Teaching and Learning with Digital Technology
EdTech Ventures support our clients in the design and implementation of appropriate, practical and innovative digital education solutions based on strong pedagogical principles to enhance and support the education experience and to help all learners realise their potential.
We understand that there are many approaches to pedagogy in the 21st century. The effectiveness of any pedagogical approach can depend on the particular subject matter to be taught and often the specific social, cultural and economic conditions. This requires an understanding of the diverse needs of different learners, and adapting to the on-the-ground conditions in the classroom and the surrounding context. The best educators believe in the capacity of their students to learn and will utilize a range of pedagogical approaches to ensure this learning occurs. All the best approaches will focus on the development of knowledge, understanding and skills for the learner using a range of approaches based on the particular structure and context of the education system in place.
Here we outline some well supported methods and case study examples:
Case Study - Collaborative Inquiry based learning at Bridge 21 - Explore, Uncover, Create
As we move beyond the Information Era into the ‘Augmented Era’ where machines and artificial intelligence continuously take on more of our tasks and roles, we will need to make profound shifts of focus at all levels of formal education, in K-12, higher education, workforce development and lifelong learning. This is a move from scalable efficiency to scalable and continuous learning. It is also a shift in mind-set from expertise or simply storing knowledge to be able to stream or channel knowledge and develop learning agility and learning as design thinking.
Rather than assuming that the purpose of education is simply the transfer of fixed knowledge, design learning facilitates the development of the creative and entrepreneurial dispositions and skills necessary to adapt to rapid social and technological change.
"We are moving from an era characterized by stocks of explicit knowledge to flows of tacit knowledge." John Hagel
The Transition Year Programme continues to be a cornerstone of the Bridge21 student activities. Students work in teams of 4 or 5 and take on different challenges each day. To successfully complete their daily projects, the students have to generate ideas; assign roles amongst themselves; plan and schedule; meet deadlines; and present their work. The programme offers students opportunities to use technology in a creative way and get a taste of college life.
The Computer Science workshops cover computational thinking, programming with Scratch for animation & game design and an introduction to Python and the Raspberry Pi. The Postgraduate Certificate in 21st Century Teaching and Learning, which is a key component of the TA21 project, is proving most effective in helping teachers change their classroom practice, make innovative use of technology and teach coding skills.
Amongst the features of Silverton that make it stand out are:
Personalised learning environments. Use of systematic continuous assessment for learning to change the course of student learning and for remediation where required.
Physical learning environments. Focus on physical spaces, seating, and atmosphere to encourage collaboration, creativity, and learning. Students are taught in multi-teacher whole year groups.
Professional learning communities. Technology and programs that support collaboration among teachers and their peer groups in other schools.
Bridge21 is both an action research project and a highly innovative model of technology mediated, collaborative, 21st century teaching and learning.
A core principle of the project is that issues of disadvantage, lack of interest in STEM and gender issues cannot be tackled by outreach activities alone and that a multi-layered approach is needed across students, schools, the provision of professional development for teachers and work at the policy level to help shape a national agenda in which a 21st century model of teaching and learning is used rather than the current didactic, rote learning, focused model.
A personalized adaptive learner centred approach is designed to prepare students with strong content knowledge and understanding, and with the 21st Century skills to prosper in the modern global economy and society. The development of creativity, collaboration and communication skills is integrated holistically with a curriculum structure which supports high levels of attainment in STEM, literacy, social and cultural education, the arts and modern ICT skills. Strong assessment for learning helps the student learn and helps the teacher guide and coach the students to achieve their potential.
Case Study - Collaborative Personalised Adaptive Learning at Silverton PS, Melbourne
Silverton Primary School, on the outskirts of Melbourne Australia has a diverse cultural and socio-economic student demographic. The school's philosophy is based around the need to maximise children's potential and prepare them for an ever-changing world. The staff have developed a school ethos which encourages independent, child-centred learning where children are increasingly making decisions and taking responsibility for aspects of their learning in an authentic environment. Enhancing the nature of teaching and learning, and the relationship between teacher and pupil is a prime objective.
The school has won many awards and has been recognised locally, nationally and internationally for its high standards of learning, innovative pedagogy and high use of ICT to support the children in their learning facilities include a state of the art television studio, an FM radio station and a sound recording studio.
“We tend to be resistant to change in NI. We need to transform this mind-set. That’s why I’m using a design-centred workshop approach in my degree course – it’s a completely new way of teaching and learning. We need to get people working in technology and design to understand each other. I worked with Patricia Flanagan to bring concepts to Northern Ireland that were already being used in Southern California, an immersive way of going about group design. Some of my students don’t know how lucky they are. Some of them have never seen anything different, but the ones who have, know how good it is.” Conánn concluded: “Design should drive industry, and if done right, design has a huge impact on the economy. Universities should always be a safe place for students to take risks and invent the future that we will all profit from.”
Conánn FitzPatrick, lecturer in Computer Animation at Ulster University, discusses his ground-breaking new degree and masters programmes in development at the Belfast School of Art.
“The potential that exists in Northern Ireland’s creative industries is dependent on local talent and skillset. I see my job as developing talent. We are poised for growth here, and things are good. But we cannot attract major FDI (foreign direct investment) in creative industries like animation, film, and others if we don’t feed the local talent base…."
Education has traditionally prepared individuals for a workplace that is relatively well defined and static, but work is now changing too quickly for the latest professional skills to be easily translated into curriculum. The value of design learning is that it provides the right methodology for this changing reality. Most importantly it mirrors the iterative learning and solution building that characterizes the world of work after schooling:
“We can no longer afford to focus on graduating learners armed only with predetermined skills and (already existing) knowledge. The workforce is becoming far too global, too digital, and increasingly too self-employed. We must instead refocus on cultivating creativity, to include not only problem solving, but also problem finding and problem framing. Students and learners need experience with exploration, discovery, re-orientation, and most importantly, design thinking.”
Design Learning - reimagining the curriculum for a rapidly changing world
We outline a range of options and case studies with a focus on models and approaches which have given some of the greatest learning gains.
Conceptual learning is an educational method that centres on big-picture ideas and learning how to organize and categorize information. Unlike more traditional learning models which concentrate on the ability to recall specific facts, conceptual learning focuses on helping students understand broader principles or ideas (concepts) that can later be applied to a variety of specific examples.
To some, conceptual learning can be seen as a more top-down approach when compared with the bottom-up model used in more traditional learning. To others who view traditional learning as rote memorization of facts and figures, conceptual learning is perceived as a means for getting students to think more critically about the new subjects and situations they encounter. It has been shown to help them achieve a significantly broader understanding of the concepts they are studying and their contexts.
Collaborative Inquiry Based Learning
Collaborative Inquiry Based Learning describes an environment in which learning is driven by a process of inquiry that is owned by the student. Starting with a ‘scenario’ and with the guidance of a facilitator, students identify their own issues and questions. They then collaborate together to examine the resources they need to research the topic, thereby acquiring the requisite knowledge. Knowledge so gained is more readily retained because it has been acquired by experience and in relation to a real problem.
It is essential that students are educated for knowledge creation, lifelong learning and leadership. They will take on leading roles in their future working environments: directing change, asking important questions, collaborating, solving problems and developing new knowledge.