in “going online” to get things done. Booting up, opening the browser, logging on, navigating to the task — they’ll do it if absolutely necessary. Students live in a text and tweet world now and are more likely to consume information and access services if they’re mobile-friendly.
Tinto, suggests that in order to maintain student retention at higher education, that structures need to be put into place which meet their needs. In his study Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College, Tinto raises several issues in regard to student success and retention and explains how:

Involvement is also an important condition for student learning. Even among students who persist, students who are more actively involved in learning, especially with others, learn more and show greater levels of intellectual development.

Tinto also stresses the need of not only shared knowledge but share knowing – and shared responsibility. This is put into practice through communities where students are required to collaborate with each other. Result?

” students spend more time-on-task, learn more, and persist more frequently than similar students in stand-alone and/or traditionally taught classrooms. Their involvement with others in learning within the classroom becomes the vehicle through which effort is enhanced, learning is enriched, and commitments to their peers and the institution are engendered. By being placed in a setting where students have to learn together in a collaborative fashion, everyone’s understanding and knowledge is enriched. As one student observed, “not only do you learn more, you learn better.” (Tinto, Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College,)

It is through digital and mobile technology that these successes occur.

Bauer highlights how “According to market research firm IDC, by 2015 more users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs. By not embracing mobile, institutions will not only miss an opportunity to communicate with their students, they will actually create an interaction barrier.”

Change comes slowly. Change does not happen in a vacuum. Change demands loss of fear and commitment. Bauer’s  (2012) results from a 2011 survey showed the following:

We were surprised to learn that students wanted more than just a handful of campus services on their mobile devices — they wantedeverything. The overwhelming majority wanted mobile access to view grades, check course schedules, and log in to the college’s learning management system, Blackboard. They also wanted access to essential services like the library database and course registration information, along with conveniences like dining menus and bus schedules.

The student survey also pointed out that a majority of the students felt that mobile apps were of high importance. It was clear that whatever we did with mobile, we needed to do it quickly. And in building our strategy, we needed to incorporate students in creating the vision – we couldn’t workshop something and pop it out on them. We needed their voices and ideas in our development efforts.”

Change. Change is embedded in life. Change should be embedded in education.

However, as Herrington & al (2009) note:

Despite the significant potential of mobile technologies to be

employed as powerful learning tools in higher education, their current

use appears to be predominantly within a didactic, teacher-centred

paradigm, rather than a more constructivist environment. It can be

argued that the current use of mobile devices in higher education

(essentially content delivery) is pedagogically conservative and

regressive. Their adoption is following a typical pattern where

educators revert to old pedagogies as they come to terms with the

capabilities of new technologies, referred to by Mioduser, Nachmias,

Oren and Lahav (1999) as ‘one step forward for the technology, two

steps back for the pedagogy’ (p. 758).

Barseghian (2012) recently pointed out:

The opportunity of using mobile devices and all of its utilities allows educators to reconsider: What do we want students to know, and how do we help them? And what additional benefit does using a mobile device bring to the equation? This gets to the heart of the mobile learning issue: beyond fact-finding and game-playing – even if it’s educational — how can mobile devices add relevance and value to how kids learn?

There’s not just one explanation. As mobile devices evolve and become ever more powerful and multi-functional, the answers will change. In the meantime, there are some things educators know for certain do make a big impact on learning.”

Finally,

“Because mobile devices are the new piece here, people want to know does it make a difference,” Pasnik said. “When we know that learning happens because of relationships, and we want to keep that richness. So the question of the value of a single piece like the mobile phone becomes reductive. You falsely are having to focus in one element, when in fact, learning happens because multiple elements are interacting with one another.” (Barseghian, 2012)

With learning in mind, I turn to Herrington & al (2009) who call one’s attention to authentic learning:

“Authentic learning situates students in learning contexts where they

encounter activities that involve problems and investigations reflective

of those they are likely to face in their real world professional contexts

(Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Herrington

and Oliver (2000) have identified nine characteristics of authentic

learning:

• authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used

in real-life

• authentic activities that are complex, ill-defined problems and

investigations

• access to expert performances enabling modelling of processes

• multiple roles and perspectives providing alternative solution

pathways

• collaboration allowing for the social construction of knowledge

• opportunities for reflection involving metacognition

• opportunities for articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be

made explicit

• coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times

• authentic assessment that reflect the way knowledge is asses in

real life.”

Mobility is real. Mobile learning is reality. So, again I ask, what right do those who are involved in education, dare dismiss mobility? Mobile phones, iPads/tablets, iPods are all useful learning tools. Learners connect with their devices – and through their day-to-day devices, become more open, more accepting of being in a classroom. Or must they only be in a classroom to do tasks and actually learn?

Hockly (2012) clearly explains how teaching/learning tasks may be carried out in the classroom or on “the go”. Even when an institution denies permission to use M-learning, there are so many creative, inventive ways for educators to guide learner on how to use their mobile devices. It is a question of taking advantage of the moment, of opening learning opportunities to students.

No. This lack is not because of tech. There are too many teachers, who by sticking to routine lesson plans, afraid of taking the untread path, fearful of losing “power”, do not take advantage of relevant learning moments. Which begs the question – isn’t that why students go to educational institutions? Aren’t they there to learn?

Many comments, such as the ones published here and here, are unacceptable. If one is involved in education, one has social, ethical and professional responsibilities. Educators need to keep up-dated. Educators need to connect with their learners, guide them, show them how they can use their devices to learn and not only send texts to each other.

In the words of Siemens (2012) in regard to higher education:

Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces.”

Changes. Economic, technological realities. It is not only at tertiary education where these changes should be taking place, but at all levels of education.

Mobility comes in many forms. Mobility is above all an attitude, a belief and practice of life.

References:

Barseghian, T,  (2012) Amidst a Mobile Revolution in Schools, Will Old Teaching Tactics Work?

Bauer, P. (2012) Mobile: It’s Time to Get Serious

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I., & Ferry, B. (2009). New technologies, new pedagogies: Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning. In J.Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (Eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies Mobile learning in higher education (pp. 1-14). Wollongong: University of Wollongong. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/

Hockly, N. (2012) in Mobile Tech, Nicky & Language Acquisition – IATEFL, Glasgow 2012

Siemens, G. (2012) The Future of Higher Education and Other Imponderables

Tinto, V.  Taking Student Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College

Further Reading:

10 Sites to use with Mobile Phones in Education

E-moderation Station

Mobile Devices Drive Creative Instruction

Top 50 Mobile Learning Resources