Somewhat off topic for educational technology, although if the context for teaching and learning is not right, then there is a lot of distraction from the core business. And we are experiencing a lot of distraction.
Discussions about the effects of technology, both positive and negative are not new. What is new is that we live in a time where it is developing at such a fast pace that the research into it’s effects can barely keep up. We have technology which begets the new technology. Cars could not make better cars.
The internet, computer processing speeds, social networking sites and mobile technology are exposing us daily to new ways of accessing information and communicating. Many of these technologies have been and are being adopted in the workplace and in education. It is not surprising then that discussions are taking place between lecturers, students and policy makers about which technologies to embrace and which to avoid.
This is Part I of a series wherein I would like to share some recent discussions, publications and presentations on the effects of new technology on society and by extension on learning and teaching.
Southern New Hampshire’s president, Paul J. LeBlanc, writes in his thinking paper “The Next Big Thing”:
“The vision is that students could sign up for self-paced online programs with no conventional instructors. They could work at their own speeds through engaging online content that offers built-in assessments, allowing them to determine when they are ready to move on. They could get help through networks of peers who are working on the same courses; online discussions could be monitored by subject experts. When they’re ready, students could complete a proctored assessment, perhaps at a local high school, or perhaps online. The university’s staff could then grade the assessment and assign credit.”
The team at the Network University had pretty much the same delivery model in mind, back when I worked there in the 1990’s. There is a lot of appeal to this model, from the institutions side as well as from the learners perspective. It cuts out a lot of costs and you reap the benefits without having to invest too much in the process. And as a slow or fast learner, or in between jobs or juggling three kids, you no longer have to adapt to the rest but can determine your own pace. But when I think of the online initiatives which have worked and been extremely successful, and what their success factors were, I think we might be missing the point if we choose for this delivery model.
Forgive me but, hogwash! The article title reads “School courses dissapear into the tablet”. (“Schoolcursussen verdwijnen in de tablet”)
I happen to be a firm believer that mobile internet does bring the whole information cycle full circle, away from the stationary desks, into “real life”, and therefore will be adopted by many more users than limited to the computer-savy fanatical few (yours truely being a card carrying member). And my expectation is also that tablets will be sighted more often in the lecture halls and their use will grow amongst students.
Mobile in education is the next big step. But to state it in this Draconian manner, scaring all tentative users, arming skeptics and nay-sayers to new technologies. It might be my age but I have seen this response too often. I prefer to focus on the possible advantages and lets put energy into taking the best of both worlds, the old and the new, and make learning an even more richer and tantalizing experience than it already is.
Open principles. A personal favorite of mine. Why? Because they make it possible for you and me, and people like Isaac Newton to excel: “If I have seen farther than most men it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants”.
Sharing data, source code, architecture, background, makes it possible for others to pick up where you left off, to take your info and make it more. It speeds up learning, and increases the expanse of its positive impact. Adhering to open principles is recognizing that together we are more than the sum of the individual parts.
This is why I am especially excited that one of my team members is leading a project together with Social Geography staff and students in Open Street Maps. It’s mirrored on this initiative which displays how a street has changed over time.
There’s something about this model which captured my attention. It divides the uses of educational technology into three phases and the division resonated with my experience. In this model, Phase one and two takes technology and infuses it into traditional lessons. Phase three is quite a bit different, more advanced, and requires a paradigm shift.