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It’s not about the tools, it’s about the learning

Jenni Parker, Murdoch University

In the past, good teaching was a combination of in-depth subject knowledge (content) and a clear understanding of how it should be taught (pedagogy). In our 21st century world, the web and new technologies have created new ways to connect, create and communicate.

Good teaching now also requires an understanding of how technology relates to pedagogy and content (TPACK model). As a consequence, educators need new pedagogical strategies that can harness the affordances of a diverse range of digital tools to create effective student-centred learning environments.

Pedagogical change

Many presumed the Learning Management System (LMS) would act as an agent of pedagogical change to transform passive teacher-centered information delivery models.

Wise & Quealy described the promise of a “broadly accessible student-centered, interactive learning model[s] based around learning networks, interactive and collaborative technologies and communities of practice”.

WhiteHowever, this potential has largely not been fulfilled as many teachers earned their degrees in an era that used more traditional technologies such as paper and pencils, chalkboards and emails.

Teachers need pedagogical and technological training to learn how to adapt their teaching methods to engage with their digitally connected students and to learn how emerging technologies can be effectively integrated so that the focus is on student learning, not on the technology or platform.

With the rapid growth in online enrolments, many universities are seeking ways to encourage teachers to embrace research-based methods to develop more effective online instruction in higher education.

The University of Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa hosted an Authentic Learning Colloquium. The aim of the colloquium was to showcase research that explores practical applications of authentic learning and emerging technologies in authentic learning.

Authentic learning

Authentic learning is a process involving the dynamic interactions between the learner, the task and the environment. In 1997, Murdoch University Professor Jan Herrington identified nine critical elements of situated learning and developed a model of authentic learning that could be applied to educational practice.

Using web-based applications to create authentic learning environments where students use technology as cognitive tools to solve real-world issues has the potential to improve student engagement and knowledge construction.

Emerging technologies

The increasing availability of social web technologies provides the opportunity for educators to offer students a more interactive and engaging learning experience. However, it is not about the tools; it is about how these technologies are used to support student learning.

Examples of authentic learning courses

Authentic eDesign
21st Century Educators Postgraduate Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education
Authentic Learning Principles (ALP)

Further reading

Authentic online learning: Aligning learner needs, pedagogy and technology (Parker, Maor & Herrington) Issues in Educational Research, 23(2), 2013: Special Issue.
Emerging technologies as cognitive tools for authentic learning (Herrington & Parker) British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 2013: Special Issue.
The use of emerging technologies for authentic learning: A South African study in higher education (Bozalek, Gachago, Alexander, Watters, Wood, Ivala & Herrington) British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 2013: Special Issue.

July, 2013

The views expressed in this feature are those of the author.