Handbook for emerging technologies for learning

Over the last year or so, Peter Tittenberger and George Siemens have been working on a Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning. They’ve now completed version #1 which is available on a wiki which will continue to be updated. If you prefer to read paper, a .pdf version of the handbook is also available.

The handbook provides an overview of the change pressures and trends in education, before exploring in more detail what we know about learning and the relationship between technology, teaching and learning, then moving into exploring ideas about the future and what it might hold.

On first read I am impressed, and will certainly take the time now to go back and examine it in more detail. Like writers in this field that I had to read in earlier eras (Heinech, Molenda et.al.) Tittenberger and Siemens approach the topic by locating the use of technology in education within the broader mileu of educational issues, drawing on relevant theories and theorists to support their argument for where technology ‘fits’. In the earlier era this included Dale’s Cone of Experience and basic communication models – still relevant today, although on their own can be used to justify an ‘additive’ approch to technology use in education, rather than something that is truly transformative which is the basis of Siemens’ theory of Connectivism.

It’s not all theory however, Tittenberger and Siemens have included plenty of practical advice and models for implementation that recognise the realities of today’s classrooms and the barriers to change that exist within our existing school systems. For those new to the field, or who feel overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” to digest in the field, this is an excellent starting point, with frequent definitions and explanations of things, and text that isn’t too dense and is punctuated with easy to digest diagrams and models.

The conclusion sums up the usefulness of the handbook in my view…

The use of technology for learning is influenced by developments in numerous fields: technology itself, global trends (market economy growth, changing immigration patterns, intellectual shifts to emerging economies132), societal trends, and trends within educational research.

Much of the change in education over the last several decades has been defined by discussion of content. Should we teach more math? Science? What about ethics? How should we teach? Lecture? Problem-based learning? It seems that much of educational reform has been concerned with determining the content of education, rather than the model and process of learning design and delivery in a technology infused world.

The “arranging of deck chairs” approach requires reconsideration. The change pressures faced in education today (and society as a whole) are much deeper than a shift in content or in pedagogy alone will meet. Leaders and administrators are faced with the task of redefining the role of the academy in a world of constant change and hyper-connectivity.

For individual faculty members and departments, greater use of emerging technology can serve as an important bridging process between the traditional role of education and the not yet clearly defined future. Active participation in the ecology of perpetual change provides organizations with the capacity to sense, recognize, and respond to emerging patterns.

Through a process of active experimentation, the academy’s role in society will emerge as a prominent sense-making and knowledge expansion institution, reflecting of the needs of learners and society while maintaining its role as a transformative agent in pursuit of humanity’s highest ideals.

6 thoughts on “Handbook for emerging technologies for learning

  1. I feel constrained by the status quo- the expectations of others- the parent body, the BOT, students, other teachers, principal. I am trying to teach how they want me to teach- focussing heavily on the traditional- reading, writing and arithmetic. My successes are judged against achievement in those areas with so many children showing such wonderful talents in areas not judged as important enough to assess in a school curriculum. I want to be part of the not-clearly defined future but not sure where it is or how to get there.


  2. I understand the feeling – I think that’s the single most ‘suffocating’ aspect of working in schools at the moment – throughout the world! Seems like our system is caught in the malaise of knowing what is good for them, but choosing not to do it – sort of like the overweight person who refuses to diet, or the smoker who refuses to quite etc. this is where I see the value in this handbook – so much of what I see happening in schools depends on the enthusiasm of a single teacher or small group of teachers, but hasn’t really become embedded in the culture of the place. Often this is because the teachers/principals themselves haven’t fully made the leap to connect practice with the broader philosophical frameworks that embrace it. Thus, the innovation has little chance of sustaining itself, or of genuinely embedding itself into the ongoing and dynamic culture of the school as an organic entity. Tittenberger and Siemens provide us with a very accessible starting point for these discussions within the profession – which will hopefully then bleed out into the community etc.
    BTW – I love that “NotTheTest” video and have shared it widely!

  3. Had a quick look at connectivism and feeling that perhaps with increased access to personalised learning and communication opportunities perhaps Allanah’s an other parents will see too that literacy and numeracy maybe achieved through a slightly more natural process in a learning network. Personally I still aspire to achive this for primary students as well as their opportunity to be the best they can be in a other areas. The quote “students learn best in schools that learn” stand out. This period of unprecendented change gives an opportunity for: the undeniable to rise above the prescribed, powerful learning to outdo formal practise and the happiness of engaged learners to challenge the hoop jumpers and mark counters. I see this happening at my own school.

  4. What we are wanting to do at the moment does not fit in to a box or current way of thinking, or doing. For parents and principals this can be unnerving, and difficult to put value on. I am currently working on looking at what added value i bring to my work as an ePrincipal. This is difficult to do when secondary schools are often judged by their NCEA results and the behaviour of their students.

  5. Read this a while back, have thought a bit and now revisiting. Change -by this I mean REAL change- is something I really struggle with. As AllanahK says, we work under the expectations of a whole series of groups. I’d include ERO, curriculum content, timetabling in the list. Every time we change something it has a ripple effect on one or another member of the list. We’re working in an environment that has massive inertia -it takes a very great pressure to make a measurable difference in the wider context. So much of what we do has a local effect, but like a splash in the ocean it can be almost invisible from further out.

    How do we go about making real systemic change? How do we build a school where 21st Century Learning permeates everything we say and do, and every part of the community and modus operandi reflects this? How do we defeat inertia and change the status quo?

  6. Hi Bruce – your concerns are definitely shared by a majority of educators that I encounter around the country and the world for that matter. That’s why my colleagues at CORE and I, together with Julia Atkin, have been pursuing a response to this sort of question in our work over the past eight years in developing the EPS. (see http://eps2.core-ed.org). It doesn’t provide an immediate answer or sure-fire result, but it does target the area that we believe is essential to focus on as a starting point, and that is providing all members of the school community with the opportunity to contribute to a truly collaborative and participatory journey of creating the desired future. The most significant problem is where change is forced on people, where only a few are seen to be leading the change, where change agents are focused on avoiding the negative instead of accentuating the positive, or where change is re-active rather than a consequence of pro-actively planned and deliberate actions. Of course, the problem here is that as a species, we all have a predeliction to being change-averse, some thing Donald Schon speaks of in his volume “Beyond the Stable State”.
    This is all background to the work we’ve done with the EPS – and for schools that commit to the process, we’ve seen some fairly significant and sustainable change. The thing we have to remember is that we never change things, it’s all about changing people – and that’s difficult 🙂

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