In a formal sense, distance learning has been a familiar concept since at least 1837, when Sir Isaac Pitman began teaching his shorthand system using typed instruction cards mailed through the universal Penny Postal service to his students across England. Students returned the cards containing their answers for marking via the same affordable postal system in what eventually became known as correspondence courses. Some would say formal distance education was established much earlier in the Americas. Arguably, the concept of distance education via correspondence may have its roots in earlier attempts at remote instruction when the Apostle Paul sent out letters (or epistles) via courier to the early Christian church from his prison cell in Rome.

I've had several conversations with my students in the past few weeks about how Vygotskiian theory informs our understanding of learning. But social constructivist theory, particularly Vygotsky's socio-cultural focus, extends greatly beyond the concept of ZPD - the zone of proximal development - that most people are familar with. While ZPD is an important explanation of how we learn, we limit our understanding if we focus exclusively on this aspect of the theory.

What is freedom? Many have asked, and there are many answers. Some would define freedom as a human right - to speak, to act or to think as you wish - and see this exemplified in a truly democratic society. Others would be content to see freedom as a state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Former US president Ronald Reagan once remarked: 'Freedom is never more than one generation away. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.

"The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered." 

This quote from Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget in 1988 reveals a deep truth that all teachers should apprehend.

In my most recent post I outlined the first part of the SAMR model, which I used as a lens to explore the integration of new technologies into education. The first two levels, substitution and augmentation are often referred to as low levels of technology integration, in as much as they do not substantially impact upon or transform pedagogy.

In previous posts I articulated some thoughts on how technology can (and should) be integrated into education. In an initial post I argued that technology use is not the same as technology integration. Technology integration results in digital tools being embedded into learning, so that for example maker cultures emerge, or the classroom activities are flipped, supporting more effective pedagogies and improving student learning outcomes.

One of the most radical shifts of pedagogy in recent years has been where learners take control of their own learning leading them to create their own content. Previously, the generation of new knowledge was the preserve of the expert, the academic, the teacher. In the last decade, user generated content has quickly become the most common content on the web, and is a digital age hallmark of student centred learning.

My last post was about integrating technologies into education. This post examines some of the categories of technology and the places they might occupy when they are integrated into the learning process. It's important for teachers to consider that integrated technology can provide a doorway to deeper learning, characterised for example in critical analysis and personal reflection.

Using technology in the classroom and integrating technology for learning are two different things. The first is something that any teacher can do without much thinking, but to truly integrate technology into education takes a great deal of imagination, thinking and planning. Embedding technology so that it becomes transparent is clearly an aim to which all educators should aspire.

David Warlick once said 'for the first time we are preparing young people for a future we cannot clearly describe.' In a fast changing world where everything technology touches grows exponentially, we really are in serious trouble if we cannot prepare children for uncertainty. And yet that is exactly what many school curricula are failing to do. Change is accelerating and uncertainty is ... well.... a certainty.