You will discover Design Challenges as you proceed through the Edukata model. Design Challenges are reasons why someone would say “no” to a new idea.
For your reference, we’ve listed here a collection of challenges we’ve discovered during the iTEC project’s first design and piloting cycle. For more details, you may want to read D3,1. the 1st Report on Design prototypes and design challenges for education from the iTEC project.
Learning process challenges
Learning goals are difficult to document
Expected learning achievements of a learner and the course content may not match. The learning goals might also change and develop during a learning activity. Being able to explicitly recognise learning goals and the changes in these goals could give teachers and learners insight about the wishes, intentions, and learning gaps of learners. Teachers get feedback on where and how to further develop their teaching material to better meet the needs of individual learners. However, it is very challenging for young learners, and even for university level learners, to identify and document their expected learning goals, before performing an activity. In addition, the motivation for documenting their expected learning goals is not explicit, because no immediate reward is perceived.
Complex media production process
Several scenarios suggest media production related activities as a common task in school learning. The process of a media production is complex, because many iterative steps are involved and, depending on the project, may vary. The iterative nature of the media production process means that process phases proceed simultaneously without explicit outcomes from each phase. Teachers with little or no experience in media production might struggle with this, and have difficulties in guiding as well as assessing the media production process and result. The workshop summaries revealed that the teachers perceive the process as nontransparent, which also evokes a level of insecurity towards their role and professionalism.
Elaborate rules of advanced techniques
Advanced group work techniques, such as progressive inquiry or jigsaw, can be very valuable for community building and personal development, because the rules are defined so that the learning of one learner depends on the knowledge of another. However, the complexity of the rules requires particular attention during the everyday classroom learning activities, especially when intending to arrange, manage and maintain well functioning groups.
Overlooked learning opportunities
Teachers explained that the curriculum presents learning goals in ways best achieved through traditional, formal classroom learning activities, such as lecturing. Some European schools register media production projects as playtime, the time in school during which nothing is expected to be learned. The learning that is achieved through participation in a media production project is not formally acknowledged; it is invisible. Although, for example media production projects and interdisciplinary team work activities are valuable learning experiences, ways of capturing, documenting, acknowledging and assessing this currently invisible learning are not documented, and, hence, not passed on.
Incomplete and unfair assessment
School project work often results in the creation of artefacts, for example posters, reports, or – considering informal team learning activities – video clips, websites and simulations. These artefacts embody information about decisions, information collection, and tests that a project team performed. The artefacts may also showcase skills and abilities that members of a project team acquired. However, despite this, teachers mentioned that a complete and fair retrospective analysis and reflection of the production process based on the artefacts alone is not possible.
No assessment criteria for informal activities
Rich team work processes can evoke equally rich learning achievements. These learning achievements vary from project to project and learner to learner. Recognition of this often invisible learning varies from teacher to teacher, based on individual biases and preferences. In relation to this, teachers also voiced concerns about the process of deciding the amount of accreditation to award. The teachers’ concerns pointed us towards the question of how to categorise project work based on school subject areas and from which aspects the same project work can be accredited and evaluated. These, according to the teachers, are particularly relevant questions when cross-curricular skills are being developed.
No assessment guidelines for individual learning
Many scenarios included activities from a very wide range, including interviews with outside experts, media production skills, and independent research. Teachers were concerned about the assessment of learners entering the activities with different initial skills. For example, a learner of grade 4 may have more experience using expert jargon, foreign languages and interviewing techniques than a learner of the same grade, who is more experienced in storytelling, bridging of subject areas and handling technology. It was unclear how a teacher should evaluate these two learners, as one may produce a very good end result without learning anything new, while the other may struggle to produce a mediocre result, yet learn a lot during the process. Should the criteria be the same for each learner, or be based on the amount of progress each learner makes? Furthermore, the teachers were concerned about possible requirements of the learners, for example being able to work autonomously with expertise before starting a learning activity, again stressing the fact that learners have different skill level and different ways of learning about the same topic.
Individual assessment is time consuming
Assessing rich individual information from each learner separately, for example through teacher and learner reflection, requires time. This time may not be available to the extent necessary to perform fair individual assessment with care.
Time resource challenges
No time for reflection
Reflection of learning activities can represent a valuable way for teachers and learners to understand learning interests, goals, and achievements as well as areas where further learning is required. However, existing practices do not include reflection of finished projects, because there are no time resources allocated for that in the formal curriculum.
Future learning activities, such as media production project work require the class to split up into small teams. It is implied that the teacher manages several projects and groups, guide content learning and facilitates media production processes at the same time. Teachers were concerned that they have insufficient resources to properly oversee multiple small teams, and they cannot concentrate on the development of individual learners.
Time consuming viewing of documentation
Looking at the learners’ documentation of their out-of-school activities, teachers can learn about youth trends, the personalities of the learners and how they handle technology. Teachers can use this learning to develop learning material that is building on the personal interests of the learners. Additionally, documentation of learning activities could be used to build learning networks or interest based groups among learners and teachers. These benefits were also recognised by the teachers during the workshops. However, the teachers mentioned that it is time consuming to view the documentation of all learners. Their motivation to invest time into viewing the documentation of learners who are not active participants in their class is low.
Ambiguous time value balance
Teachers are aware of the benefits of learner-centered practices that consider individual needs and interests, as well as foster dialogical relationships between learners and teachers. For example, teachers know that paying attention to skills or talents that learners develop outside of school and actively incorporating them into school learning can further the self-expression and the self-esteem of learners. However, the amount of time spent with one project takes away from the time available for other, equally important learning opportunities. This results in ambiguity about the value of one practice above another. For example, preparing a personal learning contract with learners happens in only some European schools, and only irregularly, because the preparation and individual work that the practice includes can be overwhelming.
Documentation is a formality
Documenting hobbies of learners with digital media was the main learning activity described in one of the scenarios. During the participatory design sessions, teachers reported that they see value for learning in that activity and consider it motivating for “lower performing” learners to use their favorite technology to document their hobbies. However, according to the teachers, this is not motivating enough to shift the tendency of active learners being most active. Integrating personal interests by way of documenting outside of school hobbies with digital technologies formalises these hobbies and the documentation of them for the sake of earning credits seemed like a formality to the teachers as well. See appendix C: Personal Learning Contract (Lithuania, France), Recognising Informal Learning (Italy, Estonia, Slovakia).
Difficult to form interest driven teams
Student-centric pedagogy emphasises that taking the learners’ personal interests into account increases motivation. Most future school learning activities that build on that are often based on project work in teams. However, forming teams of 4 out of 20 to 30 learners, allowing each learners’ interest to affect the team formation, and to place each learner into a team that focuses on a topic that personally interests them can be a time consuming and computationally challenging task.
Free-riders in teams
Unequal workload distribution between learners within teams has some learners working hard, while others only tag along.
Social school challenges
Forming teams based on friendship
Letting learners form teams on their own often result in friend cliques, that is, good friends coming together over and over. This reduces the possibility to learn how to work with different people. Furthermore, this can result in projects where learning outcomes are minimal, if friends with minimal study motivation come together.
Team work is not familiar
Although the PD workshops resulted only in a small sample of comments by teachers in European countries, it was recognised that many European teachers are not used to students working in small teams, and will not easily organise team work activities, despite the foreseen benefits. As only a small amount of comments by a limited amount of teachers was analysed, we should be careful in making generalisations about an entire country’s educational practices.
High threshold for collaboration
Teachers expect that collaboration between teachers within the school, among schools, and internationally, as well as collaboration with outside experts will become more and more common. Currently, the levels of collaboration differs across European schools. Overall, it was noticed that collaboration with other teachers and with outside experts is not an everyday school activity.
There is a high threshold in establishing the initial connection with unknown people. Building learning networks and opening up existing networks is time consuming. Also, organizing collaboration requires a lot of effort from teachers without assurance for success. In some countries it is a sign of something gone wrong when people are called into school – with the exceptions of field trips, camps, and similar nonrecurring events. Of the countries involved in the workshops, only Portuguese students establish partnerships with universities and other organisations when doing team projects.
Collaboration between teachers differs across Europe. For example, in Lithuania strong competition among teachers both within a school and across schools makes sharing of learning material rare. On the other hand, in most other countries, collaboration between teachers of different schools, also beyond the borders of a country, is anticipated. Some teachers use digital and online technologies for collaborating, sharing, commenting, and discussing with teachers of the same schools, mainly in pairs. In some European schools this is extended to teachers of different schools.
Learning networks are closed
To share learning material, exchange experiences, and to learn from each other, some teachers in some European countries establish and maintain learning networks informally, without support from the school management. Teachers who participate in such informal learning networks report that the networks have vague structure and goals. They mention that tool utilisation could be optimized. For example, sharing of learning material and discussion happens in several places, and teachers establish networks with other teachers and outside experts of their own field that are inaccessible for others. Mainstreaming the use of learning networks implies the involvement of classroom ad school management.
Changed teacher roles
Teachers recognize a change of their role in several of the scenarios from “Sage on stage” to:
- Guide, who points learners at connections between school learning and topics outside of school
- Moderator, who comments and mediates the learning process
- Technician, who is skilled at using technology and cares for the hardware
- Advisor, who has an eye on the future and recommends areas for deepening skills and knowledge
- Facilitator, who gives the learners the opportunity to participate in learning projects
- Listener, who learns about new topics that the learners are interested.
This changed role of the teacher would be better in line with the European competences for life-long learning, forming relationship that supports personal development for both teachers and learners. Currently, the new teacher roles might not be socially well accepted in some European countries. For example, a teacher mentioned that contacting another teacher to improve learning materials during class could be considered by the learners as failure of the teacher. The humiliation was not something this teacher was willing to risk.
Regarding changes in the organisational structure of European schools, when working outside of the school building, the responsibility for the safety of the learners rests with the teacher, even when parent permissions were given. This may limit how locations and events outside of the school may be utilised in education. See appendix B: Support Network of Experts (France, Austria), Teacher support network (Lithuania, Finland, Portugal), Recognizing Informal Learning (Italy, Estonia, Slovakia), Collaborative Media Project (Finland, Portugal).
Libraries and librarians are scarce
Growing up in a world where most information is accessed digitally online, it is important for young learners to learn digital literacy skills, such as understanding basic copyright issues or identifying meaningful and credible sources online. Skills for responsible and productive navigation online are needed. In two scenarios, the idea of libraries as centers for digital literacy skill training are mentioned. The suggested learning activities are based on the librarian with digital literacy skills as a protagonist.
However, in many European schools, libraries are not part of the school landscape and if they are, most librarians have limited skills in performing research with digital technologies, or supporting learners directly. Most librarians are therefore not able to pass on digital literacy skills and knowledge about copyright related issues to learners. The availability of librarians is limited to library opening hours. Additionally, contradictory opinions were expressed concerning whether learners develop sufficient digital literacy skills when teachers and librarians guide them towards safe places.
Limited understanding of copyright
Copyright related issues arise from media production projects, when resources are downloaded from and uploaded to the Internet. Learners and teachers need to know the rules to follow when remixing images, videos and other data from the Internet in their own productions and then publishing these works. However, copyright law is a maze that European teachers are not able to navigate.
Low sharing possibilities
Sharing work in process in learning communities and with teachers, as well as between teachers, learners and people outside of school is central in several scenarios. Workshops revealed that this kind of sharing is not very common, but that teachers would like to see more of it. Current sharing and media production solutions are difficult to use and require time to learn. This lowers the possibilities and motivation for adapting learning activities based on sharing.
Limited access to technology
Teachers recognised that some of the scenarios would be best performed in a 1:1 setting, with one computer or other device for each learner. However, according to the teachers, resources such as cameras, and laptops are limited in schools and computer equipped classrooms are only available when the class is scheduled to use them. Digital technologies are assigned to locations, not to learners.
Some teachers, however, stated that, high quality video footage is not needed for the learning activities mentioned in the scenarios, suggesting that the learners could use their personal technological equipment, such as camera mobile phones. Other teachers consider this problematic, because tools and services are not available to all learners equally. While some learners blog about their hobbies at home, others don’t own a private computer. Teachers also said that it is difficult for schools to affect what technology the parents purchase to their children.
Regarding spatial arrangement, teachers mentioned that classrooms with fixed row settings are not suitable for the future scenarios. Laboratories for self study are needed.
New technology replicates old teaching
The advanced learning activities presented in the scenarios suggest new practices in schools. Future classroom technologies can be seen as the tools that support, enable, and formalize these changes of practice for example towards cross-curricular learning, learner centered activities and mixed age group learning. Teachers consider technologies to provide them and the learners access to the entire world of knowledge, or offer ways of establishing community in the classroom. Teachers report that some learners use their mobile phones to check the meaning of words on the Internet, when the teacher’s explanation didn’t make sense to them. Teachers dream of classrooms without row seating arrangements, where project and self study activities with laptops and devices or reflective discussions guide the arrangement of the space.
These practices are currently not part of the day-to-day routine of schools, and not considered in the design of learning technologies that are used in the classroom today. Teachers report that many educational technologies used in schools, such as interactive whiteboards, slides, and pictures on the web, replicate existing teaching styles. Teachers complain that they are not “as disruptive as they should be.”