From micro-evolutions to macro-revolutions: ICTs in Education

When we speak about the impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Education, there are two main approaches that we can follow.

The micro-level approach deals with the impact of ICTs on learning processes and/or the different components of a learning process. The point in the micro-level approach is to tell what the impact will be on how things work and howshould or will they change. The micro-level is about evolutions.

The macro-level approach puts the stress on the system and its foundations. The point in the macro-level approach is to tell what the impact will be on what things work into that system and why. and which will be the new foundations upon to which build a new system. The macro-level is about revolutions.

See, for instance, the following examples, picked at random and with no aim of comprehensiveness:

Item Micro-level approach
Evolution
Macro-level approach
Revolution
Teacher How can the teacher use an interactive whiteboard to support lecturing?

What is the role of the teacher? A mentor? An instructional designer?
Who is the teacher? Who is an expert?
Is there a need for a teacher?

Student What is the use of laptops when attending classes or doing homework? What is a student? Does the dychotomy student-worker still apply?
Will ICTs empower people so that they can master their own learning processes?
Textbook What will be the e-book like? Can it be interactive? Searchable? Is there any need for a textbook?
How can we turn any information resorce into a learning resource?
Who should design learning resources? What is the role of publishers in this (new) scenario (if any)?
Classroom Can we use (or ban) wi-fi in the classroom? For what purposes? Will meeting physical spaces become irrelevant in a no-time- and no-space-boundaries digital environment?
What is the added value of physical gatherings?
Is there a reason to keep thinking in terms of classmates and cohorts?
Assessment What is the best way to apply self-correcting surveys for assessment? Do we need assessment or certification?
Is peer-to-peer assessment possible?
Can we redefine reputation and authority in an open Knowledge Society?
Syllabus Should the syllabus self-adapt according to performance of the student? Just-in-case or just-in-time learning?
Can we unstructure learning?

Both approaches are worth being followed. Most times, there will be no revolution without a well paced set of little evolutions (contradictory as this may sound), and evolutions may eventually lead to sheer revolution when all added up. But. But when a revolution is — a digital revolution, as it now seems to be — clearly coming up in the horizon, time is of the essence: the debates on the evolutions that might be should give way to the debates on the revolutions that may or very likely will be.

Two reflections or corollaries arise from the former statement.

  1. The first one is that we have to be able to tell evolutions from revolutions. Statement the like of tablets — or laptops or interactive whiteboards or e-books or iBooks or you-name-it — are going to revolutionize Education are very likely to be either misleading or plain wrong. At least in the way they are usually stated or framed. All the aforementioned examples-in-the-classroom belong to the world if evolution, of innovation: they improve or even radically change the way we do some things, but not things themselves. In other words, tablets may revolutionize lecturing and, as such, make a huge contribution to the evolution of Education. But not revolutionize education.
  2. The second one is that if a revolution in Education is about to come — as many people see sings of it, and even work towards it — we certainly should put the focus on systemic changes and not in changes within the system. In other words, we should analyse how evolutions relate to or can contribute to a deep revolution, instead of focusing on evolutions themselves.

It is just normal that, as educators, we feel the urge to deal with the present, with solving the impact of ICTs in our daily lives inside our classrooms. But I believe we should put more effort in looking ahead in the future, in making our evolutions shift towards the path of the systemic change and not in parallel or diverting from it.

During the III European Conference on Information Technology in Education and Society: A Critical Insight (TIES2012) I felt like there was much concern on the micro vision of ICTs in education and just a little bit on the macro side of things. And I sometimes wondered whether that was thinking on your pedicure before having your leg amputated — and, by the way, not having a plan for the upcoming haemorrhage.

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2012) “From micro-evolutions to macro-revolutions: ICTs in Education” In ICTlogy, #101, February 2012. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3912

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7 Comments to “From micro-evolutions to macro-revolutions: ICTs in Education” »

  1. Buen artículo Ismael! Me gusta mucho la diferenciación entre el nivel macro y micro.

    Mi sensación también es que muchas veces las ciencias de la educación ponen el acento en el nivel micro y en el corto plazo. Sin embargo, desde otras disciplinas como ciencias políticas, sociología o economía, aunque se estudia la educación, se tiene abandonado el estudio de las TIC en educación y el e-learning, por lo que el nivel macro no está muy desarrollado.

    Por poner algún ejemplo desde la economía. A nivel macro al listado quizás se pueden añadir algunos temas como:

    – ¿Qué impactos tiene la introducción de la tecnología en las habilidades adquiridas por los estudiantes?.
    – ¿Cómo se vinculan estas habilidades a la economía del conocimiento? – A largo plazo, ¿qué consecuencias económicas y laborales tiene el hecho de estudiar utilizando las tecnologías? ¿Y estudiar de forma 100% virtual?

    No obstante, en manos de los investigadores de estas áreas está cubrir el vacío(por ejemplo en las de profesores del área de políticas ;)).

    La ventaja: que al no existir tradición de estudio todo es relativamente nuevo.

    El problema: la dificultad de ser innovador y no unirse a la “comodidad” de líneas de investigación preexistentes en las instituciones/universidades.

  2. Yo también creo que el enfoque macro peretenece más a economistas, sociólogos, politólogos, etc.

    No obstante, si nos creemos lo de la multidisciplinariedad, los educadores no puede quedar al margen. Entre otras cosas, porque deben ser partícipes de diseñar ese futuro en el que van a pasar el resto de sus días ;)

  3. Pingback: Daily post 02/23/2012 : DrAlb

  4. Bon dia,
    L’esquema em sembla suggerent però al meu entendre necessita matisos i més elements si el volem aplicar a l’educació bàsica. Concretament afegiria una nova columna entre Micro i Macro: Meso level ( el centre educatiu i el lideratge de la direcció). Aquell nivell pot ser catalitzador o inhibidor de la gestió del canvi i entenc que té un paper molt més determinant en l’educació bàsica que en la universitària. També seria interessant pensar en una nova columna a la que batejaria com EXO level, on podrien figurar els factors d’entorn.
    Per arrodonir l’esquema proposo considerar afegir l’eix Z on constarien els contextos d’aprenentatge: Formal, Informal i No formal.
    Reitero l’interès de l’apunt però vull destacar que, com la majoría de fenòmens socials, l’educació és multidimensional.

  5. Hola Jordi,

    El tema del meso me l’ha comentat algú altre (via Twitter, si no recordo malament) i la meva resposta és que, en aquesta categorització tan simple (massa simple) que faig aquí, el nivell meso queda implícitament inclòs dins el nivell micro.

    De la mateixa manera, el que tu proposes de “EXO level” entra, també de forma implícita, dins el nivell macro.

    Vull que quedi clar que no m’oposo a aquestes categoritzacions — ni molt menys: crec que són d’allò més pertinent — sinó que, en aquest apunt, en certa manera ja hi eren, perquè l’objectiu no era tan descriure una sèrie de nivells, sinó pal·lesar dues aproximacions a la qüestió de les TIC a/i l’Educació: des d’abaix i des de dalt.

    L’aspecte que esmentes de l’eix formal, informal i no formal també el comparteixo, i en vaig parlar a Heavy switchers in translearning: From formal learning to an effective use of the PLE.

  6. Molt interessant, Jordi, moltes gràcies!

    En la meva opinió, l’article entra a detallar el que jo només apuntava breument més amunt.

    Així, els estadis Administrative, Curricular i Didactic es correspondrien amb una aproximació micro; l’estadi Organizational a la meso; i els estadis Systemic, Cultural, Ideological al macro.

    Són interessants també les “intensitats” de resposta sobre les TIC, tot i que crec que no comparteixo la seva taula de creuaments.

    La revisió de la literatura és, simplement, espectacular!

    Moltes gràcies per compartir-lo! :)

    i.

    PS: per cert, una intervenció de 2001 molt més interessant que la que va fer al TIES2012 ;)

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Sobre Mí

    Soy Ismael Peña-López.

    Soy profesor de los Estudios de Derecho y de Ciencia Política de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, e investigador en el Internet Interdisciplinary Institute y el eLearn Center de la misma. Durante 2014 también soy el Director del proyecto de Innovación Abierta de la Fundació Jaume Bofill.