Monday 28 September 2015

Joining the debate on #OECD report on students, computers and learning

While the latest 190 page OECD report on students, computers and learning: making the connection, made a lot of educators tows curl... Some extra debates started to emerge.

This debate embedded in the Open Education Europe, focuses on the main question: "Digital technology in schools is a 'benefit' or a 'burden'?". I do have some personal doubt when looking at the selection of questions provided by the survey people of this debate. Feels like an interpretation of an interpretation, but ... at least there is an incentive to take part in this debate. And I must say I applaud the debate.

The PISA test... sigh
What is our obsession with tests that almost drag all the possible contexts from the outcomes? IQ tests are most well-known for their lack of reliable results. They indicate a specific result from a personal context, and even then it still only shows one little niche of very interpretative results. We- as educators - know and understand the importance of context (long known evidence-based outcome for mobile learning, eLearning and now gradually entering the MOOC research as well), of language use, of how personal each of our learning journeys takes form. In a sense, we should know better then to construct a test that puts everyone in the same batch, and then believe in it to state those things that we think sound nice (however tempting that type of action is... I mean, saves time on reflecting, nuancing, evaluating... and all of these time-staking stuff). The PISA test does it all over again, and ... enters the OECD report as core element of proof leading to rigorous outcomes. Yes, the correlation monster pops up once again. PISA test is an in correlation resulting test. A brief resume on the PISA critique can be read in the Guardian or a nice list of educationalists that argued against using PISA here.

A teacher is more then one type of person
An interesting reaction is the call for more CPD of teachers. Although much of the results focus on outside classroom percentages (I am guessing in the next stage the family support will be targeted).
Of course debating the use or (ab)use of computers for education, has many similarities with use or (ab)use of mobile devices for learning/training, use or (ab)use of radio/television for educational purposes... even using books (whether it be e- or paper books) for education. Whichever one wants to learn is either actively learned by the learner, or ... taught (which simply is more passive in a first instance). And teaching means the person teaching specific content has a variety of media to choose from (or not), and s/he curates the content, reflects on how they want to teach it (or not). Teaching is making choices, and as such the choices made by a person stands on their own view of the world, their philosophical framework, their views on what teaching should be, and ... their present state of being (character, energy...).
The teacher is the curator and the deliverer. As such it is no surprise that all depends on the willingness and ability of the teacher. The howl to create and fund more continued professional development for teachers can be heard (technology is the main focus, but I would love to see pedagogy in each CPD, as the media also shapes the content). I like that demand, yet at the same time it means that teachers must be provided the necessary time and options to follow these CPD's. And - for those teachers that really appreciate the art of learning/teaching - that those CPD's are delivered in a nice, high-quality, non-belittling way. The remark I most often hear from teachers is: "This CPD must have been made by pedagogues, it is awful in approach as if we - teachers - are idiots.". Or, also heard often but from CPD providers: "we make it, but they will not come?!"... which takes me back to the beginning of the eLearning era, where countless lessons were produced, yet not followed.

The success of books/computers... and the learner
At the end of the day, I have the impression that all of us discuss along similar lines of those who came before us. In this report one wonders about the efficiency of providing computers to all students, but then again at an earlier point in history the provision of books to as many students as possible was also questioned: some students never read the books we provide, they do not want to learn from books, they do not know basic terms/literature ... Some learners will indeed seldom be inspired by passive delivery of content that might also be not of interest to them. Can you blame them? Or let me rephrase it, can you blame me for being a drop-out student for the biggest formal part of my education? Can you blame the almost proverbial Steve Jobs, Richard Branson for dropping out of formal education? Of course not. And are they good in maths, reading...? Yes, of course they are. Sometimes the dominant learning model (teaching model) that is used simply does not attract as many learners as it wished it would be. No matter which medium is used, which technology... always depending on all human beings involved. Diversity in approaches and media might be an option, but then again, taking the full context of each learner into account when looking at outcomes might result in stronger (yet much, much more complex) outcomes.
Would unschooling be an option, for some and depending on age and situation or type of knowledge, but possibly no one model will deliver for all students.

The best teachers are those who inspire, no matter which technology is used, no matter where they live and teach. The best learners are those who follow their dreams and learn to achieve them via their own trials and errors, media and connections (teachers, peers, role models).