AmCham and Adelaide Business School – ChangeMaker series – 22 June

As part of the University of Adelaide Business School’s partnership with AmCham we are thrilled to announce the next installment of the ChangeMaker series. Professor Noel Lindsay Director of ECIC and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Entrepreneurship) will share his knowledge on innovation, and key tips for taking an idea and turning it into a successful global business.

To learn more about the event and book your tickets, click here

Noel shares some of his thoughts below:

Going Native
by Professor Noel Lindsay

Noel Lindsay

Noel Lindsay

Prensky’s iconic term ‘digital native’ is almost already redundant. The deeper we go into the 21st century, the less need there will be to distinguish between those who are born with the innate ability to scroll, click and browse, and an older generation who learns to adapt. The focus instead will be on ‘digital wisdom’ (another Pensky term) – the capacity to not only access and develop new knowledge using technology, but applying judgement and decision-making to harness this knowledge and use it wisely. Technology unavoidably needs to be negotiated in almost every aspect of our lives, and anyone who has ever lost a mobile phone will be familiar with the desperate sense of panic and frustration it sparks.

So what impact is the digital age having on education? We are only glimpsing the capacity that technology has to influence this arena. Remote and online learning only touch the surface. New apps and software are set to revolutionise how we teach, how we interact with students, and how we can best use resources. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are growing in popularity and accessibility, with many leading US universities (Stanford, Harvard) and organisations (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) offering a range of subjects. The benefits of this online learning trend are obvious, especially when considering that many of them are free and can lead to full degrees. MOOCs offer a degree of accessibility to education hitherto unknown.

But what about the disadvantages of online learning? Even accessing MOOCs still requires a degree of technical ability, and it certainly requires access to computers, smartphones and notebooks, not to mention reliable WIFI or other connectivity systems. Perhaps, then, online learning has the potential to create an even bigger divide between the haves and have nots, regardless of the cost of the actual course. And again, there is conflicting evidence about how well we learn from online resources only.

Researchers are studying the effects of reading and learning from screens as opposed to the printed page, and the results are intriguing. There are indications that whilst students are totally comfortable with the medium and that they’re able to process information, retention rates and complex thinking are a different story. Students are less able to make connections between ideas, and tend to remember or recall information rather than really learn. Digital information is not linear in the same way as the traditional printed source, and requires the brain to undertake some different processing and decision-making tasks whilst absorbing the information. This might be interfering with learning.

There may a still be a place for blended learning in the future. The approach may mitigate some of the potential problems of the digital age. The combination of digital and face-to-face teaching might allow those with differing learning styles to thrive in a way that best suits them. But it does require commitment to both mediums – commitment, that is, from the student and the instructor. Unfortunately, some instructors are still falling into the ‘digital immigrant’ category and there is discussion around whether teachers have the capacity to keep up with their students and feed their natural desire for more online content and interaction.

But perhaps what’s most worrying about education in the digital age is the lack of critical analysis. In fact, in whichever medium instruction takes place, students are lacking the skills to discern fact from fiction, argument from manipulation. Pre electronic resources, students could reasonably assume that a book or a journal article would be a sound source of accurate information. Now there’s more obligation to warn students about the fallibility of Wikipedia, and alert them to the possibility of ‘fake news’. Students should be excited about the wealth of resources accessible to them and the potential it gives them to expand their thinking, creativity and idea generation. But we might need to remind them that anyone with a notebook and WIFI can post something to the web – how do we know what’s true and what’s just vitriol.

There’s no doubt that technology will continue to have a tremendous impact on the future of education. The pressure will be on universities and private organisations to ensure that they grasp the opportunities and confront the difficulties in a way that allows the next generation to thrive.

 

Sources

Prensky, Marc (2009) “H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,” Innovate: Journal of Online Education: Vol. 5: Iss. 3, Article 1.

Available at: http://nsuworks.nova.edu/innovate/vol5/iss3/1

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