XKCD Isolation comic (#1601) by Randall Munroe retrieved Sep 6, 2020 from https://xkcd.com/1601/
I found this XKCD comic well before taking LRNT 523 at RRU, and I think it summarizes that while the specific technologies might change, namely books, newspapers, magazines, televisions, walkmans, and smartphones; the perceptions and opinions regarding them remain fairly constant, in this case social isolation. This applies for technology in general, but also more specifically, Ed Tech.
While reading the book 25 Years of Ed Tech by Martin Weller, I see a similar tendency. This is shown again with a comic at the start of the book on page 2 before the introduction.
Weller (2020) explains that many people in Ed Tech, think of new technology simply as a re-creation of a previous technology.
It has often been noted that when a new technology arrives, it tends to be used in old ways before its unique characteristics are recognized. So, for example, television was initially treated as “radio with pictures”. (p. 64)
This pitfall is a problem, especially when people overlook the features and benefits of the new technology. Another example provided by Weller (2020) is for online classes. He explains in the chapter for 2006 – Web 2.0, that traditional post-secondary degrees are often compressed into 3-4 year programs because students want to limit the expense of staying on campus. Since online classes do not have the constraint of being on campus, do they need to be in this condensed form? Online classes provides a new feature of giving students more time to complete their credential, but if we are restricted to our previous viewpoints, we may not be able to afford the benefits of the new technology.
This tendency is, I think, something we should learn from so that we don’t under utilize technology. One final example of this tendency in the chapter for 2007 – Second Life and Virtual Worlds, when Weller (2020) explains that virtual reality (VR) for education can (and should) be used for much more than just virtual lectures. It can be used for simulating forestry practices, diagnosing and simulating medical treatments, and so much more.
For me, lesson #1 is that every technology has advantages and disadvantages.
As I’ve summed up below, we need to take a critical look at the tools and technologies before judging them:
- Don’t blindly follow the hype: Don’t assume that because a technology has many great features it will work in all situations.
- Ignore the naysayers: Just because a technology has some failings, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the tool(s) being used in other situations.
- Investigate for yourself: Use the right tool(s) for the right job. Realize your situation is unique and may require different technology than those around you.
In my work as an instructor in computing, critically analyzing new technology is crucial. Many new technologies are created every day, many with huge hype and passionate critics. I need to keep reminding myself that ultimately I need to use what works for me and my application. Not for what the hype tells me is important and sometimes despite what the critics are saying.
Lesson #2, is that there is more to education than the content. The chapter on 2004 – Open Education Resources from Weller (2020), says that “contrary to many prophecies of doom… there was more to an education than simply the content” (p.78). As an instructor this affects me, since many instructors do not share their content with other instructors. And while I wouldn’t want someone to use my teaching content without my permission, I find it highly restrictive when attempting to teach a new course not having access to other instructor’s material. There is a lot of work required to create content for a new course; there’s finding the textbook(s) or reading resource(s), lessons, creating quizzes, in-class activities and exercises, practical labs and assignments, group projects, and exams. Without having example content when designing a course, including content for pre-requisite and post-requisite courses, I spend much time rediscovering the same resources and recreating the same content.
Our current policy for my work is that your course materials belong to you, the instructor, and by default are kept private. If we say education is more than the content, maybe our worth as an instructor would be predicated on our ability to teach the content, provide real-life examples and experiences, and troubleshot student interactions; instead of just the content we create. This way we could share the content freely and not worry about loosing our worth as instructors. Perhaps this would improve the quality of the content for everyone because we can leverage existing content, making a richer learning experience for the students. Or perhaps I am dreaming of a utopia, where everyone gets along, no one steals and takes advantage of the situation for their own personal gain. I’d like to think, though, that we could and should share our content openly, with respect for those who created it.
Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. AU Press, Athabasca University. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771993050.01
Featured Image: https://xkcd.com/1601/