Improving the Work Integrated Learning Experience through Mobile Technologies

Improving the Work Integrated Learning Experience through Mobile Technologies

Chris Dann, Tony Richardson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6284-1.ch008
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The inclusion of technological solutions in higher education has led to a vast array of options for educators. An educational problem has driven each solution and the associated research into defining the effectiveness of those solutions. This chapter describes some of the problems faced by a teacher education program, triggered by the use of Work Integrated Learning (WIL), to connect theory taught in universities to the realities of a teacher's life. The underlying beliefs of the authors are that there needs to be critical discourse about the teaching and learning models used to engage students in the art of workplace learning, that this critical discourse needs to be based on facilitating a teaching and learning environment that is highly effective, and that the nexus is that the student's Work Integrated Learning (WIL) experience will not be counterproductive. This chapter highlights a concrete example of how one university implemented these beliefs in a structured and proactive manner.
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A Paradox: 19th Century Working Views Defining 21st Century Practicum

For over 200 years the nature of work and education has been inexorability linked. The public school system was initially designed to train factory workers and teach farm children the basic skills needed for industrialization; reading, writing, arithmetic, and most importantly the significance of conforming to externally mandated rules and regulations. Consequently, it is difficult not to disassociate our current models of education with the advancement that society continues to undergo. This outcome was the direct result of the skills required for the successful implementation of the Industrial Revolution. These models, which centred on the creation of an industry model, facilitated by willing workers; educated for the linear development of production via the assembly line, has been deeply engrained in our education systems and work places.

This has become an issue for students undertaking (W.I.L.). One of the major impediments to this application has been the continued use of the ‘Master-Apprentice’ philosophy. This philosophy has been based around the notion of the passing of information from the expert to the learner; an expert who is all knowing and all powerful. They (the expert) are the fountain of all knowledge and the giver of all skills pertaining to their area of work. In essence they speak the leaner listens, they act and the learner acts, they think and the learner thinks. Under this regime it is very difficult for the learner to deviate from their chosen path, a path moulded and manipulated by the expert. In this model the learner is not permitted to question or more importantly to think for themselves. They are not permitted to express an opinion nor have a point of view that differs from the expert. There is no deviation from the way in which the skill and content is passed onto the learner. In order to ‘succeed’ the learner; so that they too can become a master, has to effectively regurgitate all of what they have been shown by the expert, with very little margin for error.

Whilst this approach may have been successful in supplying willing and competent workers for the assembly lines of the Industrial Revolution the continued use of such a model in the 21st century is complete anathema. What has transpired, with respect to the continued use of this model, has culminated in disconnectedness; which is the result of a dysfunctional relationship between a rapidly changing 21st century work environment and the antiquated 19th century models still in use. This belief is not new amongst influential academics, such as, Sir Ken Robinson, who in 2009 expressed the view that our present system was designed for 19th century industrialism and unfortunately, that system is now dangerously overheating. From Robinson’s (2009) perspective it is now necessary to re-think education as a whole because he argues that an industrialized model, founded on the notion that one-size-fits-all, is drastically inadequate for the 21st century. Robinson (2009) contends that the industrial model, once the main stay of education, needs to reflect a more organic environment. In this way, Robinson (2009) believes, that individuals are allowed to grow within the context of their differing environments. Hence, the need to conform and the associated rigidity required to function effectively in the 19th century is not easily juxtaposed to the requirement of organic growth in the 21st century. Therefore, the skills required for the 21st century are diametrically opposed to those of the 19th century. Consequently, the 21st century work environment that has changed significantly when compared to its 19th century predecessor. This change is most evident with respect to the master – apprentice relationship, which was the main stay of the 19th century industrial model.

Previously, the expectation was that the apprentice would be required to, as Patrick (2013) suggests, cooperate with the master. However, in today’s environment Patrick (2013) argues, that the situation has changed markedly whereby, the apprentice and the master are now engaged in collaboration, as opposed to cooperation. Collaboration is now an important part of this new type of relationship. Collaboration is built between the master and the apprentice and as such, it has a significant impact on the old master –apprentice model, which has operated in the work place for over 200 years. The introduction of this new approach, to work place relationships, moves away from the notion of recognizing only the professional experience and expertise of the master.

This perspective establishes a relationship that is not one bound by the constraints exemplified through the master-apprentice model. Instead, it encourages a more symbiotic connection reflected via the focus on a mentor - learner relationship, as opposed to a master –apprentice application. In this way what is created between the mentor and the leaner, is a community of practice, defined by a relationship built on trust and respect facilitated by transparency. By undertaking this approach, each member in that community can contribute equally to the success of the organization. Hence, the skills required for the 21st century focus less on the dogged, regimented adherence to conformity and wrote learning, as exemplified in the 19th century, to an emphasis on the “development of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving skills, creativity and research techniques that together support the ability of lifelong learning” (Institute of Chartered Accounts of Australia & CPA Australia, 2009, p.3, as cited in Leong & Kavanagh, 2013).

Therefore, the challenge confronting us today is to address this situation so that our work places and consequently, the Work Integrated Learning experiences for our students, align with the requirements of the 21st century; as opposed to those of the antiquated 19th century. This chapter proposes that there needs to be a change from the master-apprentice model to one that focuses on collaborative and cooperation relationships. It is argued that undertaking a focus on relationships helps to build communities of practice. Within this community there is no expert, just individuals who want to share and learn from each other in an open, honest and transparent way.

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