In the larger context of an emerging global knowledge society and economy, education policies around the world have stressed the increasing importance of both ICT and ‘active’ models of lifelong learning. Similarly, aid for development has often focused on local capacity-building in terms which increasingly refer in various ways to a perceived digital as well as economic divide between developed and developing social or community contexts. Common to both formal learning and development is an alternately theoretical and informal assumption of “knowledgebuilding” which is often contradicted or frustrated in practice because of the difficulty in effectively reconciling or connecting topdown imperatives and bottom-up aspects of local context. This article investigates how ICT is integral to new, changing, and characteristically ‘21 century’ models of knowledge in the inevitably connected contexts of both learning and community development (e.g. Weigel & Waldberger, 2004; Bracey & Culver, 2005). Indeed it argues that recognizing this connection is an important basis for encouraging both dialogue and action to overcome related missing links which often frustrate related policy, project and general imperatives for the integration of ICT in schooling for deep or active models of learning, and the similar goal of local autonomy in ICT-focused community capacity-building projects. Thus the paper focuses on identifying and refining a convergent 21st century model of knowledge-building (also, life-long learning) grounded in the local contexts and typical processes of the human condition in retreat from topdown, fixed and privileged models of knowledge and education. Such a notion of knowledge-building to encourage active, innovative and open-ended learning and capacity development thus represents a convergent link between the alternately informal and formal aspects of digital learning on one hand (e.g. Jonassen et al, 2003; Weigel, 2003), and the alternately community-based and institutionallyorganised notions of social capacity development (e.g. Blumenthal 2003; World Bank Knowledge and Learning Group, 2005). Why new educational theories/ fail to be connected to local contexts of learning and practice “Without sufficient training and support, ICT equipment put in schools [and in ICT centres generally in developing countries] is often under utilised, and in some cases entirely redundant. Any meaningful roll-out of ICT hardware must be accompanied by training to have any impact” – K. Woods, Digital Links quoted in C. Witchalls (2005), ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’, The Guardian, February 17 2005. It is increasingly clear that in the 21st Century ICTs are tied closely to the emerging requirements and opportunities of a global economy and networked knowledge society – also, that a related emerging digital divide may represent the very survival of many local communities and even regional societies around the world. Thus, there is growing awareness of: (a) the related ‘community development’ and ‘educational implications’ of ICTs, and (b) the importance of assisting remote or rural areas in developing countries (Papert & Calvallo, 2002). Many initiatives aimed at tackling both global and regional notions of a digital divide are being funded, supported and investigated by both governmental and NGO agencies in rural and developing contexts of the Asia-Pacific region (Weigel & Waldburger, 2004). Our previous investigations into (and dialogues with others about) both the possibilities and issues of sustainability related to community ICT learning centres in the Asia Pacific region have realised that the key to an effective as well a sustainable approach lies in (a) the connections between education and community development; (b) agenuinely dialogically or interactive partnership model that allows for the examination of external or ‘top-down’ influences on one hand, and local interests or ‘bottom-up’ contexts on the other, and (c) recognizing and addressing both the sufficient conditions of ICT development(including designing and training for locally relevant models of authentic use) as well as the necessary conditions including ICT infrastructure and general accessissues (Richards, 2005a).ICTs represent a dilemma for schools, universities and other educational institutions everywhere in terms of
the challenge to transform the rhetoric of new ideas and models into actual practice and an appropriate organisational context (Richards 2004). In other words, it is not always easy to see through the short-term frustrations of ICT integration to understand how this can productively transform education in the long-run. The resulting gap or missing link between innovative rhetoric and
policy on one hand, and actual implementation and practices on the other, is often the source of much frustration for both teachers and their students. This is especially the case where (e.g. even in wired societies such as Singapore and Hong Kong) the residual effects of traditional values and an examination-oriented curriculum often make it difficult to translate new and innovative policies into institutional practice – unless teachers redefine their role and authority in the learning process in other ways. Towards positive prophecies of life-long learning Promising capacity development project models indicate that ICT community learning centres do represent potentially viable and transformatory agencies for connecting up local communities and schools in less developed regions. Such projects exemplify how a strategic approach can do a great deal with limited resources and that the key is promoting a similarly proactive attitude which links into a local community sense of ‘where there is
the will there is a way’. In other words, the digital divide in learning is much more an issue of attitude and cultural context than technical capacity or access. We have thus identified three related focus questions that have to be considered together or integrally rather than in isolation as is often the case: 1. What are the infrastructural, requirements for ensuring ongoing access to computer systems whilst avoiding unnecessary costs? 2. How can school-based education and community development be linked to promote the engagement of community members? 3. What are the appropriate training and educational design needs for effective learning? Figure 1: Global dilemmas about educational ‘cultural change’ Learners often want more hands-on, learner-centered and outcomesoriented approaches by their teachers, but also till want the ‘right answers’ bypass the learning process (pedagogical) • Educational institutions have generally embraced the rhetoric, policy and theory of ‘new learning’, but are not often prepared to productively change actual practices • ‘Societies’ today want their young to be somehow innovative nd become successful in a future knowledge society or global economy, yet at the same time retain acquiescence to traditional values of the past Adapted from Richards 2004 Figure 2 depicts how ICT-CLCs represent or at least exemplify a convergent future vision of learning, community centers, and new ICTs linked together for integrated educational and social purposes. The key to such a vision is a complementary or dialogical rather than oppositional view of
how learning for personal and/or social purposes provides a sufficient or motivating basis for social and economic progress grounded in an ethos of community development. In short, learning is more effective when it goes beyond basic information or skill acquisition to also focus on relevance, process and authentic applications. In terms of the so-called digital divide of rich and poor or centre and margins, such a perspective on the potential role of ICT-CLCs is one of recasting a defensive strategy of mere survival into one a more positive one of potential ‘thriving’.
Convergently, many of the educational policy initiatives promoting ICTs in schools and higher education are premised on new learner-centred and constructivist theories of learning which project the goal of more active and innovative learners harnessing the educational possibilities of ICTs. Constructivist models of learning (e.g. Jonassen et al, 2003; Weigel, 2003) are typically contrasted with models of teaching and learning which emphasise a hierarchical and linear “transmission” of content or skills from authoritative teacher to passive learner. Such influential concepts as ‘anchored instruction’ and ‘situated learning’ outlined how novice learners develop better applied understanding and generic skills in terms of specific examples, problems and authentic learning contexts – a framework for linking ICTs, problem-solving, and content-specific teaching or learning. In this way ‘knowledgeable’ teachers
and/or experts should be able to better transmit their knowledge. Practical concepts such as problembased learning, collaborative learning, project work, authentic assessment and inquiry-based activities all represent alternatives to the linear and hierarchical assumptions of formal lesson-planning and course
design. Such approaches emphasize how effective learning should rather be understood as a process, cycle and/or set of stages proceeding from nitial skill or information acquisition to more applied and reflective understanding, knowledge and even innovation. It may be argued that general notions of constructivist learning tend to mix up and sometimes confuse or oppose the alternate cognitive and social aspects of knowledge building. Whilst in one sense they do converge in ‘active’ modes of learning some of these models arguably either directly or indirectly privilege the social and critical thinking over individual and local contexts of practice as well as theory over practice. Towards a convergent notion of the knowledge-building process Although ‘knowledge-building’ is a central concept in new ICT-focused learning theory it has been influentially defined as the process by which ‘expert groups’ construct knowledge as a social process of collaborative discussion and synthesis of ideas (Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1999). Such a definition exemplifies a common dilemmas of much new learning theory to remain inherently conceptual, top-down and elitist, and thus at odds with the grounded and potentially innovative practice and active learning of ‘every learner’. Just as As indicated above a common ‘communities of practice’ model informs various notions of digital learning and capacity-building for either institutional or community development. General organizational learning models such as articulated by Wenger (1998) have especially articulated with social constructivist models of digital learning. Weigel (2003) for instance directly connects various general notions of a ‘community of practice’ with specific learning ‘communities of inquiry’ in constructivist classrooms and related lifelong and virtual modes of learning. A ‘communities of practice’ model is indeed most helpful for engaging with the challenge of ICT integration in particular educational and social contexts. As McNabb & McCombs (2002) point out, professional learning communities (of practice) involve three levels of interaction – community, institutional and individual – which inform two key collaborative approaches to ICT professional development: (a) thecollegial sharing of resources; and (b) particular ICT professional development projects. McNabb & McCombs article makes special mention of the e-learning facility of networked learning communities and e-learning professional development – extending from the collaborative use of intranets through to the use of learning management programmes. ICTs have made possible new modes of formal as well as informal ‘lifelong learning’ that are as applicable to communities and institutions as well as individual learners. Á bottom line is that the kind of active experimentation needed to build and transform any kind of personal knowledge can be initiated through partnerships and dialogue but ultimately requires self-organisation and self-learning. A convergent notion of 21st century knowledgebuilding which harnesses the learning possibilities of ICTs serves to overcome the paradox identified in the Knowledge Management literature as Figure 3: Towards a convergent framework of 21st Century Knowledge-Build ng ‘if only we knew what we know
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