Friday, 6 March 2009

A Modern Approach to Curriculum Design?

The role of conversation in education (workplace learning and higher education) is a topical and pertinent subject relevant in both academic and workplace contexts. Its place as a concept within education could be argued to be increasing in importance, heightened by current changes in society as a whole.

Globalisation has increasingly brought people together despite space and time zone differences and has equally been realised through establishing distributed virtual teams in the workplace and through developing distance learning courses for dispersed, remote and often diverse learners in higher education. In both of these learning contexts communication is fundamental.

In addition, traditional cohorts of students now entering Higher Education could be considered a dialogic generation of student, all be it text based. The use of SMS mobile texting, email, chatrooms and services like MSN for instant messaging or Facebook, Myspace or Twitter for networking and online chat seem common place amongst this dialogic generation.

Education is evolving and responding to society's needs to facilitate the learning process for them. Both workplace and Higher Education are radically changing their teaching and networking spaces. Computers (PCs, laptops, sophisticated phones like the iphone, blackberries) pervade the workplace, whether you are an office worker, travelling financial adviser, mobile hairdresser or washing machine repair person. Cybercaf├ęs are springing up, wireless connections are available in hotel rooms, on trains and at the lakeside in Vevey on Lake Geneva. Images of libraries are changing too, to more social spaces to capitalise on this type of learning. Their atmosphere is evolving from passive to active, from hushed inner sanctum of knowledge to energised environment in order to reflect current lifestyles and ways of working. Libraries are setting aside more space for conversation and group work, collaborative learning and knowledge sharing and for technology and portable communication devices, including laptops, phones etc. (Foreman, 2009, p. 1).

But have things really moved on?


  1. Hmm - Have things really moved on?

    I think it has for some people in some ways. But not for everyone. I don't see change as a linear process. You have identified a whole range of technological change - from new types of devices - laptops, iphones etc - to new types of spaces to interact - Web 2.0, intranets etc. While text messaging and Facebook may be a common activity among UK teenagers, they may have little experience of collaboratively working together on the web. Since there is a whole spectrum of technological change happening at once, I think some people will take up some aspects and not be aware of others. There are also access issues for those who cannot afford a computer.

    In education, there is a lot for the current generation of educators to learn. First there is the awareness-raising of what is out there and possible. Then they have to change their tried and tested ways of doing things. Many will resist or change the way they do things in a half-hearted way. So I see change as spurting ahead in some area, stopping suddenly, maybe going back a bit before these new technological possibilities can be fully embraced.

  2. Great points Silvana.

    I also wondered if this new dialogic generation was in fact new too? I remember calling my friends on the phone, spending long lengthts of time in a cold hall way, being told to 'get off the phone' constantly and costing my parents lots of money.

    So teenagers have always been chatty. However what I think might be different here is the fact that a mobile phone is a personal device -many of us have our own, rather than access to a shared device. Additionally new devices are portable which makes them a useful tool for a) targeting and personalising learning for the individual. B) being able to direct information to the learner where-ever they are. C}delivering multimedia learning - audio, video etc.


  3. You are right. Teenagers have always been chatty and connecting with their peers has always been important. With the mobile phone, they have found a device that let't them do that without sharing with their parents. It gives them independence, it facilitates meeting up with friends, etc. They have made the mobile phone their 'own' device. Noone told them how to use or apply this device. It happened naturally. But I think it may be difficult for an 'outsider', such as an educator - to say, hey, you can also use this for learning. I don't know - is it somehow taking away their independence about how they use the device?

  4. Yes it could be so. Perhaps the trick is to focus on independent learning and learner autonomy and then they choose how to use it themselves - what will work and what wont.

    I remember when I watched the film version of the davinci code - (this particular interpretation of the scene was not in the book) however -

    Whilst sat on a double decker bus - Robert langdon and companion used their mobile phone as a 'library ticket' - using it to search the internet for access to answers in their quest to crack the code.

    In the book - a traditional approach to searching the library is described - one of visiting in person and trawling through archives with the assistance of an intermediary - the librarian.

    I also have an image now of pub quiz teams and 'illegal use of' mobile phones!

    Never the less - following this thought through - perhaps quests are also the answer or at least one bridge (between education and entertainment).

    Quests via mobile phone (those with internet access) can not be that different to other portable gaming handheld devices?

    In this context, perhaps the 'conversations' that take place should be those in reflection (how can I get better, get the next answer, crack the code, move to next level); or those with the 'environment' such as Pasks conversational theories suggest and as just hightlighted in Daves learning event?

    In terms of access - it may be that many still do not have access to computers in the home but I suspect - in the western world, that many have mobile phones. That said I do not have a modern phone with internet access - but then I am not a hip and happ'ning thang.......

  5. In terms of access: I teach in a comprehensive school which serves one of the most deprived parts of Bedfordshire. Over 95% of students have a computer at home; over 90% can access the internet from home. Those that can't tend to have parental restrictions rather than financial barriers.

    Far more students can't access the school VLE because they have "forgotten" their log in. These are the same students who never check their emails.

    Access is not so much a can't as a won't issue!

  6. Do not fully agree with daja.. there are still pocket area were internet is a rather difficult process.
    Back home (Italy), it took around 40 minutes I think (with several re-log in) to complete the starting questionnaire for the IDEL course. I think most people completed it in less than 5 minutes, and much less stress :) Ok, because in the area there is only dial-up, although now you can sign up for some wifi connection (but still you need to have an antenna or something like that installed at home).. And this is the annoying thing as in a country you are getting the two tyre speed, depending where the technology investment stop.

  7. Linking back to the internet on your mobile - just spotted this recent news on the AOL website:

    You can now get aol on your mobile.


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