Learning in the Age of Devices

Recently I grabbed a Sept/Oct 2011 issue of Connected World magazine as they had an interesting main article by Bethanie Hestermann on “Learning in the age of devices – Cool Tools for School“.

I still often feel that the discussion with e-learning and using information and communications technology (also social media) in education hasn’t been taken to the next level and it’s still mostly on how great it is that we have some devices to play with. Not too many reflect what this really asks from us, from the whole education system (from the management, leaders, teachers, pedagogy, everything). The shift isn’t just technological, even more, it is about us as humans and how we could learn the best in the changing world.

I was glad to read that, although a magazine writing more about technological things, CW mostly addressed this topic very nicely. They wrote about how the role of the teacher should be turned more into a facilitator, how new [worldwide] learning communities are emerging and how learning is changing more and more ubiquitous, i.e. the classroom isn’t the king anymore.

Although, I have a couple of things to add. Even if we are giving individual devices (for example PDAs or smart phones) to the students to use in the classes, we also have to change the pedagogy, how we teach. The devices are alone just devices. Like books are just books.

The new paradigm of Networked Society asks for systemic thinking and creativity, not just the ability to answer right to teacher’s right or wrong questions. So to introduce new devices and to use them merely as polling devices for teacher’s questions to see who knows the correct answer and who doesn’t, isn’t anything new, creative nor too effective.

Using devices with social media applications for collaborative knowledge construction and facilitated learning experience are one of the most important goals we should begin to explore more deeply. Like stated in the CW’s article, facilitation is very important in this kind of pedagogy, but few know what real facilitation really takes. To facilitate is to help the learner to learn more efficiently and to construct his/her understanding in a deeper level.

Facilitation doesn’t mean we give answers to students, like some teachers thinking with traditional way of teaching do, but we help them to build the understanding on the topic and ease their way towards their goals. Deep learning doesn’t happen with just reading a book about a topic and answering some right/wrong answers. It happens with getting to know the topic from different angles, reflecting it with other people (face-to-face or online) and applying it to something or building something totally new from it.

We have long known that people don’t learn by just remembering. Just think about your own best learning experiences. That’s why we need to bring what people think is learning to a whole new level.

So if the topic about the future of learning interests you, pic up the issue on your favorite device (although I have to confess, I read it in paper ;)).

SITE 2010 Notes: Building an interactive One Room School Experience in Second Life

Building an interactive One Room School Experience in Second Life: An example of TPACK at work
Kajal Shah, Mimi Lee, Iowa State University, USA

Excellent feel-good presentation about using Second Life! Nice to see someone so excited about her subject as she was!

Also, some great thoughts to think about:

“The students know a lot more about technology, why not letting them to teach us [the teachers] these things as they know more about them? No problem with authority, engaging and the students feel they are special and know something.”

This raised an interesting discussion between participants about the fact, do younger people really know more about tech than the older people? I think it could be more like “the one who knows, should be the teacher at that time”. Sometimes some people know more and sometimes less, but generalizing that kids know it generally better can be a bit misleading statement.


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So What Am I Called Then?


Image by DeepBluC

This is a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately when I’ve cleared to many people what I do for a living. Could a simple deduction practice help to determine this?

So am I a,

1. Creative Director?

This is something I even printed on my business card, because at that time it sounded this is what I do.

But in order to be a director, shouldn’t you be having people to direct, right? Well, first of all, I work through networks, and my job description varies a lot, so simple Creative Director [although it sounds good and very mighty] doesn’t do the trick.

2. Just a “Creative”

Well this is most definitely an ambiguous term in a time when everyone and everything is somewhat “creative” or “innovative”. So, no thanks.

3. Social Media Expert?

I find this term a bit hilarious, but I had to put it here in order to make a statement: If there’s someone telling he is a social media expert, don’t believe him. At least too easily.

There are people who understand a lot more about the current web than others, but there are also some of those who try to open up for you a Twitter account or a Facebook Fan Page without really making it clear what it all means.

I would be most cautious about how much we can currently understand what will become of this early mess that we call social media, social web or whatever.

4. Digital Native

I could also be called digital media native, but it’s not quite selling and most likely there aren’t too many people who even know what that means. And in the end it’s more a description than a profession anyway.

5. Digital Media Agent

I tried this for a week, but the word agent sounds like I’m a movie agent, or something from the James Bond saga. Yes, I’m investigating things and sometimes wear a suit, but that’s about it. No Walther PPK, just a Mac, sorry.

With this description I wanted to be considered someone who connects people with digital media.

Epilogue

I believe that new times need new descriptions. We didn’t say ” Metal horse” when the car was invented.

So what am I then? Like I’ve always said that I don’t want to categorize people or to be categorized too heavily [that can prevent self development and growth], but sometimes it’s just something that you have to do in order to make other people understand what you do for a living and where your professionalism could be helpful.

So currently I’m using the title Social and Digital Media Coach. This for two reasons,

1. That’s the closest thing that sums up everything I currently do.

During my time as an entrepreneur I’ve been working with social media in education and in business, from the training to concept creation and even graphic design [yes, I still occasionally open Photoshop too]. I’m also a project manager in an international ICT project which includes usability, eLearning and Mobile. In addition to this, I’ve also designed user interface / experience and graphic design for a mobile application.

As you can see, describing my work with one sentence can sometimes be a hard task.

2. Because I don’t want to be mixed with the label “professional” or “expert” too strongly. I believe the things in social media to be flexible and something that you need to consider with your client or whoever you are working with. You know, together, and not from your professional ivory tower.

And this is how I want the process to be, because that’s the only way to make people understand the new possibilities the web can actually offer. Possibilities that go far beyond than just simple status updating or Fan Paging.

EDIT (after much reasoning): I have to admit that I was wrong; there’s no one definite term I could currently use. There’s just situational terms and being a creative person I just cannot lock myself up with one.

So yes, unfortunately the term “Creative” that I’m mocking up there is a good term, and so is “Trainer”. So let’s keep with these for a while.