This past week an eminent educationalist, Prof Larry Cuban, published in his blog "A Puzzling Fact about High-Tech Use in Classrooms" (see http://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/a-puzzling-fact-about-high-tech-use-in-classrooms/), that "with increased access to new technologies, there is little reliable and valid evidence showing that these technology investments have yielded gains in student achievement." He went on to look at infrequent use by teachers and possible limitations in research methodologies.

This issue of the actual value for learning of educational technologies within school will be one subject pursued by ThinkLab working with COETAIL teachers in the coming months. Further thoughts and outcomes will be reported here. We would be interested in any input followers of ThinkLab care to contribute

(COETAIL is the Certificate Of Educational Technologies And Information Literacies, a Master's program offered through The State University of New York at Buffalo. Nearly thirty Qatar Academy teachers have given up their time to work and learn together to advance not only there own learning, but organizational learning and action). Formal teacher learning structures (in conjunction with informal learning partnerships) within schools are seen by ThinkLab as one of the pillars for building digital learning appropriate for 21st Century schools.
 
This week's topic is Digital Learning (DL). DL is one of the pillars of ThinkLab (along with Teacher Learning, Student Inclusion, and Visionary Leadership). Why talk about DL this week? Because in many ways we are still at an early stage of understanding digital learning within school environments (even though we have going on 30 years experience). It is important to explore this as we consider our next steps.

While learning is the focus of school, assessment is a near bedfellow. To this end ThinkLab has been involved in developing assessment rubrics for DL that joins academic validity (in this case the IB MYP) with 21st century and other learning parameters. Rubrics that consider: The Task: Skill Focus, Visual Fluency,Information Fluency, Digital Adaptability, Purposeful Reflection, Communication, Collaboration, Level of Creativity and Innovation, and Time Management.

Some points to make about DL in a school environment:
  1. The task and approach are key components of what sort of learning one can achieve. Check out  Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover for some helpful insights into this.
  2. Leadership is being provided by school leaders who are linking such learning to each student's eportfolio, which will form part of a Student-Parent conference towards the end of the school year.
  3. Not all students who are comfortable with their position within traditional school academic expectations will be likely to be as comfortable with the  demands of digital learning (fast changing, open-asking, individual problem-solving etc)
  4. In a similar vein, the assessment demands that go with traditional school expectations can be at odds with the personal nature of digital learning. With an element of risk-taking always present in fast-changing environments the importance of supportive leadership and understanding is a key component of what can be achieved. Particularly in a time-poor environment.
As stated before, these are early days of understanding the system demands of Digital Learning and how school can embed value. Please contribute to what is a needed discussion.

 
Today's topic is seamless and engaged learning.
Recent digital learning discussions I have been involved in have focused on issues of distraction, teacher control and how best to get teachers involved through professional learning.
Against this, I have worked with a music teacher on a Gr 9 project where students created their own 'how-to; digital movie and with students creating their own graphic signature.
What I have noticed is little or no distraction, impressive levels of engaging and use of technical application, and an interest in showing what they are learning and producing. No better example than this than the Grade 9 boy who on his own volition posted his movie on youtube (see here).
Every student I have worked with move effortlessly between digital and physical environments as they constructed their learning outcomes.
Students want to be active learners and engaged beyond the classroom. They also will use physical and digital means where appropriate. We as educators should bear this in mind when devising learning opportunities.
How can we best add value to these new learning relationship?
One example might be in the Visual signature task where teacher intervention helped students understand the art potential of thinking beyond the box. This led to re-interpretations that took drawings from box shapes to cubism views. Powerful stuff.
Picture
Picture
Fig 1 (above) Student publishing to youtube as natural extension of learning

GFig 2 (left) Student visual signature