‘Engaging with data ethics’ and ‘multisensory learning’ are two of the top 10 approaches to learning and teaching in this year’s Innovating Pedagogy report from The Open University. The eighth edition of the report launched this month (January 2020) was produced by academics at the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology in collaboration with researchers from the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University.
Addressing today’s challenges
This year’s report highlights the theme of ‘artificial intelligence in education’ and the ethical challenges surrounding sharing of personal data. Lead author Professor Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, OU Professor of Learning Technology & Communication, writes in the introduction:
“In many societies people have concerns about computers acting in ways that imitate humans to the point where it is very difficult (and soon perhaps impossible) to distinguish between people and machines. Pedagogical innovations need to support understanding by guiding students in how to analyse emerging issues around technology, how to formulate challenging questions, and how to examine different perspectives.”
The report suggests that students can build their understanding in new ways, including by ‘learning through open data’. Many organisations now make their data openly available and it can be a basis for stimulating learning activities.
Engaging multiple senses
Several trends in this year’s report draw attention to how innovations increasingly make use of multiple senses. Learners who have special educational needs are among those who can benefit from multisensory experiences as these support processes such as memorisation and understanding. In ‘esports’ - competitive games played on online platforms that can have educational value and support informal learning - the addition of virtual reality can enhance the sensory experience of these games.
Overcoming barriers to learning
To overcome lack of internet access or prohibitive costs of using the internet, ‘offline networked learning’ offers an approach based on low cost, low power network hubs that enable teachers and students to connect with each other and share resources via their mobile devices. Online laboratories, on the other hand, take advantage of good internet connectivity to enable students to participate in and undertake laboratory experiments without having to be in the lab.
The 10 highlighted themes in the Innovating Pedagogy 2020 report are:
- Artificial intelligence in education
- This theme covers learning for, about, and with AI. Student-facing applications of AI include tutoring systems, exploratory learning environments, automatic writing evaluation and conversational agents. Teacher-facing applications of AI might support teachers to enhance their own teaching.
- Posthumanist perspectives
- Posthumanism opens possibilities to learn with animals and machines as partners. The hope is that we can imagine many beneficial relationships between humans, the environment, animals and technology.
- Learning through open data
- Many governments, and a wide and growing range of global and local organisations are now sharing the data that they create and use in their work. Engagement with open data connects learners with societal movements to encourage greater data literacy, transparency and evidence-based action.
- Engaging with data ethics
- There are the many ethical issues centred on data, such as who owns the data, how the data should be interpreted, and how the privacy of learners and teachers should be protected. Teachers can enable learners to ‘play’ with their own data and learn what the limitations of sharing data may be.
- Social justice pedagogy
- Education can help people address their unconscious biases as well as the injustices in their own lives and in society. Social justice pedagogy aims to educate and enable students to become active citizens who understand social inequalities and can contribute to making society more democratic and egalitarian.
- Esports, or electronic sports, are a form of competitive video gaming which is broadcast and played on the Internet, individually or in teams. Esports have become a global leisure activity, but they also offer opportunities for education. They can be a way to support digital literacy, numeracy, socialisation and teamwork.
- Learning from animations
- Showing learners short animated movies of a dynamic process can reveal aspects that are too fast to follow, or too small or inaccessible to see. Learner-created animations are a way to support self-expression and have been used as a prompt for activities such as creative story writing.
- Multisensory learning
- Human beings have many senses, including touch, taste and smell. Evidence shows that stimulation of sensory channels and combinations of channels during learning can prove beneficial, resulting in learning gains and deeper understanding, as well as greater enjoyment, though it might not be suitable for every learner.
- Offline networked learning
- Using the Internet for networked learning is not always possible. Offline networked learning is available thanks to low cost, low power network hubs like Raspberry Pis. It can support conversation, collaboration, resource sharing, visualisation and consolidation, thus enhancing the process of learning as well as the outcomes.
- Online laboratories
- An online laboratory is an interactive environment for creating and conducting simulated science experiments. The aim is for a student to experience the procedures of carrying out a science experiment, including the consequences of making mistakes, and to get results. Online labs are becoming mainstream in higher education for science and engineering in many countries around the world.