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MirandaNet Fellowship Article

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal

Exploring Educational Futures

overview of a series of unconferences in 2012/13

Christina Preston

Year of posting: 2012




The articles summarise the results of a series of unconferences, 2012/2013, called Exploring Education Futures, that started in Prague, in June and Bedford in November 2012. There are links to individual papers with more detailed descriptions.

An ICT curriculum for the knowledge age

Co-ordinators of MirandaNet contributions to the ICT curriculum consultation who were awarded a Fellowship were Ian Lynch, GEBOL; Andrea Forbes, Texas Instruments; and, Iris Lanny, Oracle. This Bedford working group submitted a MirandaNet report to the UK consultation about the current ICT curriculum. In this report they identified a crisis in the perception of digital technologies in education. ‘Unlike the craft based traditional school technologies, digital technologies have shifting requirements of the expertise required to teach them. Most of the resourcing effort has been constant refresh of rapidly dating equipment as technological fashions change, rather than investing in people. It is not very surprising that this situation is unsustainable. It has been expensive as well as uncertain in its impact. The proposed solution is to remove much of the prescription associated with the programme of study and specify a much slimmer version. A first draft of this proposal was a key focus for the “Exploring Education Futures” conference. Read more…

At Bedford a debate was led by Dr Vanessa Pittard, Department for Education about the changes to the ICT Curriculum. We also invited members from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany and New Zealand to comment on the differences between the systems in their countries compared with the UK. These presentations can be found in the unconference resources amongst the abstracts and the videos.

Furthermore, Dr Noeline Wright from Waikato University, New Zealand, is awarded a Senior Fellowship for a thought-piece that was stimulated by subsequent threads on MirandaLink about the changes to the ICT curriculum and as a result has published a thought piece on curriculum issues in relation to the New Zealand educational ICT landscape. Her piece certainly raises some awkward questions about the role of politicians in education. ‘Education is, internationally, a political football, even though the rules are not international, but adapted according to the vagaries of political interests’. Noeline suggests, ‘Politicians interfere with it for mainly ideological ends; seldom, it seems, is educational policy based on the lessons from educational evidence…

Secretary of State, Gove’s interference in ICT in the UK is a case in point. Given my reading of the MirandaNet discussion threads, his perspective seems to be predicated on insisting that UK students of the twenty-first century replicate the education of someone who went through school in the twentieth century….’

After delivering a wealth of detail about the ways in which digital technologies are now used in education globally, Noeline’s conclusions about the British challenge strike home.

‘Perhaps it necessary to return to first principles: that both teaching and learning really matter, that neither are linear, unproblematic or clear-cut. That they are heavily context-dependent and this includes the kinds of technologies and affordances available to both learners and teachers, who, in fact, are necessarily part of the learning complex, and who illustrate the intimately connected nature of teaching and learning; that we can be both simultaneously. I suppose I’m grateful that in New Zealand, whatever the political flavour of the government of the day, there is a consistent development agenda about digital technologies in learning contexts.’ Read more...

The current ICT curriculum was seen as a product of the rural and the industrial ages. The 21st century was seen as the Knowledge Age. This group is now looking into a design to fulfil the learning needs of the future and will be discussing this further at BETT13.

Developing effective informal professional communication models using technology

Dr Matthew Pearson; Rachel Jones, Steljes; Roger Turner, Lightspeed; and Dr Katya Toneva, St Mary’s College, won Fellowship awards for co-ordinating contributions to the article, Digital Approaches to Collaboration, that was also based on contributions in Prague. They open with the comments that ‘Professional Development needs to change radically to meet the needs and challenges of the digital age. We now have very powerful tools at our disposal for sharing professional knowledge in new ways, and the challenges to all, especially academics and policy makers, is to develop ways of harnessing this potential so that impacts on practice are maximized and a real culture of innovation and creativity is fostered amongst teachers’. This article is an important contribution to the practice of the MirandaNet professional development programme, iCatalyst.

Formal ICT continuing professional development: multimedia resources and training for teachers;

The same working group Dr Matthew Pearson; Rachel Jones, Steljes; Roger Turner, Lightspeed; and Dr Katya Toneva, St Mary’s College, won Fellowship awards for co-ordinating contributions to a second article, ICT Professional Development; the challenges. They prophesy that:

“The challenges to teacher professional development that will arise in the next 5 to 10 years are considerable, yet the opportunities to transform practice and create a generation of teachers delivering a world class ICT curriculum are within our grasp. Innovations in ICT and the exponential growth of the digital world will not patiently wait for educators to catch up and implement change at their own pace. Rather than a programme that is built on gradual and incremental improvements to existing practice, we need to embrace methodologies for CPD in ICT that move practice on at a much greater pace.

Current CPD is often based on the premise of making an individual teacher better within her or his classroom, and supporting them to become a better teacher within these parameters. Such an approach will not allow teachers to keep pace with the rapid societal changes being caused by the new technologies and new ways of working”. Read more…

Ensuring that professional research counts in policy

Our partnership with the Education Futures Collaboration led by Professor Marilyn Leask, and Dr Sarah Younie is an important thread in the campaign to have the knowledge and expertise of teachers as professionals recognised throughout the world because so far ‘education is still far from being a knowledge industry in the sense that its own practices are not yet being transformed by knowledge about the efficacy of those practices’ (OECD 2009).

Mapping Education Specialist knowHow (MESH) seems to us to be the most viable opportunity to provide access to subject specific research-based knowledge about barriers to students’ learning and interventions most likely to dissolve barriers. The MESH approach uses multimedia mindmaps, as a way of presenting complex knowledge, each node providing a link to an annotatable display of more in-depth fully referenced knowledge. Read more…

The impact of digital technologies on learning theory and practice

Although MirandaNet is still publishing on the ICT agenda and how it is taught, the perspective has widened to include how pedagogy is impacted by digital technologies throughout formal education and informal learning. Professor Diana Laurillard, who has been commenting on digital technologies world for many years, has made pedagogy in formal teaching central in her thought-provoking book, Teaching as a Design Science. She writes that teachers in the twenty-first century, in all educational sectors, have to cope with an ever-changing cultural and technological environment. Teaching is now a design science. Like other design professionals – architects, engineers, programmers – teachers have to work out creative and evidence-based ways of improving what they do. Yet teaching is not treated as a design profession.’

In the MirandaNet Fellowship we are working on the design element of teaching especially in the area of collaborative learning. The progress of our professional thinking can be traced in a series of collaborative articles that have been developed by our working groups. Web publication is our route for drawing attention to research findings and professional expertise in influencing policy makers at local, national and international levels.

Read more about the MirandaNet approach to theory and practice here.

Dr Raiker, Dr Cuthell and Professor Preston are working on a draft papers on the subject of collaborative learning and would welcome feedback. Email for copies.

MirandaNet Members can go to the Log on/off area to edit their own articles.

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