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Debate Score:29
Total Votes:32
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New places, spaces and tools of learning produce better outcomes for learners

It's time for a stock-take of ideas and evidence. We've been busy engaging with a plethora of new places, spaces and tools for learning over the past decade or so based on the assumption that they will in some way contribute to better outcomes and opportunities for learners - so what do you think? Is this the case? If so, where is the evidence? If this really were the case, how come we still have so many classrooms looking like what they did when I went to school - surely that's evidence in itself that what we're doing is working - or is it? And - is the evidence different for school and higher education? Let's see some rigorous debate on this issue - with evidence that would be sufficient to change the minds of principals, boards of trustees and policy makers.

I agree

Side Score: 19
Winning Side!

I disagree

Side Score: 10
4 points

New places, spaces and tools are essential for the new life that our children will grow into. We can't keep educating for the past. However the tools of themselves will not create better results. We need to be doing the right things with the tools and places. Effective teaching is still key! Effective teaching is creative, focused, includes the learner in the goal setting and designing pathways to get there, but also provides scaffolds and support as needed. As our learners become more effective learners they will be able to take over more of the responsibility, but just throwing them some new tools and spaces to work will just lead to superficial, mediocre "stuff" done on computers. What we need is ignition, challenge, mentoring, collaboration, feedback and modelling of reflective, ongoing learning for all - including the teachers!

Supporting Evidence: An example of what children can do in such spaces. (
Side: I Agree
2 points

I'm surprised that no one has brought up the US Department of Education meta-analysis of June 2009 in which it was concluded that higher education programs that incorporate online learning tools are more effective than face-to-face/classroom-based learning only. The meta-analysis, which examined a 12 year period of learning, found the most beneficial being a blended learning program. You can read more about it here:

The world has changed and our younger generations should have access to the new technology that's available for learning because the skills they will learn through using these tools will be relevant in their lives. When I went through school English grammar was no longer taught as it had been in my parents' day. I remember they were horrified, but really, was I disadvantaged by not being taught what a pro-noun and an adverb was as a kid? I went on to specialize in foreign languages, so I ended up learning it all anyway as part of learning a new language structure. I think the same will happen with the younger gens - do they still need to have such a focus on handwriting in schools? These kids will probably grow up using a keyboard of some sort in place of handwriting for the majority of their needs. If they go on to a career that requires hand writing documents, they will pick up that skill at the time.

Supporting Evidence: @Schnicker (
Side: I Agree
2 points


That's one in probably a million articles about this sort of thing.

It is pretty conclusive (and I thought it had been for a long time) that different environments can have a positive influence on every thinking activity from learning, to memorization, to creativity.

I'm not 100% sure that the primary concern is whether or not specific teaching methods, tools, classroom layouts, etc work. I believe the primary concern is cost.

In a country where 30% of the population doesn't really know what Evolution is, can't name all 50 States, and can't name a single Supreme Court Justice,

new textbooks at this point may be a more realistic and helpful contribution.

But I'm for it! Let's get out of Iraq, raise taxes .001% and we can have the best schools in the world again... good luck.

Side: I Agree
2 points

New places, spaces and tools of learning produce better outcomes for learners through the process of learning. In our ever changing world it is essential that children see that learning is life long and that the best way to learn and cope with change is to develop the skills and dispositions that can be transferred across a range of new situations. Technology can provide a rich context for this learning, it be the tool for this learning and it can be the 'hook' for this learning. Engaged students learn and take ownership for their learning - they learn that learning is something that they do, not something that is done to them. Again, this needs to be cultivated by skilled teaching - but when these new places, spaces and tools are utilised by a teacher who has a sound understanding of 'learning ' I see a win-win for student learning and achievement

Side: I Agree
2 points

I think that when you look at a long time frame then it is hard to argue against this idea. Would today's learners be just as well served in a cave with some blank wall space and a burnt stick?

The more interesting part of the question for me is "how come we still have so many classrooms looking like what they did when I went to school - surely that's evidence in itself that what we're doing is working - or is it?" I think that society has found 30 students sitting at desks and receiving their education from one teacher at a time very convenient, and it has been a solution that has been seen to "work". But the reason it has worked and found a reasonably high level of acceptance is because schools have such a broad range of services, both formal and informal, that they provide to such a diverse group of clients. The status quo has been seen as an acceptable compromise I believe.

Side: I Agree
2 points

It certainly enhances learning for me, improves outcomes for my own learning. Faster, wider, deeper, richer, more diverse, more relevant, more detailed, linked and connected.

So (1) surely this should be possible for students in schools and (b) the most critical element is the learning how to learn, digital literacy, and students who see meaningful purpose to learning.

Side: I Agree
1 point

Look the world has changed. Can you imagine teaching without the internet or projectors or intranets? Hell the kids would wanter off on their iPhones and completely ignore us. New is crucial and does make a difference.

Side: I Agree
2 points

The world has changed but schools and universities have not - yes I even mean the ones embracing new technologies!

The revolution cannot be complete or realistically appraised until the elephant in the room is addressed - ASSESSMENT.

Two words are used in the UK when defining assessment.

VALIDITY does the test measure what it claims to be measuring?

RELIABILITY - Is the test producing consistent results across a variety of students.

Very few examinations embrace new technology in any meaningful way. They tend to default to measuring that which is easily measured. Reliability is interpreted as setting the same examination on a narrowly defined subject area.

Both these approaches deny the new reality and prevent new potential of the new technologies being realised. The pedagogy required for the new reality is not new. It's natural, human and the way it was before advanced technologies. It recognises creativity cannot be defined 'reliably' and that humans have a wide range of interests even within a 'subject' area and that is to be encouraged for innovation to flourish.

Where is the evidence for this argument? If we continue to apply the old industrial regime of assessment we will never see the potential realised and some will continue to argue that 'standards' are not the same.

Side: I Disagree
JillHammonds(2) Disputed
3 points

Why would we want to assess new things in old ways. We should be using the new places, spaces and tools for the assessment as well as for the learning. AND the learner should be involved in that process and assessment. The tools allow for demonstrations of understanding - so much more meaningful than just assessing knowledge.

Side: I Agree
1 point

I agree with Malcolm. While new technologies have enabled some change, it has yet to have any major impact on the day to day learning that goes on in our schools. The web can enable very student centred learning and has the potential to transform the way schools work. This is already beginning to happen with initiatives like the virtual learning network.

We have a major hurdle to overcome in existing schools structures which don't easily allow for this type of learning. Traditional assessment systems are also holding us back. Getting change in this area will be difficult with policy makers ready to pander to populist views on education in the parent community.

I do feel that we are now on the cusp of major change though and the web will be the major driver. Schools (governments and parents) will be forced to change or risk becoming irrelevant.

Side: I Disagree

Kids learned a lot with just a chalk and a blackboard in the classroom. Electronics can be banned from the school in order to curb distraction. If a child doesn't want to learn because the school doesn't have the latest gadgets, then that child's primary focus is not learning.

Side: I Disagree
brycer2012(1002) Disputed
1 point

You can't overlook the new technologies. Like it or not, they're there. Either you teach kids how to use them in school, or they grow up and not know how to use them. How often does someone have to know how to find the surface area of a sphere without a calculator? Children should know how to do stuff by hand, but they should also learn how to do the same things with calculators or computers.

Side: I Agree

I just got back from a long day at the beach. I'm too tired to argue. I guess, in golf, this is what they call a, "gimme." ;)

Side: I Disagree
1 point

New places, spaces and tools of learning don't necessarily produce better outcomes for learners - a bit like the latest technology and the new cowshed building on the dairy farm can't automatically raise milk production. However, in both of these places, a skilled practitioner with a clear vision of the goal can effect major change. There is plenty of research which shows that the lynchpin is the way in which the 'operator'- farmer/teacher - manages. Here's one piece of research which shows secondary school boys performing way beyond expectations (academically & behaviourally) as they complete NCEA work with online mentors. Personalised Learning in a Web 2.0 Environment

Side: I Disagree
0 points

I learn pretty well just sitting here and typing away at my keyboard.

Side: I Disagree