Saturday, July 5, 2008

PL 14/08: Instant web

Filed under: education, LATINA — plinius @ 9:30 am

The cost of computers continues to fall.

High tide in Venice …

Schools and colleges, students and educators, are sliding into an environment where everybody has instant access to the web – everywhere and all the time.

As a teacher I now have two options. I can try to oppose the tide – or try to rise with the waters that gush in.

Digital teaching and learning

I’ve been teaching with the web since 1993.

But it is only now that its full impact is visible. Finally, mature technology and a strong software environment is in place.

The choice is clear: adapt or resist.

I can try to keep the new technologies away from my classroom, at least, so that I can continue teaching as before. Or I can accept the new environment as a condition. The latter means a lot of work. I have to develop new forms of teaching and a new understanding of learning.

When the water rises, some people build higher and higher dikes. Others build larger and better boats.

A new environment

At LATINA the OUC Learning Centre has equipped every participant with a portable computer. We have wireless access throughout the building. The teacher’s machine is of course connected to a video projector. Our class room has a smartboard as well as a whiteboard.

All course materials are published on a local WordPress blog platform. All students have been introduced to blogging and have created their own WordPress blogs. We work in a digital encironment where WordPress is integrate with the Google platform – using Google Search, Google Reader, Google Translate; Google Docs and Picasa (both locally and on the web).

Both students and teachers now have easy access to cell phones and digital cameras – usually included in the phones. For more demanding work with sound and video we can draw on the equipment and the helpful technical staff of our audio-visual centre. At the same time we have access to all the resources of the web – including pictires (Flickr, …) and videos (YouTube, …).

From reproduction to production

This rich material environment is new.

The tools allow new forms of teaching and learning. In the old system, teaching meant transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. Learning was reproduction. In the new environment, we are surrounded by knowledge. Here learning means original production – and teaching means to support the production process.

Digital teaching and learning should not be identified with digital technology. University professors teach calculus, Latin or Chinese history – not blackboards, chalk or overhead projectors. But they depend on the traditional technologies of teaching. A lack of chalk is a nuisance. A broken light bulb is a catastrophe.

At the moment, our students must learn to operate the tools before they can focus on production of content. In a few years, they will have learned the basic technical skills before they sign up for our courses.

LATINA depends on digital technology. But its purpose is to explore practical ways of teaching and learning – in an environment where we can take universal access to digital tools and texts for granted.






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