A Look At Education Technology And Social Media




A Look At Education Technology And Social Media

By David Matheson on January 25, 2014

Sir Ken Robinson points out in many of his presentations the importance of a new paradigm for education. He would claim the 19th Century Industrial model does not serve the needs of 21st Century students. The linked animation demonstrates the arguments well. It strikes that within this shifting paradigm there must be a period of exchange. We cannot close traditional schools on a Friday which contain straight rows of desks and books and reemerge Monday with new spaces, practices and mindsets like a butterfly emerging for the first time, a new creature, perfect and ready to take on the world. Just as physical classrooms cannot change overnight nor will teacher expectations and practices.

I am therefore left reflecting:
“How is the transition to the new social norms playing out in traditional rooms”

This afternoon I had a class of 16 and 17 year old young men in a traditional library space. It was the very last period, of the last Friday of formal classes for the year. The air of anticipation for both the weekend and the Christmas holidays was palpable. While there are still classes and examinations next week they knew there would be no more Fridays this year. The potential for Christmas craft making, class video viewing or internet sourced fluff like cat videos was immense yet the great diligence, great focus and great noise seemed incompatible with both the context and each other.

This cohort was actually 3 classes from 2 different courses totalling a little over 50 students combined to study similar material. The classroom learning activity and results are worth sharing.

Traditional Teaching

· The content was divided into 25 topics.

· Groups of 2 or 3 students as well as topics were selected by a lucky dip.

· Students had 2 periods to research the topic and produce a ½ page synopsis of the content.

· Those summaries were then to be made available to all other groups in a jigsaw style activity.

Technology Assisted Teaching

While nothing up to this point is particularly ground breaking and in fact perfectly suited the industrial style setting the next phase produced the real results.

· Armed with their ½ page summaries each group was asked to create a cloze passage out of it.

· The reaction of 17 year old men to being told to do an activity they did when they were 7 was less than enthusiastic.

· They were sent to a website which enabled coding of cloze passage activities for our LMS (Moodle).

· On completion of the coding they emailed the results to me for importing into a quiz.

· The product of their labours was a 25 part cloze passage activity covering immense ground and detail.

· All students were given 2 periods to work through the cloze activities on the LMS with strict instructions that if they could not define the jargon words that were missing; they were to research their meaning in the context of the course before moving on.

Social Media and Social Manners

What emerged in the next 2 periods was both amazing and confronting.

· Students preferred to share devices! In a time where 1 to 1 computing is becoming a must these students sat 3 or 4 to a screen by choice so they could discuss, argue and learn from each other.

· Students preferred to write collaborative summaries. Using google drive the student at the keyboard typed up the discussion and findings of the group. Interestingly they shared wider than their group partners and people on the other side of the room began interacting by posting notes and comments to the active document.

· Students were highly focussed and productive. In a time slot where any productivity and minimal chaos would be a win these students remained focussed for a full hour and had not sought to pack up until after the bell.

· Students made the teacher redundant. The hardest part of this period was staying out of the way and trying to not interrupt. Teachers seem to feel they must be explicitly teaching all of the time rather than allowing learning to evolve naturally.

· The students use of social tools and their social etiquette was natural, powerful and in direct conflict with the traditional library.

Traditionally bookwork was privately completed, assessed by teachers and when combined with the textbook was the only source of study for major examinations. In this context bookwork and notes were rarely shared with others, least of all other students you were in direct competition with for marks and ranks come exam time. The sense of collegiality in this space was amazing matched only by the significant noise. It struck me that this space traditionally held as the bastion of privacy and peace had been transformed.

Here, today, in the period most feared by teachers and most bemoaned by students, Sir Ken’s vision of natural, collaborative unstructured learning emerged.

The teacher was not on show.
The technology was not on show.
The teaching space was not on show.

Rather the natural human instinct to be social was on show; supported by the other elements getting out of the limelight.

Kids get it… how can we help colleagues to get to the same place? Any ideas?



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