Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age (TELEDA) is coming. The virtual doors open 25 October for 9 days of online induction. Learning Block One commences 1 November. TELEDA is a 24 week M level course (30 CATS) designed to give participants experience of being a virtual student as well as examine issues raised by digital education, in particular open educational resources and inclusive practice. There is emphasis on critical reflection through a choice of digital diary formats with evidence of reflection required for the assessed eportfolio.
One course isn’t enough to cover all aspects of teaching and learning in a digital age and a second 30 credit module is under discussion. Together these will constitute a postgraduate certificate in digital education or teaching and learning online.
TELEDA is as much about the impact of the internet on education as about how people learn in virtual environments. Most of the resources are freely available. While the new cohort are completing application forms and getting head of school/department approvals, participants have been given links to a short video clip and a paper which cover one of the themes running through the 24 weeks; digital literacies.
Digital Natives Digital Immigrants by Mark Prensky was written over a decade ago but the dichotomy has stuck in public consciousness and the idea of young people being inherently digital – while older people are getting left behind – remains influential. While some people find the language of the paper contentious, and Presnky himself has revisited the original ideas, the issues around the appropriateness of educational systems – designed in a pre-internet age – offer valid discussion points. http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
The TELEDA pilot was a step in the dark for everyone but if you don’t try something new you don’t know what might come out of it. As more programmes consider blended and distance delivery, I remain the confident the opportunity to be an online student is the best mode of discovery for resources and activities which work – or don’t work – in virtual environments. What is increasingly clear is the original rhetoric of elearning has not lived up to its promise. Learning online is not a case of doing more for less. Retention requires resources. Of the human kind as much as a technological infrastructure. There is currently renewed interest in research into digital education; research based on the practical as well as the theoretical. We live in interesting times where virtual learning is being revisited and reassessed. I’m proud and excited to be part of the process.
Prensky’s polarisation of students and teachers into digital natives and immigrants was simplistic, but the KIS (Keep It Simple) approach can be an effective stimulant for debate. Prensky has been responsible for a lot of debate. Dig underneath the surface and the core of Prensky’s polemic remains relevant. The question of how can the social shift to digital ways of working best enhance teaching and learning remains unanswered. Prensky was right. Those with Britannica feet are being replaced by generations whose only reference source is Google. The image below is simplistic but contains a valuable message for anyone wanting to see digital literacies and scholarship embedded into the curriculum. How can an institution manage change and adapt to the digital impact of technology?
Neil Selwyn* offers a realistic appraisal of Prensky, usefully reminding us of the social shaping of technology and how usage mirrors existing social structures. The literature of digital divides should underpin all policy and strategic approaches. In the meantime digital technology is becoming more pervasive. Soon won’t need the T in ICT; it will be taken for granted. It’s ironic how the strata of digital engagement has ‘shallowness’ as the deepest and widest layer.
The key problem is the solid curriculum. It seems unable to flex enough to incorporate essential requirements for the century, namely individuals who can tell the difference between knowledge, information and personal opinion – online. The skills to manage vertical searching and differentiate between authenticity and conspiracy theories are the core basics of digital literacies, alongside the presentation of self and parameters of access. However, embedding all these into the curriculum, and focusing on digital graduate attributes, is only part of the answer.
It isn’t only about student education, it’s about teacher education too. In 2001 Prensky was saying ‘today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach’ but a decade later no one is saying today’s education system is no longer training the teachers it needs for a digital age. Calling people natives or immigrants drew attention to digital technology for education, but as well as redesigning the curriculum for students, we need to revisit support and resources for the teachers who are implementing it, something Prensky, Selwyn and other contemporary commentators appear – so far – to have missed.
* Educating the ‘Digital Natives’ (2011) from Neil Selwyn’s Education and Technology, London: Continuum –available from Continuum (now Bloomsbury) Companion website http://www.continuumbooks.com/CompanionWebsites/book-homepage.aspx?BookId=158591