Friday, 15 February 2008

External funding and sustainability: another view

Just had this in from Paul M @ UCLAN:

"The year is 1995 and a new concept in teaching has arrived called the ‘classroom’

What are the benefits of ‘a classroom’

You can talk to many people at once…

…in real time!

The ‘class’ can ask you questions – there and then!

You can write your thoughts on something called a ‘chalkboard’ so learners can read it ‘asynchronously’.

“SO WHAT?” the teachers said.

“We’ve been using PCs to do this kind of thing for hundreds of years!”

More research is needed.

The year is now 2000 and more research was indeed done. Some teachers love classrooms. Some students love being in classrooms with teachers who love being in those classrooms with them. Some teachers take to classrooms naturally, but many don’t.

The people holding the purse strings worry a bit about not every one taking to classrooms.

“Yes but if we get really BIG classrooms we can achieve ECONOMY OF SCALE!!!” the enthusiasts said.

More research is needed.

The year is now 2005 and more research was indeed done

We still can’t get everyone to use ‘classrooms’ (or ‘crooms’ as they have become known). As fast as we can research how to best use crooms they keep coming up with new features (such as OHPs and flipcharts). All these new features are collectively known as crooms 2.0.

More research is needed.

The year is now 2008 and if you’ve read this far then I have to ask - shouldn’t you really be working? However if you’re looking for a point to this post it may be this…

Like many Learning Technology people I nearly always start conference presentations with the qualification “of course I have been involved in the web since 1994”. I think almost 15 years of involvement has given us distance to reflect on the trends. And the trend is that there will always be trends – and there will always be new and great things just on the horizon. It’s the point at which you commit that’s the tricky bit and I think this is what you are getting at in para 6.

Now I’m no academic but I know enough to know that universities are entering a fiercely competitive era (yes, even more so than now) where student choice means much more due to increasing fees. Learning technology is about choice. The choice to decide what blend is best for you and your students (diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks!). At an institutional level this is reason enough to support.

I can’t think of any industry (I’m sorry but if we are charging that makes us an ‘industry’) where faced with these conditions the said industry hasn’t consolidated. At a national level this is reason enough to support (a quick look at the nature of national funding bears this out). Your dad has every right to ask “where’s the money?” (maybe Tom Cruise could play him in the film) and the answers you suggest in your final para are fine. One of the problems I see is in maintaining those ‘links’ between national and institutional initiative whilst working in an increasingly competitive environment."


Mohamed said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this, thanks for sharing!

Steve Mackenzie said...

I enjoyed this view. It gets you thinking.

Here's what I think. As a Starting point let’s agree that the classroom and traditional classroom tools ain't never going away.

Web 2.0 and e-learning tools are not here to replace classroom teaching, they are there to enhance it. If learning technology is about choice, then it behoves all teachers not to be ignorant of the learning (technology) choices and possibilities that are now available. Too many teachers as examples will cite lack of time, lack of training, lack of technical ability, lack of support, lack of understanding of the use of web 2.0 and e-learning tools for teaching and learning as to why they stick to chalkboards, OHP's and flipcharts.

And do you know what - they might be absolutely right in their reasoning for sticking to tried and trusted methods, but if they are a teacher that is interested in their primary purpose which is to help students learn then it is an unfortunate position to be in - that they are ignorant of so many wonderful tools to that can add to the variety of their teaching and enhance students' learning.

Whilst there may be differing levels of institutional support, it is now the year 2008, the web 2.0 and e-learning tools are mature and easy to use, pedagogical knowledge about how best to help learners learn in different situations is strong - We are ready to embrace change.

Because web 2.0 and e-learning tools are so good at enhancing already well identified good pedagogical practices, what is required is visionaries in positions of influence at all levels of education to re-think their approach so that the barriers mentioned above to teachers are removed. Teachers then can make an informed judgment as to whether the use of web 2.0 or e-learning tools can be of value or not. Just as politicians develop policies to socially engineer a preferred way of doing things, HE institutions need to engineer an environment that focuses on giving teachers the time, training, opportunity and support to become better informed about the learning options available.

There are many good things going on in relation to web 2.0 and e-learning and when someone (or a committee) with the authority recognizes how useful and important web 2.0 and e-learning tools are to student learning, then maybe a change in the institutional policies and working environment will ensue.

Although consolidation is a safe and on the face of it sensible option I actually think that within 10 years teaching and support for teaching in HE institutions will have changed dramatically, due to the unstoppable power of the new learning technologies available to us. If it does not come about by recognition maybe it will come about by fierce competition :-)