Issue: The challenge of fostering deep learning in our classrooms using digital technologies while people are saying that all knowledge can now be googled.
We are being told by the experts (and more often than in the past) to expect change and to expect it at an exponential pace due to the increasing impact of digital technologies on lives in both developed and developing countries (*1). This is putting real pressure on most teachers to adapt our teaching to this “exponential” rate of change but in our rush to embrace digital technologies (and by implication, student-centred learning pedagogies like ‘blended’ learning or ‘flipped’ learning) we seem to have forgotten that our students also need to have memorised – facts! Put in SOLO taxonomy terms it simply would not be possible to reach the level of extended abstract (i.e. deep thinking) without having gone through the multi-structural level (*2).
The belief that a digital device somehow makes a child more intelligent has been successfully challenged by many researchers in recent times (*3) but many lay-people still insist that it does. How then to successfully encourage the deep learning required in today’s modern world (particularly with so many ‘white-collar’ jobs on the verge of becoming automated that previously needed a university degree – e.g. accountancy (*4))
Locally and Nationally
The rise and rise of Mindlab has met this growing need for teachers at all levels to receive more training with digital tools and collaborative approaches. The founder of the group, New Zealander Ms Frances Valintine, established the 6-month “Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning)”. It was launched in Auckland in October 2013 (*5) which myself and almost 1000 other NZ teachers have completed to date (*6). Ms Valintine states that “that if 15 per cent of NZ teachers are taught to implement digital learning, it can bring about transformative change in industry” (the aim is about 10 000 teachers completing (the course) over the next 5 years).
Similar such initiatives have seen the creation of similar such websites by other developed countries around the world but there are also similar moves afoot in many to develop such programs as many have already embraced coding as a compulsory subject from the age of five, most recently in the UK.” (*7). Online learning portals such as https://scratch.mit.edu/ and https://code.org/, both started in the USA, are having an effect worldwide including in my rural classroom in a school of 300, only 90 of whom are students aged 13 or more (years 9 to 13).
In conclusion, it can be said that educators around the world are engaging more and more effectively with the explosion of digital technologies in teaching. The only cautionary note to be sounded is that: “The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology.” (*8)
This important group will therefore be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years so importance must be placed on training the training of tomorrow through institutions like New Zealand’s Mindlab.
(*1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ystdF6jN7hc Digital transformation: Are you ready for exponential change? Futurist Gerd Leonhard, TFAStudios
(*2) Learning Strategies: a Synthesis and Conceptual Model, John A C Hattie & Gregory M Donoghue, 10 August 2016
(*3) Is Technology Making Us Stupid (and Smarter)? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/
(*4) The Future of The Accounting Industry In 2015, Russ Alan Prince, Forbes Magazine, 21st January 2015.