Learning and games

I decided to write this blog post driven by my interest in online games and how they could successfully be integrated in education to produce the desired learning outcomes. My excitement for games is attributed to their novelty related to a new way of learning. Watching the TED talk video “Gaming can make a better world”, my interest was intrigued by the statement of Jane McGonigal (2010) that “gamers are people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world”, highlighting the power of games. However, despite their beneficial role, they are not widely used in educational settings. For example, in my country their use in learning is too limited. Generally, games are regarded as a supplement to the curriculum, because they combine entertainment and learning and are not embedded as a core element in teaching. I strongly believe that we should integrate games as a compulsory subject, instead of incorporating them in activities.

Games can prepare young people for responding to real-life situations and difficulties by offering them experiences that necessitate the development of problem-solving, decision-making and critical skills. When students are called to overcome a range of challenges in online games, they are motivated to define their goals, evaluate their strategies and make prudent decisions by choosing the best one. Throughout this process, they are given the opportunity to try out various approaches and either win or lose. Even their failure is productive, as they are given the opportunity to reflect, reorganize their methods and redirect their efforts. Competition is also developed and is beneficial for young people, since it motivates them to try harder and reach their full potential. Through games, learners become critical thinkers, problem-solvers and more self-confident, qualities that are necessary for adjusting and dealing with the complex problems of real life.

As Gee (2008) has mentioned “good learning requires participation”. Games increase students’ engagement and motivation for learning due to their interactive and immersive environment that excites them (Dodlinger, 2007). In addition, nowadays the online forums that games provide, enable young people to organise themselves in communities of practice and to create social identities, interpreting experiences and sharing practices in order to achieve goals or solve problems.

However, there are concerns that, if we constantly use games, children may become addictive and adopt a misconception of what learning is. According to Mcgonical (2010), the average young person today in a country with a strong gaming culture will have spent 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of twenty-one. Considering this number, our fear and worries about games are intrigued. Thus, we should be mindful and prudent about the amount of time that students should be engaged with playing games and educate them about the affordances of games as well as their dangers.

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Future of technology in education

What does the future of technology in education look like?

The future of educational technology is impossible to predict with accuracy due to the speed of revolutionary changes that have occurred during the last decades. The Internet Age has undoubtedly affected the field of education and nowadays technology is seen by the majority of teachers as a fundamental and positive step in education.

 According to the findings of the Survey (2011) which was conducted in different European countries’ schools about the use of ICT in education, more than 70% of teachers are positively situated towards the role of ICT regarding teaching and learning. This implies that there is no longer the need to convince educators about the benefits of integrating technology in classroom in order to enhance the learning process. Instead, the challenge for teachers is to modify their teaching practices and effectively incorporate technology in a variety of activities. It is a fact that although most teachers are familiar with ICT, they still use it mainly to prepare their lessons.

 I completely agree with the positive impact of educational technology and it is also my firm belief that we need to embrace technology. With its advent, existing educational practices have been challenged and transformed while new ones have emerged. However, it is a sad reality that due to funding cuts in education, not all schools and colleges can afford to buy the proper equipment. Such facts deter us from predicting our education future.

Although we cannot be sure about the future of technology in education, lack of digital literacy is one of the main issues that should be addressed in the near future. It is necessary for both teachers and students to become digitally educated, as they grow up in an increasingly changing world where technologies are present and new ones are constantly appearing. But, what does digital literacy mean? The term is commonly used when referring to the range of skills and knowledge that young people need to have in order to participate effectively and safely in a digital landscape (Hague and Williamson, 2009). However, digital literacy does not simply mean acquiring the ICT skills. Instead, “it requires the development of one’s knowledge about technology and media, the application of these tools and resources to subjects, and the understanding of the role of technology and media in the real world” (Hague and Williamson, 2009). It is a combination of three elements:

  • Knowledge of digital tools
  • Critical skills
  • Social awareness

Digital literacy has some similarities with literacy, as it requires from individuals to be able to read and write digital texts, by navigating, for example, on a website through hyperlinks or writing to social networking systems by uploading photos or videos. However, the term does not only refer to the skills required to operate technological tools and media, but also to one’s awareness of how these affect the ways in which we communicate with others and gain knowledge and understanding. Knowledge is no longer stored exclusively in textbooks and encyclopedias, but is available for free on the web. Thus, it is necessary for learners and teachers to have the appropriate critical skills to evaluate the quality of information they are provided with.

Albion et al. (2015) highlighted teachers’ professional development and training as a cornerstone in the process of facilitating ICT in the educational field. Teachers are the driving force of the learning process and, as a result, they are expected within the digital landscape of 21st century to be educated and equipped with the appropriate skills and expertise that will enable them to feel confident and competent when using technology in the classroom. Besides, according to the findings of the Survey (2011), there is a positive relation between digitally confident teachers and students.

Web 2.0 technologies, such as social networking sites (Facebook or Twitter), blogging, wikis, e-books, online games and other educational applications are used more and more in educational settings to support teaching and learning. A significant number of research has been conducted, showing their positive impact in the learning process and identifying the challenges or future implications of technology. Therefore, someone could predict that not only its use will increase in the future but also new technologies will appear replacing the existing ones. iBook is an application and a typical example of how technology can affect education and transform existing educational practices. It enables teachers to use a range of free and easily accessible online books instead of being limited to one printed book. Teachers have also the opportunity to create their own textbooks suited to their class and curriculum. Moreover, students are able to download their books, search for those they are interested in as well as edit and format them. In that way, learning becomes a personalized experience for students.

Social networking systems, such as Facebook or Twitter, are not largely used in educational settings. The number of research that has been conducted investigating the benefits of their application in education is limited (Ryan, Magro and Sharp, 2011). In my opinion, as I have already mentioned in my previous blog about Twitter, social networking systems could offer many possibilities and opportunities in the field of education, as students are already familiar and feel comfortable with their use. However, in classroom I am unsure about their effectiveness due to possible distractions they may cause, resulting in significant barriers in learning.

Based on my personal experience, the use of wikis in education looks promising. Wikis could be used at all educational levels, as they promote collaborative learning and knowledge-building by allowing students to generate their own learning content as well as edit, modify and update information.

Online learning is one of the most positive steps regarding the use of technology in education. Distance learning courses, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environments) have created new opportunities and possibilities by enabling learners all over the world to have access to educational materials and by providing them with flexible study opportunities. Distances are annihilated and learners can interact with others whose location is miles away and their cultural contexts are different. In contrast to traditional university online courses, MOOCs provide free or low cost courses, so as learners to be able to attend them and enrich their learning experience regardless of their economic background. MOOCs are considered “as a powerful tool to make fundamental changes in the organisation and delivery of higher education over the next decade” (Yuan and Powell, 2013). According to the findings of a recent survey conducted at Duke University, students were motivated to attend MOOCs courses by factors, such as personal and professional development, convenience, open access, experience and exploration of online learning, fun and enjoyment. Udacity, Coursera and EdX courses, for example, consist mainly of interactive materials, videos and quizzes, which appeal to students (Conole, 2013).

In addition, through virtual learning platforms, campus students or distance learners have access to online materials and resources uploaded by their tutors that support their course. Discussion forums also allow them to interact with other students, express and share their opinions and create online communities where knowledge is built in a chain of questions and answers. It is possible in the future, platforms, such as Ublend, to be used more in education, as they are more effective in enabling communication and interactions between students and instructors due to their features. Using Ublend during my modules in the first term, I realized that it is more efficient compared to virtual learning platforms, such as ELE, since Ublend is more accessible and easier regarding posting, reading and commenting. Undoubtedly, this kind of platforms can enhance students’ learning experience.

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In the Internet Age, distances are eliminated and people from all over the world are connected through wireless networks, while physical presence becomes less important. “We are experiencing a transition from place-to-place to person-to-person connections” (Wellman, 2002) which seems to have a positive impact in education, as it enables new forms of communication and offers opportunities both for collaboration and for sharing experiences.

 

References

Albion, P., Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A. and Peeraer, J. (2015). Teachers’ professional development for ICT integration: Towards a reciprocal relationship between research and practice. Education and Information Technologies, 20(4), pp.655-673.

Conole, G. (2013). MOOCs as disruptive technologies: strategies for enhancing the learner experience and quality of MOOCs. [online]. Available at: http://www.um.es/ead/red/39/conole.pdf [Accessed: 31st March 2017].

Hague, C. and Williamson, B. (2009). Digital participation, digital literacy and school subject: A review of the policies, literature and evidence [online]. Available at: https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/FUTL08/FUTL08.pdf [Accessed: 1st April 2017].

Ryan, S.D. Magro, M.J. and Sharp, J.H. (2011). Exploring educational and cultural adaptation through social networking sites. Journal of Information Technology Education, 10, pp.1-16.

Wastiau, P. et al. (2013). The Use of ICT in Education: A survey of schools in Europe. European Journal of Education. Available at: https://orbi.ulg.ac.be/bitstream/2268/167401/1/article%20de%20EJE.pdf  [Accessed:15th March 2017].

Wellman, B. (2002). Little Boxes, Glocalization, and Networked Individualism [online]. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1dff/e739aa0912c7f3d15b5fbd20373b4ff60c00.pdf [Accessed:3rd April 2017].

Yuan, L. and Powell, C. (2013). MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education. [online]. Available at: http://publications.cetis.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MOOCs-and-Open-Education.pdf [Accessed: 31st March 2017]

Scratch in education

Scratch in educationscratch_cover

It is an undeniable fact that there are several literature reviews on educational games which show their potential in the field of education. Motivation and participation are increased and skills such as collaboration, spatial concentration, higher-order thinking and problem-solving are developed (Dodlinger, 2007). As Dodlinger (2007) and Lee (2008) highlighted, the issue that should be addressed is to identify some key characteristics that the design of video and other educational games should be based on. Scratch is a typical example of how games can be effectively designed and integrated in educational settings so as to facilitate and promote learning.

Scratch is a free educational programming software which was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group of MIT Media Lab and is widely used in education for different purposes, at all levels and across a variety of disciplines, such as Maths, English or Computer science. Coding in Scratch is much easier than in traditional programming languages. “With Scratch, you can program your own interactive stories, games, and animations and share your creations with others in the online community”. That is why Scratch’s motto is “Imagine, Program, and Share”.

As Resnick (2013) stated in the TED Talk video, with Scratch “students do not only learn to code, but code to learn”. Scratch doesn’t aim at students’ becoming programmers, but instead it allows them to learn some essential 21st century skills, such as solving problems, designing projects, thinking creatively, collaborating effectively and communicating ideas. In addition, by incorporating Scratch in the learning process, students can learn and understand mathematical and computational concepts, such as equations, in an interactive and creative environment that motivates them to be involved in programming by exploiting their interest in games and play Therefore, Scratch transforms the traditional teacher-directed approach of learning into student-centered, where teachers are facilitators of the learning process. Its environment.

Scratch has been influenced by the theory of constructivism. According to constructivism, learning is viewed as a dynamic, enquiry-based and exploratory process where knowledge is not simply transmitted by the teacher and absorbed by the student. Learning is seen as a continual process which involves integrating new information with existing knowledge and reconstructing individual understandings. In Scratch, students construct their knowledge in a meaningful context where social environment is an influence.

Constructionism is also a learning theory which was developed built on constructivist principles and Scratch seems to have been affected by. The constructionist approach to learning involves two activities: the construction of knowledge through experience and the engagement in creating personally meaningful products (Dodlinger, 2007). Obviously, Scratch supports constructionist learning, as it enables students to develop their coding and digital skills as well as their creativity by generating their own stories, animations and projects, which they can share with other members of the Scratch’s community.

Moreover, the modern learning theory of Situated Learning Matrix (Lee, 2008) lies behind Scratch’s design. According to this theory, “any learning experience has some content, which includes some facts, principles, information, and skills that need to be mastered “(Lee, 2008; p.23). So, the question that arises is how this content can be taught. It makes us wonder which approach we will adopt so as to help students learn coding and develop other skills that are mentioned above. Use of Scratch is the ideal solution, as modern learning theory suggests that the game approach is the better one. In that way, Scratch reshapes and remodels learning.

It also promotes collaborative and participatory learning through the existence of its online community. Scratch’s online community is a community of practice, as it is characterized by the three key elements: the domain, the community and the practice. A community of practice is not a club of friends or a network of connections between people. Instead, it has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest (Wenger, 2006). Members of Scratch’s online community engage in joint activities and build relationships that enable them to collaborate, interact and support each other. Through fostering relationships, they share their knowledge, their experiences and practices as well as resources and ways of addressing upcoming problems. They help each other by providing explanations, guidance, and motivational feedback, which are integral to learning (Gee, 2008). When looking at the discussion page on the Scratch website, there are thousands of posts, comments and replies. Commenting, which is an optional activity, is one of the first signs that Scratch develops social interaction.

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The results of a study which was conducted by Fields, Pantic and Kafai (2015) about the emotional, constructive, and functional role of comments in the online Scratch community, demonstrated that the majority of comments were positive and motivating, and although they were relatively simple statements of praise or thanks, most of them included some level of specificity. It implies that youth programmers are getting feedback on their projects, suggestions for improvement and encouragement.

So, how could we use Scratch in education?

It is necessary for students to feel comfortable and familiar with Scratch before using it. According to the instrumentation theory “the use of a technological tool involves a process of instrumental genesis, during which the object or artefact is turned into an instrument” (Drijvers et al., 2010). Successful development of instrumental genesis creates effective learning environments for students-learners. Therefore, it is our responsibility as teachers, to guide students in Scratch’s use so as to help them develop their confidence and programming skills. In my opinion, Scratch has numerous advantages and should be used at all educational levels. There are some difficulties and challenges that need to be solved, though. Among them are:

  • limited time and curriculum requirements
  • lack of equipment and access to new technological tools
  • lack of teachers’ knowledge and skills in using new technology as well as insufficient teacher training (Albion et al., 2015).

To sum up, Scratch’s use seems promising for education, since, as I have already mentioned, it is closely related with the development of 21st century skills. It can also give a new orientation to learning, by transforming traditional educational practices.

 

References

Dodlinger, J. (2007). Educational Video Game Design: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Applied Educational Technology, 4(1), pp. 21-32.

Fields, D.A., Kafai, Y.B., and Pantic, K. (2015). “I have a tutorial for this”: the language of online peer support in the scratch programming community [online]. Available at:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/300494326_I_have_a_tutorial_for_this_The_language_of_online_peer_support_in_the_Scratch_programming_community [Accessed: 27th March 2017].

Gee, J. (2008). Learning and Games. Available at:  http://cvonline.uaeh.edu.mx/Cursos/Maestria/MTE/Gen02/diseno_creacion_mat_mult/unidad_1/LearningGames.pdf  [Accessed: 28th March 2017].

Wenger, E. (2006). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Available at:http://vle.exeter.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/694071/mod_page/content/7/A%20brief%20introduction%20to%20CoP.pdf [Accessed: 20th March 2017].

 

P4C and Thinking Together

Philosophy for Children and Thinking Together are two approaches with many implications for education. Both approaches aim at teaching thinking skills to students as well as the ability to question and reason through developing the exploratory talk. But, what is exploratory talk? According to Mercer (1995), there are three kinds of talk:

  • disputational talk
  • cumulative talk
  • exploratory talk

In disputational talk, there is an unproductive disagreement among students and the atmosphere is competitive rather than cooperative. In cumulative talk, students simply accept and agree with each other’s opinions in an uncritical way. On the other hand, in exploratory talk, they actively and constructively engage with each other’s ideas (why? why do you think so? how about?). This results in meaningful and collaborative learning to happen.

Philosophy for Children and Thinking Together illustrate that thinking is dialogic and “learning to think is about drawing children into complex and meaningful dialogues” (Wegerif, 2007). Dialogic is a form of collective thinking. “When engaging in dialogue, children do not only change the way that they use words, but they also change the way in which they relate to each other” (Wegerif, 2007). However, it is necessary for students to be taught some ground rules that will allow them to effectively contribute to the discussion; being open to new ideas, listening with respect to others’ opinions, reasoning and collaborating.

During our session with professor Taro Fujita about Thinking Together approach and measuring group thinking, some challenges emerged:

  • What is the best way to assess group thinking?
  • Is group thinking transferable?
  • Do children who work together perform better than those working alone?

In the end of our session, we had a simple test for group thinking which is called the Group Thinking Measure. It consists of two sets of 15 graphical puzzles. We did one test working in groups and the other test working individually, both of them having exactly the same difficulty. It was observed that our group scores were higher than our individual ones, which implied high level of collaboration between the group members. This experience allowed me to think and realize how important thinking together is. My classmates and I tried to solve the group test collaboratively by expressing our viewpoints and by justifying our choices. Everyone reasoned, listened carefully and showed respect to his classmates’ opinions, even though his perspectives were different.

Our session with Laura Kerslake about Philosophy for Children, enabled me to become aware of some practical techniques that can be used in the classroom. We also discussed about how challenging is P4C for educators, with some of them underestimating its importance in education. Some of the philosophical questions that Laura suggested were:

-Is it okay to eat meat?

-Is it better to make a person happy or ten people less happy?

-Can we live in a world without numbers?

We also played the game of would you rather…, where each one of us asked their classmates questions, such as would you rather be invisible or able to fly, would you rather be a snake or a lion. As Laura explained us, this game helps children to get used to questions in which there is not an easy right answer, but instead encourages them to justify the decision that they have made. While in the beginning, the facilitator asks questions to children, then students are called to think two options and ask questions to their classmates. Picture book philosophy or philosophy based on icons, is also another technique of enabling children to become involved in philosophical questions. Through picture books and icons, students are intrigued to pose or answer philosophical questions relating, for example, to ethical issues (what does brave mean?) or metaphysics.

These techniques that Laura showed us, helped me to understand how P4C could be applied in classroom, in order to be proved beneficial for students’ learning experience. I also realized the importance of teacher’s role, who needs to develop open-ended Socratic questioning and encourages students to think and reason by giving examples and criteria.

In my opinion, P4C and technology are closely related, as through the former young people are prepared to respond to the challenges of the Internet Age. P4C’s aim is to promote high-order thinking, critical skills and dialogic learning. When students are empowered with such skills and qualities, they can effectively use new technologies, since they become capable of evaluating the quality of information that is available in the Internet and of building online communities. Qualities, such as respect, reasoning and being open-minded, will also help them to develop networking relationships and interact with people worldwide. For the above-mentioned reasons, it is obvious that “kids need P4C as much as technology in classroom” (Neuman, 2015).

Blogging, Twitter and social media

Although it is my firm belief that blogging is really interesting as an idea, as you have the opportunity to express your own thoughts and ideas, reflect on your own experiences and share them with other people whose interests are common with yours, I have to admit that my blogging experience is limited. During the first term of my Masters’ degree, I opened a Twitter account which was driven by my curiosity to learn how to use Twitter. I followed some sites related to education where professionals discuss topics and share their opinions. In addition, while I was trying to gather information for creating a video about Quizziz app, I searched and followed Quizziz site to get feedback about its benefits and effectiveness by teachers who use it in their classroom.  Even though I have still never tweeted, I enjoy looking through others’ short tweets through which they state their opinions and thoughts.

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As Steven Wheeler (2011) states although blogging is time-consuming, it is so powerful and the rewards worth it. Blogs are regarded as online reflective diaries, personal publishing spaces or learning journals (Conole and Alevizou, 2010). Teachers should blog as blogging enables them to reflect and keep a record of their actions, decisions, successes and failures as well as problems they had to deal with. Furthermore, through blogging they crystalize their thinking and share their beliefs and experiences with a wider audience from whom they can receive valuable feedback that can help them to improve their educational practices. Under no circumstances should we underestimate the power of the comments and the importance of having an authentic audience with whom you can interact. Blogging also fosters creativity and imagination, as it enables you to articulate your ideas using different ways, such as images, videos, hyperlinks. Reflecting on my own experience, during writing my blog, I also used different means of presenting my ideas and thoughts. As it is obvious, the benefits of blogging are numerous.

 If teachers who are the guiders of students start blogging, then students can be motivated to blog as well.  Blogs have the potential to transform learning by being a channel for self-expression, providing students with a high level of autonomy and enabling greater interaction with their peers through publishing and exchanging ideas and views (Robertson, 2011). Sharing thoughts and seeking other people’s feedback leads to collaborative knowledge building. It is worth mentioning that the commenting affordance of blogs offers emotional support, as according to a study conducted by Robertson (2011), students appeared to regard beneficial the praise and encouragement from their peers. Students can be urged to start a blog about a subject that interests them and is related to the course or reinforce a topic that has already been debated in the classroom so as to expand their knowledge. It will allow them to discuss their ideas and develop a more positive attitude to learning. However, before motivating students to blog, teachers should carefully consider the issue of privacy. In other words, to what extent do students feel comfortable writing a blog and expressing their feelings honestly, when they already know that their peers and teachers will read it?

As far as Twitter is concerned, Twitter is the most popular microblogging system with 320 million active users in March 2016. Microblogging is a Web 2.0 technology, and a new form of blogging that enables users to publish online brief text updates, usually less than 140-200 characters, sometimes images too. It enables real-time and asynchronous communication, as users can be virtually present and involved in a community without time and space restrictions. Twitter keeps you up to date and enables you to become a part of a networking community.

twitter-in-education

 It also offers users the opportunity to explore, follow, reply or forward each other’s posts as well as interact by providing them with a collaborative environment. Researchers found that when microblogging, such as Twitter, was incorporated into learning activities, students participated at a higher level than they would normally do (Ebner et al, 2010; cited in: Gao et al, 2012). Thus, students’ motivation and engagement can be increased. While many instructors believe in Twitter’s power and potential, there are still many worries about its use and may be difficult for some schools to engage with it. During our session, my classmates and I discussed about microblogging and debate about the affordances and constraints of Twitter in learning process. We formed two groups and each one supported their opinion about Twitter being an effective tool for learning and the opposite.15146881_558784964312763_1251624352_o

  • Affordances
  • Accessibility
  • Communication
  • Diversity
  • Collaboration
  • Motivation
  • Community
  • Easy to use
  • Reflection

  • Constraints

  • Distracting
  • Limited characters (140 characters
  • Safety issues- cyber bullying
  • Peer pressure
  • Appropriation
  • Lack of Internet access and school’s inadequate technological equipment
  • Teachers’ unfamiliarity with Twitter
  • Addiction
  • Monologic

    It is an undeniable fact that social media and networking sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, enable new forms of communication and collaboration in the field of education. Socializing, establishing a sense of community and harnessing knowledge exchange are among their benefits. Their informal forums offer the opportunity for students and educators to share experiences and resources, discuss personal and educational issues and provide mutual support by posing questions and giving answers or suggesting solutions to problems. As it is obvious, collaborative learning is promoted and knowledge is built upon the multiplicity of different voices.

    However, it is a fact that their integration in the learning process can be proved challenging. Many concerns have been raised about the quantity of time spent online as well as the quality of content and interaction with others. If young people use Twitter as a platform to input their daily activities, then it is perceived as being monologic than dialogic. In addition, as we discussed with my classmates, Twitter can be seen as distraction, when it is not used properly. Students are vulnerable and some of them lack control; that is why digital literacy is important. They need to be guided from instructors about the appropriate, safe and considerable use of technology. In that way, they will be provided with capabilities and will not be at risk of cyberbullying, for example, when digitally engaged.

    References

    Conole, G. and Alevizou, P. (2010). A literature review of the use of Web 2.0 tools in Higher Education. Milton Keynes: Open University.

    Gao, F., Luo, T. and Zhang, K. (2012). Tweeting for learning: A critical analysis of research on microblogging in education published in 2008–2011. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), pp.783-801.

    Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers and Education, 57(2), pp.1628-1644.

    Wheeler, S. (2011). Seven reasons teachers should blog. [Online] Available at:  http://www.steve-wheeler.co.uk/2011/07/seven-reasons-teachers-should-blog.html [Accessed: 19th November 2016].

Affordances and Constraints of Interactive Whiteboard

Affordances and constraints of interactive whiteboar

One of the most promising revolutions in educational technology in the last decade that encourages learner’s involvement is interactive whiteboard (IWB). More and more schools use IWBs as core educational technology for teaching young children. Reflecting on my own experience, during my Bachelors’ Degree teaching practice in a primary school in Greece, I got familiar with using an interactive whiteboard. I was excited and impressed by its features and how students’ engagement and motivation to participate in the course was increased. According to the findings of the Survey (2013), on average in Europe, interactive whiteboards are present in approximately one in three classrooms. Research has also been conducted in UK to highlight how the integration of IWBs in the learning process can become a lever for change. However, while IWBs are motivating for students and improve educational practices due to their affordances, they are not strongly linked to transformational pedagogies of learning (Wastiau, 2010). As there are opposing views about the use of IWB in education, I will discuss their affordances and constraints.

An interactive whiteboard is a touchscreen whiteboard that works in conjunction with a computer and a projector. Effectively, the computer screen is projected on the electronic whiteboard and presented to the class with the teacher, or student, operating and interacting with the software. Through its use learning becomes an interesting and meaningful experience for students by creating a child-friendly and motivational environment. Students are actively engaged in learning instead of being passive recipients of knowledge. Interaction between students and teacher is also improved in lessons involving IWBs where more open questions and answers from pupils are observed (Smith, Hardman and Higgins, 2006). One of the most obvious distinctions between IWBs and other technology teaching tools is the facility to control the computer at the touch of the screen. This enables teachers to stay in the front of the class and still be interacting with the technology. This is beneficial, especially for children of an early age, to ensure that they can follow the pace of the lesson while teachers explaining them the main concepts.

Using IWBs, someone can easily incorporate and use a range of multimedia resources in lessons such as written text, images, animations, video, sound, diagrams and hyperlinks (Wood and Ashfield, 2008). Teachers have also the opportunity simultaneously with teaching to highlight, underline and circle with different colors meanings or concepts. These features enhance learning and are ideal to capture students’ attention much more than traditional ways of teaching, such as lectures. In addition, students are able to focus and concentrate more on the learning moment rather than on worrying about capturing everything through note taking. Undoubtedly, the versatility of IWBs supports several different learning styles such as visual-spatial, auditory and kinesthetic learners within the class. Kinaesthetic learning for example would occur when young children were asked to click and drag the images on the board (Wong, 2013). Images displayed on the IWB are also characterized by better quality than resources, such as posters or photocopied worksheets.

Organisation of information is also possible through the use of IWB. Teachers can save, re-use, email or print their notes for distribution, enabling students to review material. They can also quicken the pace of lessons through the use of prepared materials, instead of writing on the board which requires more time, as well as smoothen lesson transitions (Higgins et al., 2007).

On the other hand, integrating IWBs in classrooms has several constraints too. It is a fact that preparation of lessons using an IWB may be time-consuming. In addition, IWB is expensive for some schools to afford for each classroom, especially concerning schools in developing countries. Among the challenges teachers are called to deal with, are the height of the IWBs and the lighting of the classroom (Higgins et al., 2007). Technical problems that cause disruption, delay and frustration are often as well. It can also be proved difficult for some teachers to handle IWBs without acquiring the appropriate skills and knowledge. Successful integration of any technology into the classroom requires more than simply acquiring that technology (Wong, 2013). Therefore, training and technical support personnel are required for helping teachers to appropriately use such technology in their classroom.

Research has shown that IWBs are not necessarily used interactively when perceived only as a presentation tool and can reinforce teacher-centered styles of learning (Higgins et al., 2007). Interactions between teacher, pupils and technology necessitate more than the simple transmission of knowledge from either the teacher or technology to students (Wood and Ashfield, 2008). It is important for both students and teachers to realize the importance and potential affordances of technological tools, such as IWB, before using them. “Good teaching remains good teaching with or without IWBs” (Wong, 2013). Technology should be considered as another pedagogical means to achieve teaching and learning goals and not as an end itself.

References

Higgins, S., Beauchamp, G. and Miller, D. (2007). Reviewing the literature on interactive whiteboards,  Learning, Media and Technology, 32(3), pp. 213-225.

Smith, F., Hardman, F. and Higgins, S. (2006). Impact of interactive whiteboards on teacher-pupil interaction in the national literacy and numeracy strategies. British Educational Research Journal, 32(3), pp. 443-457.

Wastiau, P. et al. (2013). The Use of ICT in Education: a survey of schools in Europe. European Journal of Education. Available at: https://orbi.ulg.ac.be/bitstream/2268/167401/1/article%20de%20EJE.pdf [Accessed: 15th March 2017]

Wong, K. (2013). Affordances of interactive whiteboards and associated pedagogical practices: perspectives of teachers of science with children aged five to six years. Available at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1008861.pdf [Accessed: 26th March 2017]

Wood, R. and Ashfield, J. (2008). The use of the interactive whiteboard for creative teaching and learning in literacy and mathematics: a case study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(1), pp. 84-96.

 

What is Contemporary Learning?

Before discussing about what contemporary learning is, it is necessary to answer the question about what is learning?

Learning is becoming” (Ranson et al., 1996)

Learning is a mixture of cognitive, emotional and social processes. It is both personal and social, as we learn though our experiences and our social interactions with others. Engestrom΄s theory (1987) of expansive learning highlighted that learning is a circle process where there are seven stages of consolidating knowledge.

Contemporary learning focus on empowering young people with skills and abilities, enabling them to successfully respond to the demanding challenges of the 21st century. Learning should not ignore and be irrelevant to students΄ prior knowledge, life experiences, personal interests and needs. Connectivism is of great significance for contemporary learning, because according to Siemens (2005), As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses”. Learning happens by making connections which enable us to learn more than we already know.

Understanding contemporary learning requires to offer young people meaningful experiences that will allow them to become open-minded, confident learners, critical thinkers and adequate problem-solvers. In the rapidly changing digital landscape of the 21st century, new facts and challenges are constantly emerging, giving a new orientation to learning. In terms of these changes, new learning metaphors and theories have appeared, which promote a different approach to teaching. Paavola, Lipponen and Hakkarainen (2004) introduced the knowledge-creation metaphor, which is a sequel between the acquisition and participation metaphor. The acquisition metaphor is based on the idea that knowledge is a property of an individual mind, while the participation metaphor relies on the idea that “learning is a process of participating in various cultural practices and shared learning activities” (Sfard, 1998). In contrast, the knowledge-creation metaphor suggests that knowledge is constructed collaboratively by learners developing their own artifacts. Undoubtedly, new technologies can offer new possibilities and opportunities for people to learn, enrich their experiences and co-construct their knowledge. Thus, we should not underestimate the importance of technology for contemporary learning.

Social networking sites, blogging, wikis, online discussion forums and games, offer a plurality of spaces and activities which enable students to communicate and socialize with their peers, share their experiences, exchange their ideas and engage with them constructively. The possibility of building online learning communities also allows multiple voices to be heard and different perspectives to be expressed. As a result, through the openness and multiplicity of different voices, the dialogic space is opened up. According to Wegerif (2007), the dialogic space is “a space where dialogue is more important than ownership of ideas”. When students dialoguing, they interact with each other, learn to be open to new and different perspectives, question, reason and listen to other voices with respect. It is important to mention Bakhtin’s distinction between dialogue and conversation, according to whom dialogue is defined as a shared enquiry in which each answer produces a further question in a chain of questions and answers. Contemporary learning means collaborative and dialogic learning which can be promoted by approaches, such as Philosophy for Children or Thinking Together.

Contemporary learning necessitates the transformation of the existing educational practices as well as the evolution of learning to a more personalized experience for students by adjusting to their diverse needs and interests. Therefore, hierarchical relationships between teachers and students should be replaced by dynamic ones, in which teachers will abandon their previous role of simply transmitting knowledge and become facilitators of the learning process by guiding students. Students will no longer be passive recipients of knowledge, but instead they will be actively engaged in learning. As teachers, it is our duty to help students fulfil their potentials, develop their talents and capabilities as well as empower them with appropriate skills and abilities, such as problem-solving, decision-making, collaboration and critical thinking. By acquiring these skills, young people will be able to succeed and thrive in all fields of their life, including the workplace.

  Contemporary learning also means the democracy of knowledge. In the Internet Age, every single person has access to a large amount of information and learning occurs through network connections between entities (Downes, 2012). MOOCs are a typical example of how learning happens and should continue to be nowadays. They are based on connectivism’s principles and allow the distribution, construction and location of knowledge away from the “professor” to learners. Self-directed learning is also developed through MOOCs with users taking on the dual role of both teacher and student, as they are responsible for their own learning.

References

Paavola, S., Lipponen, L. and Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities and Three Metaphors of Learning. Review of Educational Research, 74(4), pp. 557-576.

Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), pp.4-13.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age [online] Available at:  http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf [Accessed: 29th March 2017].

Wegerif, R. (2007). Dialogic Education and Technology: Expanding the Space of Learning. New York: Springer-Verlag.