Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let's Get Real-- Online Networks Will Change Education

@bridgers sent me the link to Digital Citizenship by the Australian writer/researcher, Mark Pesce. At the heart of this excellent examination of the impact of technology on schools lies this assertion:

The classroom has not dealt with the phenomenal transformation in the connectivity of the broader culture, and is in danger of becoming obsolesced by it.

I follow @bridgers faithfully on Twitter and have frequently shared her observations and information from her links with current students. She is four years out of my classroom and has already become a new media expert. We are co-learners the relationship we maintain through our mutual interest in Web 2.0 demonstrates the "phenomenal transformation" of which Pesce speaks. There were no @bridgers networked into my life when she was a student in my classroom. But I would argue that teachers and adminstrators who have not connected with the @bridgers online in 2009 are actively engaged in "becoming obsolesced":

We already live in a time of disconnect, where the classroom has stopped reflecting the world outside its walls. The classroom is born of an industrial mode of thinking, where hierarchy and reproducibility were the order of the day.

Just looking about myself here in Southeastern, Michigan, the phrase "industrial mode of thinking" is enough to send shivers down my spine. "Way of thinking" is the key. I've found that many of my colleagues regard my zest for bringing web 2.0 to the classroom as a novelty. One called it a "hobby." Others certainly see it as something one does beyond regular teaching. "When do you have time to learn it?" or "How do you fit this into everything else you teach?" And those are the ones who will even talk about technology without sneering.

Administrators think they want "computing" but they are no more likely to buy into the culture of connecting beyond the walls. Case in point, we had a fledgling "tech integration committee" at school for one semester this year. The budget is tight for next year and guess what disappeared? It's easier to buy hardware and software licenses than to truly commit to culture change.

Pesce speaks of the universal solvent of the network dissolving educational institutions as we know them. Some pretty bright minds in the domestic auto industry couldn't or wouldn't recognize change and ended up submitting control of their destinies. Could this happen to schools?

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"Connexions - Digital Networks" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by cstmweb

3 comments:

Bobsophist said...

I remember when I was teaching a multisite Mass Com course via synchronous video links. I was physically present in front of one section while another section saw me through a live two way video link. The college had quite literally invested thousands of dollars to equip a special classroom on campus as well as the mobile video equipment for the off campus site. I had agreed to the situation. In fact I was quite excited about it. As the day for the first class session approached the administration told me there was a problem. There were enough students for the on campus section but there were only 1 or 2 students who had signed up for the off campus site which was a rural high school about 25 miles away. The intent was to offer this course to high school students who wanted to dual enroll ( a tasteless money grab?). I told them that as much as I wanted to to do it it was not conducive to the collaborative learning environment I wanted for this course. They literally begged me to give them another day. They came back the next day and said that there were now 12 students in the off campus site to go along with the 15 or so I had on campus. The class went but was not very successful from my view point. As I told the administration at the end of the semester, " the good news is that the technology worked but the students didn't."
I turns out that in order to enroll enough students at the high school for the class the director actually walked down the hallways accosting students trying to persuade them to enroll. So what I got were students who were good kids but had no background with any kind of tech and certainly no background for a college level course. As far as I know, no other course was ever offered using this "new" technology. Thousands of dollars spent on equipment without equipping all of those involved ( students, faculty & ADMINISTRATORS) with any prep for the new model. The irony is that by trying "new" educational technology they actually set it back by several years. It sounds to me that something similar is happening with the Web2.0. Some administrators see the sexy side of the equipment and are ready to invest the dollars in the hardware but then do not understand that they also need to invest the dollars and TIME in the preparation of all the players-- students, faculty, ADMINISTRATION and on the high school level, the parents.
Hobby or not .... keep tilting at those luddite windmills

Bridget said...

Thanks for the compliments, Mr. Baker. I am honored.

I really enjoyed my high school experience and had great teachers, but it's really disappointing to hear about the lack of enthusiasm your colleagues have for bringing Web 2.0 and other technologies to the classroom. It's not a "hobby" at all. People use these things on a daily basis, but if they're not learning how to properly take advantage of them, they're going to be ill-equipped for the future.

It's especially disappointing to hear that the technology initiatives were part of the budget cuts this year. Women are underrepresented in technologically-oriented majors at many universities, and you often hear about Silicon Valley being male dominated. I would hope that at an all-girls school, they would be encouraging students to learn as much as they can about technology so that this gender gap won't exist in the future.

I think I may have already pointed you to this video, but I'll link to it again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8. This shows why it is absolutely necessary for schools to better integrate technology into their curricula.

Larry Baker said...

Wow, your comments raise issues that really hit home.

Bob, what a pathetic tale of all the investment going into "stuff" rather than development and training. Sometimes the marketing gets ahead of sound educational practice. At our school the decision to go to the 1:1 program was top-down. There hasn't been much modeling at the "top" and there has been plenty of resistance at the "down". Personally, I've felt supported by administration in my tech adventures, but I also feel sort of out there alone, and my ideas about "connectivism" through ed tech are at odds with other "theories" than have come and gone (such as the digital natives will drive the curriculum). We're not all on the same page by a long shot. Case in point, I was recently told that a new hire would teach the same "bookless" course that I do. I asked how that could possibly work since I had designed the entire thing. I was told that we would "collaborate", showing a complete lack of understanding of how a my course operates or what collaboration means. (sigh).

Bridget, I'm sorry to say that I've been given the cold shoulder by some South Hall neighbors for betraying the quill & parchment / chalk & board practices of yore. Evidently, I now remind them of modernity.

Our 1:1 program presents great potential for giving young women advantages with technology, but NOT if the computers are used as expensive note-taking devices. The internet itself has become the operating system, hasn't it? So this is not about leasing the right machine or mastering a software suite. Students and teachers need to learn about accessing and assessing information. They also need to avail themselves of all the great ways of communicating and pooling information that Web 2.0 offers. Such is the way of the world.

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