16 SES 08 A, Emerging Digital Technologies in Education: Problems and prospects
Developments in digital technologies are having a considerable impact on our societies. Digital technologies seem to have entered every sphere of our daily lives, they have become an integral part of our professional lives and they have also entered education. In our societies which we like to call knowledge societies, learning is not limited to learning in educational institutions like schools and universities and it is considered to be a lifelong activity (European Commission, 2001) in which digital technologies play an important role (European Commission, 2010, 2013). In fact, digital literary is considered to be one of the key competencies of the 21st century (European Council, 2006).
The European Commission has therefore proposed actions which were aimed at
- helping learning institutions, teachers and learners to acquire digital skills and learning methods,
- supporting development and availability of open educational resources,
- connecting classrooms and deploying digital devices and content,
- mobilizing all stakeholders (teachers, learners, families, economic and social partners) to change the role of digital technologies at education institutions (European Commission, 2013).
In this symposium, we first will have a look at the current state of affairs concerning the use of digital technologies in teaching and learning, with a focus on emergent technologies in higher education. In their presentation, Antonio Manuel Rodríguez García from the University of Granada (Spain) and his colleagues from the University of Jaén (Spain) interviewed university lecturers with respect to their knowledge, skills and attitudes concerning the use of digital technologies in university classrooms. University lecturers were also given a questionnaire relating to these topics. As it turned out, university lecturers do not seem to be very much aware of emerging technologies to support learning and instruction. The authors attribute this to the lack of interest in the field, but also to a lack of training in using digital technologies.
One of the most recent developments in digital technologies is the advent of block chains. Block chains are probably best known for their use in Bitcoin transactions. Although their use originated in the field of finances, or, more specifically, in the field of cryptocurrencies, block chains are now also being used in other fields as well and have started to enter the field of education; MIT and the Open University in the UK have started to use this technology, for example (Grech & Camillieri, 2017). According to Gupta (2017), a blockchain is “a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records, called ‘blocks’”. These blocks contain information about transactions and this information is usually encrypted.
In their contribution, Antonio Bartolomé from the University of Barcelona in Spain and Karl Steffens from Cologne University in Germany explain the concept of blockchains and their use in administration of academic records. As John Domingue, director of the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University in the UK points out: “Today, learning happens increasingly outside the brick-and-mortar lecture hall universities: it happens on online platforms, within communities of like-minded individuals, or by contributing to projects and initiatives in the real world. Blockchain technology may hold the answer to securely and verifiably collating the outcomes of this new distributed learning reality.”
While Bartolomé and Steffens focus on the use of blockchains to keep track of academic records, Vasilis Koulaidis from the University of Nicosia (Cyprus) argues that blockchains might also support learning processes. He argues that knowledge is often constructed, not only by individuals, but also by groups of learners. In his opinion, blockchains might be able to represent individual learning paths as well as knowledge construction that is agreed upon by the group.
European Commission (2001). Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality. http://eurlex.europa.eu/legalcontent/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52001DC0678&from=EN European Commission (2010). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.A Digital Agenda for Europe (Brussels, European Commission). http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52010DC0245R%2801%29:EN:NOT European Commission (2013). Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Opening up Education: Innovative teaching and learning for all through new Technologies and Open Educational Resources (Brussels, European Commission). http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52013DC0654&from=EN EUROPEAN COUNCIL (2006) Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning. http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:394:0010:0018:en:pdf Grech, A. and Camilleri, A. F. (2017) Blockchain in Education. Inamorato dos Santos, A. (ed.) EUR 28778 EN; doi:10.2760/60649 Gupta, V. (2017). A brief history of blockchain. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2017/02/a-brief-history-ofblockchain?referral=03758&cm_vc=rr_item_page.top_right
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