Social media, blogging, streaming, twittering etc. have been discussed as inevitable innovative elements in science awareness programms, outreach and widening participation for quite a while now. The intention is that they would bring science closer to everyday life of children and young people, make science communication more attractive and better matched with the self-evident media culture of present-day adolescents. But how is the role of educators and lecturers being affected? What skills do they need and how can they be supported by their institutions to cope with the pace of change?
This subject-matters of the workshop were dealt with on two half days, of which the first was dedicated to a “looking outwards” - which included input from experts and their research, analysis and reflections on the subject – to mark the corner points of the landscape of social media, generally and in technology enhanced learning: Video lectures of Jane McGonigal (about serous gaming to solve real world problems), Eli Pariser (about the selectivity of information supply and partial knowledge because of increasingly personalized search engine algorithms) or Sherry Turkle (about the alienating element of social networking) opened up the floor - in a somewhat controversial manner - for broad ranging discussion.
The 2nd day of the workshop was “looking inwards” and examining the central questions about educators in technology enhanced learning environments. How is their role being affected?
A many-faceted discussion developed - with various insights in the particular professional expertise of participants. However, there was wide consensus that the overlapping of private and professional life may be challenging – also because of permanent online access to bits of education, independent of time and location. Aspects of socialization were being discussed and the importance of physically meeting of people – so school and universities will still exist as buildings, but with flipped classrooms and shared activities. There is still the issue of democratization vs. actual access, which means that there is the tendency towards equitable access to online resources and equipment – but still limits of inclusion remain! Another issue re. roles of educators was discussed passionately: How they can they (still?) be reliable, authentic role models in a dynamic digital age? This goes far beyond being an ideal user in face of aspects of intellectual property and plagiarism, the ability of critical thinking and filtering or the fact that content creation becomes even more important than mere consumption! The point is: Teachers could model their own behavior as learners, as increasingly everybody in the internet space is a learner! In fact there is an impact on the relationship between teacher and student, which may be of tremendous relevance – a paradigm shift – if considered earnestly, and this also affects the required skills of educators: Besides technical skills (which are relative to teachers needs) and analytical skills they more and more need the political (and democratic) skills to move of power away from centralized view of knowledge to more democratic way of educating. Based on this was the debate on democratisation and autonomy vs. authority – and what it means to take the position of authority out of the learning, rather than to develop confidence in children and to make them belief in their own abilities. This is even more important in technology enhanced learning, as children can tell educators a lot about technology – so technology makes us fundamentally challenged what the “traditional” rules in educational settings are! Consequently, all four pillars of education are affected by issues of technology enhanced education and must be re-interpreted for this particular demand: In many cases, aspects of the “Learning to know” (or “learning to learn” as the metacognitive focus) are the starting point of the ICT debate in education as the 1st pillar. However, aspects of socialization (of how we interact and live together), of constructivism and the ontological aspects of how children construct their identities online, are even more relevant – and this must be considered in teacher training programs for technology driven spheres of education.
As a basic conclusion of the workshop, wide consensus was achieved that – and all the discussion in the workshop was a prove by practice – that the discourse has returned to an educational focus rather than a technological one, which is different than some years ago. So even when talking about “Technucation”, the focus remains on human relationships.