Summary for EFPM 316- Digital Future in Education

1. A critical discussion of Contemporary Learning: What does this mean for you and how do you think it can be realised? incorporating a critical engagement with current theories of (digital) learning.

Learning in The New Age

The educational system in the last few decades was founded by an assumption that learning is always followed by teaching, which means that education was a simply process of transferring knowledge from a higher authority down to the students(Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, 2011). to make it more concrete, Douglas and John added that, in traditional education with teaching-based approach, it seemed to be reasonable to force students to learn as much as possible during the shortest period and students’ real demands and feedback are of little importance, therefore, under such educational setting that emphasis on what tasks they should finish and what they should achieve to prove results of educating, standards were set to achieve the ultimate goal and to assess students’ academic achievements. However, the traditional routine is gradually turned to be inappropriate and insufficient to define education in the twenty-first century due to the rapid change of the learning environment. The traditional focus more on passively accepting when changes come. Rather, the new gives positive feedback spontaneously according to circumstances and even creating something new based on what currently obtained. In addition, instead of receiving given information to digest on one’s own toughly and simply give a response like “copy that”, however, the new module of education internet age advocates and encourages thinking critically by keeping questioning, neither accept what is given without thinking nor rudely refuse new things by denying without showing any interest, resulting in more achievements in the questioning process. In other words, critical thinking is crucial in pushing innovation as ideas are created by exploring.  

From a progressive perspective, Douglas and John have developed an idea the we should keep a open mind to embrace changes under a changing environment that has imposed evident influences on both domains of education and technology. As we have stepped into the internet age, with the increasingly generalization of getting access to the internet through electronic devices with internet connections, resourceful online materials are attainable in flexible ways that it is not necessary to define learning as standardized or measurable. In the case of education, computer-based learning is becoming more and more accepted as its versatile functions in contemporary learning. To be specific, the more and more widely use of multiple media in education refers to a general trend of how development of teaching and learning has already changed and it will be like from a sight of development in the internet age. With a prospect In the new teaching module, teachers will no longer need to prepare everything in detail on the knowledge basis. Instead, the only striking part of education is that they are more preferable to focus on interactions with students by encouraging students to work independently to foster their self-learning awareness and abilities as well as strong passion for highly participating the class to collaboratively with others as a team.

Two Metaphors for Learning

In addition to the framework of learning mentioned above in the new era, according to metaphors of learning that was firstly come up with by Anna Sfard(1998), who has developed AM(acquisition metaphor) and PM(participation metaphor), being bounded to contemporary educational research to push new boundaries to illustrate the nature of learning. Anna has also claimed that learning is deemed as an action of acquiring something by comparing the definition on Collins English Dictionary that goes the act of gaining knowledge”, which has always been right but had been misunderstood by learners and educators for a period. And concept is something amendable and abstract that constitutes knowledge and can be enriched and enhanced gradually. Therefore, our mind needs to be fulfilled with materials like a container and the materials make us who we are, Anna added. The acquisition, internalization and accumulation of knowledge can be of great help in making learners become the owners of knowledge rather than slaves with teachers’ proper guidance and cultivation. Being flexible and abstract, unlike a concrete apple, acquired knowledge can be shared with others and can be enhanced during the processing of exchanging ideas. And finally, achievements be examined by putting learned knowledge into the real world, and based on the process of concept development and knowledge acquisition, Anna has come with the concept “acquisition metaphor”.

Knowledge does not only come with a world automatically or in individual minds, but remains to be a key role of participation in cultural practices (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave, 1988; Lave & Wenger, 1991, cited by Lipponen, L., Hakkarainen, K., &Paavola, S., 2004). The acquisition metaphor is so natural to us that we can be hardly visible without an alternative metaphor. However, another metaphor that refers to participation overweight self accumulation was developed by Anna. To put it differently, participation focus on being involved in a whole better group in the learning process to create a sense like “one for all, all for one”. AM provides an insightful exploration in learning while PM stresses the close relationship between individual and the group. Since we have figured out crystal clear differences between AM and PM, what is the relationships between them? To discuss them separately, AM imposes an overt drawback that it can easily lead to misunderstanding in beliefs of learning without being controlled. In other words, if we want to explore something new on the basis of knowledge that is already exist, it will be impossible to innovate by learning inherently. By contrast, solely PM is seemingly helpful to narrow the gaps that AM exposes, however, taking existing knowledge for granted without fully consideration and making selections objectively is never an ultimate solution, it is just an escape by leaving alone all the vexing problems. Therefore, we can draw a conclusion that the two metaphors are complementary to some extend and it will be dangerous to apply only one metaphor in learning.

CSCL in Contemporary Learning

To put forward learning in the new age, combined with metaphors, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is seemingly to provide a prospective affordance for both teachers and learners by converting traditional learning into a modern one. CSCL, as a technology-based collaborative learning that can do help to teamwork among peers, can be defined as  interdisciplinary research field focusing on working as a joint group to share and to and Distribute knowledge and expertise among members of the group(Lipponen, L., Hakkarainen, K., &Paavola, S., 2004). To put it in reality, in many cases, VLE(Virtual Learning Environment) has been generally put in to use in many institutions. By posting blog on forum, students are becoming more accessible to share their own thoughts, acquired knowledge, creative ideas created via internet-based communication. Students seem to be encouraged to think with AM by showing independent views and work with PM during the collaborative participating process. Even though, their work can sometimes become a measurable assessment methods, boundaries of thinking skills and and existing recognition will be pushed, which benefits learning constantly. Apart from AM and PM frameworks, another framework: creativity metaphor can be developed based on such CSCL theory, Lipponen, L., Hakkarainen, K., &Paavola added.

  • The affordances (and constraints) of one particular technological tool that you have used in your educational practice. You may discuss the same app you have reviewed for your formative assignment, but the discussion needs to focus on affordances and incorporate affordance theory.

‘Affordance is what the environment offers the individual’, according to the Wiki page of “Affordance”, this concept was coined by James J. Gibson in his book The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems in 1966. As the big environment of learning has kept on changing fast, affordances of technology tools has gradually become a key consideration for choosing in teaching and learning. Based on learning theory in the first chapter, one essential aspect of being a successful student is being a learner who can guide themselves in learning skills(Judy Robertson,2011). To be specific, on should have a clear target in skills acquisition, amendable problem-solving plans with the process of evaluating. With a prevision of strategies to solve problems, learners can probably deal with them with clear and calm minds to prevent unnecessary turns and twists. Judy advocates that educational affordances in forms of blogs are boosters in cultivating self-direct learners by revealing the versatile functions of blogging activities in fostering students’ cognition, self-regulation as well as metacognition. Meanwhile, distinctions between formal learning and informal learning are developed in applying technology tools, it is common for the new generation to acquire knowledge and skills informally by using some popular social-media such Twitter in some western countries especially in the USA and the UK. By subscribing some official account channels and following some experts in various domains, users can get easily attainable access to pick contents they need or show enthusiasms towards. For example, increasing number of universities have opened of official Twitter accounts for students to enjoy the latest hit news of the school from policies to activities, from academic affairs to entertainment gatherings, you name it. Also, students are usually allowed to make proposal suggestions and complains to help the university to improve students’ satisfactions and thus enhance the university’s social reputation to achieve a win-win situation hopefully. For some details, sometimes when professors share selected links to beneficial videos and articles to help students enlarge horizons without any purpose of achieving something to actualize certain goals. For instance, Dr. A is a professor who is being responsible for tutoring a class with Education specialism, he opened up an official account in Twitter with the aim of enriching students informal learning. The home page of his account can be various: some additional readings and vlogs related to Education, these can be extension to settings of the specialism, applications of spme theories in practice, etc. And they can even be daily communications in forms of topic discussions, questionnaires, or even games that help to encourage thinking. For his students who follow him, they can feel free to choose to receive notification or not when Dr. A update his posts. Meanwhile, social media like Twitter usually come with functions of chatting one-to one or group chatting, freely communications can be easily attained without any cost nor delay, making it possible to shorten the geographic long distance between people to get a sense of close. To put it differently, such affordances create a feeling just like having buffet, you can eat as much as you like, and choose whatever you like.

Even, all the conveniences it brings are self-evident, to think critically, it can sometimes be a double sides sward. Given a wide range of freedom in informal learning online, it is not always easy to control the internet environment. To be specific, without serious restrictions in many platforms, many misleading information is widely spread due to the minor sacrifices for making fake news. Under the open background of sharing information, for example, many middle-aged freshmen in the internet world are easily misled by some health care articles. Some of them are firmly convinced by some theories without scientific proofs, resulting in some irregular physical status are delayed with missing out the best time for therapy. What was worse, some, however, indeed suffer from severe results like worse well-being conditions, sitotoxism, and even death. In terms of a level of knowledge, even without obvious negative influence, it is a waste of time to believe something blindly without an attitude of suspecting.

From the formal learning perspective, the affordances of social media are also practical especially for those who take part time learning, online learning and blended. As they have chosen a flexible schedule, most of their learning time is internet-based and computer-based, making social media critical for them to do preview, take live or recap courses, communicate with professor and peers by posting formative assignments and sending messages through social media to interact Like a virtual classroom. To the AM basis, students who choose to take online based course are usually equipped with strong self-direct ability in learning without any physical restriction nor supervisions from supervisors. So in order to guarantee the quality of learning, they have to come up with reasonable and clear plan for the whole process of learning. With the acquisition of background knowledge, they can get a understanding of what they will learn and with thinking to develop questions, they can feel more focus to indulge themselves in absorbing well-organized knowledge and skills from educators. And on the basis of PM, they are usually to interact with professor in live course by typing or audio chat, this sense of participation can complete that in real classrooms as long as they are allowed sufficient opportunities to do so. There are no many differences between online students and on campus students in communications after class and submitting assignments, they are equally treated to participate online discussions and collaborative work. Moreover, the flexible choice of venues is time-saving and money-saving without worrying about the issue of transportation.

3. A critical reflection on your video blog, providing a discursive rationale for the reasons for choosing that particular app/software, the way in which you structured your presentation and the reasons for the conclusions you have drawn with regard to the evaluation of the app/software. Additionally, you will need to include a reflection on the feedback that was given to you after the presentation or submission of your video. Please include a link to your video in this contribution!

Video blog on YouTube: 

The App I have introduced in my video blog is the IELTS Brother, which is designed as a pocket tool to help those who are planning to take the IELTS examination established by The Cambridge University, British Council and IDP. As chasing overseas study abroad is becoming a popular trend all over the world, assistance for preparing for standard examinations starts to emerge due to the huge demand. Although most of the students choose to spend their money on massive class courses or VIP(one to one) courses, flexible online courses and valid tool for self-learning is becoming more and more popular for their irreplaceable flexibility.   

From a student’s perspective, information and practical model tests are bullet points for preparing well for IELTS. Meanwhile, individualized time schedule is preferable as most of them are part-time learners. Also, the vocabulary requirement is also a challenging part for non-native speakers of English that they often struggle with reciting words, as they think memorizing words is the most vital foundation of learning English, with a thick dictionary-like book. Based of learners’ urgent requirements for a practical tool. The APP IELTS brother has come into the market. As a virtual online product for IELTS learners, the IELTS Brother has many striking features to fulfilled general learners’ demands and most of the contents can be attained for free of charge. And some high quality contents, like revising writing essays and well-organized online courses, with very reasonable prices.

This app can be purchased for free in apple store and some other app stores. I structured my presentation according to a normal user’s habit by clicking the logo first to enter the home page. Followed by the notification of register as a new user or log in with social media account. After logged in, it is easy for most users to notice the blue board on the top of the screen that tells how many words you have memorized and the length of learning. The little blue board is more than just a notice board, it is also an access to the gamification tool in reciting vocabularies. Such kind of online vocabulary memorizing tools are generally similar and used by English learners through sounds and video and blank filling games, and daily achievements can be shared on social media to motivate themselves. Also, the blue board can be folded to show the homepage, there are six bars on the top, and it was four-bar in my video blog because of the version at that time, the first one is the hottest posts that provide latest information of IELTS, practical tips for preparing certain parts of the exam, Q&A, etc. The second top bar’s function is different with what I have illustrated on the video, the new version provides different groups for individual users to join in, by doing group work, everyone feels highly participation and make it greater as a group. An individual will feel guilty if she or he work not hard in the group that drag down the whole progress of the group and waste others’ time. The third top bar is designed as a Q&A bank, this module summaries most common questions and solutions. Another new bar added is the weekly proposal for learners. The next top bar is made of practical guidance articles and videos emphasize on strategies and skills. The last new top bar is the wish wall that is posted with wishes from learners and the app service provider will choose lucky stars randomly.

On the bottom of the homepage, there are still four bars, the first is the same as the first top bar and the second bar contains the most popular functions of the app. Just as the exam is divided into four parts: Speaking, Listening, Reading, Writing. This page is designed for the exam with the fours parts plus another entrance of vocabulary. The Speaking part is a question bank for the latest season, under every question, there is a button to make a record of your answer and you can feel free to share it on the web, you can also get access to others’ answers in this part. The situation is similar for the Writing section, a question bank followed by sample writing articles for you to learn some ideas from them. Since answers in Writing and Speaking are posted by users or unofficial teachers, you can choose which and how to use according to personal preferences critically. In terms of Reading and Listening parts, this apps provides electronic version of Cambridge IELTS that is easy to carry.

Apart from being a useful tool, the app offers free online live courses given by top English teachers in China. Communications and interactions are often encouraged during attendance. From my personal experience, these teachers are good at teaching both knowledge and skills for learning knowledge. Most of them are nice to help when you have problems in learning. But the time for courses is fixed with no recap video records. The last but by no means the least function of this app is the memorized drafts shared by learners and teachers to know the trends and subtle changes of IELTS.

In a nutshell, the app is a great helper for learners in different dimensions. However, as users are granted access to editing and sharing, learners should pick up needed information with careful considerations.

4. A critical discussion of Critical Digital Literacy, and the ways in which this can be developed for students and/or teachers

Definition of Literacy in The New Age

“So widespread were the uses of new technologies among rising generations that critics began to ask whether “literacy” was fundamentally changing” by G. Thomas Goodnight (2009). What is literacy? Literacy was used to define one’s abilities of reading and writing that can differ people by measuring levels of education that they have received and it has not ever been changed until the Twenty first century (Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flannigan, 2006). However, the original meaning of literacy has been changed in the modern society as the increasingly development of technology. For the emergence of the E-Generation in the internet age, multiple media plays an irreplaceable role in terms of literal and acoustic communication, visual information in business and learning, videos for entertainment and academic. One obvious change in education, take as an example, teachers rely on blackboards or white boards in giving their lectures, but slides and projectors are widely used in modern classrooms for striking advantages in improving efficiency of both learning and teaching: it is time-saving to release hands from taking time writing something down on the board while teaching. And for students, being allowed to learn in different dimensions, like pictures and videos that they have never used before in traditional classrooms. Just as Barbara and Suzanne have said, literacy in the internet age is closely related with the knowledge and skills by the valid use of multiple media.

Thinking, Critical Thinking and Literacy in The Internet Age

Thinking is defined as an action of using one’s mind to create thoughts. Everyone has his own thinking to respond to something with individualized ideas. Thinking is literacy(Terry Roberts and Laura Billings, 2008), Terry and Laura came up with seminar-based literacy in cultivating children’s thinking ability. During the preparation, with students’ highly literate participation in getting and integrating information as well as clearly designed collaboration work, children gradually posed great interest in thinking and tried to think deeper critically naturally. Therefore, in education, to some extend, thinking equals to literacy for its value to both children and teachers. And critical thinking is an on-going process that goes deeper in thoughts with logic and accuracy in some area(Difference Between. net). To put it simply, critical thinking is thinking about thinking. As we have stepped into the internet age, almost all the exist information can be found online with only a few seconds by simply typing and clicking, people are more and more relying on smart phones that can provide incredible conveniences in connecting to the internet world like a mini computer. However, a concern has come to us that the internet world is full of fake and wrong information that can be misleading and requires users to think further to figure out right and wrong, valuable and useless. A tremendous challenge occurs due to the open access of editing for users in some mainstream social media like Twitter, Facebook, Sina Weibo, etc. In other words, the quality of information people obtain online can not be guaranteed. Good information always come along with misleading at the speed of light, making it challenging for young generation to develop the critical thinking skills that allow them to make the most of this abundant information accurately(Frank B. Withrow, 2011).

At school, children often come up questions to ask teachers with what and why. Admittedly, children’s creativity should me protected as well as encouraged with proper guidance from educators. However, the reality is that children in some countries are fostered to become learning machines rather than thoughtful children they could have been, which means that children are forced to accept what their teachers tells them in order to fulfill assignments or exams. Little space is left for children to have their own thinking that they gradually become not autonomous in thinking, leading to poor performance in creating something in the real world. So is it possible to teach thinking in school? The answer is definitely yes. The significance of critical and creative thinking techniques that children requires to develop is emphasized in Australian curriculum setting(Melissa Hughes, 2015). How and where these skills are taught remains the decision of the school. Based on resourceful theories, an experimental thinking school designed as a primary school was built up in Kent sponsored by The University of Exeter in 2015. Being different with traditional school who focus on input, this thinking school allows children to work independently and collaboratively with proper guidance from teachers and managers. With target-based projects, children can unlock their huge potential of thinking critically rather than dull acceptance. According to the manager who is being responsible for the operation of this school, children in this school show outstanding all-round capabilities compared with peers in traditional schools.

Critical thinking is the core skill of digital literacy(Gilster P., 1997). As digital literacy refers to abilities in getting access to new technologies, critical thinking is involved in making fully use of literacy in the new era. To be specific, critical thinking are strongly demanded during the process of, researching and exploring, creating and innovating, revising and refining. Just as G. Thomas says: “ New technologies often generate visions of apocalyptic change.”, critical methods ensure ongoing achievements in the internet age. Although thinking is just a foundation that should be directed to critical thinking with the aim of achieving positive outcomes, it remains to be vital as a booster of encouraging progresses. And such kind of ability can be improved by literate methods. Thus, literacy has formed a circle together with thinking. Finally, Terry and Laura also suggest that we are strongly advised to be a lifelong learner to chase more to life as thinking can be refined and improved by literate methods and people will find it enjoyable.

  •  A discussion and reflection on the future of technology in education. Using the material in Topics 8, 9 and 10, you need to critically reflect on your own ideas for the future of education, in particular of course, in relation to the role of technology in education.

Globalization can be defined as inevitable trends of the worldwide economy, technology, and science that directly affect higher education(Philip G. Altbach, 2004). To put it simply, the internet allows people to get in touch with people from other parts of the world and has already make it possible to share information globally. Philip also claims that we use language as a tool for communicating and getting access to knowledge. Also, it is common to find people from a variety of countries in a city in many countries especially some developed countries who use English as mother tongue such as the US and the UK. Increasing high unity of world can be attributed to equally developing trend of economy and the fast-paced development of science and technology that makes globalization achievable. And based on the internet and globalization, a concept of glocalization has been developed by Barry Wellman(2002). Barry firstly use a metaphor of links in little boxes to describe small local groups as they are regarded as neighbors. Combined with globally connected individualism to define glocalization from internal to external. This framework can relate educational theories with AM and PM, acquisition refers to individualism and participation reveals one’s group and community. Creativity metaphor, developed upon the AM and PM metaphors that, leads innovations for new technologies. Education is suggested with being more modular and works informally without restrictions of space from classrooms, homes, and even the internet in particular (Psotka, J, 2013). Psotka also says the we are in the transition period of combining Virtual Reality environments and games with education to create a prospective revolution in learning. To clarify the relationship between education and change, even though changes are unavoidable in contemporary technology settings, it is not education changes actively. Rather, education is pushed to change affected by the multiple role of technology in different modules of education. The combination of VR and game with education probably continue to be applied gradually. Psotka add that core technology is not seemingly to work well until a revert change happens in curriculum, even if mature technologies are applied.  Independent learning process can be encouraged by coalescent of virtual and real world. Theories and concepts in education are possibly converted from a sense of being abstract to concrete. In traditional education, rote learners are created and their passions deprived during the repeated practice in text and the feature of being forced to receive passively. The nature of VR in education is to motivate inner desire because self-motivation can be obtained in immersion and stress-free creative environment. To explore human’s natural learning process, by giving a young child direct insight to a concept that should be taught at post secondary stage. Even though we do not have clear answers to how brain works in such VR experience, we can still find the educational futures in the AR world.

Virtual Learning Environment(VLE) is already put into use in large scales worldwide with achieving excellent reputations for the highly organic combination of advanced educational theories and students’ actual demands. In recent years, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have captured people’s attention and imposed influential effects on traditional courses(Gráinne Conole, 2013). Also, they are drawing massive attention from media and educators and they also provide a chance to consider a new module of business(Li Yuan and Stephen Powell, 2013, MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education). By promising to providing totally free and cutting edge courses, MOOCs have provided a possibility to reduce cost for higher education and probably disrupt current education modules. Under such an open access environment, many top universities all over the world started to provide free online courses. However, MOOCs have become controversial as their thread on traditional educational. To put it forwards, Li and Stephen instruct that MOOCs come with two different learning forms: the connectivist MOOCs (cMOOC) focusing informal network-based connectivism learning theory learning; and content-based MOOCs (xMOOCs),

with a more behaviourist approach. Again, in many ways, this is the debate between content and process, namely acquisition and participation metaphors. However, their is an evident shortcoming that assessments for learning are too easy to complete by doing short choices and open-ended quiz since it is impossible for professor to assess learners with essays. And from my perspective, due to the lack or self-direct and responsibilities for come and go, the drop out rates remain to be high with mostly over 90%. Hence, although MOOCs have provided premium course given by prestigious universities with free access, qualities of open education can hardly be controlled.


Anna Strad(1998), On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, Vol, 27, No.2, pp.4-13

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown(2011), A New Culture of Learning

Barbara R. Jones-Kavalier and Suzanne L. Flanniga(2006).Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Education Quarterly Number 2 2006

Frank B. Withrow. (2011)Critical Thinking Skills for the Digital Age: 


Gilster P(1997). Digital Literacy. Wiley

Melissa Hughes(2015).Teaching Thinking in School.  

Peter Adams(2014). News Literacy: Critical-Thinking Skills for the 21st Century. 

Terry Roberts and Laura Billings(2008).Thinking Is Literacy, Literacy Thinking.Volume 65 | Number 5

Teaching Students to Think Pages 32-36

  • Thomas Goodnight(2009).Critical Thinking in a Digital Age: Arguementation and The Projects of New Media Literacy.

James J. Gibson, coined the term in his 1966 book, The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems,

Philip G. Altbach, (2004) Globalisation and Tthe University: Myths and Realities in an Unequal World.Tertiary. Educationand Management 10: 3–25,  Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Barry Wellman(2002), Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism

Lipponen, L., Hakkarainen, K., &Paavola, S.,(2004), Practices And Orientations of Computersupported Collaborative Learning. In J. Strijbos, P. Kirschner & R. Martens (eds.). What we know about CSCL, and implementing it in higher education (pp. 31-50). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Judy Robertson(2010),The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning.Computers & Education 57 (2011) 1628–1644 

Psotka, J. (2013). Educational Games and Virtual Reality as Disruptive Technologies. Educational Technology & Society, 16 (2), 69–80

Gráinne Conole(2013), MOOCs as disruptive technologies: strategies for enhancing the learner experience and quality of MOOCs

Li Yuan and Stephen Powell(2013), MOOCs and Open Education: Implicationsfor Higher Education



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