Thursday, May 31, 2007

Technology & young adults

I have just come off a couple of energising weeks of teaching apprentices plus several good teaching sessions with my full time students this week. At the end of each teaching day, I catalogued my informal findings about the use of technology amongst apprentices (these ones were in their third & last block course) and full time students.
An example is that all the apprentices had heard of Skype and several have used it but none have it available at home (only 30% had ready access to computers at home).

A couple of days ago, George Siemens posted his thoughts on using Facebook for enhancing student learning, who writes:-
"As educators, we are often drawn to tools and spaces that have a high level of activity. If everyone has a mobile phone, we explore ways to teach with the phone. Or a large percentage of our student population has a Facebook account, we start looking for ways to use Facebook for teaching. I'm not sure our learners always agree with our urge to use their tools of communication for our goals of teaching and learning. It's a challenging line to walk - to what degree do we try and educate in the spaces in which our learners exist...or to what degree do we want our learners to come to our space (school, LMS)? Libraries and Facebook: "More librarians, however, felt that Facebook should serve as a space exclusively for students and that librarians, professors, administrators, police, and other uninvited folks should keep out." "

Plus I also attended a lunch time seminar given by one of our CPIT staff, Dr Micheal Edmonds, on why students choose to study chemistry. He surveyed year 13 school students and year 1 University of Canterbury students. Over 300 students returned the survey. One of the things he looked into was how students ‘studied’ chemistry. The use of the internet & DVDs was one category. Less than 50% of the first year university students used these digital resources to study chemistry.

All of which concurs with my informal surveys. Student / apprentices use technology (especially mobile phones) a great deal. However, technology use is focused on their leisure and social activities. Students with mp3 players use it to listen to music, NOT to podcasts of their lectures. They will use their PCs to play games, download music etc. but NOT to surf the internet for the latest trends in chocolate design.

So how can we change things? Educators need to first become familiar with the technology in order to see the possibilities. Then, they need to model the use of the technology. For instance, I had a laptop with internet access in the bakery on the day the apprentices were working on their chocolate ‘show pieces’. I showed them several sites with good photos & articles on chocolate work & examples of chocolate showpieces. The showpieces produced varied (as usual) in standards but the apprentices did get the message about layout & the need to be very clean in their displays. Also, several confirmed that they would look at the resources again in their leisure time. If I had provided the links & asked the apprentices to look at them the day before the class, the number who would actually do it would be small. The ones who would make the effort would be the ones with a passion, a burning desire to learn / improve / be better then the other.

I see that the key for me is to inculcate passion so that students become self-directed. Then everything, including the use if technology to further enhance one’s own professional development becomes easy. As a tutor, I then just need to provide the ideas and resources, the rest is done by the individual. The hard work is in igniting the passion!


Leigh Blackall said...

Hey Selena :)

For a moment there I thought you were going to conclude NOT to use technology!!

The social and leisurely uses of ICTs at present is (IMO) just the first iterance of our society coming to terms with the tech. You know how when you are shown something technically new and you might simply play with it to get to know it? Children certainly do this, for the very young it is practically all they do.

I think that is what we are doing - still playing with the tech. Posting silly videos to YouTube, socialising and playing games... soon I feel - as teachers start to become more comfortable with these technologies (and get their playing over and done with) we can all get down to some more serious business (not to lose sight of the playing though :)

Leigh Blackall said...

btw, I hope you'll make contact with the cookery teachers down here at Otago Polytechnic. They have started a course blog and are publishing videos to go with it! I've shown them how to produce videos for iPod and some mobile phones... I think they're pretty excited by the possibilities...

Selena said...

Hi Leigh,

thank you for bringing up a valid point plus the contact with the cookery tutors at Otago. Will get in contact with them.

Also, I think that as teachers we have a responsibility to try to enhance learning in as many ways as possible. Some teachers have a very long way to go in coming to grips with the use of ICT. Therefore the teachers who have a better sense of the possibilities for ICT to create better learning opportunities need to work hard at evangelising!

All the best, Selena