Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Technology Is Transforming Learning

One of the things I appreciate about Gardner Campbell’s approach to technology in education is that he doesn’t focus on a specific cool new thing.  He wants us – teachers, students, administrators, as well as everyone else – to be thinking about the bigger picture, about how technologies of all kinds shape the way we think and the ways we teach and learn.  And he wants us to imagine the changes that technology makes possible not as a set of prescriptions about what we must do but about a set of possibilities.  That’s why instead of teaching faculty how to use online discussion boards or blogs, he begins by inviting teachers to learn about how new media is changing culture and all the myriad things it can make possible. 

But as he knows, as we all know, thinking about all of that can be overwhelming.  Change, and especially change that takes us in directions we can’t yet imagine, is scary, and for all the ways education can be a place of innovation it can be equally resistant to change.  The basic structures of education, at all levels, have not changed significantly over the last century, even though knowledge, what we know about learning, and the array of resources available for learning are constantly changing.  Because most education happens within institutions, thinking about large-scale restructuring can seem like a waste of time – no matter how important we think it is.  On the other hand, because teaching has long been a fairly private activity – teachers control their own classrooms, and we don’t talk all that much about what we do inside those rooms – we have the flexibility and power to make change from the classroom up.  A look at Gardner’s work on the EDUCAUSE website, and some exploration through the rest of that site’s Learning Initiative materials, can give you a glimpse of what’s possible. 

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