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Appropriation and Perspectives Found among Students and Teachers
Maria Apparecida Mamede-Neves1, Luiz Alexandre da Silva Rosado2, and Tatiane Marques de Oliveira Martins3
PhD in Psychology, Professor emeritus, Department of Education, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil firstname.lastname@example.org, 2 Master in Education and Doctorate student in Education, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, email@example.com, 3 Master in Education, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: This paper discusses the vision of teachers and students have in using the Internet and how teachers use their work. It is based on the results of three qualitative surveys held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hearing the views of two groups of teachers and a group of young teenagers on the subject. It uses as a background literature on digital media and social networks in articles published in two vehicles of deep penetration in Brazil, magazines Época and Isto É, between January 2009 and April 2010. Regarding the groups of teachers chosen, one consisted without any concern of filtration as the use of digital space in teaching, and the other group with teachers already include in their practices, the use of digital media. As for the youth group, were teenagers who finished high school and were on their way to university. Keywords: digital media appropriation; teaching practices; pedagogical perspectives.
DEFINING THE SCENE OF DIGITAL MEDIAS113: CURRENT STATE OF TECHNOLOGY AND ITS TENDENCIES This paper has as a start point the results of an unusual bibliographical data research, though it is very valid in the proposed context, starting with news magazines of weekly circulation in Brazil, Magazines Época114 and IstoÉ115, fully available through their websites (whole content is available for access and reading). As counterpoint to the positioning found in these magazines, we sought to understand in detail the unique universe of teachers and students, through pieces of research developed by the Jovens em Rede (JER) directory, a group of researchers of the Department of Education of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Brazil. These pieces of research aimed to find out when the digital medias enter the classroom, which attitudes come up with it and which factors are at play in its appropriation. Let us see these two axes in detail. Concerning the bibliographic research, the period chosen for the article sampling was January 2009 to April 2010, because before 2009 there was a repetition of topics and comments about technology which in 2010 had been either overtaken by more recent versions or showed less lagged data. Evidently the content will be discussed here in general terms rather than in specifics of each technology mentioned. Despite the constant changes in technology we see in the era we live in, the generalizations exposed here are still valid in 2011. We were concerned in bringing up the most common themes and trends that digital medias point to for the following years, besides showing the reader which scenery we are addressing when we research the use of technology by teachers. Our focus has been on accessible platforms via mobile computers and desktops, excluding digital TV and video-games console116. In a first screening, all articles that referred to information
It is important to note that the expression “digital media” is used in this research as a synonym to ICT (Information and Communication Technology). We believe, however, “digital medias” a more appr opriate term, since it unites all means of distribution and communication of digital content written, visual or audible. 114 Available on: < http://revistaepoca.globo.com>. 115 Available on: < http://www.istoe.com.br/>. 116 Although they are part of the same group, they are still not part of the school routine, except for very specific experimental cases such as in the school that hosts the NAVE project, in Rio de Janeiro, and, besides that, they were not objects of study in our empirical researches (item 3 of this article).
technology and communication were selected. Articles involving education and technology were also given attention when the material was selected. Among general themes of the past years, common in articles about technology, we have found the expansion of mobility of internet connection (represented by cell phones “all in one” and more recently tablets) and the ascension and control of social networks that are overtaking even sites such as Google in number of clicks, gathering services such as chat, forum, events, photo albums, scrapbook and contacts. The tablets tend to all be connected to wireless mobile internet, taking up similar functions to those performed by laptops and cell phones, though also adding applications that explore the potential of touch screen. The social networks come as an extension of such trend, connecting people in real time through mobile devices, besides laptops and traditional desktops. We now tend to save our data on the internet, our e-mails, photos, videos and we can access them through any device that is connected to the internet, and this is known as “cloud computing”, which means our data is not stored in our homes, but in computers that are not ours, enabling us to access it anywhere we go. The blogs, one of the objects of our research (Martins, 2011), come into this context as data storage platforms, the previous generation to the current social networks (which also include in its architecture the structure of the blog through timelines). The focus of the blogs is not necessarily in the materialization of the author's social network. They are widely used because they meet the needs of a person or a group who produces contents, publishes it and has the control over the authorship, dimension and visibility of the posts (without size limit and more distinct than a timeline, with mixed posts, common in social networks). As open platforms, many programmes for mobile platforms have arisen, allowing the users to write messages, update statuses, send photos and videos, all through phones and tablets. With the enlarging of internet band and 3G data transmission technology, the tendency is that the multimedia content predominates in transmission via mobile phone in the following years, allowing the production of audio and video and its posting almost in real time on online platforms such as social networks and blogs. EDUCATION WITH MEDIAS IN ITS VARIOUS FACETS: THE CONSTANT DICHOTOMY GOOD MEDIA VERSUS BAD MEDIA. Still analyzing the articles of the magazines, we realize the potential of social networks and blogs for education, through mobile communication in the classroom. Nowadays the students are able to access emails, write messages, take pictures and make videos through their mobile phones, laptops and tablets, as well as distribute the content in real time to classmates, creating therefore a community space through social networks and distribution platforms. The portable computer is not limited to the actual laptop but also the mobile phone (ever faster and with more memory available). Both devices can perform this function in the classroom, depending on the intended use. Therefore the portability creates a digital ecology in the school, and a whole search field from the integration of the digital space into the school culture, which widens the classroom and the possibility of shared access to contents. If we used to talk about creating contents in the computer lab, nowadays the computers, the production and the distribution through digital networks are in the students' pockets. Concerning the use that arises with these devices, two approaches, or tendencies, predominate from what the magazines published. The first one concerns the fears of this new communicational (and social) configuration, found in the interviews published by the magazines (Mansur, 2010; Mansur, 2009). Among them there is the possible isolation of the teenager (Giron, 2009) and his excessive and even sickly dependence of technology (Moon, 2009), gained by many hours in front of a computer that is connected to the internet and in using mobile phones (Mansur & Lima, 2009; Cabral, 2009) in order to send messages and chat with friends, parents, relatives or even with strangers. Parents and teachers fear the lack of dialogue of this generation that is always connected and online. We understand that what is feared is the gap between this youth who connect among themselves, and teachers and parents who, for various reasons, some very plausible, did not develop this new competence. Another fear concerns the quality and selectivity of contents by the young people – argument of the superficiality in approaching the content and reading it –, in facing an ocean of information without guarantee of reliability or security (Lima, 2009), as well as auto exposure in the broad network being espionage target, sexual abuse (Pereira, 2010) or cooptation for online crimes. Some other fears that were published referred to loss of acquired skills through earlier communication means, for instance the students' difficulty in handwriting, since many have been using computer and mobile phone keyboards to communicate (Rabelo, 2009). 841
As another type of approach, the arguments for technology and the new “multitasking human being” (Nogueira, 2009), capable of thinking and doing many tasks simultaneously is highlighted and complimented by optimistic researchers – in interviews found in the magazines –, who put their bets on another way of thinking, from the use of digital medias, in the extension of man's mental capability through the machine (extended cognition). Also common is the speech about integration with the machine (a radical fusion in the near future), represented by the picture of the cyborg, in which man and machine are indistinct, where the machine would not be just an extension of man and his abilities, but would become an indispensable part of life (Buscato, 2009), an omnipresent computing that is also invisible, with hidden devices in the various objects of daily use (Monte, 2009). Through the articles published in printed media of general circulation and also, as we will see next, through the opinion of teachers and students taken from the three empirical pieces of research that are part of this paper, we see that there still is an approach of extremes concerning digital media, in which we find highlighted either positive or negative aspects, which we know exist and are part of its users' behavior, but either they become extremely generalized, or they are out of context, this way projecting in technology the responsibility for actions that are directed primarily by humans. We then find what Breton (2000) would denominate as a more utopian position or even worship of technology and another position as technophobic or hostile to technology. THE TRINOMIAL TEACHER-STUDENT-MEDIAS: A TENSION ZONE THAT ARISES IN VARIOUS RESEARCHES AT JER The debate outlined in this article comes from the clash of three pieces of research in which conventional tools, a focus group and a survey were used, and new ways to look at relationships inside the digital environment, the so called netnography117. The first, called Youth in Network (Mamede-Neves 2008), was accomplished between 2005 and 2008 and it happened from the analysis of a questionnaire on the use of medias, distributed and answered voluntarily by 998 students just out of secondary school, when they were enrolling for the first semester at PUC-Rio. Filtering the questionnaires, the survey heard 965 university students (61,85% of the total number of freshmen who had just arrived to PUC-Rio). The group was made of young people aged 17 to 19 y.o., divided into two groups: those who entered university through traditional Brazilian system or ENEM test (National High School Exam) and through PROUNI (University for All – governmental program). This survey allowed us a panoramic view of the use and the intensity of the digital media entering these youth's lives. The second research was accomplished between 2008 and 2011, called Masters on the Web (Mamede-Neves, 2010). Part of its methodology was a questionnaire distributed to teachers from eight secondary schools, public and private, where the students of our first research had graduated, a total of 138 teachers. Its first aim was to investigate the relationship between the secondary school teacher and digital media and to compare it with their students' use of it. The teachers were selected at random, and answered the questionnaire were of different levels in use of digital medias. In the second stage of this research, we had four focus groups, in event organized inside PUC-Rio, with teachers who had answered the questionnaire and came voluntarily, in order to explain issues emerged from the analysis of the questionnaire. The third research, called Digital medias in and beyond the classroom, conducted by one of the components of the research group and co-author of this article, Martins (2011), concerned the use of blogs by teachers called pioneers, in which one stage was the same questionnaire of the second research (this time an online version), during all year of 2010, coming to an intentional sample of 79 teachers who were part of discussion lists in which the theme of blogs was the focus and was part of their practice. The focus was in on teachers who are non-resistant to technological innovations, users of it in their day-to-day, and what they are doing differently when using digital media in the classroom. Trying to make a synthesis of the results, the central issue that involves the trinomial teacher-student-medias was divided into the following argumentative levels, being the first the consequence of the second, as it follows (chain reaction): 1. The student uses digital media in his daily routine and has already made it natural as a tool, a fact that was proved by the research with youths out of secondary school, and he is considered by many as a digital native (Prensky, 2001), who supposedly has changed his habits when compared to the
Netnography studies the manifestation of cultures in new supports, according to Kozinets (2002, p.2) “Netnography is a new qualitative research methodology that adapts ethnographic research techniques to the study of cultures communities emerging through computer-mediated communications.”
pattern of students of previous generations. As to his practices, he can be considered also as an average user as to the diversity of use in his routine: communication (in social networks, chats, messengers, cell phone), games and entertainment applications. This student searches the web as an information source and questions the school as to its validity, as formative institution, and the teacher as owner of truth and authority, even though in contradiction to this he keeps an expectation that the teacher's “truth” and found in school books is always more reliable than those found on the internet. 2. The teacher, in general, acts on a concept of school that is based on fixed contents transmission and formal evaluation of the student, a pattern that starts with the exposition of content in linear order, going from mechanical out-of-context activity to evaluation through memorization. This pattern would collide with the student's daily experience with digital media, which is considered more open, flexible and operating by associations (links). 3. Some teachers, annoyed with their practices in the classroom and with the students' reaction and contestation, try to harmonize a culture based on a traditional evaluation system with tools developed on the web and out of the formal school context, based mainly on spontaneous exchanges through informal dialogues and collaboration to seek the solution of problems. They do it because they experience these interacting patterns more intensely in their digital lives. A less vertical, more collaborative-cooperative pattern is defended by these teachers, because it would be a more compatible approach to their students' experience out of the school, reaching out to a pattern of student's authorship that would be less artificial. Some teachers are fond of this new pattern and some have just begun to make changes in their pedagogical actions, but we see in these attitudes a personal mission aiming at reformation of pedagogical actions. 4. The acceptance-resistance binomial, which sums up the tension between solidified pedagogical actions and emerging pedagogical actions, reflects this dispute between so-called innovating practices and those pointed as lagged. We can see a tension zone in the school environment, in which the digital media, by its informal characteristics and open interaction, ends up being the catalyst. We observe that there are two different fields of action and patterns of behavior, which causes a tension in the school environment: out of the classroom in an informal context, where the youth generally dominate and feel at ease (they are not monitored and evaluated), and in the classroom in a formal context, where the teacher, even the one considered to be “modern”, has a formally established control. The issue is on how to think the student's learning pattern, or how to think the teacher's teaching pattern, on topics that the school defines as priority and necessary in its curriculum (legitimate).., considering this teacher, called here pioneer (Midoro et al., 2003), a teacher who seeks to come up with alternatives that make the student gain an interest, using digital medias and its tools taken from an informal context for pedagogical means, though the student remains inside an institution that deals formally with contents. The internet is a factor of disturbance the school ends up having to face, generating various problems, a collision between spaces that work with different logic, because the school is built with its rules and ways of operating that have been long ago established and shared by society (tradition). It's a matter of finding out what will be done, in terms of pedagogical practices, in an environment that has so many distinct possibilities, with the power of even changing the cultural and social behavior of the youth, the main constituent of this institution. Evidently teachers do not react likewise in this context, some more resistant to the use of digital media (neophyte) and others accepting the dynamics of the media and making use of it (users or pioneers), as proved by the Ulearn research (Miodoro et al., 2003). In fact, the research Masters on the Web, when compared with the results of the research Youth in Network, pointed the unevenness of adhesion and diversity of uses between teachers and students. We deal with the student and his representation of what learning and evaluation mean in a school, as well as with leaders, school managers and parents' representations. Each of these public-agents have their own view and personal experience with the internet, and with education, and this negotiation game reflects in the practice of the teacher, who has his own view on how the use of digital media should happen in formal learning processes. We are also dealing here with disputes concerning behaviors in facing the teaching-learning process, a dispute involving pioneers, non-resistant, or more open to the introduction of digital medias in the classroom and the traditionals (or even backward) concerning the use of medias, preferring the use of resources and strategies established previously, in a stability zone, i.e., the student is less a producer and more a spectator of contents studied in the classroom. It is a collision of interests and personal definitions of “ideal teaching”, 843
or a dispute of what should be more appropriate (a “paradigm”) in the organization and development of learning inside the classroom. TEACHING DISPUTES: THE VANGUARD SPEECH AND THE TRADITIONAL SPEECH AS THE TENSION SPOT IN TAKING IN AND USING DIGITAL MEDIA It is common in speeches about the use of media in classroom the issue of inevitability of adopting the emergent paradigm that has come with the spread and use of digital supports. Obviously changing practices and approaches are part of the routine of relations in society and even of the dynamic of behaviors and rules among individuals, even though they are perceived very slowly in certain contexts. Therefore we need to understand a little about how the reasoning about the inevitability of a change develops itself so that we might know which sort of dispute is at play, because among the teachers selected as pioneers in the Martins’ research (2011), one of the main arguments brought up was that the way they operate is in harmony with the society and its current courses. The speech here that would be called vanguard would be characterized by the inevitability of adopting digital media in the classroom, because society would be marching towards change with the constant increase of this adoption (statistics that show increase in connection to the internet and digital support sales give support to this statement). In such context, the school would have to commit to change its teaching system, using collaboration and cooperation techniques between students and teachers (decentralization of teaching), and a more intuitive way of non-linear searching and organizing information, such as we find when observing the hypertextual architecture of the web. From this point of view, the school that now cannot centralize the access to information and the distribution of knowledge through printed media (piles of books and magazines) given the instantaneous access on online data bases should modify its environment and its way of managing information for educational means, instructing the student on more open teaching methods. The modern teacher (or pioneer) would then be the one who would not settle into an industrialized education, repetitive, unified and linear, i.e., he opposes to the traditional teaching, practiced by most teachers. Consequently, we realize that the digital media ends up carrying with it a speech about what it should change in terms of educational practices, in a way something that would come from the new digital environment that is nowadays increasing (its use) in its various forms (mp3 players, netbooks, tablets, mobile phones, ATM machines). The one who opposes himself to this process would be a non-user traditional teacher and the teacher who shows a new way of behavior would be an active user of digital medias and of vanguard. Up to now the issue is quite clear, and we can see that in order for a pioneer teacher to exist there needs to have a traditional teacher or even one that is foreign to new technology, as contrasting positions. We cannot uphold these radical categories, mutually excluding. Extreme limits are nonexistent in reality. Another point that is not always clear is the constitution of agents and the way of influence in actions of this new paradigm of education with media. That's why we need to map out the environmental conditions in the process of adopting digital medias for educational means, aiming to clear up factors involved in a complex system of relations, such as the data collected in the third research with pioneer teachers and bloggers has shown. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS IN APPROPRIATING DIGITAL MEDIAS BY THE TEACHER IN THE CLASSROOM We are here nominating environmental conditions factors that are involved in teachers adopting digital, especially the internet, in pedagogical action with students, beyond a dispute between avant-garde teachers and traditional teachers in their use of tools and digital spaces. Among factors exposed through speeches gathered at the qualitative phase of Martins's (2011) research, that would be part of this environmental condition, we mention: Factors out of the school environment: For public schools, the Brazilian government actions accomplished throughout the country, in states and cities are necessary, not only to equip schools with essential digital technology but also to train the teachers permanently in what concerns inserting and incentivizing the adoption of digital media in classroom, their projects, and definition of maintenance of such projects when facing change of government and departments. In a more general plan, the guidelines of private companies, that nowadays keep the main tools for free internet use, in the same way they make platforms available, such as Web 2.0 highly used by teachers, they can delete websites, because of insufficient numbers of clicks (and lack of advertisements), block them 844
changing them into paid websites, delete or add functions, without being concerned with educational projects that might be happening in their platforms. Factors in the school environment: The school managers and their guidelines for action (school policy) have an important role, by how they guide the school's general goals or how they guide the approach given to using digital media in some specific subject. The colleagues more or less interested in the use of digital media have a relevant position on many levels, with encouraging words, destructive criticism, or even for being neutral in their resistance (indifference). This is one of the tension zones most mentioned by the teachers. The infrastructure available in the school, quantity of equipments by students and how updated and conserved they are, the internet speed and available space (free or connected to schedules) is closely connected to external factors represented by governmental policies, concerning public schools. It can be represented by the computer lab or by private equipment owned by students (laptop and mobile phone). The parents' intervention can be supportive and encouraging, but they are also critical of the activities, either because they fear digital media or because they lack knowledge on it. Could we then categorize them as avant-garde parents or traditional parents? At last we have the students' adhesion and support, their engagement or distance in relation to the proposed activity, because, as the main constituent for which a school project is built, they become the thermometer of pedagogical actions. However, they are often considered as the last bit of a very complex interaction process, as this list shows. Considering what was discussed on the results of the Youth in Network research in what concerns their expectations, could we also categorize them as avant-garde students and traditional students? As the empiric research of Martins (2011) has shown us, environmental conditions influence the adoption, maintenance or dropping of activities with digital media, because it was made clear that the teacher by himself, even if he acts as a technological and pedagogical pioneer, is not able to create and maintain a permanent activity with the use of media, and many get frustrated when they have to abandon projects that, from their point of view, worked fine and had a significant adhesion from their students. Though the internet allows a personal website or a project to be opened very easily, if the teacher gets hindered by the instability of such environmental conditions, in his pedagogical action, it becomes difficult to follow through with activities. It is not unusual that we find abandoned blogs, with old posts or that report one year or one semester of activities with a group of students. WARNING: GUILTY WANTED... Because we have so many surrounding conditions, it is common, in teachers' speeches, a vagueness as to who is the “guilty one” of a failure with a project involving digital medias, sometimes being the school and its management, other times the teachers and their lack of adhesion, sometimes the parents, or lack of equipments or their inexistence, and at last the students' lack of interest. A mix of these factors is common in their speech. More broadly, we can say that these factors, in a complex interaction system, make the pedagogical activity with digital media very unstable during a period of time, and in a school year. For instance, the speed with which internet tools come and change is one factor that can stop an ongoing project in the school, when a tool that was free for access gets converted into paid tool or it's deactivated. That happened to Ning for social networks and to Google Wave for communication and group work, both mentioned by pioneer teachers in our work groups. We can add here, generally speaking, a factor that is connected to digital media itself: its constant modification in terms of technological architecture, as mentioned in items 1 and 2 of this article, argument built from the data research from weekly magazines. Digital media is built based upon a complex network involving private companies, public corporations, political ideology, market battle, agreements for adoption of standards, serious disputes between products. All of this creates an unstable system that has results such as shown by the research of Martins (2011), which has concluded that pioneer teachers, in case they cannot catch their breath (time and resources) to follow these modifications, might stop their work and their expectations frustrated. In other words, the resource known and used today might become inexistent or overtaken by new standards tomorrow. This fact made the process of defining oneself filled with anxiety, when the author of the research promoted a selfcategorization list of the discussion, where many teachers did not know whether they would define themselves as pioneers, modern or neophytes, changing their category time and time again or choosing many categories. 845
CONCLUSION: AN EVERLASTING TRANSITIONAL PHASE? We start this conclusion opening a reflection about two words: instability and transition. Let us think about the instability of technological changes. When we consider categories such as pioneers, practitioner and neophyte, or even digital native and digital immigrant, we need to know what type of technological object and use they relate to. This issue of temporal location of the exact way we use media can cause some confusion about categories such as avant-garde and traditional for a type of behavior, and consequently what is considered to be a new or an old paradigm. Can we then talk of an everlasting transitional phase? It seems that the dynamics of digital media development, a long process of media evolution dated from some millenniums (from the first language constructions to the digital highways), is nowadays a dynamic of constant and accelerated changes. Successive transitions, in constant acceleration, in an unstable universe, seem to be the law when we think of media in the past decades. If we are talking about teachers and their behavior when facing such transformations and transitions, we can also suppose that a student might be in similar categories, in what concerns his learning process. It might sound strange that we have a category for a “traditional” student who has lived with older patterns and has inherited them directly, but this is not only possible but it exists and is more common than we think. Our youth today are born into a culture of linear reading, where the book is sacred and the assessment summative and meritocratic. Since early age, they are subject to this, and at this point they reflect the ties of the cultural rules. We have seen in some of the teachers' speech in the research of Martins (2011) that there are students resistant to more open and cooperative learning patterns. Therefore, we can find the habit secularly brought into the school concerning content explanation and assessing processes in school teaching, as well as the “choice” the students make connected with how much time they wish to spend doing something they do not regard as very important (acquiring knowledge to do a test and get a passing grade). For the teacher who aspires to use digital media in the classroom, besides the resistant teacher we now find the resistant student. This seems hard to grasp, but it is reality. Therefore, the question mentioned makes us think about diversity of teaching methods and strategies, making it seem, mistakenly, that the choice for a specific model as the only standard of teaching-learning is desirable. Absolutely not. We here defend a more diversified way of teaching, less manufactured in the sense of it being the only option for everyone. We also drift away from the dual issue new pattern – old pattern and get to the question: what patterns can I adopt considering my students and the surrounding conditions where I find myself (managers, parents, co-workers and governmental politics)? This way the teacher does not stop carrying out forefront actions, at the same time, he is aware of factors which he cannot control completely, such as school policies and governmental policies, cultural and methodological traditions of the institution he is in. What is proposed here, therefore, is that the binomial teacher-learner might be analyzed not only through their media use, but, mainly, that they should be located in ecology of factors which forms the stable/unstable school structure. Such analysis is complex in itself, but, we believe, it would help first and foremost to take away the huge expectation and responsibility placed on the teacher, who starts to place himself in a broader context and be aware of the most adequate strategy for the moment, being even able to adapt it over time. Through research developed by JER the unevenness in adopting technology is evident among teachers and students. However, if we compare our results with research about adoption of digital media done five years ago (Abreu & Nicolaci-da-Costa, 2006; Silva & Azevedo, 2005), we can see that teachers are much more familiar now with computing and internet technology in their day-by-day routines, naturalizing them as they use them, whether by study/work obligation or by volunteer adoption. If we think more broadly about the fact that technology changes its format and new “natives” come up all the time, homologue to balancing of the course of human life, an everlasting technology transitional phase will always generate a development curve outlined by avant-garde and retrogressive, but always showing a greater number of people who are constantly moving, because there will never be an evenness in levels. It becomes more important, then, to create conditions for mapping the surrounding so that this teacher might be able to determine which way to go, when to start and with whom, without pointing anyone as being “guilty”.
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