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E-LEARNING: LEARNING WITH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
In society we live in digital technologies have been playing an increasingly important role. They are entering all kinds of areas of human life, education and schools included. Here digital technologies are becoming an important means with a potential to increase the quality of education and learning as well as support many innovation processes.
The book does discuss this technological development but it human learning, both formal and informal, rather than technologies as such which is at the centre of the authors’ approach. The book is based on sustained study of issues in current education, learning theories, e-learning and empirical research in this field including the authors’ own research. Alongside the authors’ accounts of their own experience in using digital technologies for pedagogical purposes (especially in higher education), the book also contains “boxes” presenting research findings relating to the topic of each relevant chapter.
The authors concept of e-learning includes theory and research as well as all kinds of real-life processes (characterized by a high degree of intentionality) where information and communication technologies operating on electronic data are used in ethical ways. Modalities of employing ICT and availability of learning materials depend mainly on educational goals and contents, characteristics of the educational environment, and needs and possibilities of all participants of the educational process.
The first chapter discusses the process of learning in human life, its fundamental principles and forms. The authors explain the transformative and social nature of learning, viewing human learning in the broader context of educational policies and pedagogical theory. The so-called 21st century skills and new literacies are among the important subjects in this chapter. The chapter concludes with a discussion of lifelong learning in the context of digital technologies in contemporary society.
The next chapter addresses e-learning participants. The topics include “new” student skills as well as directed and self-directed learning or personalization in student learning. The key participants are not only students but also their teachers/educators. The latter are now facing new requirements which get reflected in their work as well as in the profile of their profession. This is why the authors also focus on teacher competences in the digital age and pedagogical thinking of teachers and their Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge.
Theories of learning are the subject of the next chapter. Studying them may help us understand learning better and be more efficient in introducing and employing digital technologies in education. The individual theories (neobehaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism, connectivism) are viewed as varying traditions in approaching education and learning rather than as contradicting and mutually exclusive standpoints. The theories are useful in explaining how learning can be directed, what should be given emphasis, what the nature of knowledge is or what the roles of the individual participants of teaching and learning are. The theoretical perspective of the subject takes the authors to pedagogical considerations of integrating technologies in education while preventing a reductionist empirical or technicist view of e-learning.
Another important aspect of e-learning is researching and evaluating it. A whole chapter is therefore devoted to presenting a variety of information sources and results of empirical research in e-learning. These information sources, research results and published studies provide deeper insights in real-life use of digital technologies in many areas of human activities. The chapter also presents some international research (e. g. ICILS, PISA, PIAAC) allowing for a comparison of the situation in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. One of the main goals of the chapter is to guide the reader through the vast landscape of expert information on e-learning, which can be used for research and practice-oriented purposes (when planning a training course, in decision-making at the level of company or school management, or at various levels of school administration). Approaches used by the authors in their own research projects are presented.
A book on e-learning cannot leave technologies themselves aside. This is why the next chapter focuses on a pedagogical description of selected online tools. This approach puts not only the potential but also the weaknesses of ICT use in various forms of education into focus. A wide range of tools and services from social networks and mobile technologies through wiki, podcast, webinars, e-portfolios and simulations to MOOC are presented.
The next chapter is a general discussion of how to plan, prepare and implement an online course or class. Insights from the previous chapters are summarized and applied within the individual phases of preparing and implementing the teaching, demonstrating differences between using digital technologies as a supplement to classroom teaching and as a part of the so-called blended learning. The book presents four basic models: the so-called ADDIE model, the ID model by Gagné, the systemic approach (by Dick and Carey) and the constructivist approach by Jonassen, best suited to teaching mediating contextualized learning.
The chapter on didactic issues is followed by another one, presenting examples of good practice. The authors discuss their courses where ICT have been used in varying ways. The accounts follow a shared structure, including a description of the subject and its place in the curricula, an explanation of the teaching goals, an account of preparation for the subject, the roles of the teacher and the students, the nature of the teaching, and teaching and evaluation methods.
The book concludes with a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of digital technologies in teaching. Pros and cons from the perspective of students, teachers and institutions using digital technologies or planning to use them are analysed. The authors also caution against unjustified or even headless use of state-of-the-art technologies just to integrate latest trends without considering pedagogical goals. Advertisements promoting all kinds of software, praising their (often unrealistic) advantages should also be approached with caution.