Saturday, September 25, 2010

Digital Education Revolution Skills

Professor SV Raghavan and Senator Conroy both talked on the benefits of broadband for education at the World Computer Congress 2010 in Brisbane this week. But will teachers know what to do with broadband?

More work is needed on tools and skills for teachers to use the fibre. I can say this sort of thing now I am an award winning online educator. ;-)

While the federal government has done good work on educating teachers with projects such as Edna and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, the investment is relatively small compared to that being spent on computer hardware and networking.

Recently I have been taking part in an online discussion in the LinkedIn Group: Higher Education Teaching and Learning, of how to present materials to students. What was worrying was that many teachers were replicating poor paper based education in the digital domain. Faced with the problem of students not reading long wordy documents on paper, they put them online, producing long wordy PDF documents. When the students did not read those, the teachers gave the students to hour long lectures on what was in the documents which the students (sensibly) had not read.

This week during the World Computer Congress in Brisbane I talked to a university professor who was having problems with email. They were keeping copies of all messages from students and book collaborators in the university mail system. As a result their mail box was clogged with copies of draft papers and books.

Universities provide tools for efficiently handling documents in learning management systems and e-portfolios. However, the system administrators may be too quick to remove all data from the system at the end of a course. This then requires the teachers and students to manually store duplicate copies of materials elsewhere. Multiplied thousands of times across schools, TAFEs and universities, this is a waste of teacher and student effort. Also the students will be learning poor e-literacy skills which they will then take with them into the workforce. I will be discussing some of this at the Canberra MoodlePosium, 7-8 October 2010.

The ANU asked me to prepare a 6 week e-learning course on electronic document management to be offered from early next year. This would incorporate material on electronic document management and web design courses I previously presented in ANU face to face courses.

One problem I had with this was making it interesting. When this material is part of a larger course the student has to do it, to complete the course. A standalone EDM course might appeal to a few records managers and librarians, but then they are more likely to want to do specialist courses designed just for them. What I might do is call the course "Working in the Cloud" and present it for all information professionals (including educators) needing to support efficient online work practices. That would explore efficiency both from the point of view of getting the work done and efficient technical use of the online resources.

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