Sunday, 30 October 2011

For or against Connectivism as a learning theory?

In December 2004, George Siemens, who had a keen interest in the area of e-learning, proposed Connectivism as a new learning theory. He argued that existing learning theories did not provide for the changing nature of learning due to the influence of technological advances. Although Siemens’ Connectivism is not a universally accepted theory of learning by academics, he argued that if properly applied, it has the potential to significantly improve education through the revision of educational perspectives and generate a greater shift towards learner-centered education (Siemens, 2004). In this paper I will be focussing on what connectivism is, and how connectivist is used in education as a new learning theory. I will also discuss arguments as to why some academics accepted Connectivism as a learning theory and why other academics were against connectivism as a universal learning theory.

According to the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia Connectivism was introduced as a learning theory that had its foundations set on the fact that “knowledge” is present in the world rather than in the head of an individual (Wikipedia, 2011). Connectivism suggests a frame of reference similar to Vygotsky’s Activity theory in the sense that it describes knowledge to be present within systems which are accessed through people participating in activities (Wikipedia, 2011). It also “touches” on Bandura’s concept of Social Learning in that it suggests that people learn through contact, by giving attention to how people live, communicate and learn (Wikipedia, 2011).

In Connectivism, learning takes place through the process of a learner connecting to and by feeding information into a learning community. Siemens argues that: “a community is the clustering of similar areas of interest that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing, and thinking together (Siemens, 2004).

According to Siemens the starting point of Connectivism is the individual. He argued that personal knowledge comprise of a network, which feeds into a organisations and institutions, all part of a learning community. The learning community then forms part of a larger network and is described as a node in the connectivist model (Siemens, 2004). The nodes are established from the connection points that are found on a network. In this particular case a network comprises more than one node linked in order to distribute resources. These nodes may have different sizes and strengths. It all depends on the focus of information and the number of persons who are “navigating” through a particular node (Downes, 2008).

In Connectivism, knowledge according to Siemens, can be stored in a number of different digital formats and is distributed across an information network.  Siemens argued that learning and knowledge are said to “rest in diversity of opinions” (Siemens, 2004). Learning transpires through the use of both the cognitive and the affective domains; cognition and the emotions both contribute to the learning process in important ways (Siemens, 2004).

With the changes in the development of technology, information also changes constantly (Siemens, 2004). It can happen that technology’s validity and accuracy may change over time, depending on the finding of new contributions pertaining to a subject. Connectivism stresses two important skills that contribute to learning:

·         the ability to seek out current information,

·         the ability to filter less important and not pertinent information (Siemens, 2004).

Siemens further stated that: “The capacity to know is more critical than what is actually known” (Siemens, 2004) The ability to make decisions on the basis of acquired information is measured as an integral part of the learning process (Siemens, 2004).
According to Downes Connectivism differs from other theories in the sense that “it denies that knowledge is propositional” (Downes, 2008) and that other theories are labelled as 'cognitivist theories because they depict knowledge and learning as being grounded in language and logic (Downes, 2008). He furthermore describes knowledge as a set of connections formed by actions and experience that may consist in part of linguistic structures.

Downes is of the opinion that a phrase like 'constructing meaning' in Connectivism makes no sense. According to him, “connections form naturally, through a process of association, and are not 'constructed' through some sort of intentional action” (Downes, 2008). Downes describes “meaning” as a property of language and logic, expressing referential and representational properties of physical symbol systems.

Downes argued that there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge in connectivism. He stated that the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing “or developing ourselves and our society in connected ways” Downes, 2008).

Kop and Hill argued that the key strength of Connectivism is in the use of web-based activity as an example of learning. Siemens and Downes acknowledged that the world wide web and its online environment was central to the development of connectivism.  They stressed that it is inclusive to other learning environments, but they did not provide any concrete examples of how it may be applied (Kop and Hill, 2008).

Kop and Hill pointed out that learning are based on and part of networks, Siemens’ Connectivist approach is essentially about cognitive development, and does not attempt to explain the socialisation processes “inherent” in the networked world” (Kop and Hill, 2008).

Verhagen argued that the principles of Connectivism were already present in established learning theories, and that Connectivism as a viable model will supply backup to pedagogy and curriculum rather than affirm a learning theory (Verhagen, 2006).

Out of principle I would like to support and agree with Jenny Mackness’ argument that “whether Connectivism is a theory or not detracts from what for me are the more important questions raised by Downes and Siemens and these are:

·    How is technology changing the way we think and learn?
  • How is technology changing the way we teach?
  • Do we need to challenge traditional ways of working in education? (Mackness, 2010).
Although I support the idea that technology is changing the way we think and learn, I do not support the Connectivism learning theory as proposed by Siemens. Research has shown that in order to promote Connectivism an online environment is vital. Although we live in a society where social networking is at the order of the day, learners in schools from all over the world do not currently have the language and technical ability to support social collaboration and learning by connecting to an online environment using a tool such as a computer to feed information into a learning community, that allows for interaction, sharing, dialoguing, and thinking together (Siemens, 2004).

References

Downes, S. 2008. What Connectivism is. Internet source. Accessed 15 October 2011. Available from:


Kerr, B. (2007). A Challenge to Connectivism. Online Connectivism Conference. University of Manitoba. http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Kerr_Presentation

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning 9(3).
http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103

Mackness, J. 2010. Connectivism and connective knowledge: Attacks on connectivism. Internet source. Accessed on 20 October 2011. Available from:  http://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/attacks-on-connectivism/

Siemens, G. 2004. Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age, International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2.
Verhagen, P. (2006). Connectivism: A new learning theory? Internet source. Accessed 20 October 2011. Available form: http://www.surfspace.nl/nl/Redactieomgeving/Publicaties/Documents/Connectivism%20a%20new%20theory.pdf

Wikipedia. Free online Encyclopedia. Internet source. Accessed 26 October 2011. Available from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism_(learning_theory)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

ICT Tools will not change the educational system, nor will it encourage a new pedagogy!

According to Perraton, Robinson and Creed teaching is becoming one of the most challenging professions in our society where knowledge is expanding rapidly and much of it is available to students as well as teachers at the same time (Perraton, Robinson, & Creed, 2001).

New technological devices were developed in most cases for purposes other than education (Amiel & Reeves, 2008), but due to the demands of the 21st century educational technologists, neo-liberalist and other interest groups, these technologies were introduced to education to enhance the impact of teaching and learning in the classrooms.  


In a number of cases these devices, as tools of mediation, had very little impact on teaching and learning. Starting four decades ago with the introduction of handheld calculators that were considered to be very important in raising the results for for underachieving maths students  did not have the effect that researchers wanted it to have. The expected outcome of the use of this new technology was much lower than anticipated (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). A number of case studies have shown, with exception of a few resourced schools (Bingimlas, 2009), that ICT did not trigger the change that researchers wanted it to have (OECD, 2010).
I think it is important to get a better understanding as to what changed in teaching and learning. I would like to look at the differences between 20th and the 21st century classroom. The 20th century classroom was a text book driven environment where learners had to work passively in isolation within the four walls of the room, compared to the 21st century classroom. The 21st century classroom is a more research driven environment due to the availability of tools such as ICT, and this is an active learning environment where learners work collaboratively with classmates and others around the world, because of the availability of Internet and other networks (Mitra, 2011). Researchers refers to the term Global Classroom.

Education departments in developing countries over the world started a number of e-Initiatives in the hope of achieving many developmental goals in “what seems to be straight forwarded achievable ICT based programmes” (Mofleh, S. & Wanous, M, 2008). Mofleh and Wanous argued that although e-learning which was considered to be one of the second largest projects in Jordan, the project has not been able to deliver it's most important intended goals due to a lack of focus, and the fact that decision makers did not understanding the real needs of businesses, schools and people (Mofleh, S. & Wanous, M, 2008). .

Amiel and Reeves argued that money spent on computers in classrooms could much rather ave been invested into the appointment of teachers instead of following a global pattern of investing money into tools that have failed the system in most cases (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). They substantiated their argument with the statement: "What evidence exists that the expenditures on educational technologies such as computers and Internet access have been worthwhile?" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). They quoted professor Larry Cuban of the Stanford University in that "e-learning in most public schools turned out to be word processing and Internet searches" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008). I consider that to be a waste of time, money and under utilisation of tools and human resources.

According to a study done by Eacea, it was found that there is evidence from the research that ICT is pedagogically under-utilised. They argued that ICT can promote new pedagogical approaches only if fully integrated into subject lessons, but teachers tend to lack the pedagogical vision to integrate ICT effectively in teaching (Eacea, 2011).

In a study done by Eacea in 30 countries that invested in teachers’ digital competence development, it was found that many teachers entering the profession have little formal training in using ICT. Their research showed that professional development lacks a pedagogical dimension and is not matched to needs. According to them, reliable technical and inspiring pedagogical support for teachers is often missing (Eacea, 2011).


According to Koehler and Mishra, teaching with technology is complicated because of the challenges newer technologies present to teachers. Complicating teaching with technology is an understanding that technologies are “neither neutral nor unbiased and that certain technologies have their own propensities, potentials, affordances, and constraints that make them more suitable for certain tasks than others” (Koehler & Mishra, 2007). Social and contextual factors also complicate the relationships between teaching and technology and some teachers find it very hard to integrate technology into their work, because they have inadequate experience and qualified at a time when educational technology was at a very different stage of development than it is today. This is why they do not consider themselves sufficiently prepared to use technology in the classroom and often do not appreciate its value or relevance to teaching and learning (Koehler & Mishra, 2007).

Ferdig argued that two main building blocks upon which ‘good’ innovations are created, are good pedagogy and good people (Ferdig, 2005). He furthermore explains “that a good innovation is one where technology and pedagogy are not separated, and that a good innovation also engages a “process that enhances the relationships among innovator, educator, and learner” (Ferdig, 2005). He stated that “a good technology innovation is one that is integrated with academic content and good pedagogical practice, and that learning should take place from a social constructivist perspective” (Ferdig, 2005).

Amiel and Reeves argued that "If anything should have been learned from research in the field of educational technology by researchers and practitioners alike, is that is that a tool itself will not change the educational system or even implicitly encourage new pedagogy" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008).

Tsolakidis argued that there are grounds to believe that ICT will never change the education system but much rather advance education, because it can be used as a replacement for a pencil, book and textbook (Tsolakidis, 2010). According to him the Internet offers a number of solutions in various issues and fields, and that this certainly facilitates the learning process, that has started affecting all people, educational communities, parents, learners and teachers. According to him, there are also grounds to believe that ICT will help them in a direct way too (Tsolakidis, 2010).
Professor Alan Amory from the University of Johannesburg suggested that "much of education technology replicates hegemonic practices that limit educational transformation, have little to do with contemporary learning practices and much more to do with fundamental and totalitarian ideologies of instruction" (Amory, 2006: 01). Amory argued that tools include precise ideological positions and often support fundamentalist world-views (Amory, 2006, 01).
The very first question that jumps to mind, is whether a machine or an ICT tool can replace an educator in the classroom? Is this not about our newly born 21st century classes, where tools such as ICT had opened the doors to a more social type of learning or collaboration. I personally do not think that the simple or advanced artificial intelligent tools can replace educators. I am sure they can much rather mediate the learning process in the class. One can put a tool out of action by merely pressing the on or off switch, and this tool will become redundant. The learning process will always continue, no matter what, but we need tools to mediate the learning process.


The second question that jumps to mind is whether these tools have the ability to change the educational system and also whether these tools can encourage a new pedagogy. This is a far bigger challenge to prove that tools can change the educational system and also have the ability to encourage a new pedagogy.

I personally do not believe that a machine can replace an educator. According to Amory tools such as ICT function as cultural artifacts in a relationship "between self and society", and that "personal and societal transformation can be cultivated through fostering social collaboration" (Amory, 2006). Amory based his research on the foundations of the CHAT theory that developed over the last couple of decades through the work of Vygotsky, Engestrom and Leontiev. 

I believe that before one can make an assumption that ICT tools will not change the educational system or encourage a new pedagogy, one should first look at the most appropriate definition for the term "technology" and how that would impact on the statement or assumption made. Not only should we look at the term technology only, but also how processes of technology influence collaboration and mediation in the CHAT theory.

According to the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, the term technology has changed substantially over the last 200 years. Originating from the Greek language, the word "technology" is made up of "τέχνη" (téchnē), that means "art, skill, craft", and "-λογία" (-logía), that means "study of-" (Wikipedia. Internet source). When applied in general this word can include construction-, medical- and information technology (Wikipedia Internet source).

One supposes that the word "technology" should no longer be used in the educational environment, and that researchers should look at the design and implementation of a brand new word or term that would describe "classroom based technology" in the 21st century and we should find a "term" and "method" that is solely designed for ICT tools and their influence on education.

Amiel and Reeves argued that educational researchers have to be encouraged to move in the direction of a more systematic and collaborative method of investigation "that can promote research that makes the difference (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). According to them one should have a "clear understanding of technology and the technique as processes rather than artifacts; a resolute concern for values, and principles guiding educational technology research" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008, 31).

Amiel and Reeves argued two approaches; the popular use of the term technology and a more precise representation of the mentioned term  (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). They argued that the term technology should not be viewed as a product, but much rather a process, because tools are seen as a product of the technological system(Amiel & Reeves, 2008).

Amiel and Reeves quoted Hickmans definition of "technology" as a "more inclusive" definition. According to them Hickman used Dewey's pragmatism to illustrate technology as "a process that involves the invention, development, and cognitive development of tools and other artifacts, brought to bear on raw materials and intermediate stock parts with a view to the resolution of perceived problems (Amiel & Reeves, 2008). These researchers furthermore stated that although the defenition might appear to be broad in scope, one should concentrate on its ability to describe the "job that researchers and practitioners in educational technology regularly do" (Amiel and Reeves, 2008, 32); and that "inquiry into techniques, objects and tools in an effort to improve and refine the process of teaching and learning and, consequently, the design of the learning environments (Amiel and Reeves, 2008, 32).


Kort and Reilly argued that education traditionally concentrated on information and facts, and that this approach has not shaped the learning process (Kort & Reilly, 2009).  According to them learners receive their learning and education in a “polished form” that do not allow them mistakes or failure. They stated that learning naturally involves failure and that current educational pedagogy is lacking in certain areas and must be redesigned (Kort & Reilly, 2009).

Kort and Reilly is of the opinion that schools were concentrating on parrot fashion learning and that the focus of attention should shift to the construction of ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowledge’ should be combined with a personal or cultural value system to allow wisdom to emerge, because wisdom allows us to attach the power of knowledge for useful purposes (Kort & Reilly, 2009). They are also of the opinion that learning involves language and emotions of the learner (Kort & Reilly, 2009).

Amory uses the CHAT theory as a diagnostic outline to identify relevant design principles and as a way of considering educational technology, which he refers to as “tool mediated construction” (Amory, 2006: 02). He argued that tools include precise ideological positions and that the design, expansion and deployment of “technological artifacts (Objects)” are considered to be part of an activity system that includes communities, tools and language to create new tools or artifacts. The work of the communities is supported by specific expectations which he sees as part of the design of “Objects, Outcomes and Tools” (Amory, 2006: 02).


I have to admit, I do not entirely agree with the statement made by Amiel and Reeves that "a tool itself will not change the educational system or even implicitly encourage new pedagogy" (Amiel & Reeves, 2008).


Although researchers have proven after extensive research that tools itself will not change education or encourage a new pedagogy, I still believe that once all schools are resourced at the same level, use the same learning content, practice the same pedagogies and all educators are trained and have the same level of ICT knowledge, then one could make the assumption that tools cannot bring about educational change, or change pedagogies.


Teaching and learning is a social process whereby collaboration should take place and the tools of mediation in classrooms should help to mediate the learning process. Using the CHAT theory in evaluating how one learns from,  versus how one learns with technology (Amory: 2006), is a very important aspect in deciding whether teaching with technology will bring about educational change. We should never loose sight of the fact that knowledge not only supports social freedom and equality, but is viewed as a tool to support social reform in order to develop individual potential (Amory: 2006).


Why is it that a video game such as Warcraft III is to be regarded as one of the few successes in learning? The reason being that this tool not only increased perception, increased stimulation, challenged students in problem solving, but also provided collaboration on a social level through networking (El-Nasr, 2010).  El-Nasr uses a vry interesting term in her research called "modding". "Modding", a slang word, is a process whereby hardware or software are changed to perform a function that was not intended by the designer to suit the needs of the person playing the games (El-Nasr, 2010).


As mentioned earlier in this blog, most ICT used in schools were designed for purposes other than education. The problem we are currently faced with, is that these tools will never be able to change education or create new  pedagogies. I firmly believe that technology changes faster than the "ability" that the education departments have to communicate these changes to teachers and to train or re-train teachers in coping with these new changes. One can not only lay the blame at the door of the education departments, because a lot of this in my opinion has to do with attitude and ability of teachers, because teachers are not prepared to "mod" these tools of mediation into tools that will change pedagogies, stimulate learners, increase perception, challenge learners and enhance social collaboration.

 
References


Amiel, T., and Reeves, T.C. 2008. Designed -Based Research and Educational Technology: Rethinking Technology and the Research Agenda. Educational Technology and Society, 11 (4), 30.


Amory, A. 2006. Education and Hidden Ideological Contradictions. Educational Technology and Society, 01-17


Amory, A. 2010. Instructivist ideology: education technology embracing the past?. Interactive Learning Environments 2010, 1-15, iFirst article.


Bingimlas, K.A. 2009. Barriers to successful integration of ICT in Teaching and Learning environments: A review of the Literature. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 2009, 5(3), 235-245. 


Eacea. 2011. Study of the impact of technology in primary schools. Internet source. Accessed 13 September 2011. Available from: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/llp/studies/documents/study_impact_technology_primary_school/01_executive_summary_steps_en.pdf
El-Nasr, M. 2010. IT Education, Girls and Gaming Modding. Academia.edu. Internet source. Accessed 18 September 2011. Available from: http://neu.academia.edu/MagySeifElNasr/Papers/236688/IT_Education_Girls_and_Game_Modding

Ferdig, R. 2005. Towards implementing technologies in Education: Exploring the pedagogy and people of good innovations. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET April 2005 ISSN: 1303-6521 volume 4 Issue 2 Article 5.
Jung, I. 2005. ICT-Pedagogy Integration in Teacher Training: Application Cases Worldwide. Educational Technology &Society, 8 (2), 94-101.


Koehler, M., Mishra, P. 2007. What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge? Michigan State University. Internet source. Accessed 09 September 2011. Available from: http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm

Kort, B., Reilly, R. 2009. Restructuring Educational Pedagogy: A model for deep change. The Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Internet source. Accessed 12 September 2011. Available from: http://web.media.mit.edu/~reilly/pathways.pdf
Mitra, S. 2011. 21st Century Schools. Internet source. Accessed 14 September 2011. Available from: http://www.21stcenturyschools.com/


Mofleh, S., Wanous, M. 2008. Developing countries and ICT initiatives. Lessons learnt from Jordan's experience. EJISDC. (2008). 24, 5, 1-17.


Perraton, H., Robinson, B.,  & Creed, C. 2001. Teacher education through distance learning: technology,curriculum, evaluation, cost, Paris: UNESCO.


Toure, K. (2008). Introduction: ICT and Changing Mindsets in Education. Bamenda, Cameroon. Internet source. Accessed 15 September 2011. Available from: http://www.rocare.org/ChangingMindsets/pdf/ch01-ICTandChangingMindset.pdf
 Tsolakidis, C. 2010. ICT in education: The dawn of new era or the development of an accessory? Internet source. Accessed 15 September 2011. Available from: http://fundamentalchange.carolstrohecker.info/documents/CostasTsolakidis.pdf
Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Internet source. Accessed on 14 September 2011. Available from:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology

OECD. ICT in Innovative Schools: Case Studies of Change and Impacts. Internet source. Internet source. Accessed 13 September 2011. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/11/11/41187025.pdf

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Joanne Hardman's exploratory case study, participants, methods and findings

The aim of Hardman's exploratory case study was to understand how teacher "B", a 38 year old male was using computers to teach Mathematics to thirty 13 year old learners in a rural school. Teacher "B" had a 4 year diploma, and never specialised in Mathematics. He had to rely on Maths Methodology which formed part of his initial training. People considers him as a Maths specialist, and he teaches Grade 6 and 7 Mathematics.  There are enough computers in the classroom, and he was expected to use the computer as a tool.

Lessons were videotaped, and the transcriptions of these videotapes were transcribed for use in the research study. Although the teacher had only 2 hours training in the use of computers, interviews were conducted with him before lessons (Hardman: 2005).

Results of the research were reported in two sections:
  1. Interview data: aimed at how the teacher uses the computer in the classroom.
  2. Actual practice: what objects the teacher acts on in different contexts, and if the computer has led to a shift in pedagogical practice across different contexts.
Contradictions are tracked by by focusing on "how" the teacher talks about computer use in the Mathematics classroom. The teacher is driven by OBE and favours group work as a tool to act on as object of his lesson. He was concentrating on fractions, because he felt that the knowledge will be useful to the learners. The teacher is keen to finish the curriculum quickly (Hardman: 2005).

Object /division of labour contradiction
This teacher unfortunately has to face one of the biggest contradictions, which surfaces from South Africa's move from a transmission based pedagogy to a more progressive Outcomes Based Educational setting. This contradiction is happening in the classroom, and that is the choice between group work and being able to reach all children while encouraging the development of creative autonomous learners (Hardman: 2005).

Tool / division of labour contradiction
The division of labour opened up new possibilities for student-centered pedagogy. The use of the computer in the classroom, and the fact that the teacher could not assist, created opportunity for students to become teachers of other students.

Tool / object contradiction
The object of this lesson for the teacher was to teach mathematics to learners. He wanted them to understand fractions using the computer. The teacher sees the computer as a tool for higher order, instead of seeing it as a tool for developing a very important cognitive skill of drill and practice. For this teacher, there is a contradiction between the tool and the object. There is also a contradiction where the teacher sees the computer as a low level tool, instead of a higher level tool (Hardman: 2005).

Rules / Subject contradictions
With the use of the computers the teacher creates rules for the use of the computer, which makes access to the computer unattractive to learners. The teacher feels threatened by the lack of knowledge when using the computer.The teacher feels that the learners will see him as stupid. The learners should actually learn to experiment with it. There is actually a contradiction between the Department's policy and the the teacher's creativity to ensure that teachers do not regard him as ignorant (Hardman: 2005).

For the teacher is the way the learners respond to the use of the computer. He sees it as a carrot which is dangled in front of them,. The contradictions around how the computer is used as a tool, and and the computer as a tool for investigations, impacted on the activity system. This lead to a contradiction between the teacher's need to teach mathematics and the use of the computer as a device of investigation, drill and practice (Hardman: 2005).

Tools, objects, division of labour, community and rules
The teacher and the learners share a common object - and that is for the teacher to teach and the learners to learn. The object informs us about the labour in the classroom. The teacher determines the mathematical meaning in the class and the learners as students, or at the most basic, reproducers of text (Hardman: 2005).

The most important toll used by the teacher is language. The teacher lacks computer skills, and this threat is overcome by instituting classroom rules. The teacher is restricting the learners by pacing, sequencing and selection of content studied. The object of the lesson becomes the technical skill to act on the computer. The teacher uses material, language and non-verbal actions as tools to act on within the traditional classroom. In the computer lab the teacher becomes more formal, and rely on language to explain mathematical content. He also uses language to control discipline in the class (Hardman: 2005).

As soon as the lessons are taking place in the lab, the teacher's language become exclusive especially with the use of language. The computer becomes the object of the lesson, and the understanding of mathematics drops into the background. When the computer is used as a tool, it is used to act on a lower level cognitive skills such as drill and practice (Hardman: 2005).

With the introduction of the computer into mathematics, a number of contradictions were experienced in the classroom. One of the most important contradictions is between the use of the computer as instrument for recall and practice, and is therefore used as an instrument for exploration (Hardman: 2005).

The need to use the computer as a tool required of the teacher to rethink the teaching and learning in the classroom, causing contradictions between the use of the computer as a tool for drill and practice, or as a creative tool to promote an understanding for mathematics (Hardman: 2005).


References
Hardman, J. 2005. An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? University of Cape Town. Perspectives in Education, Volume 23(4). December 2005.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Joanne Hardman's Research made me think about my school

My school is situated in Johannesburg South. We are the number one school in the D11 district, which will them make us one of the top 14 primary schools in Gauteng.

We did very well in the Annual National Assessments. We had averages of up to 30% higher than the norm in Gauteng.

We have two computer rooms and use one room's computers as mediation tools for Mathematics only. The software application that is being used is the CAMI Mathematics programme. We have been using it for the last 17 years.

Learners visit these rooms once a cycle for 40 minutes. Lessons are started of with Times table speed tests followed by work that they are currently busy with.

Learners can work at their own pace, and reports are printed on their performance.

Research design and Methods : The instructional context

The school that Joanne Hardman is referring to in her case study is located in the farming area outside Cape Town. The school fees payable is R150 per annum in comparison to the mean of annual school fees of R700 per annum. Only a third of parents can afford the school fees (Hardman 2005).

The school has 167 learners that are coming from very poor backgrounds. The school runs a feeding scheme, and has also benefited from the WCED's Khanya initiative by providing digital equipment to disadvantaged learners.

The parents are very supportive and also use the computer facility to empower themselves. The computers have only been in the school for one year.

References
Hardman, J. 2005. An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? University of Cape Town. Perspectives in Education, Volume 23(4). December 2005.


The basic relationships in the Third Generation Activity Theory as Explained by Joanne Hardman.

The basic relationships, as discussed in Joanne's research, in the Activity Theory are outlined as:

  • Subject: The focus of the study - the teacher.
  • Mediating artefacts: the resources mobilised by the teacher. Tools are not neutral, and can be anything ranging from the blackboard or symbolic systems such as algorithms.
  • Object: Refers to the problem that the learner and teacher is working on. Engestrom refers to "problem space" or "raw material", that are moulded into outcomes with the help of tools and signs. Hardman emphasised the object as both material and deal. The actions of the teacher in the classroom gives a better idea as to what he/she is working on in the lesson (Hardman 2005).
  • Rules: Directives for behaviour - that is informed by policy.
  • Community: The member of the community that participates in the shared object. In this case the teacher and the learners.
  • Division of labour: Reference is made to Horizontal and Vertical power relations in the class. The teacher traditionally taught the class. With the use of the computer one can shift the roles of the teacher and learners. Hardman suggests that learners function as teachers of other learners (Hardman 2005).
References
Hardman, J. 2005. An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? University of Cape Town. Perspectives in Education, Volume 23(4). December 2005.

Computers can act as a catalyst to transform pedagogical practices in classrooms


In her case study on the use of computers in a primary school Mathematics class, Joanne Hardman is of the opinion that the computer can act as a catalyst to transform pedagogical practices in classrooms (Hardman, 2005:02).

According to her, most researchers embarked on a quest to research as to how the computer is transforming pedagogy. She in particular, concentrated on how computers were made available to the economically disadvantaged learners of developing countries (Hardman, 2005:02).

Her research is driven by the understanding that a tool such as a computer can lead to conflict within the context into which it was introduced, and how it contributed to the transformation of practices within the environment (Hardman, 2005).

Her article uses the Activity Theory as an analytical tool to investigate how the introduction of technology can transform pedagogy.  

One of the foundations of the Vygotskian theory is that elementary processes are changed into higher cognitive functions by using cultural tools such as language during interaction(Hardman, 2005).

A growing child develops within his social world. His basic processes are transformed by his interaction with his social world, where his mother and other adults are guiding him. "Higher cognitive functions develops firstly as interpsychological functions, with the help of another person, by guiding the child's activity before being internalised as intrapsychological functions" (Hardman, 2005:02). Vygotsky refers to this area of activity as "the Zone of Proximal Development.  Within this zone the child acts with the aid of another person to understand problems.

Hardman also refers to ZPD as the "zone of potentially", where mediation instruction provides an trend for learning and consequently change. She also stated that Vygotsky's theory shows clearly an understanding of how learning is distributed. Vygotsky's theory also does not develop an analytical framework capable of situational learning in the wider context (Hardman, 2005:02).

She furthermore states that the first generation of the Activity Theory concentrates on the notion of mediation, that is located on the level of the individuals actions. but does not develop into an analytical framework capable for situational learning within a wider context (Hardman, 2005).

She concentrates on the third generation Activity Theory, and expresses that contradictions may arise when a computer requires a new division of labour, and by uncovering these contradictions helped her to formulate a hypotheses on possible shifts between systems. Alhough Vygotsky's learning theory is used in this paper, it is looking at understanding mediation in the wider social context(Hardman, 2005). 


References
Hardman, J. 2005. An exploratory case study of computer use in a primary school mathematics classroom: New technology, new pedagogy? University of Cape Town. Perspectives in Education, Volume 23(4). December 2005.