AN expert in computer-based education strategies says students need to be taught the concepts behind technological innovations to allow them to properly prepare for a rapidly changing workforce and information-based world.
UWA Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning Associate Professor Shannon Johnston recently delivered a workshop, aimed at improving awareness of computer based technologies in an education context.
A/Prof Johnston says it is important that students today focus on understanding the concepts behind technological innovations rather than mastering any particular form of technology.
“The importance is not on learning every individual piece of technology but to understand that different softwares have different purposes and different benefits, (because) the workforce is forever changing and students will need versatility after they graduate,” she says.
“My view is that when we expose students to a kind of tool, a Wiki for example, we do so in a way that they perceive the concept behind the technology, and are able to apply that knowledge to different softwares that perform similar tasks.”
A/Prof Johnston says one of the best examples of e-learning she has witnessed in her career was in architecture.
“Students were having difficulty reading maps, which is a major aspect of an architect’s work. So we created a series of flash based tutorials in which they were able to navigate through the eyes of an architect and see how that building was designed and why it was designed in that particular way,” she says.
“When educators consider what is the intended learning outcome and what is the best means to achieve that, sometimes you realise that, simply reading an article or discussing it is not sufficient and they actually have to do it. That’s where computer based learning can make a real difference”.
She says educators must recognise the widespread use of technology in society, and focus on showing students how to become more proficient with these innovations.
“We look at technology basically as a tool that can enhance the learning experience. Technology provides authentic education experiences that actually extend beyond the time and space of the classroom in areas such as information generation and sharing, research and communication,” she says.
“So the ways we present information, communicate, create communities and provide engaging learning experiences can all be changed by applying especially computer-based technologies.”