- Gill Clough & Rebecca Walker from the Open University talking about their work with gifted and talented children in Second Life
- Robert Hart from Intuitive Media and his company’s recent experiences and research in using SuperClubs within and outwith schools.
- Myself talking about my work at the Consolarium
However, I want to talk about something that arose from the post presentation discussions. A healthy debate about the purpose and practically of games and learning ensued but one delegate suggested that personalised learning with games would eventually mean that no teacher would be required in the learning relationship. Another delegate suggested that what we need is a game that will deliver everything we need to teach!
What was interesting for me was that in the ensuing debate about these points Marc Prensky appeared to be of the opinion that we should let the children use the technology in an independent fashion and that learning ‘will happen’. I appreciate that this can, and does, happen but I have some real concerns about this from a theoretical and experiential perspective.
Years ago when I was a B.Ed(P) student at Northern College in Dundee we used to sit through lectures about the theory and practice of education (big respect to Jim Ewing et al.). Without going in to things in great detail I remember learning about Jean Piaget, possibly the father of the field in child learning and development. We learned about his work but also of criticisms of it from people such as Scotland’s own Margaret Donaldsont The main point that stayed with me was that Piaget claimed that if left to their own devices, children could, and would, learn when interacting without the interaction of an adult.
We also learned about social contructivism and in particular the work of a psychologist called Lev Vygotsky. Now Vygotsky talks abot the Zone of Proximal Development. This is defined as the gap between what a learner can do and what they do know, and, what they can’t do and what they don’t know. That gap is the place where the teacher comes in and uses whatever means, methodologies, resources etc to bridge that gap and take the learner forward.
I was working in a secondary school recently where we were introducing mp4 players that come installed with motivational audio files that help students develop effective strategies for study and an awareness of how the brain works and how effective learning can take place. We gave the learners mp4 players, access to a central blog that leads the learning and an individual blog where they would reflect on what they have learned about their effective study and themselves as a learner. However, although the project is at a very early stage there does not yet appear to be any reflective writing or dialogue on the blogs yet. Why? I believe it’s because we maybe assumed that because technology was in place that this reflection would just happen. Up to now it hasn’t and I’m not confident that it will unless we teach these learners about self-reflection and how they can engage with it.
Now I appreciate that learners are becoming more and more connected, that they learn very well on their own with technology and that they are, in many cases more technically proficient than their teachers. I do also believe that teachers need to be using technology in more informed and effective ways but we can’t continue to give them an inferiority complex and reminding them about what they can’t do! We must not forget the importance of the teacher in the learning relationship and we can’t abdicate our responsibility to lead, guide and hone the skills of the digital learner just because they are good with technology…and maybe more proficient with it than many teachers. We’re in this together folks are we not, so let’s support everyone.