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Home | Opinion | Op-Ed: The Problem with Learning Technology is Professors That Don’t Understand It

Op-Ed: The Problem with Learning Technology is Professors That Don’t Understand It

Kirstin R. Wilcox, Lecturer at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is one in a growing long line of higher ed educators that refuse to wrap their big brains around how to use educational technology.

Writing in the blog Chroniclevitae.com, Wilcox talks about how ed tech and all the associated things that go with it are not helping her students actually learn deeply.

She opines that deep learning takes place at the edges of the classroom conversations, and those tools that students use online either prevent that learning, or don’t allow students to go there. (Of course, most of the comments on the blog agree with her…)

“While the pedagogical potential is still there, students now approach such online assignments with grim doggedness. For many students, online informal writing has become just another rote component of a literature course, too similar to what they are expected to do in other classes, not helpful enough to hold their interest. Not only have these platforms lost the aura of immediacy and creativity that they once had, but students have little desire to add an intellectual online persona to the profiles that they cultivate across multiple media. They text, they Snapchat, they Yik-Yak, they swipe right or left on Tinder, they seek advice on Reddit, they connect on LinkedIn, they have mixed feelings about Facebook, they tweet, they have well-formulated reasons for using or eschewing various means of online interaction.”

Just as Clay Shirky and Dan Willingham before her complained about how kids are just too distracted to do actual learning in their classes, a deep read of Wilcox’s complaint (just as with Shirky and Willingham) points towards a professor that is stuck in their presentation styles and unwilling to change:

While discussing her early success having students write blogs, she then pivots the discussion and complains that “For many students, online informal writing has become just another rote component of a literature course, too similar to what they are expected to do in other classes, not helpful enough to hold their interest. Not only have these platforms lost the aura of immediacy and creativity that they once had, but students have little desire to add an intellectual online persona to the profiles that they cultivate across multiple media.”

She does say that there are professors that have been able to “harness that social-media energy to their learning goals, with Twitter hashtags, Facebook study groups, judicious Reddit mining. More power to them.”What? That’s it? More power to them? Using classroom technology is limited to social media? Really?

So here are my questions to Wilcox and to all of the professors out there that continue to make subtle yet, obvious digs at using educational technology as part of their everyday learning experience for their students:

What are you doing to change your delivery methods to adapt to modern teaching techniques? Have you ever taken any kind of professional development on integrating technology into your lectures? Read any books on the subject?

You say that deep learning takes place at the edges of the classroom conversations..How can you grab those conversations and extend them for all your students without using technology? You cannot.

If there are professors, as you claim, that can successfully use social media, what are you doing to learn their techniques? Have you asked them for any advice?

Have you changed your assignments to match modern tools? For instance, do all your assignments have to be written papers? It sure sounds like it from your essay. If you are merely substituting a electronic version of your written assignment then no wonder your students are not engaged deeply.

Have you ever heard of the SAMR model of learning? It sounds to me like your assignments are on the S (lowest level) of technology integration.

Have you ever asked your students what you could do as a teacher to make the classes more interesting?

Don’t you feel it kind of interesting that you yourself blog and tweet yet have issues with those exact same tools in your classes? How can you harness the exact same tools you use to make your class more interesting to the learner?

Finally, I have to wonder where you are mentally as a teacher: Do you think that students have to adapt to your way of teaching in order to learn from you, or do you have to adapt to their way or learning?

Answer that question and you might learn a lot about why your students are not as successful with using the tools of technology as you may wish them to be.

There is a trend now, it seems, for higher ed to be pushing back on the use of technology..it is subtle, but it is there. I wonder, it the problem with the technology, or with the teacher?

***

Author: Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

Feel free to leave a comment.  Read his previous columns here.

About Tim Holt

Tim Holt is an educator and writer, with over 33 years experience in education and opines on education-related topics here and on his own award-winning blog: HoltThink. He values your feedback.

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