Thinking about Problems or focusing on Innovation

This continues from the last post where I suggested BYOD4L could promote lazy thinking. To be slightly less provocative and to undermine my sensational headline a more appropriate headline would be, “We must take care not to promote lazy thinking by adopting BYOD4L” – though it really doesn’t have the same ring to it somehow.
My own slightly more considered response would be about understanding the nature of the problem with which to engage our students. In this situation some of the reasons for using PBL would be to,

  • encourage slow and deep thinking
  • make learning more authentic (i.e. real feeling, demanding enquiry, promotes or requires discourse, is open ended [Rule, 2006])
  • etc!

So my suggestion that BYOD makes accessing learning too easy, hence less problematic, only has validity against the first point, but immediately loses its validity because problems of access are frustrating and distract the learner and the teacher. It is an unhelpful problem therefore. Helpful problems, on the other hand, are those that are properly situated and set a meaningful, open ended challenge. In my view these will also often be demonstrably authentic, being situated in real world problems, requiring enquiry and discussion.
Chrissi Nerantzi commented that perhaps it is more useful to think about Innovation-based Learning. Personally I like to use the word innovation at any opportunity, but I’m hesitating on this occasion. I am picturing the brief to students “I want you to make something” or “Do something new” or “Work differently”. Each of these work inasmuch as they are setting challenges or problems, but feel to open ended and fuzzy as a briefing statement. Establishing a well-formed problem, putting it on a pedestal, and asking students to chisel away at it and resolve it feels clearer. The problem opens towards its end (Miss, we don’t think this is a problem that can be resolved) rather than at the beginning (Miss, what do you mean? What do you want us to do?).
So bringing this all back to BYOD4L (right, there’s a problem!)…
BYODs create an extended learning environment in which to situate authentic problems. The spaces for acting, thinking and learning are different. The problems, tools and processes are likely to be based in the real world and the resources (people, information) can be located in real world situations too. These make learning more engaging when they allow the learner to learn safely by rehearsing, with peers and guides, about problems they will encounter later.

Rule, A. (2006). Editorial: The components of authentic learning. Journal of Authentic Learning, 3(1), pp.1 – 10.

About amiddlet50

Educational developer working in academic innovation in higher education in the UK
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