Thursday, 6 June 2013

Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age

Helen Beethem and Rhona Sharpe (eds.) 
Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing for 21st Learning (Routledge, 2013)

This is a new edition of a book that was first published in 2007. In the six years since the first edition of this book the online and open learning world has moved on considerably. The development of OERs, that were in their infancy in 2007, has continued to grow and develop. MOOCs (for many the antithesis of OERs - as highlighted by the current debate over FutureLearn's Terms and Conditions) did not exist in any form that we would recognise today and the learning potential of social media platforms was only just beginning to be recognised.

The thrust of the book is that pedagogic theory cannot be created in a vacuum. Social, economic and cultural values have moved on since 2007 and the technology that is available has changed quite a lot as well. All of that means that we need to search for a new pedagogy as we move from an emphasis on teaching to one of learning.

The first part of the book explores the concept of "design for learning" in which the creators of open learning materials need to take into account a new way of learning when the materials are put together. In a sense, these learning theories have been around for some time but are being repurposed to take account of societal and technological change. Of the three broad learning theories covered in the book (associative, cognitive and situative) it is obvious that situated learning theory is coming to dominate discussions about open learning. 

The second section moves from the theoretical to the practical with case studies of learning design being discussed within the framework of learning theory. The case studies include perspectives from those who work in the field of arts and humanities teaching; a 'Student as Producer' project at the University of Lincoln in the UK and the development of the LAMS (Learning Activity Management System) design tool.

The theoretical discussions in the book about learning theory and how it applies to "design for learning" is an extremely useful section for those who are unfamiliar with the whole area of learning theory and design for learning. I suspect that this may include many teachers in the post-compulsory education field who are, to use what might be a controversial phrase, "digital immigrants" and are faced with students who have grown up with learning in an entirely new way. Understanding the theory by itself in not enough. You can read instructions (or watch a video) on how to swim or ride a bike but in the end you have to go ahead and start putting that theory into practice. So the last section of the book is also extremely useful as a way for reflective practitioners to see how others have added practical flesh to their theoretical bones.

The book can be ordered through the Routledge website. (Please do not use Amazon until they fess up over their tax affairs)

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