Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Missing the target

A colleague made a very relevant observation today. He felt that we fail to convince colleagues and decision makers about the relevance of technology in education because we use the wrong rhetoric. We use terms like technology, IT, social media, web 2.0 and so on and often only succeed in alienating or intimidating our less enthusiastic colleagues. Of course we're using new tools and new technology but aren't we basically doing what people have always been doing (communicating, sharing, learning) but with a much wider scope than ever before?

This ties in with an excellent post by George Siemens, It's new, it's new, which questions some of the enthusiasm about net-based learning. Many of us claim rather optimistically that a total transformation of education is needed and that past practices must be swept away. Siemens calls for a more pragmatic and less revolutionary development and warns against elements of arrogance:

"First, we need to get over the view that our generation is astonishingly unique. Hasn’t every generation faced new technologies to solve problems not foreseen? The present moment arrogance that invades much of school reform thinking is frustrating.

The skills needed to be a good educator or learner are, in essence, much the same as they always have been. Siemens lists six key skills for educators of any century:
  • Technical competence - knowing how to make best use of the available tools of the day.
  • Experimentation - always trying new ways to nurture learning, teacher as researcher.
    "Educators should constantly be experimenting with new technologies and pedagogies, refining their learning approach to constantly changing contexts."
  • Autonomy - developing learner autonomy, students as teachers, teachers as students.
  • Creation - fostering learner creativity.
  • Play - learning should be more fun.
  • Developing capacity for complexity - learning, like life, is complex. We must learn to deal with disorder and the unexpected.
So are we looking at a revolution in education as many predict or at a more gradual adoption of new opportunities provided by the net? Maybe if we stress the continuity aspect we might find it easier to win over the tech-skeptics. The adoption of new technology is simply doing what good educators have always done. At the same time there is a danger that not adopting the communication tools and methods used in the rest of society may render the education system irrelevant. Not changing is not an option though it is the easiest one. We need to move educational technology from a pioneer movement to mainstream and maybe the revolutionary fervor sometimes voiced is counter-productive.


  1. Early adopters dive into new things easily and swim deeper water and play in wilder waves with enthusiasm. To get the energy to do that it may be necessary to let go of old findings. The new technologies seem to bring wolderful solutions. Why be skeptic like a "yes-butter"? /Johani Karonen

  2. Exactly! Atthe same time we have to realize that the good teaching skills are not so different. Just new tools that widen the scope for us.