Kalantzis and Cope, New Tools for Learning: Working with Disruptive Change

The new technologies are often called ‘disruptive’. Older institutions of communication are today undergoing a process of transformation. Wikipedia has effectively meant the end of the old, print encyclopedia. Blogs and online news sources have become a threat to the conventional newspaper. The music publishing and distribution industry is undergoing transformation. Traditional television is facing stiff competition from video upload sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, with content made on devices as cheap and easy to use as a smart phone. Anyone can create a podcast and broadcast to the world.

One common feature of all these developments is that more people than ever before are creating and broadcasting information they have put together, ideas they have developed and feelings they have. This used to be the specialist job of journalists, television professionals, professional authors and researchers. The rest of us were audiences, readers and viewers.

Now anyone can be a media producer. Millions in fact are. If we were for a moment to think optimistically about the future, we might be able envisage a society where everyone is not just a consumer of culture and knowledge as they were in our media past, but active, responsible and participating citizens. In our work and community lives, we could all be knowledge producers and knowledge sharers.

We believe that change may come to schools which is just as disruptive as these changes in media systems and industries. As teachers, we need to take control of these changes and make sure they are for the better.

Here are some possibilities:

New Learning … compared to the Traditional Classroom
  • Ways of communicating

Continuous, intensive and horizontal communications as students interact around each otherís work. These are very busy, ësilently noisyí classrooms whose interactions are carefully scaffolded around project drafting and redrafting plans, learning task sequences, peer review formats, annotation criteria, and publication schedules.

  • Mostly silent, individualized work, with, at best, some hands-up, one-student-answers-at-a-time discussions. Noise is mostly a sign that things are going wrong.
  • Ways of relating
Lateral learning relations—peer to peer learning based on a clearly stated task objectives and a program of structured feedback and revision. The teacher designs projects, allowing students to self-manage their work and to work with others, with teacher oversight and supervision as needed.
  • Hierarchical learning relations—teacher-centered, teacher-micro-managed.
  • Ways of thinking
Metacognition and higher order thinking—thinking about thinking, critical thinking, innovative and creative thinking. Giving structured feedback means you have think and speak explicitly about a text and the thinking behind the text.
  • First order thinking—absorbing facts, repeating and applying rules.
  • Ways of learning
Individualized learning—having a project plan means that not every student has to be working on the same thing, at the same time, at the same pace.
  • Homogenous learning, everyone on the same page, shoot-for-the-middle-of-the-class teaching … but at the expense of leaving some students not quite understanding and others bored.

  • Ways of teaching

Differentiated instruction—an environment where student learning can be conveniently customized to mesh with different identities, interests and learning needs.

  • One-size-fits-all generic learning.
  • Where learning occurs
Ubiquitous learning—anywhere, anytime learning because your work and your project plan are on the web and your peers are online.
  • Institutionally isolated learning, confined to the four walls of the classroom, and the cells of the school timetable.

  • Ways of assessing

Formative assessment—all assessment contributes to learning, and summative assessment is just a matter of retrospective data aggregation and analysis drawn from multiple sources: multiple as-you-go assessments by self, peers and teacher.

  • Summative assessment—you only really get information on how the system thinks you are going when you take this strange thing, the test, which, in any event, is often more a test of medium-term memory than what you have done or can do in a subject area.

  • Types of media

Multimodal learning—where you can represent your knowledge in a web writing space using a carefully designed mix of words, sound, image, video and data files of various kinds.

  • The three 'r's—and with a focus on textbooks and handwriting in exercise books.