Centre for Educational Research and Innovation - CERI

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) - The New Millenium Learners Blog


Media millenium babies

The controversial television channel BabyFirst TV   for babies between 6 months and 3 years which started in the US in 2004  has recently been launched in France.  Their website claims the following:
“It’s Not Traditional TV - It’s a Brand New Educational Tool: BabyFirst transforms traditional TV into an interactive and educational tool that relies on the television as a medium to deliver high-quality programming and an engaging experience for both baby and parents. BabyFirst can enrich the connection between parents and baby and give them new opportunities for learning and playing together.”

BabyFirstTV is not the first of its kind neither is it alone in an ever burgeoning market of multimedia for babies, with the first TV show started for babies"Teletubbies" in Britain a decade ago, and Baby Einstein, which sells DVDs for children as young as 1 month.

Should babies be watching TV?  The fact is that they do and are attracted to the moving screen.  It was just a matter of time before commercial companies seized onto stilted scientific evidence regarding the enhanced  learning capacitities in early infancy to tailor toys and televisions programmes to this susceptible market of parents wanting both the best for their children and not to feel guilty about using the tv as babysitter. 

The recent CERI publication “Understanding the Brain: the birth of a new learning science” has a chapter on Dispelling Neuromyths such as: “There is no time to lose as everything important about the brain is decided by the age of three” which debunks the myth about synaptogenesis and that it is in the early years that a child is the most capable of learning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has attempted to set out some guidelines about televion and the family:
A word about...TV for toddlers
Children of all ages are constantly learning new things. The first 2 years of life are especially important in the growth and development of your child's brain. During this time, children need good, positive interaction with other children and adults. Too much television can negatively affect early brain development. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important.
Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs.

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Are New Millenium Learners bigger cheaters than their previous Millenium counterparts? 

Although  Plagiarism (wikipedia definition:  the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of  (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement) is nothing new, the temptation and ease of cutting and pasting from the internet makes it much more of a problem than in the past.   Information on the World Wide Web is of course public and users often confuse freely available material with "free-to-use" without acknowledging the sources.  As hard work and intellectual input has gone into creating these pages, copying without citing the source is stealing. 

The worst kind of plagiarism is purchasing someone else’s work to pass of as your own, this was available on worldwide campuses by word of mouth before, but now buying papers off the internet is as just easy as purchasing prescription drugs off the internet.
A recent study in the UK suggests that one in twenty university or college applicants cheat on their personal statements.  A quote from the BBC article of 2 October 2007 :
“Analysis for University college Admissions Service has showed some 800 would-be medical students had lifted chunks of text from the same website.  And 234 included the same anecdote saying their interest in chemistry had begun when they had burnt a hole in their pyjamas.”

A new system called Copycatch, will compare every application submitted in the UK for the next year. Other software to catch copycats such as Turnitin, used by the universities' plagiarism advisory service (Jisc-PAS), makes it possible for a lecturer to compare an assignment against billions of published papers and students' essays to spot similarities.   The Learning Center is designed to help educators and students develop a better sense of what plagiarism means in the information age, and to teach the planning, organizational, and citation skills essential for producing quality writing and research.  For those who do not have sophisticated software Google can be used as a plagiarism detection tool to locate key phrases that may appear in students' papers.

In Sweden former students  have created a wiki to upload student papers and share them freely:  It is questionnable whether this is an open educational resource or cheaters haven?  The OECD-CERI has recently published "Giving Knowledge for Free: The emergence of open educational resources" (downloadable for free), in which Chapter 5 outlines the copyright issues.

Lastly, a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge: "Plagiarists are always suspicious of being stolen from." 

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Handheld learning

The most powerful learning device for the future is already in the pockets of most new millennium learners.  Cell or mobile telephones are no longer just communication devices but mini-computers with built-in microchips and computer-like functions.  Like their bigger PC cousins these mini-computers can also be used for learning.  SMS messaging can be used by teachers to: conduct quick tests; reap students votes; send messages/student results to parents; and tutoring. Most cell phones can now access the internet and accept downloadable programmes, opening up access to micro worlds of remediation tools and other learning opportunities.  GPS features not only enhance security but can help students with geographical awareness or orientation exercises. The learning potential of these handheld devices is mind boggling.

To keep abreast with this fast moving opportunity for mobile learning the Handheld Learning conference will be held for the third successive year in London from October 10-12th, 2007.  The event has grown to be the world’s largest conference focussed on learning using mobile and ubiquitous technologies. The exhibition, like the conference, is one of the largest of its kind where the leading organisations that provide products and services to the sector are to be found from device manufacturers to infrastructure specialists, software providers, connectivity providers and learning consultancies. If that wasn’t enough there’s the Practitioners Village where participants can meet practitioners from key initiatives and see their successful work using mobile technologies.
Among the line up of speakers, Francesc Pedró, OECD will address the plenary session on "Policy & new horizons" together with Stepehn Crowne, Chief Executive, Becta; Tarket Shawki, Chief of Section, ICT in Education, Science and Culture, UNESCO; and the renowned author of “Don’t bother me Mom, I’m Learning”  by  Mark Prensky.

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Cyber bullying

Bullying is a negative feature of any society, and so with so many social networking and video sharing websites becoming so popular among the new millennium learners, there are numerous new outlets for bearing personal grudges.  The increasing problem of cyber bullying in schools has recently come to attention in the UK where a government study has revealed that more than a third of 12 to 15-year-olds have faced some kind of cyberbullying, and consequently the British government is issuing guidelines to help schools tackle the problem of cyberbullying. 

Cyberbullying is an extension of face-to-face bullying, with technology providing a new mode for attack.   Cyberbullying consists of threats, intimidation, harassment or "cyber-stalking", unauthorised publication of private information or images, impersonation and what is known as "happy slapping". It is a lot meaner and more vindictive than traditional forms of bullying because it allows bullies to say things they would never dare to in a face to face situation.  Cyberbullies are also now able to enter the homes of victims, the one safe ground where victims were able to shelter in the past.
Teaching unions have revealed that children are not the only victims of cyberbullying and that the teaching staff in schools also increasingly falling victim to it.  In the past students left rude notes for their teachers and this is the progression of that. Teachers have been targeted by personal attacks against them on websites citing abuse, intimidation and even death threats.

The OECD’s International Network Combating School Bullying and Violence is supporting countries seeking to stimulate and support more effective anti-bullying measures.

Childnet International, a non-profit organisation working with others to “help make the Internet a great and safe place for children” launch of important new guidance for schools called to help them tackle the problems of cyberbullying.

Other interesting articles to read are:

What can stop cyberbullying?: BBC, 21 September 2007

Cyberbullying: A victim's story: BBC, 21 September 2007

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Computers to exercise children

The computer generation spend much of their leisure time watching tv, playing computer games and thumbing their cell phones.  Although they may work up a sweat, this is no substitute for real exercise.  This lack of exercise, is exacerbated by worried parents who are frightened of letting their children play outside alone and drive their children to school.  There is also increasing pressure on children to perform well in academic subjects which further relegates physical exercise to the lowest priority at school.  Let’s face it, some of the sports computer games out there like Pro evolution soccer are so real that you can understand how it might be much more exciting playing against the cyber “pros” than with one’s peers in real life.

It has been shown recently that the potential benefits of aerobic exercise extend well beyond the cardiovascular health marker to improving brain health.  The recent CERI publication “Understanding the brain: The birth of a new learning science”  describes how a brain study undertaken to monitor the effects on cognitive capacities of an aerobic exercise programme in older adults gives clear evidence of boosted performance in key areas of the subjects brains.  The book also cites research in the Learning Lab Denmark’s Play and Learning Consortium which has been exploring the relationship between body, mind, cognition and learning, advocating a comprehensive approach which incorporates physical activities into other teaching disciplines and not just physical training classes.

An innovative move in this direction has been introduced in schools in Luton in the UK, where a computer dance programme has proven itself to encourage even those who don’t like traditional sport.  See the BBC article of 15 September 2007 entitled “Computer dance gets pupils active.

This novel way of using computers to exercise children demonstrates how the adverse effects of computer games can be reversed.  This brings to mind the old adage as a tip for getting through to new millennium learners: if you can’t beat ‘em, then join them.

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Children, computers and media

Posted by Kristina Kaihari-Salminen
Paolo Ferri (editor) presents a research project on Children and computers: What they know, what they do? It studies how children and adults explore the potential of new technologies in family and preschool settings. Some aims of the research are:

  • The ways in which 3 to 6 year old children use and explore new digital technologies and interpret their meanings and functions at home and in preschool settings.
  • Exploring teachers’ and parents’ ideas and representations with regard to the use of computers, at home and in preschools, and to their educational roles.
  • Stimulating opportunities for dialogue and interpretation on issues like education and technologies, learning tools in the early years, collaborative learning, etc.
  • Developing training materials based on this approach with computers in the early years.
  • Outlining some patterns for the development of “new” media education for teachers and schools.

The basic assumption of the research is that in order for teachers and parents to promote “good” use of new technologies in the early years (especially in preschools) they need to gain a deeper understanding of the way in which children approach these technologies. Along with observing children, the research aims at understanding the way in which teachers and parents interpret the role of technologies in early childhood education and their educational responsibilities.
These issues are really crucial today and in future. All the parents and teachers have to face the reality that computers and media anyway belong also in the everyday life of today’s children. That’s why it is indispensable to improve the media education readiness in early childhood education. Media education means learning and growing with media. It is about activity which has an effect on the use of media as well as knowledge about media. At its best, media education succeeds in developing the ability to analyze and interpret the media, to develop the competence to participate in the media culture and to express oneself. In Finland an initiative to foster early childhood media education has been taken in 2006 by the project “Media muffin – delicious media for children” as a part of the national Children and Media –project issued by the Ministry of Education and Culture in co-operation with experts, organisations, authorities and bureaus in the field of media education, education and teaching. Its goal is to develop the media skills of children under the age of 8 in harmony with the national curriculum guidelines on early childhood and basic education. Another goal of the project is to instruct the parents to lead and help children use media in a positive way. It is about play, movement, artistic experimentation, expression and exploration. Media muffin offers material for media education, which is suitable for use in day-care and primary school as well as educational events for teachers and other educators free of charge.  Click here for further information.

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comment sent by Christina Hinton, 08.07.2007

Should governments begin allowing voting over the Internet? This would certainly increase youth participation, but would open up a slew of regulation problems. Would the benefits outweigh the cost for some countries?

What kind of democratic experiences would we choose for future generations?

Posted by Kristina Kaihari-Salminen
W. Lance Bennett states in his presentation Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age that younger generations are disconnecting from conventional politics and government in alarming numbers. These trends in youth dissatisfaction with conventional political engagement are occurring in many democracies. At the same time there are impressive signs of youth civic engagement in nongovernmental areas. There seem to be two different paradigms that contrast young citizens (roughly in the 15-25 age range) as either reasonably active and engaged or relatively passive and disengaged. Dutiful Citizen (DC) model emphasize the obligation to participate in government centered activities and voting as a core democratic act. DC becomes informed about issues and government by following mass media and joins civil society organizations and/or expresses interests through parties. Actualizing Citizen Model (AC) stresses the diminished sense of government obligation and higher sense of individual purpose. Voting is less meaningful than other, more personally defined acts such as consumerism, community volunteering, or trans-national activism. AC’s mistrust of media and politicians is reinforced by negative mass media environment.
This is a very interesting issue. If future generations want to create new models of participation and decision-making in the democratic society, they have to realize that elected parliaments and governments are still the only legitimate legislative and executive bodies. As institutional democracy has got its constitutional rules, the future generations who want to change the democratic operations should anyway be active in the traditional way by voting very actively in elections those candidates who really have got the mission to change things. But it is only through the majority that the changes could take place.
I think that the schools have a crucial role and responsibility in offering the pupils knowledge, skills and possibilities to pupils’ participation from the first grades of the basic school including learning by doing experiences as well as using the ICT. The previous Finnish government 2003-2007 launched an Active Citizenship Policy Program which was implemented in many ways, also in cooperation with the Finnish National Board of Education. The Council of Europe initiative European Year of Citizenship through Education 2005 implemented by the FNBE was as well an important effort in trying to foster active citizenship and participation among the youth.
The FNBE is preparing a National Youth Forum, which will take place the first time in autumn 2007. It will be organised on regional representation of school bodies (which are statutory) that are going to assemble in Helsinki three times a year to discuss on important issues concerning the youth, education, participation and the whole society. There will be interaction with the politicians and policy makers. Meanwhile the school bodies will connect each other by internet and other local and regional face to face networks to talk on the issues important to develop in the society in point of view of the youth. The goal of this initiative is to involve young people as citizens to participate and influence actively. The National Youth Forum has been prepared in Helsinki, in three Schooling for Tomorrow –seminars in 2006-2007, where young participants from different parts of Finland had brainstorming and scenario workshops on the future trends and education.

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Does internet challenge the book culture in schools?

Posted by Kristina Kaihari-Salminen
Dominique Pasquier states in his presentation on Digital technologies, cultures, values and lifestyles that “institutional” education is very much funded on book culture and more generally on modes of knowledge and learning that are very different and sometimes even antagonistic from the forms of knowledge one might get from the Internet. There is neither author nor publisher’s responsibility for the information given as there is with books, nor specific certifications or formal education requirements to put information on the net, which is the opposite of the expertise required for teachers. Last but not least, we may observe among young people a “Babel syndrome”, the feeling that ALL knowledge is on the Internet and they just have to go there to find a ready made piece of information. Nowadays this is a major problem for teachers in high school: how to take in charge the gap between the type of knowledge needed for school’s programs and the one that their pupils and students get from mass media and Internet? (Pasquier 2005)
I think it is indispensable to realize all over the world the importance of developing pupils’ media skills and communication studies already from the first grades of the comprehensive school. In Finland the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education (2004) defines that the goals of the compulsory cross-curricular theme “Media Skills and Communication” are to improve skills in expression and interaction, to advance understanding of the media’s position and importance, and to improve skills in using the media. The pupils should practice media skills as both producers and recipients of messages. My opinion is that there is necessarily no disagreement between book culture, traditional model of knowledge and internet. The challenge is more how to develop pupils’ information management skills and to learn to compare, choose, and utilize acquired information in appropriate way. The objectives of learning also define what kind of knowledge is needed in different situations. It is crucial that the pupils learn to take a critical stance towards contents conveyed by the media, and to ponder the related values of ethics and aesthetics in communication.
These things challenge the schools, the teacher training and the teachers’ in-service training as well as the parents. Teachers should be aware with these things and
pedagogically well educated to have the ability to motivate pupils and to offer them opportunities to versatile learning approaches and methods.

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ICT and values

Posted by Kristina Kaihari-Salminen
Dominique Pasquier asks in his presentation on Digital technologies, cultures, values and lifestyles if a continuous use of ICT affect cultural patterns and values as to challenge those prevalent in education.
The question of prevailing cultural patterns and values is very interesting. I think that the importance of values and cultural patterns might even be more crucial than before in today’s rapidly changing society and world. In every society there are anyway some indispensable basic values which in democracies are usually widely agreed among the citizens. They are important anchors in every society. The constitution, other laws and cultural patterns as well as education policy and school curricula also reflect the spirit of these values. One of the most important missions of the school education in every society besides giving the pupils important skills, general knowledge and competence, is to maintain and transfer the society’s cultural heritage, traditions and values to the next generation. Despite widespread talk of the globalization of culture, the nation remains a key unit of shared experience, with its educational and cultural institutions shaping the values of almost everyone in the society.

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