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The dawn of uLearning:
Near-future directions for 21st century Educators. - Jonathan Nalder
Abstract: The 21st century is different to the 20th, in part because of the effects of the Digital Revolution and subsequent developments in mobile, wireless and networked technologies. Mobile phones and more advanced Smartphones now outsell desktop PCs and have become essential communication devices, especially for young people, many of whom use them as their primary way of accessing the Internet. When combined with current and near-future directions in technology such as the miniaturisation of computing processors, the spread of wireless technology, and the beginnings of computing delivered as a service over the Internet, these developments can be seen as leading to an era of Ubiquitous Computing. Education, which normally would be expected to be preparing students to thrive in this period, has been slow to adapt to these changes. When integrated into learning however, the opportunities which connected, always-on technologies present for facilitating rich learning experiences can be described as providing a uLearning, or ubiquitous learning environment. Guided by the principles of the new learning paradigm of Connectivism, this combination of advancing computing capabilities and new theoretical thinking present numerous ways that Education can adapt. Educators can become designers of learning, and allow students to become active, collaborative participants in knowledge making. Administrators can implement mobile, wireless and Cloud Computing-based options to potentially replace todays classrooms. In these and other ways, 21st century education can begin to more fully represent 21st century reality.
Keywords: 21st century, Mobile Learning, mLearning, wireless connectivity, always-on, Cloud Computing, Networked Learning, Ubiquitous Computing, uLearning, Connectivism, Education, Information and Communication Technologies.
Chapter: 1. Introduction PCs to mobile phones. Smartphones and converged devices. Computing without computers. 2. 21st century skills? Education has been slow to adapt. We can no longer be ‘the sage’. 3. Specific current and near-future directions. A. Miniaturisation leading to more powerful mobile devices. Implications of mobile technology for learning. Summary of these developments as practical suggestions. B. Wireless communications delivering anywhere connectivity. Implications of wireless communications for learning. Summary of these developments as practical suggestions. C. Cloud Computing - web-based software and services. Examples of Cloud Computing as used in Education Summary of these developments as practical suggestions. 4. Ulearning: Universal, ubiquitous, utility, user, über, you, us. Conclusion. References.
Page: 3. 4. 6. 8. 10. 10. 12. 14. 15. 16. 18. 19. 22. 24. 24. 27. 29. 29. 31. 35.
Figures: 1. Overview: Mind map of the paper’s discussion points. 2. Comparative timeline of developments in information technology. 3. Primary student’s use of technology. 4. Evolution of digital skills. 5. Convergence and the 21st-Century Classroom. 6. OneSchool benefits leading to enhanced learning. 4. 5. 7. 11. 13. 28.
Chapter 1. Introduction
“We all know life will be much different by 2100. Will school?” (Prensky, 2008)
In this, only the eighth year of the 21st Century, the rapid pace of the ‘Digital Revolution’ already means that the near-future is now. Beyond this, climate change, the biggest economic crisis since the beginning of the modern era, and the beginning of the ‘Asian century’ also mark life in this century as being different. One thing however has not changed: Educators are still called to foster the 21st Century skills necessary for students and their societies to thrive. So how will school in 2100 be different? The Digital Revolution currently seems to be taking us in a series of pervasive, always-connected directions. It is predicted that in the next few years, hardware will become ‘everyware’ (Greenfield, 2006), walls and buildings will join the ‘Internet of things’ (Biddlecombe, 2008), and computing itself will be considered a utility in the same way as always-on electricity and water. While this ubiquitous world lies still in the middle-future, several current and near-future developments such as the miniaturization and mobilization of computing, wireless networking technologies, and Cloud Computing (remote online supply of computing services), are already driving significant change in the way 21st century societies operate.
These developments present amazing opportunities for educators and learners to mobilize and connect their practice as never before. This could well be “the death of education, but the dawn of learning”(Heppell, 2008), however reluctant some educators have been to acknowledge it. In this new era, the universal, ‘one-size’ fits all, factory-influenced model of Education appears to be giving way to ‘Ubiquitous Learning’, or ‘uLearning’, as learners collaborate and create personal learning environments, and Educators design pedagogy that can be experienced anywhere. The 21st century then, differs from the 20th, driven as it is by improvements in digital technology. If we really do have “a 21st century economy with a 19th century education system”, as CEO of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch (2008) believes, then what are the ways in which educators can begin to effect needed change?
This discussion paper aims to address this question for educators and administrators. Chapter One will detail major developments in and impacts of 21st century information and communication technologies. Chapter Two will examine the skills that these developments imply citizens will need, and attempt to summarise the response that Education has delivered so far. Chapter Three will review specific areas of current and near-future technological development that hold relevance for 21st century learning, and analyse the opportunities they may present to enhance learning. Finally, conclusions will be drawn in Chapter Four regarding what directions 21st century learners and Educators may need to take. See Figure 1 for a presentation of these sections as a visual overview.
Figure 1. Overview mind map of the paper’s discussion points.
PCs to mobile phones. In the middle of the last century, material goods and services accounted for nearly 54% of the output of the worlds largest economy. However, by the time web-browsing and email were only a few years old and the 20th century was drawing to a close, 63% of US economic output, had instead come to be dominated by information products and services (Retool instruction, or U.S. will fail, 2008). By 2001, 53.5 percent of the U.S. workforce reported that they used a PC on the job (Hipple & Kosanovich, 2003; in Karoly, Panis, 2004) and this
massive shift in economic production has only been accelerated since by the spread of broadband and wireless technology, and the move of the World Wide Web from Version 1.0 to 2.0 (see figure 2).
This time period where information and digital technology have become central to the operation of developed societies, is commonly referred to as the Digital Revolution in reference to its impact being on a par with that of the Industrial Revolution. Hansmann, Merk, Nicklous, and Stober (2003) see that the Industrial Revolution had an initial centralised, and later decentralised phases distinguished by a wider availability of steam and later electric energy (pp.10-13). They also see parallels in the way the Digital Revolution has moved from a centralised mainframe stage from the 1960s through to today where computing spreads to mobile devices and then appliances such that computing becomes embedded below the line of our conscious thought (p.18). Indeed, much of the reorganising and decentralisation initiated by the Digital Revolution has first had to unmake the factory-structured elements of society (particularly in areas such as education) that were required for success up until the 1980’s when ‘Personal Computers’ (PCs) first became widely available.
Figure 2. Comparative timeline of developments in information technology.
While they were the central device of the Digital Revolution’s early phase, PCs had their sales overtaken by more mobile laptop computers in 2005 (Singer, 2005). Sales of both however have long been overtaken by the even-more mobile and increasingly ubiquitous communication device of our time: the mobile phone. Where as at the start of the century, just 12% of the world's population had a mobile phone, now, the figure is over 50% and is estimated to reach 61% by the end of 2008 (Wray, 2008). In China, mobile phone owner-ship had already exceeded landlines by 2004 (Clough, Jones, McAndrew, Scanlon, 2007, p.359) and Prensky (2005) reports that some countries now have 5 to 10 times more mobile phones than they do PCs.
Young people especially have taken to mobile phones. According to a Harris Interactive study, cell phones are fast becoming a social necessity among U.S. students of which a majority (57%) view their cell phone as the key to their social life. With nearly four out of every five teenagers (17 million) carrying a wireless device (a 40% increase since 2004), it’s not surprising that six in ten teenagers (57%) credit mobile technology with improving their quality of life. (National Study Reveals How Teens are Shaping & Reshaping Their Wireless World, 2008). Attewell and Savill-Smith (2204) report even more alarming 2002 figures for the UK showing that 90% of the fifteen to nineteen age bracket owned mobile phones (p4). Prensky (2005) further reports that one in eight Botswanians have a mobile phone, as do over 90% of high school students in Tokyo, with one even commenting that ‘When you lose your mobile, you lose part of your brain’.
Smartphones and converged devices. Mobile phone use no longer means just making and receiving calls either. In the United Kingdom, the ‘Learning from digital natives’ report (Trinder, Guiller, Margaryan, Littlejohn, Nicol, 2008) found that ownership and use of mobile phones was ubiquitous, with many young people using them as a camera, media player and storage device in place of a usb-drive. In Australia, 2007 saw sales of ‘converged’ phones, which have these features and the ability to access the Internet as well, reach 2.6 million out of a total market of 9.6 million (Dudley-Nicholson, 2008). Use of the most capable type of these devices, known as ‘Smartphones’ (all-in-one communications and personal data assistants) is on the rise, with
12% of undergraduate students in a 2007 Educause study owning one (“Students’ ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology”).
A Gartner study into mobile phone sales for the second quarter of 2008 showed Smartphone sales up by 15.7 % (Ziegler, 2008). By the third quarter of 2008, estimates from research firm Canalys indicated that 40 million were shipped between August and October, comprising 13% of the total mobile phone market (Hardy, 2008). Apple, which entered the market in July 2007, passed its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008 four months early, becoming in the process the world’s third largest mobile phone maker (by revenue) while selling only one, Smartphone model (McLean, 2008), such is the growing demand for this kind of device.
Beyond the popularity of the mobile phone, portable devices like the Nintendo DS and MP3 players have become just as widespread. The iPod alone has sold over 174 million units (Starret, 2008), and unpublished data from an Australian P-7 school shows that while 83.5% of students use a computer at least once a week, 86.3% own their own mobile device, not including a mobile phone (see Figure 2). 19.2% of these students also reported that they had the capability to access the Internet on their phones.
1. Have a Computer? 2. Use this Computer? 2B. Use it twice a week? 3. Have the Internet? 4. Use the Internet? 4B. Use Internet twice a week? 5. Have a Mobile Phone? 5B. Have Internet access on mobile? 6. Other mobile device? 1. 2. 2b. 3. 4. 4b. 5. 92.6% 83.5% 71.5% 73.2 65.4 51.2 50.0
Student Technology Survey
Sample size 675 students.
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Figure 3. Primary students use of technology. (Unpublished data, Queensland, Australia, 2008).
The World Wide Web itself is continuing to develop and influence the direction of 21st century life. While version 1.0 arrived in the early 1990s and was marked by the ability to conduct web-searches for essentially static information, it has since become vastly more userdriven as the interactive content and social networking sites of web 2.0 have become popular. In fact, so thoroughly have user-driven sites replaced previous uses of the web that video sharing site Youtube is now second only to Google as the world’s most used search engine (Hill, 2008). The Sensis e-Buisness report of May 2008 (Kids aged five and under surf the net, 2008) for example found that 71% of Australian households had under 18s accessing the Internet, and one in five had children begin their Internet use while aged under five.
Even more astounding is how mobile devices are increasingly being used as the primary way in which people connect to the Internet. In fact, Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel (in Fisher, Baird, 2006) has said that 50% of Internet users outside the United States will most likely never use a personal computer to connect to the Internet. Instead, they will use a mobile device to access information, community, and create content on the Internet. Indeed, researchers predict that by 2010, mobile high-speed (or broadband) Internet use will overtake home connections (Richards, 2008) in the same way that mobile telephony overtook landlines in the 1990s.
Computing without computers. “The current Internet age is a transitional phase between the PC and [the coming] ubiquitous waves” (Ley, 2007).
Beyond the era of the PC then, as mobile devices and Internet access become widely available, a time when digital technology becomes ubiquitous can not be too far away. Greenfield (2006) sees this as computing that has “leapt off the desktop and insinuated itself into everyday life” (p10). Also called ‘Pervasive Computing’(Hansmann, Merk, Nicklous, and Stober, 2003), it consists of a new class of devices that make information access and processing easily available to everyone from anywhere at any time (p.13). The power of this ‘Everyware’ as Greenfield calls it, or ‘computing without computers’(p11), will “subsume traditional computing paradigms”(p177). Ultimately, it means “computers in the woodwork,
constantly communicating with RF tags and mobile devices” (pp12-13). Savill-Smith (2005) describes it as a situation where technology becomes virtually invisible as we begin to “use technology embedded in the environment”.
This ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ (a term coined by Mark Weiser in 1991 while working at XEROX) is driven by several technologies. Greenfield (2006) lists the key contributors as: mobile devices and the miniaturisation of processors, extension of networks, and the development of wireless connectivity such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and RFID tags (pp.12-13) (see Chapter 3 for definitions of these terms). Research firm Gartner lists ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ in its top ten disruptive technologies for 2008-2012, along with several others that are contributing to it such as ‘fabric computing’ (miniaturisation), and Cloud Computing (extension of networks), (Gartner Identifies Top Ten Disruptive Technologies for 2008 to 2012, 2008). Ley (2007) too features miniaturisation and connectivity as technologies enabling Ubiquitous Computing. He also adds ‘intelligent systems’ (Artificial Intelligence or AI; semantic networks) and ‘intelligent interfaces’ (natural interfaces; display technologies etc) that lie beyond the scope of this paper, as do gaming and location-aware technologies.
Conclusions: “It simply isn’t the 20th century any more is it?: So why would we teach as though it was?” (Heppell, 2008).
We have seen then, that computing and networking technologies are developing at a rate such that the 21st century is becoming markedly different from the one that came before. Mobile devices and an interactive Internet are now being subsumed by a move towards computing that is even more widely available. Hansmann, Merk, Nicklous, Stober, (2003) see this as the stage “where computing spreads to mobile devices and then appliances”(p.18) These directions all have implications as to what mobile, wireless, and cloud-based, networked technologies mean in a world facing the challenges of climate change, the credit crisis, and the beginning of the ‘Asian Century’. It follows that educators need to be aware of them if they are to facilitate the growth of the skills today’s students will require, and be prepared to engage with the learning possibilities they provide so they may teach as if it is not the 20th century anymore. The next chapters will examine how this has been slow to occur.
Chapter 2. 21st century Skills? Embracing information and communications technology in education and training improves skills and knowledge … and moves Australia confidently into the twentyfirst century (MCEETYA Joint Statement on Education and Training in the Information Economy, 2005). For the average citizen, the introduction of these technologies in a less than twentyyear period means that new technologies and skills need to be taken up if society is to move confidently forward. Prensky (2008) quotes a 2006 report by the UK Department for Information and Skills which showed that creativity and collaboration were among the competencies that this country was failing to pass on to learners. He believes that today, individuals require the ability to find, evaluate, process, create and share information. This is of “paramount importance for successful participation in the knowledge economy in the new, networked world” (Prensky, 2008). A report from the ‘Partnership for 21st Century Skills’ advocates that people now need to “be applying knowledge to new situations, analyzing information, comprehending new ideas, communicating, collaborating, solving problems, [and] making decisions” (2003, p. 9, in Culp, Honey, Mandinach, 2003). Required skills that can be drawn from these then (see Figure 4) include being able to communicate via mobile phone and the Internet, to find and navigate online and digital content, to create online and digital content, and to connect to and collaborate with others via forums and social networks. Education has been slow to adapt. “The biggest question about technology and schools in the 21st century is not so much ‘What can it do?’ but, rather, ‘When will it get to do it?’”, (Prensky, 2008). Unfortunately, although ICT has the potential to significantly enhance education, that potential is often not being realised in practice (Twining, p.42, in Monteith, 2004) because systemic change has been minimal (Seimens, 2008). Students who have “grown up with different expectations and preferences for acquiring knowledge and skills” (Students’ ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology, 2007) and who know ‘what it can do’, are often faced with the loss of this upon entering their educational institution, leading to a disparity between social
and schooling realities. This is a concept that has become known as ‘powering down’, basically described by one student thus: At school, you do all this boring stuff, really basic stuff, PowerPoint and spreadsheets and things. It only gets interesting and exciting when you come home and really use your computer. You're free, you're in control, it's your own world. (Puttman, 2007).
Figure 4. Overview of Digital Revolution phases and the skills required as each stage develops.
This absence of the technology they are accustomed to potentially enlarges the digital divide for students (Smyth 2005; Johnson, Kemp, Kemp & Blakey, 2007) and increases the difficulties they may face in engaging with pedagogy still driven by Industrial age priorities. After all, any curriculum that does not refer adequately to the world beyond itself will be remiss in achieving good outcomes (Crick, Wilson, 2005, p.363). A lack of integration of mobile technology also denies students and Educators themselves the benefits of increased collaboration and efficiency and decreased cost that it can provide (Jones & Jo, 2004).
And yet, while a report by the Commission on Educational Excellence recommended as along ago as 1983 that all high school graduates in the United States should “understand
the computer as an information, computation and communication device” (Culp, Honey, Mandinach, 2005, p280), by 2003, the U.S. Education sector was found to be the least ITintensive industry of 55 surveyed (Dumagan, Gill, Ingram, 2003). In Australia, despite declaring that students “should be confident, creative and productive users of new technologies”, the Australian government only developed indicators to record progress in this area in 2005, with the data not being available until 2009 (Australian Government, 2008). In fact, while a 2008 CDW-G survey of U.S. higher education found while students are incorporating technology into nearly all aspects of their higher education experience, “the on-campus technology experience is not keeping pace," (U.S. Higher Education Lags in Technology Integration, 2008). This is despite reports that 73.7% of higher education students (Students’ ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology, 2007) own laptops, and that 60.9% of all students believe digital technologies improve their learning. One reason for this is that even though more than 80% of lecturers teach at least some of their classes in ‘smart classrooms’, just 42% of those faculty use the technology during every class session. This mismatch was found to be due to a lack of technology skills among teaching staff, and was considered by the report to be one of the biggest barriers to technology integration in higher education institutions (Students’ ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology, 2007). Siemens (2008) suggests two other reasons for the inability of Educational institutions to absorb technological change. One is a propensity of any organisation to adopt new tools simply to do the same work as the old ones. Siemens sees that Education has been inundated with change during the 20th century, but the promised revolution did not occur because the existing classroom model remained unchanged. Information systems such as Education "may be seen as direct counterparts of the physical layouts and material flow patterns of [their] production and transportation systems" (David, 1990, p. 360, in Siemens 2008). Thus the limitations of existing physical classrooms play a role in delaying innovation. We can no longer be the sage. Beyond even a course for teaching educators technology skills, or moving away from the classroom as the physical basis of Educational institutions, however, another change may be even more necessary. Enabling education to embrace new technology may in fact be best enabled by “reversing educational models so they conform to the learner, rather than the
learner to the system” (Fisher, Baird, 2006). Siemens (2008), the original architect of the new learning paradigm known as ‘Connectivism’, argues that the impetus for this shift is coming from the abilities of new technologies to permit individuals greater control over the creation of content and interaction with others. The implication of this is less of an emphasis on “the ‘sage on the stage’ and a linear acquisition process focusing on a ‘single best source,’” (Students’ ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology, 2007). Instead, focus should be on ‘active learning’ as information is synthesised from multiple places. Heppell calls it “the death of they, and the beginning of us” (2008) such that we see a theoretical change from control by the instructor or institution to one where the learner has greater input (Siemens, 2008). Driven by the development of learning theories (such as constructivism, social constructivism, and more recently, connectivism), and the advancement of collaborative mobile and wireless technologies (Siemens, 2008), this may be the theoretical change that Educators need to make before the full advantages of using 21st century technologies for learning are realised. The practical application of these ideas is ably demonstrated in by Rankin’s (2007) chart comparing 20th century and 21st century education (see Figure 5) marked by collaboration and anywhere access to learning in each of its examples.
Figure 5. Convergence as it relates to 20th and 21st century education. (Rankin, 2007).
Conclusions: In this chapter we have seen how Education has been slow to respond to the onset of the Digital Revolution despite the importance of digital skills in areas of future employment. A correct response is to modify the traditional role of Education to embrace principles of Connectivism as well as mobile, wireless and cloud computing technologies. In the next chaper, these technologies will be examined in more depth, with suggestions offered for educators willing to embrace them.
Chapter 3. Specific current and near-future directions.
“Technology can do anything we jolly-well want” (Heppell, 2008).
As we have seen in Chapter 1, the writings of Greenfield (2006) and Ley (2007), as well as a recent Gartner report (2008), list several near-future technological directions which together are leading society towards an era of computing where it can almost do ‘anything we want’. “Fast wireless connectivity, the collaborative web, and the increasing power of handheld devices mean that the benefits of the Digital Revolution are now accessible anywhere” (Greenfield, 2006, p10). These developments require new skills of 21st century citizens, however Education has been slow to adapt despite the benefits already being enjoyed by business, industry, and other social spheres (Ntloedibe-Kuswani, 2008). The Australian Government pledged in 2005 to “ensure, through the intelligent use of information and communications technology, that all learners have the necessary knowledge and skills for work and life in the twenty-first century” (MCEETYA, 2005). What specific technological developments then are shaping the need for these skills?
This chapter will aim to examine practical, working examples of the following key technological directions as drawn from the above sources. Each section will also look at how educators may have employed them already before pointing to emerging ways in which they can be employed.
A. Miniaturisation leading to more powerful mobile devices. B. Wireless communications delivering anywhere connectivity. C. Cloud Computing that hosts software and services entirely online.
Other directions not able to be examined here will also need to be kept withineEducators’ fields of view, some of these being ‘location-aware’ learning, ‘Augmented Reality’, and ‘mobile gaming’ (Metcalf, 2006, p.131), as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ‘Semantic’ support for everyday tasks, and natural computing interfaces such as those incorporating multi-touch and 3D.
A. Miniaturisation leading to more powerful mobile devices.
Current Developments: • Netbooks - ultra-portable, under $500 laptops with 7-10 inch screens with enough speed and memory to perform full Internet and general computing tasks. • Smartphones - convergence of mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) Portable Media Players (PMPs), Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs).
“Today there is more processing power in my iPhone than in the whole of a 1980’s school” (Heppell, 2008). This situation described by Heppell has recently become possible due to technological breakthroughs (Barker, Krull, Mallinson, 2005) in the miniaturisation of processors, networking technologies, memory, displays and sensors (Ley, 2007). Intel, the world’s largest maker of processors, claims to have doubled the amount of microprocessors on a transistor every two years for the last forty years (60 years of the transistor, n.d.). Today this is evidenced in the availability and popularity of highly mobile Netbooks (see description above). Sales of Netbooks are now beginning to overtake those of regular Laptops such that they recently held nine out of the top ten spots for Laptop sales at Amazon.com (Wilson, 2008).
While personal computers are becoming more mobile, mobile devices are becoming more powerful. "That phone you're carrying around, we think of it as a phone, but it's really a
computer, right?" says Google Co-founder, Larry Page (Roth, 2008). Mobile phones that started out merely as devices for making calls, have now morphed into mobile computers that will soon reach numbers of over four billion (Wray, 2008). In China alone there were 358,000,000 mobile subscriptions in 2005 and this was growing by 160,000 a day (Keegan, 2005). Many of these users have Smartphones that now combine making calls with playing media files, personal information management, Internet browsing, and even GPS navigation.
Prensky (2005) sees that these two forms are headed towards a meeting in the middle. Certainly as flexible, extendable screens (such as the currently greyscale one used in the Readius mobile phone) and ever-faster and smaller processors and memory become available, the distinctions between computers and other devices will blur even further. Eventually, as miniaturisation continues, it is likely that mobile devices will be worn like watches or glasses, or woven into clothing (Anderson, Blackwood, 2004). Miniaturisation then allows more computing to be delivered in smaller form factors, and often at decreasing prices. This means people can carry a netbook or Smartphone and be able to perform most computing tasks, giving them greater control over when and where they complete these tasks. This power of location and time choice, as well as the greater number of tasks that more powerful mobile devices can perform, is enabling society to become accustomed to the flexibility that mobile and Ubiquitous Computing provides (Ley, 2007).
Implications of mobile technology for learning. “Teens expect mobile technology to change the social fabric of their world, and they have laid the future at the feet of this technology like no other” (CTIA - The Wireless Association, 2008).
In education, just as eLearning followed from the introduction of PCs and the Internet, the use of mobile devices such as detailed above has become known as ‘mLearning’, or learning that is “facilitated and enhanced by the use of digital mobile devices that can be carried and used anywhere and anytime”(O’Connell & Smith, 2007, p.3). For some years, these ‘mobile devices’ have been primarily stand-alone PDAs or MP3 players. More recently though, the ubiquity of converged mobile phones, and their popularity with young people who
expect mobile technology to change their world, has made them the ideal platform for educational content and activities (The Horizon Report, 2007, p.15).
When employed inside traditional classrooms, Barker, Krull, Mallinson, (2005) hold that handheld devices are useful for “inputting data, extended writing (where the handheld has a good-sized keyboard and screen), shared writing (where text files can be moved easily between handhelds), and working on individual pieces of work around a table”. These are all situations where learners may need to record information or collaborate during a lesson, but where moving away to a desktop computer would be not be suitable or practical (Barker, Krull, Mallinson, 2005).
These advantages of mLearning are multiplied when the full benefits of miniaturised technologies, such as choice of location, time, and increasingly, the type of computing task undertaken, are employed outside the classroom also. Because the mobility and flexibility of mobile devices are already integrated into their lives, Hirsch (2007) sees that students “will likely keep a school "playlist" along with their favorite music files if given the opportunity”(p. 8), thus giving themselves extended access to learning materials, if the school has seen fit to supply them in a mobile format. Mobile devices may also support new ways of learning that were previously difﬁcult to achieve (Clough, Jones, McAndrew, & Scanlon, 2007, p.361) like the remote viewing of training videos just before needing to use a certain skill, or the creation of digital documents whether one is near a PC or not.
In recent years, the benefits of mobile technology in the form of school-based ‘one to one’ laptop programs has become evident. A recent curriculum focused rollout in the U.S. State of North Carolina saw test scores rise ‘dramatically’ (One-to-One Laptop Learning Succeeds at Raleigh's Centennial Campus, 2008). The lead teacher on the project reported that his class went from being teacher-centered to student-centered as teachers spent “more time diagnosing students' strengths and weaknesses and less time grading papers." (One-toOne Laptop Learning Succeeds at Raleigh's Centennial Campus, 2008). Another U.S. State reported that in their district in Maine, more than 4 out of 5 teachers concluded that students were more actively involved in their own learning, and produced better quality work. In
addition, more than 70% of the students stated that the laptops helped them to improve their organisational skills and the quality of their work (Silvernail & Lane, 2004).
While traditionally laptops have been more expensive than desktop PCs, the current range of netbooks often retail for less than $400. Their design was initially inspired by the ‘One laptop per child’ (OLPC) initiative of MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte who aimed to make cheap, student-focused laptops available to developing countries. His realisation that “Brazil spends $19 per year per child on textbooks ... so over five years, that's almost a hundred dollars right there” (Levy, 2007) holds relevance for all countries. However, Education departments that previously ran many tens of thousands of desktop PCs may now begin to take the cheaper and far more flexible option of purchasing netbooks and mobile devices. Finally, there are sound pedagogical reasons for incorporating mobile devices into educational practice, such as their compatibility with developments in pedagogy and learning theory which have moved towards more active, ‘constructivist’ instruction, “with learners making their own decisions that match their cognitive needs” (Farmer and Taylor, 2002, in Anderson, Blackwood, 2004).
While there have been many large scale mLearning projects, of up to €8,000,000 in value (MOBILearn, Italy), as projects only, they have tended to end once funding has ceased. Therefore, as Keegan (2005) has concluded, it is now time for mobile learning to emerge from its project status and enter into mainstream education and training. As we shall see in the next section, it is wireless and connected applications of mLearning that may just make this possible.
Summary of these developments as practical suggestions for Education. - A learning environment that incorporates mobile devices would see: 1. Educators and Administrators commit to active learning models that facilitate rich, collaborative instruction. 2. Institutions align their overall educational goals and vision for learning with this commitment. 3. Educators expand previous understandings of spatial/ classroom boundaries and the possibilities that active learning with mobile technology might provide, such as:
i. Enhancing existing learning within classrooms, ii. Recording or creating data anywhere on a school campus, iii. Listening and viewing educational material whether on campus or not, iv. Carrying and managing learning tasks and associated files everywhere that students lives take them. 4. Educators and Administrators examine mobile device options that fit their learning vision such as: a. Cheaper handheld, non-wireless devices for simpler learning goals. b. Handheld devices with communication abilities for tasks requiring collaboration and connectivity. c. More capable devices such as laptops (in 1:1 ratios) for higher order tasks.
B. Wireless communications delivering anywhere connectivity.
Current Developments: • Wi-Fi - the most widespread form of wireless networking. Common in PCs and becoming so in mobile devices. • 3G broadband - the most common form of mobile broadband, now also being incorporated into many PC laptops. • Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) tags - miniature integrated chips with radio-frequency antenna for short range, ‘reader-to-tag’ or ‘device-to-device’ communication.
In his report for the PEW Research centre, Horrigan (2008) writes that 62% of all Americans participate in wireless digital activities when away from home or work, with 21% claiming to be accessing the Internet ‘on the go’ two or more days a week. This growing usage is being made possible by three different wireless technologies that together are furthering the ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to digital communication that we have seen miniaturised, mobile devices also are beginning to enable.
The first of these is ‘Wi-Fi’. This is the marketing name given to various 802.11 radio frequency standards that enable short range wireless communications between individual computers and Internet routers. As Wi-Fi chipsets have become smaller, they are now being embedded in a wider range of equipment, from phones to printers, cameras and even flash memory cards (such as the ‘Eye-Fi’ card). Not only is this leading to greater numbers of Wi-Fi equipped devices, with the Wi-Fi Alliance claiming to have certified nearly 5,000 so far (WiFi for Consumers, n.d.), but the availability of Internet access via wireless zones is becoming more widespread, evidenced in Australia by Macdonalds decision to provide free Wi-Fi at around 720 stores from 2009 (Dearne, 2008). A new report from the Wi-Fi Alliance found that with 802.11 wireless technology being increasingly deployed as a feature in mobile devices sold in India, many residents are likely to use Wi-Fi without ever owning a computer (Wi-Fi® Technology Enabling Economic and Social Development in Rural and Urban India, 2008).
Despite this growth in availability, Wi-Fi is limited in range to approximately 30 meters, meaning that users must be within range of such a wireless ‘hotspot’ in order to be connected. In more recent times, people looking for more widespread Internet and communications access have begun turning to mobile phones. Research from Forrester in 2003 (in Anderson, Blackwood, 2004) indicated that by 2008, 97% of all phones would have Internet access. While early Internet access on phones was limited to dial-up Internet speeds, 3G broadband capable devices with a theoretical maximum download speed of 14.4 Mbit/s (mega-bits per second) of data bandwidth are now becoming more widely available as networks that cater for them have been expanding. This has led to a situation where recently, Google has seen sharp increases in mobile Internet usage causing it to believe “that the era of mobile Internet is at hand”(Kullman, 2008). In Australia, research from the University of Adelaide shows that the proportion of people who have accessed a website on their phone has doubled to 40 per cent in the past 12 months (Sinclair, 2008).
The Apple iPhone in particular, when introduced in 2007 with a large screen and desktop-like Web-browser, was used less as a phone and more as an Internet device than other phones. The International Business Times reports that 12.1% of 2007 generation iPhones regularly accessed the Internet compared to 2.4% for Nokia and RIM Blackberry phones. At the same time, the iPhone was used as a phone only 46.5% of the time compared to 71.7% for
the other brands (Jacobs, 2008). Continued deployment of mobile Internet devices (MIDs) such as the 3G-broadband capable iPhone, and the Google Android-powered ‘G1’, among others, will likely see these trends in the mobile Internet landscape progress even further in the future (Buchanan, 2008).
Beyond both Wi-Fi for short range, and 3G for longer range wireless communications, Educators need to be aware of the emerging technologies of WiMAX (an expansion of 802.11 standards) and Long Term Evolution (LTE, also called 4G as it is the successor to 3G) which will both be capable of providing over 100 Mbit/s of mobile bandwidth over large distances. WiMAX is available in several countries at present (USA, South Africa, South Korea) while LTE will be rolled out first in Japan in 2009. (The WiMAX Equipment Market and Forecasts Through 2007-2010, 2008).
3G, WiMAX, and 4G then handle high-bandwidth, long range wireless coverage, and Wi-Fi provides the same over short ranges. It is another platform altogether though, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), that the UN has predicted may see humans in the minority as generators of Internet traffic, and non-human 'users' of the Internet become counted in billions (Biddlecombe, 2005). RFID users miniaturised chips that respond to short range wireless ‘scans’ to transmit information such as location, weight and ID about themselves. Potentially, it enables “remote controls embedded in clothing, cars that alert their driver when they have developed a fault, managers who check on workers through the RFID devices embedded in their phones, and bags that remind their owners that they have forgotten something” (Biddlecombe 2005). Already in common use for things such as eTolls, passports and stock management, one clothing store the U.S. is even using them in change rooms to automatically show customers images of the apparel item and celebrities wearing it on an interactive display (Boeck, 2008). A subsidiary of the world’s largest chain store Walmart has affixed RFID tags to store shelving, and is using RFID scanners mounted on forklifts to track pallets by associating each pallet tag with the nearest location tag (O’Connor, 2007). It recently asked 700 of its suppliers to compulsorily attach these RFID tags, and many other stores and manufacturers are doing the same.
Recently, a coalition of major technology companies, (Cisco, Ericsson and Sun Microsystems), formed the Ipso (IP for Smart Objects) Alliance with the aim of shaping a set of standards for the coming ‘Internet of things’, a time where Internet protocols are incorporated into nearly everything (Dodson, 2008). By allowing devices for communications, computation, storage, sensing and display to exchange information using technology such as RFID, this Internet of things will be “indistinguishable from the devices that it connects; it really will be the computer” (Gershenfeld, Neil, Krikorian, Raffi, Cohen, Danny, 2004). Landt expects RFID “to become even more ubiquitous” (Landt, 2005) and thus join other miniaturised technologies in networked computing to dissolve into the fabric of things around us (Biddlecombe, 2005). In doing so, the Internet of things promises to reshape our lives as fundamentally as the introduction of the railway did in the 18th century (Dodson, 2008).
Implications of wireless technology for learning. “It is with small wireless devices that integrate telephony, audio and video capture, GPS, and computing functions, [that] we’re going to experience a whole new wave of ‘learn as you go’ solutions” (Gayeski in Broadbent, 2002, p.202). A recent study has found that today’s young people are excited and open-minded about the wireless possibilities detailed above, and will have a major impact on the wireless landscape for years to come (CTIA - The Wireless Association, 2008). Is Education prepared to meet the high expectations students have of wireless devices? Is it yet providing a ‘new wave’ of learning solutions? There is some evidence that it is, at least in higher education where 96% of universities in the U.S. now offer wireless networks (U.S. Higher Education Lags in Technology Integration, 2008). Some colleges have even considered ceasing to fund fixed computer labs in exchange for wireless lab equipment and configureable furniture, while others have already rolled out full-campus connectivity clouds (Alexander, 2004). Abilene University (ACU) is now giving out mobile Internet devices to their first year students so they can access course and campus information everywhere they go, as well as interact in class using wireless connectivity (http://www.acu.edu). In a study on the advantages that a wireless environment can bring to education and pedagogy, Sotillo (2003, in Anderson, Blackwood, 2004) concluded that “new developments
in wireless networking and computing will facilitate the implementation of pedagogical practices that are congruent with a constructivist educational philosophy” (Anderson, Blackwood, 2004). Yardi (in McPherson 2008) has noted that as wireless networks have been introduced into universities and schools, users have become more actively involved in constructing their own learning experiences. These students have realised that “they do not have to sit idly during a lecture or presentation”(p143). Instead, they ‘back-channel’ - surf the web, check email and chat online, sometimes ignoring the ‘front-channel’ speaker. While there is an obvious potential for such wireless access to be abused by students, Yardi sees that many students instead actively engage in the front-channel discussion through concurrent related discussions, debates, fact-checking, resource-sharing (p144). Students who are too shy or inhibited to share in the classroom may instead look up information or media and share it via chat, email, or wikis (a web page that can be edited by multiple users). As students with their own wireless mobile devices become accustomed to anywhere access to Web 2.0 networks and services, developing pedagogy to harness ‘backchanneling’ means Educators could create “a powerful opportunity for engaging [students] … by incorporating these practices into new classroom teaching and learning paradigms”(p.146). Sharples (2003) sees that “the assumption that computer-mediated learning will occur in the classroom, managed by a teacher, is now being challenged” (p.505). Mobile learning, therefore, can take learning to a wider audience than the conventional classroom, especially where cellular infrastructure and network have been highly developed (Ntloedibe-Kuswani, 2008). Alexander (2004, in Ntloedibe-Kuswani, 2008) concludes that because the technology is untethered, but instead mobile, students too become mobile or nomads – and can participate in constant conversations with others in need of the same information. ACU (n.d.) sees that: Rather than passively waiting for the development of new pedagogical models, we think it's important to embrace and nurture the trends demonstrated by the 21st-century classroom and Web 2.0. We believe that the best way to fulﬁll these goals is to encourage communication and convergence. - Illustrating Convergence: Web 2.0. The kind of deployment of mobile Internet devices happening at ACU illustrates that “advances in mobile networks, such as broadband wireless systems, will further change education pedagogy and supporting software forever … by making 24/7 mobile accessibility
important”(Aggarwal in Esnault, 2008, p.221). Adapting to back-channeling and more open, ‘lab-less’ environments encourages students to be active learners who can connect to learning conversations at anytime. By harnessing mobile devices and wireless technology to create expanded definitions of the 21st century classroom in this way, students can be prepared for a future where RFID and wireless broadband are part of the expected fabric of everyday life. Summary of these developments as practical suggestions for Education. - A learning environment that integrates wireless technology would see: 1. Educators and administrators commit to active learning models that facilitate rich, collaborative instruction and align overall educational goals with this commitment. 2. Educators expand previous understandings of collaboration and the possibilities that active learning with wireless technology might provide; for example: i. Having specific students authorised to ‘back-channel’ and report back to others. ii. Cultivating a culture of learning conversations where students collaborate and communicate at any time of the day or week (within reasonable limits). iii. Educating students in filtering and managing conversations and information. iv. Educating students on appropriate and ethical uses of anywhere connectivity. 3. Examination of operational wireless options that fit the learning vision such as: i. Setting up specific wireless learning zones, ii. Setting up campus-wide wireless access, iii. Allowing for long-range wireless connectivity outside of traditional school hours.
C. Cloud Computing - web-based software and services. Current Developments: • Cloud services and software - such as Google Docs and Evernote software. • Cloud hardware - such as the Nova navigator and G1 Android phone. We have seen that increasingly powerful mobile devices, when matched with the capabilities of wireless communications, present a formidable challenge to 20th century ways of thinking about learning. Collaboration and active learning begins to take centre stage as the means for education to address students 21st century needs. Beyond the actual devices used however, or even the wireless technology that connects them, another level of technology is
developing that would seem to complete the picture of technologies underpinning a nearfuture move to Ubiquitous Computing.
This development has been driven by several factors, one of which is the increasing amount of information that connected Internet services have been collecting. Delic and Walker (2008) report that Googles hundreds of millions of users have created 20 petabytes of data (a ‘petabyte’ is the equivalent of the next measure beyond terabyte or trillion), and one terabyte of logs is created by Ebay use every day. The storage and processing requirements of such a torrent have seen massive ‘data centers’, made up of racks containing typically tens of thousands of server PCs (Delic & Walker, 2008) built to meet the need. These centers have allowed the companies that run them to not just store information, but to begin to supply remote processing, storage and software capabilities far more powerful than the average user could afford.
The full implementation of this form of computing is predicted to be a hallmark of Web 3.0 and is only now becoming a reality. Known as ‘Cloud Computing’, it enables users to access “an elegant, small, and simplified subset of information on a handheld” (Metcalf, 2006, p.131) anywhere they have connectivity. Data and information are created and stored, readily accessible to any wireless device ‘in the cloud’, and computing becomes a utility like the telephone and electricity before it such that Dibbel (2005) predicts that one day, “the Net will be the summation of the world’s total computing resources” (p.143).
Cloud Computing then has two components. The first is the software side known as ‘Cloud Services’- what ‘the Cloud’ provides in the way of consumer and business products and services which are delivered to and consumed by users via Internet access. The second is the hardware itself which consists of the remote server clusters that power it, the Internet and networks over which services are delivered, and the receiving devices (handhelds, laptops etc) involved. (IDC Finds Cloud Computing Entering Period of Accelerating Adoption, 2008).
On the software services side, this development is evident in the number of users migrating from locally-installed programs such as Microsoft Office to using online alternatives such as Google Docs or Adobe’s Buzzword, where compatible documents can be
created and accessed from anywhere an Internet connection exists. Such has been the move to these services that Microsoft is now working on Windows ‘Azure’, a version of Cloud Computing that will allow access to its software over the Net rather than just on a local PC (Microsoft joins 'Cloud Computing' revolution, 2008). These document-creation examples have recently joined by online versions of other well known software products such as Adobe’s Photoshop, and Apple’s iCal.
Cloud Computing as a service is also enabling the creation of entirely new software solutions not previously possible. ‘Evernote’ (www.evernote.com) is an information and note storing application that can run on the Web, PCs and mobile devices, meaning that the images, text and audio files a user creates with it are accessible online and offline from multiple locations. The power of its servers also allows users to search for text within photos and hand written notes via an online optical character recognition (OCR) service. Another example of cloud services enabling a new model is Lala.com’s ‘websong’ music streaming service. Lala makes all of a users existing music collection available anywhere via Internet streaming, and also allows the purchase of new music in this new, non-downloaded format for 10c. Potentially, as 3G or 4G wireless broadband becomes cheaper and more widespread, users will no longer worry about how much music their mobile device can store as their whole collection will be available for listening via the Lala.com service.
On the hardware side, Cloud Computing and the Internet connections it relies on have made possible the creation of the ‘Nova Navigator’, a small PC-box costing less than US$200 that has no hard-drive or regular operating system (OS) installed. Instead, it uses a 512Kbs or greater broadband connection to access online storage and run Cloud software, with the services paid for via monthly subscription (www.novanavigator.com). The advantages of this model is that many tasks that a user normally has to perform like defragmenting hard drives, running software updates and keeping anti-virus programs current is taken care of by the service provider.
While the Nova Navigator is a personal computer version of Cloud Computing, the G1 Smartphone running Googles Android OS is its mobile equivalent. This device is designed to revolve totally around a constant connection to the Internet (Buchanan, 2008). From
interviews with Googles co-founder Larry Page, Roth (2008) explains that Google realised in 2005 that sales of mobile devices far exceeded the desktop browsing platform it had built its business on. Thus, when it was approached about a new mobile operating system (Android), it bought the company to set it up as an open, cloud based, Web 2.0 for mobile devices platform. Android phones such as the 3G broadband enabled G1 do not require a home PC for syncing account and contact details. Instead, this information is stored in the ‘Cloud’, meaning that any user who needs to switch to a new phone can set it up entirely via its Internet connection. Further, all of its contact, email and calendar software have Web-equivalents to which data is automatically synced, available for sharing or collaboration with other users.
Examples of Cloud Computing as used in Education. Cloud Computing then assumes an Internet connection as the basis for delivering software and processing power. When combined with the ‘anywhere’ connectivity that many mobile wireless devices now enjoy, Cloud Computing adds considerable value to the idea that computing is moving to a ubiquitous era. As Cloud Computing gains support as a means of making computing available to more people at a cheaper cost, are Educators and their Administrators tapping into this potential?
In the state of North Carolina in the United States, Intel and IBM have supported the ‘Virtual Computing Initiative’, an expanding program supplying free access to centralized computing power, data storage, and educational software, with the only requirements being broadband Internet access and a computer or mobile device capable of accessing it (University, IBM join in cloud-computing project, 2008). Officials there say that while local school systems often struggle to find enough money for computers, software, and technical support, using a ‘virtual computer lab’ overcomes this by providing less costly and free software that is frequently updated, less-expensive computers to access the system, and a reduced need for technical support, as the software remains on the virtual lab's servers. (University, IBM join in cloud-computing project, 2008).
In Australia, the Queensland Department of Education has recently initiated an information management system using a secure, Web-based, always-on model. Labelled ‘OneSchool’, its aim is to bring the management of Student, Curriculum, Resource and
Reporting processes into one central service point (OneSchool, Education Queensland, n.d.). Thus, rather than these areas being handled by separate software and servers at hundreds of different locations across the state with all the duplication and maintenance costs that this involves, information is managed and delivered from one secure site that is available wherever web access exists. Some of the stated benefits of OneSchool are low total cost of ownership, no local maintenance, software is kept at the latest version, and access is widely available (OneSchool, Education Queensland, n.d.). The department sees this move as a means to transform the ways schools and administrators are able to enhance student learning as greater sharing of data enhances relationships between previously separate types of data and also between those applying the information and managing resources (see Figure 6).
Figure 6. OneSchool benefits leading to enhanced learning, (Education Queensland, OneSchool, n.d.).
Research firm IDC is now seeing the financial advantages of Cloud Computing as a factor that will amplify its adoption during the current financial crisis as businesses look for a cheaper way to acquire and use information technology (IDC Finds Cloud Computing Entering Period of Accelerating Adoption, 2008). These factors are just as relevant to Educators, and Delic and Walker (2008) see that the vast computer power available from the cloud model can help to solve problems of academic research that require processor-intensive computer modeling, but where budgets are often tight. Cloud Computing therefore is growing in importance as a key 21st century technology that delivers lower-cost computing, wider access to better-maintained ICT services, and enhanced student learning through improved information management. No longer is there a need for schools to be base their delivery of learning around their geographic location rather than the needs of learners themselves. When combined with the use of mobile devices that feature wireless Internet access, Cloud Computing may just prove to be the final piece in the
puzzle of initiating Education on a Ubiquitous Computing journey such that 21st century learning can match the already-lived experience of today’s 21st century citizens. Summary of these developments as practical suggestions for Education. - A learning environment that employs Cloud Computing would see: 1. Educators and administrators commit to facilitating rich, connected and collaborative instruction and align overall educational goals with this commitment. 2. Educators expand previous understandings of networks and the possibilities that Cloudbased computing might provide to enhance learning delivery, by: i. Providing Web-based educational services to students and Educators. ii. Allowing students to access and interact with learning content remotely, on PCs and mobile devices. iii. Giving Educators access to secure relational data on student progress and needs that is available via the Cloud. iv. Providing Cloud-based collaborative communication tools and encouraging their use by students and Educators. v. Installing servers that can run secure, education-appropriate versions of real-world Web 2.0 tools. 3. PC, local server and technical support costs lowered as services are delivered instead via the web and funds reallocated to the development of rich learning content and the purchase of mobile devices.
Chapter 4. Ulearning: Universal, ubiquitous, utility, user, über, you, us The areas of mobile, wireless and cloud-networked technology examined in Chapter Three are shaping the early years of the 21st century in significant ways that have direct implications for learning and those Educators tasked with facilitating the skills that a new century requires. After all, where the 21st century goes, so too does learning, and by extension, teaching. According to Greenfield (2006), the developing world of Ubiquitous Computing, where information processing is embedded in the objects and surfaces of everyday life (p.18), is likely to see further maturation into a global network fed by ‘ambient
informatics’ and featuring information from previously non-digital sources such as spoken notifications, audio cues, and changes in light level, colour, temperature or reflectivity (p.24).
Ley (2007) sees that even before these advancements may arrive, “there are already clear possibilities for improving learning both through individual technologies and increasingly through using these technologies in unison”. Combining mobile devices, wireless networks and Cloud Computing in this way allows 21st century Educators to take advantage of Ubiquitous Computing to enact Ubiquitous Learning, or uLearning. This concept of grouping the educational possibilities provided by new technologies under one unified banner is a new one. Ideas associated with such a course were introduced by papers from Ogato and Yano (2003) and Zhang, and Jin (2005) that proposed the concept of ‘Ubiquitous Learning’ environments. It is interesting to note that the source of such new ideas comes from Asia as the 21st century itself begins a move towards becoming the ‘Asian Century’ in the same way that the 20th century became known as the ‘American Century’. Already, it is a growing field - a multi-journal search of twenty titles (29/10/08) using the terms ‘Ubiquitous Computing learning’ located 25 articles between 2005 and 2008. Specifically Zhang and Jin (2005) posit this combined approached as consisting of five key elements: • uEnvironment - a learning environment filled with embedded computers; • uContents - the knowledge and information pervading this uEnvironment; • uBehavior - learners’ actions that occur during the learning process, such as gestures, and speech; • uInterface - the interface between the learner and the uEnvironment made up of software, touch screens, and audio and video sensors; • uService - the pedagogical and social theories and methods of analysing and reasoning that inform the uContents and direct the uBehaviour as learners interact with the uEnvironment. It is interesting to note that in this outline of what a uLearning environment may be like, Jin and Zhang (2005) make no reference to there being a central expert controlling the process such as present Educational models retain. Stephenson (2001) sees that this type of thinking foresees a major switch from content being selected and packaged by a teacher to the adaption of materials by learners themselves, so that learning becomes learner managed (p. 222). Under such a system, it is the interactions between learners, and learners and Educators
that will be a major source of information and knowledge; networking and collaboration will be key. The role of Educators expands beyond content-delivery to include systems management, technical support, orchestrator of collaborative learning, and advisor on quality (Stephenson, 2001, p.222). From this, it is possible that a new title for Educators such as ‘educational producer’ or ‘instructional designer’ will emerge. If Ubiquitous Computing hardware and interfaces represent the external tools 21st learning requires, this change in the mindset of practitioners represents the internal ones. Summarised by the newer learning paradigm that has become known as ‘Connectivism’, it posits that the networked nature of modern society is directly influencing our ways of communicating to the extent that collaboration and social connections are becoming a dominant way that we create meaning and knowledge. The acknowledged founder of this way of defining modern learning, George Siemens (2005), believes that the recognition that we are continually moving in and out of networks provides an important starting point for rethinking education. “Instead of seeing the artificial construct of a program or course as the point of learning, we can view the process of living life as a constant learning process” (2005). Once Educators have taken up this perspective and become comfortable with adapting new technology for learning, Conceicao (2007) sees that things will get easier, technology use will become transparent, and “experimenting with new teaching strategies will become a natural task for designing instruction” (p.91). Conclusion. Heppell (2008) has wondered what would educators want in a world where technology can do almost anything. His own answer is that they would want something different from last century’s “big factory schools and those economies of scale, and wisdom being delivered and curriculum being received”. Connel, and Skilbeck, (2004) argue that despite some delays, this process is happening, at least at the level of ideas and policy, where schooling is now being moved from a model of transmission of pre-defined content and the methodical cultivation of long established skills and habits of mind into a much more fluid and interactive process of knowledge construction, critical reflection, experimentation and variable practical competence. (p.38). Even at a school level, use of new technology in Education does seem to be bringing improvements in the quality of learning outcomes, as seen in the one-to-one laptop program
being used in Maine state schools where both teachers and students listed this as an effect of the laptops being used. Prensky (2008) however is aware that despite such successes, changing to a new model requires new thinking as well as just new hardware. He answers concerns about an already crowded curriculum and requirements for standardised testing by suggesting that if students were really offered future-oriented content where they could develop real-world skills such while using powerful, miniaturized, one-to-one technology, then they would complete the ‘standard’ curriculum in “half the time it now takes, with high test scores all around ... in other words, if we truly offer our kids an Edutopia worth having, I believe our students will work as hard as they can to get there” (Prensky, 2008).
Rather than banning wireless connectivity or mobile devices as some schools and universities have done, surely an approach that embraces them will be more relevant in the Web 3.0 world of Ubiquitous Computing? The time for giving educators a choice between 20th century education, and 21st century mobile, wireless and Cloud-based ‘Ubiquitous Learning’ is passing. Learners won’t wait, and the introduction of new technologies into society is continuing to occur at a faster and faster pace. Many educators have already become digitally literate, and begun designing their instruction to work in a ‘many-to-many’ world where ‘back-channeling’ may become the norm. As ACU have decided, It's not about control; it's about convergence. Social learning theory tells us that humans learn best in community - when they feel connected to others … Any technological solution aimed at increased learning must enhance communication and convergence. If it doesn't, it's likely to be pedagogically irrelevant. (Illustrating Convergence: Web 2.0, 2008). The purpose of schooling has been stated as: to provide education for all young people, by assisting students in: A. attaining knowledge, skills and understanding in key learning areas, B. developing their talents, capacities, self-confidence, self-esteem and respect for others, and C. developing their capacity to contribute to Australia’s social, cultural and economic development (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 2008). Surely using 21st century technologies in a way that moves towards connected and active uLearning only serves to facilitate these goals? What better way to increase knowledge production than to enhance connections between students and other learners? What more engaging process could there be than to allow students to use their existing technological talents? And how better could they be prepared for contributing to
societies development, particularly during times of economic downturn, than by exposing them to the kinds of technological skills upon which future jobs will rely? Now would seem to be the time to recognise that “a 21st-century education is the bedrock of competitiveness the engine, not simply an input, of the economy," (Retool instruction, or U.S. will fail, 2008).
After all, as Breck (2008) concludes, “when network laws are followed, learning and teaching are far less costly than in cash-devouring 20th century schools”. Breck bases this on three examples. The first is the fact that “the knowledge students will learn is already online, and more accurate and up-to-date there than in older school resources like textbooks”. Thus one digital textbook can now serve unlimited students while costing very little, as opposed to hard copy texts that in total cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but are soon worn out and become obsolete. Another is the way that the new communications technologies benefits Educators by allowing them to serve many more students than they can in a 20th century type classroom, but with very little extra expense. Lastly, Breck sees that the mobile devices that students own are much cheaper in their upfront cost and ongoing maintenance than school based PCs, as well as more connected, and thus allow the first two examples to be as effective as they are.
Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula (2005) suggest that the implications of this kind of reconception of education are profound and present a challenge to the centrality of fixed classrooms and ‘top-down’ curriculum as the means to impart the knowledge and skills students will need for adulthood. However, they also present a rich opportunity “to bridge the gulf between formal and experiential learning, opening new possibilities for personal fulfillment and lifelong learning” (Sharples, Taylor & Vavoula, 2005). Even world leaders such as Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd now write Weblogs and update social networking pages to take advantage of the direct communication this makes possible; some commentators credit this with their success in reaching the high offices they have (Prabhu, 2008).
In 2002, as the 21st century was just beginning, Wiley and Edwards asked “who knows what will be next?”. Such is the conundrum of the ‘Educational Producer or ‘Instructional Designer’ who takes up the challenge to employ ever-emerging technologies in the service of learning. While this paper has outlined some developments that are occurring in a current to
near-future time frame, the truth is that no one can ultimately know what will be next. In light of this, the task of Educators is to update 21st learning by ensuring that their pedagogical theory is aligned with the active, collaborative nature of new technologies. They should do this not just because students rely on these technologies, or because of cost-benefits, or because they improve engagement, as useful as all of these are. Instead, the primary inspiration for undertaking this re-conception of Education should be the opportunities it provides for the delivery of enhanced learning experiences. In this way, while the ‘expert’ role that Educators once performed may become extraneous, their higher calling to facilitate rich learning will remain as necessary as ever.
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