Friday, July 08, 2011

Techno rant but not really

I was at little gathering recently when I overheard a conversation between delegates from a college who had apparently made the case that engagement and achievement would be improved simply by providing students with access to the very latest technologies. So you are going to throw a shed load of money at it, and that basically is it, and this is going to work? I really do wonder sometimes whether the message will ever get through that Silver Bullets only work for the Lone Ranger.

All in all this was reminiscent for me of a presentation that I was attending, possibly presenting at, on one of the many events led by a leading FE and HE support service. The presentation started with an image of an operating theatre circa 1900+, a click of the mouse and we see a picture of an operating theatre 2000+. The question was posed: could a surgeon from 1900 function in a modern operating theatre? Not much in the way of audience participation to that question as I recall, but no doubt everyone was having similar thoughts.

In the next slide we see a classroom circa 1900, teacher at the front of the class with chalk and blackboard, students in orderly rows equipped with chalk and chalkboards. A click of the mouse, and the image was joined by a classroom circa 2000. The question was posed, how much has changed? Well given there would be a very brief explanation of how to remove the cap from a dry wipe pen for the teacher and similarly for ball point pens for students, granted not much seems to have changed at all, unlike the world of clinical surgery it would seem.

But what am I supposed to draw from this? While at the time I was reluctant to be reactionary, especially given my own evangelical disposition with eLearning, let me put it this way. Using what is essentially teaching and learning styles that have clearly changed very little in a century, or so it would seem, we have been able to stand on the Moon, understand the cosmos back to a micro second after the big bang, crack the genome, have all the benefits of consumer micro electronics, super computers, artificial intelligence, anti-biotics, fly in machines at over twice the speed of sound dressed in casual clothes while sipping champagne and eating canapés. Is it being seriously suggested that we have it wrong with teaching and learning? From the preceding list, surely even the most casual observer would conclude, no, but a serious question of course remains, how can engagement and achievement be improved, because of course it can, and should, given all the surrounding technologies and best practice at our disposal.

From my own early experience of running vle’s where chat rooms are silent, forums are empty and class notes that did not work or were not read in class were similarly useless when posted online, I have come to appreciate that the change we need does not lye with the introduction of techno paraphernalia alone, but must be accpompanied with the necessary
collaborative delivery frameworks, content and assessment strategies that allow us to make use of the technology in support of learning.

I think Fire and forget really does belong firmly in the domain of heat seeking missiles not teaching and learning, rant over.

Food for discussion? comments welcome, kind regards Barry


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