Has Anyone Yet Worked Out What Is So Special with "e"?
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Is this the moment for those in the eLearning community to consider whether it is so special? Online courses and training have been shown to be beneficial but technologies are only a means to an end and they are mostly tools for teachers to use. So it is my suggestion that we need to move the focus away from these tools and onto the learner and the learning that takes place.
I have been using online learning for more than 15 years and I have come to some conclusions. I summarized them in the following lines.
1. There is no difference between e-learning and learning - so why bother with the ’e’? Let’s focus on the learning, especially in understanding the learning and the situations that it can happen and what promotes it and how to establish and indeed measure ’deeper’ meaningful learning experiences
2. The confidence factor: any good teacher can effectively use e-learning with their students - the issues woiuld seem to be that they need persuading of the effectiveness and importance (is this awareness raising? experiencing it themselves? training?), the teachers need to develop enough confidence to want to change their working habits - as working online certainly does that and they also need to recognise the relevance in modern workplaces and the significance and importance that most youngsters feel when using technologies.
3. We do NOT need new technologies all the time - at some point standing still and allowing others to catch up is VITAL - new versions of software or hardware upgrades are only a way of getting more money from us the consumers - so we buy and the products are already out of date before we even unwrap them! Let us as consumers dictate what we want - not be driven by technology-push all the time.
4. The quality should be improved. Someone is making a lot of money from e-learning and most e-learning materials and courses are very poor in quality and design - we need standards that will promote good practise - e-learning environments are only as good as they ways they are used - lets bring participative creativity into the learning process.
5. We need to simplify things for the teachers - there has been little effective training so far - the lack of sustainability and longevity of products means that most teachers are unconvinced, unprepared and uncertain ... so they don’t adopt it or integrate ICt in their work
6. We need to focus on where the pupils will have access - it is most cerainly NOT in their schools - in the uK with relatively high levels of computer access - each pupil gets an average of 20 mins a week on the Internet - they spend an average of 4 hours a week online (at home, in clubs and cybercafes, at friends .....) so we need to make learning online relavant and interesting enough to capture their imagination to spend some of this time visiting the places we want them to go to and undertaking meaningful e-learning activities.
7. We underestimate the students - we should be encouraging them - indeed pushing them to explore and discover new things and to celebrate and encourage this - not restricting what they can do, when and where - we need a modern approch to schools, the school day, the school year AND most importantly we need the education ministries and assessment bodies to realise this. We need to encourage and enable creativity... not produce more workers for the assembly line or unemployment.
We have too much assessment driven education - let the young people (and the teachers) breathe a little more ... you’d be surprised what might happen! I am very much worried that standardisation/benchmarking and such things will dictate too much in future educatiojn - rather than creativitiy, innovative approaches and real understanding of what we are doing and the effect it has.
8. eIncluding the disadvantaged: we also need to research the real benefits of technology particularly for the disabled and disadvantaged and to strongly promote the excellent work being done on this area.
So bearing all this in mind, why is it that the integration of new technologies in teaching still remains the focus of a few ‘experts’? Why can’t it really reach the mainstream? Why do we stagger from one technologically-driven initiative or project to another? Where are the really sustainable solutions? Why do we continue to focus on institutional solutions, Innovation theories would suggest that educational organisations largely remain very traditional and the teachers within them continue to find change difficult. So, with increasing hype over the power of Information Technology and ever more intricate and powerful tools, how can teachers hope to keep up to date and to really integrate the use of ICT into their teaching? So my plea is to give learners and teachers the space and time and stability to experiment and explore, to learn together and make education an exciting experience for all those concerned.