Richard Olsen is a doctoral candidate at Monash University, currently researching how modern technologies improve school learning. He is the author of Understanding Virtual Pedagogies: Collective Knowledge Construction and the creator of the 12 Principles of Modern Learning.
Passionate about online learning communities, social networking, inquiry-based learning and game-based learning, Richard has experience as the Assistant Director of ideasLAB, an education research and development incubator in Melbourne, Australia. Prior to joining ideasLAB, Richard was ICT Coordinator at Mill Park Heights Primary School and Concord School where he implemented a number of social and virtual learning initiatives.
Question: How will education trends change in 2015?
Richard Olsen: Over the past 10-15 years technology has made a huge impact on the way children learn and interact with the world. Every year we see new and improved technology introduced , and the great news is, with access to the internet in homes and schools becoming faster thanks to the Nsational Broadband Network (NBN), access to these exciting advancements is becoming easier.
This year will be no different and I expect to see a few new technology trends pop up in the classroom:
A creative new future
Introduction of more creative, hands-on electronics through devices such as 3D printers and and Makey Makey, an invention kit which can link every day objects to the internet, so your child could play the piano using bananas! As this technology becomes more accessible it will be easier for children to learn, create and explore so they are equipped with the skills to become the engineers and architects of tomorrow.
Coding the new ABCs
Whilst programming has existed in the curriculum for a few years now, most schools don't currently teach coding (and if they do, it's only as an elective). I think this year will see a push for more classes in this field as the demand for these skills in the workforce increases.
The global classroom
School projects will no longer be limited to the classroom. The rise of global projects, such as The Hour Code (where students across the world learn how to code together) will become increasingly popular. With the classroom walls fast expanding, children will also be exposed to new and different cultures – making for a more well-rounded educational experience.
Question: How will this change the way all children learn in the future?
Richard Olsen: The affects are immense and far reaching, however below are my top four points:
The 24-hour classroom
Advancements in technology, along with fast and accessible Internet access via the NBN, mean that homework and at-home learning is no longer an isolated and unassisted activity. Students can now use text messages, email and other communication apps to both collaborate with others students and ask for teacher assistance outside of school hours if needed.
The increasing use of flipped classrooms (where students watch or listen to lessons outside of school via videos and podcasts) enables a different and more flexible way of learning through things such as high definition video conferencing, making international collaboration for students and teachers possible. It's also become much easier for teachers to share learning materials with their local and global counterparts via intranets and cloud storage devices.
The introduction of online videos (via sites such as YouTube) is another important step towards aiding at-home learning. Now there is a wealth of knowledge available from academics and respected bloggers to cover any educational interest or hobby.
Lastly and probably one of the most exciting changes is that children these days have become creators as well as consumers. We now see children making their own videos, writing blogs, and uploading videos to YouTube. Not only are they celebrating their achievements, they're also sharing their discoveries and providing assistance and instruction for others.
Question: With the introduction of the NBN what will become obsolete in classrooms?
Richard Olsen: Nothing becomes obsolete over night, however I can definitely see a decrease in textbooks as eBooks become more of a practical and cost effective option. Ultimately, as more and more students ditch the notepads for notebooks (laptops), the idea of a paperless classroom becomes more and more real. We can see this building more efficient and organised classrooms, while preparing students for the practical world outside classroom walls.
I also think the humble school excursion is up for a bit of a make-over. Whilst I would never suggest they be abandoned, the idea of -video excursions', made possible by faster broadband in the classroom and at home will see students able to access experts and locations all across the globe. An exciting future for Aussie Students!
Question: How will this new technology change homework for the better?
Richard Olsen: The rollout of the NBN across Australia means more and more students will have access to fast, realtime knowledge and resources. This will dramatically change homework for the better as it is no longer an isolated activity. Rather, children can run questions by their teachers via email, collaborate with class mates via text message and submit tasks online via online networks (such as a school intranet). In fact entire assigments can be set and presented without ever needing to enter a classroom.
It also means homework becomes much more interesting and diverse for students – allowing for them to call upon a wide range of talents and skill sets. Rather than simply writing answers to a question, students are creating videos, recording podcasts and making their own websites.
It's safe to sat we no longer live in a world where an excuse of -the dog ate my homework' can be used!
Question: What do parents need to be aware of regarding increased learning via technology? How can parents' best prepare themselves to help their kids use this technology? What are your top tips for parents to adjust to these learning changes?
Richard Olsen: The top things parents need to be aware of / can do to help their children prepare for a more digitally-equipped classroom:
Parents should read up on apps (for both education and leisure) so they can stay current and encourage children to try new programs. The more exposed children are to new things, the quicker they can adapt and learn to things in the classroom.
Where possible provide up-to-date technology and access to the Internet. If parents don't have access in their own homes, they can still provide exposure via trips to the library, community centres, etc.
Encourage children to use technology as a creative and productive outlet. For example, create a private Instagram account where children can post their own pictures. You could even give them a challenge, such as upload a photo that makes you happy, sad, laugh, etc.
Encourage children to be discerning when reading information online. Whilst the internet is an endless source of great information, children should exercise good security practices and be equipped to differentiate between reliable and non-reliable sources. Suggestions for equipping your kids include:
Teaching them how to establish strong passwords to remain safe when online
Helping them to fact check sites and videos to make sure they are a reliable source of facts
Where to look to figure out if a site, person or article is trustworthy
Question: Will children or their parents who can't keep up with new technology be disadvantaged?
Richard Olsen: Yes, I believe so. Increasingly our society requires creative and open individuals that are lifelong learners. Not having access to, and knowledge in technology puts kids at a disadvantage. Upskilling parents and teachers, the ultimate gate-keepers of our children's learning capacity means there is a 360-degree embracing of new technology which doesn't only start or stop in the classroom, but extends into the home. Making for a truly comprehensive learning opportunity for generations to come.
Question: Could this increase in technology becoming a distraction in classrooms?
Richard Olsen: Everything when used without purpose can become a distraction. With that said however, I strongly believe that if technology is used correctly, learning is more likely to be stimulating and engaging – thus less likely to suffer from distraction.
Interview by Brooke Hunter