TELEDA Learning Block One: Digital Native Digital Immigrant debate

TELEDA’s Learning Block One discussion was around two views on education technology presented by Prensky and Selwyn in these papers

plus the video Digital Natives (3.08) from Below is a summary of comments and responses.

Prensky’s conception generational digital difference was absorbed into early research into education in the 21st century as well as continuing to exist within popular culture.   Selwyn offers both an overview of this research and a calmer perspective. Where young people are born into digital ways of working this does not determine a) the ways in which they use technology nor b) suggest the need for dismantling the curriculum. The focus should be less on the tools and more on the way in which the tools can be used.

The discussion were quick to point out how the ‘principles’ of learning carry on regardless, the technology may be changing the way we do things – but not the nature of things we have to do.  The ‘fundamentals of education remain the same’, students may sit in lectures tweeting and texting or have Facebook open in class, but there is still the need to grasp concepts and apply them to practice.  Comments suggested the image of the competent digital native does not match the reality –  some students embrace technology more than others but it is used to varying degrees, competence with Facebook does not equate with being ‘techno savvy’ and any group contains a mix of users, those adopting new technologies and those needing support and encouragement.

Divides are less between Prensky’s  natives and immigrants but constructed from access parameters and the differing ways access is used. Selwyn adopts a critical approach to technology for education; one which relates access and use to existing ‘social fault lines’ suggesting ‘…some social groups of young people appear to be as ‘digitally excluded’ as older generations, albeit in ways which are less apparent to adult commentators (p 14 ref Selwyn and Facer 2009). Situating educational technology within a broader social, cultural and political framework lies beyond the scope of this short course, which is fundamentally about the practicalities of teaching and learning in a digital age. However, the social impact of the internet and the relationship between digital exclusion and existing structures of marginalisation and disadvantage should not be ignored.

Learning Block One offered opportunities to consider how technology fits within individual practice. Comments suggest participants were not persuaded by the view of technology as determining change but the opportunities for enhancing teaching and learning were recognised. Within this is a resource implication. Where workloads are already stretched to capacity it can be difficult to absorb new ways of working and to learn new skills and competencies. Once way to manage this can be online communities of practice which is the intention of the course; to provide a place where the practicalities of teaching and learning in a digital age can be shared and discussed while not losing sight of the deeper structural issues underpinning adoption and use.

More about Prensky in this blog post here:

TELEDA Learning Block One: Getting Started

The Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age pilot had an excellent start last week.  A traditional open introductions thread on the discussion board surfaced a range of reasons for taking the course, including wanting to work smarter online, discover more about how online environments can be used to support learning and how to develop effective online engagement. There were also an interesting number of ‘fears’.  Uncovering the perceived challenges of teaching and learning in a digital age can be are useful indicators for planning, design and delivery so it’s always useful to offer the opportunity for surfacing them.  Losing the relationship and emotional dimensions of face-to-face learning is a common concern.  One solution is to try to ensure the affordances of the VLE (e.g. 24/7 access across boundaries plus the flexibility of asynchronous communication) and the disadvantages (e.g. the potential loneliness of the distance learner) are balanced by factoring in support and interaction on a regular basis.

Reaching students who don’t engage naturally with online forms of communication is another issue. Digital courses which lose the nuances of face-to-face engagement tend to privilege the techno-savvy and those who prefer a more ‘invisible’ form of interaction. The question of ‘lurking’ (being there silently) can pose a delicate balancing act between encouragement and scaring off!

We’re all becoming accustomed to having infinite amounts of information in our lives but the fear of being overwhelmed by content is never far from the surface. TELEDA offers  pic’mix approach to content ingestion  Resources are divided into Core and Extended. Activities derive directly from Core reading and all materials are presented in a format which offers brief overviews with signposts for further information to suit individual requirements and interests.  

The issue of supporting digital literacies was raised; a key aspect of any online learning experience as so much of the way we manage ourselves online is to do with individual confidence and competencies in virtual ways of working. Digital literacies and digital scholarship are essentially integral to the whole course which recognises how managing effectiveness within online learning environments is problematised precisely because there is no ‘one size fits all’ model of engagement. We don’t (yet) embed digital literacies into the curriculum or teacher education and the lecturer often has little support in the shift from front of classroom to invisible facilitator of faceless students online.   

The TELEDA learning blocks cover different aspects of design and delivery with attention to digital ways of working and opportunities to engage in collaborative online activities. I hope the opportunities for sharing practice will be a strength of this course which aims to support the exploration of different ways of working online and to assess their effectiveness in a constructive, collegial environment. TELEDA offers a fundamentally pragmatic approach, one where experience is recognised as the best way forward for application of the theory.