The Rise and Fall of Educational Technology.

Link to: The Rise and Fall of Educational Technology: Did We Miss the Point?

It’s taking a while to get caught up after the Thanksgiving break. Apparently, educational technology died while I was on vacation, and I missed it! There’s much in this long artlcle that I agree with–particularly reflecting on the class we’re finishing up on Educational Technology Planning.

As technology permeates every discipline to some degree or another, the field of educational technology is growing dramatically, and it’s really hard for any course to avoid being a mile wide and an inch deep. Sebastian Foti lists a half a dozen topics that we didn’t even consider or merely waved at.

For example, there is the history of computing; using the computer for things such as word processing, building databases, making movies, creating music, developing budgets, creating charts. . . doing educational “research” and becoming familiar with famous researchers; learning about laws related to computer use; understanding innovation diffusion; and much, much more.

While there were lots of topics that we didn’t get to, the group project in creating our Drupal community site gave everyone some experience in bridging the gap between theory and practice:

Thinking about hypermedia interfaces adds a dimension to the communication stream that goes beyond building convincing textual arguments. It forces one to think about the vast number of variables associated with perception. More importantly, More importantly, it challenges the notion that the author is in control.

Foti’s point is well taken in that even if constructionism accurately describes individual learning (which I believe it does), developers have to work beyond their own learning to anticipate and understand the perceptions of the users of a website or piece of software–users that they probably will never “meet.” Until someone starts making decisions about what piece of code goes where, the website is just a blank piece of paper. (Well virtual paper, maybe.) Code, not magic creates, software. Our experience was summed up perfectly by the following:

Such development empowers learners by putting them in charge of hundreds, perhaps thousands of decisions. The “product” represents the instantiation of all of those decisions and it can provide pride not granted by a mandatory, directed writing assignment

The section on how do we fix it is has some good ideas as well.

  1. Encourage the use of media.
  2. Bring academic computing back into teacher discussions.
  3. Help students develop tools for students.
  4. Don’t think about how.
  5. Expand the dialog.

3 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of Educational Technology.”

  1. Your thoughts on constructivism remind me of Jerome Bruner’s notion that part of education involves developing a theory (or theories) of other minds. For me, this is a central insight. To put it in constructivist terms, my own scaffolding in any area must always include a section called “this is how I imagine others to be scaffolding” and one called “these are my reflections on scaffolding as a concept and practice in community” and one called “here are the ancestors of the scaffolding I’m doing right now.” All three are aspects of one process, of course: inferring other minds, and communicating based on those inferences. On one level we can’t help doing that. Bruner’s point, however, if I’m reading him correctly, is that our ability to shape communication, commmunity, and education can be augmented by bringing those processes into a newly informed and heightened self-awareness.

    I tell my composition students to imagine that as they write they are staging a virtual event in someone else’s mind. Some of them get it; some don’t. And I try to infer the cognitive blockers or enablers….

  2. Gardner,

    Thanks for linking this to Bruner’s work on “other minds” and for highlighting the importance of bringing those other minds more sharply into awareness as we construct our websites and other products of our own learning.

    Your formulation of “staging a virtual event in someone else’s mind” captures the challenge vividly, as well.

  3. I couldn’t link up to the article but I did want to comment about the Drupal project, Foti, constructionism, and Brown’s “Growing Up Digital”. Brown said in his article that “Judgement is inherently critical to becoming an effective digitial bricoleur.” This concept of bricolage from Levi-Strauss is constructionism in my mind – “an object, tool, document, a piece of code – use it to build something you deem important.” This quote was our entire Drupal project which tied very nicely to the closing points of your post which I will repeat with my take on them:

    1. Encourage the use of media. (Our class used blogs some of us expanded our blogs with pictures, audio, hyperlinking correctly, collecting RSS feeds. We dialogued with our comments/replys in the Drupal project as well as on the discussion board.)

    2. Bring academic computing back into teacher discussions. (I can’t speak for the rest of my classmates but I certainly am having teachers at my school read the “Growing Up Digital” and to read my blog but I can’t convince them to blog – not even the tech teacher – but I am working on him.)

    3. Help students develop tools for students. (For me I am figuring out how to use blogging with my students to have literature circles to hopefully engage them and not enrage them for the Spring semester. I have done webquests but I think blogging will have students express themselves more openly than they would in a classroom in front of their peers.)

    4. Don’t think about how. (For me again, I just need to fiddle with the stuff to see what it does which makes me like a Netgeneration kid even though I am Generation X. I have to just do it which I think frustrated our techies but I needed more meaning by having access to certain components in Drupal which was somewhat supported in Prensky’s article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II”.

    5. Expand the dialog. (Communities of Practice – Sheryl said this again and again – it is the key; blogs can help with this but we need to get more educators involved with this aspect. Perhaps one reason (and I now just thought) new teachers are not staying in education is that the Digital Immigrants (veteran teachers) are slowing them down and the newbies (Digital Natives) can’t find satisfaction in the structure dominance that the Digital Immigrants have imposed. In my school district, we talk technology but to be honest it is still done the old-fashion way because we just don’t have the finances to be able to have access for everyone at once. One computer lab for 300+ sixth graders just doesn’t cut it. Prensky offers lots of observations but without the finances to have computers for all, it’s going to be like my dial-up with lots of disconnections:)

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