Unit 8: Emerging Technology and Final Thoughts

This is the last week of EDU 625: Integrating Learning and Technology. Throughout the past eight weeks, I journeyed through various new technologies and now have a better idea of the available technologies as well as how to integrate them into my learning philosophy. As a result, my conception of what it means to both learn and teach in our evolving world. During this unit, I explored emerging technologies and their implications for education. What are the emerging technologies and their implications for education? How will they affect the makeup of the classroom? How will these technologies alter pedagogy? How does the emerging social culture affect teaching and learning? Below, I will focus on these broad questions as well as my experiences researching emerging technologies. Additionally, the final section will discuss the culmination of my overall experience of the course and detail the growth of my learning philosophy, key issues in terms of learning enhancement, personal challenges expected and personal plans for the continuation of learning.

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What are Emerging Technologies?

            Emerging Technologies are those technologies that are under development and refinement which have the potential for enhancing education…if used correctly in a pedagogic context. I want to specifically focus on Augmented Reality (AR) as the emerging technology with the greatest implications for aiding learners. What is AR, you ask? AR is “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view” (Oxford University Press, 2014). A popular example is Google Glass, but also includes mobile applications that utilize the camera to view pop-up information relative to the objects being viewed and one’s location. It’s walking through a city and instantly receiving information on buildings, sites and on-screen access to social networking communities.

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            Key Issues and Concepts

            The first concept I that jumped out at me was the changing educational environment in this century. It’s a move from formal education to more informal education, from teacher-centered to student-led, from highly structured to learner-led and educator-monitored, towards a sharing and collaborative-based system (Wheeler, 2012). More and more, students have the chance to take learning into their own hands under the guidance of a teacher. This type of empowerment can make the material come alive to the learner, thus leading to sincere, deep learning. Technology is in no way slowing down and the ability to leverage new technology for learning is, I believe, the greatest consequence. But what should the classroom look like in this context? Kuhn (2012) gives a great example with the obsolescence of the computer lab. Instead of using school funds to purchase quickly outdated computers, the using of ever-more ubiquitous mobile devices is vital. Students’ own smart phones, tablets or laptops can be used to replace time spent using school devices in a room of computers. Instead, we should see the “elimination of the computer lab in favor of embedded digital tools in classrooms” (Kuhn, 2012, para. 7). Integrating mobile devices along with a smart board is a simple way to make the change. Students can individually use devices in a richer environment during class-time to connect their experiences and concepts to new material, and share their findings in a collaborative way with their peers. What about no classroom? Or, as Sugata Mitra (2013) puts it, a school in the cloud. His research and experimentation with Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) breaks education down to the basics of broadband, collaboration and encouragement. He discovered that children can pretty much figure anything out with this formula (notice the absence of a teacher). Another area to consider is the time spent to master a skill. In my educational context I deal with English Language Learners (ELL), where English comprehension and fluency are the desired end-goals. Allen, Couretas & Shemwell (2012) relate the fact that it takes 10,000 hours (or about 5 years) of experience to reach the level of mastery, but with the use of virtual education, mastery can be conceivably achieved in about 1.5 years! My university students have studied English for upwards of 13 years and many still struggle with some basic features of grammar. If virtual/AR technology had been available at the start of their education, they would definitely be at a more advanced level of English. Virtualized education is successful and should be leveraged for learning in all contexts, see for yourself with LearnAR.

            My Experience

            I created a learning activity using Innovega’s AR glasses, iOptik. They combine mobile applications AR interface that seamlessly give relevant information to the viewer based on their location and view of objects with the ease of access of Google Glass with the added effect of a giant screen. The iOptiks displays what the viewer is looking at (along with the additional information) on what seems to be a 240-inch screen from ten feet away, this is achieved with the added use of contact lenses (Angelica, 2013). While creating the activity, I constantly improved on the design, new ideas popping up effortlessly until I integrated everything I could think of to aid in learning. Basically, iOptiks have the ability to become the entire learning experience, perhaps moving teachers from teaching to a guidance role. Overall, I was blown away by what AR can already do: the interactivity and illustrative capabilities can make learning an extremely engaging experience. While exploring emerging technologies, I was forced to reminisce about my own fledgling process of using new technologies. I like to explore new technologies through doing rather than reading about them, but I find that I sometimes miss some of the capabilities of the technology, leading me to not utilize it to its fullest potential. One day, I went for advice from a more experienced colleague of mine to try and get the hang of Diigo, a tool used for annotating web pages. We quickly struck up a conversation about new technologies and have continued that dialogue until now. I didn’t know it at the time, but we created a two-man learning team. Kuhn (2012) sees the integration of new technology into pedagogy as a challenge that could be more thoroughly assessed through learning teams. In a learning team environment, one could have the added collaboration factor in pushing the technology to its limits to better discover all it can really do. Also, the fact that one can discuss the implications of the technology with other team members allows a supportive environment to experiment in. The implementation of a larger learning team in my educational context would ultimately allow for a richer and more effective learning environment for my learners.

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   Overall Observations

            The most notable observation I made was that, with the use of AR, it seems like immersive virtual worlds like Second Life (SL) are becoming a part of the real life experience. Instantaneous information is akin to embedded objects in SL. This reminds me of the koan-like question of: Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? Moving this concept to AR and SL becomes: Do immersive virtual worlds imitate the real world, or does the real world imitate immersive virtual worlds? I don’t know if there’s a clear-cut answer, but I suspect that it’s a mix of both and a flow exists between the two. The upside is that better technology for enhancing education naturally evolves between the two systems. The downside for me is the apparent creepiness (for lack of a better word) of living inside a screen, although I suppose young learners will be perfectly comfortable within and switching between the worlds of screens.

            Conclusions

            Maddux & Johnson (2011) pointed out that the difference between real innovation and a pipe dream in terms of efficacy in education is cultural momentum (p. 87). Cultural momentum. Is there a demand for the technology? Is it widespread? Has it become an industry in its own right? If the answers are yes, then I would say cultural momentum exists and the technology can be easily transferred into the educational realm. I believe AR has the cultural momentum to aid in learning, it’s now up to the educator to effectively integrate AR into learning activities.

            Final Thoughts (Final Course Project!)

            When I started this program at Post University, I didn’t see myself as a particularly technologically adept, but it was time for me to overcome my anxiety and catch up with the rest of the world, if not for myself then for the benefit of my students. This course has hands-down been the richest learning experience thus far with direct applicability to my educational contexts. Each unit I discovered tools that I will definitely use in the coming school year (except, perhaps, SL). This has ultimately led to an evolution of my personal learning philosophy towards an even more collaborative model which includes a personalized, student-centered pedagogy as opposed to the continuation of the ‘sage on a stage’ lecturer I have generally been up until now. This completely changes the way I teach and how I support my students. I am now seriously considering a flipped classroom. It’s been coming up more and more consistently and I think it’s time for me to again overcome my anxiety in terms of changing my teaching style to benefit learners. I now see the benefits that can be had and realize that I haven’t been giving my students enough autonomy. I think that if I give them the right resources, guidance and the chance, they will pleasantly surprise me.

The biggest key issue of using technology to actually enhance learning is Bloom’s digital/revised taxonomy. Even with all these great, easy to use technologies and the possibilities of learning with AR, it’s still the teacher’s responsibility to pose the right questions, to give the right balance of guidance and freedom to ensure that higher-level thinking is being achieved. Another issue is one of data reliability. Teaching students about what reliable data looks like, discerning credible sources and arranging data in meaningful ways are skills paramount to survival in our age of information. Other issues I want to touch on are those of the apparent limitations of new and emerging technologies. First of all, there needs to be a common level of ease of access to the technologies themselves and then to the information they provide. The digital divide springs to mind, as does internet connectivity and limitations of the device itself (processing ability, etc.). Another issue is the fact that most of these technologies (excluding the physical computing device) are free and conceivably available to everyone!!! In the commoditized world of the textbook industry and profit-focused universities we live in, this is truly a rare but growing phenomenon. Lastly, the withdrawal from physical, social experiences and conversations into a touch screen in the name of connectedness seems paradoxical. I try to limit my use of mobile devices in social settings accordingly, but I’m still alarmed at the habit I’ve formed of continuously checking my phone to see if anything is ‘going on’. I see the recognition of physical, human socialization as one of the most defining characteristics of being human, and we need to keep that in mind with emerging technologies.

Personally, my greatest challenges relating to technology and learning include making sure that Bloom’s higher-level thinking has the ability to take place in my learning activities. This should always be kept at the forefront of every activity as a guiding principal. I think I have developed this area during the course; I see technology as the medium through which, ideally, learning takes place, with the educator as more of a manager of posing the correct questions in order to guide students in the right direction. What I see as my other main challenge is my ability to keep up with new and emerging technologies. Each tool is unique and takes time to become familiar with and even more time to become proficient in using it to its fullest possibilities. With so many tools available, it sometimes leads me to be indecisive in choosing what to use. What I think I need to do is pick a few tools that I will regularly use and become as proficient as I can in them. This brings up my last challenge: managing all of the tools I want to use. Sometimes I use a tool and completely forget about it until I stumble upon it one day and realize I could have been utilizing something really valuable for my students. I think some kind of checklist would come in handy to keep track of the tools I am somewhat familiar with.

My personal plans for next steps in learning hinge on the integration of technologies that I discovered in this course. I want to make the complete switch from PowerPoint to Prezi and convert all of my presentations into the Prezi format. I also want to incorporate PowToon and Audacity as well as making my own games (probably with Zondle) and make Wikis for my classes, forming my core tools in the classroom. Using these technologies will subsequently lead me to learn more about the interaction between technology and learning in my classes and improve more upon my skills in presenting information in a meaningful and engaging fashion. What I’m really excited about are mobile applications. The fact that students have access to cheap, bootlegged smart phones makes it a reality that literally all of my students in lower secondary classes have smart phones. I will use EduCreations and keep exploring other mobile apps (and even try making my own) for use in and out of the classroom, the sky is truly the limit in this field. I also want to formally extend my two-man learning team into a larger Community of Practice (CoP) and bring the discussion of integrating new technologies in education to a wider audience in my educational environments. Doing so would help me learn even more about the technologies I wish to implement, as I would discuss with colleagues the benefits and ways to use the technologies and learn from everyone else’s experiences as well. I can’t wait to show my students how we’re going to learn next school year.

References

Allen, P., Couretas, J., & Shemwell, S. (Spring, 2012). Virtual world training for real-world readiness. Offshore. Retrieved from https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-             1870304-dt-content-rid-19160395_1/courses/EDU625.901238026230/Documents /Virtual%20World%20Training%20for%20Real%20World%20Readiness.pdf

Angelica, A. D. (2014, January 7). Panoramic hi-res augmented reality glasses: most radical CES intro so far? [Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.kurzweilai.net/panoramic-hi-res-augmented-reality-glasses-most-radical- ces-intro-so-far

Kuhn, B. (2012, September 1). Making Educational Technology Choices. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.shift2future.com/2012/09/making-educational-technology-          choices.html

Maddux, C. D. & Johnson, D. L. (2011). Future trends in educational technology in education. Computers in the Schools, 28:87–91. Mitra, S. (2013, February). Build a school in the cloud. Speech at TED2013. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud

Oxford University Press. (2014). Definition of Augmented Reality in English. Augmented Reality: Definition of Augmented Reality in Oxford Dictionary (British & World English).       Retrieved from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/augmented-reality

Wheeler, K. (2012). Corporate learning in the 21st century. [Presentation slides]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/kwheeler/corporate-learning-in-21st-century

All images licensed under creative commons.

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