IBERTIC (Instituto Iberoamericano de TIC in Education) invited me in Buenos Aires for a series of conferences and consultations during the week of 13th to 17th of april 2015. I gave four speeches in front of different audiences: one of my main speeches was about « collective intelligence for educators » and another about « The emergence of reflexive collective intelligence ».
I had several meetings with people engaged in teaching, training and policy coordination related to « TIC and education ».
Argentina has a big state-led program (Connectar Igualidad) to give a computer to every student in secondary education. I visited the warehouse where these computers are packed and sent to the students and I had a look at the mainly « open » applications included in the package. I visited also Canal Encuentro, the state-run educational television, where a team related to the program « Connectar Igualidad » is building one portal for educators and another one for the students. These portals are supposed to provide learning resources and tools for communication and collaboration.
STORIES FROM MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
During this trip I had, at several occasions, the opportunity to speak about my own experience in using TICs as an educator. In the various courses that I teach at the University of Ottawa, I ask my students to participate to a closed Facebook group, to register on Twitter (and to follow me: @plevy), to use a collaborative repository in the cloud (a social bookmarking plateform or a curation plateform like Scoop.it) and to open a blog if they don’t have already one.
– The Facebook group is used to share the syllabus, our agenda, the mandatory lectures (all of them on line « at one click »), our electronic addresses (Twitter, blog, collaborative memory plateform), the questions asked by the students, etc. The students can participate to the collective writing and editing of « mini-wikis » inside the FB group. They are invited to suggest good reads related to the course by adding commented links.
– Twitter is used through a careful use of hashtags. I use it for quick real-time feed-back during the course: to check what the students have understood. Then, every 2 or 3 weeks, I invite students to look back at their collective traces on Twitter to recollect what they have learned and to ask questions if something is not clear. I experimented also a « twitter exam » where the students have to evaluate my tweets: no reaction if my tweet is false, a favorite if it contain some truth, a retweet if they agree and a retweet plus a favorite if they strongly agree. After having reviewed the tweets and their responses, I ask to the students what are – according to them – their worst possible errors of appreciation. The final evaluation of the exam (that is, of their reactions to my tweets) is made by applying to the students the rules that they have determined themselves! Finally I teach them the practical use of Twitter lists.
– The collaborative repository in the cloud (Diigo, Scoop.it) is used to teach the sudents the use of categories or « tags » to organize a common long-term memory, as opposed to the ephemeral information on popular social media.
– The blogs are used as a way to display the assignments. The students are encouraged to add images and links. For the last assignment they have to describe – from their own point of view – the main points that they have learned during the course.
At the end of a semester, the students have not only acquired knowledge about the subject matter, they also improved their collaborative learning skills in a trans-platform environment!
MY TAKE-AWAY ADVICE FOR IBERTIC AND THE EDUCATIONAL COMMUNITY IN ARGENTINA
A social network is a human reality
As « how » once told me: a social network is neither a platform nor a software: it is a human reality. In the same vein, building a closed platform is in no way a solution to collaboration, training, learning or communication problems. The solution is to grow a « community of practice » or a « collaborative learning network » that will use all the available and relevant platforms, including face to face meetings and well known commercial platforms that are available at no cost.
There is no such thing as an educational technology
There are no educational technologies. There are only educational or learning uses of technology. The most important things are not the technologies by themselves (software, platforms, resources) but the educational practices and the effective collaborative learning processes.
The new literacy
The new intellectual literacy encompasses all collaborative data curation skills, including attention management, formal modeling, memory management, critical thinking, stimergic communication, etc. It is neither a discipline nor a specialized knowledge but a consistent set of transversal competencies that should be strengthened in all kinds of learning practices. Of course, this literacy cannot be taught by people who do not master it!
Staying motivated despite constraints
The educational community faces a lot of constraints, particularly in not so rich countries:
– lack of infrastructure (hardware, software, connectivity),
– lack of institutional facilitation (innovation and openness are praised in theory but not encouraged in practise),
– lack of knowledge and skills on the educator’s side.
The educator should consider herself / himself as an artist transforming these constraints into beauty through a creative process. Do what you can in your circonstances. There are no perfect method, software or platform that will solve all the problems magically in every environment and context. Teaching is itself an open-ended (collaborative) learning process.
I recommand this video in spanish about Personal Learning Environments