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Twenty-first-century e-learning: are the dreams ... - Saffron Interactive

Twenty-first-century e-learning: are the dreams ... - Saffron Interactive

Ever since an ancient

Ever since an ancient guru used a stick in the sandto emphasise a point, humans have used whatevertools or technologies they could to augment thepurely oral dimension of learning. A classroomrepresents the blending of physical space with theoral. A class supported by prior reading blends thetechnology of the textbook with the oral. And soon. Great learning methods have always blendedthe physical world with the virtual world of ideasand imagination.The term ‘blended learning’ is also used torefer to the combination of face-to-face (f2f)and electronic delivery, which really shouldn’tbe anything special. You get that combinationwhenever you support f2f teaching with webresources (especially now that VLEs are more orless universal, for higher education at least) or whenyou build a meeting into something like an OpenUniversity distance learning course. Instead, whenwe talk about blended learning, it should be interms of combining formal and informal learning,or otherwise combining different approaches tolearning which meet different learning styles andstrategies among students.Rethinking the teachingand learning modelWhat we need now in adult education and trainingis to put our best minds onto the problem of howto deploy digital technology effectively. This willhappen through a combination of market-driven,entrepreneurial initiatives, typically through smallersoftware developers. It will also happen throughinvestment in research and development, notonly by government but also by large educationalproviders, media companies and inventors insideand outside of academia.We need to throw out the old models of computerbasedtraining, such as page turning e-books,symbolising the most extreme form of transmissivelearning. We need to focus instead on approacheswhich promote high-engagement learning,particularly those which can exploit the fullpotential of social networking and Web 2.0.This shift is also going to be driven by generation Yentering the workplace, with a completely new setof expectations of how to deal with information.We don’t know for certain, but generation Y’spropensity towards individuality plus the pressuresof a recession may well imply a new set of ideasabout the work/life balance and how e-learning forpeople in work might be deliveredAnother key issue is information literacy and ITskills within the workplace. How to encouragepeople to go beyond the first hit in Google orWikipedia is a really big issue for people interestedin information literacy in universities, and we getthe impression that many employers haven’t reallygrasped the importance of this. Employees needto develop more sophisticated skills in recognisingwhen resources are authoritative and in criticallyevaluating their context in order for technology tobe used in effective learning.The silver bulletOne of the repeated mistakes of technologicaldeterminism is assuming that simply becausea technology is invented or evolved or refinedor useful to a few people, then that technologyrepresents an unparalleled opportunity forinnovation and improvement. This mindset hasbeen common in education and training, partlybecause of the importance of education andtraining to society, their enormous budgets whenmeasured in aggregate, and the belief that thosebudgets are not always effectively deployed. Addin educational administrators and heads of training,who may not be the most technologically literatecadres, and technological innovators, who are asexcellent in sales as in technology (if not more so),and there is a recipe for expensive disaster.If anything, the lesson of technological innovationover the last 50 years has been that we should beconstantly experimenting with new ideas in thehope that at least some of them will serendipitouslyprove useful, because you can predict neithertechnology trends nor what technology will catchusers’ imagination.Advance, © Saffron Interactive 2009 5

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