** WARNING: most, if not all, of this blog post contains unplanned ramblings and may be harmful to the minds of some.**
Spending much of my day today reading through the research being conducted at a local university, I have been (I think) pleasantly surprised by the cross-over occurring at tertiary and secondary education levels. The education faculty has a number abstracts for current research projects accessible on its website, many of which parallel the thoughts and work of innovative secondary teachers. Those which stand out are the research into collaborative learning, student-centred vs, teacher-centred learning, blended-learning, formative or summative assessment-driven programs, video-conferencing, online forums and podcasting in education and inquiry-learning. Moving away from the class-room specifically and looking at professional learning, once again similar foci are evident: the fabled digital native vs. digital immigrants debate, the emergence of early adopters and the reality of the late majority and how to cater for the needs of all levels of teacher competency.
I’m sure reading the above list is for many of my readers a pleasant surprise also – after all, these are the things that we are working on in our secondary classrooms. Maybe this isn’t such a surprise for you, and I guess I’m not wanting to focus on the uncanny factor, really. I want to focus on the gap. On what is missing. On the horrible truth that there is minimal, if any connections between the academics that are researching the emergence of (what I guess I can call) 21st century teaching and learning in tertiary education settings and the same considerations occurring in our very classrooms. I know there are contractual bonds between certain universities and education departments as well as universities and secondary schools but from where I sit, these links aren’t commonplace nor impacting on the secondary schools that have not been lucky enough to forge these links.
What fascinates me even further is the fact that this exploration of exactly how education is changing/can be changed to cater for our ‘new’ techno-centric world isn’t just happening in secondary and tertiary – but also in preschool, infants and primary education settings. And still … minimal to no collaboration. My son has just ‘graduated’ from kindergarten. During his time in KM he was immersed in an edu world imbued with functional technology. By functional technology I mean technology that served an actual function in his learning, not simply a piece of equipment put on display for open nights. He’s written and illustrated stories using PowerPoint and KidPix, learned to read through a school subscription to ReadingEggs, strengthened his numeracy competing in Mathletics and played games on his class’s IWB. He has featured in short films created by his teacher and starred as a voice in a digital narrative. My eldest son is heading into Year 4 and is already au fait with programs such as Adobe Photoshop, MovieMaker and Audacity. He too uses Mathletics to strengthen his literacy skills and uses an IWB daily. What I’m trying to say is that this stuff that us ‘tech-geek teachers’ are talking about is real.
But if it is real … if the change that we preach is genuine (and not just a montage of then and now images) then why are we all wading through it separately? Why is an academic conducting a two year research project into the impact that blended learning has on student engagement within degree programs in his/her institution and another academic is researching the impact of discussion boards, forums and chat rooms on student learning outcomes within degree programs yet there’s – seemingly – no discussion with secondary schools and even primary schools doing similar things?
Hmm … what am I trying to say here? I’m trying to express my impression that a significant disconnection is present between the various levels of education. It seems to me that our grappling with the movement of technology into education presents an exciting opportunity to reach out and connect. I wonder if this is happening and as a classroom teacher in a state school I’m just not seeing it? The pressure is on us secondary teachers and tertiary educators. Why? Because students graduating from primary school are no longer hoping for technology enhanced learning, they are expecting it. Give it a year or two and they’ll be demanding it. The reality of secondary students demanding technology enhanced learning will hit universities within two years – when the DER babies graduate. Why is it not then true that we are working with one another to ensure that our students get what they demand – which really is, as us tech-geek teachers have known for a while, what they need?
Imagine genuine connections between local pre-school, primary, secondary and universities? Where learning is a continuum of experience connecting students to a world of learning that continues beyond the walls of one school? Imagine the professional dialogue that could occur online and face-to-face if such links were forged and fostered? Imagine the shape of our education system where we truly all work together to make these inevitable education changes a reality?
This, for me, is the collaboration imperative of now that should not be ignored.