Archive for May, 2011

May 24, 2011

Digital natives debate

Is Generation Y composed of “digital natives” always passionate about ICT? The use of these technologies would be a surefire way to attract the “young” and enable them to learn?

Digital natives?

Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer those that our educational system was designed to teach, exclaimed Marc Prensky in his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, published in 2001. For him, the emergence of ICT in the broad sense represents a real breakthrough, “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” This represents, according to him, a real change in brain structures, or at least formats of thought (thinking patterns). Really?

He compares these “digital natives” to “digital migrants” who did not grow up with these technologies and, even when they have adapted, have kept the habits of the past, as, according to him: not turn first to the Internet when seeking information, read a leaflet, printed emails or documents before reading them…

The “digital natives” described by Prensky are accustomed to quick access to information, process together several tasks at once, to network, they prefer to play rather than do serious work, they prefer access information via the graphics rather than via text, they access to information randomly using hyperlinks  rather than sequential order…

In fact, it seems to me that Prensky, in this paper, is mixing a lot of things:

  • learning strategies (preference of visual text, the random sequence, which also concerns many people in older age)
  • facilities related to age (be multitask, ability to work while listening to music, being a privilege of youth)
  • and new ways of accessing information related to ICT (hypertext links, quick access to information, networking).

Talking about playing or learning… nothing is new about it, what is new is the opportunity to do it on a mobile or a computer … Now tell me wether the guy who painted the walls on Lascaux Cave was more sequential or less multitask than the typical Gen Y teen?

Hey Mark? Think again – Much ado about nothing… When dealing with ICT, we are all some sort of refugees. Our students as well as ourselves have to face a constant upgrade of our knowledge. Those who do not want to do it will become digital illiterate.

On the topic, PBS’Frontline- A Digital Nation, is worth seeing.


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On The Horizon. MBC University Press

Bennet, S. , Matton, K. & Kevin, L. (2008). The “digital natives” debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786.

May 24, 2011

ICT and current trends

I remember the time when my son entered Kindergarten. He was spending time playing in the sand pit with Lego bricks, climbing trees and playing handball with his friends. His teacher was close to retirement but we called this “experience”.

Two or three years after the school has installed IWBs in every classroom and hired a younger teacher. She was younger, probably a “digital native” and she decided to create a blog. If we wanted to know what was going on during the day, we just had to log on the Brainy Bunch Year 3 blog and everything was there.

Now, every evening, for about 1 to 2 hours, both of my kids (7 yo and 10 yo) are using the computer. Playing video games? Not only ! They are “working”. One is checking his blog to see if his teacher has set up some homework for the week, the other is browsing the net to research “population facts” for his next public speaking contest. Both will have their maths homework set up on the Australian-born-now-world-famous mathletics website  ( They will spend at least 20 minutes doing maths online. Our school, the public school around the corner, is providing every student with a registration number to log on to this website, as well as an email address. I am thinking of buying a third laptop: being a teacher, I have to work on a computer. What is shown in this video is a typical example of evening number crunching experienced by more and more Australian families.

That was real life, sorry… Well, what are the trends in the business?

Interactive white boards (IWBs) are without doubt the most significant current trend in ICT. In the powerpoint presentation (Campbell and Kent) the authors talk about how ICTs can promote higher order thinking by allowing content that can be easily created/manipulated. The four main types of activities available are sorting, ordering, labelling and puzzle/game/simulation games.

In various ways (via wireless keyboards and specific response devices), students are also able to make responses that are immediately recorded graphically on the white board. By doing this, student motivation is largely enhanced and they are able to physically interact with learning tasks.

Another important development in terms of ICT is what can be produced by students as a result of their learning. From the perspective of my teaching area French/Languages, students can script and produce films, create their own interactive video presentations, they can work together on Wikispace to produce collaborative short stories.

IWB’s in the classroom is the big thing around. But as important is the importance of mobile phones, internet and educational websites.  But tell me, how was teaching before this?

Educational games are taking more and more importance as teaching tools. I remember when I first started working as a Videogame Producer in Paris, I was part of the Ubisoft team working on the blockbuster Rayman. The game was so successful worldwide and we wanted to grab some share of the Edutainment business – so we produced a Rayman Education version, aiming to draw the attention of students, parents and teachers.

Have a look at the demo.

Back to the boards. Kent (2007) is detailing the current trends in IWB’s and the implications for education.

“Currently e-Teaching is made up o fa number of general elements.  Briefly, and in no particular order, these elements are:

  • Digital Convergence – Every application and device that can operate in conjunction with the operating computer can operate with the IWB.  These applications and devices can be thought as converging through the IWB.  This convergence provides a new and wider range of resources and activities that can be used within the classroom.
  • Interactive Content – As opposed to a ‘traditional’ whiteboard, interactive whiteboards allow for content that can easily be interacted with.  Through this interaction teachers and students can more effectively explore ideas, facilitating discussion about the underlying concept being taught, rather than a shallow focus on the content. Knowledge can be presented as problematic
  • Interactive Contexts – Without an IWB the sources of information available to a teacher within a teaching context is often limited to text books and personal knowledge. This lack of variety in sources of information often places restrictions on teachers’ ability to modify lessons to ensure that they are appropriate, relevant and engaging to students. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to source information and content from a wide variety of sources that they can change the context of the content of their lessons adding relevance and engagement for students.  Students  have the ability to have a say in the contexts of the lessons.
  • Complex Connections – Taking advantage of the fact that all lessons and resources used in conjunction with an IWB can be saved and easily retrieved, teachers have the extra ability to scaffold new learning onto pre-existing knowledge.  Students can also be encouraged to create links within their learning via exploring the student question “is this like when…..?”
  • Building Community – Often the quality of relationships within a community can be enhanced if individuals gain a greater understanding of each other. IWBs provide an expanded range of ways that students within a class can share their learning and express themselves. This concept can also apply to an entire school should the school have IWBs distributed throughout classrooms.
  • Metacognition / Reflection – IWBs and ICTs have the ability to quickly ‘capture’ thoughts and reflections using audio-visual recording. These ‘captured’ thoughts can then form the basis of both in class and later reflection. Students can revisit their thoughts in order to better understand the learning process. They can learn to learn.”

I really like the’ learn to learn’ motto. It works for me as I try to empower my students to teach themselves. I set up the goal, the end-result, the outcome that I want. I give them the tools they will need, the time frame. I make myself available and I … wait. They are learning to teach themselves.

After all, this is what my role is all about.

ICTs can help here by allowing a rich flow of content. A good example of some of the neat things we can use on IWBs: I have found this audio-game in the main French resource website. There are plenty of that kind of things…Trouver un emploi


Kent,P (2007) “Evolving E-Teaching; Integrating ICT’s and IWBs Strategically” Teacher Professional Development Work Book. Practical Interactivity.

(Picture of Rayman Edu -Copyright Ubisoft, Paris)

May 24, 2011

Pedagogical beliefs and ICT Integration

Peggy Ertmer is a true believer. I mean she knows it’s hard to believe but…

In her 2005 article, she spends nearly 15 pages telling us that “teachers’ pedagogical beliefs” are related to their “technology practices”. It is probably noble to make the attempt but there are so many issues that the article is pessimistic. There is the issue of beliefs in general, teachers’ beliefs about pedagogy and how these flow from general beliefs, the fact that beliefs don’t need to always be connected with reality, the way people don’t even always act out of their beliefs (particularly in teaching), how resistant beliefs are to change and how these become connected with technology usage in schools. Well, I would strongly encourage Ertmer to hire a consultant if she ever plans to ever roll out ICTs in a classroom. I have one here.

At least, close to the end of the article, the most relevant statement in the whole discussion is made, “relatively few researchers have examined the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and their classroom uses of technology.” In brief, we don’t know for sure if pedagogical beliefs make any difference to use of technology by teachers. A large share of the article is spent on recommending why and how teachers’ beliefs should be changed even though it has not been established that in fact it makes any difference.

I like Brown’s first words in his 2005 article. As he plans to challenge “some of the taken-for-granted assumptions about the potential of ICT in schools”. He is ready to rumble and he raises some of the concerns about the move toward revolutionary change advocated by those on the  “digital natives” side of the debate. His main concern is what he perceives to be a socio-political drive behind the intense push for ICT and changes in pedagogy in education. He describes what he calls a“neo-liberal/economic globalization” thrust behind this push.

Brown is not against the use of ICT in schools but he is just questioning the“neo-conservative” hidden agenda behind the growth of ICT in schools. He is really keen to start a “deeper intellectual debate” in the development of educational policy “before blind faith in the potential of the ICT-cloaked in the language of new ways of (e)learning-steers the teaching profession further away from the time-honored goals of education, that is, promoting equity, fairness and social justice.”

’The key point is that most politicians and policy-makers appear to be enamored with the seductive appeal of what ICT can do for us and they give little or no attention to the unknown and potential negative effects of what new digital technology might do to us. The overriding impression is that teachers should be embracing ICT rather than critically thinking about the way in which the new pedagogy acts as a language of persuasion to legitimize someone elses hegemonic agenda.”

A perfect example of his point to my mind is the industrial revolution. The economic benefits were significant for certain parts of society in the western world (and for the developing world today) but the social/cultural by-products were far from desirable. It is not alarmist to carefully consider the implications of ICT introduction in schools rather than to see negative consequences (that could have been avoided if more sober reflection had been entered into) and say “Oh sorry about that. Oh well, not to worry!”.

The sponsorship of a particularly slick presentation promoting ICT in education featuring comments from  world wide educational academic “heavy hitters” by Nokia is a matter of concern (Introduction to Technology and21st Century Learning). I wonder if Nokia is now in charge of educating people.

Meantime, Catholic schools in Sydney are happy to promote Apple and their latest product already by putting their library on Ipads. Should we see that as a matter of a concern or a real opportunity? Time will tell.


Ertmer, P.A. (2005). Teacher pedagogical beliefs: The Final frontier in our quest for technology integration? Educational Technology Research & Development, 53(4), 25-39.

Brown, M. (2005). The Growth of entreprise pedagogy: How ICT policy is infected by neo-liberalism. Australia Educational Computing, 20(2), 16-22.

May 24, 2011

Mobile learning

When it comes to mobile learning think again.

Who is doing more today for embedding  learning than Apple or Nokia? And I bet that the e-G8 people who are meeting these day in Paris will have something to say on the subject.

For sure, swell stuff is coming. I hope very soon. Something like that?

Something will come. The question is to know what. After this disappointing, Copenhagen-like e-G8, we need  to understand that BIG things are still a Work In Progress.

But we still can find swell stuff everywhere to help us.

The amount of truly educational stuff that you can do with smart phones is amazing! I am not talking about texting, facebooking or tweeting, playing games in class, listening to music … I am talking about having your own uni embedded in my phone… There are geographical applications, instant surveys, diaries, glossaries, virtual museum visits, books, documentaries, uni courses and not to mention heaps of potentially useful applications. It has come to a stage that if you want pretty much anything …there’s an app for that!

The powerpoint presentation highlighted eight pedagogical considerations facilitated by mobile learning. These were problem-based learning, situational learning, learning from the constructivist perspective, context awareness learning (the virtual visits to museums and galleries mentioned above), embracing the “socio-cultural theory of learning, collaborative learning, conversational learning (among peers) and activity learning.

The problems for teachers seem to be firstly knowing about all the useful applications and secondly knowing how to make best use of these applications.

Another issue is the big business willing to enter the market. Leaving aside the as yet unexamined consequences of the “screen culture”, it is clear that the big companies in the ICT area are in the business to make as much money as possible. It is clear that they will be keen for their equipment to be used in education as quickly as possible with funding coming from government. Mobile learning has obviously been successful already to some capacity: Mixing learning and mobile to get education for all

May 24, 2011

ICT as a cognitive tool

Well – should I talk about what makes every teacher keen to use ICT in his classroom very proud of himself? The webquest.

All right… so what is a webquest?

In the lecture material, webquests are described as ‘frameworks that allow rich learning experiences”. They are “inquiry based projects which are scaffolded to produce constructivist learning environments”.

Here and there, we have numerous descriptions of what a good webquest should look like, but Dodges (1995) gives us the main basic steps. According to him, every webquest should have:

  • an introduction
  • a task
  • some information sources
  • a process (which is divided into steps)
  • a guidance / assessment
  • a conclusion

Students should be split into group activities that should be “wrapped” with “motivational elements”. We should be giving students a role to play, such as reporter, travel agent, group leader, or whatever. Dodges gives us as well some very interesting ideas about what students may produce when doing their webquest.

For McKenzie (2000), motivation and questioning style are the most important factors in successful webquests. “Without strong questioning skills, you are just a passenger on someone else’s tour bus. You may be on the highway but someone else is doing the driving… The weaker the questioning and learning skills, the less value one is likely to discover or uncover.” I like that!

The prime questions are apparently ‘why?, how/ and which?”. McKenzie strongly advises us to put the motivation at the center of all things and to ask real questions – I mean questions which enable students to make their own minds. Empowering questions.

I have created my own webquest. I will ask my students to do it and I will provide some feedback.

Having said that, webquests are not the only exercise which make ICTs a cognitive tool.

On this blog, I have used a selection of graphics/images, video clips, sound files, graphic organiser and online learning games. The psychologist Howard Gardner has pointed out that people have different optimal learning styles. Even if I find his vision a bit simplistic at times, it helps us consider that students have special needs. Material presented in a way that is very helpful for the visual learner for instance may be quite difficult for a kinesthetic learner to apprehend.

The use of  different materials allows students to be engaged with material that cater for more than one learning style at a time. This will increase the motivation of the students and enhance the teaching.

Graphics and images help students who have a more visual/spatial learning style as well as the logical/mathematical learning style ones.

Video clips cater for the visual/spatial and the interpersonal styles of learning. I use numerous video clips in my French course. In my “Digital natives” post, I have summed up Prensky’s article. But why not insert a documentary on a related topic? All of this will add authenticity to teaching and learning and can give students an experience of somehow much more engaging.

Sound files can also assist the musical/rhythmic people to connect with what is being presented. They can just be used to add a ‘wow’ factor and increase engagement. On a cognitive level, material that is presented on paper and in sound is ‘encoded’ through two different modes of reception and therefore is more likely to be retained. For example, when presenting a video clip with a dialogue, make sure the students have a script of the dialogue.

Graphic organisers connect with the visual/spatial and logical/ mathematical learners. On a cognitive level, being presented with information graphically in place of or in addition to describing it in a narrative makes it again, more likely to be retained.

Online games can definitely help the bodily/kinesthetic learners. This is particularly so if there are tasks which call on them to manipulate objects on the whiteboard. These games again increase engagement/attention and use the “multimodal” effects ensuring that the effective learning will take place.

ICTs, when applied thoroughly in the classroom, can increase immediacy and “multimodality”.  But there is a risk that they may as well freeze creativity. In getting such a flow of rich, superbly organised material, students may not be inclined to expect that all the creative work should be done for them… by teachers.

That being said, ICTs can be used by students to create an enormous range of art, film, animation, music and language or literary productions.


Dodge, B. (1995). Some Thoughts About WebQuests.

McKenzie, J. (nd). The Question is the answer.

University of Michigan, Department of Psychology

May 24, 2011

Social constructivism

All the ideas contained in this picture relate to social constructivism.

What do I mean?

In a truly constructivist perspective, what we have here is a student-based, student-led and student-controlled activity. The teacher (not shown) is probably acting as a facilitator. He has set up the outcome (“how about building a fantastic wall?”), shown the tools and the first steps (“Hey, what do we have here? bricks? what can we do with bricks? How?…). This is an empowering exercise: each student will learn and then teach another student. In order to teach, they have to understand. With Jonassen, we can say that “knowledge is constructed, emergent and grounded in action and experience”. This experience allows students to construct knowledge, to think and to learn.

As stated by Brewer and Daane (2002), many teachers call themselves constructivist teachers but “there are no set guidelines… for teachers to follow to become constructivist teachers”. All right, so what’s the point.. As I am very busy being a teacher these days and I have no time for articles that start so badly and no burning desire to dig deeper… But why is everyone talking about constructivism?  I might have missed something. “Constructivist learning includes an importance on process, the exchange of differing points of view, and an emphasis on problem solving.” Great… I might have been a constructivist teacher without noticing I was being one.


Brewer, J., Daane, C.J. (2002). Translating Constructivist Theory into Practice in Primary-Grade mathematics.

Jonassen (nd). Meaningful Learning with Technology