Why? - Digital Literacy Dover

Saturday, 24 March 2012



Why? Why use digital technologies? Why not just use pen/pencil & paper?

The bottom line for me is I honestly believe that virtually any teaching/learning context + digital technologies = better.

I started using ICTs properly, ie to learn/create, when I was about 18 (1988) using CAD systems on PCs for drafting, on an Industrial Design Diploma in West London, and from that day to this, one thing has remained consistent, I struggle to think of anything since that day which, related to my own experiences as a learner, now as learner and a teacher, that has not benefited from the inclusion of ICTs. As the technologies have evolved I've been able to add more and more ICT to things that I maybe couldn't before, and as far as I can see it's always been more awesome afterwards.

Hence my passion for all things technological and digital. So the problem is I am convinced, but are you? I don't need a WHY to justify the inclusion of ICT to almost anything, because I just KNOW it will be better - honestly I'm sitting here, trying to thing of a learning/teaching context which would not benefit from sort of ICT inclusion, and I really can't!

I have a more detailed rationale for this, I wrote it as an element of my Master's dissertation, it is here if you do want to read it, all 3000 words. It is fully supported by the literature, and of course there is a separate list of references if you would like them.

Ultimately, sure, we could teach the next unit as teachers have for a 100 years with paper and pen/cil, or we could do that AND make it more AWESOME with ICT.

I genuinely believe that if half of a team of teachers chose to use NO ICT for a unit, and half did, the kids in the classes of the half that did would be much, much better off.

So - if you could use some convincing, keep reading, if not, thank you for taking the time to read this far.

Here are the main reasons, taken from the full document, here:

  • Paper is a very powerful medium, but it is not dynamic and it does not provide sound, animation, real-time feedback that facilitates a capacity for continuous expansion. Integration of ICTs allow for more dynamic teaching, and more importantly, they allow students to show what they know in non-traditional and non-linear ways that more closely approximate the skills they will need to be successful in the adult world—, the world outside schools. 
  • Critically, in my experience, it is the unanticipated, unplanned for possibilities that are powerful: ICT as a part of routine class activity offers unexpected sources of inspiration. This inspiration has an impact on learning interactions in ways that are often serendipitous for the teacher. It is more widely acknowledged that technology can inspire students, for instance by enabling them to make their own discoveries, perhaps more importantly, it often equips students to be sources of inspiration for others. 

ICTs make possible new forms of classroom practice. 

  1. This is apparent in three distinct areas: The reconfiguration of space so that new patterns of mobility, flexible working and activity management can occur, a finding also corroborated by a completely separate non ICT related study, (Hastings & Wood, 2002) who argue a pedagogical, empirical and essentially intuitive case for arranging the physical environment to support the attention and activities that a task requires. 
  2. New ways in which class activities can be triggered, orchestrated and monitored. 
  3. New experiences associated with the digital ‘virtual’ resources for established and routine practices – such as real time modelling, shared document editing, or manipulating spatial representations. 

ICTs create the possibility of a wide variety of learning practices.

Overarching this variety are three central activities, which are significantly enriched by the increasingly ubiquitous availability of technologies:
  1. Exposition which is animated by the opportunity to invoke rich shared images, video and plans,
  2. Independent research which is extended by the availability of internet search opportunities, and, 
  3. Creation, construction and presentation, which is made possible by ready-to-hand ICT-based tools. 

  • It also important to consider that ‘technology’ does not simply mean PCs or netbooks. Some class activities depend on access to a variety of technology tools perhaps only briefly, especially when utilising mobile technologies, these experiences are about much more than working at the computer and typing a document, but requiring students to move around a room filming each other, making audio notes, taking pictures etc. 
  • Engagement – students find ICTs ‘fun’. Student's who are motivated learn better, trust me. Used properly ICTs enhance classroom participation, feedback provision and pace of learning, offering multimedia presentations and the authentic link to future potential professions. 
  • ICT practices invite an approach to understanding that considers the impact on learning practices, rather than the impact on learning outcomes. This not only shifts attention from attainment products to engagement processes, it defines activities in terms of learning practices rather than instructional practices (emphasis in the original). Likewise, Starkey (2010) notes that this enabled teachers to have students self-pace their use of digital technologies to meet their personal learning needs, giving the teacher time to spend with individual students.
  • positive benefits are reported relating to motivation (Becta, 2006b), Passey et al. (2004); on self-esteem, interest, attendance and behaviour among hard-to-reach students 
  • Successful integration of ICTs in schools can help students to develop skills, both specific to ICTs and more generally, that will be useful for them in their future academic and professional lives, enabling them to use ICT skills to access, compile, synthesise and exchange information effectively.(ie in Grade 5, they will be better at this, having been exposed to this). 
  • "… if the support for ICT usage in the primary school remains unsystematic, variable and unreflective then there are two significant dangers: the first is that young people with ready access to technology out of school will develop an incomplete and unreflective capability, unsupported by adult guidance, with risks both to their learning progress and their safety. The second is that a digital underclass, lacking opportunities for wide-ranging use of technology, will be permanently excluded from a world mediated by ICT." (Becta, 2009)

What we are really concerned with here is learning in a way that is most effective in an age dominated by digital technologies. The information revolution of the past couple of decades has created an impetus, to reconsider what learning should really be about – leveraging the tools of the digital age to ensure that the skills that have been the province of the few, become universal.
What is also new are the actual types of experiences that learning in a medium where screens are so ubiquitous as to almost become invisible, I would argue that these experiences are very different to anything that has gone before.

How? I'll tell you how. These kinds of experiences, or modes of learning are being transformed by 5 unique aspects of working with digital technologies, that I call 'SAMMS', learning which is transformed by:

  • Situated practice (work anywhere, anytime, any place)
  • Accessibility (to information)
  • Multi-modality (image, audio, video, interactivity, reciprocity)
  • Mutability (provisionality, flexibility)
  • Social networking (access to people) 

Of course the bottom line is that as far as we are concerned UWCSEA as an institution is already committed to this so the WHY is a moot point, those that lead UWCSEA are and have been convinced...

... so really the question we should really be asking now is not WHY, but HOW.

How can we use ICTs most effectively?

That's a question we can only answer together.

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