The future of education: design, literacies and digital technologies

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Today I am doing a keynote at University College North, Aalborg, Denmark. This is timely as along with Mark Brown and Miroslav Beblavy (from CEPS) I am involved in an EU-commissioned report on best practices in the use of digital technologies and the future of education in Europe. It’s been a long time in the making and is particularly challenging as we are focusing on literature post 2016, but the end is now in sight!

The report focuses on the following questions:

  • How does digital technology enhance teaching and learning?
  • What are the enablers for successful digital technology use in school education?
  • What are the implications for policy and transformative curriculum reforms in terms of harnessing the potential of digital technology in schools?

To answer these questions, we developed a theoretical lens which consisted of six aspects:

  • Mismatch between rhetoric and reality
  • Good teachers matter most
  • Technology is not a static or single entity
  • Traditional modes of instruction and assessment dominate
  • Competing and co-existing drivers
  • Many factors mediate success

Clearly digital technologies enable teachers and learners to interact with rich multimedia resources and a variety of ways to communicate and collaborate. They have the potential to support innovative pedagogical approaches and to offer learners an engaging and motivational learning environment. Free resources and courses are challenging traditional educational offerings. However, there is a gap between the promise of technology and the reality of how it is being used. Institutions and practitioners are reluctant to change, and traditional teaching and assessment practices prevail. No matter how good the design and the match of pedagogy to technologies, the teachers’ role is still central, teachers matter most. Today’s educational landscape is complicated and dynamic, and we have a kaleidoscope of evolution technologies with a myriad of affordances. Traditional modes of instruction and assessment still dominate; institutions and practitioners are reluctant to change. The reasons for limited progress are complex and there are many competing and co-existing drivers for the adoption of digital technologies in schools ranging from serving narrow vocational ends, preparing children for a different future and to more broadly promote better educational outcomes for students. it is difficult to establish direct causal relationships between pedagogy and technology interventions, many situational factors mediating success and the risks of drawing causal inferences.

Today’s digital society is complex and dynamic. A key facet is that we are preparing learners for an uncertain future, to do jobs that don’t even exist today. Some argue that 65% of jobs of the future don’t exist now. Therefore, it is important that we enable learners to develop higher order competencies (such as critical thinking and problem solving) rather than focusing on knowledge recall. There is much hype around the concept of the ‘Millennial generation’; such as the fact that this generation have grown up in a digital world and have different needs and expectations. A recent Open Universities Australia report I was involved in coined the phrase IWWIWWIWI (I Want What I Want When I Want IT) to encapsulate the nature of todays’ learners. Although this generation are digital savvy, they don’t necessarily know how to use digital technologies for academic purposes.

The presentation concludes by cautioning against the hype discourse around the use of digital technologies in education. The following examples are provided.

  • 65% of future jobs don’t exists – debunked. There are too many overly positivist accounts of the potential of technologies, which do not take account of the nuances and complexities of the educational landscape. Much ‘research’ lacks credibility and is not build on empirical evidence.
  • The much hyped ‘Millennial generation’ discourse has recently been discredited
  • There is an uncritical adoption of popular teaching and learning ‘catchisms’, and Selwyn provides a nice paper on the claims and counterclaims.

The slides for the keynote are on sendspace, comments welcome!

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