QUESTION: How can ICTS enhance/ betray understanding in knowledge building?

"If people don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong." Yes Minister

Start capturing your thinking about how ict can enhance or betray understanding here ... [scroll down to the bottom if you want a squizz at what others think, or if you want to add a note about the page edit for the page history log]

ICTs don't do anything arguments

ICTs don't do anything. When you drop it into places/settings all you can say is stuff changes and it changes mostly in ways we rarely anticipate. First rule of thumb (or toe) of working with this stuff is technological humility. Second toe is skepticism towards all claims made on behalf of ICTs in education. Third toe: if you begin by talking about ICTs then you've lost the plot. So if you see a three toed silly old bugger wandering about muttering about the stupidity of integation, the inanity of talking about tools and the absolute mindlessness of even contemplating enhancement toss a penny or two in the begging bowl and it all might just go away. (cj 12.9.06)

Toes again - this must be where I come in. ICTs don't do anything - they merely enable the human element in more varied and accessible ways. It is not the wiki that creates this sharing of ideas, but it enables the process. The digital camera doesn't create the picture, but it allows us to use our imagination to capture and display. There is nothing magical about a blog other than the fact that this form and location of diarying occurs in a public arena and therefore enables interaction with others. The cell phone is an enabler of portable communication through talk, txt, picture and video. Without the human element there is no magic. (Jill H 11.9.06)

Ahh cj you are delicious, pernicious, and totally vexing in your rhetoric – how am I supposed to answer this? – Have checked out the three toed mammals and come up with Bradypus tridactylus the three toed sloth – seems that “Sloths are slow-moving solitary animals, which live their lives in the canopy of the forest. Their difficult cellulose-rich diet means that they need complex stomachs to help digest it, and they also have very low metabolic rates and reduced muscles to exist on a low-energy diet. They only descend the trees once a week to urinate and defecate, and communicate through scent.”
And predictably as ICT mediated knowledge it doesn’t help me at all with arguments for enhancement and betrayal.
Have decided to resort to new black t-shirts for ULearn06 –
Design #! <em>Technological humility</em>
Design #2 */Embrace scepticism Eschew sceptics/*
Design #3 <i>The plot has lost me</i>
Design#4 <b>ICTs don’t do anything!</b>
(Pam 11/9/06)

Imagine a t-shirt competition where the efforts were judged based on the ability to use Photoshop rather than on the value / importance / cleverness of the message. Oh, hang on a minute. That's where we often find ourselves. Nicki

ICT's do something (but I don't know what it is) arguments

We can only start playing with these ideas of enhancement and betrayal of the conditions of value in teaching and learning once we have some consensus in the earlier conversations about what we think knowledge building is, and for that matter whether we can identify conditions of value in knowledge building environments (Pam)

Developing a knowledge building community requires more complex thinking than simple exhortations to adopt higher order thinking
  • “Higher-order thinking requires students to manipulate information and ideas in ways that transform their meanings and implications…the teacher’s main instructional task is to create activities or environments that allow (students) opportunities to engage in higher-order thinking.” (page 65) Nettelbeck, D. (2005). Computers, Thinking and Learning. ACER Press: Victoria, Australia.
Developing students as knowledge builders requires that we look for opportunities for students’ to work collaboratively to manipulate and build knowledge that shows some advance over what is already known by their peers, then we must expect that peers are able to make a constructive response to one and others work. Student work must move beyond a teacher initiates> student responds > teacher evaluates formulaic framework.

How does ICT enhance the conditions of value in the environment described above? To use a classroom space to integrate ICT into a “curriculum delivery that reiterates existing practice” is not enough. We need to develop classrooms where ICT is used by students to make informed decisions over issues that concern them, to help them “construct new learning”, to ensure they are engaged in building knowledge rather than retrieving it. As educators will need to work together to determine the steps required to turn a “learning space” which integrates ICT into a “learning place” where learning through ICT changes students’ cognition.

I reckon we could start by exploring the ways in which learning through ICT can affect the way students as researchers acquire, manipulate, store and distribute information"

Perhaps the unique advantage ICT contributes is when we explore collaboratively through ICT facilitated environments notable for the diversity of information surface that facilitate revision, reflection and interplay. The A3 (Anyone, Anytime, Any place); 1 to 1, 1 to many, many to many etc; push and pull, and synchronous and asynchronous facilty of learning through ICT. This is where the social networking tools/environments can play- things that facilitate collaborative knowledge building, simulation and reflective environments. Tools such as wikis but also databases, e-portfolios, Cmap concept maps, forums, threaded discussion, instant messenger, blogs, alongside PDA’s, mobile phones and 3-D gaming.

We will need a focus on the many communication modes that ICT environments can offer, so that students can choose the ict information surface that best allows the expression of their new understandings, e.g. video, audio, animation, database, CAD design, web pages, etc We will also need to build an ict sense of a reflective student voice, through e-portfolios, blogs, forums etc where students can comment on what they have learned, need to learn or even how they learn.(Pam) [5/9/06]

ICTs do Something (but only if we tell them to) Argument

Thought I’d just throw a couple of quotes into the mix;
“When schools put the cart before the horse - buying technology for the sake of technology without asking critical questions about purpose, use and the classroom impact of such tools - they are inviting disappointment.” Jamie McKenzie
Unless students are trained to use the advanced features of search engines like Google, they tend to gather huge piles of pages that contribute little to understanding. Some have likened these piles of information to a landfill.” Jamie McKenzie (

ICTs can be valuable tools but we (teachers and students) need to drive the technology (not the other way round). ICTs are tools like any other and should be treated as such. We don’t buy books on the basis that this is the latest one out so we should have it, we buy according to a need that book will fulfil, it is the same with ICTs.

Having said that, however, I would add that ICTs can be a fantastic tool used correctly and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact they can have on learning. My e-fellows’ research project on ‘Inquiry Learning in an ICT-rich environment’ found that ICTs aided the students in many ways which are detailed on my website. As Jill H pointed out though, ICTs didn’t actually do anything on their own, they were enablers.

ICTs will only do what we tell them to. They can provide new and exciting ways for students to acquire, sort, analyse and share information, or we can use them to do what we’ve always done (only a little bit faster). As Marshall McLuhan put it: "The past went that-away. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future."
Jan-Marie K 4/10/06

Collaborating/Playing with yourself

An understanding of Roland Barthes idea of “text as a tissue of quotations” is central here. If we use Manovich’s “information surfaces” analogy then ICT environments offer many opportunities for collaborative authorship through textual intercourse. Opportunities for information surface interplay with texts, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions represent a real, rich and relevant experience for students producing, distributing, and communicating complex and abstract knowledge building ideas.
Manovich’s (2002) collaborative authorship framework allows a deeper understanding of the term, and is an important distinction for knowledge building. Whilst collaboration is usually seen as occurring between different individuals and or groups, Manovich’s analysis shows that individual interactions with new media also represent collaborative authorship e.g selection from a Photoshop menu/ sampling or collage/ remixing etc (Pam 5/9/06)

What others are thinking
Christopher D Sessums suggests on his blog post that "Social software has two key attributes that could be considered meaningful to educators:
  1. Permits communication between groups and individuals – In this sense, social software serves as a medium or channel that supports an exchange, or an ecology where people, practices, and values connect, interact, and evolve (Suter et al., 2005).
  2. Enables the aggregation and sharing of resources -- Social software not only allows people to collect, communicate, and collaborate online, it allows data, information, and objects to be combined and consolidated, serving as a place where both ideas and people can converge."

This new revolution is arguably more profound than the previous ones and we are just beginning to sense its initial effects. Indeed, the introduction of printing press affected only one stage of cultural communication -- the distribution of media. Similarly, the introduction of photography affected only one type of cultural communication -- still images. In contrast, computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulating, storage and distribution of information; it also affects all types of media -- text, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions.” Manovich 2002