Ok, I did post this to webCT but in order to have an archived copy, I am cross posting.


Driving Ms. Daisy into the technology age

One common theme that I found in these posts was the concept of incorporating new interactive media technology in education and learning via distance education. Each of these articles discusses a component or issue of online media. The first article discussed distance learning and the challenges of distance learning. The second article discussed evaluating online resources; the third discussed using the web to teach; and the fourth discussed e-training.

Although it would seem that by definition distance learning would rely heavily on computers and online teaching, it is not a requirement. Distance learning can be as simple as a packet of assignments, a stack of pencils, an envelope and a stamp. However, most distance education programs attempt to harness the interactivity of a classroom via technological tools, such as online chat, real time video, etc.

Certainly, the web can be an important part of distance education. Web and databases with web portals can be a very important part of providing virtual resources for the virtual student. As with any kind of media (print, audio, or electronic), judging the validity of the data is an issue. However, I think the transparency of electronic resources, especially web resources, may offer a unique challenge. However, as web standards increase and metadata becomes more common, this challenge may become less of an issue. It is not that judging the validity of a website is “harder” than judging the validity of the book, it is that it is still a new medium and students have to learn the criteria for evaluation.

Who teaches students in an online environment? E-trainers? Although anyone who works with students online in a teaching environment could be considered an E-trainer, E-training is a corporate model with a specific and defined end result. E-training does not seem to allow for much flexibility in terms of teaching or in developing critical thinking skills, which are very important in academic setting (either K-12 or higher education.)

Although all of these articles discussed aspects of online learning, none spent any significant amount of time on analysis of methods, results, etc. Is this shift in learning and teaching actually a social and cultural shift which has implications beyond education? It would seem that technology and the use of technology has such a great potential to change all aspects of societies that trying to define the impact on education is almost impossible.