Facebook turned 14 on February 4, 2018. And the controversies continue unabated. But there’s one aspect of Facebook that should not be lost in all the noise: the extraordinary change it has brought about in how we connect, communicate, consume and share content – in the classroom, as well as in other spaces.
Putting the words “Facebook” and “learning” together may seem like an oxymoron. But my research has delved into the role Facebook has played in shaping how the new generation consumes and shares content. Understanding this is pivotal to understanding how we should be using technology to teach in the digital age. Quite simply, Facebook has changed the way that children learn.
How students learn
That’s what I’ve discovered through my research, which used a cyber-ethnography approach to try and determine how students are learning in our modern digital age. This involved essentially “living” with students while they connected, communicated, and learned in a Facebook space.
I spent an entire semester watching and interacting with students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa as they used a Facebook page as their primary learning portal. The students were given admin access to the space. This meant they could determine how the space was used: who had access to it, how it was designed, what was posted on the page, and even the level of anonymity of their posts.
This provided me with an opportunity to watch the students learn, unfettered from traditional learning constraints. However, it would take a while for the students to fully explore their learning within this new space. Initially the students would often attempt to defer to me and my guidance. Only after I repeatedly refused to control their learning experience did they begin to behave in a self-oraganising way and allow me to observe their “natural” learning patterns.
The research revealed that Facebook provided students with a series of learning affordances. Affordances are “can do” oppportunies, some intentional and others unintentional, that technology spaces provide. In this instance the research revealed that the affordances at play were accessibility, connection, communication, control and construction. These affordances provide valuable insights into how students learn in digital spaces.
Once I understood this, I could turn my attention to the key need: developing ways of teaching, called pedagogies, that are appropriate for the digital age. Currently the focus on technology – the what, has distracted us from pedagogy: the how. Without understanding how best to apply these new technologies’ affordances, educators will not be able to effectively impact teaching in the modern classroom.
However, providing educators with a list of “how tos” isn’t much use without a system that makes the list easy to implement. As Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, says:
Activating the classroom
That’s where the Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) model comes in. I developed this model in a bid to create a taxonomy of teaching and learning for 21st century classrooms. A taxonomy is an ordered arrangement of items. One of the most famous of these is Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking. The ACT model attempts to provide a taxonomy of digital-age teaching approaches.
The ACT model consists of five digital-age pedagogies that seek to maximise the affordances of technology, modern students’ approaches to learning and the development of key 21st century skills such as creativity, problem solving, curiosity, critical thinking, etc.
The focus is a shift from passive ways of teaching (consumption) to active approaches (curation, conversation, correction, creation and chaos). This aligns with research that shows children are spending more than half their online time actively engaging: creating content, getting involved in “interactive consumption” and communicating.
Ignoring the tectonic shifts taking place in our classrooms is not the solution. Simply dropping technology into our classrooms is not the solution. Simply training teachers to use computers is not the solution. As British author and education expert Sir Ken Robinson has said, we need a paradigm shift, but it’s more than that - we need a pedagogy shift.
The young teen, Facebook, has changed how we connect and learn. But, as the OECD pointed out in its global study about educational technology: “If we want students to become smarter than a smartphone, we need to think harder about the pedagogies we are using to teach them. Technology can amplify great teaching but great technology cannot replace poor teaching.”
A myth, according to the online dictionary is "a widely held but false belief or idea". Busting myths was made popular by the TV show "Myth Busters". However, myths continue to circulate and are readily accepted and believed, and we as teachers are not exempt.
In this EdTech Myth Busting series I will share with you some commonly believed myths that are not only false, but can, and have resulted in some costly failures when it comes to education technology.
Myth 1 – Training teachers how to use technology will result in better teaching
Do you believe this?
It seems quite reasonable, and I've heard it said many times that if we train teachers to use technology the result will be better teaching.
So, what's wrong with this belief?
It lies in the phrase "training teachers how to use technology". Training a teacher how to use technology is not the same as training a teacher how to teach with technology. At first glance, this may seem like a trivial difference, but it's a golf swing difference - where a seemingly small error on tee-off results in missing the green by far and having to search for your lost ball in a pond!
Training a teacher to use an iPad, or to use Google Docs, or to use a Smartboard does not mean they know how to teach with this technology. I could be trained how to use all the controls in a plane, but that does not mean I could fly the plane.
And herein lies the danger. All too often schools send teachers on courses that train them how to use technology, and assume this will result in effective teaching with technology. Believing this myth is part of the reason why we are seeing so many failed attempts at implementing technology in the classroom.
EdTech Success Formula
It is not simply knowing how to use technology that is important, in fact it is not even knowing how to teach with technology that we need - it is knowing how to teach effectively with technology.
If teachers are not shown how to apply an appropriate digital-age pedagogy to their teaching how can we expect our results to be anything better than hit-and-miss.
Great Teacher + Great Technology + Pedagogy = Great Teaching
Don't believe the myth that simply being trained to use technology will result in effective teaching with technology. We need our teachers to be trained in the use of a guiding pedagogy that will show them how to teach effectively with technology!
That's one myth busted. Look out for the next Edtech myth...and don't forget to share this with others, because it's up to us to stop the spread of this dangerous myth!
Learn how to teach using the Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) approach - a pedagogy for the digital age. Get the book now and transform your classroom! What teachers are saying -
“genius”, “brilliant”, “inspiring”, “motivated”, “a first”, “doable”, “fascinating”, “thanks to infinity”, “mind shift of epic proportions”, “a renaissance for me”, “I have been doing it all wrong!”, “inspired to use technology”, “buzz of the school”, “absolutely blown away”
Bloodletting is an ancient practice where doctors would cut people to let blood out of them in the hope that this would lead to some type of cure. We may now laugh at this archaic treatment, but for centuries it was the approach that "modern" doctors thought worked. Imagine having a sore throat and the doctor says, "Don't worry, I will fix you in no time," as he reaches for the scalpel or a bowl of leaches! This is exactly what happened to George Washington...yes, THE George Washington, America's first president. On December 13, 1799 George woke up with a sore throat and was treated with bloodletting where doctors drained an estimated 5-7 pints (3-4 litres) of blood in less that 16 hours. Unsurprisingly he died a few days later!
What does this crazy approach to health care have to do with how you are teaching?
Well, according to Nobel laureate and Stanford professor Carl Wieman, how we teach today is the educational equivalent of this archaic, painful, and useless treatment. In an interview with NPR, Wieman discusses how the approach we are currently using for teaching is not only ineffective, it is detrimental to learning.
"You give people lectures, and [some students] go away and learn the stuff. But it wasn't that they learned it from lecture — they learned it from homework, from assignments. When we measure how little people learn from an actual lecture, it's just really small." (Carl Wieman)
Only 10% remember what is taught
For years Carl Wieman has been unsatisfied with the traditional "talk-and-chalk" or "sage-on-the-stage" approach, and has experimented with using active learning in his classroom. Prof. Wieman would give a lecture then a few minutes later he would test the students knowledge with a multiple choice test. The result?
Most of the time "only 10 percent would actually remember the answer. A lot of them are asleep, or lost, and I don't know whether they're getting anything out of it. If I'm standing up there talking at them, I have no clue what they're absorbing and not absorbing."
Active learning - The Solution
Seeing such poor results, Prof. Wieman dumped this ineffective, "bloodletting" and switched to using active learning approaches in his classroom. His students are now often found in small groups actively discussing the course content while he walks around the classroom helping guide their learning.
Now that his students are actively involved in the learning process, as opposed to being passive consumers, not only are they more engaged, but he is better able to see what they understand and what is causing them problems.
"I'm doing my best to understand what's going on in every one of those students' minds and challenge them and monitor how they're learning, If I'm just lecturing the whole time, what a terrible waste that would be. Half the material would be over their head, and half the material would be completely trivial to them." (Carl Wieman)
Research proven results
"I know you can double how much a student learns depending on what method the instructor is using." (Carl Wieman)
Listen to the interview with Cal Wieman below.
Why is everyone not using Active Learning?
With such compelling evidence, it seems strange that everyone is not using active learning techniques in their classrooms. Why is this?
Well, beyond the obvious, that some teachers might not want to change - because change is uncomfortable and invariably requires effort, there is another important reason. Dan Schwartz, who is the dean of Stanford's Graduate School of Education puts the problem of poor adoption of this effective approach down to a "mountain of goo".
"The literature on how to do this stuff is a giant mountain of goo...I can tell people they need to teach better. But if I don't give them things that are easy for them to implement, they won't do it." (Dan Schwartz)
From Goo to Good
There is no doubt that the research points to the fact that as teachers we should be using active learning approaches in our classrooms. Add to this the exciting opportunities that technology brings, and we should be seeing huge innovations in how we teach. The era of bloodletting is far behind us, yet somehow while medicine has advanced it seems in many ways teaching has not. However, without an "easy way...to implement" this as Dan Schwartz points out, moving from our old approach to a new more effective approach is going to be difficult for all but the very brave.
The Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) approach is an "easy way...to implement" active learning approaches with technology in the classroom. This research-backed approach focuses on pedagogy before technology and guides teachers in how to effectively use technology in the classroom in a new and innovative ways. Rather than simply tell teachers that active learning is powerful, or tell teachers that we should be using technology in new ways, the ACT approach SHOWS teachers how they can do this.
Based on 5 layers of increasing activity the ACT model is a digital pedagogy for the modern age that is transforming how schools are teaching around the world. To find out more about this amazing approach watch the video below or read more here.
Article source: NPR
Dr. Craig Blewett is the author and founder of the Activated Classroom Teaching (ACT) approach. He helps schools and universities around the world towards the effective use of educational technology.
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