Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does E-Learning promote equal opportunities

Over these last few days I have been asking myself "Does E-Learning promote equal opportunities for all people?". This question came about when I went to see my travel agent around booking some flights to the USA. She said you would need to go online before you leave New Zealand and get a VISA. This documentation will allow you into the country. I am very lucky as I have a computer and have wireless in my flat. I have access to these tools and I have knowledge around using a computer and going on the Internet. It made me think about equal opportunities for all people. It made me wonder about these situations:

* What if you are a ninety year old person who wants to visit family in the USA and has never used a computer before?
* What if you owned a computer, but you are not too confident with using the Internet and you don't feel comfortable about giving your credit card details online?

The simple answer is let the travel agent apply for a VISA on your behalf. Yet the travel agent would charge you on their behalf for this luxury service. I do not know how much, but this would be a hidden cost part of the service. If I was organizing to get my VISA online, I would pay nothing to do this.

Another example, is to do with Television. You might be watching an interview of someone and then it suddenly finishes. The presenter may say "To see more of the interview, visit our website".
In a way people without computer and Internet access, knowledge and skills are at a disadvantage. Today we are living in a society where there is a lot pressure to keep up with others and it expected that we would know how to use these modern day technologies such as the Internet.

These situations relate well to Marc Prensky's research on "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants". Prensky (2001) has acknowledged that there is a common divide among learners who were brought up using technologies and know the language versus those that were not brought up to using these digital technologies. The gap is widening between the Digital Natives and the Digital Immigrants. This links well to the situation of a ninety year old versus a fifteen year old in getting a VISA online to go the USA. The ninety year old would struggle getting a VISA because they have not been taught at school how to use a computer and the Internet, it is new to them, the language is new and in a way they learn / require step by step instructions on the process. Prensky (2001) identifies these types of learners as Digital Immigrants. On the other hand, a fifteen year old who was asked to go online to get a VISA would find it much easier as they have been brought up to using the Internet, and would learn to go through the online steps at a much quicker rate. Prensky identifies these learners to be Digital Natives.

In schools this is pretty much the same. Students that we teach are classed to be the Digital Natives and Teachers are the Digital Immigrants. According to Prensky's research teachers are finding it hard to keep up with their students especially with the way they think and process information. Students are getting bored in the traditional way learning is presented to them as it is not stimulating or challenging enough. Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants can be summarized below, from Prensky's research:

The 2010 Student Learner (Digital Native):
Learns by:
* Receiving information fast-less of the step by step
* Multi Tasking-could have a number of projects running at once
* Prefers graphics before text
* Self satisfaction and rewards
* Prefers games rather than heavy paper work
* Hands on, interactive
* Can learn with background noise such as TV, music playing etc.
* Net working together
* Attitude towards learning should be FUN

Digital Immigrants learnt by:
* Step by step
* Individually
* Attitude towards learning should be SERIOUS
* Perception: students can't learn while background noise is playing

Prensky suggests teachers to move forwards under the Digital Natives umbrella rather than holding students back under their Digital Immigrants umbrella. For this to happen successfully teachers would need to change the way they think and the way they present information to their students. Teachers would need to change speed in which they teach: less of the step by step. Integrate the Legacy (reading, writing, maths, thinking) traditional curriculum with the Digital which includes: software, hardware, robotics, nanotechnology, genomics (Prensky, 2001)

How Prensky sees Digital Immigrant teachers tailoring to Digital Native student needs is through adapting their materials to be in language of Digital Natives. An example of this is through the use of computer video games. Prensky recommends teachers to change their attitudes and to become inventive so that their teaching aligns with Digital Native methodologies. This could mean teachers creating / presenting content in a video game format to their students, at all levels, in all of the curriculum areas.

The challenges of integrating Digital Native methodologies are:
* The amount of support and professional development teachers would need in using digital technologies e.g. video computer games in presenting content to students in a visual interactive way
* TIME:- to learn to use the software, in class time to implement it and teach it to the students, after hours time for preparation, to be creative
* Technical Issues:- software incompatible, server issues, web site issues
* Attitude: from staff especially in moving from traditional approaches. For some teachers adapting their teaching practices. Attitude can either be positive or negative around: digital technologies, group work / networking, ownership of learning

Prensky argues that students learn best through creating games and learning content from a game that the teacher has prepared:
What's been done at Colleges and Universities to address this, with training of teachers?
Shouldn't our professional development in schools be based around learning software in creating interactive games to present our content on to our students?
At what age should this start? As I believe the early years of school, new entrants need to be exposed to face to face teacher modeling and scaffolding
What game making programmes are out there for students and teachers?-keen to know might try it out myself on my class

Here is a You Tube Video defining Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, based on Marc Prensky's research. This video summarizes the above information in an interactive presentation-aimed for those Digital Natives out there.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5. University Press

Shapiro, C., Wallerstein, C., Brown (2009, December) Digital Natives Vs. Digital Immigrants IST 110, Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hXZ4wlekRg

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