A ‘working formula’ to boost digital literacy

by Brett Henebery08 Feb 2016

Studies have shown that Australia is falling behind when it comes to students being competent digital learners – but with Australian schools being one of the biggest early adopters of technology in the world – how is this possible?

One educational technologist with 15 years experience in education has some ideas as to why.

Louise Lewis is the founder of CloudEd, an initiative to improve digital teaching and learning through applying internationally recognised frameworks and techniques tailored to educators.

The three week training course is set to take place in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast today and will help educators boost students’ – and their own – digital knowledge and hands-on skills.

Lewis told The Educator that a core part of the new course, and something that’s proven to be successful in the past, is a “change management methodology”. Lewis suggested this methodology can greatly improve how schools approach digital teaching and learning.

“What I found in the early days was that something big was missing from the results to engage learners using technology,” Lewis said.

“We found that the early online learning involved content being uploaded in bland ways with little choice or engagement. In 2010 I did some further study and realised that this problem was one that not only existed here, but also around the world.”

A report released by ACARA in November found that the digital skills of the nation’s students are now at their lowest point in four years, with the average digital literacy of students in Years 6 and 10 both dropping compared to 2011’s results.

However, teachers are also falling behind, said Lewis, adding there was a lack of effective mentoring for educators who are struggling to teach kids crucial 21st century skills.

Lewis said that while a lot has been said, and attempted, by various schools in terms of trying to improve digital literacy, one particular formula could be the answer to lift Australia out of its digital literacy slump.

One study that inspired Lewis the most was conducted by two researchers, Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler, who formulated an education framework called Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK).

Lewis said that despite being “extremely effective”, the TPACK framework had not received the mainstream attention it deserved.

“The general media don’t want to hear about this because it isn’t sexy – and that’s the problem. They only want to know about the shiny toys such as Google apps for education.”

Bland or not, Lewis said the TPACK framework was “the bread and butter of education”.

“Let’s get serious and implement something that will actually effect change in education. Some people say ‘the organisation doesn’t’ change – the people within them do’, and that’s something worth thinking about,” she said.

You don’t get to knowledge and ability until stages three and four. We’re going straight to this stage – that’s why it’s not working. They’re going straight to using the technology when they’re not even knowledgeable about an awareness and desire to change this.”

“It’s a short-sighted shortcut in which educators are going around in circles without really going anywhere.”

“It’s a simple model of putting these two things together for teachers and schools. If you can do this and implement a change management process alongside it, you will finally get somewhere.”

“We put a lot of technology into classrooms but we didn’t support teachers and students as to how to use it effectively for education,” she said, adding that the Prosci change management model was also effective in achieving this end.

Lewis is also a certified change manager in the model which is based on preparing for change, managing it and then reinforcing it through creating specific action plans.

“The good thing about that model is that it’s based on humans. They say ‘the organisation doesn’t’ change – the people within them do’. It focuses on what the person could be thinking through the stages through change,” she explained.

“Awareness is the first change, then the desire to change, followed by knowledge and ability and finally reinforcement. You don’t get to knowledge and ability until stages three and four.

“We’re going straight to this stage – that’s why it’s not working. They’re going straight to using the technology when they’re not even knowledgeable about an awareness and desire to change this.”

Lewis said that schools’ current approach towards using technology was a shortcut in which educators “are going around in circles without really going anywhere.”

“It’s a simple model of putting these two things together for teachers and schools. If you can do this and implement a change management process alongside it, you will finally get somewhere.”
 
 
 
 

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