Monday, November 22, 2010

We have the technology and the pedagogy, but will education change?

I think that there is little doubt we have the technology (an example extolling the ipad from Graeme Brown – Handheld Learning) and mobile learning is about here (as per Oz/NZ Horizonreport for 2010 via Derek Wenmouth’s blog).
We have also have the pedagogy pitched about right – inclusiveness, participative learning etc. need for critical thinking skills etc. and bringing it together with constructive or curriculum alignment and sumarised in this slideshare (Biggs & Tang, 2008) 
But are our classrooms, institutions and IT departments ready?? As the horizon report summarises,

‘even when technologies are strongly promoted, professional development is still crucial’ and ‘there is a mismatch between pedagogy and the design of emerging technologies’ – which is becoming less of a challenge as with say the ipad’.

Two technologies to become mainstream within a years are ebooks and mobiles.

Ebooks are not pervasive in our polytechnic environment. Many of our students and some of our tutors are not ‘natural’ readers. There is also resistance to reading ‘off the screen’ with many people  printing off items to read, rather than reading on screen and storing the digital copies for later reference. I have lost count of the number of people I have introduced pdf readers with annotation tools (like FoxIT) but few have taken up the challenge. True, there is a learning curve and the need to relearn years of acquired skill through reading hard copies. However, the advantages of digital make the effort worthwhile. I now find articles easily, whereas in the past, I would have to fossick into my card catalogue and hunt down the article either in the library or through boxes of printouts. Now, most journal articles are archived in various folders under the references section of each project. I can use Endnotes to find the article and once the article found, use the search function on the pdf reader to find the relevant section. Usually takes all of 2 minutes compared to at least 15 – 20 minutes for the manual option or a couple of days for the library option if the article is at the university.

For the adoption of mobiles, concerted efforts to bring down the cost of mobile web access will be required OR better access to WiFi within out institutions. Without either, access to the www will be stymied and that makes mobile access slightly superfluous. The small screen of pdas, ipod touches and phones have always been a barrier to the uptake of mobile. Tablets like the ipad make web surfing a joy and reading off an ipad is much more 'book like' although annotation etc. needs to again be learnt.

So will need to work on both the above. An interactive text book approach using the advantages provided by tablets will be an interesting way to tap into both ebook and mobile technologies. The pedagogy underpinning the project will be aspects of using the interactive text book as a resource for both constructive and participative learning. So something wot work through and investigate more deeply.