Daily Archives: May 16, 2013

EdTech on the Periphery?

Beyond the required reading for this course, some of you may be interested in checking out more detailed discussions. Allan Collins and Richard Halverson have an excellent book called Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. Here’s a thoughtful point they make in Chapter 1-

“… schools have kept new digital technologies on the periphery of their core academic practices. Schools often provide computer labs, tech prep courses, and computer literacy and programming courses to help students learn about technology, but do not try to rethink basic practices of teaching and learning”

What are your thoughts on this? Does any of this resonate with you? Do you find that tech sometimes lives on the periphery? To what degree do you see your colleagues or peers re-thinking their approach to teaching and learning in light of these technologies?

Moving from being “lectured to” to encouraging student interaction and meaning making

  • How is learning presumed to occur within the context of Web 2.0?

In the context of Web 2.0, learning is through a community of engagement, which allows students to participate with other learners about the material.  In this process, they are able to construct their own understanding of the content and understand it at a deeper level.  In this way, Web 2.0 learning is a form of constructivist learning or as described by The Difference Between Instructivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism, by Terry Heick (http://www.teachthought.com/learning/the-difference-between-instructivism-constructivism-and-connectivism/), a form of connectivism in which learning is occurring in informal ways with others through the use of technology.  This is an interesting article as an introduction to the concept of connectivism, which is a term that is very new to me.  I was intrigued by the concept of bricolage from the John Seely Brown article, Learning, Working & Playing in the Digital Age.  I have students who share with the class a particular site, video, or article that they found helpful in understanding of applying the lecture material.  I have other students who design their own lecture outlines, study guides, and Facebook pages and share these with other students.  They learn and  continue to learn how to learn from each other.

  • What are the differences in the role of the learner and the facilitator as compared to ‘traditional’ learning environments? (Do you consider these roles and processes viable/valid given your philosophy of learning?)

As a facilitator, I often need to take a step back and allow the students to apply the material on their own.  In my online courses, I do this by encouraging discussion and assigning research assignments on the material.  These assignments encourage the students to find articles that relate to a particular topic or apply textbook concepts to real life situations.  For example, in describing the process of mitosis, I encourage discussion about cancer and assign individual research projects about cancer.  Since most have personal experience within their family, this allows them to understand better why the process of mitosis is important and how problems with this process can lead to cancer.  I like to call these activities, meaning-making, or “Why do I care?” activities.  In my on campus, face to face courses, I have very large lecture sections that tend more towards a traditional learning environment with presentation of content to the students.  However, I incorporate discussion, video segments, and short quizzes to encourage interaction and learning.  My face to face course does break into smaller 16 person lab sections in which I can lean more towards a facilitator as the students work in small groups to apply the material from lecture.  I often have students say that they learn much more in the lab setting, as they can utilize higher order thinking by working together on the lab.  Becoming a facilitator of learning was difficult for me when I first started teaching about ten years ago, since my models of college instruction came from the traditional large lecture setting, such as my freshman 8AM biology lecture with 800 people in Schwab Auditorium!  However, looking back, I see that I was simply memorizing material instead of truly understanding or learning that material.   I have had to turn my own perception of learning around as I have developed my teaching style over the years.

  • What implications do these shifts have for how we think about designing learning environments?

Brown describes how attention spans of managers (and most kids!) ranges between 30 seconds to five minutes.  Students are used to constantly checking their phones for text messages and emails.  Sitting through a 50 minute traditional lecture would lead to boredom and loss of attention.  I have tried to format my “lectures” with constant questions and interaction to maintain my students’ attention.  In lab, I allow them to use their phones, tablets, and laptops to help them as they work together on the material.  For anatomy lessons using lab models, many students take pictures of the models with their phones and make digital flashcards to use to study whenever they have a few minutes available.  Some students make videos of themselves pointing out parts of anatomical models that they can watch again and again until they have the material mastered.  I promote the use of these tools and encourage the students to develop the best method to learn the material that works for them.  In this way, I also learn new methods to use in my future teaching!  A major implication of Web 2.0 is that educators need to not be afraid of using these tools, but instead develop the  best ways to use the evolving tools in their own learning environments.