The Next Generation of Teaching and Learning? Take-aways from UC Berkeley’s iSchool Conference

P2PU Community member Alison Jean Cole was at the UC Berkeley’s iSchool Conference earlier this month, and sent the following report. It would seem that there has never been a more important time for a project like P2PU.

Last weekend graduate students from the iSchool at UC Berkeley organized a conference about the next generation of teaching and learning. There was a wide array of educators and developers there to converse about a fairly bold vision for the future.

I’d like to cover the most talked about topic concerning the future of technology, teaching and learning. While this issue may sound familiar, if not redundant to some of you, it was eye-opening to an edu-tech outsider like myself.


The day started with neon green and lavender paisley. Howard Rheingold – to be precise – in neon green and lavender paisley. While he has been at the forefront of communication and classroom technologies, he persuaded us that the greatest challenge facing education was achieving equitable technological literacy for both teachers and learners.

Vanessa Svihla, a learning scientist at UC Berkeley, shared an unexpected statistic – that amongst all [American] university departments, education departments suffer the lowest technological literacy. She then repeated this quite slowly and sternly a few more times to drive the reality of the problem home. “Education departments have the LOWEST TECHNOLOGICAL LITERACY of any academic department.” Without driving educators’ tech literacy up, learning technologies were bound to fall down.

There was consistent referral throughout the day, regardless of the topic, that tech literacy seemed to be the root of many problems. While technological invention may not serve as a panacea for educational shortcomings, it is often used in place of one. Unfortunately, the pace of technological advancement far outruns the pace at which it disseminates downward. Basically, by the time these tools reach the classroom (in both K-12 and university settings) and knowledge of how to use them is in place, it’s out of date.

How to solve such a problem? No one at the conference was quite sure. However, they were able to identify the mechanisms that hold tech literacy back.

  • A major issue identified is bureaucratic fear of misuse and other legal issues, especially for social networking tools.
  • Another is the cost of implementing these technologies and teacher training. When a school can barely afford computers, how can it implement brand new technologies?
  • Furthermore, if the technological literacy of a tool is low, it is often misused, traded for a different tool or thrown out. This prohibits improvements and growth on the developers end and seals its fate.

Again, a lot of this may sound familiar to educators and developers, but it’s new to me. I’m an ecologist and tend to focus on systems that self select (natural evolution) where harsh realities abound. But what if you are the Peer 2 Peer University, or the education department at UC Berkeley, or a classroom in rural Appalachia, and you’re trying to create an ideal environment? That’s when these hurdles need to be taken very seriously.

At P2PU we are attempting to create a structure that works with the realities of using new technologies for learning, rather than forcing our system against it. We’re on a mission to collect the wisdom of those who have had success in building technological literacy for learning. Please share your ideas and experiences with us. Leave a comment or contact us directly! We’d love to hear from you.

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