They are a fantastic tool for learning, but I'm really not sure they can, or indeed should fit into our genuine everyday teaching.
Looks like I've finally managed to post in this thead. I was beginning to suspect conspiratorial elements were preventing me from replying to Andrew's critique.
Turns out there's been a lot of down time recently...
What Andrew does in his post is something we proselytising ICT-History people occasionally neglect: to look beyond the technology or as Andrew puts it ‘really question’ the assumption that the technological innovation adds something new to ‘genuine’ teaching and learning. I come back to what I said in my first post, ‘forums should be used because they add a dimension to history learning unavailable in a traditional classroom context.’
I've made some bold claims for forums, largely because I want to encourage others to get involved, but I certainly agree with Andrew here: forums are an extra dimension to and will never be a substitute for 'everyday teaching'.
But then this is true of all ICT applications used in history. Until we give students access to computers, when and wherever they might need them, (sounds like another seminar of mine
) the impact of ICT on history teaching and learning will be severly limited. No amount of PowerPoint and Flash
driven multimedia pedagogic pyrotechnics via interactive whiteboards and LCD projectors will make much difference if at the end of it all students are forced to express their learning through the lines of an 'exercise' book.
Firstly, the ideal forum is based on a sense of community that welcomes new members and encourages discussion. Using a forum for a week or so is not enough time for a sense of community to build… Secondly, it is questionable whether it is worth the time of registering all students for an activity that they will access for a limited time.
Agreed. But the ideal forum is not what we're starting from. First of all we need to get teachers giving it a go. Dom is a case in point. They can be a bit tricky to set up, but as I argued earlier, class or teacher websites (with a community of teachers and learners) are the obvious future for student forums. If I set up a forum for my department this, immediately allows for cross-class/year group collaboration. I teach Cold War in Y10 and Y12, why not create an environment for them to work together. When I’m happy with what I’m doing, perhaps I could invite other schools or members of the wider learning community to join in.
If students are able and enthused to access the forum out of school then marvellous, but I'm not sure that is the reality.
Some are, and that is certainly a reality. Many are not, but how much of a problem is this? What I have found most interesting is that ‘own time’ use of the forum is not the preserve of my most able students. It is clearly motivating a type of learner who has not obviously been motivated before. As home Internet access becomes even more ubiquitous (an expectation?) I think we might begin to create a more effective ‘out of school’ learning environment. But of course we face problems. Not even my school demands that students have Internet access at home. We give them the computer with a modem, we spend hours on our hypertext curriculum and still not all kids have Internet access. This means I am still unable set Internet based homework.
Thirdly, and most significantly, I don't feel the 'forum model' is an educationally valid exercise unless you start afresh each year. The reason for this is that I see the best learning process is where students discover and develop their own ideas and views through the use of this technology. Hence the first group to access the resident expert or source materials can learn a great deal. Yet when the similar group the following year come to access the same debate, it largely becomes a comprehension exercise. Perhaps some new questions will emerge, but the gloss, the 'unexplored territory' has already been trampled upon by last year's groups.