The evidence for Technology Enhanced Learning

An Overview - introduction

Introduction

This text is an introduction to a longer series of articles around Technology enhanced Learning. The core aim of these articles is to identify and critically examine the evidence for (and possibly against) Technology as a tool for enhancing the learning process, with K-12 in focus.

        This first set of texts in the series of articles will give an overview of some of the topics to be covered - introducing the different technologies and techniques in TEL, what their aims and claims of efficiency are, as well as an introduction to the main venues of publications and the different research institutions around the world where the research is being done.

The articles will also be published in Swedish[1], with a local touch and interviews with researchers at the department of Media Technology at the Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden.

You can access this document from the following link: http://goo.gl/cgIYda. Please feel free to add comments and suggestions.

Technology as an Enhancement of What exactly?

Before we start looking at what these different technologies are, I should first define what I (and others?) mean by Learning, and what we mean by enhancing.

Furthermore, one could discuss whether the use of Technology really needs to be justified in terms of scientific research for it to be used in school? Is it not enough that Technology is a part natural part of society[2] that the kids need to learn? Obviously this could differ from country to country, region to region, depending on the legislative text governing the educational system in question. The following text is as much (actually much more) an introductory outlook on the concepts and of learning and knowledge as it is a science based  recipe for a future educational system.

Learning in the Digital Age

It is sometimes claimed that students (K-12) of today know less, learn less, and care less about knowledge and learning compared to, say, 20 years ago. There are problems with this line of argumentation. First of all, the comparison is often made with the curriculuum of 20 years ago, what we were supposed to know by heart, about maths, history, writing, reading, and so on. Meanwhile the situation has changed. Today the world, and our perception and knowledge of the world is much more rich and complex. There is so much more to learn, so many more skills to master, so many more venues for discussion and active contribution. No wonder there is less time for - learning the names of Presidents, the years of battles, knitting, or the reading of the classics - in the lives of our young. Basically, as the body of knowledge and vital skills to be learned increase, the time that can be spent on each of these decrease. That is basic math, if I learned it correctly in school.

        So, today the learning landscape changed. Students these days do more[3] when it comes to:

Obviously the culprit here is information. Today there is a vast increase in accessible information in the lives of students compared to 20-30 years ago. The new set of skills needed all involve dealing with this information in one way or another. As the power of harnessing and controlling information increase, the young of today need to be able to do that on their own, or at least be made aware that others will, and what that means for them as citizens/individuals.

Learning in the Good old days

Does this mean that no time should be spend on the facts[4] and skills traditionally held up high by the school system, such as reading, handwriting, arithmetics, learning the multiplication table or literature? What about history or foreign languages? There are few people who propose that any of these should go into the bin, but none-the-less they will be learned in a different context, using different tools. Those learning tools and strategies are what the rest of this series will aim to examine.  

        Furthermore, there is a set of very basic skills, that no one can cope without in any kind of learning situation. They still all evolve around the concept of information. Basic skill number one: you need to be able to take in information.

- First you need to be able to hear and listen, and later you need to be able to read, in some way. The skill of reading is most probably not going to become less significant in the near or even not so near future.

- Basic skill number two: you need to be able to communicate your understanding of information. You need to be able to first talk, and then later to write. Once again, the skill of writing is most probably not going to become less significant in the near or even not so near future.

        On a slightly higher level there is a set of basic skills that you also need to be able to handle if you wish to take an active part in society. You need to be able to interpret and and analyze information. After that you will need to be able to make something new out of the information, to use it in some way, and to be able to influence others. At this stage we often need mathematics, we need textual analysis, we need statistics and the skills to present our case. We need the skills and tools that aid our understanding of a subject. At least if we do not want to be fooled, or herded along for a ride we have no way of controlling the direction of.

        I am digressing now, but there is a lot to be said on this matter. Let me just leave you with the following before we go on to looking at some of the actual technologies that are supposed to be able to enhance the learning process, in pursuit of some goal, regardless of what that is:

  1. The technology of today and the future are important for anyone to be able to handle if they want to be part of the society of today and the future.

  1. The very basic skills described above are important to be able to learn how to handle the technologies of the (1)

  1. The technologies in 1 can be used to gain the skills in 2.

My question to you is - In school: should we learn to use the technologies (1) with the aim to learn the basic skills (2), or is the aim of teaching the basic skills (2) to be able to to fulfill that of (1)?  

To be continued...


[1] The publications will be available here: http://rucit.net and here: http://skoldator.blogspot.com. As well as on my personal G+ profile here: http://plus.google.com/+MattiasDavidsson  

[2] This series of articles focus on the use of Technology in the more technology-advanced societies.

[3] There might be cases/locations where some of these points are not valid. This is written from a Swedish point of view.

[4] Here: http://twit.tv/show/triangulation/127 you can listen to an ineresting take on this. Jump to around 40 minutes.