David Puttnam spoke at the Science Gallery, Dublin, this evening on the topic of

Technology, education and Ireland: How new ways of learning can assist economic recovery“.

There is much from his presentation that I could write about and you can glean ideas from the Twitter feed #openminds.

I was taken by a citation he made of the concept of “oracy” developed by Andrew Wilkinson, a British educational researcher in the 1960s.

A web definition (here) explains “oracy” as…used to describe a person’s ability to efficiently communicate with others via the spoken word as well as to fully understand oral communication. Wilkinson…created the word to emphasize the need for school children to be able to fully use oral skills as an essential basis for learning and social integration. It is an analogy for the words numeracy and literacy, and aids in bringing the focus of oral skill on par with reading and writing in the classroom.

Puttnam was speculating on the future of the keyboard in the light of the development of applications like Apples’  Siri. That application according to Wikipedia (here) allows an iPhone user to… use a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of web services. Apple claims that the software adapts to the user’s individual preferences over time and personalizes results, and performing tasks such as finding recommendations for nearby restaurants, or getting directions.

I had not considered this development before but when you think about it we Irish are very good with words and meanings. If the keyboard as an input device nears its final iteration, what better than voice to drive aspects of our use of the Internet?

Regular readers of this blog know that I believe there will be no fundamental change in the education system (in second level at least) unless there is genuine change in the way we assess students. Voice as a form of input might allow students to creatively develop a portfolio of material for assessment.

The creativity and technology behind Siri is impressive (here) – with thoughtful use in education we might allow the voice of students (another of Putnams themes) to be heard loud and clear in creative ways.


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