There has been a lot of recent debate on the benefits of social networking tools and software in education. While there are good points on either side of the debate, there remains the essential difference in theoretical positioning. Most conventional educational environments are "Objectivist" in nature and highly structured in terms of students progress and choice. Social networking essentially requires a less controlled, user-generated environment which challenges conventional views of the effective "management" of teaching and learning. Therefore, can social networking both as an instructional concept and user skill be integrated into the conventional approaches to teaching and learning? Do the skills developed within a social networking environment have value in the more conventional environments of learning?
"21st Century Learning" is currently the hottest catchphrase in education, but what it means has yet to be fully determined. Technology is a part of students' everyday lives, and substantial advances in technology have profoundly affected the way they learn. As a result, educators are working hard to meet the ever-evolving needs of 21st century learners. Translating the ongoing technological revolution into a learning experience is a fundamental part of that challenge.
Over the last decade or so, numerous articles have appeared that conflate the ideas of a virtual science lab and a simulated science lab. For example, the College Board, in its guidelines, says, "A virtual lab is an interactive experience during which students observe and manipulate computer-generated objects, data, or phenomena in order to fulfill the learning objectives of a laboratory experience."
- By Harrison Keller
As technology continues to change and affect how students think and process information, instructors must realize that there is an opportunity now to capture and assess in ways not formerly possible. Research continues to enforce the importance of learning as a process, student engagement, and learning outcomes in the process of learning. Technology does not change this reality, but it can provide new ways to evaluate learning.
Cognitive psychologists have told us for some time that people process information differently and that meditative and transmittive technologies have affected thinking and perception, which in turn has affected learning. Therefore, instructors have had to become instructional designers conscious of how technology works and what it can offer to the teaching and learning process. Current mobile technology challenges that design even further as it demands a totally different approach to instructional design and also teaching methodology. It requires a fluidity never before seen and new skills from both teacher and student. In fact, I would argue that while we focus on the skills needed for students in the 21st century, we must discuss more and learn more about the skills required of teachers in the 21st century.
We are at a crossroads in educating our youth. Advancements in technology, principally Web 2.0, social software, and digital tools, have challenged what it means to be educated and how we proceed to educate our youth in a culture where innovation and creativity, lifelong learning, personalization, and knowledge from and with the collective vie for a rightful place.
- By Patricia Deubel
Since the 1950s, standardized test scores have been used to compare and rank schools, districts, states, and now nations, according to Rick Stiggins (2007), founder of the Educational Testing Service's Assessment Training Institute. In a commentary on assessment myths, he posed a question that has probably been discussed since standardized testing was chosen as the large-scale measure of effectiveness of schools: "Are we helping students and teachers with our assessment practices, or contributing to their problems?" (p. 28).
- By Patricia Deubel
In the initial launch of Collaboration 2.0, Dave Nagel (2008) reported that during 2008 educators can look for "a continued trend toward more and more hosted, mashed-up, collaborative tools in education, from assessment platforms to collaborative learning tools (such as blogs and wikis) to online delivery of audio and video to full-blown productivity tools, such as Google Apps for Education and others" (p. 2). Everything on the Web sounds good.
- By Patricia Deubel
Social media is something that many younger teachers will have a familiarity with outside of the classroom. Ask any colleague under the age of, say, 30, and it's fairly likely that he or she will have a profile on a social network like Facebook or MySpace. Business-facing social networks like LinkedIn have also seen explosive growth from educators in the last year.
Chat software (text or media-based) provides an excellent tool in supporting academic dialog (exchange), critical thinking, and knowledge building. The immediacy of the technology provides students with a direct connection with the instructor as well as other students. While chat software is usually used for "chatting," and, therefore, it has a relaxed and colloquial protocol, with a little thought and planning, it can also be used well to support instruction.