Education and Technology

Sophia Li writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education

The most popular tools cited by professors were e-textbooks and online documents, with faculty members reporting far less enthusiasm for other electronic tools. Under a quarter of faculty members surveyed use wikis or blogs in their teaching, and only 31 percent of professors surveyed considered online collaboration tools “essential” to today’s classroom, compared with 72 percent of over 300 IT employees surveyed.

I’m probably going to say some things to annoy some educators so please understand I’m dealing in archtypes here.

I think this evidence supports my own hypothesis that ‘older-style’ educators prefer instructive methods where ‘progressive-style’ educators use collaborative methods. From my own talking to teachers and lecturers there are several gaps to be filled before a balance can be achieved.

The Technology Gap
Most educators are simply not familiar with technology. The transition to e-textbooks is easy enough but the adoption of wikis, forums and instant messaging is going to be a whole new world to learn. Whether you’re moving from markup to emoticons – it’s all new stuff to learn.

The Education Gap
Are the types of education entirely applicable for instructive or collaborative education? There’s a difference of proportions depending on whether the lesson is skills-based or theory-based. It’s not simply that ‘progressive’ collaborative-style education is better – it’s whether the questions have been asked about what can be done, what should be done and what the results may be.

The Personality Gap
My education was very instructive. I was lucky, however, to have some exceptionally good teachers* during my time at Rathmore. All of these teachers encouraged as well as educated and supported a explorative/collaborative educational approach. We didn’t have technology in any of these classes and maybe they would have been intimidated by it, maybe not. There was only one teacher, during my secondary education, who relied entirely on instructive education and who was obviously intimidated/frustrated by students simply asking questions.

The Confidence Gap
Some educators are simply not going to be confident enough to put together a wiki or forum where the possibility of anonymity might lead students to be outspoken, or worse, overfamiliar. Some of them like the position of respect I’m sure but there is a happy medium in carving out a presence online with personal-level communication with students.

I am not qualified to say whether any particular approach is better – but it’s worth exploring what is the appropriate response to technology in the classroom.

*these teachers were:
Sister Mary-Jo, Religious Education (pre-GCSE)
Miss Lowe, Domestic Science (pre-GCSE)
Mr Neeson, English Lit/Lang (GCSE)
Mrs Hilditch, Biology GCSE
Dr Rogan, Biology A-Level
Mrs Hunt, Chemistry A-Level

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