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John Pallister :: Blog :: Emerging Tools and Main stream practice

November 15, 2008

I have been wandering around with a post in my head for the past few weeks. Each time I attempted to put it to text I would drift across something else that I needed to make sense of, to integrate, and to rationalise.  I gave in and looked for other distractions.


I developed an enthusiasm for social software and Web 2 tools through my interest in ePortfolios.  I am a bit predictable, each time I drift across a new tool I very rapidly recognise its potential to support learning. I am becoming increasingly addicted. I am using the tools; I am joining the brigade of professional talking about the tools but am becoming increasingly frustrated that I am unable to influence their adoption in main stream practice. I am talking the talk more and walking the walk less – so a bit more talk then! I began to wonder whether all of the talk had resulted in us designing a ‘concept’ learning environment; but like a lot of the clay models in the motor manufactures design offices, a concept that does not make it to the production stage?


I can see many good reasons why schools should not allow/encourage the young students in their care to use the emerging tools. Perhaps it might be useful if we forget these for a while; put to one side the suspicion that young learners use and enjoy using the same tools outside of school, and consider the case for promoting social software in schools.


The tools and technology have the potential to:

  • Support 1:1 and 1:many and many:many multimedia communications between learners anywhere in the world, for ‘free’;
  • Provide learners with access to information and to the research tracks of others who might be, or might have previously, searched for similar information;
  • Provide learners with the opportunity to share their research and their research tracks with others;
  • support the learner as they make connections with others,  to enable them to follow and collaborate with others who have similar interests and purposes;
  • provide the learner with opportunities to publish their thinking and findings and to obtain comment and feedback from others;
  • enable learners to record and share their thinking from wherever they are working;
  • provide an active, interactive environment capable of engaging learners;
  • capable of supporting anywhere, anytime access to learning
  • support what learner do naturally, to provide the majority of the elements that learners are likely to accept as their Personal Learning Environment;

It is our responsibility to prepare young (and older) learners so that they can function in a world where emerging technologies are being accepted and embraced.


I cannot see that schools will be able to resist pressure to use these tools indefinitely. Eventually they will accept them and begin to build on them. I do not know what it will be that actually tips the balance. It might be the development of a new set of management tools or safeguards, or perhaps simply that we accept the tools as valuable and decide to educate and manage the risks?


OR are we approaching a Luddite swing towards traditional, proper learning with teachers straightening up the desks and requisition a new box of Interactive White Board chalk. Drawing an analogy with the credit crunch, have we built learning environments on ‘foundations of sand’? The constantly changing sand (ICT and social software etc) and prevailing currents (national expectations etc) making it impossible to construct anything on it. An acceptance that with everything constantly changing, it is not worth building anything, it will simply fall down!


Or do we, as builders do,   build a concrete raft that will spread the load and build on top of the raft. If the sands shift the worst that could happen would be that we ended up with ‘the leaning tower of learning’. Ahh – tower, ivory tower are we looking out from it.


Could the learning process act as the raft? The learning process would ‘sit’ on, be supported by, the emerging as well as traditional tools.  New tools are then unlikely to phase the learner, they will evaluate them and either adopt or dismiss them.

Overview for Keywords: learning, schools, web 2

Blogs with Keywords: learning, schools, web 2

Posted by John Pallister

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