Many thanks for that response GrumbleDook - couldn't have put it better myself! :-)
I think your above post shows the largest difference of opinion that people have over the use of VLEs and other eLearning methods.
We believe that this is a good opportunity to change teaching methods out of the 19th century (20th? Most methods still seen as 'traditional' go back longer than that!) and into the 21st.
The best description of staff roles I have seen is that of creator and facilitator. One creates and prepares resources that are differentiated, to the point of students being able to choose their own methods and resources for learning, and facilitators that work with the students to make sure that those resources and pathways are working, that they are appropriate and that they can assist the delivery. These roles can be done seperately or together.
At the moment most teachers are expected to be both ... and often LSAs, HLTAs and so on can be facilitators, but people stamp their feet about this as removing the roles of teachers to non-speciailists and non-teachers.
Social networking plays and important roles as this is one of the first methods that students are likely to use to find that online materials can have a positive impact on them. Social networking for its own sake can provide engagement and motivation, but it is difficult to keep going ... using it as an addition to learning, or integrated as part of it, then it has more benefits.
Then again, this is not completely new ... the use of communication tools in learning has been round for some time, whether using pen pals or noticeboards in schools that students could leave messages on ... but with present technology the control is in the hands the students ... and that is one of the largest difference.
We have to help them learn how to use the technology to learn, to communicate and to understand control and responsibility.
Oh yeah .... and we also have to make sure they can pass exams.
Many thanks for that response GrumbleDook - couldn't have put it better myself! :-)
Tony,Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
I am only too aware of the instructionalist/constructivist debate! I have no problem with a revolution in methods as long as the new methods work. I would agree with much of the 'progressive' analysis that the traditional method placed too much emphasis on factual learning, not enough on creativity, too much on authority (which is often a defense mechanism for the teacher) not enough scope for individual pathways, that we live in a world that is broad (i.e. pluralistic) rather than tall (i.e. hierarchical) etc. I suspect that we would agree about what a really successful classroom looked like. But here are some of my problems with the progressive/constructivist agenda:
1. Sometimes it is based on what I would view as a fairly crass brand of post-modernist relativism, which says that there is no such thing as truth, but rather that everyone has 'their own truth' and that everyone's opinion is equally valid. This outlook is popular in many social science departments - but not in any serious physics departments (even though misunderstood accounts of chaos theory are sometimes quoted in its defence). Nor would you find any serious epistemologist agreeing with it. Which is not to say that the truth is easy or obvious or that anyone can ever claim certain knowledge.
2. I think it is often over-optimistic. It appears to propose that the way to change a callow fourteen year old into a perceptive academic is to treat them like a perceptive academic. But if you throw them into discussion forums, you find they do not have the interest or the skills (closely related) to handle an academic debate and so you end up with drivel. In my experience, dedicated constructivists often get very excited about what they see as childrens' creative contributions, which on closer examination have no academic merit at all and actually reveal serious misunderstandings. In fear of sqashing the child's autonomy, the constructivist often stands back and allows these misunderstandings to develop.
3. My educational models are Socrates and J S Mill - both oldies, both very liberal figures, and both strong believers in truth and reason. They both thought that "wisdom" was an activity, not a body of knowledge, and that the route to honing those activity-based skills was through discussion and debate. Both saw the role of the teacher as a conversation partner. Mill said that the teacher should always adopt the role of 'devil's advocate' so that students would be forced to justify even what everyone regarded as obvious. I deplore political correctness, principally because it excuses so much intellectual laziness.
4. In practical/psychological terms, I believe empirically that a very important driver of education is imitation. We are pre-programmed to imitate and the adolescent's tendency to look find 'heros' shows this process in practice.
Constructivists are rather uncomfortable with this because it suggests a lack of autonomy. The paradox of our society is that the value of individualism is socially engrained in us (i.e. it is not individualistic to believe in individualism) and individualism provides the basis for a resilient, dynamic and strong society (i.e. is in society's interests, not necessarily the individual's).
The route from imitation to creativity lies through the multiplicity of role models. I am interested in how art is taught these days. Students do a folder in which they imitate a succession of different artists. Out of all these different threads, they can weave their own personal style. I used to have a D H Lawrence quote up my sleeve to the effect that "originality is impossible outside a strong tradition".
5(a). Going back to my first point, progressive teachers often say "you cannot evaluate these methods because the old means of evaluation are fitted to the old methods" - i.e. exams are a waste of time.
To reveal how much of a traditionalist I am, I think that the traditional 45 minute essay on an unseen and thought-provoking question is a terrific indicator of adademic ability. While in my subject (History) most of the newer forms of assessment (such as extended coursework essays) are generally dreadful, as the student's own thought-processes and skills are drowned in a huge quantity of other people's arguments (quite apart from the enormous amount of cheating which goes on).
Which is not to say that there might not be a good case for new evaluation methods. There is a big danger, however, that in introducing new teaching methods and new assessment methods at the same time, the new assessment methods will be chosen only because they validate new teaching methods.
5(b) While teachers are the experts on the most effective means to a good education, it is society at large (after listening carefully to teachers' arguments) to say what it sees at the ends of education. Progressive thought has dominated education departments for 25 years and I am not sure that society is particularly pleased with the result.
I think there is something rather unhealthy about the "one teacher-one class" model. I think it is a wonderful eye-opener for children to see adults disagree and argue - (a) the fact that they disagree and (b) how they manage the argument. I am all for using technology to support team teaching which maybe has a place for both subject experts and non-specialists who may have better teaching skills, or other skills to bring to the mix. Complaining about allowing non-teachers into classrooms is, I think, 70s style restrictive practice. There is nothing so great about a teacher qualification: when I did my PGCE, the pass rate was 96% - it was almost impossible to fail.At the moment most teachers are expected to be both ... and often LSAs, HLTAs and so on can be facilitators, but people stamp their feet about this as removing the roles of teachers to non-speciailists and non-teachers.
Yes, but that is a different objective. You need to teach children about computers in the 21st Century - and that is an argument for allowing them some access to discussion forums etc. But that is relatively easy to do. The bigger challenge, I think, is to use computers to improve teaching across the curriculum.We have to help them learn how to use the technology to learn, to communicate and to understand control and responsibility.
What would we do without them?Oh yeah .... and we also have to make sure they can pass exams.
But after all the discussion of politics and philosophy is finished, the key response to a divergence of opinion is surely to allow and encourage that divergence to play itself out in the market. Lets see which approach works best, according to the lights of of all the various stakeholders in the system (and what works best will probably turn out to be a mixture of many different approaches - and the experience of having the debate will probably enrich and change all our own outlooks too). The debate, the divergence of views, is healthy and pushes forward progress.Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
The reason I am posting here is because I am opposing as vigorously as I can the centralised imposition of poorly thought-through solutions from the centre, which kills the debate and also kills the market. I'm not here to oppose anyone who is pioneering new approaches. Doug is having his aspirations blocked by Becta's centralised prescription model as much as I am. My key campaign for interoperability is about opening up the market and allowing different approaches to work alongside each other.
Maybe I develop a really good tracking system and Doug develops really good Wiki-for-the-classroom software: and they can both make really valuable contributions because they will both plug-in to a robust framework for open standards. And I might say "Can your Wiki system return tracking data so that the teacher can see who has made the most and the most highly rated contributions?" and Doug might say "I don't want to return that sort of data because it is too instructionalist" and ultimately the issue would be decided by the teachers who were using both our systems. But our disagreements would be on the margins and would generate progress.
At the moment we can't even start to have that sort of discussion because the whole of the infrastructure throughout the whole of the south of England has about to be provided by a single megacorp which has successfully played the system and whose software does not support key standards for interoperability.
I've done a lot of work on developing the 'perfect' e-Portfolio for schools - in fact any age '5-95'. It's low-cost, hosted externally, and is also OCR capable.
Far too much to say here. Look at my website, in particular the eFolio link:
Maximise-ICT for Staff Training and Development
many documents and policy statements etc.
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