By Steve Lee & Miles Berry
(For Miles’ biography, please see page 44.)
e-Learning delivers many enhancements to the teaching and learning experience; the biggest impact occurs when the technology enables social and collaborative interaction where all parties actively build their understanding.
It’s hard to miss the fact that e-Learning provides learning resources in interesting electronic media and makes them available ‘anywhere, anytime’. Such media provides enhanced impact, improved accessibility, can be re- purposed for new uses and also help improve differentiation. However the required media production skills can be beyond teachers’ experience, and often publication is by commercial publishers, or a specialist media or web unit. This can have the effect of de-professionalising teachers, who lose control of the materials they use with their learners.
Even where teachers do remain in control of learning materials, a commonplace approach to e-Learning is to simply publish resources appropriate to the learning. Such content may be ‘interactive’ or describe activities to be performed but is otherwise passively consumed by the students. This can alienate learners, who feel reduced to the level of recipients of content rather than participants in learning. Other methods are used by many teachers to more fully engage students, for example Tim Rylands’ (http://timrylands.com/) use of the Myst computer games in literacy classes, resulting in impressive improvements in descriptive writing, especially from boys. Teachers in the creative arts often use collaboration and group work around technology to create works in media such as music technology, videos or animations.
In ordinary, classroom teaching, we now enjoy a range of approaches that improve on the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ method used on its own. These embrace a social, interactive and constructionist approach to whole class teaching. As stated in the ‘About Learning’ (http://www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/aboutlearning/) report of the Demos-led Learning Working Group: