My thoughts have been piqued by an article in ‘The Australian’ by Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at Swinburne University of Technology Shirley Leitch who wrote a piece: Unis must learn to deliver online courses (April 27th 2011).
Her argument about the need to move to a higher education model which incorporates online learning is of interest and relevance. Indeed Ms Leitch’s words reflect similar discussions in the school education sector which has grappled, for a number of years, with many of the issues raised in this article.
Teachers in schools are constantly faced with a barrage of work requirements, many of which require up skilling IT skills so that new technologies can be incorporated into both their teaching style and the required response mode of their students completing set tasks. Without question, the constant battle of juggling many day-to-day duties and tasks while simultaneously up skilling has been a huge undertaking faced bravely by the school teaching profession for some years now. While there is a slow and steady stream of ‘digital natives’ entering the teaching profession, we have a long way to go before all school teaching staff feel sufficiently comfortable to present and utilize a range of IT skills.
Movement toward ‘online’ education is, in some of our schools, already present. For others, it is just around the corner. The proliferation of wikis currently used by a range of teachers across a range of schools is evidence of this. The use of IWBs (Interactive White Boards) similarly has, for some years now, enabled joint collaboration/learning to occur between classes across the world.
Attendance at online conferences held at all ends of the world are also beginning to proliferate the professional learning opportunities available to teachers. With teachers increasingly attending webinars, instead of face to face professional learning sessions, exposure to the values of ‘online’ education have begun seeping into our schools. Similarly, TweetChat, which has grown out of Twitter, a topic I have discussed in some detail in a post on my other blog – BevsBookBlog - enables teachers from anywhere in the world to meet, share and discuss common issues on a regular basis.
How long will it be before these forms of ‘study’ become second nature in our schools?
Those of us in the school or higher education sector can no longer hang onto the ‘blinkered’ ideas reflected in the comment mentioned in this newspaper article:
Without a hint of irony, a senior colleague and respected researcher recently said he simply did not believe in online education. He articulated the widening generational gap between baby boomer academics and digital natives perfectly.
The time for us all to move forward and embrace the vast depth of information, knowledge and opportunity presented via evolving technologies is now upon all sectors of education. If not, we collectively face the consequence of becoming irrelevant to our charges. The wealth of opportunity already available as online education is abundant. Look no further than iTunes U to know whether or not the delivery of online education is of value. Consider also Salman Khan who was highlighted in an article Education 2.0: the global university with just one lecturer in The Age newspaper just this week (April 26, 2011). Indeed it is well worth the time to view this TED talk which features Salman Khan.