CIRCL perspectives offer a window into the many different worlds of various stakeholders in the cyberlearning community–what drives their work, what they need to be successful, and what they think the community should be doing. Share your perspective.
Arnon Hershkovitz is a Senior Lecturer in the Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Department, School of Education, Tel Aviv University (Israel).
How did you get started in cyberlearning?
For as long as I remember myself, both teaching and computers have been constantly in my mind. Being a son of a teacher, my mom – without saying anything, just by practicing her daily work-related routine – had taught me the preciousness of teaching. As a kid, computer classes at schools had fascinated me, although it was mostly about simple Logo programs; later, as a young teen, when home computers became popular, I was glued to the computer screen, teaching myself to program in Basic and playing Prince of Persia, Spy vs. Spy and alike.
However, the great potential of combining computers into teaching became clear to me only at a very later stage, while thinking about doing a Ph.D. Only them I became aware of the vast research in the field and got attracted to the idea of Educational Data Mining, which enable researching cyberlearning environments.
What is unique about your work?
With a solid background in both the Exact Sciences (B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science, M.A. in Applied Mathematics), and the Social Sciences (Ph.D. in Science Teaching), I’m constantly trying to bridge the gap between these two disciplines when it comes to analyzing cyberlearning activities. Many in the fields of Educational Data Mining and Learning Analytics often forget that their daily research must integrate knowledge on both education AND data mining, learning AND analytics.
In addition, my main research agenda is that teachers are important in the cyberlearning era more than ever before. However, teachers’ role should be rethought as technology, pedagogy and class orchestrations are constantly changing (and will probably continue to change). Teachers are no longer “knowledge suppliers”, but rather promoters of students’ learning processes; students, in turn, are no longer “knowledge consumers”, but rather lifelong learners who need to constantly develop learning strategies.
In short, my main interest is in what’s happening in the classroom while students using computers for learning, in particular what’s the role of the teacher in such a scenario. Following that, my main current project is about studying the effects of 1:! computing in the classroom on teacher-student interactions and on teachers’ perceptions of their role.
Who would your ideal cyberlearning partner be and why?
As I don’t develop learning environments, an ideal partner would be one that does develop such an environment and would like to collaborate in order to empirically study its implementation in classrooms (learning/teaching-wise). Being a developer of such a system (either as a developer per se or as a researcher who develops learning environments in her or his lab) will enable the partner to gain full access to the system log files (also, to control the way data is stored) and to “close the circle”, that is, to continue development based on research findings.
Also, I would like to collaborate with teachers and principals who implement 1:1 computing programs in their classrooms, schools and would like to study the effects of such programs.
What would you like policy makers (e.g., Congress) to know about your work?
I think that implementations of cyberlearning that are not accompanied by a conceptual change – mainly of teachers’ role in the process – will probably not have as great impact as such programs which are a result of thorough thinking. Partners to this kind of thinking must be teachers and not just scholars, and the best results would probably be obtained when teachers, principals, school district staff, researchers and policy makers will together discuss potential programs.