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 is 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, Thomas and Brown added that, for traditional education with teaching-based approaches, it seemed to be reasonable to force students to learn as much as possible within the shortest period instead of considering students’ real demands and feedback. Therefore, based on the educational system that only focus on quantitive education purposes and certain fixed outcomes students should achieve, standards were set to fulfill 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 on focus more on passively accepting when changes come. Rather, the new one gives positive feedback spontaneously according to circumstances and even creating something new according to what currently obtained. In other words, 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 in the internet age advocates and encourages thinking critically by keeping questioning, neither simply accepting given information without thinking nor rudely refusing new things without showing any interest, resulting in more fruitful achievements during the questioning process. To put it forward, critical thinking plays a crucial role in pushing innovation because new ideas are created by exploring and challenging exist things.
From a progressive perspective, Thomas and Brown 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 are living in an internet age with information explosions and the increasingly generalization of getting access to the internet through electronic devices, resourceful online materials are attainable in flexible ways, making it seemingly unnecessary to define learning as something standardized or measurable. In the case of education, for the general public, computer-based learning is becoming more and more acceptable as its versatile functions in contemporary learning. To be specific, the widely use of multiple media in education refers to a general trend of how the development of teaching and learning has already changed and what it will possible be like in the future from a sight of changing under the internet age background. From 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 likely to focus on interactions with students by encouraging students to work independently to foster their self-learning awareness and abilities, and to strengthen their passions for participation by collaborating with others as a team.
Two Metaphors of Learning
In addition to the framework of learning in the new age mentioned above, according to some metaphors of learning that were firstly come up with by Anna Sfard(1998), AM(acquisition metaphor) and PM(participation metaphor) are bounded to contemporary educational research in pushing new boundaries to illustrate the nature of learning. Sfard also has 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”. There is no doubt that the definition on dictionary has always been right but been misunderstood by learners and educators for a rather long period. Besides, concept is something amendable and abstract that constitutes knowledge and thus 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, Sfard added. The acquisition, internalization and accumulation of knowledge can be of great help in making learners become the owners of knowledge rather than slaves under teachers’ proper guidance and cultivation. Being flexible and abstract, unlike a concrete apple, acquired knowledge can be shared with others and can be greatly 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, Sfard has come with the concept “acquisition metaphor”.
However, knowledge does not only come with a world automatically or in individual minds, but also 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 hardly notice it without an alternative metaphor. However, another metaphor that refers to participation overweight self accumulation has been developed by Sfard. To put it differently, the participation metaphor focus on being involved better in a whole group in the learning process with 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 are 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 properly. 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 supposed to provide a prospective affordance for both teachers and learners by converting the traditional learning mode into a modern one. CSCL, as a technology-based collaborative learning that can make contributions to teamwork among peers, can be defined as interdisciplinary research field focusing on working as a joint group to share and to distribute knowledge and to 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 widely put in to use in many academic institutions. By posting blogs on the forum, students are becoming more accessible to share their own thoughts, acquired knowledge, creative ideas created via internet-based communication. Besides, such forum provides many quiet learners a good chance to share their thoughts that they do not have chance to express in physical classrooms.
In sum, students seem to be encouraged to think with AM by showing independent views and to 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 forward, which benefits learning constantly. Apart from AM and PM frameworks, another framework: creativity metaphor can be developed based on such CSCL theory, Lipponen et al 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 in teaching and learning. Based on the 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, one should have a clear target in skills acquisition, amendable problem-solving plans during 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. Robertson 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, critical thinking, etc. 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, aiming to achieve a win-win situation. For some details, sometimes when professors share links to selected videos and articles to help students enlarge horizons instead 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 some theories in practice, etc. And they can be daily communications in forms of topic discussions, questionnaires, or even games that help to encourage thinking. For the students who follow Dr. A, they can feel free to choose to receive notification or mute when Dr. A updates 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 distance between people and giving people a sense of close. To put it differently, such affordances are similar to buffets, 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 sword. Since learners are given a wide range of freedom in online informal learning, it can never be 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 therapies. What are worse, some, however, indeed are suffering from severe results such as worsened well-being conditions, sitotoxism, and even death. In addition, 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 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 courses are usually equipped with strong self-direct abilities 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 plans for the whole process of learning. With the acquisition of background knowledge, they can get a understanding of what they will learn. And during the process of thinking and developing questions, they can feel more focused on indulging themselves in absorbing well-organized knowledge and skills from educators. And on the basis of PM, they are usually encouraged to interact with professor in live course by typing or audio chat, the sense of participation can compete that in real classrooms as long as they are allowed to have sufficient opportunities to do so. There are not many differences between online students and on campus students in terms of after class communications and assignments submissions, they are equally treated to participate online discussions and to do 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se1EFZRE5uQ
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 an increasingly popular trend all over the world, tools for preparing for standard examinations start to emerge due to the huge demands. 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 IELTS well. Meanwhile, individualized time schedule is preferable as most of the learners are part-time learners. Also, the vocabulary requirement is also a challenging part for non-native speakers of English. They are often struggling with reciting words with a thick dictionary-like book as they think memorizing words is the most vital foundation of learning English. Based on learners’ urgent requirements for a multiple function tool, the APP called 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. Additionally, 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 to notice the light blue notice board on the top of the screen that tells how many words you have memorized and the total period 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. With a motivation of surpassing a goal, users will show more enthusiasms in participating, just like playing a video game. 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 four bars on the top of home page, 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, providing users clear directions for learning. The second top bar is mini video courses, like “10 tips for preparing IELTS speaking”, “Most common mistakes in IELTS writing”, “Practical skills for IELTS reading”. Users can choose to watch what they are interested in and learn useful skills in a few minutes. The next top bar is made of practical guidance articles and emphasize on strategies and skills, allowing users to enhance skills for learning.
On the bottom of the homepage, there are 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 page, there is a button to make a record of your answer and you can feel free to share it on the web and receive comments from other students or teachers, you can also get access to others’ answers in this part. With a ultimate goal of improving skills in speaking, such mode of communicate will be helpful as we usually overlook our own shortcomings but they are obvious in others’ views. The function allows users to make progress together. 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. Text-based communications and interactions are often encouraged during the courses. 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 showing a trend of learning revolution in the internet age. 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. 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. Taking the Broadclyst Community Primary School I visited last month as another example, being different with traditional school who focus on input, this thinking school allows children to work independently and collaboratively with proper guidance from lovable teachers and managers. they are given more freedom to think and create, such as the cooking class and painting workshop. With target-based projects, children can unlock their huge potential of thinking critically rather than dull acceptance. The guide teacher Matthew even said: “ you can be an artist here”. In terms of the use of technology, for younger students, multiple media are used in daily teaching, and middle grades students, they have huge freedom to use the mega tough screen computer in front of the the classroom. For upper grade students, everyone has a Microsoft Surface and the devices will be updated yearly to keep up-to date. 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.
To conclude, 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). Namely, 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 all over the world. Altbach 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). Wellman 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. Another possible tool for future education is VR/AR, such kind of technology has already put into use in some areas, such as virtual learning for aviation training designed for some airlines. Airline company staffs can be trained separately in flexible time to release labors. However, such VR training is not not currently put into use because of policies and funds. For school education, VR is attractive to pupils, by experiencing a colourful multiple dimensions world, they can feel highly participation. For example, in the case of learning planets in the cosmic, knowledge can be presented in a vivid way, and thus receiving satisfactory results of learning. However, VR/AR has limitations in education, not everything can be better learned in such tool. It can me more time-consuming and money-wasting if learners want to learn a simple skill. Moreover, the technology is not yet mature, taking the most common used VR glasses as an example, the images look like mosaics due to the low definition. And it has a long way to go in improving technology level and reducing costs.
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