Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Digital Does Not Always Mean Powering Up

About five years ago I was invited to speak about emerging educational trends to the executives at a well known publishing and distribution company. The CEO of the company warned me that the executives understood how to use educational technology because they had been using Power Point for years. This statement immediately told me that the executives at the company did not have a strong understanding of current technological trends. They thought they did. But, they did not.

How many educators and educational developers think that they use technology well but in reality fall far short of the mark?

I suspect that most educational developers are very weak when it comes to developing high quality educational resources that take advantage of technology. This morning I have been reading about blended learning and distance learning.

I had a thought.

Is there necessarily a difference between the kind of learning that takes place in a face to face classroom and the kind of learning that takes place in a synchronous learning environment? The answer is "of course not". Educators can talk at students in both face to face classrooms and synchronous learning environments. On the other hand, they can also engage students in meaningful learning in both types of environments. Just because learning takes place in an online learning environment does not mean that educators are taking advantage of advanced technology. Nor does it mean that students are "powering up".

Children and adolescents are used to going on online. This is what they do. At one time going into a synchronous learning environment would have been novel and invigorating in its own right. But this is no longer the case, particularly for digital natives.

There are so many invigorating activities that can be accomplished online. It is an absolute waste of time when educational resources do not take advantage of these incredible possibilities.

If you are interested in seeing just one example of an innovative educational resource that takes advantage of the Internet and online learning contact me. I have developed a series of units using Google Earth as a curriculum wrapper and I'd be happy to send you one complimentary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Not About the Technology

My organization, A Pass Educational Group, has recently been asked to work with a major publisher designing instruction for blended courses. Today I was looking at an outline of a seminar on blended learning and I realized that the author understood the role of technology in learning. The author articulated an objective as, "Making the technology fit the skills you need to engender."

It's not about the technology. It is about mastering specific knowledge and skills. Technology is only beneficial if it helps students fulfill this mastery.

Years ago, I had a conversation with my mother who is not an educator but is a very smart person. I told her that I thought that every school should have a computer class for every grade, just as every grade has a math class. My mother correctly told me that I was wrong. Unlike math, computer/technology is not an end in and of itself. Rather it is something that promotes the learning of something else. (In a different blog post, I can consider whether or not elementary and high school knowledge should ever be an end in itself.)

My mother knew many years ago that technology is not an end in itself. But, interestingly many school districts and curriculum developers continue to look at computers, Web 2.0, and technology as meaningful in their own right. My friend Michael Johnson has told me that he always tells schools that have stand-alone technology plans that they are going to fail. For technology is not meant to stand alone.

I think that my work on the blended courses is off to a good start. For my colleagues obviously know what they are talking about.