About this blog

Students can feel constrained by ways of communicating and learning that seem opaque and fixed because they are permeated with norms never made explicit, knowledge they do not share, or the language of others.

Janette Ryan and Rosemary Viete
Respectful interactions: learning with international students in the English-speaking academy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Which innovations should we adopt? Comments on the role of a MOOC

This morning I read a few blog posts from the MOOC daily newsletter, one of which was from Sue Hellman, Small Changes; BIG RETURNS

Sue made some interesting observations about applying technology with a one-size- fits- all approach, namely, that it doesn't work. I agree. But I didn't quite agree that new technology and pedagogy ideas are necessarily presented as 'cure all' - but that is often how people who haven't (yet) spent a lot of time researching and exploring an idea come to perceive it from others who are more enthusiastic, and who have found the benefits they wanted. The new explorers begin to feel as though this is the 'new thing' they need to do, and catch up with, or be left behind. 

But those who feel overwhelmed often times forget that pens and overhead projectors and computers were once 'new innovative technologies' - but now they are ubiquitous tools in the repertoire. Here's a small part of what Sue said, among much interesting and valuable reflection, on changing pedagogy: 

"It's not that the innovation was a bad one. It's that giving it the tag of 'cure-all', mass producing it, and professionally developing everyone in its how to go about it (sort of), means the original vision becomes so diluted, the very thing that made it innovative in the first place is lost. It's no longer a creative response but has morphed into an expected norm." 
Schools and universities working with new technology and pedagogy and investing money, are usually thinking carefully, and evaluating. All teachers need to reflect on the best ways to employ new technology, or new ways of teaching, and evaluate the benefits for themselves. This doesn't, or shouldn't mean rejecting something if you can't see it's immediate benefit. 

So, I agreed with Sue's positive words on the value of a MOOC as one way teachers can explore, learn, see and hear positives and negatives, and be "open" to change. Here's my comment to Sue: 

"Thanks for these thoughts. I do agree a forum like MOOC had a lot of potential. As an EdTech manager, and as an academic and teacher, I communicate new ideas in technology and pedagogy to teachers with the proviso that they should by all means explore, but only run with a certain new thing if they think it can enhance, or develop in creative ways the skills their students need. 

What seems to me to be different about the current wave of technology change in education, is that we are being advised that the 21st century student is different from former generations, and that they need different skills for a changing global workforce, and to prepare them for a world which is undergoing rapid change. 

In some ways they are different in the classroom, but not all are digitally literate, or indeed, display terribly many different personal or study behaviors. They just have new online forums to act in. I think any innovative technology idea which is worth it's salt should become ubiquitous. But it's what teachers and students do with it, and make happen from using it, which can continue to be innovative and 'new." 

It's so important for teachers to continue to remember what its like to be a learner.


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