September 2002

The future of learning, today

Professor Curtis Bonk was the keynote speaker at the recent Teachers' e-cademy.

inform: How did you find the e-cademy? Was it similar to, or different from, the professional development activities you run in Indiana University? How?

Curtis Bonk: The e-cademy was excellent! The 85 teachers who attended accomplished in one week what takes us months to do in a similar program in Indiana called TICKIT. I really liked the workshop ideas and the chance to be with colleagues working on professional development for an entire week, which does not happen in my program. We even went out at night in small groups to chat about ideas and some of us went sailing in Sydney Harbour on the weekend after the program was supposedly over. What fun! What I found out during the week was that teachers in Oz seem to be aware of technology integration but needed the e-cademy to go to implementation phase. And there was a tonne of implementation - it was really exciting to see. Really! I hated for the week to end.

inform: What are the critical issues facing schools/educators regarding the integration of technology into their classrooms?

CB: Support for their ideas. To go to implementation phase teachers need extensive support, including release time. There needs to be the technology in place before people like me visit a site and continue the training that took place at the e-cademy. I sometimes ask myself, why do technology coordinators wait until the training day to put the technology on the network that the teachers need, and yet they can respond to administrator requests in a few days or hours (or perhaps even minutes)?

inform: In your keynote to the e-cademy you described 16 future technologies on the horizon which of these do you envisage will have the most significant impact on schools/learning in the future?

CB: It is difficult to narrow in and proclaim any of these the key one to watch. However, wireless technology will allow for access to educational technologies and class discussions from airports, grocery stores and restaurants. The class will always be available. In addition, online mentoring technologies will be vital in providing student feedback, support and direction. For instance, this past week, I have been a synchronous guest expert three straight nights at a conference in Australia even though I am back in Indiana. I have attempted to mentor a number of people around the world in the use of collaborative tools. Third, simulation tools will enable students to practise their skills in near-authentic environments before obtaining jobs or seeking college degrees in a particular area.

inform: What is an educational psychologist? How did you get into this area?

CB: At the time, I was a bored accountant and CPA. I was taking classes at night in psychology and technology. Educational psychology was the only place where I could combine my interests in education, psychology and technology. An educational psychologist studies human learning and development and also might create new measures for assessing cognitive growth. Many are focused on study skills and memory, albeit at different ages or with different subject matter areas. At one point in the early 20th Century, educational psychology was proclaimed the master science as it is where many disciplines - psychology, sociology, education, biology, history, etc - all intersect. Information science or informatics would now be that linking discipline.

inform: Are you specifically interested in using the web as an educational tool or are your interests broader than that?

CB: Yes, in teaching undergraduate educational psychology (I have a whole course here; see as well as in my master's courses. In fact, we have class discussions on the web in all my classes. I also teach practicing teachers how to use the web in their instruction in a program called TICKIT ( I have broad interests in giving people frameworks to teach with web technology. For instance, I created a 10-level web integration framework, from putting a syllabus online to part of a course to a whole course to an entire program. I developed another one to designate the roles of the online instructor - technical, social, pedagogical and technological.

inform: How do schools gain support for e-learning techniques? A lot of teachers understandably lack confidence in their abilities to use new technologies. How do you persuade them otherwise?

CB: Start small. Have small successes and build on that. See what you are interested in and work from that. We usually train teachers in a web quest which is a lesson plan for the web that relies on a guided-learning approach. It is very popular and doable. Also, when they start or finish their technology integration project or when they first dream up the technique, they should share what they are doing with other teachers. In my TICKIT program, every teacher has a critical friend in another school to share information and learning with.

inform: What are some of the differences in instructional techniques between online and traditional learning environments?

CB: Some are extremely similar, but the focus is more on the instructor being a coach or guide and students taking more responsibility for their own learning. There is also more opportunity online for student-student interaction and problem-based learning. Feedback, questioning, scaffolding and task structuring become key instructional techniques not lecturing and direct instruction.

inform: What are the benefits to students?

CB: More confidence, more depth to learning and discussion, greater personalisation and individualisation, greater chance to explore the web and one's interests, etc.

inform: Other than the obvious application in distance education, why should traditional classroom teachers look to the web as an alternative?

CB: It does three things: (1) it provides opportunities for feedback outside the teacher such as from experts and practitioners; (2) it opens up learning to any location so as to broaden the perspectives shared (I have my students collaborate from Finland, Korea, Peru, the UK, and other US universities) - this helps with persective sharing which is vital today, and (3) it gets students into resources beyond the textbook.

inform: How much is this going to change the way teachers teach and students learn?

CB: The teacher is now a coach who assists in the learning process and students take more responsibility for teaching and learning. There is also more collegiality between students and instructors. The instructor is more often a co-learner in the process. The multidimensional roles of the online instructor are simply more important and obvious online.

This article from New South Wales, Department of Education: on September 23rd, 2002