Thursday, August 19, 2010

Digital Learner Research: my thoughts

( originally posted on ICTology, imported in September/15)

When I first started teaching in the Faculty of Education, I wanted to design my course (I teach the educational technology course) to meet the needs of my students; teacher candidates in Manitoba. The province was also implementing a new initiative called "Literacy with ICT", which called for teachers to infuse ICT into their classrooms. There was, of course, much written in popular literature about Gen Y, or the 'digital natives', this was useful for motivating and inspiring teachers to change, but was it true? What was the actual competency and knowledge about ICT that my students brought to the program? There was also some suggestion that the ed. Tech course be discontinued and that ICT be part of other courses, after all, the students were all "tech-savvy". Glenn and I decided to investigate what our student's actually used technology for, and how they saw themselves in terms of competency in certain areas.

photo from:
The major thing I take from our results so far (year 1 of a planned 3 year study) is that GenY is overgeneralized and,  while they do exhibit a high degree of comfort with technology, there is such a wide variation and depth of skill, that assuming that our students are ready to wisely and effectively integrate ICT into their teaching is a dangerous premise.  If we expect teachers to make effective and thoughtful use of ICTs in teaching and learning in a pedagogically sound way, then we can not simply assume they have a wealth of knowledge about technology and send them on their way. Our results indicate differences, not only in generations, but in gender. No doubt a person's  interests and background play an important role in technology use as well. If we assume our students are as knowledgeable and savvy as the popular literature says, then we risk leaving some behind, add barriers to learning of others and gloss over vital concepts. Good teachers take into account individual differences and needs as much as possible, this applies to ICT skills as well as learning preferences.

(please refer to the previous post for our presentation at the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do You Know the Way to San Jose? :Reflections on a road trip.

This post is about a recent 3 week trip I took, it even contains some comments related to ICT & education!

In July, I presented (along with a colleague) at the "Emerging Technologies for Online Learning" conference in San Jose, California. The presentation was called "Digital Misconceptions: Implications for teaching and learning", you can find out more about it here.

I chose to drive to San Jose (with my wife), then up the California coast up through Seattle into B.C. then home through Edmonton after a visit with my son & his family. The journey was memorable for many reasons. First, we saw some amazing scenery, starting with prairie, the edge of the badlands in North Dakota and Montana, to the Mountains and hot springs in Yellowstone, to salt flats near Salt Lake City, the Nevada desert, rolling foothills, vineyards, Giant Redwoods, the rocky Pacific coast and the mighty Rockies in B.C. and Alberta. It is humbling to see the raw beauty of our continent. We also saw temperatures from 40 C in Billings and in Nevada, to 7 C up high in Yellowstone Park to a chilly 16 C in San Francisco. On a technology related note, it is amazing how slow hotel internet is, even in the heart of Silicon Valley!

Some photos from along the way (top: Yellowstone, Nevada desert, Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Redwood; bottom: salt flats, Pacific coast, Golden Gate, Apple HQ):

While in California, the number of homeless people struck me, probably because of the nicer weather, although we have plenty in Canada, too. I guess it was because they were so visible, around the hotel in San Jose, at rest stops, on the streets of San Francisco and Eureka, it affected me more than I thought. It was difficult to see so many in need in such a place of wealth. I don't know the solution, but we must try, even if it is giving to food banks or donating to shelters. So many get a raw deal in life, I believe we must take responsibility for ourselves, but some people just need a helping hand.

Outside the hotel in San Jose (the Fairmont) was a sculpture and part of it was the plaque with a quote about education. The sculpture was in honour of Ernesto Galarza. The quote (one of several on the monument) is one worthy of consideration, we must constantly remember that education is for the learner, not the adults who too often hold all the power.

We stayed a few nights at Mt. Robson Park in B.C. in a small cabin with an amazing view of the largest peak in the Canadian Rockies. We had no TV, no cell signal, no Internet, just nature and time to read, play cards and enjoy nature. It was hard to do without the  trappings of modern life, I would not want to go without for long, but it was nice to unplug awhile. I recommend some unplugged time for all of us, we need time to relax, see the world, slow down and enjoy life! Well, not much here about technology, just some thoughts from a great road trip and a reminder that we need balance, while technology is part of our world and we can't go back (do we want to?), we must not let it control us, so take a break, look around, take a road trip!
Mt. Robson from 'my' cabin @ Mt Robson Lodge. Photos are nice, but nothing beats being there!