The Media Debate in Current Events

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By Kristin Beeby and Sandra Norum  

The great media debate between Clark and Kozma highlights the significance of critically evaluating the learning media.  Their arguments are relevant today especially in light of the quick pivot to online education during the global pandemic. The following articles will be explored through their perspectives.

Article #1 Summary

The article, How Technology will transform learning in the COVID-19 era by Utkarash Amitabh discusses how higher education is ultimately changing to match economic trends and the ‘unbundling’ of education—this unbundling is where ed-tech provides opportunity and innovation. The author outlines four major shifts; return on investment career specializations, lifelong learning, shorter periods for learning and new business models. The author argues this unbundling will bring about a certain amount of disruption in ed-tech. These disruptions include; “learning hard skills with direct employment prospects…networking…[and] a push for soft skills”, (Amitabh, 2020). The author then points out that if higher education is to survive this era of unbundling and disruption, it will need to combine both AI and communities. Amitabh (2020) argues that ed-tech using AI and communities will bring together the world’s brightest minds to collaborate on real-world problems. Ultimately, however, the author notes that AI is still missing the community aspect and must overcome this deficit to be successful. The article ends on the notion that socio-economic factors and market trends are always a function of ed-tech being equitable. Ultimately, this clamouring for the market share may make ed-tech increasingly affordable.

Clark’s Response to Article #1

Clark’s (1994) response to Amitabh’s noted changes to education would be that they do not represent improved learning through technology. Instead, he would argue that these changes are driven by the pandemic’s political and economic climate. If Clark’s “armchair experimental criteria” (p. 1) were applied to the Artificial Intelligent (AI) referred to by Amitabh, it would fail. Even Amitabh explains that AI is most effective when used within a community. The name alone of Artificial Intelligence refers to attributes that mimic human processes; therefore, the true human interaction would be more beneficial to learning than AI acting like Clark’s metaphorical delivery truck. Amitabh identifies other trends in education like the unbundling of education as students want shorter, more specified courses. Clark would resent the great economic investment in ed-tech but would receive some reassurance that the trends brought on by COVID-19 are trends that look at providing a solution to a problem rather than trying to fit a solution to a problem.  To this, he would caution us to continue to question evidence and to carefully consider our choices in a medium.

Kozma’s response to Article #1

Ed-tech is a way for educators to innovate and bring alive the topics to engage our learners. In some cases, it is even a way for educators to streamline and capitalize on what the current societal needs are. Using the ideas put forth by Kozma (1994) in the debate whether media influences learning; we can frame Amitabh’s arguments with the following lens: In this particular era of online learning, educators can reach learners who may not otherwise be able without online platforms and e-learning. This disruption and unbundling of education provide learners with more specified and economic avenues to achieving their educational goals. Learners from around the world can now connect seamlessly to collaborate. Kozma would agree that this closing of geographical gaps has made the scope of ed-tech even more dynamic and prosperous. Kozma would likely contend that AI, one of the most intriguing technological innovations of 21st-century learning, has the potential to personalize learning and provide access to marginalized or differently-abled learners. In moving forward, the educator’s greatest challenge then becomes addressing the need to connect to others and build communities for our learners. These connection needs and the innate human drive to belong is where ed-tech should point its compass.

Article #2 Summary

In their article, The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Li and Lalani (2020) consider the potential long-term implications of learning due to the rapid shift to online education caused by the global pandemic. They outline how ed-tech companies are taking advantage of this opportunity by offering free access, one-stop shops, and partnerships. These authors identify two possible outcomes to this shift in education. The first is that the poor preparation will lead to poor sustained adoption. The second possible outcome is a new hybrid form of education. These authors list several examples of the latter but caution the effect of the digital divide. Research is cited that claims improved retention and increased speed in online learning. They provide a conflicting argument, however, that younger learners need more structure. To summarize, there are benefits and drawbacks to the shift to online learning and only time will show any lasting effects on education.

Clark’s Response to Article #2

With the pandemic closing schools worldwide and students and teachers having to shift to online learning, some educators face moving outside of their comfort zone and teaching with an unfamiliar medium. Richard E. Clark (1994) would say this shift is also forcing learners to adjust their cognition to suit these fads. There was already a growing movement for implementing e-learning across the education field, but true empiricists like Clark, know this is premature. Clark would point out that a lacklustre showing of evidence that media influences technology, the education sector needs to tread carefully through this minefield of ‘free platforms’ and ‘unlimited access’ to the unmanageable number of providers. We see the continued monetization of education in businesses pairing with public school districts under the guise of helping parents navigate online learning during school shutdowns. Clark highlights concerns on the shifting to untested and unproven methods of teaching we see in these e-learning situations. There is also the problem of equitable access. With a large percentage of families not supported with tools or bandwidth, we are only widening the education gap for those who are already struggling. Clark would agree there is an argument to be made for e-learning becoming a more efficient and seemingly economical way of learning, he would contend there is much work to be done in the realm of methodology and theory. Online learning may have the potential to democratize education and disseminate knowledge, but it should not be at the cost of sound practice and positive student outcomes.

Kozma’s Response to Article #2

Kozma’s (1994) argument avoids absolutes by considering the potential role technologies may play in the future, a future that is perhaps now being realized. Technology and the world has changed immensely, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic. Has the not-too-distant future Kozma refers to arrived? Kozma’s argument uses the improved cognitive processes for the students using ThinkerTools like the benefits in the article. Kozma points to the role of research in learning more about the influence of media on technology and he would be enthused by the number of real-world experiences occurring in education’s response to COVID-19 and the resulting shift in perspective. “Perhaps a more productive approach would be to view the design process is a dynamic, creative interaction – or conversation, to us Schon’s term – between the designer, the situation, and the medium in which the design both shapes and is shaped by each of these factors” (p. 21). In Li and Lalani’s article, we witness the mutual interactions Kozma describes as school districts, educators, and ed-tech companies work together to form a swift option for students at home. This shift to remote learning has also put more emphasis on the accessibility of technology. This prevalence of users may lead to some of the innovations and patterns Kozma alluded to.

References

Amitabh, U. G. (2020, August 31). How technology will transform learning in the COVID-19 era. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/08/how-edtech-will-transform-learning-in-the-covid-19-era/

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development42(2), 21-29. http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~bmann/0_ARTICLES/Media_Clark.html

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development42(2), 7-19. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.167.4904

Li, C. and Lalani, F. (2020, April 29). The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning

Technology is not Neutral

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In the final third of Wellers 25 years of ed tech (2020) the quote, “technology is not ethnically or politically neutral” (p. 188) resonated with me. I agree with this comment so completely and yet it is rarely at the forefront of my thinking when developing or instructing an online course. From Weller’s book it seems as though there are two main causes for the biases of technology. The first are the structures of search engines. Second is the human construction of online courses. These points are accentuated when I read articles like Bloomberg’s “Trump Wants $5 Billion from TikTok deal for history project”  where there is a blatant misuse of power and technology to spur biased information.

In his discussion of computer-mediated communications, Weller refers to how the natural process of communication that occured in a university settings needed to be intentionally built into online courses. However, there is the potential for courses developers that are building in these natural processes to provide limited or biased perspectives. In a face-to-face classroom, there would be more natural checks and balances by the opportunities to learn from each others perspectives and experiences. Having an awareness of our own biases and limitations is important when constructing online courses so that our intentional structures don’t unintentionally restrict the learning process or present bias. Could the potential lesson here be to provide more options within online courses to limit our own biases? Or to have teams of course developers?

According to Weller, another cause of bias within technology are the algorithms that promote “polarizing content” (173). Weller is right in pointing out the social responsiblity educators have. As a K-12 teacher there needs to be some safe guards when allowing students to find their own resources. This also emphasizes the importance of teaching skills that would allow students to find and process information online in a critical and thoughtful way.

An awareness of the bias within technology is important to use as a mirror to reflect on our own practice.

References

Jacobs, J., Parker, M., & Wingrove, J. (2020, September 20). Trump Wants $5 Billion From TikTok Deal for History Project. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-09-20/trump-wants-5-billion-from-tiktok-deal-for-new-history-project?utm_source=EdSurgeInnovate

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Janette Hughes: Person in the Field of Educational Technology

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Janette Hughes is a current Canadian Research Chair in Technology and Pedagogy and professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Hughes’ contributions focus on pedagogy and empowering all people in the school community to use technology to incite positive change.

Hughes’ impressive resume includes 47 peer-reviewed and frequently cited articles among other presentations and publications. She received eight awards, including the Early Researchers Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation. Her blog marks her involvement in every level of education. She consults with school districts and policy makers and published The Digital Principal (2014) to encourage the thoughtful and purposeful use of technology in schools. She also supports teachers and students through her research projects and publications like Becoming a Teacher (2015).

Her background as a Language Arts teacher brings a unique perspective on literacies including digital literacy and new media literacy. She is also involved in STEM research, but has placed an emphasis on the Arts, the ‘A’ in her STEAM 3-D Maker Space project. She uses technology to strengthen marginalized students’ identities and voices as agents of change, a particularly admirable goal in our uncertain and tumultuous world. This focus aligns with Watters’ (2014) suggestion that the educational technology should, as Papert’s said, lead students to “powerful ideas.” Hughes continues on this path to support educators and learners through the pandemic’s pivot to online education as mentioned in this video. Janette Hughes is person to watch in educational technology.

References

Hughes, J. & Burke, A. (2014). The Digital Principal. Markham, ON: Pembroke Publishers Limited.

Parkay, Vaillancourt, Stephens, Harris, Hughes, Gadanidis & Petrarca. (2017). Becoming a Teacher, 5th Canadian Edition. Toronto, ON: Pearson.

Watters, A. (2014, June 18). Un-Fathom-able: The hidden history of Ed-Tech. Hack Education. http://hackeducation.com/2014/06/18/unfathomable-cetis2014

Blogs versus LMS

In the second third of Weller’s 25 years of Ed Tech (2020) the blog versus learning management system (LMS) debate was particularly compelling. This is relevant as, in my school district, our neighboring brick-and-mortar high school teachers are using a blog format to deliver courses online. Across the way, DL teachers on Moodle are watching closely. Below, I consider this choice within my current practice.

The lesson that aligns with my practice is that control an LMS provides is desirable for many reasons. While Weller’s focus is on higher education, the control within LMS is more relevant for school aged students who are still learning  skills for finding and evaluating resources. Another key difference is that the school I work at tends to draw highly anxious students. The protection afforded by the LMS structure adds a sense of security. They feel more comfortable nested in a familiar environment that is consistent between teachers, courses, and grades.

The lesson that conflicts with my current practice is Weller’s understanding of the degree of control being a pedagogical choice. This is true to some degree and in higher education it makes sense to allow students more freedoms. More so, the amount of control is a question of the student, content provider, and teaching load.  Our LMS is used by students from grade six to twelve. Having a consistent layout helps our students in their transition from middle school to secondary. The other determining factor, other than pedagogy, is that our content provider uses Moodle. With teachers teaching between 15 to 20 courses, there is currently no time allowed to transition away from this. This is where the sedimentation Weller refers to lies.

This blog format at the brick-and-mortar school is potentially more feasible due to fewer courses the teachers need to prepare. I expect though that it will be used to varying degrees of sophistication, much like Weller’s criticism of LMS’s early use. I will continue to explore this choice as it is so important to continually evaluate our practice and the tools within it.

Reference

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

Reflecting on Weller

Reflection of tree on water
Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

In reflecting on Weller’s discussion of educational technologies (2020), I strongly connected to the reoccurring theme of collaboration. Collaboration resonates with my own experiences as an educator, but it is also an interesting lens for the public criticisms of the online learning as we attempted to adjust education during a pandemic.

Weller refers frequently to how the collaboration of educators was influential in a technology’s adoption into education. Weller’s summary of bulletin board systems refers to the “use of academic real estate” (13). This is an effective term to refer to how educators need to selectively expend their time and energy. Through collaboration they can share this burden. Again, in the chapter on learning objects, Weller explains how elements of learning objects survived through consortiums of subscribed educators. This reminds me of the Western Canadian Learning Network (WCLN) on which our school relies for our own content and is what makes it possible for DL schools in BC to offer diverse courses. It seems from Weller’s summaries that those technologies that survived to be adopted into education were adopted because there was a collaborative effort to share information and thereby share the burden of time and energy.

As a firm advocate of Distributed Learning, I struggle with the criticisms of BC’s schools’ online model that was adopted after Spring break. I hear “well we know that that didn’t work” from colleagues, senior administration, and government officials. Rather than dismissing it as failure, we could all gain more from reflecting on why it failed. The primary reason for its assumed failure is that there was little opportunity for collaborative planning and a motivation driven by panic rather than sound pedagogical theory. I admit, that prior to this book, the history of educational technology was a self-centered one that lived within my own experiences. The history that Weller presents could have helped us all in the transition in response to the pandemic. Instead of reliving some of history’s mistakes we could have moved forward collaboratively with focus and support.

Reference

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

 

Open Education and Creative Commons

Image of mountain climbers
Image Source: The Hog’s Back by Shaylor Flickr.com CC

My greatest takeway from Clint Lalonde’s presentation (2018) is that open education and creative commons licenses encourage the fundamental traits of sharing, kindness, and respect.

As a teacher, I aim to model the qualities I want to encourage in my students. If I want to encourage sharing, I need to also share. In Lalonde’s presentation he shares a student’s experience whose professor made students purchase the book they authored. Through these actions, the professor portrays themselves as the sole authority on the topic and students will quickly lose respect.

This reminds me too of my experiences as a new teacher. In my quest to build a collection of resources some of the more experienced teachers would keep their resources or activities under literal lock-and-key.  Now, as a teacher with more experience, I find that by sharing resourcing I also gain more knowledge and perspective through the professional dialogue that arises from discussing the resources and activities.

Along this similar vane, I appreciated learning about the share-alike request of the creative commons license. This is appealing as it again encourages the philosophy that seems to have spurred the orgination of the creative commons licence, to share knowledge. Through any journey, we gain by supporting the sharing of knowledge.

Reference

Lalonde, C. (2018). Into the great wide open [Video file]. Royal Roads University, School Education & Technology, 2018 MALAT Virtual Symposiumhttps://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback/load/822e24b327fb446fb5458d18bba3416e

 

 

Questions upon questions

Questions by A BOB list at Flickr.com

In our Introduction to Critical Research and Writing course we’ve briefly addressed the topic of research questions. However, it wasn’t until our session with George Veletsianos that I could briefly witness how the process of developing and responding to questions takes place.

The way in which he paused and asked for clarification after each question was a reminder to me to not rush into the search for answers. Particularly, I noticed that he used deliberate pauses to consider the phrasing and implications of the question. He also frequently responded to the orgininal question with more clarifying questions. These skills help to ensure that the correct question can be answered correctly. In hindsight, this makes perfect sense. Of course you need to understand the question to answer it!

In reflecting on this presentation, I realize that as a new grad student I’m so thrilled by the potential for learning and applying new skills or ideas, that I sometimes hurry past the question phase. I look forward to practicing this skill in the courses to come.

Reference

Veletsianos, G. (2020). Questions about Research for George Veletsianos [Audio recording]. Retrieved from https://bluejeans.com/playback/s/PES97xtVyEHk1N21CMu2Nf6cWuxkum7cyWE7yZV9PPdarszJA4QnOQtZNBqC2oid

Theoretical Frameworks

As part of the Introduction to Research: Critical Reading and Writing course, we considered the importance of adopting a theoretical framework through which to conduct research. Then we created an annotated bibliography of articles that adopted these frameworks. We also created a presentation on selected theoretical frameworks. The theories our team worked on were activity theory, cognitive load theory, motivation theory, and personality theory. 

You can view the presentation here.

You can also view our annotated bibliography here.

References

Activity Theory

Coghlan, D., and Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). Activity theory. The SAGE encyclopedia of action research (Vols. 1-2), (pp. 22-24). SAGE Publications Ltd. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781446294406

Kaptelinin, V., and Nardi, B. A. (2006). Acting with technology : Activity theory and interaction design (Ser. Acting with technology). MIT Press. https://royalroads.skillport.com/skillportfe/assetSummaryPage.action?assetid=RW$26870:_ss_book:18551#summary/BOOKS/RW$26870:_ss_book:18551

Cognitive Load Theory

Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. G. W. C. (1998). Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design. Educational Psychology Review, 10(3), 251-296. https://10.1023/A:1022193728205

Motivation Theory

Cook, D. A., & Artino, A. R. (2016). Motivation to learn: an overview of contemporary theories. Medical Education, 50(10), 997–1014. https://doi.org/10.1111/medu.13074

Personality Theory

Kaushal, K.B., Leon, Y.W., & Chun-Yen, C. (2019). The impact of personality on students’ perceptions towards online learning. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 34(4). https://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET/article/view/4162/1569

What Makes a Great Research Question?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask.”

(Albert Einstein, as cited in Luo, Brancolini, and Kennedy, 2017)

In preparing for a research study, it’s important to carefully consider your research question. The research question is what determines your focus and is reflected throughout the entire research process. 

Seeing as the research question is so vital, it should be a researcher’s goal to make not just a good research question but a great one. The key factors that I consider to be important in a research question can be narrowed down to the four ‘P’s’: previous research, purpose, process, and precision. 

    • Previous research: A strong research question must be based on a thoughtful and thorough consideration of previous research findings in the related field. The careful evaluation of prior research also ensures that the research question leads to unique findings that contribute to the academic community.
    • Purpose: A research question should present a clear objective. If the purpose isn’t clear, the results may be too vague or unrelated to develop thoughtful conclusions. Presenting a clear purpose can be done by choosing precise vocabulary. I found Utica College’s “Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Action Verbs” (n.d.) helpful in offering vocabulary that addresses specific outcomes.
    • Process: The research question should also identify an appropriate scope for the length and methodology of the project. 
    • Precision: As with most writing, clear and concise vocabulary is important. A precise question allows for readers to process the information and engage with the research more effectively.

An understanding of previous research, having a clear purpose and process in mind, and using precise language are four qualities that lead to a great research question. 

Resources

Luo L., Brancolini K. R., and Kennedy M. R. (2017). Enhancing library and information research skills. Libraries Unlimited.

Utica College. Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Action Verbs. Utica College.https://www.utica.edu/academic/Assessment/new/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20-%20Best.pdf

 

(Revised June 8, 2020 to add resource for Einstein quote)