The Australian scene, however, has changed substantially in recent times. Economic, political and social developments worldwide have made it increasingly difficult for Australia to maintain its relatively high living standards and compete in changing world markets. The nation has not kept pace with the multitude of new international developments. The north Atlantic and north Pacific regions continue to dominate the world economic scene through the restructuring of traditional industrial practices and the development of new trade arrangements. Employment opportunities worldwide are moving from agricultural and manufacturing industries towards information industries, human service areas, consultancies and financial investment. In addition to these economic changes, there are enormous political and social reconstructions underway in Europe, the Soviet Union, South Africa and other parts of the world. Whilst it is not yet possible to determine the significance of such developments, it is clear that the world scene is changing rapidly.
A central element of the problem facing Australia is that our current education systems have not been geared to accommodate the modem world economy, large and sudden social and political upheavals influencing international relationships, or the cultural, economic and political influences flowing from developments in the Asian Pacific region.
Governments, unions and industry are only now seeking to remedy our situation in a post-industrial world. The need for a multi-skilled and flexible workforce is recognised as an essential element to be addressed in developing a "clever country". The strategy for achieving such a goal, however, seems to be predominantly shaped by economic or economic rationalist policies. Within this context the focus is on competency based standards which tend to reflect a mechanistic, controlled, and deterministic view of teaching and learning. The general curriculum orientation which supports such a focus is linear in nature.
Such a system militates against uniqueness, creativity and individual autonomy. Yet these elements would seem to be critical in addressing the multitude of complex problems facing the nation. The complexity of current and future national concerns will not be well served by development programs which emphasise preconceived ideas about innovations, plans, employment or education. Opportunities should be provided for students to interact with the curriculum in order to extract some personal meaning from it which may broaden their intellectual understandings in directions which may or may not have been pre-specified. The reform process should at least accommodate a range of strategies and not be dominated by competency based standards defined in a narrow sense by economic rationalist decision makers.
The most noteworthy example in Australia of an attempt to reconcile the competency based and open learning (or learner centred) orientations is to be found in the TAFE sector. National competencies are being defined for literally every aspect of technical and vocational training. At the same time a national strategy has just been developed (Widdowson, Lundin and Stanford, 1991) to introduce a range of alternative delivery systems and other elements consistent with open learning in which learner autonomy is emphasised.
This is also a time in our history when interactive technologies are becoming more readily available for the ongoing development of teachers and other service professionals. Governments and industry are recognising the value of using these technologies to convey programs across the nation and, in particular, service employees in their workplaces.
Overseas, both in Europe and North America, the use of all forms of broadcast and interactive (e.g. teleconferencing) technologies has risen dramatically in the past five years. In Australia, over $10 million has been spent on video conferencing systems in the three years, 1988 to 1991. There are now over 10 systems across the states and territories and across all sectors of education and training. Furthermore, the Commonwealth government has established a National Open Learning Policy Unit which has, in collaboration with the Australian Education Council (AEC) Working Party on a National Education Communication Framework, commissioned six consultancies to develop a coordinated system for educational use of technologies. A '6th Channel' for national educational television is being mooted as part of this planning.
The growing popularity of such technological means of educating professional calls for a clear understanding of the conceptual frameworks likely to be adopted by this approach. There are a number of curriculum orientations underpinning approaches to professional development in general and the relationship between these orientations and the interactive technologies should be examined. Do the technologies favour a particular curriculum approach, are they able to accommodate a range of curriculum possibilities or do they, in fact, facilitate new modes of learning and teaching not generally recognised in more traditional forms of professional development? Answers to such questions may be used to strengthen, weaken or modify the direction and form adopted by users of various technologies.
At a time when governments and industry are seeking to improve the performance of the Australian workforce through a competency based strategy where the goals, objectives and levels of performance are all pre-set, it is important that the potential use of interactive technologies be fully appreciated and understood. Otherwise there may emerge an unhealthy link between the competency based movement and interactive technologies. This relationship could be unwittingly strengthened by the users of the technology not fully appreciating the alternative approaches to curriculum development including the need to incorporate adult principles of learning.
The second area has its roots in the audiovisual history which can be traced back to Skinner and the behaviourist tradition based on the work by Pavlov on his dogs. The proponents of this tradition say that technology, in its widest sense, has been the basis of a major shift from teacher centred education to student centred learning through providing new options for 'individualised instruction'. The phrase 'individualised instruction' could be interpreted as reflecting a point of view of how teaching and learning takes place, and is inherent in such closed systems as programmed learning. The notion is still very much alive, however, and is now being found in the competency based curriculum developments in TAFE and in the teachers' job analysis activities in some education departments and national projects to determine what teachers do and what training is necessary to develop the necessary competencies. This may have considerable implications for teacher training programs.
In terms of such competency based notions, communications and information technology is being seen as a way of providing the necessary training. Does educational technology by its very nature lead to competency based training or can it also support more open and personalised learning approaches? There is now a major push towards developing more open learning and 'open access' options in training and professional development.
With regard to the schools sector, teachers' demography is congruent with Australia's population which means that about half are in non-urban areas. A majority of teachers is women, and almost all teachers work full time. Flexible, open access to teachers' professional development is essential if there is to be equity. The use of communications technology may be the only way to ensure this at a reasonable cost.
In terms of both teachers' professional development and school curricula the use of communications technology for delivery could result in a form of central control or it could support the coordinated decentralisation of education and training thus empowering the learners to be able to make more choices about their learning. With regard to control in teachers' professional development, for example, there is a great interest in the federal government in the use of satellite video for this. One could envision the federal Minister for Education using that system to 'baptise' all the teachers in Australia with a sprinkling of in service by satellite! Whether the balance tips one way or the other will be dependent upon the policies adopted by our educational systems.
With regard to curriculum delivery one can refer to a recent newspaper article, 'Class sizes of 10,000 on way' (Courier Mail, 13 April 1991) which talks about the agreement among all the Ministers of Education on the previous day to endorse a national policy to take satellites and advanced telecommunications into schools and TAFE colleges within the next few years. The same infrastructure which is set up for curriculum delivery can be used for teachers' professional development as well as for that of other professions and the whole range of community education and training activities.
There are several concerns being expressed by some educators with regard to the pedagogical implications of such a system. On the other hand, there are numerous examples from the USA and Canada of such systems in operation. These may be of relevance here:
Ideally, the use of existing and emerging technologies should provide equity of access for everyone who wants to learn something and empowerment of the learners. Technology should be perceived as a neutral channel providing new options regardless of curriculum orientations
Hence interactive modes of learning to incorporate the complexity of discipline knowledge within professional practice situations would be more desirable.
The ongoing development of professionals from this orientation comes about through a combination of lived experience and interaction with peers and teachers regarding troublesome situations. Through such experiences the beginning professional is introduced to a community of practitioners and a profession of practice.
Interactive technologies can help facilitate this network of professional practitioners.
Garrison (1986) focussed specially on microcomputer based audiographic teleconferencing as being 'The Third Generation' of distance education. There is, however, a Fourth Generation as indicated in the extension of Garrison's figure below:
|Medium||Correspondence||Teleconferencing||Computer based||Computer based|
|Message/ communication channel||Print/ visual||Audio/ auditory||Video, audiovisual and auditory||Video, audiovisual and auditory|
|Delivery system||Communications network||Computer terminal and communications network||Computer terminal|
|Method of instruction||Individual||Group||Individual||Individual and group|
|Mode of delivery||Asynchronous||Synchronous||Asynchronous and synchronous||Asynchronous and synchronous|
New and existing communication technologies provide new options for sharing educational expertise, resources and research. These options go beyond the traditional notion of distance education (Barker, Frisbie and Patrick, 1989; Garrison, 1987; Lundin, 1988). The challenge for educators is to develop new models and program designs for exploiting the special attributes of these technologies to enhance the quality of teaching and learning programs, and this can be done regardless of the curriculum orientation adhered to by a particular lecturer or institution.
In the recent past the use of communications technology tended to be seen as a way of making up for what was missing in traditional external studies/correspondence education - a deficiency model of distance education. There is a realisation now that interactive electronic technologies - audio, audiographic, video and computer-text - can contribute to the quality of education for both on campus and off campus students - a value added model of education. As such, this new model can provide new forms of flexibility and extension for the creative development and delivery of education. In this sense 'distance education' is giving way to the broader concept of 'open learning' (Garrison, 1986, 27).
Open learning is a philosophy and a system whereby all options for post-compulsory education are kept open. This approach is characterised by flexibility in terms of entry, program components, modes of study and points of exit. Learners are encouraged to negotiate learning arrangements to meet their special needs. As such, this approach is well suited to adult learners pursuing continuing professional education and training. This is the basis, for example, of the Queensland Open Learning Project (Qld Working Party on Decentralised Delivery of Higher Education, 1989).
It has recently been revealed that the National Distance Education Consortium (NDEC) of the 8 DECs has committed some millions of dollars to providing a national video conferencing network and for the production of first year university courses in the video format. (Minutes of the NDEC Working Party on Technology, 1990.) Telecom Australia has also expressed interest in this network for its own training needs and to market it externally as a value added service (personal communication with Brian Penhall).
The special technical development which will make national and international dialup teleconferencing very effective is the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). This will provide a cost effective and flexible way for all education/training providers and learners to connect as required and by whatever level (data-text to video) required.
Similarly, many professional groups are looking at ways of delivering professional development programs to their members - and in some cases continuing education is becoming compulsory. The accountants, nurses, engineers and medical practitioners are examples of groups setting up systems to use new communications technology. A team of researchers has just completed a 'national cooperative policy for the application of distance learning for in service teacher education' (DLITE) in which communications technology is a significant element (Lundin and others, 1991).
In the private sector, several companies like AMP, Lend Lease, Telecom, Westpac, Hamersley Iron, and others are putting in place systems wide telecommunications facilities for education and training. Most notable is the IBM Interactive Satellite Education Network (ISEN) now in place throughout Australia and extended to New Zealand. The Australian base will serve the whole South Pacific region.
The notion of design models can be dealt with on two levels:
Structural level designCurriculum and application decisions will take into account:
At this level the concern is to place one or more forms of teleconferencing in a context. Included here is the decision of which form of teleconferencing to use for certain purposes.
Internal level design
During an actual teleconferencing session there may be various activities which exploit the special attributes of the medium. To some extent these could be the direct transfer of face to face strategies (lecturing, brainstorming, panel, etc.) but in some cases various adaptations will be necessary, and some innovative strategies may evolve.
All the literature indicates very little research having been done in this field. The situation seems best summarised by the Report of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of the us Congress on technology in distance learning, which states that little research exists is limited in scope and often anecdotal. It continues:
Research on technology mediated learning and interactivity, instructional design and innovative approaches, and applications of cognitive theory represent good investment for the federal government in order to meet the long term needs of the field. Evaluation would be most usefully concentrated on practical questions about educationality, such as what are the learner outcomes of various teaching techniques and technology models (Ed, 4:3, March 1990; p.5).
The critical orientation highlights the professionals obligations to clients and society. The technological and practical orientations illustrate different ideas about the sources and nature of knowledge about professional practice and how this knowledge can be obtained and developed. The personal orientation focuses attention on the formation of the individual while the discipline studies orientation is concerned with the academic content underpinning the profession.
As the interactive technologies continue to develop and expand, it is important that they accommodate a wide range of conceptual orientations. It would indeed be unfortunate if the technologies became unwittingly associated with the technological or competency based movement because of the current economic situation in Australia. There it much to be gained by adopting a much broader focus of professional development and ensuring that the interactive technologies remain flexible and open to promote a creative and innovative workforce to produce a "clever country".
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|Authors: Dr Bob Hardingham is a Lecturer in Education, and Dr Roy Lundin is a Senior Lecturer in Education, Queensland University of Technology.
Please cite as: Hardingham, R. and Lundin, R. (1992). Interactive multimedia and curriculum orientations in professional education. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 585-596. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/hardingham.html