One primary issue arising from the tech-glut is how do contemporary teachers keep up with the pace and magnitude associated to profound technological change (Bajpai 2012). In most cases they cannot: “The toughest, ‘wicked’ challenges include the need to improve the teaching of complex thinking and ensuring students are co-designers of learning” (European Commission 2014 p1). But educational institutions should endeavour to provide in servicing for teaching staff to uphold core proficiencies in hardware and software (Bajpai 2012).
There is no doubt students of today are far more engaged in the learning process, especially so with the convergence of technology (Martin et al 2011). Students are able to collaborate using platforms which allow unfettered access to an array of tools associated with multi-media / social media, and are not as constrained by traditional linear learning (Horizon Report 2014). This is quite liberating as the onus of retentive knowledge acquisition becomes more of a student responsibility. Various studies have indicated when students acquire a sense of ownership, they are far more likely to succeed (Hattie 2010).
(Source CDW Report, 2011)
Students are demanding greater freedom from the restrictions imposed upon them by an antiquated ‘industrialised’, authority focused classroom setting (Horizon Report 2014). There is an obligation upon teachers to allow students to explore different pathways towards reaching a desired outcome. This also includes the redesign of classroom spaces to accommodate more fluid learning styles. The Cassandras will decry change as mentioned, labelling it derogatorily little more than ‘free range’ learning. However, their fear may have more to do with a fear of ambiguity (Weldon 2010). Students are not a sole entity in mastering this competency. Teachers must acclimatise themselves to a new role amongst the emergent technologies – that of mentors, advisors and facilitators.
There are web tools at various stages of development which are able to diminish the uncertainties of ambiguous learning. Semantic aware apps bring together relevant information on an area of study that would otherwise be invisible. This form of application accommodates students with varying levels of tolerance to ambiguity. A student is able to acquire an ontology based on their unique, specific needs.
With internet speeds increasing and the proliferation of mobile devices, micro courses are attracting a population of learners who do not desire formal recognition (Eades 2014) – their motivation springs compactness, cost effectiveness and upskilling (courses may include ‘how to use Twitter for education’, ‘how to use Google Scholar’, ‘how to buy a domain name…). TedTalks and Coursmos have both pioneered the micro emergent pathway.
Gamification is gaining credibility as a pedagogic tool for the classroom. It ‘nudges’ reluctant learners to become engaged in their studies, motivating students to seek rewards (badges, points…). Thus, the previously mundane task is transformed as it does not initiate a similar negative response as in a more public arena (Huang and Soman 2013). However, sceptics assert school work does not need to be packaged into entertainment. There is an obligation to teach children focused dedication and encourage students to continue working and not give up (Heffernan 2012).
Consequently teachers need to be courageous visionaries who are excited by the prospect of change. As President Roosevelt once said: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” So be it with education.
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