Text Review

Chapter three in the text E-Learning Concepts and Practice is titled “A Potted History of e-Learning”. In this chapter it discusses the development of computers, the acceptance (and resistance) of computers being used in educational settings, and the history of technology development. As someone with a History background, I found chapter three in the e-Learning text intriguing, being able to trace how ideas, concepts, and objects change and adapt over time. Reading through each decade was very interesting. I especially found interesting the branching sequences cited from the 1960s, as these sounded familiar to our computerized benchmark tests where when the next question depends on the answer to the previous question.  It was also interesting that as early as 1963 computer studies were being promoted. They were also considering at this point the use of computers for simulations. in chapter three they listed ways that computers could be used, for example, “illuminating principles, and enabling their application, in situations outside the student’s usual experience”, “storing information for student usage”, and “educating students about computing” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 41).  Some of these skills are ingrained into our technology systems currently, like having information stored for student usage whether is each student having a Z drive, or having access to databases such as National Geographic Kids. Other items are still that enable application outside students usual experience are more of a novelty (to students and teachers) such as the Coaster Creator on Brainpop, where students learn about force and motion through the creation of a roller coaster. Students are still educated about computing but I feel that it is not as important as it was then, because students come into school with so much background knowledge. In contrast, in chapter four, titled “An Educational Revolution”, they listed and described 21st century knowledge areas and skill sets including “problem solving, critical thinking, and self-directional skills” as well as “information and communications technologies literacy”, which can be taught using technology, and are needed to use technology successfully (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 55).  Over time the way we view technology has changed as educators. Before it was focused on what was possible for students to use it for where now it is focused on preparing students to be effective and intelligent users of all technology, even that which does not yet exist. Chapter four also discusses how students have access to more knowledge than ever before and how using the 21st century skill set are so important to being able use and have ownership over the information.  The chapter also emphasizes how students and teachers can maximize learning opportunities through e-learning, for example through accessing ‘relevant” “visual information…such as fine arts, history, and archeology” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 57).  Another interesting aspect was the “implications of globalization for cultural identity” where technology is being used and implemented differently depending on the culture. Most incorporations of educational technology have found to been successful in terms of cultural aspects. In Chapter five, “Communal Constructivism”, the authors discuss different learning theories that play a role in e-learning. Beginning with behaviorism, it outlines the history of how behaviorism shaped early technology education. It then moves to Cognitivist, theories describing the key theorists, including Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky. Piaget is known best for his maturation cycle which “governs the type of learning [children] can accomplish” while Bruner also envisioned steps of development but also focused on scaffolding (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 83).  Vygotsky is “arguably the most influential of all the cognitive theorist” as his theoretical model is the basis for the Zone of Proximal Development, the gap “between what the learner can do now and what is beyond their reach.” It finished with Socio-Constructivism. Social-Constructivism has many facets including the main elements of learning in context: “social, reflective, authentic, scaffolded, progressive,” and “experimental” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 84).  The last theory in this chapter was Communal Constructivism, which arguably has the largest influence on e-learning. The term “denotes such an expansion in which e-Learning provides the learners with the tools to create new learning for themselves and to contribute and store their new knowledge, in whatever form it is, projects, artefacts, essays and so on, in a communal knowledge base for the benefit of their community’s existing and new learners” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 85).   The goal of communal constructivism is that students are “constructing their own knowledge as a result of their experiences and interactions with others” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 86).  The text uses the analogy of a river and a pipe , and how running water through a river is a different experience then through a pipe. We aim towards a river, because each student brings their own experiences, combines them with others knowledge and creates and effects those around them before moving on to carry and build their skills elsewhere.  Additionally learning from others is distinguished from learning with others – when you learn with others it is a collaborative process and students are truly building their knowledge. The chapter ends by discussing the various forms of e-learning which are characterized by user context and underlying learning theory, and finished with discussing seeds of change. Chapter eight is titled “e-Learning – Learner Emancipation”. In this chapter, the authors discuss in depth the concepts of accessibility and assistive technology, and “explore the impact of e-Learning on communities of learners who have special challenges or experience special access difficulties” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 133). One of the means of addressing these special challenges is through the use of assistive technology, for example using Braille, a screen-reader, and voice online. Designing for accessibility is also a concern, making sure that all students will be taken into account and make sure that all materials and resources available online are accessible for all students, for example the visually impaired. It also discusses how technology tends to become less accessible the more it develops because it has become more graphically oriented and there is a greater use of embellishments and colors. Having accessibility of online materials for all students is key to “help disabled students realize their promise and become independent learners” (Holmes and Gardner, 2006, p. 139).

 

Works Cited:

Holmes, B. and Gardner, J., editors (2006). E-learning: concepts and practice. London: Sage Publications.

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