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Before the rise of the Internet, classroom teaching primarily took place in a closed room, only attended by students and their teachers. In many schools, up to the point where the Internet, mobile devices and wireless networks entered the classroom, classroom teaching was the most common way to organize the education. This article is a smaller part of a paper called “Digitalisation of education — the theory of the three waves”.

The paper* is an empirically based theory about how class teaching seems to change in the era of digital media. The paper uses a study in the Danish upper secondary schools to build a theory of the theory of the three waves.  In this article, we will highlight some of the descriptions of the changes towards the digitalisation of education.

Classroom Teaching. Photo: Pixabay

The Danish Upper Secondary School

The scope is limited to a discussion of the educational changes observed in the Danish upper secondary schools. Yet, we would argue that our findings might hold true for all educational settings with similar conditions. Briefly put, these conditions can be described as follows: Before the about the change rise of the  Internet, classroom teaching primarily took place in a closed room, only attended by students and their teachers. This was also the case in the Danish upper secondary – as in many other schools  –  up to the point where the Internet, mobile devices and wireless networks entered the classroom. In the Danish upper secondary school, the new digital infrastructure appeared in the years after the Danish school reform from 2005. One of the new demands in this reform was that teachers should make use of information technologies. In compliance with this demand, the schools invested in wireless networks, computers and, to some degree, mobile devices. Also, it became frequent that students and teachers brought their smartphones and other devices to the classroom, using them for private as well as educational reasons.

What effects do the new media bring about? How do teachers and students react?  Which difficulties arise?  Which new possibilities?  Does it alter the educational interaction between students and teachers fundamentally? On the other hand, does it only result in minor modifications? These are our questions.

New Media in Education. Photo: Buro Millennial

We would ask the reader to keep in mind that our empirical starting point is the Danish upper secondary school from 2005-2015, but that we nonetheless propose a general theory that might hold true for similar educational settings. We admit that it might be a thought-provoking proposal.  Yet, it ties in nicely with the collection by Greenhow on Education and Social Media. It also ties in nicely with a number of ongoing efforts to make use of the Internet in a variety of school systems in different countries.

The Move Towards the Digitalisation of Education

Firstly, researchers point to potentials for better learning. If social media are used in teaching, the opportunities to express oneself, participate, collaborate, find information, reflect and learn together are expanded. The opportunities for help, teacher feedback, knowledge sharing, student productions, differentiation, shared notes, knowledge storage and process writing are also expanded.

Secondly, researchers point to potentials for forming better communities. If new media are used in the right way they can provide better opportunities for students to get to know each other, becoming familiar with each other, doing things together, making friends, connecting and maintaining relationships, getting to know each other’s friends and forming communities.

Thirdly, researchers point out that the study environment at a school can be improved if social media are involved; the  use of  social  media can  expand opportunities for contact between the school and the students, contact between classes and  between year groups,  and between  alumni and future  students, as well  as  increasing  participation  in  activities  at  the  school  in  addition  to teaching.  Also, they observe better contact with absent students and opportunities to create virtual homework help.

Fourthly, researchers observe better opportunities for contact with the surrounding community, people in other countries,  politicians, friendship classes, etc.

Photo: Soumil Kumar

Fifthly, studies show that an active inclusion of social media provides better motivation and commitment as it expands the possibilities for creating lessons that students find interesting and challenging. With new media, it is possible to achieve greater diversity in teaching and exceed traditional classroom training.

Finally, sixthly, researchers point out that students acquire better media and IT skills when social media are used actively in class and that students conditions digital media entail compared to the media situation before the Internet.

Three Waves for the Digitalisation of Education

We propose that these responses imply a shift from closed classroom teaching to an open community between students, teachers and third parties. However, the shift does not happen at once. Rather, we suggest that it arises through three waves containing different educational responses to the new situation. In the figure, we have outlined a narrative theory. On the Y-axis we have educationally relevant attention and on the X-axis we have time.  In the theory, we assume that before digital media there was a given level of educationally relevant attention. This assumption can be called into question insofar as attention towards the educationally relevant subject matter differed from student to student, class to class, time-to-time, etc. Yet, there is no doubt that in the first wave of digital media and wireless networks we can generally observe a huge drop in educationally relevant attention.  Also, we know that activity irrelevant to the educational purposes  (e.g. responding to private messages) significantly harm grade, recollection of information and note-taking.

First Wave

In our research from 2005-2015, we have observed that the first response by teachers and schools to the new media situation primarily is either to ignore the new difficulties and possibilities or to prohibit the use of digital media for educationally irrelevant purposes. Both strategies – ignoring and prohibiting – generally fail for several reasons. At the same time, the new possibilities (listed above) are not actualised or invented. In the first wave, we consistently do not observe a realisation of new and improved teaching, but a destabilised teaching with students trying to multitask between computer games or social media and the educational interaction with teachers that do not know what to do.

Second Wave

The second wave arises when schools, teachers and students begin to make use of the possibilities of the new media for better interaction between the students and the teachers. In this phase, teachers begin to use the new media to draw attention back to the classroom by using digitally based written interaction within the class and also shared online documents where students collaborate, monitored and guided by the teacher. The result is an intensified educational interaction where the attention is re-conquered and more and better possibilities of participation arise. For instance, it becomes possible for teachers to get answers from all the students simultaneously through the use of microblogging media like Twitter, instead of only hearing one voice at a time. This – and similar uses – helps to get more students involved and engaged in educational interaction. Despite the positive impact of the second wave it only consists of ‘more’ and ‘better’ interaction, not altering the classroom setting and the educational form radically. Yet, the third wave – which is truly radical – is made possible by the digital literacy developed and facilitated during the second wave.

Third Wave

The third wave arises when other persons than the students and the teachers, through the Internet, become integral parts of the educational interaction. When this happens on a regular basis, it changes the educational form that has existed more or less since the printing press. Instead of a closed system of interaction between teachers and students, we now observe an open Digitalisation of education — the theory of the three waves system of interaction in which other persons outside the classroom participate and contribute. This brings new perspectives to the form of education. On a regular basis, students meet persons with other perspectives, views and responses, and the teacher becomes a ‘mediator of otherness’. In this wave, the teacher builds networks for educational purposes outside the classroom. Students connect to groups, other school classes, individuals and databases, using the new media environment as a natural part of their education. They take part in the convergence culture carrying out products age, learning to navigate and take part in the new society and its forms of production, network, communication and culture. The upshot is that teaching shifts from being a closed production to an open activity, inviting different people to participate. Instead of transmitting knowledge to the students, the role of the teacher becomes to connect students with relevant otherness and make knowledge sharing possible across borders and differences


Lucubrate Magazine, Issue 53, March 1st, 2019

The photo on top: Pixabay

*The article is a smaller parts of the paper “Digitalisation of education — the theory of the three waves” written by Jesper Tække, Aarhus University, Denmark and Michael Paulsen, The University of Southern Denmark (Skrifter fra Center for Internetforskning. Monograph Series from The Centre for Internet Research, Aarhus, Denmark 2017)

Categories: Magazine, Education, Technology


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Lucubrate Magazine
Lucubrate Magazine

Lucubrate Magazine highlights trends in education and development. Development in this context can be technological, educational, individual, social or global, and everything related to education.
Lucubrate Magazine is a global based on the web magazine with the main office in Norway.

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