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Changing spaces: Young people, technology and learning

University of Oxford London School of Economics and Political Science (2008) Changing spaces: Young people, technology and learning. In: ESRC seminar series: The educational and social impact of new technologies on young people in Britain, 2008-07-07, Oxford, United Kingdom, GBR.

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This is a report on the second on our series of seminars on the contexts and consequences of use of new information and communication technologies for children and young people, with a particular focus on the implications of technological change of formal and informal education. The fi rst seminar scoped key theoretical frameworks, focusing on questions of age and development, on social approaches to technological change, and to diverse notions of learning. The report, titled ‘Theorising the benefi ts of new technology for youth: Controversies of learning and development’ can be freely downloaded from esrcseries/home/index.php. Seminar 2 concerned questions of space. As John Coleman explained in introducing the seminar, fi rst we were interested in learning environments, seeking to understand how changing spatio-technical arrangements are affecting the learning environment in the classroom, school, home and community. The traditional notion of group learning in a classroom seems to be under question, while maximising the benefi ts from fl exible new technologies still requires serious consideration. While educationalists are rethinking formal learning environments, young people themselves are using new technologies for informal learning in a far wider array of social settings, public and private, shared and individual. Alan Prout gave the fi rst paper on ‘Changing childhood in a globalizing world’. His focus was on the intricate and shifting relations between spatial and temporal constraints on learning, drawing on the ‘Beyond Current Horizons project, conducted with Nick Lee, funded by the DCSF and based at Futurelab. Taking a Deleuzian approach, he argued against a purely social constructivist account of childhood, pointing to the materialities of both school spaces and learning technologies as potentially enabling but more often constraining educational opportunities. These constraints include a strong time ordering such that children’s lives are divided into time for preparation and time for performance, this occupying much of the week and, particularly, structuring ‘free time’ at home. Considerable disciplinary resources of both parents and teachers are occupied in ensuring the effectiveness of this time ordering. While new technologies might potentially disrupt this order, or introduce alternative forms of fl exibility, Prout argued that more often they are pressed into service so as to continue and extend the regulated and disciplined use of time and space for pupils. The second paper, by Gill Valentine, focused in on ‘Home-school links: the implications of ICT for sites of learning and spaces of childhood’. She critically examined the optimistic policies linking ICT and learning in educational policy for the coming decade, identifying potential diffi culties: one such is the different styles of learning associated with home and school, differences that may enable children to learn well in different settings and which, arguably, are undermined by technologies that blur home-school boundaries. While the hope is that experimental and pleasurable styles of learning will extend from home to school, the concern is that the reverse will happen, with disaffection or boredom associated with formal learning undermining prospects for informal learning. There are, to be sure, some good examples of school experimenting with new and creative ICT-mediated homeschool links, but there are some significant barriers impeding such policies also. Valentine particularly outlined the infl uence of traditional forms of socioeconomic stratifi cation, resulting in middle class children gaining more from the introduction of ICT into learning, especially at home, than less privileged children. How then, she asked, shall we re-imagine the school of the future? These re-imaginings were given concrete form in the third paper, by Steve Moss, in his talk ‘Future spaces: future learning’. Reporting on plans for the Building Schools for the Future programme, he charted the challenges for teachers and educationalists in imagining learning spaces in a future that does not yet exist. Over and again, he argued, it is our failures of imagination that lead us to reproduce the familiar, to the detriment of more radical visions of how things could be different. This pessimistic observation is in confl ict, he went on to argue, with the valid imperative to consult and engage with pupils and teachers when re-envisioning future schools. One must engage, clearly, yet this risks repeating conservative visions. For example, Steve Moss observes that in designing new school structures in recent years, the exterior as presented to the community is often more radical than that traditional set of classrooms reproduced within the walls. Some examples, however, maximise the potential of ICTs in redesigning classrooms also – changing spatial arrangements among pupils and between pupils and teachers both by altering the formal/ informal learning spaces and the virtual/physical spaces for learning. Each paper gave rise to a lively discussion from our diverse and expert audience, and some of the discussion is captured in the body of the report. Inevitably more questions were raised than answers provided, but the questions are important ones, and merit our serious attention if ICTs are to benefi t children’s learning in the years to come.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Other)
Additional Information: © 2008 University of Oxford & LSE
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
L Education > L Education (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2011 10:13
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2024 03:22

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