Skill needs in the digital age

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Skill needs in the digital age

Draft, some references to be added






The Act of Modelling



Representation Formalisms/Expression and Machine Interpret



Interpreting Outputs


Models and Simulation: T
aking the Learner’s Viewpoint



Learning with computers



Features of Revelatory and Conjectural paradigms:



Learning through revealing



Revealing and Learning Simulation Design



Making inputs and envisioning outputs?



Learning By Conjecture



xpression in modelling



New media



Technological Problems



Literacy in Computers and New Media


Writing in Cyberspace and Hypertext



Based Education Environments



Media Competence and Skills



Pedagogical Problems



Integrating New Media
into Pedagogy







The development towards what now often is called 'knowledge society' is characterised by a
reorganisation in economy and society that itself owes much to the possibilities of ICT. The
coming digital age is ce
ntred around two main technological trends

the growing use of
computers in more and more areas of our life and work and the communication possibilities
inherent in the internet. This is already leading to vast changes in the way organisations and

act that require new training and skills. What is required is the capacity to interact
with and even shape the contents and technology of ICT

computer and media
literacy, or, in a broader sense, technological literacy that is up to the challenge
s of the digital

"Technological literacy can influence how we look at the world, and at life, and wether our collective gestalt, our
culture, and our social personality can continue to create with optimism its own future. The ever
of the issues confronting us is constantly raising the bar of the technical challenges with which we
hope to deal with that complexity. We need technological literacy to see to it that the bar is raised intelligently."
(Bagliarello 2000: 89)

Media competen
ce, part of which is the ability to use current and future computers and
computer based networks (computer literacy) is now mainly seen as a cultural technique in its
own right. Its main difference compared to 'older' cultural techniques (like reading, wri
etc.) lies in the fact, that the skills displayed in the actual interaction with the technical
interface have to be adapted continually to be at the forefront of technical developments. So,
being computer literate means to be able to cope with the ong
oing developments, being able
to understand the way content is produced and represented in electronic media, being able to
produce and alter such content oneself, and

as a prerequisite for successfully mastering the

having an understanding of IC
T that allows the possibility to shape the way the
devices work themselves. It is markedly different from the use of other common technological
artefacts like cars or radios. To make use of the possibilities inherent in ICT it is necessary to
understand th
eir structure and be able to alter their programs. This does not mean we have to
become a specialist in computer programming or ICT. What is at stake is not so much a
question of the quantity of knowledge but of its quality. The level of understanding comp
and new media still may and will vary greatly in the future, but what we need is an overall
shift in the way this understanding is taught.

challenge of the I
Curriculum project to identify the necessary skills for this approach and
how those skills

can successfully be embedded in a curriculum. Additional needs are
interlinked with learning in the digital age. Because of the speed of technological change, life
long learning will be a future need. This does not only hold for ICT
knowledge, but many
ctors of society. Much of this learning

as well as a growing part of secondary and
university education

will take place online. The forms of learning inherent in online courses,
then, require some skills which go further than the mere execution of prog
rams. As learning
becomes more independent from course or classroom settings, the learners have to rely on
motivation and self

From an educational point of view, this poses different but interconnected challenges. First,
skills must be devel
oped to successfully master the technologies. Here, the challenge lies in
technological and computer literacy because computer and new media are cultural artefacts
whose inherent features are subject to education. Secondly, the new possibilities of the new

media are changing teaching

giving a range of new opportunities

and, perhaps, new
constraints, too

for teachers and pupils. In practice, both challenges cannot be dealt with
separately, because to use the advantages of new media requires an understan
ding of their
possibilities and understanding these possibilities is best done by actually using them.

To analyse the skill needs for the digital age we have to make some more distinctions. First,
this paper deals separately with computers as a key tool us
ed in the contemporary world and
the new media, especially the internet. Using this structure, it is possible to focus more first
on the modelling skills displayed in computer use and second the skills to successfully
communicate and construct knowledge vi
a the use of new media. This distinction is a purely
analytical for modelling skills play a crucial role in many ICT applications.

The second distinction is between the technology itself and learners/users application of this
technology. By analysing the

technology we focus on the potentials of computers and new
media to provide models, interactive communication and knowledge development. The
technological development

as far as it is foreseeable

then enables and constraints different
forms of using I
CT. The development of hypertext, for example, made it possible to alter the
architecture of texts. However hypertext may not be able to improve the understanding of a
subject matter if not used in a sensible way. Wether or not hypertext in this example im
the understanding of a given content, depends to a high degree on wether the learners have
command on the necessary skills to make use of this textual architecture.


Modelling and I

Computer technology not only can represent yo
ur dreams, it can execute them”

Alan Perlis, Director MIT Computer Labs.

What computers do, beyond their nominative activity of performing computation, is model. A
processor emulates many of the physical acts of putting words on paper, altering and
corrections. The software used in call
centres presents to the operator a model of the business
and its processes. Increasingly as business transforms to an information economy the IT
system and the business business are congruent. The notion that one cann
ot read or author the
model both deprives the person of understanding one of the factors that shape the world in
which they live and it denies modes of expression in the digital age. Software development,
from commercial applications of AI in knowledge man
agement systems to systems for games
development (games middleware), is increasingly the key area of development. There is a
belief that this kind of understanding does not matter. The frequently used analogy is that one
does not need to understand the mec
hanics of an internal combustion engine to drive a car.
However one might ask just how much one does not need to know in driving the car: using
petrol instead of diesel oil; realising that tyres need to have certain pressures and recognising
the effect on
steering if they are deflated, knowing the effects of a flat battery.How few of
these sort of things does one need to know before one risks being a victim rather than an
effective user of automobile technology?

We currently undertake very little


in the curriculum, either with or without the
computer. Such


that does occur in school is often at post 16 pre university level in
numerate disciplines such as the use of Econometric models in Economics or as static two or
three dimensional


of physical objects in Design and Technology education or
Geography. The processes of


are not simple.

(1990) notes:

“The normal order in which people come to appreciate the roles of
computational modelling (if they ever do so), is fa
r from ideal. First, one has to
learn functional relations between quantities (Ohm’s laws, Newton’s laws etc.)
then some differential calculus, then integration, then numerical methods and
then one is expected to find some unity in all this. This path is h
ardly followed
any distance by most pupils, and the whole distance by almost nobody.”

Ogborn (p.111)


Quoted from the forward of Ableson, H, Sussman G, and Sussman J “The Structure and Interpretation of
Computer Programs” , MIT Press (about 1985)

In current practice as exemplified by ECDL (where driving is also the metaphor) the idea of
models and their creation and interpretation is entering data

and making calculations in
spreadsheets or determining a file structure for a database. This is a highly limited view of


and does not provide a basis for reading, interpreting and creating models in the

The Act of


Computer base
d modeling is a complex activity. It involves an:

understanding of a system (scientific, business, social or whatever)

represented in some formalism that can be

expressed in a machine interpretable form, and

executed to produce some output that can be

rpreted by people in the context of the system, and

understand the limits of the interpretation.

The execution phase may be omitted in the case of a static representation and in dynamic
systems there is also the need to be able to introduce variable data
into the processing. Each
phase in the process described puts an intellectual demand on the learner. There is a wide
range of things to know and it will be demonstrated that there can be a progression in coming
to know ie it is possible that there a curric
ulum. There are some other specific issues that need
to be taken into account:

issues of generalisation of the complexity of reality;

precision in expression about the behaviour of systems;

interpretation of outcomes as numbers, graphs, and charts;

of moving through a cycle of modelling itself, ie the processes of modelling.

In finding the
modelling curriculum
all the above needs to be taken into account.

Understanding a System

Clearly before modelling there is a need to know something of that bein
g modelled. The
knowledge need not be complete. Indeed, on of the reasons for creating models is to help
explore and explain. Modelling is a description of relationships between things, therefore one
can only begin to model one has to know something. This
is not a limitation. Simple things
can be modelled and some of our earliest learning experiences are making physical
representations with art materials and toys (toys often being the first models we encounter).
The act of understanding a system can represe
nt something else is not an issue in that sense.
However there is a clear progression in the complexity of systems we might describe and the
detail of inter

Ideally we want to be able to represent half formed understandings in a formalism t
hat is close
to our understanding and the gestures we would (in absence of the computer) use to describe a

Representation Formalisms/Expression and Machine Interpret

There is no one system of representation. The variety of systems availabl
e to model grows
ever richer. This is important and significant. Different systems are best represented in
different ways. There is a range of gesture, language and fluency in different systems. Some
systems are graphically rich and some systems map onto t
o systems that may be familiar to
users because of other learning such as adopting an interface that maps onto accounts ledgers
like spreadsheet software. Some formalisms are better at representing some systems than
others. Learning the variety of ways tha
t things can be represented as models is therefore
something to know
. It follows that the ability to is a range of representation systems and select
the best representation system for the purpose. There is a curriculum requirement therefore to
provide expe
rience of different systems.

We do not propose a taxonomy of modelling formalisms here, however we describe some of
the types of formalisms. Some systems are hybrids

they have characteristics of a number of

Functional Systems

These are systems t
hat represent relationships in the form of mathematical functions.
Mathematics here takes a fairly liberal use of the word. A computer language like LISP (or its
dialect LOGO) does not look like high school mathematics but the way in which relationships
e expressed and interpreted is like mathematical functions. There are a number of
Mathematical processing systems that have been developed including ALGEBRAIC

that was designed for High school use (Schwartz XXXX) and MATHEMTICA



Here rules and constraints are declared and the

of the computer resolves the
system. In the computer language PROLOG and in software used to model expert
behaviuours (Expert Systems) predicate calculus is used to express constraints a
s logical
rules. Like:


(Multiply, Length, Breadth)

or Gross_Price:
(Add, Net_cost, Tax)

and suggest


patient exhibits (
) AND not_indicated (stomach

Spreadsheets are also declarative systems. Anoth
er interesting model system is STELLA that
represents dynamic changes in anything (money in economy, potential energy in systems,
populations etc) as hydraulic flows through pipes, stores and constraining elements.

Another key declarative system of modell
ing is the use of

Procedural Systems

Procedural systems are systems that give the computer a list of instructions to execute in
order. Many of the original programming languages like BASIC or Pascal are procedural
programming systems. They chunk lists of

executable instructions into procedures like the
one blow for calculating area in a psuedo
BASIC below. A collection of these procedures can
be used to make more complex models.



10 PRINT “This will c
alculate the area of a rectangle”

20 INPUT “What is the length”, LENGTH

30 INPUT “What is the breadth”, BREADTH


50 PRINT “the area is”, AREA


Thus by executing each instruction in series area is calculated.

t Oriented Systems

Object oriented systems are based on the idea of computer objects that have properties (in the
way a ball may have mass; diameter; colour; surface texture; elasticity; and location) and
ways to behave when acted upon (balls interact with

forces by accelerating; moving balls
interact with solid surfaces by bouncing). Clearly behaviours and properties interact with each
other, and also objects interact with each other. Concepts might be quite abstract compared
with a ball

the number 3 for
instance might have the properties integer, prime, oddness and
so on and it may have behaviours like add
ability and subtract
ability associated with it.

Modeling in such environments is a matter of creating objects and behaviours and letting
them interact

over time when executed. The computer language SMALLTALK was
developed to be such a system and has an educational version SQUEAK
. Other systems
include the educational programming environment StageCast
. Many high end programming
environment for computer

graphics and development systems for computer games work on
this basis


as another example, allows the modelling of what end up as simulated laboratory
instruments built by putting elements like knobs, dials and lcds on the screen and

functionality on a simulated back panel.


There are many programs that allow the computer be used as a tool for animating. They can
be tools that allow the simple frame
frame animation that emulates simple camera and
paper processes to complex

parametric computer aided design (CAD) systems for animating
engineering drawings.

Static representations

There are models that are static. Programs like Inspiration allow contextual trees to be drawn
and these are models in that they represent a system a
s relationships. Presenting the RUN
button does not change them but they provide a good editable and plastic representation
system. Other systems like SEMNET allow representation as semantic networks.

This is a far from exhaustive description of modelling
possibilities, the purpose it to
demonstrate that there are a wide range of methods with different potential and requirements



See http:


for instance


Interpreting Outputs

Clearly the output of creating a model has to be understood. In some cases this means a good
knowledge of the

forms visualizing numeric data and therefore an appropriate grasp of
mathematics at an appropriate level is required. From both the reader's and the modeller's
point of view it means having a critical understanding of representation systems. It means that

learners would not want to compare incommensurate data, would not use a pie chart for time
series outputs and so on.

Equally when handling statistical data the reader needs to know the limits to which they can
trust the output and with what emphasis they
can infer causality from input data. Reading and
authoring a model is therefore a process of choosing the right representational language for
the story that is being told and also applying their intelligence to the comprehension and
validity of what the mo
del is revealing with a sense of being fair to the audience of the model.

The Process of Modelling

Modelling using computers is not a linear process. As computers confer plasticity on what is
on the screen

the ability to try and change and try again is a s
ignificant part of the reason why
people use computers for activities like word
processing and modelling. Acquiring the habits
and ideas of a modeller are probably more significant than learning a given modelling
program. The process involves to a grater o
r lesser extent the following:

discovering all the concepts that are pertinent

working out potential relationships between the concepts

eliminating unnecessary concepts and relationships

choosing the right representation systems

expressing initial understa
nding in the representation system

providing input data

choosing appropriate output formats

testing the output against reality or beliefs

revising in light of the outputs

and so on.

This is not presented as a definitive approach to all modeling. It is use
d as an illustrative
example. Clearly any curriculum that takes modelling seriously must allow students top go
through iterative processes of model development.

Models and Simulation: Taking the Learner’s Viewpoint

Modelling? Simulation? Is there a differe
nce? Bellow we make distinctions in the types of
activity a learner is undertaking in using things labelled as modelling packages or simulations
which is potentially a more useful way of distinguishing kinds of learning software than
modelling or simulatio
n. However there is a clear distinction between software which has a


that is intended in some way to represent a real or imaginary system or

and software which can be used to generate such models. There is a clear difference
een a 3d representation of the solar system and a 3D computer assisted design and
animation program that can be used to create that simulation. Nevertheless it is not quite so
clear cut as even animation program may have support for say modeling the behavi
our of
objects moving in gravitational fields and electronics design programs may well have
simulated components which allow people to create models of more complex systems.

the kinds of learner activity that are involved in modeling and learning t
simulations are much more significant.

Learning with computers

How do

learn with modeling programs and interactive simulations?
Designers who have some feel for the answer to this question may well provide a
better resource than relying jus
t on inspiration. There is a history of ideas about the
ways that learners might learn using modeling tools and simulations. Below are
some ideas drawn from previous studies about the ways students interact with
software and then goes on to discuss how so
me of these issues can be engineered
into systems to support learning.

Whenever I am looking at learning situation I ask a question:
how is the learner transformed
by what is


A valuable

source for considering interaction as with computers c
omes from a relatively early
monograph on the subject by Kemmis, Atkin and Wright (1977) that is based on ideas first
published by Barry Macdonald in the evaluation of the 1970’s UK programme NDPCAL.

Macdonald suggested that at that time there were four c
lassifications (or in his terms
paradigms) of computer
assisted learning

The three or four paradigms are:

The instructional

describes tutorial and drill and practice programs. They
tend to be associated with ideas in programmed learning based on
learning theories
described by B.F. Skinner (Behaviourism)

revelatory paradigm,

which is based on ideas of structured exploratory learning,
that describe working with
and delving into databases to look for

A conjectural

hich is about the representation of a learners idea in the
form of a computer model ie learner’s conjectures are tested by a program. This we
would call modeling software

emancipatory paradigm
. This is where the computer takes drudge out of learning.

example is the use of a statistics package making learning biology easier by
removing the need to add columns of numbers (which has nothing to do with
learning biology)

In studying computer activities that are on a spectrum of simulation, gaming and
ling the two useful paradigms to consider more deeply are the revelatory and
the conjectural paradigm.

Kemmis et al identify that the Educational Paradigms for CAL that they present are
inventions that are designed to help people to see how computer assist
ed learning
(CAL) maps onto educational theory and practice. Their framework consists of three
paradigms, which by definition should be mutually exclusive (otherwise they cannot
be paradigms). The fourth paradigm, which they acknowledge is not really a
adigm at all in that it can be superimposed upon their first three paradigms.

Their framework provides ways of thinking about 'the curriculum tasks' that developers face.
However, in a word of caution, this is not a recipe.

Kemmis et al explicitly state t
hat the way
in which computers are used (ie software is embedded/implemented) in a learning context can
undermine the intentions of the developer. Two other problems that they identify with using
computers to support learning are:

the amount of effort tha
t students may have to spend in learning how to use a program ('tool') in
order to use it to support their learning;

the danger that students' thinking about a problem may be limited by the way in which it is
presented/framed within the software.

s of Revelatory and Conjectural paradigms:

The Revelatory Paradigm

"Typically the view of learning emphasises closing the gap between the structure of the student's
knowledge and the structure of the

he is trying to master." (Kemmis et al 1977 p

The key concepts are discovery, intuition, getting a 'feel' for ideas in the field, etc.. The
relevant theory/theorists are those of Bruner (the spiral curriculum) and perhaps Ausubel
(subsumption theory). The curriculum emphasis is on the student as t

of education.
The learning intervention includes the provision of opportunities for discovery and vicarious
experience. There are assumptions about a (hidden) model of significant concepts and
knowledge structure and a theory of learning by di
scovery. Its idealisation is the computer is
seen as creating a rich learning environment but at worst it makes a 'black box' of the
significant learning. (Adapted from Kemmis et al 1977 p26)

The Conjectural Paradigm

"People who operate within this parad
igm tend towards the view that knowledge is created through
experience and

as a psychological and social process." (Kemmis et al 1977 p26)

Here the key concept s the articulation and manipulation of ideas and hypothesis
testing. The relevant theor

are Piaget, Popper, Papert and the curriculum
emphasis is on
understanding and active knowledge
. The educational process is the
manipulation of student inputs, finding metaphors and model building. Role of the
computer is thus a manipulable s
pace/field/'scratch pad'/language, for creating or
articulating models, programs, plans or conceptual structures. The a priori
assumptions are problem
oriented theory of knowledge, general cognitive theory.
Its idealisation is the computer as a tool or e
ducational medium (in the sense of
milieu, not 'communications medium'); and at worst, as an expensive toy. (Adapted
from Kemmis et al 1977 p27)

Learning through revealing

The way Kemmis et al describe revelatory learning draws heavily on the
Jerome Bruner’s ideas. A major theme in the theoretical framework of
Bruner is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or
concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and
transforms information, con
structs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a
cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e. schema, mental models)
provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to `go
beyond the information given'. As far as
instruction is concerned, the teacher should
try and encourage students to discover principles by themselves. The teacher and
student should engage in an active dialogue (i.e. Socratic learning); the main task of
the teacher is to present information to be

learned to match the learner's current state
of understanding. Curriculum should be organized in a spiral manner so that the
student continually builds upon what they have already learned.

Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address
four major aspects:

students' predisposition towards learning;

the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped
by the learner;

the most effective sequences in which to present material; and,

the nature and

pacing of rewards and punishments.

Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating
new propositions and increasing the manipulation of information. In more recent
work, Bruner (1986, 1990) expanded his theoretical framewor
k to encompass the
social and cultural aspects of learning.

Three guiding principles come from consideration of Bruner’s work.

Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing
and able to learn (readiness).

struction must be structured so that it can be easily grasped by the student (spiral

Instruction should be designed to facilitate extrapolation and or fill in the gaps (going beyond
the information given).

Revealing and Learning Simulation


Embodied in a computer program is a model of some situation. By acting on the
computer program, by providing a variety of inputs and interpreting the outputs of
the inputs the learner pieces together the rules that govern the model. This requires
ction and interpretation.

Here are some questions to ask when thinking about designing a simulation
designed for learning:

What model is to be revealed? Is it logical, consistent, and meaningful?

What actions must a student undertake to reveal aspects of

the model to be

What form will the revelation(s) take?

How will the learner be able to comprehend and act on partial revelation?
How will the learner recognise gaps? How will they act to fill them?

How will the revelation spiral? How can we give
the learner good meaningful early
experiences and sustain the challenge towards more complex understanding?

How will the learner

their knowledge store about the model they are

Making inputs and envisioning outputs?

What gestures do learner

make to make inputs to a model? How many, in what for
and how are their inputs controlled by them and the program?

How does the learner come to know about the effects of their inputs? How do they
recognise the outputs?

If you consider the way the learner
is given information in a rich simulation like
the learner gets information out of the simulation in a variety of ways:

The type of buildings: their visual appearance

The number of buildings

The density of traffic on the roads

The income and to
tal reserves in money

The actual population

The change in population

Newspaper headlines, opinion polls etc.

Various graphs and charts… and so on.

This is an extremely rich system of signs and symbols to reveal the workings of the
model. What does the

learner need to know to be able to interpret these signs of
activity? What do they have to learn? What do they already know? How are they
learning the new signs? In this context an important question is:

What do

need to learn before or from my si
mulation other than the model that the
simulation is based on?

What gestures are made by the learner to create their city?

There are a variety of
input actions: setting taxation rate, building infrastructure, zoning and selection of
location for building,

provision of amenity and so on.

There is a difficulty with this program from a learning point of view. It is hard to
reveal how specific inputs achieve specific outputs. There is no rewind button to
replay the system so that an input can be varied sligh
tly to see what the outcome.

and this is of critical significance

it may be that the very richness and
complexity of the system is important to the whole game/motivational/flow aspects
of the simulation. It may be that the development of what is
initially a tacit and
almost unvocalisable understanding (thinking by seat of pants) is a significant part of
what learning through a simulation is about.

Lastly, as an aside before moving on to modeling and conjecture, there is a point to
be made about a

learner’s ability to change the rules of a model. The key issue is
“what do you want to learner to know?” It may be that you are trying to teach an
important model (e.g. if you do administer the right amount of anæsthetic the patient
will not fall asleep
… or….). In some circumstances it is inappropriate or unnecessary
to change the model’s rules. Learning the rule IS the function of the simulation. This
is true more or less for all revelatory learning. In conjectural learning the case may be
quite the rev

Learning By Conjecture

From a

point of view, running a simulation and creating a model are two sides of
the same coin: a simulation is a computer model. From a learners point of view there is a vast
difference and what learners do in the pr
ocess of modelling is very different from the
revelatory learning that learners do when they are learning from simulations.

To model is to make explicit some thoughts in some formalism (maybe writing an essay can
be viewed as modelling by this definition).

A computer model has the added virtue that you
can hit the

key (for those of you old enough to remember VT100’s). What is it that a
learner has to do in learning as modelling? At the simplest way of thinking about conjecture
we can operate with the q
uestions “

I wonder what will happen if…?”

This happens when a
learner changes variables in a simulation, but in modelling the learner gets to define or change
the rules. A crude example might be the use of a simple spreadsheet to calculate costs
e the possibility of changing the VAT (sales tax) rate.

To reiterate earlier statements, to work in a modelling environment the learner needs to be

to make explicit their tacit understandings about the phenomenon they are going to
model (ie already h
ave quite a good idea)

to express those understandings in the language/formalism of the modelling system (
be able to use the software)

to interpret the output data (be able to interpret the format of the output eg read

to compare that output data
with their tacit understandings (be able to see patterns,

This is difficult. The benefits have to be great. To be able to provide support for the learner
engaged in this practice you need to provide a variety of support for learners.

ion in modelling

“Just as in English, we can express the complexity of a Shakespeare there is also a baby
talk. Logo is a computer language, which can express the most powerful ideas we have in
computation today, but it has corners of the language that are

accessible like baby talk.
That is turtle geometry.”

Seymour Papert

Here are some heuristics that might support the development of a modelling system:

There should be easy ways in

The system should be consistent where it needs to be consistent (most pla

Try to build on the familiar:

It should be a system of representation close to the system you are

It should build on existing skills (perhaps within the system)

Unless teaching modelling is the purpose of the activity, learning the system
ould not be as arduous as the content to be learned.

If learning the system requires effort, then the system should offer a lot of
function and allow for lots of things.

Do not confuse
ease of use

ease of learning
. Sometimes it is easier to use

that take some time to master. Things which take time to master may be
more fundamentally easier to use in complex tasks.

A good system should forgive mistakes

A good system should recognise and anticipate user actions (including errors)

A good system sh
ould balance omnipotence with obedience

A good system will allow multiple representations of inputs and outputs.

Whatever systems one chooses it is clear that modelling is a challenge to the curriculum and
it is not fully understood. Clearly computer mod

both in creation and interpretation


from a BBC Horizon Programme “Talking Turtle” about 1981.

require some new equivalence to reading and writing. However these already well
understood processes are also problematised as we move into amore multi modal age.

New media

As new media are penetrating wider part
s of society, concepts of media competence are
extensively discussed and adjusted to the technological developments. Though some authors
still seem to think media competence could be reduced to the skills of handling the devices,
the assumption of media co
mpetence as a cultural technique becomes more influential.

Using the common differentiation between media didactics and media education, we could
develop two different perspectives:

1. From the perspective of media didactics, new media are considered as in
struments and
tools for fostering learning processes. The possibilities range from using offline media like
Rom and the new possibilities of presentation and simulation to using online learning
modules and co
operative learning projects using internet t
echnologies. How this technology
can be successfully integrated then depends on the learning requirements, aims and contents
which themselves are largely context

2. From the perspective of media education, the central aim is media competence, enta
media as a subject as well as their competent use.

In concrete learning processes though, this distinction shouldn't been taken too literally. In
concrete interaction with the artefacts, both aspects are interwoven

e.g. a critical treatment
of medi
a contents is only possible by using these media. Yet it seems useful to distinguish
these two aspects in order to get a better view on the skill needs involved in them.

Technological Problems

Though in Germany a 'basic education in information technolog
y' is on the agenda since the
80's and new technologies by now form part of the curricula, the education sector still did not
react adequately to the ICT
technologies. In an expert hearing in the
of Northrhine
Westfalia, the following main problems we
re sketched that are representative for the other

as well (see Dichanz 1999: 20f.):

Costs, especially for staying online is a problem for schools; flatrates are not used as widely
as possible. New financial models, e.g. funds, should be deve

Technical advice for schools as well as maintaining and ugrading software and systems is a

Another important deficit of education in information techniques is the danger that groups of
pupils may be left behind. Those pupils who because of

economical restrictions lack access to
computers outside the school have problems to keep up with those who have. In Germany,
distribution of computers in household is still strongly influenced by education and incomes
of parents. Thus, Germany's three
lded system of Gymnasium (offering 8 years of
secondary schooling with the possibility of joining university afterwards), Realschule (6
years) and Hauptschule (5 years, both the latter normally leading to vocational education in
the dual system), reveals s
triking differences regarding computer access of children.

Further there may be gender differences in the ways that computers are used and this issue
also needs to be addressed in curricula (cf. Mandl et al. 1998, Chap. 3.1).

We well may expect that the in
itiatives of Deutsche Telekom, AOL
Germany, D 21 and
'schools online' that already proved highly effective shall clearly decrease the hurdle of
technical access

to the net. This, then, reveals only the more the (greater) problem of
poor media comp
etence on part of many pupils and teachers.

If learners start from a different base then the curriculum has to address this differentiation
and exclusion. Learners do need to experience computers to be able to shape the contents of
media and computers. The
se are not some 'pure' metacognitive or transversal skills that one
could teach regardless of the experience or without using computers. Learning theory
suggests that all skills are content
related and domain
specific. It is well possible to 'translate'
kills and knowledge from one field to another, but it is not possible to acquire skills and
knowledge without any relation to a given content. Thus, the lack of experience many learners
have with ICT is a serious challenge for an ambitious curriculum. In i
dentifying examples of
best and interesting practice in teaching ICT skills, the project has to specifically address this

Literacy in Computers and New Media

The use of new media does not mean that the skills suited to them should or could be
ped independently from 'traditional' skills acquired through education. The single most
important set of skills in this area are still literacy skills. These are a prerequisite to
understand texts (in a wide sense of the notion) in a way that the inner mod
el of them
becomes clear. Only on this basis it is possible to produce something using the new media.
Media competence is simply not possible without a fully developed reading competence. This
makes reading competence the 'basis of an encompassing media co
mpetence ' (Elsholz 1997:

"Everything points to the fact that a competent use of new media is not possible without the basis of qualified
reading competence. This is because the competences acquired via reading transfers the use of other media:
led readers are able to use audiovisual and new media better, because they make use of their capacity of
structuring the perceived items. This holds from better understanding of news over using magazines for
information up to the more competent reception o
f movies and the use of new media." (Schön 1998: 65)

Though, this does not mean that this transfer is only happening from reading to other media; it
may well work the other way round, too, for example, developments in film altering the way
text in magazine
s is presented. This is under researched however we may well suppose that
technical development enables the acquisition of media skills. For instance developing easy to
use desk top publishing tools allow more control over presentation and therefore presen
can now become an issue in education.

This points at one possibility of integrating digital media into the curricula, especially in the
subject of the mother tongue languages. Neither should we isolate skills for ICT
literacy that
enable the learne
rs to actively use new media and computers from overall literacy nor

in a
somewhat culture pessimistic attitutde

play out reading and 'old' literacy skills against the
'new' ones, seeing media and ICT skills as a kind of deficitary. The culture of the
book still is
an important part of our media culture, though perhaps not as dominant as in former times (a
development that started not with the introduction of the computer, but with television,
cinema and radio and since then is accompanied by fears of l
earners losing the skills of
mastering the literal culture).

As a pedagogical effect, for example literacy skills may be acquired using a mix of 'old' and
'new' media in class, texts accompanying and further deepening the understanding of other
media's con

"A prerequisite for integrating different media in class is the 'normalisation' of the underlying learning situation.
(...) For literacy pedagogy this could mean not to begin with the differences, the peculiarities, the strangeness of
literature and
thus with its distance to other media, but to begin with the recognition, transfer, the exploration of
similarities between literature and media from the point of view of their recipients. The guiding line is using the
intimacy with media as an approach to
wards literature." (Wermke 1997: 111).

Developing examples of integrating skills needed for the digital age into the curricula further
will be undertaken at a later stage of this project. Here, we just want to use it as an example
for the possibility to st
art up with the experiences, orientations and necessities of the media
users to develop successful approaches for acquiring the skills needed in the digital age.

Writing in Cyberspace and Hypertext

It is still not clear in how far the new technologies that

construct, present and read texts have a
major impact on the way we perceive our world and interact. Already Marshal McLuhan saw
the potential of leaving the 'Gutenberg galaxy' and opening up new ways of reception and
understanding through using a media t
hat allows to emancipate from the linearity of written

"The computer, in its variety of technological forms, influences the consciousness of the writer and shapes both
the production and reception of the message, allowing for (and restricting) socia
l relations, influencing the
writer's view of communication and writing, enabling (and constraining) certain writing practices. Writing both
as a textual product and as a process of composition is dramatically altered in the electronic environment of the
omputer (Porter 1998: 9)

Still, there are doubts about how dramatic this shift really is, as construction and reception of
texts (as of knowledge in general) never had been a real linear process. But it is quite clear
that regarding the production of texts
, ICT enables new ways in the shape of the product as in
the production process itself. Therefore, it is used here as an example of the necessity to use
different teaching methods if trying to develop the adequate skills.

First, in the context of new media
, computer software now allows for asynchronous as well as
synchronous communication and collaboration through written text over space and time. For
example, different kinds of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) bear the potential of jointly developing
ideas and sh
aping discourses in a way that before was only possible through direct physical

Secondly, the specifics of hypertext make for different ways of reading and writing texts hich
lead to the emergence of new media
specific conventions in the way of u
sing these

"A significant characteristic of electronic writing ... is its hypertextuality: Its possibility to link isolated elements
in arbitrary structures and to easily guide the reader from one element to another. (...) The more the autho
rs begin
to produce documents for the world wide web, the more they are required to think about hypertextual structures
and to produce them. While some computer programmes made clear the possible significance of hypertext to a
small group of scholars and c
reative authors, the world wide web avances hypertext to a central genre of cultural
communication. In some respect the web is the fulfilment of the promises of hypertext. An isolated, separated
hypertext is a contradiction in itself, because a hypertext t
ries to reach out beyond itself and link to another text.
The implicit telos is a single, encompassing hypertext as it was imagined in the sixties by Ted Nelson, the
original inventor of hypertext." (Bolter 1997: 42f.)

According to context, the use of hype
rtext structures bears different problems. First, for
producing texts, often traditional forms of text production simply are transformed to the new
medium without exploring its full possibilities.

In learning environments, too, there are still some fundame
ntal development potentials for
hyper text. Learning how to make full use of the technology's possibilities is only possible
when overthinking some traditional conceptions of learning: the conceptualisation and the use
of open systems for different context
s and situations still needs further tries that only can be
done in a way centred around the users themselves. This means, the learners only can learn
the use of the technology if they become producers themselves, shaping the system according
to their need

In the action of jointly writing through internet and using hypertext, various skills have to be
displayed if the ones involved want to shape the content making use of the technological
potentials. While hypertext with its possibilities of accessing dif
ferent levels and areas of a
text allows the reader to use different paths towards its meaning, the open architecture
requires from the reader the ability of not losing herself in this architecture. In his reception,
the reader has to combine the 'dandy' t
hat is open to pick up the different possibilities and the
'detective' that is organising this movement according to a search of the text's sense (see Wirth
1997: 334f.).

If we look at hypertext from the producer's point of view, the difficult taks is to d
esign a
hypertext in a way that actually makes as much use of ist potential as possible. This means,
the content must be organised according to reveal different points of gravity and a multitude
of aspects that on the other hand should not lose there inner

coherence. Here, the skills needed
are very closely linked to the ones used for modelling computers' representations.

For the possibilities of collaborative writing via ICT, the main problem lies in organising the
communication and construction processes.

"Technology allows writers to be heard. The ease of producing documents presents possibilities for potential
chaos and overload of cognitive processes, thus creating unintended effects such as disempowerment,
disengagement, and disenchantment. These probl
ems need to be realised and resolved through educational
practices." (Corso/Williamson 1999: 43)

Based Education Environments

Using the web as an education environment

e.g. via e

is a growing tendency
initially in further education but be
coming more and more prominent in secondary and
university education as well. This trend is driven by a variety of economic and didactic
reasons. Didactically, some of the main advantages could be

Increased access to learning, free from any geographical re

More personalised learning, according to the time structures of the learner

More individualised learning, the learner being able to determine herself what and when to

Empowerment of learners, allowing them co
decide on the learning conten

Stimulation of collaboration and cooperation of the participants at all levels using web

From the economical point of view, the main advantages are reducing costs by

Needing less teachers and trainers

No need to travel to a course in
further education

The pedagogical advantages of these methods still are far from clear, the actual state being
that pure e
learning is only a poor substitute for class

or course
based learning (see e.g.
Dreyfus 2001). But the possibility of saving costs e
ven by replacing parts of courses by using
standardised software are so overwhelming that this trend will last.

The main constrain in the technical development of e
leaninig is a proper understanding of the
learning process. In the early times of e
g, it was almost enough to enable access to the
information of the world wide web, or to design courses where the feedback consisted in
valuing different given answer possibilities of a given technical question. This neglect of how
learning actually happen
s led to rather poor solutions. Nowadays these issues are treated with
more concerns but the main challenge still remains to design e
learning environments that
encourage the production of knowledge. The paramount problem consists exactly in the very
tage of e
learning: being independent of time and space and thus may be carried out by
an individual according to his own time rhythms. As these rhythms differ and the learners are
in different geographical areas, the learners become isolated because they
have to carry out
the training course mostly on their own. So, apart from technical skills, like computer
experience and a knowledge on how to handle hyperlink structures and data bases, the real
skills needed for making successfully use of an e
learning c
ourse are those who allow the
users to conduct learning by themselves and make full use of the information provided.

based or Web
enhanced multimedia learning packages with functions such as hypertext links, floating
captions and the ability to open p
arallel windows (e.g. running a second browser while the first is still open)
allow designers, developers and users of instructional material to present or retrieve information exactly when it
is necessary or desirable (just
time presentation). This is
immensely different from traditional didactic
instruction or instructional materials and, though often considered to be positive, can also create problems for
learners primarily due to the extra demands that it places on the processing of 'extra' informati
(Kirschner/Paas 2001: 352)

This means they must be able to motivate themselves, organise the amount of learning stuff
according to their individual capacities and time restrictions, not become frustrated if some
content proves to be more difficult and

consuming than expected and so on. All these
skills are not normally given and not equally distributed in a group of people engaging in e

Efforts of solving this problem technologically concentrate on trying more to guide the
learners throu
gh the course, an effort that is restricted by the costs involved for e.g. having a
tutor available on
line all the time or by the difficulties of creating a learning climate that
engages the learners to help each other through internet communication. Effo
rts in e
in Germany are mainly centred around the following points:

Fostering self
directed learning by feedback of tutors and other course participants

Didactical orientation of the courses

Embedding e
learning in the work and business processes

Modelling electronically mediated communication in a way it becomes easy to use

More fuzzy approaches in the logic of computer based training enabling more detailed
answers to given questions

The picture on factors enabling and constraining the use of e
arning becomes clearer if one
considers the experiences made with this form of distance learning by the providers. In
Germany, several public funded model projects have been carried out to develop e
courses that could be of real value to the learn
ers. One of the most prominent and successful
projects in this field has been the project

(computer network for learners

interactive and close to work processes, see also Reglin 2000), an e
learning platform developed by the
Bildungswerk der bayrischen Wirtschaft

Here, the way of designing an e
learning solution was to try to enhance interactivity of all
levels. One major point was to foster communication processes in between the learners and
between the learners and a tutor.

This was implemented by using online
using chat and email communication. As those devices normally are only used reluctantly by
the users, incentives were build in the programme to foster communication. Participants were
asked to discuss
the content on a given time period via the net, some questions had to be taken
out by a group of participants, and the groups consisted in a mix of novices and 'experts' who
already went through the course module the novices were engaged in. Thus, they cou
ld help
the other participants while getting deeper inside in the content through actually explaining it.
An online tutor was available who engaged in some of the internet discussions, offered help
and was trying to get in contact with people seemingly dro
pping out the course and discussing
their problems with them.

As another, the approach carried out by the intranet e
learning platform of the German
Telekom may work. Here, a solution of 'blended' learning was opted for (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Further q
ualification at Deutsche Telekom

Source: Ihm 2000: 218

Here, self
directed learning by a modularised course via the company's intranet was used in
between and in preparation for phases of discussing the solutions at workshops and with
executives. The main
content of the modules consisted in business simulations that the trainee
had to successfully carry out on his own. Access to the resources of the Telekom knowledge
base was facilitated by a learning landscape tool. So solve the items, collaboration with
xternal experts via the internet was possible.

Obviously, this course structure is only suitable for large companies. But the idea of
alternating phases of online
learning and seminars where the participants are actually
physically present proved quite suc
cessful and was taken on recently for other e
solutions as well

e.g. those carried out by many american universities

, as those seminars
have the general effect of discussing problems more easily and to give the participants better
back on

what they actually achieved so far.
Though it does not seem that these technological attempts to overcome the constraints of e
learning can really offer the broad understanding that is necessary if the learners shall be able
to use and model the contents
of those courses. From this point of view, the possible future of
really sustainable e
learning solutions should be the attempt of allowing the learners to
construct knowledge and not to merely execute prefabricated modules.

Media Competence and Skills

m the examples above, we can derive some general characteristics of the skills needed in
media competence. On a general level, media competence means to be able to use the new
media. There are skills necessary for a critical, self
determined and reflective

reception of
predetermined contents. Individuals must be able to select media contents, understand and
assess them. But the skills needed for the digital age are not restricted to the reception of
media contents. They comprise the ability of shaping the t
echnology and its contents in social
interaction. One must be able to produce and shape contents, and know the conditions under
which products of new media may make use of the technological potentials.

To successfully learn ICT requires some additional ski
lls on part of the learners. They must
develop their own learning style and are more responsible for its effectiveness. This requires

skills (see Flavell 1979). Metacognitive skills concern the self
activities actually being perfor
med by a learner in order to structure the problem solving
process. As operationalised by Veenman et al. 2002, this comprises deep orientation,
systematic orderliness, accuracy, evaluation, and elaboration. They found metacognitive skills

"had a predictive

value for the acquisition of qualitative conceptual knowledge. (...) The results show that during
initial inductive learning with a complex computer simulation learners draw heavily on their metacognitive
skillfulness." (Veenman et al. 2002: 337/339)

we have to put weight on the interrelations between the use of technical artefacts and the
socially and culturally determined encompassing aspects that partly determine this use. Thus,
media competence cannot be reduced to some clearly determinable 'basic'

skills like in
computer or internet licenses. In contrary, even in basic skills we find a connection between
skills of operating the technology with the competences of selecting, analysing, criticising
media and their contents and use them for self

expression. Media competence
encompasses media critics, media knowledge, media use and media design.

Pedagogical Problems

In an expert hearing in the Land of Northrhine
Westfalia, during an expert hearing the
following main problems were sketched that ar
e representative for the other German

as well (see Dichanz 1999: 20f.):

Didactical changes related to media use has been only put into work at a few schools. Many
teachers still see themselves as directors of learning processes, not as mediators.

eachers' initial and further eductaion on media pedagogic is one of the biggest problems
and still holds many gaps. Teachers new at a school are poorly equipped, school
further education for teachers still lacks concepts and relies on an accidental

operation between schools is an exception, links between schools and universities are
scarce. Opening curricula and internationalisation of teaching projects are still
underdeveloped. Only some cutting
edge schools make full use of their autonomy

The necessity of a much stronger co
operation with the parents in media education is a
necessity. This holds especially for primary schools and kindergarden.

Computer labs are now unanimously seen as a configuration that is left behind by
technological a
nd pedagogical developments. They should be replaced by media spaces
and laptops that are individually accessible.

Integrating New Media into Pedagogy

"The imminent cultural sense of digital products lies in their enigmatic ambiguity. They may
be used me
dial as well as instrumental.

The change between medial and instrumental use happens without notice. We receive a
document from the internet (medial) and directly begin to change it (instrumental) or even use
it as a driving force for another change. It is

necessary to develop instrumental media. These
are media as processes, media that do not get finished. New and different." (Nake 1999: 74)

The main challenge may be to develop a new understanding of media by the teachers in their
everyday pedagogical work
. This means first of all that mediating and advising the learning of
the pupils becomes a far greater role, whereas the more traditional teaching of content
declines. In learning settings that try to integrate media education, the development of
s that include teaching of learning strategies still is not natural. Teachers still have to
take up with later developments in learning psychology to better understand learning as an
individual process and thus being able to understand their own role from
a different angle.
Moreover, it should become practice that teachers inform themselves on the everyday media
use of their pupils by taking up the results of media and youth studies.

"It is generally assumed that teachers are to be trained on new technologi
es, not asked to define what those
technologies should be. This culture of technology development in the schools has been singularly ineffecitve."
(Carroll/Rosson 1998: 5)

The teachers' shift from instructor to mediator while making use of ICT in the pedag
process is necessary because of the way modelling skills are acquired, i.e. by producing and
modelling structures and content from the part of the learners themselves.

Another attempt of integrating ICT into learning processes is to build networks
different schools.

"Working in a network is more than the informal exchange of experiences. Though one of its characteristics lies
in giving transparency to those experiences, another

more characteristical

point is the networks' capacity to
ntly reflect those experiences over a longer period, thematise problems in the schools' development, finding
possibilities during the exchange of ideas, and try out new ideas." (Netzwerke innovativer Schulen 2001:18 ).

Most German scholars feel development

of networks should be the next important conceptual
step in media education. To achieve this, apart of professional system maintenance
pedagogical skills and knowledge are necessary. Local and regional pedagogical networks
may develop the following functi
ons in the future (see Dichanz: 22):

Preparation material can be shared between all teachers taking part in a pedagogical circle.
This prepared material can be organised according to subjects and age.

Developed and reliable course modules and projects can
be put on the net and used by
everybody involved.

Courses and modules related to the geographical region are available for all different schools
in that region, from primary up to the vocational schools.

Didactical networks with special informations about
subjects can reach out up to the level of
specific schools

date information on offers in further education, new articles and books, important
publications, contests etc. can be exchanged.

Inside the different schools, a teacher

and subject
related i
nformation network can be

The pupils can make use of an information and communication network that comprises other
schools, too, and may be co
designed by themselves. This network can be used to help the
pupils' associations, supporting teching p
rogrammes, and complementing group work.

Overall, good chances to integrate new media in school curricula may well arise if they are
coupled with a school development oriented on a pedagogical reform agenda:

"The more an agenda of reform pedagogy is at sta
ke, the easier an integration of new media becomes that makes
sense from a pedagogical point of view: Chances for learning arrangements in the classes, chances for the
organisation of schools and of the teachers' work. But this implies, too, that those sch
ools already on their way to
these aims must be fostered, and the others motivated to follow them. It should be clearly pointed out that the
solely translation of the model of teacher
centred teaching into the design of learning software is a wrong way

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