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Disrupting the Learning Dynamic with Technology

March 11, 2011
at 11:12 am PST

Do youth engage in valuable learning experiences via technology? The answer is yes but what they are learning usually pertains to being adept with social engagements. This doesn’t align to the learning their parents and educators care most about, i.e. academic learning. Not to say learning social skills isn’t important to parents and educators but paramount is academics.

So how can technology disrupt the academic learning dynamic as effectively as it has disrupted the process for becoming more adept with social engagements? A new PBS documentary, Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century, explores this subject in depth. View an excerpt from the documentary below.

A recent Cisco press release details how world educators believe technology can be leveraged to transform learning. A key highlight for me was:

Video and collaboration technologies are rapidly allowing educators to be more effective and productive in teaching, anytime, anywhere. This can increase productivity by reducing travel between schools or even countries, decreasing the cost of travel downtime. “Presence” technology is becoming an emerging factor in teacher training and staff development areas; at the same time, increasing the availability of collaboration tools is fostering new “project-based” learning environments.

For anyone not on board with introducing technology to youth at early ages and within their learning environment, school, consider this…if they don’t learn early how are they going to fair against those who do?

“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer

Are we providing a disservice when we don’t integrate technology with the learning process?

“Literacy has always been defined by the technology. Before the printing press your ability to orally recite something meant to be literate. So as technology has made things cheaper we are now saying well hmm ‘is someone literate if they cannot critique media, take media in, if they are only taking in traditional text’? That’s a question to answer today but what would that mean in 2020? I would venture to say that they won’t necessarily be considered as being literate.” Nichole Pinkard, Digital Youth Network Program Founder, Visiting Associate Professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University

Interest driven learning is a proven concept, so how do we use technology to enable youth to find their interest?

“Every kid has an interest. Sometimes he doesn’t know what it is, sometimes he can’t articulate it but every kid has an interest. That is a fundamental belief. If you can’t buy into that then you can’t buy into the work we do.” Diana Rhoten, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Startl

In the PBS documentary Quest to Learn (which I mentioned in a previous blog post on gamification techniques) is heralded by the students as the ‘school of the future’. They applaud the use of technology and games to help them understand system based thinking and the process of trial and error. Katie Salen, Director, Quest to Learn  expounds on why it is was time for Quest to Learn now!

I am awed by what these folks are looking to accomplish. It makes me wish I was 10 again as I believe learning integrated with gamification techniques, digital media tools and other technologies would have made me actually EXCITED to go to school.

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6 Comments.


  1. Dannette,

    Great post — I particularly resonate with the role of game dynamics in improving education. This is an evolution of behavioral science — and technology — that can make a transformative difference in education. I think of Seth Priebatsch’s quote in this TED Talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn9fTc_WMbo) on how school is a game, just a poorly designed one;) And I get goosebumps from watching Sebastian Deterding expand upon the game dynamics that can be fine-tuned for optimal learning in this Google Tech Talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZGCPap7GkY). Love the direction of your thinking here.

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    • Dannette Veale

      Hi John, Glad you liked the post. You provide some excellent examples to augment this post. Regards, Dannette

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  2. Thanks for the post. There is a lot of possibilities with learning via technology now.

    I’m glad you noted the effectiveness of interest-based learning. I think technology could be used to to make more effective use of this than traditional classrooms have the resources to do. (program / game that has set learning outcomes but does with the choice of interests to choose from)

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    • Dannette Veale

      Hi Gary, Thanks for the comment. I agree that technology is critical to enabling interest based learning. Interest based learning is usually introduced later in the learning process, i.e. higher-ed and beyond, but I believe that introducing it at the beginning of the learning process will be critical to changing the learning dynamic and creating engaging learning that youth WANT to participate in. Regards, Dannette

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  3. if you are not using technology to help educate the youth then you are missing out on tons of resources.

    Using technology takes the boredom out of a normally boring activity or lesson. Kids today definitely respond better to technology rather than just books or lectures.

    get kids entertained/interested in what you are trying to teach them and then you will have to force them to stop trying to learn it :)

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    • Dannette Veale

      Tyler I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your point of view :)

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