on technology and learning

Thought of the day:

Technology doesn’t make learning any more relevant or effective. Good teaching does that. Treating everyone in the class as fully fledged human beings does that. Respecting the contributions, backgrounds, and interests of all learners does that. Relevant and effective teaching and learning can occur without any technology at all, if given a creative enough environment in which to work. Technology may help to extend and enhance, but there are critical pieces that need to be in place before any technology will make a difference.

12 thoughts on “on technology and learning”

  1. Well said D’Arcy. I’ve seen my share of good and bad use of technology in the classroom and it is always based on the environment in the classroom that underpins the learning. Sad thing is when technology goes wrong students often come to negatively view technology without realizing the underlying problems.

    1. all we need to do is embrace web 2.0 blog wiki podcasting, and students will be engaged, and inquiry-based learning will take over! I have seen teh future!

      even the best technology in the hands of a dead classroom is useless at best, dangerous at worst. gotta start by working to develop a thriving bunch of learners before anything else.

  2. Personally, I can see where you are coming from… However, I think one aspect of technology that no amount of good teaching can cover is access to information. Unfettered access to information available through a freely available medium (youtube, web, whatever) I think is very helpful to any learner as it is not possible for a class of 30 students to all be there mentally each day for the entirety of the class; even if one is a good teacher and does all of the things mentioned above. Depending on other people to fill you in is further off-putting as an attitude develops among the “good” students inspired by their competitive natures. In schools and universities one aspect of education which is coercive is the necessity to pay attention and understand what is going on right there and then — and this is not how most humans operate. Non-real-time access to information which is possible through blog wiki podcasting or vlogging (essentially recorded transcript of the class) is immensely helpful in learning the material. Obviously it makes the job of the damned curve markers harder as they are not particularly interested in educating, but I am sure they can get over it.

    1. good teaching isn’t “filling you in” and has little to do with content dissemination. good teaching has more to do with discussion, coaching, guiding, mentoring, modelling, critiquing, etc… none of these things require technology, but could potentially be extended and enhanced by it. don’t discount the value of a meaningful experience between teacher and learner. as we learn, we change the way we think, and having an effective guide through that process can be extremely powerful.

      1. Also, it is dependent upon students, some need that personal connection others might even prefer to learn on their own at their own pace… i.e. through autodidactic methods. Also, what I mean by scaling is say a class of 30-200 students, there is no way a single person can create a connection with more than a few students… Technology can scale and to ignore that and say let’s reassert the fundamentals is missing a point that should not be missed. The rest of the students are by default on their own. I have had good teachers, but when I look back on it I know that they did not have the same relationship that they had with me with other people — it’s just not possible as we connected on a different level. Making the information which is being conveyed ubiquitously available increases the chances that the people who are not paying attention will have access to it later which might just increase the chance of connecting. I am against an idealised conception of learning or teaching. In the real world things don’t work that way; there are some people that will benefit and then a good amount that they will not… for that group technology allows the information to be disseminated through space and time. Good teaching might mean making the tools available for students to teach themselves and technology facilitates that.

        Check out this site (http://www.khanacademy.org/), this guy has decided to educate the world and could probably even help the boy ™… For some subjects he is a better teacher than teachers I have had in the past. I still see the importance of teaching and teachers in your definition of it, but one good teacher that is good at explaining a subject can be scaled to millions of people. A single teacher teaching 30 kids can connect with may 5 or 10.

        1. okay, but my point is that (good) teaching is so much more than just explaining a topic. it’s not just sharing information. good teaching (and learning) is an active process, an exploration, not a simple access issue (which can be easily addressed through open content). the teacher/learner relationship is definitely harder to scale up, and that’s probably a different discussion (why should there be classes of 50, 100, 500 students? what kind of real learning is possible in that kind of environment?)

  3. While I generally agree with this thought I still think that everyone can benefit from the use of technology in classroom. Important is here to find the balance. Creating the right atmosphere, being creative and interesting, treating students with respect is is all good, but using new techniques and methods won’t hurt either.

  4. I was thinking about this topic and an example came into my mind that I thought I would share. First of all imagine the real world. Most of the time is spent lecturing. In terms of lecturing, there are good lecturers who make the topics interesting, make the examples simple and so on… Then there are (many) bad teachers who will bore you to death, and probably don’t enjoy lecturing anyway. Further, there is a finite amount of time with which to get an idea across to students. While some teachers might be bad at lecturing they may be good at other things like facilitating hands-on activities. Technology can help those teachers who are good at lecturing scale, so that the lecture part of class is watched at the student’s convenience or according to a schedule assigned by the teacher. One teacher can lecture to thousands or millions of students, and you only have to do this part once every 3-4 years. The teacher then is free to use class time to organize other activities. This in itself has made the learning environment better – much better I think.

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