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How many learning technologists do you know? December 19, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Musings, Teaching Idea.
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I’m pleased to say I’ve worked and learned with a number, but first let me set the background. I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues in our English Department recently. Our ICT CPD this year has been focused using the EPICT materials and my colleagues chose to focus on the way they support Y12 and Y13 students as they prepare for the ENGB1 modular exam.

Revising

from Twaize on Flickr

Given that revision is often undertaken by students in isolation, they decided that providing the support materials through our learning platform made sense. So they assembled a set of learning activities which would guide the students in how to address the demands of that particular paper, or rather more specifically, Question 1. This question requires the students to analyse six brief texts they have never seen before, drawn from different contexts. Having decided what they wanted to do and how they wanted it done, my colleagues then came to me for advice on how to ‘make it so.’ Here’s their brief:

  1. An introduction in which Q1 is stated with key phrases highlighted and explained in more detail using ‘balloons’ which pop out when hovering over the phrases.
  2. The texts to be provided online so they could be read in turn and also to be ready to hand, whatever task the students were engaged in.
  3. Provide a means for students to choose a term by which the texts could be grouped (e.g. phonology, passive voice etc). To encourage a range of choices across the class, when a student chose a particular term, this was then to be disallowed to the rest of the class.
  4. Provide a way in which each of the texts could be classified as either a good, less good or poor fit with their chosen term. This should be an interactive, graphical tool, similar to an interactive whiteboard.
  5. Allow the students to write a paragraph each, justifying and discussing the grouping they chose. At this point they should also be able to refer to the mark scheme for clarification of the points they needed to home in on. In addition, students should also be able to comment on the choices and justifications of their peers.

If anyone wants to know how each of these requests was met, I’ve posted more details here, though I’m particularly pleased with finding DabbleBoard to address item 4 … but that’s not really the point of this post.

Perhaps this is a prime example of how things should be working in the rapidly developing, fast-paced world of educational technologies. Two teachers had done the crucial part of the process; they had planned a sequence of learning activities for their students which addressed a particular need. They could envision the ways in which they wanted the activities to take place, but though they weren’t in a position to deliver that themselves, that didn’t matter. They simply used a colleague better placed to address those needs. In other words maybe we shouldn’t be expecting all teachers to develop their skills to the level where they could realise all their ideas; instead we need to provide them with access to someone with a skill set who can. Vast sums have been invested developing our ICT infrastructure in schools. We’ve also spent (wasted?) a fortune helping teachers develop their use of ICT and whilst an enthusiastic, dedicated few at the bleeding edge will spend huge amounts of their own time exploring and pushing the boundaries, the majority will struggle to keep abreast. Time then to take a leaf from Higher Ed.’s books and consider using the principle of Learning Technologists? Granted in these days of diminishing budgets, funding that position may need some creativity, but what are the alternatives? Either we expect teachers to keep up to date with and explore the possibilities that emerging technologies might offer – not realistic for the majority, or the full potential of the technology remains largely unexploited. Economists say that a recession is precisely the time to invest; could that be true for educationalists too?

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