Putting Learning Before Technology
Nov 08, 2006
Commentary by Stephen Downes

In response to this discussion paper promoting Web 2.0 approaches to learning, prepared for the Campus 2020 process in British Columbia, the faculty associations responded with this criticism, attacking the document for its boosterism and noting that "Instead of basing their prescriptions on any critical analysis of what is working or not working in e-learning in British Columbia they describe what constitutes a catalog of technocrati hopes and dreams." The Faculty Associations are correct; the paper does go overboard, especially when it says Web 2.0 training should be "required". But by attacking a specific document they mask the impotence of their own thinking. It is tempting to compare the Faculty Associations' calls for further study to those of the global warming sceptics. When they write, "efficient and effective use of e-learning and its digital resources can only be properly brought about if properly studied, analyzed and reported on before being implemented on a wide scale," it is as though they had not lived through the last ten years. Come on now, let's move foreward. Total: 242
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Re: Putting Learning Before Technology

I don't have any problem with the recommendations in this report and, in fact, many are already being implemented in BC...What bothers me about this critique, though, is that it wants to put the onus on those pushing for change to prove that what they are proposing is better than what is currently being done. This is impossble to do and we know from the thousands of comparative studies that have been done that there is no significant difference between different modes of delivery. But the Web 2.0 technologies are not just about delivering education more efficiently but changing the way we think about learning, who controls the learning process, and how we conceive of "knowledge construction". The tools are already being used for social and informal learning purposes. As educators, we know they have potential to enhance and transform learning. We do need solid research that will help inform our understanding of how to use these technologies. We don't need research to prove they are worth using. Mark Bullen [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Putting Learning Before Technology

I don't think you do justice to the paper Chris and I wrote, which covers a great deal of territory, as did the original paper. Our comments have to be read within the context of a paper that went "overboard" in advocating a completely new learning paradigm. Having been on the receiving end of a few government-initiated "paradigm shifts" I can tell you that it's not a pleasant place to be. Inevitably they misinterpret what is to be accomplished and then fail to provide sufficient resources to get the job done. If new learning technologies are to be effective and successful, they first have to define the learning objectives that will be better achieved using these technologies. Otherwise, if lecturering at the front of the room and a Web 2.0 learning object are delivering the same learning objectives equally well, why go to the bother and expense to make the change? Another major theme in our paper is that if such changes are to be made, then you need to have some idea about how they are to occur. It won't occur if the provincial government orders the universities to do it. That will simply breed resentment. Instead, in our written submission to Campus 2020 we are advocating the creation of an organization that will be charged with promoting a variety of innovative learning modalities for adults, including e-learning. Our proposal doesn't have the sizzle of requiring all faculty members to change over to Web 2.0 on the spot, but it does have the benefit of actually working on the necessary cultural and organizational change that will make adoption of new learning modalities more widespread and sustainable. Robert Clift [Comment] [Permalink]

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