Technology is ubiquitous in this day and age and yet, it is an ever growing, ever changing tool that many use on a daily basis for any number of reasons including education. There are so many options when looking at emerging educational technologies that it can be very overwhelming just to look into what is out there. There is everything from incorporating smartphones to tablet PCs to blogs to social media to virtual reality and game-based learning to massive open online courses (MOOCs). While all of these areas have significant uses in education when used correctly and productively the two I am most interested in are game-based learning and MOOCs.
Game-based learning is intriguing to me because I am a strong proponent of having fun while you learn. This comes, in part, from a childhood steeped in educational games and toys including computer games and the pure joy they brought me as I learned (often without thinking about it). It is also due to the knowledge and skills I gained as I grew older and could see the educational impact that gaming could have for students. As the Horizon Report (2012) discusses game-based learning has the potential to teach and improve upon many important skills such as “collaboration, problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and digital literacy” (pg. 19). These are all skills that are highly important today both in education and in the workforce. Another important plus I see with game-based learning is for those students with physical and/or mental impairments that can be improved or helped with the increased hand-eye coordination that comes with the use of game controllers for many of the current gaming systems such as the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii. While there can also be a certain amount of frustration surrounding gaming when things do not go as planned, another perhaps unintended consequence I see is an increase in patience and diligence as students/gamers work through problems both within the game and with the technology itself thus using and improving their problem solving skills. Games make learning fun and allow the learner to step outside of his or her generally prescribed role and learning location. Video games allow students to be transported to ancient sites, work on medical issues and/or step into roles they never imagined they could be in from the relative comfort of the classroom or their own homes. This allows them to engage in the activity and make mistakes and course corrections without fatal consequences. As James Gee (2011) discusses it allows them to design their own learning and teaching in a way that works for them. I personally love playing video games and would incorporate them into a classroom setting as a way to improve my students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills especially as they relate to social and historical problems. In so doing I can also help them improve their collaboration and communication skills by requiring them to work in teams to solve problems in order to reach the next game level. As I discussed earlier I would also incorporate gaming as a way to improve hand-eye coordination for students who would benefit in that arena.
Another emerging technology that intrigues me is the growth in massive open online courses (MOOCs). MOOCs are online courses that are often maintained through a major university or school but are free and open to anyone with interest and access to the course. While there is the underlying structure of the course being taught, MOOCs allow for a level of flexibility, openness and collaboration that is not necessarily available in a typical classroom setting with the limited number of students involved. “A MOOC throws open the doors of a course and invites anyone to enter, resulting in a new learning dynamic, one that offers remarkable collaborative and conversational opportunities for students to gather and discuss the course content” (Educause, 2011, pg. 2). While the sheer number of students, ideas and conversations that can be involved in such an open course can be overwhelming and off-putting to some students and teachers, MOOCs offer any number of intriguing and useful opportunities for the growth and continuation of education itself into the future not the least of which is reducing barriers and opening education to any all who seek it. At this point I am not sure how I would incorporate the opportunity to open a specific course to any and every one. This takes online and distance learning to a whole new level. However, I do see the benefits to all students, faculty and educational institutions of reducing the barriers to a decent education and opening institutions to a new student population they may not have thought of reaching.
Educause Learning Initiative. (2011). 7 things you should know about MOOCs. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7078.pdf
Gee, J. (2011, April 21). Games and learning: teaching as designing. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-gee/games-and-learning-teachi_b_851581.html
Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2012-horizon-report-HE.pdf
Walsh, K. (2012, April 25). How will MOOCs impact the future of college education?. [Blog posting]. Retrieved from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2012/04/how-will-moocs-impact-the-future-of-college-education/