Last month I attended the Ufi Charitable Trust launch event where there was a lot of talk about innovative ways to use technology for teaching purposes. Interactive whiteboards were broadly lambasted as waste of resources that are underused in schools. Some even went so far as to say they were a barrier to the adoption of technology, presumably because teachers were so intimidated by using them, it put them off other technology.
I don’t think there is such a thing as bad technology. Provided it functionally does what it’s supposed to, whether or not it is effective depends on how it is used and for what purpose. People who ‘hate PowerPoint’ should instead hate the people who put it to bad use in over-long, tedious presentations. The feeling was that technology had not yet transformed teaching and learning to the extent it has transformed other sectors.
The issue is that, too often, old paradigms are applied thoughtlessly to new technology. This is forgivable with something that is brand-new, after all you’ve got to start somewhere to see what works. But with something like elearning that’s been around for 20 years; that fact that ‘courses’ are still the norm in the industry is just plain lazy.
So what are these new paradigms? Here are my thoughts:
- Learning experiences should be based around the application of learning, so activity-based, perhaps involving simulations, and opportunities for practice and feedback.
- It should be collaborative and peer-to-peer, not tutor-to-student top down. The tutor should be a learning guide, not a sage on the stage handing down words of (arguable) wisdom.
- It should be measurable. There should be a specific aim to it and a clear way to measure how close to that aim you have got.
I hope that the Ufi will help to revitalise elearning as a whole and have the vision and guts to fund forward-thinking, innovative projects that truly make the most of the remarkable things we can do with technology.