Thursday, April 23, 2009

Technology Competency & 21st Century Learners

Recycle BinRecycle Bin
Aaaaaaah! I’ve just deleted the Recycle Bin from my Desktop!

My PC runs Vista. Unlike other versions of Windows, Vista has a pull-down list on the Recycle Bin with a Delete option as well as the Empty Recycle Bin option. If Delete is chosen, the Recycle Bin isn’t emptiedit is removed from the Desktop!

Menu of the Recycle Bin
Fortunately, the Recycle Bin is not actually deleted, but the path to restoring it, although easy to follow, is not easy to find.

The first time I deleted it was traumatic but I found a tip on Google. There are millions on
the Vista Recycle Bin!

It was only when it happened again that I realised that I hadn’t followed the advice I give to my students and colleagues on learning and practice. So the second time I had to do the Google search I made a careful mental note of the steps needed, and also to come back and check I could still remember them before I logged off.

I was reminded of this helpful idea when I read Tracy Hamilton’s recent post, Laughing at my own memory lost - Use it or Lose it. I also recalled the related comment I left on Tony Karrer's Tool Set 2009.

See > Note > Act > Practice (SNAP)

Teachers today require a high level of ICT competency, in addition to their understanding of subject knowledge, pedagogy and teaching practice. But the 21
st Century teacher doesn’t need much more in the way of basic ICT skills than a late 20th Century teacher did. Certainly keeping up with the latest ICT developments and updates is a part, but then, isn’t that always the case in ICT?

The need is for a clear pathway for the learner to apply the learning once delivered, by whatever means – conversation, professional development program, whether on-the-job or in a formal training class.

Cognitive apprenticeship

It is embraced in the so-called cognitive apprentice theory that experts in a skill often don’t consider hidden processes involved in carrying out complex skills when they are teaching/instructing newcomers.

Situated professional development programs can be used to make this happen, instead of defining a prescription for particular technology competencies that learners must have and be able to use.

Often, learners have difficulty learning raw content. They may not be able to see exactly how raw know-how can be applied as it may have no relevance to them at the time and so they don't learn and remember.

Situated learning that grounds learning experiences in the learner’s own practice may well be more successful and a situated professional development technology program can serve the needs of the learners’ specific technology within their own learning environment.

But learners can do a lot of this for themselves.

Practice and metacognition

Whatever skill/knowledge/concept the learner has first learnt should be practiced soon as - the same day. This means that any training that is given should take into account the opportunity the learner may have to practice the same day and try out their newly acquired skill.

Mini projects that can be used by the learner after learning sessions always helps with this. This also applies to an on-the-job conversation where the learner picks up a tip or piece of advice that may well be useful to them in the future.

Learning to write little reminders when first shown something and then to practice it immediately afterwards is paramount to putting what's learnt into use and maintaining it. It is in the category of what’s called metacognition.

The mantra is learn and practice soon as.

As well, last thing on a Friday is a no-no for training/learning simply because of this whole principle of practice soon as.
You can say ta-ta to what you're shown last thing on a Friday by the time Monday arrives. You rarely consolidate what you’ve learnt over the weekend!

When a helpful IT technician comes to show me how to do something on my PC on a Friday, I always say, “Can you show me on Monday? I’ll send you an email - I'll come round and you can show me then.”
Then I send the email AND cc it to myself.

I recall some years ago getting computer training on the last days of the year! Forget it! I may as well have!

Three tiers of technology competency

Acquiring technology competency has at least three components to it. They are to do with concept
(c), training (t) and practice (p). Take knowing where to find the ‘attach and email’ function for instance.

The know-how to use the ‘attach and email’ function in Word 2007 comes with a bit of t & p and the end result is swifter and less cumbersome than other methods. But the ‘concept’ that a newly created Word document can be attached immediately to an email, and that the email application is invoked automatically while this process is being brought into effect is more than mere t & p.

The learner who has never met this idea is very unlikely t
o think of looking for the function on any new version of a computer application in order to use it. Thankfully in most instances the c comes with t & p but not always.

It’s not all just learning how to. My feeling is that there are at least 3 tiers of competency in any set of related skills:
  1. concept - such as Send to Mail Recipient as Attachment (just get your head round the c idea)

  2. knowledge that a function exists on the application/program used (t but also needs c),

  3. knowing how to use it on a specific app/program (c and t & p).
You'll notice that practice always comes last but is no less important.

Remember the mantra? Learn and practice soon as


V Yonkers said...

I disagree with "But the 21st Century teacher doesn’t need much more in the way of basic ICT skills than a late 20th Century teacher did."

It was my experience that the 20th century teacher learned the steps of the technology and then taught those steps to the students. With the changes in ICT that is available, teachers need to understand the role of ICT, put it into context, understand the "concepts" on which different ICT are used. Putting it in terms of your "model", 20th century teachers tended to do just t with some P, rarely (except perhaps at the beginning of the computer age) explaining C. In fact, most technology teachers don't understand the affordances of different catagories of technology.

I think this post points out how there needs to be more discussion (and research) on affordances and how it affects learning, context of different affordances and how to determine if a technology has a certain affordance or not. I can access almost any new technology and learn it, but I can also figure out (as our students seem to have the ability) HOW it can be used, modified, and/or shared with others to help them accomplish their (learning) goals.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

You are right with your interpretation of what I said - that concept was not high on the list of understandings for 20th Century teachers. It still isn't for teachers today.

I'm not suggesting in any way that concept isn't needed, or that it wasn't needed in 20th Century either. It was and is needed. I maintain that it's still not being understood as a need in understanding ICT. In this respect, I'm really saying that what's needed today by teachers was also needed late 20th Century (by teachers).

However, some 'concept' can sometimes be acquired even if it's not introduced in training and the skill to use ICT is practiced by the teacher. Unfortunately, familiarity with the keystrokes and process to use a facility does not necessarily mean that the conceptual elements of it are understood. The understandings aren't happening now and it didn't happen in the 20th Century for the same reasons.

Take the common clipboard, for instance. An understanding of what is actually happening when something is copied to the clipboard and pasted somewhere else is rarely a concept that's fully understood. This becomes evident when a learner is asked to explain why a so-called 'print-to-screen' (using the PrtScr key) cannot be pasted onto the Desktop but a copied file from another part of the computer can.

The learner who knows that a print-to-screen cannot be pasted onto the Desktop does not necessarily understand the conceptual element that brings an understanding of why it cannot be done. The first, knowing that it can't be done, comes with training and probably some practice, the second, concept and understanding why it can't be done, needs further thinking and perhaps also some understanding about how computers work.

A similar area of conceptual understanding lies with image dimension (in cm) compared with file size (in kb or Mb) of the same image file. Learner often grapple with this difference and the real implications for use of the files in these two broad conceptual areas are often not understood.

You use the term 'affordances' in the expression 'affordances of different categories of technologies'. I'd like to know more about what you mean by 'affordances' in this context.

Catchya later

Sarah Hanawald said...

I would agree with you--its not the technology skills that need to be different. In many ways, one could argue that a 21st Century teacher needs fewer tech skills--s/he just need to be able to type. It the concepts and implications of ubiquity of access that have to be understood, a la Clay Shirky's Here Comes EverybodyI'm so glad you referenced metacognition. That and reflection on one's learning are so missing in too many of our intellectual endeavors.

Have you read anything about the power of sleeping on an idea? John Medina writes in Brain Rules
about the power of learning, practicing, and then re-visiting after sleep. I think you'd like it!


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sarah!

Thanks for the link - it looks really interesting and you're right I do like that area of study.

I believe that metacognition (a horrible word) is vastly underrated in what it can bring to the learner. I used it for years with my own learning before I knew what it was called.

In a recent post, I included a video by John Cleese who advocates 'sleeping on it'. It works for me.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

By affordance I mean the use of a technology to acheive a certain goal. A great example is one I used when teaching marketing. A cola can be used to quench thirst. But it can also be used as a pick me up (like coffee) because of the caffine. My mother used to use it to settle our stomach when I was young (I think it's original purpose). Many people drink it because they like the taste so it fulfills a desire for something sweet. It can also be used to clean jewelry (as many did when I lived in Costa Rica) and/or the build up on car batteries.

Likewise, I think each piece of technology can be used for different purposes, not just the ones they were designed for. For example, I use the audio comment to give feedback on student papers. Students can then give me responses (in audio). This can also be done with a podcaste, project software, or even through posting clips on YouTube. The affordance, in this case is creating a audio dialogue around a piece of writing between two people at a distance (either time or space).

The concept here would be that it is important to have some audio input in the writing process. There are many technologies to do this and it is the important to find the best that meets the needs and skills of your students. Since many of my students have cameras that allow them to take short video clips and are familiar with You Tube so this is easier to use than the comment function at this point.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia

And thanks for clearing up 'affordances'.

I think we may be veering a little off what I was attempting to put across in this post. If you recall, I explained that the ICT competency was required of teachers "in addition to their understanding of subject knowledge, pedagogy and teaching practice." I would put what you are discussing here (and in context is a valid discussion in itself) as the given pedagogy and teaching practice. I agree that teachers need to look at all the possibilities in using technology with their students.

The emphasis that I'm attempting to home in on in this post is the competency that learners per se have in using the technology - how it's understood - not necessarily as applied to teachers and how they may find additional pedagogical uses for the technology (but of course that too).

Affordances? Affordances!Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

My point was that by just teaching the "skills" of a technology we aren't teaching the students to learn the "affordances" of a technology.

In my experience, students come to new things initially with creativity. Facebook and myspace became what they were because users could use it in any way that met their needs. This is happening with twitter. When we "teach" a technology, however, we tend to destroy this creativity because we say "use this technology this way." Often my kids will say to me, "You can't do that with X technology. We were taught you have to do it THIS way."

We need to have a new approach where students are taught the concepts of how any technology can be applied (i.e. for computing, for communication, for editing, for visualization, etc...) then allow them to practice those concepts using a wide variety of technologies. To do this, the instructor needs to change his or her mind set from "teaching the technology" or teaching "technology skills" to a deeper level of analysis.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

Thanks for this conversation. You have widened the scope of this post.

"Teaching the 'skills' of technology" is an excellent topic for a post. Would you consider writing one?

Catchya later