Monday, January 28, 2008

ICTs: Considerations of current practice (2) Reinventing Role

Dede, C. (2007). Reinventing the role of information and communications technologies in education. In L. Smolin, K. Lawless, & N. Burbules (Eds.), Information and communication technologies: Considerations of current practice for teachers and teacher educators (pp. 11-38). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

ICTs are reshaping three aspects of education simultaneously:
  • The knowledge and skills society wants from the graduates of education are shifting as a result of the evolution of a global, knowledge-based economy and a "flat" world (Friedman, 2005)
  • Methods of research, teaching, and learning are expanding, as new interactive media support innovative forms of pedagogy (Dede, in press-a)
  • The characteristics of students are changing, as their usage of technology outside of academic settings shapes their learning styles, strengths, and preferences (Dede, 2005)
Three fundamental observations about the impact of ICT on society:
  • The definition of what computers and related technologies can accomplish has repeatedly expanded - individual & collective expression, experience, and interpretation (e.g., productivity enhancers, email communication, expanding access to info through web browsers & streaming video)
  • Cognition is now distributed across human minds, tools/media, groups of people, and space/time - distributed cognition & action (e.g., asynchronous discussion online, delocalizing, sociability) (Dede, in press-b; Engestrom & Middleton, 1996; Hutchins, 1995; Salomon, 1993)
  • The types of work done by people, as opposed to the kinds of labor done by machines, are continually shifting - growing proportions of the labor force are engaged in jobs that emphasize expert thinking or complex communication - tasks that computers cannot do (The fundamental change involves deemphasizing fluency in simple procedures as an end-goal of preparation for work and life, instead using these routine skills as a substrate for mastering complex mental performances, p. 13) - erosion of routine tasks in favor of expert decision making and complex communication skills
    • 21st-century skills: collective problem resolution via mediated interaction (including problem finding and solving)
Shortfalls in how current ICT for learning meet 21st-century educational challenges
  • Three competing schools of thought on how people learn
    • Behaviorism: because learning is based on experience, pedagogy centers on manipulating environmental factors to create instructional events inculcating content and procedures in ways that alter students' behaviors
      • Purpose: acquire skills of discrimination (recall facts), generalization (define & illustrate concepts), and chaining (automatically perform a specified procedure)
      • Emphais: factual knowledge, recipe-like procedures
      • Suitable ICTs: computer-assisted instruction (CAI), drill-and-skill learning management system (LMS)
      • Limitation: limited both in what they can teach and in the types of engagement
    • Cognitivism: because learning involves both experience and thinking, instruction centers on helping learners develop interrelated, symbolic mental constructs that form the basis of knowledge and skills
      • Purpose: providing a deep foundation of factual knowledge and procedural skills; linking facts, skills, and idea via conceptual frameworks - organizing domain knowledge as experts in that field do, in ways that facilitate retrieval and application; and helping students develop skills that involve improving their own thinking processes, such as setting their own learning goals and monitoring progress in reaching these
      • Suitable ICTs: intelligent tutoring systems (ITS)
      • Limitation: well-defined content and skills, material with a few correct ways of accomplishing tasks (very limited range of knowledge and skills they can teach)
    • Constructivism: because learning involves constructing one's own knowledge in a context richly shaped by interactions with others, instruction centers on helping learners to actively invent individual meaning from experiences.
      • Purpose: instruction as a process of supporting knowledge construction rather than communicating knowledge; teacher's role as guide, rather than an expert transferring knowledge to novices' "blank slates"; learning activities that are authentic and that center on learners' puzzlement as their faculty or incomplete knowledge and skills fail to predict what they are experiencing; encouragement for students to reflect on experiences, seek alternative viewpoints, and test the viability of ideas
      • Suitable ICTs: wide range
      • Limitation: difficult to implement in conventional school settings; not so efficient for material that behaviorism and cognitivism can teach (e.g., arithmetic operations)
      • Social constructivism: students actively constructing their knowledge with instructional support, as opposed to being passive recipients assimilating information communicated by the teacher (Jonassen, 1996). Students construct knowledge as a result of their interactions with their community (e.g., the scientific research community)
    • Shortfalls
      • Conventional approaches (behaviorist & cognitivist) emphasizes manipulating predigested info to build fluency in routine problem solving
      • Problem-solving skills are presented in an abstract form that makes transfer to other disciplines and real-world situations difficult
      • The ultimate goal of all three is often presented as learning a specific problem-solving routine to match every work situation, rather than developing expert decision making and metacognitive strategies that how to proceed when no standard approach seems applicable
      • Little time is spent on building capabilities in group interpretation, negotiation of shard meaning, and co-construction of problem solutions, particularly in behaviorist and cognitivist approaches
      • ICTs are largely used to automate traditional methods of teaching and learning, rather than to model complexity and express insights to others
      • The effects from technology usage are measured, but the effect with technologies essential to effective practice of a skill are not
  • Situated learning
    • Definition: embedded within and inseparable from participating in a system of activity deeply determined by a particular physical and cultural setting
    • Unit of analysis: the relationship between the individual & the setting (studies of apprenticeship in 'communities of practice')
    • Requirement: authentic contexts, activities, and assessment coupled with guidance from expert modeling, situated mentoring, and legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991) (e.g., GA experience allows graduate students to gradually move from novice researchers to more advanced roles, with their skills and the expectations for them evolving)
    • Power: learning to solve problems as part of a community in the authentic context
A vision of how emerging ICT can aid in meeting 21st-century educational challenges
  • Three complementary tech interfaces are currently shaping how people learn (K-12)
    • The "world-to-the-desktop" interface that provides access to distributed knowledge across space and time through networked media
    • MUVE that offers students an engaging "Alice in Wonderland" experience in which their digital emissaries in a graphical virtual context actively engage in experiences with the avatars of other participants and with computerized agents (e.g., Second Life) - it empowers the creation of contexts inaccessible in the real world
    • Augmented reality (AR) interfaces that enable "ubiquitous computing" models - it enables the infusion of virtual contexts within physical locations

(Reflection: if education can't precisely predict or control the future of technology, it should at least prepare people to be aware of the uncertainties that technologies may bring to them...)

(Reflection: some profs are very reluctant to let their students reference online resources. I'm going to disagree on that issue. Based on my experiences, I enjoyed so much finding information posted online which are so convenient, incisive, and valuable. Some articles are written by no names but they spark a lot of innovative ideas and provide multiple links that lead to further thinking. They make a lot of sense...)

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