[Air-l] Technology Transforming Education

Dr. Steve Eskow drseskow at cox.net
Tue May 22 13:20:33 PDT 2007


Here are some thoughts, Charles, stimulated by your interesting post.

<<I think we are getting very close to instructional design that removes the
need for faculty. For many learners and some content, good instructional
designers are already creating content that outweighs the value added of the
instructor. Yes, such content costs a lot more than each delivery of "chalk
and talk" but, once created, the physical cost of delivery is marginal. Such
marginal cost would be an administrators dream unless they thought things
all the way through.>>

First: this assumes that good learning results from "design."

Most of what we learn we learn through undesigned experience and practice:
we learn to be students, athletes, parents, Republicans, Democrats, cooks,
adults, household repairers. . .without designed instruction. For this
reason there is body of educational practice that proposes a shift away from
immersion in the environment called "classroom" and an expansion of
"experiential learning": having students immersed in the "real world," and
connecting the experiences they have there to the disciplines.

Second, we have had brilliantly designed learning materials for centuries. I
have a sociology textbook in front of me that is "designed" to move a
student from sociological ignorance to expertise. It begins at the beginning
and moves the student to the complexities of sociology in easy--and
well-designed--stages. If design were enough, we wouldn't need sociology
instructors now.

And: there is a television series on sociology that accompanies the
textbook: brilliantly scripted, acted, filmed: designed. And yet we have
instructors.

Or: are you thinking of the notion that the computer can add dialog to the
design--become a tutor, ask the student the questions an instructor might
ask, and obviate the need for a live instructor by being a kind of
technological Socrates?


Clearly your logic is right: if "design" can eventually do all that an
instructor can do, the instructor is superfluous.

Perhaps, however,  all "design" can do is change the role of the instructor.

Steve Eskow 

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Charles Balch Ph.D.
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 12:27 PM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Technology Transforming Education


I'd be very interested in hearing what other members think are some of the
forces associated technology driven changes to education. Some forces that
jump out for me are cost, quality, and fun. Fun is important to me -- I like
to play with new toys.

But I want to wander I bit. I've heard it argued that the chalkboard has
changed education more than any other technology.  Chalkboards are
relatively cheap, use very little in the way of consumables, are kind to the
environment, and use technology that is easily mastered. Chalkboards brought
education to many who could not otherwise afford the cost of entry.
Chalkboards also created the need for a lot more instructors.

Modern computer technology is certainly far beyond the chalkboard but I
think the analogies somewhat hold true. Modern technologies are becoming
cheaper all the time, (arguably) use little consumables compared to other
ways of distributing content, and provide a technology that is often easy to
use. Modern technology also provides us with a number of fascinating new
modalities such as sound, programmed instruction, and animation.

But what is driving instructional change? Is it faculty who constantly
strive for a better way? Student demand? Excitement about something that is
new and improved? At the community college where I teach, administration's
primary metric for judging my worth appears to be the number of student
credit hours I pump out. Thus admin loves technology that increases credit
hours delivered while reducing the cost to deliver the content. It seems at
least some higher ed administrators would happily buy into Papert's vision
of the electronic instructor. 

Oddly enough, from an altruistic point of view, I like the idea of
inexpensive mass produced education for the masses. I particularly like the
idea of getting the basics covered mechanically if I might be able to move
into more of a role of moderator or facilitator for higher level courses.
>From a not so altruistic point of view, I spent many years getting my
various degrees and would hate to become obsolete. How many rocks stars does
education need?

I think we are getting very close to instructional design that removes the
need for faculty. For many learners and some content, good instructional
designers are already creating content that outweighs the value added of the
instructor. Yes, such content costs a lot more than each delivery of "chalk
and talk" but, once created, the physical cost of delivery is marginal. Such
marginal cost would be an administrators dream unless they thought things
all the way through.

One more analogy. Until the printing press was invented, books were very
expensive to make. The printing press made books much more popular and drove
the technology of books in ways that had not been considered.  The creation
of tables of contents, indexes, page numbers, abstracts, ISBN numbers and
such where all improvements to book technology driven by books popularity.
These changes took a long time. The recent success of Google shows that we
are still learning much about how to use technology. I think it is going to
be a fun ride.

Thoughts?

Charles Balch
http://charles.balch.org


-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Caroline
Haythornthwaite
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2007 10:37 AM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Academic traditions

There is indeed a large movement re online education from many directions. A
very interesting transformation, one that I try to follow closely.  /C

---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 22 May 2007 12:21:23 -0400
>From: "Heidelberg, Chris" <Chris.Heidelberg at ssa.gov>
>Subject: Re: [Air-l] Academic traditions
>To: <air-l at listserv.aoir.org>
>
>Caroline:
>
>I concur! I am amazed at how many professors in the academic game do 
>not understand the history and research behind this technology that was 
>ironically created in large part and tested on the campuses of research 
>institutions under federal and corporate grants. Your assessment is 
>correct because the Ivy league schools (Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc), 
>major private institutions (Duke, Johns Hopkins, Stanford), technology 
>based schools (Cal-Poly,Georgia Tech, MIT)and many flagship 
>universities (Cal-Berkeley, Illinois-Champaign,Maryland,Michigan,Ohio 
>State and
>Texas-Austin) have already taken their offerings online (Rhodes, 
>2001)to match the challenge posed by the University of Phoenix and others.
>However, if one were to examine the federal defense based and medical 
>grants received by these research institutions over the course of 
>history since WWII, it is clear that the technology is not going away 
>and new professors will have to get with the program and start looking 
>at options like online publishing for environmental and financial 
>reasons (Willinsky, 2006). The key will be the new methods created by 
>and for learners by professors (Gee, 2005) such as video games.
>

----------------------------------------
Caroline Haythornthwaite
Associate Professor
Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign
501 East Daniel St., Champaign IL 61820


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