23 March 2012

Learning Zones & Nik - IATEFL/Glasgow 2012

For years, whenever I have been lost for inspiration, lost in digital fogs, there was always one person I knew I could turn to. I read his work, followed his advice, tinkered with tools and platforms that he recommended. One of the hardest workers and most generous people in the field of ELT, Nik Peachey needs no long introduction. 

Nik raises important issues in this interview at IATEFL Glasgow 2012, namely how schools today should be regarded as a complete learning zone, with students being able to connect with whatever device they bring with them - whether mobiles, iPads, or  laptops. I think the concept of a school (or any educational institution) being a complete learning zone is essential today. Learning does not happen in the 50 minutes slot  in a computer lab which is otherwise locked up. Learning does not happen only  when the teacher gives permission for students to turn on their laptop. And learning certainly does not happen just because there is an IWB in the classroom (which more often than not, is merely used as a white board to project images). 

Obviously, one needs to regard digital learning as more than the "WOW" factor. Digital literacies, information literacies are here and not going away so soon. There continues to be an urgent need in how teachers are trained to use digital tools and more urgent still, for educational management to change its approach. If on the one hand teachers across the curriculum are rising to the challenge of digital education (if in any doubt, consider how many blogs there are written by teachers, how many educators are active participants in digital networks,  digital communities, Twitter and other forms of professional training and updating), teachers are then left with a curriculum and syllabus which was not meant for the digital age. Educational management,  on the other hand,  invests in expensive IWB, teachers are not given appropriate training, and so one is left begging the question - how are teachers going to cross the bridge to digital education without open wireless in their institution, without being able to connect with their learners through tools which engage and capture their attention?

There is also the issue of how to make the best use of technology. Again, I believe that if teachers are given good training, they will be able to make decisions which are appropriate for their classes, for it is the class teacher, more than any  outside administrator, who best knows the learners of a particular class. 

Nik also refers to two major trends in today's education: the use of iPads and Apps, and the growing interest in M-Learning. 

Further reference:

N is for Nik - Nik Peachey on flipped classrooms, learner autonomy, networks and more 

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