The under-representation of women in technological fields has been carefully documented by researchers for nearly three decades, and while many have attempted to suggest ways and means for remedying this inequality, little has changed. This course interrogates the persistence of gender issues in technology and education, focusing on the ways in which technologies, social and institutional structures inside and outside the school are mutually constructed. More particularly, it will explore issues relating to gender, embodiment, representation, new technologies and education, including current topics such as avatar development, critiques of technology, social practices and technological tools and technology and the body. While gender will be the primary emphasis, will be explored in relation to differences of culture, race, class, sexual orientation and ability.
The premise of this course is that media have never been separable from what we purport to teach (i.e. curriculum “content”). As a way to demonstrate this, we will trace a path through the history of pedagogy via the educational “technologies” or “media” deployed at various times and for various purposes: from orality to recitation to literacy to online courses, cultural conceptions of the relative value of “knowledge” have found very different shapes in school curriculum and practices.
This course will pay particular attention to the educative possibilities for new and emergent digital media, asking whether and how “content” reshaped, re-mediated and invariably altered by these technological affordances, enacting shifts in not only how we learn and teach, but what counts as “knowledge”. The course, then, will be an exercise in the very thing it proposes to study: how a shift in media (this time to largely screen-based course delivery) will necessarily change what it is we come to know and how we know it as part of our learning together at distances. We will primarily focus on the design, development and practical implementation of digital technologies for education. In doing so, we will more fully explore the notion of “techne,” that is technologies as fundamentally constructive rather than receptive media for consumption.
Although computer gaming represents, for many people, something unfamiliar, potentially subversive and antithetical to education’s intellectual and social goals, play has always been a powerful vehicle for learning. There is little doubt that young people today, who represent computer gaming’s largest and fastest-growing audience, are learning a great deal in and through computer-based play, but what is it they are learning, and how? The purpose of this course is to give serious attention to and careful analysis of the contemporary computer-based forms of gaming and play.
Students will become acquainted with a range of new media technologies and their shaping of new literacies and educative practices, with an emphasis on critically addressing issues of diversity and equity, especially in relation to schooling. The course intersects the framework of “multiliteracies” with new media, examining the development of new languages and practices (such as texting, tweeting, gaming and facebooking). These offer alternative spaces and places for K-12 education with regards to what it means to be “literate”. A basic working knowledge of computing platforms (e.g. laptops, desktops, mobile devices) and their generic applications (word processing, video editing, online social media, still/video cameras) is required.
As many have pointed out, especially in the move to the second decade of the twenty first century, the current generation of learners are substantially different than those of even a few decades ago (Gee, 2007; Kress, 2003; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). A cadre of different buzz words have been applied to these learners, including ‘screen generation’, ‘digital natives’, ‘millenials’, ‘net gen’, and so on (Frand, 2000; Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005; Prensky, 2001; Tapscott, 1999). These terms commonly signal that today’s children have grown up learning very differently than those of the past generation. Given these new demands, educational jurisdictions, school districts and schools struggle to capture and hold the attention of learners that understand, perhaps for the first time, that their attention literally has value (de Castell & Jenson, 2004). Within this climate in which children of increasingly younger ages are using new technologies for learning, play and communication, schools, educators, trustees and parents are struggling to determine what is and is not of educational value and use, and indeed what can be defined as multiliterate practice (see, for example, the TDSB’s recent reversal on the use of personal devices in classrooms).
Today, schools and school boards continue the nearly three decades long battle to resource and equip schools with computer-based technologies, as well as to train teachers to keep up with the changing demands of those devices. This is, and continues to be, a global educational issue (Jenson, Taylor and Fisher, 2010) as jurisdictions struggle to meet the fiscal demands of creating equitable access to resources for students in public education systems, while at the same time meeting the instructional and learning demands that such an investment necessitates. The biggest challenge for education and for technology integration and implementation over the past 30 years has been its uneven use and adoption (Cuban, 2001), and this is still a persistent issue (Fragkouli & Hammond, 2007; Hammond et al., 2009; Hixon & Buckenmeyer, 2009; Johnson & Maddux, 2008).
This course will address the issue of what counts as “literate” practice today, unpacking and critically interrogating terms that seem to be used interchangeably, including: multilitercies, multimodal literacies, digital literacies, media literacy, visual literacy, pluriliteracies, and transliteracy.
Course work will involve a variety of diverse educational media: traditional seminars in wired/wireless settings employing available new and social media technologies; readings with face-to-face verbal discussion/critique/exploration; as well as online critical reflection and exploration through the course blog, using both textual and audio-visual (v-log) contributions.