Earlier last month I attended the JISC Innovating e-learning online conference 2011 and one of the key-note speeches focused on the future of education. The discussion focused around technology specifically and how much this influences change within education.
In 1913 Thomas Edison predicted that “books will soon be obsolete in the schools as it is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture.” Today there the e-book reader presents a new threat to books but Edison has provided us with a word of caution when making grand predictions.
The session highlighted that whilst we may think some technologies have developed quickly and appeared suddenly on the scene in reality this is not always the case. For example the image of a tablet device can be traced back to 1974 when it was first discussed long before the iPad became a familiar sight. Traditionally there has been a gap in adoption of technology within education. However just because technology exists does not necessarily mean we need to jump on the bandwagon.
This is in contrast to my own experiences – when I was fairly new to the library world I remember being encouraged to utilise technology and not miss out on developments. Seize the moment – technology was developing at such a speed and we needed to keep up with these developments. Whilst this was inspiring it can also lead to a loss of focus and I did in some cases find myself using technology for technologies sake as oppose to taking into account any pedagogical considerations. In addition more generally this approach does not always work – for example many institutions jumped on the Second Life bandwagon in recent years and if you visit some of the SL islands you find an empty resource. In addition students did not generally want to attend second life. However before these technologies are completely written off not all have had this experience. For example SL has been used to simulate situations for midwifery training at Nottingham Trent University.
The talk given at the on-line conference acknowledged that whilst there can be resistance to change within education – “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” (Alan Kay) Therefore learning sciences have a pivotal role to play in the development of this area. The idea of blended learning was also discussed – recent studies had found that those students engaged with online learning together with face to face learning improved their performance – this approach provides additional learning time and resources.
The session highlighted findings from the recent Horizon 2011 report including the different levels of impact approaches to technology had. There was an emphasis on the personal learning experience – some suggesting that there will be a move away from VLEs towards more personal learning environments. In addition the idea that network learning has always existed but technology has led to an increase in the scale in which networking can take place. In recent times the way technology has been used has also changed – from disseminating information to collaborating and co-constructing information. The session ended with an analysis of this ‘new ecology of learning. Some features of this ecology that were mentioned are highlighted below.
I think that these are exciting times (with regards to creative possibilities supported by (supplementary) technological developments) and that whilst there is always a degree of caution when considering how to adopt technology, will it be relevant, will it last the test of time – one thing is clear – technology can help to provide access, creativity and collaboration in new and innovative ways.