October 05, 2007

ULearn07 Keynote: Harnessing emerging technologies for emerging practice

Maori New Zealand is in a very similar place educationally to Scotland: a national broadband network to connect schools is about to be launched across the country (Sco; NZ); a new flexible curriculum is imminent, with its concentration on assessment for learning and technology to enhance learning (Sco; NZ); a bilingual population with its own set of needs and curriculum (Sco; NZ).

Both countries also face the same opportunities in new technologies leading to emerging practices, and face the same tough questions about whether we really do care for opening our classrooms to the world.

Slide017 Public, Private and all in between
The main question that I wanted to get out of the way at the beginning was that of what is private and what is public now. When you work for a public organisation the immediate reaction is: what can we keep private? What a funny juxtaposition of mission and reaction. Using Matt Locke's six levels of participation we can begin to see that the question is far more complex for classrooms and schools. In the most effective classrooms we see all six levels of participation, from the private to the performance. We also see in this way that what the intellectual snobs often hold in highest regard (theatre, film) are probably the least interactive of the spaces our young people inhabit (online, participative, group spaces).

Five top lessons learned from young people's interactions
Bearing this in mind, what can we learn from young people's interactions with technology in Their Space to inform our teaching and learning? The importance of audience, unleashing that creativity we all aspire to on the web, creating differentiation by using the tools under our noses and keeping tasks authentic cannot be stressed enough - these are the top five points I tend to bash on about a fair bit.

The newer technologies such as blogs, wikis, games and game makers, podcasts, videos and animations offer ways to meet all five of these mandates, but also mean that we have to radically change the way we approach teaching and learning. That means not adding on to what we do already, but removing some of our practice that no longer serves to meet the needs of our young people. The reasons for doing so can be as simple as "the kids have moved on and so do well to keep them engaged", or as complex as the research behind the improvements in attainment and motivation show, in gaming for example. There are also whole worlds which many have yet to discover, and genuinely Good Stuff for education on the very tools education seeks to ban.

Leaders need to start asking questions of themselves in terms of how to imbue a culture of change and sustainability in their schools, to avoid too many becoming digital holidaymakers. Without that lead in the leading edge, then we risk floundering in a bunch of cool stuff but without a sense of direction and the robustness of our convictions and research to know we're doing the right thing.

The Core-Ed people will make the video and slide presentation available for ULearn07 participants through the conference portal. I dare say it'll find its way out onto the www, too ;-)

Pic of Maori


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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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Do you worry that your school or district could better harness its people, digital technology or physical space? Do you want some actionable inspiration, a mentor for a learning journey with your staff?

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