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education technology – Mousework

Derek Wenmoth grabbed my attention (again) in his recent post about (re) arguing the case for ICTs in schools…(“Really?” you ask, “Are we still arguing that case?” Yes, I say…but that’s beside the point here)…In particular, Derek touched on something that I experience regularly doing academic development work: the push-back by teaching staff who don’t want to engage with technology…The old ‘you can’t do that online’ argument rings in my ears almost daily.

The case in point on Derek’s blog is of a school teacher who is resistant to teaching online because it won’t allow her continue her currently pedagogical approach based on the socratic method in which the teacher uses guided questioning to help the learners make meaning from their activity, experience and course content.  Now, those of you who have been around online learning for a while will know that the socratic methods is not only possible, but has been used widely in online teaching for over a decade.  I can remember experiencing it as a learner when I first studied online in 1999.  As part of her explanation, the teacher in question goes on to disparage online learning based on her experiences as a grad student, describing online courses as ‘uninspired’ and ‘less informed’ than in-person classes.  So, in the end, Derek dissects the push-back and comes to the following conclusion:

Seems to me that the main argument here is simply a bad personal experience with online learning, which is now being dressed up with ‘edu-speak’ to thinly disguise a personal preference

That there is push-back against the use of technology is unremarkable…but the interesting thing for me is rationales people provide for *not* engaging with or using technology. A careful look at them reveals that many are based on bad personal experiences: teaching experiments gone wrong, online study in the early days of online education and limited technical literacy getting in the way of using technology in the classroom…What’s more, in some of these cases, the negative experience was isolated: a single course, even a small number of individual sessions or a single event.

Oh well, the lesson really bogged down because of the smart board problem, I guess I won’t use that again.  Really?  I wrecked my car when I was 16.  The front wheel slipped off onto the shoulder into soft mud…the car pulled hard, went into the ditch and flipped over.  It was pretty scary.  I had only minor injuries and felt better in a couple of days.  Guess what?  It didn’t stop me from driving.  I drove again (the next day)…and have driven regularly ever since.  Why?  Well, I *had to*.  I couldn’t get around otherwise.  Plus, with another 20+ years of experience under my belt, I have to admit that sometimes, I really like driving.  I don’t *love* it, but it allows me to go places I couldn’t otherwise and that is a powerful motivator.  I still remember that crash.  I like to think I learned from it.  I have had a couple of fender-benders since then too,  but I keep driving.

I think its fair to say that we’ve all be let down by technology.  And, the more we use it, the more tales we have to tell about things going awry.  Hardware problems, software problems, network problems, user error, poor preparation, and unforeseen situations have all left me redfaced  over lessons, meetings, conversations, interviews, negotiations and other work that has been compromised by the fact that it is mediated by technology, which seemed to fail.  Nevertheless, I get up every morning and the first thing I do is turn on my laptop, check my emails and get right back to reading, writing, chatting, blogging, tweeting and working online.  I might say I *have to* because that’s how I make a living, but in fact I *choose to* because I belive that the technology helps me do more, better.

I often reflect on the fact that  learning to use a technology or a particular tool, like learning to use anything, takes time and effort.  You start as a novice.  You make mistakes.  You learn from them.  You make fewer mistakes.  You become (more of) an expert.  Sometimes, even as an expert and despite your best efforts, things don’t work out well.  ‘Successes’ are relative  and while the ‘failures’ may be memorable,  they are usually offset by more and more successes, particularly if you persevere beyond the initial days of novice-ness.   Sometimes, you look silly and that can be the hardest part for some of us (which is at the heart of it for many of us who like to be in control).    And, like learning most things, working to use technology seems easier when you a) have a good reason to do so, b) set your mind to it and c) get some help.

So, if we want to focus on getting teachers to (re)engage with technology in teaching, lets not forget those bad experiences, but lets work with them, learn from them and move on…  What we shouldn’t do-what we *can’t afford to do* is turn our backs on technology when we have a bad experience.  Otherwise, not only do we suffer, but so do our students, who don’t benefit from working with teachers who help them learn to work through bad experiences, learn from them and move on…

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Author : chazrich

Charles is an English for Special Purposes (ESP) instructor for the US Government with experience in computers, technical writing, design, and of course, English instruction and with a Master's degree in Technology in Education. Charles can help you with a variety of things like copy writing, planning, and technology selection. He has experience with various LMS and LCMS systems and can help you decide if one is right for your needs. He's also the webmaster for this site.

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