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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Is This Something We Really Need to Tell the Public?

Okay, I know it has been a while since I posted anything here (for reasons why, see my personal blog - Rock Ruminations).

Anyway, this news item came through my ASCD SmartBrief today and I thought it was interesting.

Electronic toys' teaching potential often hyped, experts say

Electronic toys with educational claims are a fast-growing segment of the total toy market in Australia, but Macquarie University professor John Hedberg says the most educational gadgets are robots and other gadgets that challenge children to invent, to construct and to use their imaginations.

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)/LiveWire (free registration) (7/6)
Now, I'm not going to say that they're wrong. In fact, I know of John Hedberg (he does some work with one of my co-chairs) and I respect his opinions. What struck me about this piece was that the public needed to be told about it in the first place.

I mean, where have these people been living for the past decade, under a rock? While I know the whole concept of no significant differences and the shear tonage of literature that we have in the academy about the fact that technology doesn't affect learning may have jaded me a it, but hasn't word about this gotten out to the public yet?

Haven't there been tons and tons of news reports about the tons of money spent on technology in the schools with no change in student performance? Didn't journalist Todd Oppenheimer first tip the public of to this in his Atlantic Monthly piece, The Computer Delusion, and if they missed that, surely they caught his book -
The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved? And even if they missed Oppenheimer altogether, or decided not to trust him because he is a journalist, wouldn't they have heard of or read something by Larry Cuban (Oversold and Underused : Computers in the Classroom is one example that comes to mind)? These two books alone have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, that must surely be more than the number of instructional and/or educational technologists out there?

I guess what this boils down to is the message is technology in and of itself is not a good learning tool. Has the public gotten the message? If not, why haven't they gotten it yet and what can we do to correct that?

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education, technology

6 Comments:

Blogger Lynn V. Marentette said...

Effective learning technologies are designed using findings from neuroscience/cognitive science and incorporate visual and multimodal methods of presenting concepts and ideas. We need to bridge the gap between the teacher, curriculum delivery, technology, and learners. Technology is often underutilized because a large percentage of teachers teach primarily through traditional means in word-dominant classrooms.

9:49 AM

 
Blogger MKB said...

Lynn,

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. I don't believe that there is such a thing as an "effective learning technology"!

There are some technologies, that with the right pedagogy can be used effectively in the learning process. But calling anything an "effective learning technology" implies that it is the technology that makes the students learn and not how that technology is used.

I also have to disagree with your comment that:

"Technology is often underutilized because a large percentage of teachers teach primarily through traditional means in word-dominant classrooms."

Technology is often underutilized because schools and school districts spend all of their money on buying technology instead of providing teachers with the training in both how to use the technology and how to use it to teach. And both are important and when either is provided, it is usually only how to use the technology and that is not enough.

The example I always use is the fact that I have showed my mother how to use her computer. She can turn it on, send e-mail, down her digital images, type up a word processing document, scan in pictures, etc.. I've taught her how to use that fairly well.

My mother would never be able to use a compuyter effectively in any type of presentation, either in the "traditional means" of delivery or in a more hands on manner. No one has ever taught her how to use it in that way.

Remember that it is cognitice scientists like Richard Clark who have tried to teach us that technology has no more impact on learning than the type of truck delivering your groceries has on their nutritional value. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is practicing what Tom Reeves calls pseudo-science.

MKB

2:17 PM

 
Blogger Lynn V. Marentette said...

I agree that teachers are not given enough support in using technology to teach. There is little time available for teachers to plan for effective technology integration.

I am an advocate of evidence-based instructional decision-making. Learning outcomes based on the use of an instructional delivery method CAN be measured, along with time-on-task and behaviors related to engaged learning.

Instructional delivery methods, such as technology-based delivery methods, are not akin to grocery trucks.

Learning outcomes based on the use of instructional agents, user interfaces, auditory or visual icons embedded in programs, and so forth can also be measured. We know that some game-based applications,based on 3-D technology with high quality game engines that are appropriately designed can increase learning and academic engagement, even if the teacher is low-tech.

Learning IS facilitated through the technology in the game or interactive application through the use of AI.

.
There are effective, research-based solutions for meeting the needs of a wider range of learners using technology.

David Rose and Anne Meyer are co-founders of the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST), are advocates of the use of digital technologies to support the learning of all learners, including those with disabilities. The use of appropriate technology sometimes is the ONLY way some students can learn certain concepts. The technology DOES deliver the content. It also facilitates the learning.

This is a quote from the book:

“In the years ahead, it is clear that text-only instruction will give way to a more deliberate application of multimedia. Instructional designers will use digital tools to tailor media to the task, to different kinds of learning, and to different kinds of students, reducing the barriers and inefficiencies inherent in one-size-fits-all printed textbooks.” –David Rose & Anne Meyer

CAST provides an on-line interactive version of Rose and Myer’s book, along with materials that can be used for professional development, teacher-to-teacher support, or self-study:
CAST: "Teaching Every Student In the Digital Age: Universal Design for Learning"

Contact the people at CAST- they have implemented UDL in several school districts and can let you know the science behind their work.

If you want more information, I have numerous links to educational technology research projects. Some of the other links are food for thought and should not be viewed as "hard" science.

Interactive Multimedia Technology Blog

11:41 PM

 
Blogger MKB said...

I don't disagree with this argument, but it is a different argument than the first one you made. In our initial comment, you spoke f efective learning technlogies, like somehow it was the technology that was makng the learning effective or ineffective.

I argued that the technology was a grocery truck.

In your second argument you indicated that it was the instructional delivery method (and even inaccurately characteristized my delivery truck methapor to the deivery method - which disappoints me some because it indicates an absence of knowledge of understanding of the Clark-Kozma debae which is so cenral to our field). Yes, instructiona delivery methods - particularly those based on sound pedagogy - will have a tremendous impact upon learning. This is true regardless if technology is involved or not.

The problem is that many educational/instructional technology researchers, particularly in the past, haven't been able to divorce the technology from the instructional methodology and have incorrectly identified the technology as being responsible for the change in learning.

I don't disagree with your current argument, but it is much different from your original argument.

MKB

4:14 AM

 
Anonymous lynn said...

I will send you my response later- but before I go, please let me know
what you think about Altered Learning's outcomes with Neverwinter Nights game modified for teaching Key Skills in the UK? Or the preliminary research by Tabula Digita about the outcomes of Dimenxian, a 3D algebra game?

I used the Dimenxian game with several students who were cognitively limited and was impressed at how quickly they integrated the co-ordinate system to play one mission from the demo/beta game.

Their only instruction in algebra was the training segment of the game, since they were not exposed to anything beyond basic operations in their self-contained classes. All of these students enjoy playing videogames. This could be a very interesting research project.

In the math game, the content is algebra. The instructional methodology is mostly constructivist. The gaming technology facilitates the delivery of instruction in ways that a student with low verbal skills can understand, since the learning activities are visual-spatial-kinesthetic as the student navigates the environment.

I also had a few LD high school students play the game. Most had failed Algebra 1 several times and were not engaged in the learning activities provided to them in the classroom. They were totally engaged in the game and motivated to learn.

I think part that playing Dimenxian helps students to relate what they are doing in their homework assignments to something that is more meaningful than trying to recall the day's Algebra lesson in class. The game provides images and experiences that they can draw upon when they complete routine Algebra assignments.

12:07 AM

 
Blogger MKB said...

I'll be honest and say that I am not familiar with the game, so any opinions would be based simply upon what they would have available at that website. However, having said that i note that in your description you include terms describing the instructional practices used when this technology is utilized to include: "constructivism", targetting "low verbal skills", and "visual-spatial-kinesthetic."

Do these sound like the characteristics of a typical algebra classroom?

Without knowing much about the program at all, I would argue that any gains were due to the changes in the instructional delivery and similar gains would be made if these instructionalchanges were still made in the absence of technology.

This is similar to all of the random field trials of the 1980s and 1990s that involved one teacher who would teach the way he always did (which was usually based upon a lecture method) being compared with a teacher using some technology innovation (but in addition to the introduction of technology required a much different pedagogy).

I guess what I am wondering if how this game would compare to a classroom that was constructivist in nature, where the activities were readily available to students with low verba skills, and where the tasks were large visual-spatial-kinesthetic?

Personally, I don't think you'd find much difference in student performance. Granted, for whatever reason (and I can speculate a number), teachers seem much more willing to change their instructional practices when technology is involved, but I believe it is still the change in instructional practice that accounts for the difference.

MKB

4:08 AM

 

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