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.

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