“Technology catalyses changes not only in what we do but in how we think. It changes people’s awareness of themselves, of one another, of their relationship with the world.”
Personalised learning seems to have been adopted as the new mantra in education. This is in part due to the widespread availability of software which purports to support honourable aspects of learning, reflection, consolidation and extension…. to name but a few. The environment for learning has also radically changed from didactic taught classroom or lecture based delivery to an environment which empowers learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Such backgrounds as VLEs, MLEs, LMS and Web 2.0 tools, blogs, WIKIS, social networks all have changed the engagement between learner and teacher, as well as between learner and learner. This is within a variety of contexts both formal and informal.
The political dimension is also attributable. The UK government is keen that children, pupils and students will ‘enjoy and benefit from a personal learning experience’. Surely, learning has always been personal? The way I learn is not the way you learn. This is true of how I experience and assimilate the learning occurrence in the lecture hall. How I use a blog or social network site as my preferred learning platform is inevitably and fundamentally different to any other user. The depth and meaning of reflection on my experience may be due to the rigours of my course and the often imposed assessment pattern or personal as I want to ‘see’ how and how much I have learnt, understood, or can apply in a variety of alternative scenarios. Personalisation, learner, pupil or student centredness advocate the use of the learner’s own predilection, behaviour and activities.
The tension is between the formal institutional assessment regime and methods which are often incoherently mapped against the personal, individual learning strategies advocated by misaligned curriculum ideologies which advocate personalised learning and independent activity based engagement. These do not nestle comfortably within many institutions who feel it necessary to have generic examinations which ‘test’ against what was learned and remembered during a specific course, module or learning episode. This is often to the detriment of utilising skills, knowledge and personal learning attributes which can be assimilated within a future scenario or domain.
The content of this publication highlights the many areas in which practitioners are attempting to implement learning technologies and reflects themes of current topical interest. Personalising learning and the learner experience can be supported, enhanced and encouraged by the application and intervention of technology. However, this must be carefully considered within the realms of what is both possible and desirable. Internal and external factors also make a significant difference i.e. the institutional impediments and often unsalable network access, the culture of the institution or environment. The engagement with and by the students in formal, informal and situated learning. Finally technology, Web 2.0 and increasingly social networks provide an opportunity to delve into additional learning experiences, but these do need careful consideration if we are not to dilute the value, nature and experience of learning itself.
The book has three main sections: Infrastructural and Cultural Issues, Pedagogical Issues and Technological Issues. The first section on infrastructure considers aspects related to the major infrastructural, cultural and organisational changes required, if innovation is going to effect any change in the institutional regime. It will focus on the role of the student and the tutor in the personalisation of the learning process. The section on pedagogical issues presents descriptions of the different cases and ways in which practitioners have attempted to use learning technologies and give personal examples which illustrate both the potential and dangers of personalised learning technologies. The section on technological issues will present descriptions of the “tools” that practitioners are using, outline their strengths and weaknesses and highlight issues that need to be considered when planning to implement new personalised learning environments.
Whilst the chapters are located within a section, the nature of technological use cannot be so compartmentalised - so many of the studies and topics reported here cut across many boundaries, infrastructural and cultural, pedagogic and technological. The key issues highlighted and discussed include widening access and participation, student-centred and collaborative learning and the changing role of the tutor/ pupil/ student.
Technology and the Web are valuable resources, enriching the educational resources we provide already. The key is providing appropriate environments and then reinforcing the experiences with concrete activities. It is important that eLearning is recognised as a supplement to the personal interaction provided by lecturers, teachers, parents and peers, not a replacement.
Technology provides opportunities never before available - such as remote global communication and file sharing, reflection, consolidation, collaboration and exploration, simulation and active independent individualised learning. Yet school, college and university departments are in danger of sabotaging - through incomplete and, in some cases, detrimental implementation plans - the power of technology to transform the teaching and learning process.
The twenty-three chapters included in this book were selected from a large number of submissions. They cover vastly different subjects, group sizes and institutional types - music to social, whole class to individual delivery and engagement, large universities to small departments, undergraduate to post graduate. They are driven by the passion of the staff involved to ‘make a difference’, not by simply using technology, but by applying technology in an innovative way to enhance, enrich and extend the learning in which our students are involved.
The book presents case studies, research findings, developments and interventions which will provide guidelines and benchmarks with which the reader will be able to see how, why and where their own implementation of technology is either struggling or ‘not making a difference’ within the context of personalised learning.
My fervent hope is that this book will make a difference to the many classrooms of computers and technology which increasing pervade and saturate our educational institutions and the lack of ‘real’ or meaningful learner engagement provided by this intrusion.