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Date Reviewed: September 6, 2018
Rosemary Luckin, editor
London, UK: UCL Institute of Education Press, 2018 (xxxv + 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-78277-226-2, $41.95) The overarching conclusion one might draw from this research-oriented review of current studies regarding education and technology is that we simply do not know enough about the effects of digital resources on teaching and learning. As the authors of this edited ...
Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology: What the Research Says
Rosemary Luckin, editor
London, UK: UCL Institute of Education Press, 2018 (xxxv + 334 pages, ISBN 978-1-78277-226-2, $41.95)
The overarching conclusion one might draw from this research-oriented review of current studies regarding education and technology is that we simply do not know enough about the effects of digital resources on teaching and learning. As the authors of this edited volume repeatedly point out, media reports about educational technology typically highlight negative findings and ignore positive associations. Technology champions and detractors rely primarily on face-value benefits or concerns in making their cases for or against educational use. Few studies have empirically considered the interplay among specific learning theories, educational contexts, embodied practices, and various technologies that might enhance learning. Without such research, we cannot draw defensible conclusions about the educational effectiveness of technology resources for formal and informal learning.
Organized in six parts – two that focus on learning factors and four related to educational challenges that might benefit from technological resourcing – the text is at times jargon heavy, particularly for readers unfamiliar with computer programming lingo or European educational policies and practices. A six-page glossary offsets some of this difficulty. Diagrams described as color-coded are printed in black and white, which complicates interpretation. Chapters are short (averaging seven or eight pages), so topics are covered succinctly with little detail to bolster analytic claims. Seven evidence-based learning principles are introduced (2-8) and referenced throughout the text, as are a list of nineteen learning approaches (see Table 2.1, 36). These frameworks serve to tie different case studies together. At the end of each section, the editor summarizes key findings in a bulleted list that can serve as a quick reference for readers.
The case studies provided focus primarily on school-age children and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects or language development, although some chapters address adult learners. Most helpful for Reflective Teaching readers would be the discussions of video production recommendations (chapter 2.4), location-triggered learning (chapter 2.5), gaming and unintentional learning (chapter 3.1), digital access and cheating (chapter 3.2), engaging learning environments (chapter 3.3), and the use of tablets and smartphones in education (chapter 4.2). For those interested in assessment and professional development issues, the last section of the text covers learning analytics and technology-enhanced coaching for teachers. Readers in institutions experimenting with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) might find the presentation of MOOC development priorities (chapter 5.2) useful as a discussion resource in policy-making conversations.
On a more general education level, the short discussion of self-testing and the value of asking students to indicate how certain or uncertain they are about their answers as a strategy to encourage self-reflection on learning (chapter 1.2) may prompt educators to consider whether right answers are sufficient measures of deep knowledge acquisition. Institutional assessment plans often seek to ascertain how well students are integrating and transferring knowledge from one context to another, which depends on deeper forms of understanding. Using this chapter to spark departmental or faculty-wide conversation about what constitutes deep, transferable knowledge could inform assessment design work as well as individual course grading schemes.
Date Reviewed: March 23, 2018
This book captures the frustration of many faculty who are witnessing the decline of faculty governance against the rise of administrative fiat, particularly in areas that impact pedagogical choice. In seven main chapters, the authors provide a detailed view of the systems and decisions that are so often thrust upon faculty. They do a superb job describing the landscape of MOOCs, FLOSS, and LMS in everyday language. They deal with a broad range of issues to show the ways in which faculty are being (sometimes willingly) deskilled through technology. These authors are not dismissive of technological innovation, but they are wary of some aspects of it. They are aware that this book will quickly become outdated but teachers will find that the evidence and core arguments presented here remain worthy of attention.
Education is Not an App is a manifesto of sorts, calling faculty to embrace their freedom to make pedagogical choices, a freedom that is often smothered by administrative decree. For instance, the authors argue, new learning management systems are often presented to faculty as across-the-board, time-saving solutions for all, not as the political flashpoints they should be. For these authors, educational technology tends to “seek constrained truth for the advantage of specific powers that be” (3), just as the simplest app constrains as it empowers.
Several key assumptions and at least one conclusion here might irk some readers. First is the assumption that face-to-face education is superior to online education, with very limited exceptions. The authors assert that the work that happens between people in classrooms produces more critical thinking, and therefore more meaningful learning than most experiences online. This reader agrees, but not all will. Another assumption is that faculty will have the ability (or the interest) to keep current with new technologies and will have institutional support in using the ones they choose, a lofty goal on both counts. Few faculty have the time to school themselves on emerging technologies, and pressures such as student evaluations reward conformity. These authors conclude, quite rightly, that faculty jobs are in danger because of the “the kind of university governance that makes this kind of [edtech] abuse possible” (37). This book highlights many issues that raise concern (not least, the rise of “instructional designers”), but we do not yet know that student learning suffers in this tech-heavy environment. The authors focus more on academic freedom and far less on student learning.
Poritz and Rees are correct that educational technology – with its unbundling and deskilling and administrative oversight – threatens academic freedom and the autonomy of thought we hope to teach our students. It invites monitoring and assessment that faculty should resist; at the very least, teachers should consider at length the costs of simplifying their teaching lives through technology. “At the risk of sounding alarmist” (74), faculty in all disciplines should read this book. Even those who resist as much as possible should be aware of the changing landscape. We gain and lose in the decisions that we make, but we stand to lose more from decisions made for us.
Date Reviewed: April 8, 2015
This edited volume of eleven articles explores the concepts of transfer, transitions, and transformation within a focus of educational technology. This title is part of the International Technology Education Series, and the authors mainly come from the field of education. The articles engage a number of fields including: engineering, science, technology, vocational education, nursing, and architecture.
The opening chapter provides a literature review of transfer, especially in relationship to transitions and transformation. A successful transfer is defined as “a product where something learned in one context is used to assist learning in another context” (2). The authors explore this concept in regards to motivation, sameness and difference, unproductive transfer, transfer in relationship to transitions and transformation, and transfer as boundary crossing. After this introduction, various authors offer research studies and exploratory essays around these subjects.
Several of these studies deserve special mention. Bjurulf’s chapter on the LISA (Learned in Several Arenas) Project explores transfer between work and school within vocational education. This research study uses semi-structured interviews to explore the nature of transfer. Her research supports the conclusion that the transfer of knowledge must be a holistic blending of practice and theory. Another article by Baartman, Gravemeijer, and De Bruijn examines transfer in relationship to technology in non-technical jobs as boundary-crossing skills. They engage transitions, which encompass successfully taking a learned concept from one situation and applying it to another situation. For these authors, and in a number of articles in this book, transfer occurs as a consequence of transitions. Baartman, Gravemeijer, and De Bruijn observe that boundaries should be viewed as learning opportunities as students work to successfully take skills back and forth between school and the workplace. They indicate that it is important to design education for successful transitions that empower boundary-crossing opportunities.
Some of the articles, such as Pavlova’s and MacGregor’s, focus upon transformation and transitions, but many of articles do not engage either concept. Both Pavlova and MacGregor engage transformation in terms of the self and as social change. For Pavlova, transformation is demonstrated in both critical self-reflection and emancipatory change. MacGregor focuses on factors that foster or inhibit transformation in teachers as they make the transition from their last year at university to their first year in teaching. MacGregor’s transformation also engages self-reflection as teachers’ identities are transformed by their experiences of teaching and learning.
Many of these studies might be considered essays or well-developed literature reviews rather than research studies, because they lack an identifiable research methodology. Overall, the various articles appear to be disconnected and underdeveloped with the exception of the authors mentioned. A final concluding chapter would have been helpful to weave these articles together and draw some overarching conclusions. However, the articles are easy to read, contain good bibliographies, and provide an introduction to the scholarly discourse around transfer.
For theological education, transfer is an important aspect of field education. The relationship between theory and practice and methods of creating transfer between the two is critical for the quality of theological education, but the value of this title for theological education is limited. Theological schools with strong pedagogical educational programs or terminal degrees in education might benefit from adding this title to their libraries. Universities with graduate educational programs would want to add this title, especially for those with vocational teacher preparatory programs.
Date Reviewed: February 19, 2015
Although this handbook is primarily for design in educational technology much of it can be applied to the educational ecology of religious studies and theological education. It is also useful for discussions of basic learning theory and for applying technology to the task of teaching.
Chapter 3, “The Ecology of Resources,” provides a model of the learner’s context and identifies steps to map the learner’s ecology of resources (33-51). Some of these steps may be familiar to seasoned educators. Those unfamiliar with these steps will find help that deepens their understanding and practice of teaching. Perhaps most notable here concerns the identification of filters, both positive and negative, through which the resources of the teaching environment, people and tools involved, and knowledge and skills required interact with the learners.
A chapter on assessment of student learning of twenty-first century skills focuses on collaborative problem-solving (53-64). This section provides a table that lists three indicators for success: action, interaction, and task completion, with brief descriptions of each. It then details three levels of quality criteria for each (low, medium, and high) with descriptions about each criteria level. The criteria, in particular, could be helpful for assessing an exploration of religion-based bullying in classroom contexts, for instance.
Context, Activities, Roles, Stakeholders, and Skills (CARRS), in a chapter on involving young people in design, provides a useful structure not only for the design of software but also for the development of a single class or an entire course (101-11). Each element involved will be familiar to seasoned teachers, but the scheme’s attention to developing the abilities of young participants to contribute is especially useful for beginning teachers.
“Designing for Seamless Learning” (146-157) creatively claims mobile technology ? such as cell phones and tablets – can be helpful for student learning. Seamless learning emphasizes continuity of learning within and beyond the classroom. Table 13.1 lists ten characteristics and shows specific ways by which mobile technology supports seamless learning: it is learner (user) centered, an everyday life experience; it functions across time, across location, and across social groups; it flows naturally across different situations, or can be situated (wherever needed); is cumulative, personalized, and accommodates versatile learning activities. Perhaps students studying worship, for instance, might be encouraged to report or note kinds of worship in their community.
Prompts for learning (scaffolds) have been a staple of classroom education for decades, and the chapter on “Scaffolding Learning in a Learning Management System” (241-255) extends that tool beyond the traditional classroom. Using internet tools to provide feedback, clarify assignments, engage in dialogue, and so forth engages the learner outside of the class in a range of ways to prompt learning.
Chapter 21 includes a discussion of the use and challenges of Second Life, a virtual reality construct, for educational purposes (366-369). The use of software gaming programs for teaching religion and theology is a growing area of practice. This chapter is timely.
Additional thought-provoking approaches to teaching practice are outlined within this book’s forty-three chapters. This book could be purchased by the library, in paperback or ebook format, so that faculty in a department or theological school could have access to it. It is a stimulating tool that encourages a range of technological tool uses in ways appropriate to religious and theological education.
Date Reviewed: January 19, 2015
The integration of technology into classroom instruction is an oft-mentioned topic in modern pedagogical discussions. This collection of essays enters into the fray very broadly, by postulating productive ways of integrating various technologies into a wide variety of educational settings, covering an incredibly diverse set of subjects. Despite the dizzying variety inherent to this collection, there are two primary areas in which this volume is helpful to those interested in teaching theology or religion: First, for individual instructors intent on enhancing student learning, this volumes offers an overview of technologies instructors are using successfully, as well as effective summaries of educational theory justifying their approach to technology integration. Second, for departments or department chairs interested in broadening the use of technology within their course offerings, this volume includes many essays discussing methods with which teachers can recognize relevant technologies and their usefulness in the classroom.
Several important and foundational principles about the integration of technology into classroom instruction undergird each chapter. Most foundationally, integrating technology into the classroom for the sake of integrating technology is over and over again shown to be ineffective (see esp. 45-46). There is a pernicious assumption in many sectors that classrooms need technology to be effective. Several chapters in this volume offer a very important caution: Technology is a tool, which when used well can serve to help students engage in classroom content more readily and thereby to learn more effectively, but the mere use of any technology does not ensure student engagement or learning.
Two other theoretical sections are of note: A helpful overview of several learning theories is provided (informal and incidental learning, relational mentoring, and situated learning) which provides a helpful framework for the integration of technology into a classroom (233-236). Chapter 15 also offers an interesting survey of TPACK (technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge) research-based course design. Though this particular chapter relates this theoretical model to math education, the model has many important implications for theological and religious education.
In addition to theoretical contributions, several specific technological tools are discussed with a view to their productive use in the classroom. A few technologies deserve specific mention here: Anonymous student polling either through clickers or Poll Everywhere is offered as an effective tool to enhance student discussion (46-51). Productive use of social media in a classroom setting is discussed (8-11 and 217-228), and its implications for privacy are covered in chapter 16. The role of games in learning is also considered (11-14 and 178-191). The specific games discussed in this volume are not really relevant to theological education; however, readers may be able to draw connections between the book and the Reacting to the Past (RTTP) group. RTTP has a few games dealing with theological or religious material (see RTTP).
Several articles are focused on training instructors to use technology effectively while engaged with teaching. The authors contend that successful integration of technology into educational institutions requires first, the establishment of a culture of innovation, then the modeling of effective technological use by administrators and supervisors, and finally continuing support for instructors seeking to integrate technology into their classroom through both ongoing technological education and mentoring.
In sum, Keengwe’s Research Perspectives is an all too broad entry into this complicated but important topic. It offers a good, but brief, survey of the theoretical foundation for technological integration, but the specific technologies mentioned, and the training models presented, seem like a preliminary attempt at integration rather than a proscriptive model to be adapted immediately in any classroom.