Design learning for new skills

In a critical response to 1:1 laptop initiatives Weston and Bain (2010) pointed out that the use of technology in education has focused more on replacing existing modes of learning versus transforming them. For instance, they state  “books [are] replaced by webpages… [and] chalkboards by interactive whiteboard”. (p. 10).  As a response,  reports on emerging technologies, participatory cultures, and media education provide insight into the use of  technology to enhance and improve education.

The 2010 Horizon Report on emerging technologies that might potentially affect education promotes the idea that it is “incumbent upon the academy to adapt teaching and learning practices to meet the needs of today’s learners” (p. 4). The report stated digital media literacy is a key skill in many areas of a student’s life. For instance, engaging in mobile learning and using open content require both technology and information literacy skills.

Additionally, the MacArthur Foundation supported a paper on the movement of participatory cultures; namely, people who create and share content through digital means, as seen with social networks, self-publishing tools, and online circulation. Students create and share their school and personal work through Facebook, slideshare and blogs, as an example.  The authors claimed teaching students how to develop such literacies would shift the focus from individual to community. New skills could include performance, collective intelligence, networking, transmedia navigation, and appropriating media.

Grainne Conole provides a way to develop curriculum that incorporates technology and new literacy skills. Through an online design community in Cloudworks, Conole posted a paper on learning design. Her notion of learning design (her version of instructional design) moves from a traditional approach to one that is explicit and holistic. Learning design uses a design-based approach to create and support learning and teaching supported by technology.  Conole suggested to balance student activities and include the following tasks:

  • understand content (assimilative)
  • gather and manipulate resources (information handling)
  • use simulation software (adaptive)
  • engage in dialogue (communicative)
  • construct artefacts (productive)
  • practice skills (experiential)
  • assess appropriately

She created a tool using Excel to configure the design of a course and its dimensions. A visual representation is then provided to help create a balance of activities across a course or module. Notice the shift from instructor focus to student-centered learning over the length of a unit of learning.

Whereas, many elements of this design approach draws on traditional learning theories and design approaches, Conole systematically combines important elements that focus on the student, rich learning experiences, technology use, and 21st century literacy skills.

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