Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The use of atlas vs. google maps - discussion

You might have heard this type of argumentation before:
"the state of the ICT use in school is so outdated. My kids still need to use an atlas in school to find the Sahara desert, whereas at home they just use google maps". 

Yesterday, while listening to a panel discussion at the event called "Filling the gaps: e-Skills & Education for Digital Jobs - Launch of a Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs", this argument, once again, was used to blame, among other things, the skills shortage in IT industry.

I find myself getting slightly annoyed when people use this type of argumentation. For one thing, I find, they usually are people who make these blanket statements about the state of the ICT use in schools only based on what happens in their own kids' schools. But that's besides my main point which is that both using an atlas and google maps to find out where the Sahara desert is are valuable information seeking skills. Those skills are not excluding one another. Learning various information seeking strategies is valuable per se and should be a skill thought at school.

Second, to bring it back to the e-Skills discussion, if the kid never learns how to use an index such as the one found in paper-based atlas, she might not be in the best place to design or invent that next fancy search algorithm that will beat PageRank by Page and Brin. Until PageRank, most of the search engines on the web were mere indices. Knowing how they work, and knowing how academic citations work, a new algorithm was invented that changed lots of things for the web. 

Third, about two decades into e-learning (or what ever term you would like to use), it's disappointing to hear that people/general audience still understand the use of ICT in education as doing the same old stuff, e.g. using a map, but just by using a digital tool instead of an analogue one. By now, we know that with such e-learning, kids do write more, more often and more efficiently. Which is nice too.

But that's not anything that transforms education. That's nothing that is harnessing the power of the web and ICTs for something that you could not do with analogue means so easily. Think of authentic opportunities to learn about new countries, culture and languages through ICT-enabled school collaboration. The new ways that you can discover big data available on the web thanks to information visualisation and other cool tools. Think of opportunities to discover space and follow up Mars exploration...I wish those were the inspiring examples that people talked about in these rare occasions that the use of ICTs in education is discussed in such panels.  


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