Ubiquitous Technology in Learning – a myth

Numerous discourses at conferences refer to technology as being ubiquitous in learning. Conference discussions such as ACEC 2010 are awash with people trying to figure out how to engage their peers, lobby administrators to unblock filters and find time to rethink the way we use technology in learning and teaching.

In a world that is constantly connected what exactly do people mean by ubiquitous?

Weiser suggests it is the ‘the calm technology, that recedes into the background of our lives’.

He talks about how

‘computers allow us to exchange information and services at anytime, anywhere’. (Weiser, 1991).

U-learning environment refers to a situation or setting of pervasive learning. There are several subsets of u-learning to evaluate and operationalise as we move away from conventional learning paradigms. Many of these don’t feel ‘calm’ to the vast majority of technology inactive teachers.

They are fearful of e-learning ( Moodle and Blackboard), m-learning (mobile, handhelds), Web2.0 (blogs, wikis), Game (Warcraft, Rock Band) and Virtual Worlds (Quest Atlantis, Second Life).

They fear change from the norm. They are uncertain of how to rethink their own teaching strategy – and in most cases simply dimiss the need to change their work practices and move from being a expert in the old paradigm to a novice in the new. They deny that the paradigm has shifted to a combination of formal and informal learning (pedagogy vs cybergogy) and that learners are are immersed in a learning process – both in and out of school. (FUD)

The characteristics of u-learning require information to persist unless the learner purposefully removes it; that information needed can be retrieved immediately; learners can interact with peers, teachers and experts though different media and the environment can adapt to provide adequate information to learn.

The most important challenge I see for education is to allow movement. Movement between technologies, devices and online spaces is the key reagent in u-learning. I would therefore argue that u-learning, for 95% of Australian students is an impossible idea.

The presence of laptops doesn’t indicate a school is capabale of providing a u-learning environment. In the current high-stakes HSC, there is no evidence that u-learning would improve outcomes for students – and high school has almost no ability to provision it at an enterprise level. Public education’s obsession with FUD almost guarantees u-learning is impossible.

ACEC will showcase schools and teachers achieving a degree of ubiquity in their classrooms. What they have achieved – though understanding how to shift the learning paradigm is to be celebrated. The are the vanguard; those whom are naturally inquisitive, motivated, creative and passionate – about using technology in learning and teaching.

The 500 or so that will attended ACEC should not carry the responsibility to provide u-learning nor should they feel it is their role to provide advocacy or professional development of their inactive peers.

If education is political, then this is quite simply a political problem to be addressed. We don’t see roofers running around fixing the fire-risk roofing problem the government created, nor builders working for free to complete $15.b BER project blow-outs.

The world may have moved online, but formal learning cannot follow under current political policy.

Weiser, M. (1991). The computer of the 21st century. Scientific American, vol.265, no.3, pp.66-75.


3 thoughts on “Ubiquitous Technology in Learning – a myth

  1. As you write “Numerous discourses at conferences refer to technology as being ubiquitous in learning.” David Warlick had similar thoughts at the Inspire 2010 conference in Sydney just a few weeks ago. You can find his presentation notes here http://davidwarlick.com/wordpress/?p=849 You can add 400 more ‘u-learners’ from this conference to your total ‘u-learners’.

    I agree that our students are ubiquitous learners already. Students I see are always connected to each other, be it Facebook, Twitter or old schoolSMS. Outside of the classroom however I do not see them being connected as learners but as social beings.

    In the classroom when off task (on a computer) many students are learning about their self interests and quickly sharing what they have found with their like minded peers.

    Students the carry this over when working on creative tasks. One will work out how to complete an action, then show the group in the class they are connected to. Expanding the knowledge base of the group, without “Teacher” input.
    All this self and group learning however comes to a halt when one from the group can not gain access to information, due to access being denied.

    We need to keep our children safe.
    We need our children to learn.

    When you figure out how, please let me know.

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