Every year, there are a multitude of reports, articles and posts published that summarise trends and innovations in education and educational technologies. In truth, none of these fully represent what’s going on in higher education, and valid criticism can be hurled at most. The cynic would be tempted to ignore them all.
Yet some years prompt us more than others to reflect on and re-calibrate what we do within our own spheres of influence. 2018 was arguably one of those years – for higher ed, ed tech and the world in general. And that brings us to Innovating Pedagogy 2019 (pdf).
This is the 7th report in the series, and a little different in its selection of trends than others on offer.
There’s no blockchain, no data analytics, IoT, VR/AR, alternative credentialing or personalised learning. In fact, a lot of the pedagogies aren’t necessarily new, and quite a few require no technology at all.
What they do represent, at least in my eyes, is the educator’s response to many of the issues that are at the heart of the challenges that hit fever pitch in 2018 – from #METOO to sporting / political leadership woes to fake news. They offer ways to encourage understanding and respect for others and their perspectives, to be more strategic about the support we offer, ground ourselves in real issues and contexts, and to place as much value on process as on outcomes. And that’s interesting.
A touch of perspective…
Two of the most interesting trends are Decolonising learning and Roots of empathy. Decolonising learning relates to thinking carefully about the content and perspectives that we privilege as educators, and about what happens when indigenous populations use resources and environments developed by colonial populations. Are we providing spaces for alternative perspectives and realities to be considered or even developed? This kind of focus on critical digital pedagogies helps ensure we meet the needs of diverse students and communities, expanding the impact of learning.
This isn’t simply about removing some content from the curriculum and replacing it with new content – it’s about considering multiple perspectives and making space to think carefully about what we value. (p.4)
The Gulaay team are currently developing the Indigenous Cultural Competence pages in our wiki, and those who were part of the former Faculty of Business will remember Annette Gainsford’s fantastic contributions in this area – both solid foundations for conversations with the Gulaay team about decolonising your course / subjects.
The Roots of empathy program can be easily dismissed as ‘just for kids’ when you read the report. However, while the program itself is focused on children, there’s value in thinking about what we do regarding the development of empathy in higher education. Any cursory look at poor managerial decision-making or workplace bullying demonstrates that a little bit of empathy development wouldn’t go astray for many professionals either.
The programme teaches skills that enable all the pupils to … develop a sense of social responsibility for each other. They’re also empowered to challenge cruelty, whether this is in the form of bullying or meanness. (p.40)
A touch more support…
Learning with robots is a deceptive title for the next trend. What the authors are really talking about here is helping teachers free their time for significant teaching opportunities by automating developmental or repetitive tasks and feedback. Interesting examples include automatic writing feedback (UTS), but it can also mean much more accessible strategies such as automatic quiz feedback or scaffolding decision-making skills in realistic scenarios (e.g. using Smart Sparrow at CSU).
Making thinking visible can be as simple as requiring students to set goals, write down steps when solving problems or annotate their work. It focuses on the process of learning and on learning progress. When you use just-in-time quizzes or polls in class (see active learning strategies in our wiki) followed by reflection / discussion you’re right on the money. The report offers some good resources here.
A touch of reality…
The next three trends focus strongly on the need to situate learning in real contexts. Action learning focuses on students working in teams to find solutions to immediate, familiar problems that they can then apply to their lives (the report offers business and online leadership examples).
Place-based learning uses location as a trigger for learning. This might be through workplace learning or field trips, but could equally involve taking advantage of mobile learning to gather data collected by students from their local communities (e.g. through data/image sharing apps), thus building a rich picture of the studied concept diverse contexts.
Virtual studios are ‘hubs of activity where learners develop creative processes together’ (p.30). Like the preceding two trends, learning is experiential and constructive.
A virtual studio can extend beyond traditional university boundaries, giving access to opportunities not possible in a physically restricted environment. (p.31)
On a very different note, the report also looks at drone-based learning – potentially useful in some of our disciplines for providing alternative visual perspectives (e.g. inspecting ongoing construction for engineers, assessing damage and locating victims for police and emergency responders).
Drone-based learning extends what can be achieved in fieldwork but implies additional cost. (p.20)
CSU’s Learning Resource Unit has access to a number of drones for use in course / subject development.
A touch of fun…
Playful learning again focuses on the process of learning and the exploration of issues from multiple perspectives. At the heart is developing curiosity, experimentation and ‘positive failure’. Again, this is easily dismissed as school learning but that would be a mistake. Think roleplay and game-based learning (Whitton, 2018 covers many strategies).
To design such spaces for adult learners, what is needed is an environment that: is easily accessible, supports progression, and is flexible; supports active physical engagement and collaboration with others; is democratic, open, accepts failure, and is intrinsically motivating. (p.9)
Learning through wonder is similarly about exploration and discovery. Yeah, OK. Perhaps this one is more for school learning. But shouldn’t all learning instil a sense of wonder?
And there you have it – more perspectives, support, reality and fun…not a bad antidote to 2018?
As Mark Smithers has commented, “the challenges and opportunities of innovation in higher ed are essentially human challenges and opportunities, not tech. Unfortunately there is still a tendency, when it comes to mainstreaming innovations, to drive them through tech solutions rather than human solutions.” I agree.
Reports that help us revisit the familiar from the perspective of current challenges and provide connections between different levels of education rather than dissecting the student experience into small timeframes provide great value here.
Innovating Pedagogy 2019 is a joint report from Institute of Educational Technology, Open University, UK, and the Centre for the Science of Learning and Technology, University of Bergen, Norway.