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Moyle: Word outta da UC

a very handsome lizard

How fortunate, the latest UC Monitor Online features an article on Kathryn Moyle’s research into ICT in education (Students learn from sites like Facebook – Monitor Online). As a result, I read the latest Australian Education Review, Building Innovation: Learning with technologies authored by Moyle, one of UC Education’s own.

On student use of ICT, Moyle is to the point, highlighting the very different way that we (as adults) percieve or conceptualise technology (as opposed to the digital natives we will be teaching).

“Students’ lives are imbued with technologies: they do not separate their lives according to ‘without technologies’ and ‘with technologies’ as adults often do” (p.31)

Moyle describes teen student internet use as inherently collaborative and social. This is vastly different from the way they use technology at school or from ‘our’ idea of best practice. She suggests the way forward is to leverage students’ existing collaborative usage patterns (and the skills which go along with it) and interests in well designed learning activities.

Indeed, a pedagogical response is required, but translating skills learned in an informal environment (where students are motivated by entertainment or social concerns) to formal learning tasks, in the classroom…. well it’s difficult. Moyle gives the example of high-level collaborative, project-based problem solving skills learned from playing MMOG. That these skills are valuable is indubitable, yet to the question of how to design formal learning tasks such that students can further develop and apply these skills in new settings has no simple answer.

This conundrum isn’t ignored by Moyle; she describes the issue as “problematic and unresolved”(p.37). This problem is not limited to ICT and is one example of the difficulties encountered when attempting to transfer general capabilites (commonly found in curricula) accross discipline boundaries.

Suggesting pedagocial approaches to apply these informally learnt skills to formal learning is however, beyond the scope of the paper. As such the paper provides a documentation of the current state of play, with a provocative and insightful analysis of the problems to be solved, but no solutions are put forward. Of particular value is the special reference to Australia.

Now for my 2¢.

The problem faced in trying to transport collaborative authoring skills learnt through students’ use of social network sites to, say, a piece of research-based group work in history, is not-trivial. A number of concerns leap out. I will list them quickly (brain-dump alert!);

  • We need students to be aware of the skills they have and are using in SNS. Encouraging metacognitive approach.
  • We need to design formal learning tasks such that students can readily transfer skills without undermining motivation and enthusiasm
    • We don’t want to ‘kill’ SNS for teens
    • Perhaps we should stop think about ‘using’ the technology (eg. using social network sites in education) and think more about harnessing the skills
  • Be unafraid to learn from students and allow flexibility in course design
    • Democratic curriculum design would work well (at least I think so) in this context

All in all, I think these concerns point towards the utility of a rich task model.

  • Moyle , K. Building Innovation: Learning with technologies, Australian Education Review No 56. Melbourne: ACER. It includes a Foreword by James Bosco, Professor Emeritus in Educational Studies, Western Michigan University. This title was released 9 March 2010.
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