Technology, Teaching, and the Difference

There’s a nice piece* over in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Don’t Confuse Technology With College Teaching”, by Pamela Hieronymi. I like it because it expresses nicely some of the thoughts I try to inject into the discussion when people begin to go all gaga over technological supplements in teaching, going too far and thinking that somehow it can be used to replace classroom teaching.

Hieronymi talks about the online lectures that are being rolled out with great fanfare in recent times by some of the famous institutions. (Online lectures have been out there for a while, but have been making the news more now that the big names have been doing it…of course.) The issue of the use of technology in the classroom itself (clickers and so forth) is not discussed in her piece, and rightly so… I think there are more nuanced discussions to be had there, and it should not be confused with the matter of online lectures.

Overall, I think that the online lectures are really excellent services that different people can use in a variety of ways, and it is great to have them out there. But let’s not rush to thinking that they are somehow The Future. They are just a piece of the future. Certain fields (and certain stages of learning within a given field) can stand being effectively taught by simple raw information transfer that might as well be done by looking at a screen, but not all. Real interactive teaching, care and attention (coaching is a nice word that the author used at one point), all those things that you do in person in smaller groups that are part of a true education … We should not try to replace those with technology.

Anyway, I’ll stop talking now and let you read the article. Enjoy!


*Spotted over at Dynamics of Cats.

Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Technology, Teaching, and the Difference

  1. Gleanne Marie says:

    Agreed – face to face sharing of ideas and interactions have a magic about them that enhances learning, and that magic is frightfully hard to replicate in a video classroom…at least that has been my experience.

  2. Dr.Skepto says:

    “coaching is a nice word that the author used at one point”

    I liked this too. I also have seen this analogy used in a similar way to debunk the customer model of higher education. Paying to go to college is like buying a membership to a gym. One buys an opportunity not a product. Therefore, if one is not actively engaged, one will get nothing out of the experience.

  3. Gleanne Marie says:

    Excellent point, Dr. Skepo… I was having a similar discussion with a friend of mine recently. You definitely “get out what you put in” to higher education. I love your “one buys an opportunity not a product”.