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WHAT’S UP? THE FUTURE OF THE EDTECH FROM THE TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE

Четверг 7 августа 2014

It’s no use denying the fact that the role of technology in our modern life is crucial. It penetrates all spheres of life and it’s become evident that it is the essential part of the state-of-the-art education as well.

 

настроение: creative

ключевые слова: EdTech, Digital Literacies, ICT, Flip Teaching, Blended Learning, British Council

город: Moscow

e-mail: mikesp87@mail.ru

 

It’s important to mention the idea suggested by a contemporary educator Sugata Mitra[1] who claims that the world’s greatest computer has always been in fact… the community of people. And no doubt there’s serious grain of truth in this: the technology shouldn’t be used just for the sake of it. There still should be pedagogy and methodology involved in ICT (Information and communications technology). I studied this idea in detail with a group of Russian teachers during the course provided by the British Council Moscow last year. It was called Digital Literacies and was led by professional trainers in the area of EdTech Gavin Dudeney[2] and Mark Pegrum[3]. In their book Digital Literacies written with Nicky Hockly[4](Pearson Education 2013) they present digital literacy as the fourth essential literacy of our society alongside “the 3 Rs”: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Various digital literacies bring along new horizons to our communication landscape via new web 2.0 tools and social media and it is becoming more significant than ever for language teaching to encompass a wide palette of literacies which go well beyond traditional print literacy.

The situation with EdTech in Russia is quite promising: many schools are equipped with modern computers and IWBs, there are conferences going on about using ICT in the classroom, blended learning and various forms of e-learning[5]. However, if we have a look at the results of the research project in Technology-enhanced teaching led by the British Council in our country in 2011-2012[6] we will eventually come to the conclusion that there’s still a long way to go in the perfection of technology usage. This long-term research project was conducted in Moscow and Moscow region and was supplemented with classroom observation from other regions of Russia as well. The main goal of the project was to research exactly why some teachers are able to implement technology in a consistent, principled and productive manner and to formulate a possible way forward for encouraging and helping to promote wider-scale adoption of technologies in all sectors.

Surprisingly (or not?) the project concludes that it is individuals who are the main driving force of the use of technologies in teaching. On the one hand, many teachers avoid technologies for the reasons such as infrastructure, technical support or connectivity issues. On the other hand, a large number of teachers using technologies creatively and consistently often work in isolation. These individuals often provide their own infrastructure, learn the skills they need to maintain the equipment they use and develop themselves through contacts, courses and online CPD opportunities. So, it turns out that in the world of online communication and social web our teachers really lack… a culture of sharing. What can be the reason for that? Well, it’s hard to say immediately but this fact definitely gives some food for thought.

As it had been mentioned above, teachers shouldn’t use the technology just because it exists. For example, Scott Thornbury[7] in his blog claims that if teachers understand the proper principles of language learning, informed by psychology and other fields, then technology becomes superfluous[8]. Reflecting on this idea, Graham Stanley[9] made the list of the Five Ws[10] — the questions teachers should put to prove their reasons for using EdTech are sound. Here is the list of these questions:

Why use the technology?

Here we as teachers need to make sure our learning process will really be enhanced by using the technology.

Who is the technology best for?

We should think about such factors as our learners’ age, level of knowledge, discipline issues. Moreover, our own tech experience is a must for an effective lesson. Additional teacher training might be an issue here as well. Here I can’t but agree with Connie Yowell saying: “We live in a society with fast paced changes in economy, social lives, how we engage in community. Society is changing more rapidly than it ever has before. Meanwhile our education system is organized to prepare people for the 1950s.” (Connie Yowell, 2007).

What is the technology best used for?

It is worth considering if there is another technology that can be used instead that may better suit the learning objectives and learner’s needs.

Where should it be used?

Here we need to consider classroom management issues and ways of organizing students’ work in the classroom or online.

When should the technology be used?

This point is essential for effective lesson planning and the place of the lessons using EdTech in the curriculum.

How should the technology be used?

This extra issue is like a quintessence of all the previous points as above all it is the aim to effectively incorporate the technology into your class that should drive teachers to using EdTech.

Having reflected on these questions, let’s talk about the phenomena in EdTech that are in the trend nowadays.

Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teacher offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing.

Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path or pace. The infographic on http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/ shows that there is a shift from Lecture Today to Activity today. And no doubt learning through activity is the main goal for creating effective learning environment.

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. This, in turn, may be the key to successful adaptive testing.

Embodied learning is a new initiative in the field of interactive and game-based learning, in which learning content is combined with physical movement. This approach (which originates from the TPR method) is fueled by devices such as a VR helmet Oculus Rift or various Haptics bringing physical sensation to modern touch screens.

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage users in solving problems in education. This approach helps make the classroom competitive again. Here we can name Class Dojo – behaviour reward system which concentrates on creating positive atmosphere in the class rather than discipline and punishment. Foursquare is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices where users can get points by checking-in at different venues. Lyrics Training is a competitive system of learning and improving students’ foreign languages skills through the music videos and lyrics of their favorite songs.

Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. The gadget using this technology is the upcoming Google Glass which is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD).

Wearable technology like Google Glass, iWatch and foldable screens are about to transform the way we deal with gadgets and their role in education.

Mobile-assisted language use (MALU) is a subset of both Mobile Learning (m-learning) and Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) which has evolved to support students’ language learning with the increased use of mobile technologies such as mobile phones, MP3 and MP4 players, PDAs, smartphones and tablet PC. In fact, today the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach has never been more accessible within the classroom. With MALU, students are able to access language learning materials and to communicate with their teachers and peers at any time, anywhere. For example, English Central (http://www.englishcentral.com) offers activities on videos of different language levels and Infinite English (http://www.infinite-english.com/) allows to create exercises automatically on any content you need.

One of the ways to deal with the issue of dealing with demand (e.g. in language learning) can be the usage of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which is aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education. On the other hand, there is an alternative idea of SOLE (Self-Organised Learning Environment) suggested by Sugata Mitra.

Such kind of leap in demand has led to the phenomenon of technological convergence – the tendency for different technological systems to evolve toward performing similar tasks. This is the reason why modern gadgets tend to effectively accumulate many various functions. What we see today is the process of digital convergence – the convergence of the information technology, telecommunications, consumer electronics, and entertainment industries into digital media conglomerates. As an example one can observe the Padagogy Wheel[11] demonstrating the idea of integrating iPads into Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy which includes several students’ cognitive skills: remembering — understanding — applying — analyzing — evaluating — creating. On the one hand, convergence technologies empower users: anyone with a computer or an internet connection can contribute to or author this information space, thereby participating in a democratic and collective intelligence that is, in its way, the true manifestation of a global village. On the other hand, convergence dis-empowers users as they find themselves at the mercy of emerging convergence monopolies.[12]

The variety of resources nowadays demands new organization forms both for students and teachers. This can be achieved by applying the ideas of social constructivism. Glenn Finger claims that “[Social constructivism] holds that learning is a socially enacted process; that is, constructivism + others = social constructivism.” (Glenn Finger et al., 2007). I can’t but agree that it is beneficial for teachers to look for ways to connect with other professionals, to collaborate with them effectively, and solve problems through social media like social nets (Facebook, Vkontakte, Twitter, Linkedin, Wikispaces), professional communities (Cambridge English teacher, teachingenglish.org.uk), Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

It’s important to mention that some new possibilities for sharing teaching ideas have emerged. Self-publishing among teachers is becoming more and more popular: now it’s possible to avoid tricky issues with publishing houses and even collect money for the publication via crowdfunding. There’s also a shift from full-length books to reusable learning objects which provide smaller, self-contained, re-usable units of learning.

So far, the advantages of using technology in EdTech are immense. However, there are still some serious issues worth discussing and taking into consideration. There are issues of copyright and Internet freedom. The amount of digital skills is rising and they are becoming more sophisticated although not all users are able to catch up with this process. There are difficulties in accessibility to the technology foe many groups of people because of various reasons. There exists the special term digital divide which illustrates an economic inequality between groups, broadly construed, in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of ICT. And certainly there are a lot of people who are disillusioned about the big promises EdTech makes and the disruptive changes which transform their lives.

I’m sure that using EdTech has unlimited prospects for effective education in the future. The trends in this area should be studied thoroughly and discussed in order to apply them successfully. I think that every teacher is able to try to adapt to the changing society and give this state-of-the-art area a go. The result will most likely be worth an effort: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” (Les Brown).

List of abbreviations and shortenings:

ICT — Information and Communications Technology
EdTech — Education Technology
IWB — Interactive Whiteboard
E-learning — Electronic Learning
M-learning — Mobile Learning
CPD — Continuing Professional Development
VR — Virtual Reality
AR — Augmented Reality
TPR — Total Physical Response
OHMD — Optical Head-Mounted Display
GPS — Global Positioning System
MALU — Mobile-Assisted Language Use
CALL — Computer-assisted language learning
PDA — Personal Digital Assistant
MOOC — Massive Open Online Course
SOLE — Self-Organised Learning Environment
BYOD — Bring Your Own Device
LMS — Learning Management System
PLN — Personal Learning Networks

[links&resources]

[1] Sugata Mitra – Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England. He is best known for his Hole in the Wall experiment, and widely cited in works on literacy and education.
[2] Gavin Dudeney has worked in education for the past 24 years, as a teacher, materials developer, IT manager and web/user interface designer.
Until the end of 2003 he held two posts: the first as Head of the New Technologies Department at International House Barcelona and the second as Lead Developer for the online training centre Net Languages. In 2003 he set up The Consultants-E with Nicky Hockly.
He is a past coordinator of the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group and also past editor of the SIG newsletter. In 2007 he was elected Honorary Secretary of IATEFL, and in 2011 he became the first Chair of the Electronic Committee (ElCom).
His publications include: The Internet & The Language Classroom (CUP 2000, 2007), How to Teach English with Technology (Longman 2007, with Nicky Hockly – winner of the International House Ben Warren Award 2008), Digital Literacies (Pearson Education 2013, with Nicky Hockly and Mark Pegrum) and Going Mobile (Delta Publishing 2014 (forthcoming), with Nicky Hockly) and he has also written a chapter for a book on Higher and Further Education in Second Life (with Howard Ramsay).

[3] Mark Pegrum is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of Western Australia, where he teaches in the areas of e-learning and m-learning. His teaching has been recognised through Faculty and University Excellence in Teaching Awards, as well as a 2010 national Australian Learning & Teaching Council (ALTC) Excellence in Teaching Award. His research focuses on mobile technologies and digital literacies. His recent books include: Brave New Classrooms: Democratic Education and the Internet, co-edited with Joe Lockard, and published by Peter Lang in 2007; From Blogs to Bombs: The Future of Digital Technologies in Education, published by UWA Publishing in 2009; and Digital Literacies, co-authored with Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly, and published by Pearson in 2013. He has recently finished writing a new book exploring the use of mobile technologies around the world for teaching and learning language and literacy; entitled Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures, it will be published by Macmillan in 2014. He is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, a member of the Editorial Boards of Language Learning & Technology and System, and a member of the Review Panel of the International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning. He currently teaches in Perth, Hong Kong and Singapore and has given presentations and run seminars on e-learning and m-learning in Australia and New Zealand, East and Southeast Asia, and the UK and Europe.
[4] Nicky Hockly is Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E and has worked in the field of face-to-face and distance education since 1987, as a teacher, teacher trainer and consultant. She holds an MA in TEFL from the Universidad de Granada (Spain), a CTEFLA (1987) and a DTEFLA (1991). She gives seminars, in-service workshops and teacher training courses for practising language teachers all over the world. She is also involved in materials development, for both EFL course books and online learning. She is currently joint Co-ordinator of the IATEFL Learning Technologies Special Interest Group.
Nicky has written many articles on education, technology and online learning, and she is a plenary speaker at conferences all over the world. She currently writes a regular column in English Teaching Professional Magazine on uses of ICT for teachers (2009 – present), and another regular column for the English Language Teaching Journal (ELTJ) on technology for the language teacher. She is a well-known author of methodology books on the application of technology to language teaching. She is currently writing a book on handheld and mobile learning (with Gavin Dudeney), due for publication in 2014, and is also working as a technology consultant with the Cambridge University Press Cambridge English Teacher development and training platform.

[5] The issue is covered in press and online, e.g. through the media portal and e-magazine e-Learning World (elw.ru)
[6] The final report of the project presented by Gavin Dudeney may be accessed freely online: http://www.britishcouncil.org/az/russia-english-technology-enhanced-teaching-by-gavin-dudeney.pdf
[7] Scott Thornbury is an internationally recognized academic and teacher trainer in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT). He teaches on an on-line MA TESOL program for the New School in New York.
[8] http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/t-is-for-technology/
[9] Graham Stanley — Project Manager, Plan Ceibal English. Author of Language Learning with Technology (CUP, 2013) & Digital play: computer games and language aims (Delta, 2011).
[10] http://blog-efl.blogspot.ru/2011/05/better-five-ws-than-because-its-there.html
[11] http://www.unity.net.au/allansportfolio/edublog/?p=874
[12] http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writ8/index.php/perspectives/convergence-technology

 

1 Comment »

Светлана Тарасенко:

Thank you for the List of Abbriviations

7 августа 2014 | 18:09
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