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Steve Wheeler

Steve Wheeler is a Learning Innovations Consultant and former Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the Plymouth Institute of Education where he chaired the Learning Futures group and led the Computing and science education teams. He continues to research into technology supported learning and distance education, with particular emphasis on the pedagogy underlying the use of social media and Web 2.0 technologies, and also has research interests in mobile learning and cybercultures. He has given keynotes to audiences in more than 35 countries and is author of more than 150 scholarly articles, with over 6000 academic citations. An active and prolific edublogger, his blog Learning with ‘e’s is a regular online commentary on the social and cultural impact of disruptive technologies, and the application of digital media in education, learning and development. In the last few years it has attracted in excess of seven million unique visitors.

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Publications by Steve Wheeler

Learning with ‘e’s

In an age where young people seem to have a…

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Author Blog

Future skills #metalearning

June 16 2018

Photo by Steve Wheeler
Lately, I'm asked to speak on this subject more than any other. The idea of future skills for learning is widely debated in all sectors, but for me, the answer is the same, whether you are a primary school student or a participant in learning and development in a large organisation. Today, the most important skills seem to be focused on one ability - learning to learn, or meta learning.

Why is learning to learn so important? Knowing how, where and when we best learn is important in a world of constant change and disruption where there is an over-abundance of opportunity to swamp our senses with information. Knowing why we learn best in a particular way, or specific environment is also crucial. Being agile and flexible is not enough in this rapidly changing, media rich and multiple stimulus world. It is so easy to become distracted and diverted in the digital age, so the ability to maintain focus is an important aspect of knowing how we best learn.

John Biggs described meta learning as reaching a state of 'being aware of, and taking control of our own learning' (Biggs, 1985). It involves managing our perceptions, expectations and practices to optimise the time we spend acquiring new knowledge and skills. It also involves avoiding practices that divert our energy and attention away from genuine learning. In the digital age, where we are constantly bombarded with content, it is about making sense of what is necessary and relevant, discerning good from bad content, and discarding that which is extraneous or invalid. There is a connection here also to the theory of heutagogy, which in Blaschke et al's terms, places the learner at the centre, as 'the primary driver of the learning process and experience.' (Blaschke, Kenyon and Has, 2014).

Learning to learn is vital for everyone in the digital age. There are many other future skills we need - skills to thrive and learn in the future. In the next few posts I'll explore some in detail. Any commentary and discussion on this is are very welcome in the box below.

Biggs, J. B. (1985) The role of meta-learning in study process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 55, 185-212.
Blaschke, L. M., Kenyon, C. and Hase, S. (2014) Experiences in Self Determined Learning. Leipzig: Amazon Distribution.  

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Future skills #metalearning by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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6 interactive whiteboard tips

June 10 2018

Photo by David Goehring on Flickr
In my last post, entitled Cinderella Technology, I wrote about the tremendous potential of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) and highlighted some of the reasons why it often fails to be realised in school classrooms.

They have been around for a long time, but IWBs seem to have polarised teachers.

There are those who use the IWB avidly, incorporating it into their lessons, embedding it into their programmes of study and exploiting the potential of the onboard tools.

There are others who avoid the use of the IWB studiously, and even some who are opposed to its use, claiming that it is distracting, too expensive, complicated or unnecessary.

The label of 'Cinderella technology' was offered because of the failure of capitalise extensively on the power of IWBs to inspire, engage and enrich. I promised six things teachers should consider if they wish to optimise the IWB in their classrooms:
  • Firstly, it's important that IWBs are optimally positioned within learning spaces. I have seen classrooms where the IWB has been poorly positioned, so that there is only limited sightline or access for some students. For smaller children, the adjustability of a screen to varying heights is also important. If they can't reach it, they can't use it. Some IWBs have runners that enable height adjustment, and a projector arm incorporated into the design to obviate the need for continual recalibration. 
  • Secondly, IWBs run on software that periodically requires upgrading. Schools can arrange for updates to be automatically installed overnight, or during non-teaching hours. Having access to all the latest tools and services means that teachers can provide the best possible experience for their students. SMART's Learning Suite, for example, is a useful online resource that shows how educators can get the best out of their IWBs. 
  • Thirdly, teachers need time to tinker, experiment and test out new ideas and new pedagogies. Building training time into the school year for educators is rarely time wasted. In my experience, one of the biggest factors in the failure of any technology is poor use or lack of knowledge of the affordances of the tool. Failure to understand the capabilities of a technology will often result in poor use, lack of use, and ultimately, rejection.
  • Fourthly, in relation to the above point, there should be time for teachers to express their creativity. Teachers need to know what the possibilities are, and then they need to have opportunities to apply their imagination and ideation to the technology before they use it with students. 
  • It's also worth remembering that the introduction of any new idea, whether it is technology or technique, needs to be managed with the user in mind. In other words, school leaders who wish their staff to travel with them need to lead by example, promote dialogue and above all, listen to what the team says. Managers need to win the hearts and minds of teachers if they wish to see IWBs successfully adopted into everyday practice (Wheeler and Winter, 2005).
  • Finally, teachers should see the potential for the IWB to become more than just another teaching tool. The positioning of the screen can reinforce teacher centred approaches to education, but conversely can be used to encourage deeper engagement and participation from students. The interactive capabilities of large screen touch surfaces should evoke ideas about how students can be involved. I have seen some incredibly effective teaching that involves students taking turns to use the board to present their ideas, perform their work and interact with content on the screen. 
I hope you can see that there is still a tremendous potential for interactive whiteboards in the classroom. To bring this Cinderella technology to the ball, teachers need to spend some time and energy preparing it and practising its use, exploring the possibilities and testing out new ideas and pedagogies. Teachers need to ask the 'what if?' questions and test out the possibilities of the technology. Ultimately, the success or failure of any classroom technology is in the hands of the practitioner. If the teacher sees good, appropriate uses and the potential to extend, enrich and enhance learning and engage the student, then they will do all they can to embed the technology, and apply it to make their lessons successful.

In the next post in this series, I will discuss some of the specific affordances the IWB offers to education and offer a magnificent seven ways to enhance learning for all students.

Wheeler, S. and Winter, A. (2005) Winning hearts and minds. In S. Wheeler (Ed) Transforming Primary ICT. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Creative Commons License
6 interactive whiteboard tips by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's

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