Open, social and Participatory Media in Education

In this week’s module we were posed the following questions:

  • How would curriculum change if our priority approach was on critical, creative, and collaborative thinking?
  • What does the reality of the modern age of information– this age of Google –suggest that we “teach”?
  • Can we simply “update” things as we go, or is it time for rethinking of our collective practice?

I was forwarded this very provocative article from the Atlantic by my boss this week = “The deconstruction of the K-12 teacher” It ties in quite nicely with the theme of this module, but it also turns the questions on their heads.

  • how would the curriculum change if they were in the hands of learners and not educators?
  • What does the reality of the modern age of information suggest as to who should be teaching?
  • Will “updating things as we go” enhance or delay the obsolescence of the current collective practice?

Or at least these could be the questions IF and only IF all the glory day assumptions on technology and education were true. As so many of my cohort have pointed out, the reality on the ground is very different from the theory and assumptions made up in ivory or silicon towers.  There are brilliant teachers who don’t touch technology and will never need to and their students are not any the poorer for it.  There are physical tools that are just as effective or more so than technological tools (see this great blog by Buffy Hamilton on writeable tables). There are pathetic teachers who wow and woo with their technical powess, and there are self-absorbed  #SoMe educators who p*** the hell out of their colleagues and students. There are teachers who are genuinely passionate and engaged with their students AND technology and how the combination can optimise learning and reach students in ways that traditional teaching may not be able to. There are those who have experimented and been rewarded and feel empowered to continue and those who have tried and failed or tried had had their fingers smacked by threatened superiors or administrators or frightened parents.

There are children who are naturally curious and respond to any and every stimulus be it text or video, paper or screen and dive right into everything and those who hang back, those who are scared of failing. Those who’ve seen it all, can do it all and more and those that need a lot of help.  A LOT OF HELP. Will technology be the panacea?

I’m not sure that education has ever moved forward by revolution (and it is usually at the behest of entrenched power structures that it does so). Rather it seems to have fits and starts and intermittant warfare (remember the reading/phonics wars?)

The question I think is really, in whose interest is it that education changes, and do they have the power and control to institute those changes?  And this is where it gets interesting. Coming back to the Atlantic article – it would appear to make economic sense to only have “super teachers” and to gain economies of scale, so that would benefit local / state governments wanting to save money. It may even be attractive to those wanting to pay less tax. It’s certainly interesting for commercial educational interests (Pearson etal. the most hated kid on the block it seems) to support this.

Who is driving this bus? I get the feeling that many educators are feeling like passengers, some willingly paid for the ride, some were forced to embark, some think they’re the conductor or the ticket collector,  But who has set the itinerary, and is there a driver or is it a unmanned ground or cloud vehicle?

I see the changes benefiting students as they can delve deeper and go further than the curriculum would allow. Go beyond the geographical and age limitations set by traditional classrooms.  I also see some of them them drowning in content without being able to absorb, internalise or think about it before moving on. I see them learning to use fabulous tools and I see them being sucked into a time-blackhole where the tool and the look of the product becomes more important than the content, the analysis, the thinking or the learning.

I don’t have answers, I just have observations and thoughts and questions right now.


2 thoughts on “Open, social and Participatory Media in Education

  1. Brilliant post! Your thoughts reflect much of what I have been pondering lately, and like you I have a lot of questions and thoughts and not so many answers. It seems to be an ongoing tug of war between educators, researchers and policy makers, and it’s often the educators (with their wealth of experience, professional knowledge and intimate understanding of the needs of their students) who end up as passengers and delivering learning programs that may not be in the best interest of their students. I have always believed that the learning program begins with the students, that their needs, interests, capabilities, personality drive the educational plan for the class, and the best teachers continue to do this. Unfortunately teachers are increasingly constrained to standardise the curriculum. Rather than taking the opportunity to integrate the use of digital technologies in meaningful ways to enrich and extend learning and help develop students into inquiring, critical, creative and collaborative individuals, quite often it is the basic ’how to’ skills that are easily measured and assessed that end up being developed. This is only scratches the surface of the potential for true engagement and learning afforded by digital technologies. One thing that I keep coming back to lately is the divide between the vast potential for learning digital technologies provide and the reality of the shallow ways they are currently being used. That is not to say there are not many wonderful teachers out there implementing brilliant programs integrating technology, but the constraint of standardised curriculum can make it difficult to get out of the shallows (skills and how to) and into the depths (creativity, collaboration, inquiry and reflection) of the ocean of digital technologies.


  2. i was also sent this article by a fellow teacher friend through Facebook. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during this course and through my own experiences and those of fellow teachers, it’s that the teacher is more important than ever. At the heart of this article is the assumption that because the knowledge can be found online, then the teacher is useless. This is fuelled by the paradigm that a teacher’s job is about content delivery, rather than designing learning experiences.
    If this person has read any of the research they’d see that the role of the teacher and personal relationships are identified as being even more important than before. Yes there’s lots of good stuff on the Internet – mixed in with way too much other stuff. Personal engagement happens through relationships. Our role as content researcher and curator has changed – although it’s not disappeared it’s just changed. Metacognition, literacy (all types) numeracy, extension and support can’t happen outside of an experts knowledge of an individual student. Teaching collaboration, sharing…!
    Fundamental principles behind 21st century learning / Education 3.0 or look at Connected Learning – all rely on personal connections guidance and support.
    All the people serious about the future of schools emphasise the crucial role of teachers – he just can’t stand up and bore kids stupid about Dickens…! I say that as an English teacher!!
    Bit I agree with you in that teachers are not involved in this debate. Having said that, the best researchers such as Fullan, or work coming from bodies such as WISE or Cisco, all see that teacher training in good pedagogy and learning, lies at the heart of any systemic or school transformation


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