‘What’s the Real Source of Pedagogic Change?’

[Note: Snagged is a new feature in ETCJ to spotlight some of the latest and most stimulating articles on educational technology. The idea came about in an informal email exchange within the last 24 hours with Bert Kimura, who’s been sending me some of his best web snags for the last fifteen plus years. His latest, this article by Donald Clark, has moved us to develop Snagged, a platform for recognizing articles that hook our attention and, hopefully, encourage us to jump into a discussion. Please send your catch of the day to me, jamess@hawaii.edu, for possible snagging. -Editor]

Donald Clark, in “More Pedagogic Change in 10 Years Than Last 1000 Years – All Driven by 10 Technology Innovations,” asks, “What’s the real source of pedagogic change?” His answer: “The primary driver for pedagogic change is something that has changed the behaviours of learners, independently of teachers, teaching and education – the internet” (Donald Clark Plan B, 12.7.11).

Here are the ten technology innovations with excerpted explanations:

  1. Asynchronous – the new default: Only after you’ve exhausted the asynchronous online options should you consider synchronous face-to-face events.
  2. Links – free from tyranny of linear learning: It has allowed us to escape from the linear straightjacket of the lecture or paper bound text
  3. Search and rescue: This pedagogic shift means more independence for learners, less dependence on memorised facts and answers to most questions, 24/7, for free.
  4. Wikipedia and death of the expert: The radical pedagogic shift is not only in the way knowledge is produced but the fact that it’s free, seen as open to discussion and debate, and so damn useful.
  5. Facebook and friends: Being networked means living within a new pedagogic ecosystem.
  6. Twitter, texting and posting: Far from drifting towards high end media, text is alive and kicking.
  7. Youtube – less is more and ‘knowing how’: YouTube has shown us how to do video, keep it short and that we don’t need big budgets to do good stuff.
  8. Games: Gameplay is just another word for sophisticated, experiential pedagogy.
  9. Tools: Tools [word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tools], pedagogically, allow us to teach and learn at a much higher level.
  10. Open source: In this age of digital abundance, open and free content is the democratisation of knowledge…. Pedagogy, in this sense, has been freed from institutional teaching.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Clark? Disagree? Partially agree? Do you see it differently? If yes, how so? Please share your thoughts with us as a comment to this article. If you encounter problems posting, email your comment to me and I’ll post it for you. -Jim (jamess@hawaii.edu)

10 Responses

  1. I think what we are seeing as the force of change (push and pull) is the increasing access to information sacred and profane. We witnessed the same sort of revolution in the Western civilizations during the middle ages when the then major source of information – “Bibles” and church services – were no longer only in Latin, but made accessible in the vernacular. It’s just the scale that’s different and mediums of information distribution (web enabled devices), but these influences are ancillary to the democratization and access to information… information about what, when, how, where, and who and, importantly, many voices about the “why” of things are now available. I’ve been an on online instructor for a decade and my role is more to facilitate paths toward skill and knowledge acquisition than to deliver it, but my fundamental educator role as motivator, questioner, and engaging resource has not evolved considerably, I’d argue. I do certainly have more tools to “teach” and “learn” with (often one and the same process), but the tool and the content it conveys or constructs is not as significant as the process and outcomes.

    • Dr. LM Johnson: “I’ve been an on online instructor for a decade and my role is more to facilitate paths toward skill and knowledge acquisition than to deliver it, but my fundamental educator role as motivator, questioner, and engaging resource has not evolved considerably, I’d argue.”

      This strikes me as the kind of comment that can only come from an educator who has actually taught in the online environment for many years. I’ve had this same thought, too. It reminds me of the student — there’s always one in every completely online class I’ve taught — who complains at the end of the semester: “You haven’t taught me anything. I’ve had to learn everything on my own.”

      What he means is that the teacher didn’t tell him what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and why. Instead, he had to read the information and apply it on his own. Of course, he fails to realize that the information was designed, provided, and linked to by the teacher. I’m not convinced that this isn’t a good thing, i.e., shifting the responsibility for learning to the learner rather than the teacher. In the end, the student is empowered. In the traditional model, the real danger is a student who remains increasingly dependent on teachers for learning and believes he can only learn in a classroom led by a teacher.

      As online teachers, I believe we’re engaging students but in different ways. Many of our most critical exchanges are via private email with individual students. We also engage students in chatrooms and forums. Here, even when we address a single student, our comments are public to all. Thus, we touch the one as well as the many.

      And our dialogues don’t end at the end of class or the semester. We can continue to dialogue with students long after the class is over.

  2. I get the feeling that the list has ten items because we have ten digits. Much of really good education is not open source, even much of the free stuff — to give one example.

    The really good stuff includes asynchronous; that’s a huge change in how we can learn even though it’s not be utilized as much as it should be yet.

    Links are nice but weren’t required to eliminate linear learning. I mean, you can do that even in a book, and many do. Instead, I am more interested in adaptive learning where remediation is provided as necessary, and those learning faster can move ahead faster.

    “Search and rescue” and Wikipedia appear to be two sides of the same coin. They slightly remove the necessity for memorizing some stuff, but other stuff that was silly to memorize in the first place may finally be dethroned. Do not, however, underestimate the importance of a good memory.

    YouTube has really become a remarkable change agent because you can upload just about any video for free, and people can view it for the same price. Motion is better at engaging than stasis. Means for sharing video will continue to have an increasing impact on everything, including education.

    Facebook and Twitter are both social media. These can make a difference in education if you can rise above the noise levels. However, social media is not, in and of itself, education. Too often forums and other social networking media have pleas from students to answer problems that they should answer themselves. No matter how difficult, the process of figuring out the answer often is a critical part of the learning process. Few courses have as their primary learning goal to do networking.

    Games are another topic entirely. IMO, the verdict remains unknown for them, and they don’t yet belong on this list.

    The tools mentioned do what? Presentation software takes the place of poster boards. Word processors take the place of typewriters. Electronic spreadsheets can help with organizing data. These things become more facile in the electronic age but hardly are game-changers for education.

    Someday, I should sit back and contemplate the changes that will most impact education. I would put a spotlight on cloud computing with its anytime-anywhere feature of access and the ability to capture all that you do online for analysis. Ultimately, what comes from this innovation will have a huge impact on education. I’ll leave the others until another day.

    • Harry, you’re right about the number of innovations. Ten is a great number for lists. Still, it doesn’t change Clark’s point that the internet is a game changer. The list could be boiled down to one major difference: anytime anywhere access to people and information.

      This past week, our university was searching for a new head football coach. The latest breaking news about candidates, the interview process, etc. appeared in web versions of newspapers almost as they happened. However, the real action for info was in a sports reporter’s blog. Hundreds were posting the latest info from countless sources and each bit was scrutinized by others with additional info.

      The substantiated data was being published in related wikis as they became available. Thus, minutes after the decision was made, the news was in the blogs and in the wikis before it was formally published in newspapers or reported on TV. This is what Clark means by “a new pedagogic ecosystem.” We haven’t dumped the old, but we’ve simply added the new over and next to it. It’s like telephone booths in a setting where people are using cell phones.

      This is how the young get info on products and services, on entertainment: where to get tickets, reviews, etc. They see the traditional hype, but they also see the opinions and reviews of peers who have tried or tested the items.

      As educators, we haven’t learned how to take learning into this “new pedagogic ecosystem.” One of the reasons is that we refuse to accept the fact that it’s different. We continue to fool ourselves into believing that it’s just another add-on to our traditional time and place bound classrooms. That is, we know all there is to know about this technology and we’re using it at an optimal level in our classrooms.

      Harry, many of your points re the misuse of technology make sense. However, that doesn’t diminish its potential. Again, educators really have to see the pedagogical potential in the new technology to make it work for them. In this regard, simply using it to carry on business as usual is foolish. The new technology invites completely new pedagogy, but we won’t see it unless we’re open to it.

      When people from Europe first came to settle the East Coast of North America in the early 17th century, many starved to death, unaware of the rich food sources that surrounded them. The Indians helped to open their eyes to the bounty all around them — food that they weren’t accustomed to. They were in a new world, and they had to adopt new ways to survive and thrive.

      • I don’t think we disagree, Jim. In my hurry, I may not have been as clear as I might. Asynchronous online learning will be an even greater game-changer than it has been.

      • I’ll add another note that I believe you agree with. Teachers’ roles may change, but their necessity does not. Self-taught, even in a group, leaves holes in learning. Experts know how to guide learning so that it leaves no holes. My personal experience proves this simple truism over and over. Most of my skills have been self-taught, including programming and writing. While I feel competent in both, I do not feel that I have learned everything that I should have.

        Technology, as technology, is not the game-changer. I’m sure that slate was available for a long time before it began to be used for blackboards. You might say that it’s the packaging of technology for education. Word processors, to take one example from the original posting, are not packaged for learning.

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