The fun has to stop sometime

Playtime is officially over.

After spending several weeks testing out new technologies and applications, and generally messing around on my computer, the realisation hits me that I need to link these technologies to theories of learning.

So much for having fun.

But, of course, these learning technologies are of no use whatsoever if no learning is taking place. If we simply incorporate new found technologies into our teaching with little or no thought to its impact on the learners, then it could have a detrimental effect on our performance and results – ‘knowing how to use technology hardware and software is not enough to enable teachers to use the technology effectively in the classroom’ (Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010).  We need to find a way to marry our pedagogical principles with our acquisition of new skills and tools. Pedagogical design needs to link our teaching methods with the learning environment, curriculum and assessment (Biggs, 1999). If our teaching methods and learning environments change, then does our pedagogy? While this discussion will not be concentrating on the different models of learning, it is important to consider them in the context of the new technologies, or e-learning.

Mayes, and de Freitas (2010, Online) suggest that the pedagogy of e-learning is, like all other pedagogies, based around achieving learning outcomes. However, Lawless and Pelegrino (2007) argue that ‘teachers’ uses of technology are rarely linked to the student learning outcomes they are designed to facilitate’. As I have been introduced to new sites and applications, I have been keen to try them in my students learning environment. I have, perhaps, been a bit hasty, and guilty of not applying the learning technologies to maximise their impact. Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010) state that ‘knowing how to use technology hardware and software is not enough to enable teachers to use the technology effectively in the classroom.’

Concepts of behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism are all theories which are concerned with how a person learns (Siemens, 2005, Online). Each of these theories can utilise e-learning effectively and in different ways. It is, perhaps, better to consider e-learning as a way of evolving these concepts of learning – ‘Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age’ (Siemens, 2005, Online).What is important to understand is that the technology itself does not enhance these theories and move them into a digital age, but rather the teachers implementation of the technologies. Fisher (2006) argued that it is teachers that are the agents of change rather than the technologies they are using.

In the short period of time where I have been experimenting with some of the new technologies I have been introduced to, I feel that I have not yet had the confidence in my use of the technologies to implement effective changes and enhancements to my courses and modules. As confirmed by Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010), although knowledge of technology is necessary, it is not enough if teachers do not also feel confident using that knowledge to facilitate student learning. While I feel comfortable with negotiating the technologies themselves, implementing them into my teaching is a different task altogether. A major problem I faced when introducing new technology into my module is that it was met with scepticism or apathy from the students. Somekh (2008, p. 452) suggested that new technology ‘consistently destabilizes the established routines of classroom life including norms of time and space’. I put some of the blame on the timing of the implementation, as my students have now finished their studies for the summer. I remain hopeful that I can use the summer break to develop my pedagogy to embrace the technologies to implement at the start of the next academic year. While some of my experiments with new technologies have not had a great deal of impact on my students learning, this is something that experience and familiarity should help me to overcome in the future.

My goal is to develop my pedagogy to create a more student-centred approach – ‘Adopting a true learner-centred approach would imply treating each student as an individual case. In a sense this has always been the ultimate goal of educational technology: the achievement of individualised instruction’ (Mayes, and de Freitas, 2010, Online). At the very least, I aim to expand my knowledge to improve my pedagogy to allow my students to take control of their own learning. The new technologies can only help me with this.

 

References:

Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Ertmer, P. A. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich A.P. (2010) Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education 42:3 pp. 255–284

Lawless, K. A., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2007). Professional development in integrating technology into teaching and learning: Knowns, unknowns, and ways to pursue better questions and answers. Review of Educational Research, 77, pp 575–614.

Mayes, T. and de Freitas, S. (2010) JISC e-Learning Models Desk Study. Stage 2: Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models [Online]. Available: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/uploaded_documents/Stage%202%20Learning%20Models%20(Version%201).pdf [Accessed 10th May 2014]

Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age [Online.] Available: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm [Accessed 12th May 2014]

Somekh, B. (2008). Factors affecting teachers’ pedagogical adoption of ICT. In J. Voogt & G. Knezek (Eds.), International handbook of information technology in primary and secondary education (pp. 449–460). New York: Springer.

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