False Panacea

I ran across Jon Udell’s post on The once and future university which pointed to Mike Caulfield’s post with the video (Transcript).

Technology, I think, is a false Panacea. The role of information technology is to better aggregate information for whatever it is we do. Such aggregation draws disparate sources together, but the sources fail to fit together well which makes work with them more challenging. True, higher education in general lags behind by years, but there are individuals taking these new technologies and applying them to teaching. Not every technology helps students to learn just by using it. A DVD player, for instance, requires an educator to determine when to use it: what materials are applicable to the class, which students need to see it, are the students ready to comprehend the content, etc. Its not, “Oh, there is a DVD player in the classroom, so lets play anything.”

You might be thinking I am a Luddite. These kids were only online 3.5 hours a day. I am online 8+ hours a day including weekends! We like technology because it can be very useful. The students writes thousands of emails a years. Great! Now, what did they learn out of those emails? I’ve taken an email based class and boy was I confused by the end. Of all the classes I still refer to this day, that class is never one of them. Of course, I can say the same of many email discussions I am involved to this day.

There is no single piece of technology by which everyone will benefit 100% information comprehension in every use. Some people find the same piece intuitive while others will become bogged down by frustration in the lack of usability. I suspect part of this is in how people learn. I learned a long time ago, there were people I could email a set of directions describing what to do and they could do it. Others might need screen shots. Others might need someone over the phone or face-to-face speaking words about what to do. Some required doing it right that instant so the motor action of each click would become ingrained. So many disparate ways to comprehend creates a need for the same information to exist in many different forms.

The teaching assistant or professor lecturing on a topic adequately meets the needs for some students. Its been ironic to me educators and Educational Psychologists have been studying this for years and implementing fantastic solutions in K-12 classrooms, but in universities these solutions barely make traction. I have faith they will. Technical schools, private colleges, and professional education institutes make use of the solutions. Retention has become an important measure of university success. Universities have responded by attempting to fix everything but the ways content is learned. As students fail out of the universities and find success with these higher education alternative, these students the universities failed will have children whom they encourage to find an alternative.

1 thought on “False Panacea”

  1. This web video has sparked a lot of discussion, which for me is very timely. We are discussing how to build the next learning management system for the state. What we build will be used for several years. Is what we are building what students and faculty really want to use? How far into the future can we predict? Should we be creating 5 and 10 yr plans? Should we instead focus on the short term to address current known shifts in uses? Can we actually keep up with changes, or will we forever be building the newest best version of last years technology?
    My post video web crawl led me to two other videos that in their own way comment on this topic:
    The Machine is Us/ing Us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g
    Randy Pausch’s last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/11/last-lecture.html

    Reply

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