Head in the Cloud… and in the books…

I’ve been flat out over the past two months working on a literature review for my Masters, leaving precious little time for blogging and even less for relaxation! In any case, it’s been a fantastic experience to delve into the current research on cloud pedagogies and with Macquarie’s John Hedberg as my supervisor, I’ve sure learned a lot.

As always, I find it quite a challenge to shift gears from academic writing to the more reflective approach I generally take in these blog posts. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to come to terms with quite a lot through my own research and I think blogging plays a very important part in distilling some of the best ideas out there into a more readable and manageable form. Literature reviews are all about coming face-to-face with some pretty damned impressive ideas too!

So what have I learned after reading over a hundred papers and writing six thousand words?

1. Web 2.0 isn’t a fad and isn’t going away any time soon

andybudd.com

For my paper, I spent quite a lot of time analysing the use of Web 2.0 in education. Even after more than five years of being talked about, dabbled with, promoted and shared amongst educators, I still find a general aversion in schools to widespread adoption, and the research seems to confirm this. What is baffling in the least is the realisation that Web 2.0 has become part of the very fabric of the internet and is so ingrained in our daily use thereof that it astounds me (and others) that mainstream education still hasn’t come to terms more fully exploring its affordances. I guess that’s mainstream education for you, eh?

There’s plenty of good research to suggest that Web 2.0 enables autonomous learning more effectively than many other technologies, particularly those used to support traditional didacticism and power structures in schools (PowerPoints, IWBs, LMSes, etc.). Further, it makes the biggest difference in some of the emerging research on co-constructive learning, where students work in teams to produce a product that reflects their combined understanding of the concepts explored.

At the same time, I do understand the concerns of the ordinary teacher trying to promote  a range of Web 2.0 services, all of which require separate logins, security questions, email addresses and so on. While services like Wikispaces make it easy for educators to administer logins to education-based wikis, there are tonnes of other services that are just plain difficult to manage and I’ve heard of many instances where teachers have given up on using a Web 2.0 service which is unreliable, or one for which their kids “can’t remember their passwords.”

From my own research, Web 2.0 is going to continue to play a very big role in the daily use of the internet. Irrespective of arguments for or against the so-called generational “digital divide,” the question is really this: what conditions do we need to set up to make Web 2.0 work in our own classrooms? For me, the answer is simple…

2. Cloud Computing is the best way to scale the use of web-enabled applications within and across the institution

akae.blogspot.com

Having been now a long-term (inasmuch as three years is a very long time in technology education) advocate for Google’s Apps for Education, I really relished the opportunity to explore some of the research out there on institutions making the most of this technology. While there aren’t exactly numerous case studies to speak of, those that are available say a lot about the kinds of changes taking place – namely that this technology is:

“…at the top of the technology tree” (Newsom & Kennedy, 2010: 96)

“…a cornerstone of practically everything we do because of the flexibility that is built into it” (Dessoff, 2010: 65)

“[enabling students] to work collaboratively in real time on projects, much like businesses concurrently work on projects around the world” (Meyer, 2010: 16).

In addition to these comments, studies like Pretlow & Jayroe (2010) are now quantitatively analysing the significant effect of cost and time savings on the institution’s capacity to purchase addtional hardware and expertise now possible with cloud-based service deployments. Other qualitative analyses like Kittle & Hicks (2009) are very closely examining the emerging pedagogies and new literacies of online collaborative writing, putting forward possible models for collaboration and some excellent examples of collaborative writing lessons.

These studies are giving further weight to both Cloud Computing and Web 2.0 learning designs and it’s exciting to be a part of the push towards disruptive pedagogies. For me, the challenge remains in connecting the theories with daily practice; I’m slowly becoming better at bridging this “digital divide” – but a few more hours in the day wouldn’t hurt. 🙂

Further reading:

Pretlow, C. and T. Jayroe (2010). “Training in the Clouds.” Computers in Libraries 30(4):6.

Newsom, C. and K. Kennedy (2007). “Google and Collaboration.” Journal of Library Administration 46(3): 11.

Dessoff, A. (2010). “Google and Microsoft Go to School: The computing giants compete to provide powerful online applications to school districts–for free.” District Administration 46(8): 5.

Kittle, P. and T. Hicks (2009). “Transforming the Group Paper with Collaborative Online Writing.” Pedagogy 9(3): 14.
Meyer, S. (2010). “Google Apps Education Edition.” Wisconsin Technology Education 50 (2): 1.


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About Michael

Cellist, singer/songwriter, school teacher, nerd, recent scooter enthusiast and failed philosopher.
This entry was posted in Academic, Reflections and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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