In the meantime we communicate through the web. They continue course work locally, document it through blogs and Twitter, and attend on-line lectures every fortnight (through Adobe Connect).
The note below is a reflection on the role of practice in this kind of blended learning process.
– Since this training is practical rather than theoretical, we emphasize the role of practice with the tools. Theory is definitely not absent, but we try to make it present within the practice itself (“talking while we walk”) rather than something separate (“talking about walking”).
The workshop in Oslo will also have a practical focus : our (and Unesco’s) aim is to support e-learning by doing it ourselves (hands-on practice) and by showing interested colleagues – through realistic demonstrations – how they could start integrating e-learning tools and techniques into their own teaching practice.
Crossing the river
In Ramallah, both participants and instructors stressed the need for self-directed learning. A training course can help people cross the river that separates new teaching models from old teaching models. But you have to explore the new landscape by your own efforts.
I sometimes compare digital training with language study. Most people need six months to a year of full-time study (800 to 1600 hours) to become reasonably fluent in a new language. Some basic greetings, words and expressions can be learnt in a week. But you don’t know French or Chinese or Arabic after one week. To really master a new language, with its rich idioms and its classical literature, takes several or even many years
Students may follow regular university courses – but still have to work many many hours on their own. Others must use their spare time. The same is true of “the digital language”.
As a teacher in our regular programs I had to learn about e-learning by practicing e-learning. This was a slow and gradual process, introducing one new tool at a time. We started with HTML, in a training program for working librarians in 1993, eighteen years ago. Now touch screens, iPads and other mobile media are entering higher (and lower) education.
The LATINA program is rather different, since we introduce a bundle of tools – with a corresponding bundle of teaching methods – at the same time. In 2008, when LATINA started, ICT had come far enough for an integrated rather than a step-wise approach. We assume that participants will pick what they like – and test it out for themselves.
The vast advances in cheap and mobile computing means that the e-learning process can be speeded up. Even a country like India can start thinking about radical change based on cheap tablet computers. As the cost of hardware decreases, the role of teaching methods becomes more visible. Buying low-cost computers is not a difficult task. Changing the way teachers practice their skills is much harder. LATINA represents a pedagogical concept – a way of working with learners under current technical conditions – rather than a technological approach to education.
In Norway, the government is a strong supporter of e-learning and social media. But are the planners blogging and twittering? Only a few are visible in the public sphere. Their message is: do as I say – not as I do. That makes it easier for teachers to drag their feet.
At the moment I guess less than ten percent of our teachers follow the government’s advice because they support e-learning. Several thousand teachers are members of Del og Bruk (“Share and Use”), which is a grassroot network of “digital teachers”. They represent the front line. The rest teach in their accustomed ways. They may use computers here and there, but they do not integrate them into their mode of teaching.
In our discussions about schools and teachers in Palestine, we heard that most teachers had to struggle with large classes, low pay and limited training. Such conditions make change difficult. That does not mean impossible, however. Many organizations have developed innovative teaching methods for even the poorest countries in Africa. Cheap ICT is adding new and powerful tools for educational change. But there are no simple solutions available. Doing change – or walking the walk – is always a matter of political will combined with practical cooperation – under the concrete conditions of the village, the city, the region or the country.
The transition to e-learning can not be stopped. The difficulties we face today will be forgotten twenty years from now, I assume. Our task (LATINA, Unesco, participants, supporters) is to make the process less troubled: easier, cheaper and more enjoyable.
In Oslo, we will build on what the participants have mastered and produced during the first session in Gaza/Ramallah and during the distance learning period between the two face-to-face sessions. Developing a detailed, activity-oriented plan for your future workshop in October is a crucial component. The development work should be documented.
Some of our participants are very familiar with blogging. Others are not. We encourage everybody to write frequently about their own learning and planning. In that way you gain practical experience, so that you can speak about blogging with authority – and show future students what you want them to do.
At our last day in Ramallah, we agreed that one substantial blog post and/or three Twitter posts a week would be reasonable lower limit. We strongly recommend this to Gaza as well. We also recommend using the Twitter widget in WordPress to make your twitter posts available through your blog.
The most important thing is to start writing and to continue writing. The second most important thing is to share your own views and ideas, but also problems and questions.
Please use Arabic (or a mix) if that helps you to write more. In order to understand blog posts in Arabic, we will run them through Google Translate. If you twitter in Arabic, we ask you to make a second twitter post, based on a translation into English, immediately afterwards.
Let me add that LATINA itself has a multilingual component. We experiment with translations and parallell texts as a way of conducting classes where participants have very different linguistic backgrounds. Combining Arabic and English is part of our training as well.
- On e-learning. Dell’Arte. Helge Høivik, Sep. 24, 2011
- PL 58/11: Learning in several languages. Six world languages
- Pl 57/11: Conflict in Palestine. Personal reflections
- PL 56/11: Twitter in Palestine. The parliament of birds …
- PL 55/11: A bridge from T to N
- P 54/11: Outside the box. Be the change that you want to see (Gandhi)
- Pictures chosen by LATINA participants.
- P 53/11: LATINA readings 2011. Intense debate about education and the Web.
- P 52/11: The web and the galaxy. Planning LATINA Fall in Palestine
Blog posts can be protected by passwords, if desired. A shared password will be sent to all participants by e-mail.