To feed or lead class?

I read Judy O’Connell’s post in which she describes a colleague who is giving a lecture on the use of Powerpoint in order to give students more than a summary of important points in serial delivery. Judy references the Chronical of Higher Education on the topic. I am not sure it can be removed without leaving a stain. In another recent article, Micheal de Percy talked about the drivers that often promote ‘service and delivery’ at University. I made me wonder about the dilemma teachers between feeding the class verses leading it, and a strategy to over come it.

It doesnt wash off, but washes over.

It doesn't wash off, but washes over.

Educators face a bloated syllabus (which are a summary consensus view of the discipline). Students often say they want revision notes and powerpoint summaries (it sustains their often successful surface learning strategy). External exams are designed in ways that teachers can almost predict questions and game the system focused on results and competitive performance. They provide students with model answers and strategies to pass the test. It happens and we’ve all seen it. “If you want to access the band 6 marks, this is what you need to include and how to do it”. Enquiry gives way to rote learning, which is why enquiry and group work is often afforded lower percentage points in summative assessment. This will be perpetuated as governments insist on drawing up league tables. Yes we have ‘in-course assessments’, but these are usually  internally designed and marked; unlike the almighty HSC exam – everyone knows the exam is the deal breaker here; and powerpoint is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself.

Teaching is an essential input to a product (the qualification). It is not simply a service. Qualifications issued by universities are supposed to indicate the capabilities of graduates. Over-relying on student satisfaction (as the main indicator of quality) encourages a service culture which is not entirely appropriate to the teaching role. Michael de Percy (ABC News)

Leading the class is much more of an ideological challenge than a technical one. Many teachers use a very limited toolset. Summising of content in powerpoint is perhaps 50% of their ability – and is often cited as a ‘desirable’ when it comes to student satisfaction. Yet Powerpoint was designed for techies to give summaries to marketing people back in the day. They wanted to spend least amount of time and effort explaining key things, so made Powerpoint. It was not a ‘learning tool’ – but a presentation tool. Over the years it just got more bloated, but still does what it was designed to do. I’m not even getting into BAD Powerpoint; simply by recognising it’s purpose is to talk, not listen – then we can start to think more about developing two-way engagements with learners.

Should we abandon powerpoint, or equivalent Web2.0 slidedeck application entirely?

If we actually want present a summary, then use it. If we want to lead students to deeper or wider thinking, not just remembering, no – dump it. – To lead learning at a deeper level, we should present a range of possibilities and influencers, not a summary. We can still use something visually impacting, aligning with the outcome intended, but we MUST avoid drawing a line between the resource itself and the summation of knowledge. That is what powerpoint is spectacularly good it. We are often so poor at formative assessment strategy that we give students no chance to make that connection – as the summary is on the powerpoint – we draw the line – asking the question and then giving the answer moments later.

I maintain that you can transform learning and teaching using a very limited number of tools. I return over an over to Diigo as the edu-webs killer application.

What is an alternative strategy?

Adapting an aggregator and using in a familiar teaching mode – using Diigo. Diigo provides a way to provide lecturers and teachers with the powerpoint backdrop to present ideas and components of the discipline, but does it in a way that discourages reading dot points. How so? by using Diigo’s list feature and tagging content. The lecturer can collect a mass of content and tag it to represent syllabus content – what is it I want them to know (the outcome). They can reference their own resource or those of others directly. This compiled list is then presented as a webcast in Diigo (example: here). It allows the lecturer to move between areas (links), and encourages them to talk about, not read them. Students no longer receive a 20 page powerpoint to remember, but 20 links, related to the discipline that they have to constructively align to the outcomes though guided enquiry (the activity).

We know if they are learning though assessment. Students need to be asked questions about the discipline and to use the Diigo List as the learning pathway. They can reference that content; or better still – use Diigo to comment directly on the page. Diigo of course allows teachers to set up a ‘class’ account and envoke collaboration. In effect, they draw all over the pseudo-powerpoint! – involved at a meta cognitive level almost immediately – and exploring, comparing, negotiating – as well as remembering. A massive shift in pedagogy, using a very simple tool.

Consider the two options presented – and decide – adapt of ignore. Try or deny.

One option is to provide 1000 students with a summary in powerpoint; the other is to provide interactive content that allows a 1000 students to socially construct a shared, consensus view. The problem is not which is better learning – but which do students see as more effective at getting the qualification. The former. I think convincing students is just as important as convincing lecturers of the perils of powerpoint. This plays out is student satisfaction surveys – ‘a good powerpoint is like gold’.

How do we encourage a change in behaviour?

But we must be cautious of the quantitatively-driven concept of student-centeredness where it detracts from the quality of the qualifications – in essence, the outputs which university teaching creates. Michael de Percy (ABC News)

Through educational leadership at the policy level. The job of education leaders is not to do easy things like buy IWBs and Netbooks (thats a purchasing officer), but to transform the standards of education sufficiently that teachers feel confident to stop feeding and learn new ways to lead. Equally students know why this is important to their attainment, and are not simply buying a service. Teachers and students can’t climb the learning ladder, unless leaders allow and encourage it to be extended. Powerpoint or otherwise – and right now the oppositional polarity being demonstrated by political policy is not exactly helpful to this change process in my view. Regrettebly, most leaders get their key-facts and briefings from powerpoint. We create out own reality.

Why Bored of Studies PWNs the BOS

Picture 4

There is no shift of control of information when you bolt technology onto what you already do. This is the strategy of public education, when you look behind the facade and grand statements. This is the approach known as “spray and pray”. Research shows there is little added value from automation, and incremental improvement. (“In the Age of the Smart Machine : The Future of Work and Power” by Shoshana Zuboff). We can’t simply put a class in a Ning and call it a community; or exchange paper for a blog. In fact the current National Curriculum approach is to defer all measures of attainment to other professional bodies, just to make sure it stands a safe distance away from potential criticism (standard mode of political-operation).  Of course these bodies are politically driven and differ regionally, and Western Australia is using self-evaluation – which NSW DET’s Digital Revoltion portal (the have so many) references – via ‘evaluation’.

The good news is that students are 21st Century learners; and 97% are engaged via social gaming and friend based networks, so have access to pretty much all the answers they need to PWN the current assessment system – and they did it with no help at all.

7 million hits can’t be wrong

twitter_pushbackThe illustration at the top of the screen is the Bored of Studies Wiki; go check it out – it tells students how to pass the HSC and beyond; and to me screams why the current methods of teaching are so easily ‘gamed’ by students. The website was created in 2002 by four former HSC students who had completed their HSC in the previous year: Mark Czajkowski, James King, Tim Cheng and Ian Keong. Of course the real Authority – called the Board of Studies has warned teachers against being anywhere near the thing! So is it cheating or just 21st Century Learning.

Yet, with over 250,000 subscribers and 7 million hits a month (claimed) – its safe to say that students have pwned the system. It positively road-maps how to be a strategic learner – and perhaps is our most outstanding educational achievement, along with Rate My Teacher – which now has one click links to Twitter, Facebook and Stumble Upon.

It matters nothing if we agree with these sites being there; only that they are. These are the social networks kids use – that gives them Authority. Its socially constructed knowledge; do we need to replicate it in class or inside what Clay Burrell called schooliness.

Chris Lehmann wroteBuild consensus – If only a few people are on-board with the idea, it won’t work. But consensus doesn’t mean taking something from everyone and sticking it onto the original idea until what you have is the worst of committee-based decisions. It means listening for the truths in what other people are telling you and being willing to make substantive change when it makes sense.”

So there’s the positive – students are doing what Chris suggests, long live Bored of Studies. I wonder if Mark, James, Tim and Ian are consulting?

End of Web

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End of Web – A Game Based, Virtual School Project

Playful learning always seems more interesting that being powerpointed (guilty). And I did make a powerpoint last week.

So to make amends, and to follow up on numerous conversations in the last month, I have been trying to figure out how to offer professional development and at the same time embed some of the 21st century ‘soft’ skills that we know are important, but often really hard to align, assess and justify in out existing curricula – and in that I’m talking K20, not K12. So this is virtual school, a game, social action and professional development – all in one.

The start date would be February 2010 – 6 months. Then run the project.

It’s based on the simple game of ‘what if’. This seems apt as many of the barriers to 21C learning are based on ‘what if’. So the idea is simple; between here and early 2010, a game is developed which not only engages students in a social action, enquiry project but allows them to engage in ‘virtual school’. In essence, playing the game will allow them to demonstrate 21st Century learning outcomes in a safe fail environment, allow teachers to determine tha classroom activities – and align the game with content and standards/outcomes. It will run for 60 days over the internet, but not all activities need to be ‘technology’ based.

The aim is to create a massive multiplayer game – active not just in one space, but fluid over many. It’s a chance to get together and make a robust learning object that not only allows creative publishing of information; but allows teachers to learn from each other and along side students. We might even convince the world, though the action that the alternate reality is actually real. A kind of pixel based War of the Worlds.

What I need, is for people to click here – and help shape the idea, the activities and the assessment; so that we can evaluate it – and all of that is open for discussion. No filters, no standard tests, no yeah buts … this is virtual school. Right now it’s a 3 page wiki – I hope we can develop it into something that can work in K12 and showcase some of the amazing opportunities that we have as educators. No more problems, this is solutions only. Please join in.

The End of WebAn alternate reality game

The scenario:

It’s 2020 and the world has changed. Some say for the better, for others it is the worst of times. The internet, the technology that connects us, will be turned off in 60 days. The world leaders have agreed that the internet is making the world worse, and is now to big and too powerful. It must be stopped. The official orders have been given … the internet is closing down, to be replaced by a single information service called the “Alternet”.

The sides:

Each day, the “Alternet” publishes information and news about the status of the internet closure and will become the one place for information. Those opposed to the groups have called themselves the ‘Cylores’. The don’t agree with Alternet and want to stop the closure. Somewhere in between are ordinary people like you and me. It’s time to think about how the world got to this point, and how it might would change as the days pass by and what will happen when we reach day 60.

What will be your story?

Imagine yourself in those 60 days … what will happen … what would you do, how could you stop it, do you want to? – how will it change your world. What could you say to stop it; what could you do. Do you even want to stop it?

This is a game; you get to choose your character – you need to tell your story in any way which you choose – as in 60 days the internet will be shut down. You can connect to others, read their pages and add your ideas. Each day, you can use social media and human networks to highlight those stories that you think are fantastic! but beware – Alternet is watching – and you might well find yourself being asked to explain yourself. Do you keep a blog? do you make a film – do you organise a protest?

Look for information being published by the Alternet and the Cylores; share it with others … take action … the end of web is near.

So that’s the plot line (right now) and here’s a link to a graphic (which you can make better – or maybe even a film trailer … ideas and input welcome)

Russian invasion!

INCREASINGLY it seems, newcomers are taking their classes online in blogs, wikis and online communities. There is a wealth of published materials that encourage and celebrate the adoption of technology in the classroom. Schools need to  provide adequate orientation and safety assurances; taking the newcomer through practical guidance be an effective, safe, online course facilitator. As soon as part of a course is online, the role of teacher is opened to greater risk and responsibility.

Schools with hundreds of kids online, without obtaining any additional ‘permission’ or ‘advice’ on social media risk assessment is a reality.

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I noticed a Ning site, for middle school students that was left open. It appeared that the site was abandoned. A russian ‘porn spammer’ had joined the group, and immediately added all the students as a friend, leaving a comment on their wall inviting them to visit ‘her’ online. It is highly likely that kids signed up to the Ning with an email address, and that they receive notifications – as a year or so later this new member, produced a flurry or activity in the ‘old abandoned’ Ning.

Replies and comments to the new user flourished.

There is an excellent Social Media Guidlines project in the USA that is well worth adding to; and modelling from developed by Gina Hartman, Educational Technology Specialist in the Francis Howell School District. As more newcomers arrive, and more technology appears in classrooms, the risk grows – as I believe that the risk has a proportional relationship with experience, ability and understanding.

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Providing orientation training to the online space is very important – and seeking help to do it is advisable and you want your employer to support and acknowledge that in sharing the risk – else you may wear all of it, if you have an invasion.

Demonstrating that you can operate effectively and safely, just like ‘safety’ tests in an industrial workshop or science laboratory – is something that should be a norm, like manual handling and OH&S.

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An Intro to Social Media in Education

This is probably a fairly unremarkable ‘power point’ … as an introduction to social media I gave to general staff and students this week. I find it really hard to pitch social media in education as a dry – theory, so have tried to liven it up by having people leave comments during the presentation. I am much more comfortable with learning frameworks and nitty gritty stuff. Part of the process of delivering this kind of message, which is not ‘my’ lens – was to try get them to engage with the idea of a two-way interchange, in what is a passive presentation. I have used Etherpad, and created a live document to accompany the presentation. Sessions like these I think tend to attract ‘digital tourists’, so I am hoping to capture two voices – those attending, and perhaps some more experienced educators. It would be great if you could leave a comment on the Etherpad, to give the ‘next’ bus load of tourists some sense of conversation, as this will be a repeating session. I’ll also be giving this presentation online via Live Classroom next week … May13, 10-11am, you can register FREE here for that. I hope that you can spare some time to participate.

EVE of new literature

This post is something that hit the cutting room (word count) floor in the “Learning in Virtual Worlds” volume I’ve been writing with Judy O’Connell, but I think it’s worth sharing. The focus is to look at just how much you can do with a ‘free trail’ to an online game – and in fact never play the game.


Gaming online invariably offers a ‘free trial’. This is very handy for schools – who might sign students up for Mathletics, but a game such as EVE Online is unlikely to get a run. For one thing, some of the ‘content’ is a little ‘dark’, but never the less is no more apocalyptic than novels such as Bladerunner. It seems that narratives in writing, take on new ideology when played out online. But games are now online and millions of teens ‘play’ them – and socialise.

MMOs lead themselves to Digital Story Telling – and though as not seen as a ‘tool’ as such, and maybe could be added to Alan Lavine’s 50 ways to tell a story. They are both the tool and the media – the imperative to use them – is motivation and interest. We are at a point in educational technology where we should at least be exploring where virtual worlds are fitting into learning – as students increasingly move to MMOs, creating new communities as part of the social network nexus.

Clarance Fisher posted “Events are new. Events are different and exciting. Events are something we take part in and play a role in. Then when we put a bunch of events together, they build up into an experience. I would much rather that students have an “experience” of something rather than “study” something.”

EVE Online provides a range of multi-demensional experiences and within a ‘free’ trail, teachers could easily use it to engage students in a range of experiences and discussions. For example, without playing the game; create a comic strip or explore identity and representation using the narratives from the eBooks and screenshots provided in the site. Students can read the stories, or add their own new race to the back story. Of course doing any of this requires the teacher to be digitally literate themselves – and schools need to create opportunities to ‘discover’ these teaching tools.

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Teachers could explore some of the narriatives; and suggest how the writer in (or is not) talking about things science is interested in, or how science affects natural evolution. EVE has a range of stories – sections of which will resonate with student interest such as

The Kameiras are one of the products of the infamous Human Endurance Program (H.E.P.) that the Amarr ran on their Minmatar slave populace. It began as an attempt to measure the Minmatar tribes’ durability and effectiveness when it came to various labor tasks – to see how far they could be pushed before breaking, much like a tool would be stress-tested. Over time it evolved into much more than that, becoming a tale of horror for the Minmatar as Amarr scientists began to explore the true limits of their body and psyche.”

Games, far being from a waste of time, are highly motivating and well thought out. The collatoral activities such as the art; concept; stories; forums and film that many ‘fans’ create provide a rich source of stimulus materials than can be easily recycled in cross-curricula approaches. Looking beyond ‘its a game and not appropriate’ allows teachers to see that what is happening in them is much more than ‘pac-man’. The offer rich resource materials, which is often literature – outside the game, but connected with it. We have to then think that a great deal of creative expression in the future will include MMO experiences, but not be limited to it. If anything MMOs generate more artistic and creative work that crush it.

EVE Online is one example of hundreds of ‘worlds’. They offer teachers opportunities to use the ‘burr’ of motivation; to connect wider learning activities – from science to design, music to personal development. There is a dimension that can be exploited – without necessarily ‘playing’ the game itself. But we have to look beyond the prescribed texts and start to notice how literature is changing, and being used differently – and ‘building literate communities beyond the classroom”

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Etherpad – Live Text Collaboration


One of the common comments people make in workshops about Google Docs is ‘what if two people are editing’. Well in reality that doesn’t happen that often, and even so, Google Docs informs you … but in a real time classroom, it can be kind of annoying. Etherpad, is fantastic for classroom collaboration. It has been in closed ‘beta’ for a while and has always looks good. The ‘real’ deal is even better. Being able to work in real time, with ‘live’ text significantly changes the interaction between students when collaborating. Not only can you ‘see’ who is doing what, but the digital text needs negotiation by the group. Knowledge is therefore being constructed in real time, using Etherpad at the centre of mutli-modal activities. Students could be using text books, visual resources or recording live events and dialogue. It bridged the gap between live blogging and chat, where time is the publishing criteria, to a live activity that allows students orgnise it. Best of all, there is nothing in ‘Etherpad’ that puts students at risk – it is a great tool, and will enable many classrooms to engage in ‘live’ activities – especially if the collaboration is over distance, cultures or disciplines

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Half the trouble with classroom 2.0

picture-6A year or two ago, listening to anyone talk about ‘Second Life’ was more about ideology and futurism than curriculum. Consoles were still un-wired and online play was still the domain of the PC, not hand-held or mobile. In the same time period teachers have been launching new ICTs in classrooms, and orbiting the ‘Web2.o’ toolbox. The conversation still largely revolves around ‘activities’ using these tools, which is seeing classrooms move (slowly) away from the idea that students need to learn office automation processes and searching. Implementing more open ended classroom approaches and scaling renewed curricula remains challenging for school leaders – but progress is being made in many schools. Teachers who talk about and use second life, still face negativity and suspicion.Voices from the quarter who are advocating current, relevant technologies (other teachers) still largely regard virtual worlds and games as ‘interesting’, but not as important or as relevant as blogs and wikis.

A recent report from Pew says “By a large margin, teen internet users’ favorite online activity is game playing; 78% of 12-17 year-old internet users play games online, compared with 73% of online teens who email, the second most popular activity for this age group. Online teens are also significantly more likely to play games than any other generation, including Generation Y, only half (50%) of whom play online games.”

There are hundreds of virtual worlds, with millions of users and subscribers . Much of the ‘edu’ debate is still around safety and security in Second Life, which seems facile in contrast to the ease and access students have online to spaces such as Disney’s Club Penguin (though Disney does have a lot of safety advice online) It is better to teach them, as you can’t prevent them – and in many cases what looks to a parent like a ‘game’ is in fact a 3D social network – and requires a whole new understanding.

There is a depth of professional detail on how to teach with MMOs, much the same as there is in ‘Web2.0’. There are options to run a virtual world over your school LAN, or use a browser based world such as Metaplace. There simply is something to everyone in MMOs – and at the heart of it is the game industries ability to embed new learning processes and motivation into their product offerings.

I find it difficult to see how ‘web2.0’ teachers can ignore or marginalize the influence of gameplay, and the narritives they offer. They are not 3D Powerpoint, or virtual ‘classrooms’ – but they can be used as part of ‘good practice’. From Maths and Economics (Football Manager), to student conferencing (MeetSee), games and Teen Second Life – there progressive conversation, resources and pedagogical development in virtual worlds is something that teachers should be ‘exploring’ – as Web2.0 includes immersive environments. Omitting them from “Web2.0” is in effect saying ‘I am going to consider using  50% of what you might be interested in’.

2704191125_6587fe9a74I am not saying that ‘games’ become the center of learning – but they must play a role, as teens are clearly ‘learning’ in these spaces and motivated by them.. They too need to be blended into learning – part inquiry, part exploration, part play and part instruction – this is learning centered design, not student or teacher centered.

We are not measuring the 21C-ness of a school, by the number of Nings or Wikis, but by looking at the alignment of activities, outcomes and assessment – and demonstrating that what we are doing makes a positive difference.

There are unique pedagogical reasons to use virtual worlds, just as there are for other Web2.0 tools. Skype is great, but if you are talking about how an Airship works, why use an airship? If you are trying to understand what life is like in an African village school – why not make one and teach there. As our classrooms beging extend beyond the physical, I can’t imagine that being in a class using a ‘skype call’ to another classroom is as engaging as the two classes working together online. Or if designing a new school, students can’t work to create the virtual school. Both ideas that have proven successful in Skoolaborate.

Teachers don’t need to start from ground zero, there are numerous communities and existing projects – with developed curricula and resources. In many ways, virtual worlds are far more mature in their pedagogical offering that a Web2.0 tool that needs adaption – and alignment with effective measurement. Designing curricula for the 21st century must include recognition of the cognitive power that games and virtual worlds offer classrooms. If we are punching through the walls of our classrooms – to connect to other experiences – it seems logical that we include games. I have to thank Keven Jarrett for his great lead in this weekends PLP Network introduction to Virtual Worlds, and talking about the dept of resources available through ISTE – and it was great to see a healthy number interested in exploring what is fast becomming ‘the other half’ of the story. Look forward to seeing you in Jokaydia next weekend.

What is good teaching?

I was reminded in a student-panel session last week that just maybe I have to deal with the ‘ethics’ committee before recording the views of volunteer students. Academics enrolled in a Foundations of Learning and Teaching course were there to listen to the ‘student perspective’ on what is good (and bad) learning and teaching at University.

Their views seem to be echoed online, as this High School student video, buried in YouTube talks about – so I’ll just use this instead.

  • Leading learning, not controlling the class.
  • Having Teachers that THEY can connect with
  • Teachers who realise (though action) that a student is a human being with a range of interests and ideas to share.
  • Allowing students to connect to the teacher without reinforcing the power teachers have over them.
  • Teachers who connect with the content and shows passion for what they are doing – and saying.
  • if they don’t take an interest, then why should you” – teachers faking interest is obvious!
  • Students know that good teachers have a DRAMATIC impact on positive learning experiences
  • They remember ‘good teachers’ because they recognise ‘good teaching experiences’ (and visa versa)
  • Good pupils hope to be remembered

The ‘student panel’ were critical of both the ENTRY and the EXIT events, but also positive about  well designed courses that take into account the ‘learning load’, motivation and learning preferences of the students.

A teacher writing on a blackboard.
Image via Wikipedi

They were giving the room really valuable feedback on instructional strategies that work or don’t – for them. To reinforce the fact that often highly knowledgeable teachers fail to engage students … another YouTube clip … time to spot the strategies here. This clip really engaged the cohort, and pulled together the student panel session and the need to consider much more than content when teaching.

Students highlighted over reliance on summative assessment to grade students. This was later reinforced when the cohort learned about the Solove Method of grading.

They further talked about the assumptions teachers make ” students are there because they are ‘into’ the subject” – when in fact they are curious, interested but not (yet) deeply engaged in it. This assumption leads to issues of engagement if the teachers does not do adequate ‘oil dipping’ for prior knowledge – or motivation.

I was quite amazed to learn that many teachers (higher education) won’t use ‘online learning’ such as a discussion forum, as they have a 1000 students and insufficient resources. I’ve heard that from teachers with 20 students before too. Building effective learning communities remains one of the most important professional development sessions that teachers can attend in my view.

I think that is is great question to ask students ‘what is a great teacher’ (class) or ‘how can teach you better’ (personal).

It was great to see how keen students were to give positive, constructive feedback in the session – and how seriously that is taken as a key element of curriculum renewal. Students are the mirror that we need to look into more often I think.

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Creativity, Curiosity, Consideration, Consistency Part 2

Unlearning the Internet – Part 2/3

The www has corrupted how well schools used ICTs in the 1990s. There is no doubt that students benefited from using CAI approaches. “Drill and Skill”– learning MS Office, learning to Touch Type or learning Phonetics using software, was beneficial school leavers in the 1990s as they entered employment or attended University. Schools did a very good job with computing  – it was taught in a context that had learning frameworks that delivered what was needed at the time.

However, in the mid 1990s, the www crept into the classroom – full of promises of universal access to information – and on demand learning. It was the era of the ‘information superhighway’. This actually ran very slowly over a dial up modem, shared by dozens of students on flaky networks . To teachers and students it was something of a world wide wait, then crash. The trickle of information that came though via Yahoo and Alta Vista was really used as a ‘bolt-on’ for existing pedagogy and resources. They were cited as being ‘important’ but in all reality, the Internet in schools during the 1990s was a total nightmare for all but the most die-hard of teachers exploring ‘cyberspace’.

Learning how to get the best out of the net on these unreliable, slow networks was simply too hard for many experienced ‘computer science’ teachers – used to grappling with school ‘under funded’ ICTs – let alone anyone else. Teachers had no experience of using it to suit learning in the www domain, it was a world away from what they had been doing as previously – CAI software provided everything they needed.

Teachers were never really taught what the Internet could do for learning – we worried about what it was and how to make it (some learned how to write HTML) – and skipped the development of learning frameworks and digital taxonomies. Drill and skill and CAI frameworks were eroded by students’ natural curiosity, which led them to search engines – and ‘surfing the internet’.

In a world pre YouTube, the interest for students was email, Yahoo Chat, Microsoft Messenger. To them, the Internet offeres a place to communicate where parents and teachers have no power over them. They are not foremost ‘into’ the internet as a content provider, but  as a communication channel. Back then, only a few had mobile phones and parents controlled the landline. If they could ‘get online’ they had low cost, instant, access to their friends – and that was real independence.

Right from the outset – the www had a completely different use for students. It  offered a new freedom to communicate and a growing usefulness in ‘searching’ for information that could be pumped directly into assessments and essays. They were better than teachers at finding, and better at sharing and since then, we’ve been complaining and rattling our sabers about plagiarism and copyright. Students are by and large not interested in the laws, ethics or morality of the internet. To them the price point is zero and everything is there for the talking. We have to teach them that part.  They just want to get the ‘best’ or ‘right’ answer and know that they stand a better than average chance of finding it on Wikipedia. Our love of marking and ‘ticks’ needs to expand. Getting the right answers is not as important as asking a better question. The internet has so much information, that pushing students questions into the deepest corners of ‘web knowledge’ is critical – things they won’t find on the first page of Google.

What are the new learning frameworks, new pedagogies needed to create exploritory and contructive classroom learning? First of all, teachers need to unlearn what they’ve learned about the internet. That was the old internet based on drill and skill – now it’s a communication channel, and teachers need to learn how to participate in the learning conversation.