Monday, August 28, 2006

Has TV changed education?

If teachers don't use television is the classroom, does that mean that television hasn't changed education? I have been thinking about the use of electronic technologies in the classroom. Detractors of the web and other recent innovations in technology often point to the fact that few of the tools that were to revolutionize education have really made much differenence. In short, most schooling today is much the same as it was 100 years ago. So what does this mean?

If a teacher doesn't use television in the classroom , does this mean that television hasn't changed how people learn? I have begun to think that whether or not a technology is used in the classroom is not an appropriate measure of the impact of a technology on learning. I would suggest that the source of most current adult learning is through television. This is not to say that what people learn is right or that the focus on television learning is appropriate, but clearly people are learning about the world, health, finances, and much more via television.

As educators we must stop thinking about education as something that only happens in classrooms. It seems to me that if we continue to focus only on classroom learning we will miss the real opportunities to teach.

Technology vs. Learning Approaches

I have been reading Richard Mayer's work on Multimedia Learning. In his introductory chapter Ihe reminds us of central problem with a lot of the work that is going on in regards to blogs, wikis, podcasting and the like. Too many of us (me included) are focused on the technology and not on the learning. Here is the difference that he captures with these two questions:

Technology-centered people ask: How can I use these capabilities in designing multimedia presentations?

Learner-centered people ask: How can we adapt multimedia to enhance human learning?

He asserts that if we focus on web or other technologies we will be disappointed by the outcome just as we have been disappointed by all the previous technologies that were going to revolutionize education-- radio, televsion, etc. See L. Cuban, 1986, Teachers and machines for a more elaborate story about the failures of technology.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Online education will not revolutionize education

Richard Mayer writes a very sensible article in eLearn Magazine that captures many of the problems surrounding the current buzz about online education. In a few sentences he reminds us that if online teaching and education is going to be successful, then it will need to fit the ways in which learning occurs. His answer to the question of whether "video" is better than "text" nicely illustrates the point that it is not the medium one uses that matters, but how the medium is used to support to learning. Online teaching and learning needs to be built on our theories and research about how people learn. There is much hype about today's students learning different than students in the past. Despite the talk there is relatively little to suggest that humans learn much different today than twenty years ago-- perhaps even a 1000 years ago.

The real opportunity afforded by online learning is that we can build more flexible, adaptive and robust learning environments for people. The sad part is that most of today's online teaching does not incorporate much of what we know about how people learn. It remains lecture and multiple choice testing. We can do better.