In reading Dron (2014) and Goldman et al. (2012), I contemplated what constitutes innovation in the context of a distance education setting. As a K-12 educator, I consistently found that the challenges of change and innovation in distance education have many similarities to K-12 blended learning environments.
What constitutes innovation? Amazing new tools that are put into practice to improve student learning and to prepare them for the workforce and demands of life of the 21st century. If information and communication technologies (ICTs) are not used by instructors and students, they are not an innovation, but merely an idea, a tool and resource that is not used. Dron (2014) points out that these innovations in ICTs can be “soft” or “hard technologies” and highlights the creative licence, where the deeper learning happens, with soft technologies (Dron, 2014, p. 242). Dron (2014) speaks to processes related to the use of technologies and pedagogies to share and engage with learning processes. These processes are discussed in the context of online distance education contexts but are relevant to my experience in K-12 blended learning environments as well. New thinking in education to meet the needs of 21st learners will remain ideas if new actions are not implemented to embrace learning with ICTs.
Addressing the pedagogies involved with the use of technology is a part of innovation: a part that is just being addressed in many ways. Dron and Anderson look at the generations of ICTS in terms of FOUR dominant pedagogies:
1) the behaviourist/cognitivist model – learner-centric view (e.g., Piaget, Skinner, Bruner, Gagne);
2) social constructivist model (Dewey and Vygotsky) – the importance of interaction with other people in the learning process;
3) connectivist-model, pointing to the central role of the construction of knowledge in the network, both human and non-human;
4) emerging fourth generation that Dron and Anderson postulate as being “holist,” drawing from different pedagogies, stating that “learning and teaching are deformed by the context and that no pedagogy has primacy” (p. 239).
Part of innovation is action and Dron (2014) speaks to the pivotal issues surrounding technological acceptance and use amongst instructors and learners. He explores the SLOAN-C five-pillar model (Moore, 2005, in Dron, 2014, p. 244) which states five dimensions of the quality of the performance of a technology in a distance education setting: learning effectiveness, scale (cost-effectiveness and commitment), access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction (p.244).
Innovation involves not only the ideas in new mindsets, but the action in mindshifts of both faculty and students (Goldman, 2012). Goldman et al. (2012) focused on four key mindshifts in relation to the adoption and assessment of ICTs in education: human-centred, experimental, collaborative, and metacognitive. For distance education to be innovative and to embrace innovations in ICTs, there needs to be a shift in pedagogies and assessments. Goldman et al. propose some valuable insights and tools to change how we look at assessing learning with edtech. Specifically, they explore how we measure learning and success with design thinking and creative endeavours that are very different from traditional culminating projects or assessments. They state “a need for new metrics and assessment methodologies [to] accompany[y] these new ways of learning” (para. 12), sharing a detailed “reflective assessment rubric” (para. 25). They cite examples from the US National Science Foundation Task Force on Cyberlearning (2008) that state: “Despite the revolutions wrought by technology in medicine, engineering, communications, and many other fields, the classrooms, textbooks, and lectures of today are little different than those of our parents. Yet today’s students use computers, mobile telephones, and other portable technical devices regularly for almost every form of communication except learning. The time is now—if not long overdue—for radical rethinking of learning and of the metrics for success” ( in Goldman et al., 2012, para.12 ). As a K-12 educator, I could not agree more with these findings and observations. We have identified new mindsets, but the active changes that lead to mindshifts call for different pedagogies that incorporate new assessment strategies to match innovative ICTs.
Many innovations are “disruptive technologies” (Christensen, 1997, in Dron, 2014, p. 245) that are initially less effective in their initial application, producing results in learning that are no more effective, if not less, than what they claimed to exceed and improve. Such disruptive technologies call for perseverance to meet their potential to amplify student learning. Unfortunately, the “initial worsening [of learning outcomes] can act as a brake on initial uptake of ICTs, especially for hard technologies” (Dron, 2014, p. 246) in learning environments –decreasing the perseverance and action needed to make innovations truly innovative. Textbooks, one of the hardest technologies, are still a primary resource for many teachers’ practices, maintaining learning environments that are not in-line with the opportunities that edtech affords us; and, therefore, not in line with the radical rethinking of education that is underway. What constitutes innovation is a consolidation of new resources and tools in action.
Dron, J. (2014). Chapter 9: Innovation and Change: Changing how we Change. In Zawacki-Richter, O. & T. Anderson (Eds.), Online distance education: Towards a research agenda. Athabasca, AB: AU Press. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120233/ebook/09_Zawacki-Richter_Anderson_2014-Online_Distance_Education.pdf
Goldman S. et al. (2012) Assessing d.learning: Capturing the Journey of Becoming a Design Thinker. In: Plattner H., Meinel C., Leifer L. (eds) Design Thinking Research. Understanding Innovation. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1007/978-3-642-31991-4_2