Baby out with the Bathwater

I recently read an article by David Annand at Athabasca University. David wrote about how universities function within antiquated systems and deliver education with dated methods. I have to agree. I have written a couple of papers with the same opinion (to be published) addressing how to integrate technology and new pedagogical approaches in higher education. I like how David described the “silent struggle underway within the academy to determine the appropriate means to employ technology”; whether blending technology within current course structures or using technology to deliver teaching and learning in new ways.

However, I am starting to question if our thinking about using technology in education should be so dichotomized, with traditional ways being classified as outmoded and held up by Luddites. I believe there is value in all ways whether old or more modern. I am starting to think we need to draw on our experiences and successes to use in new ways. That is, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. For instance, David mentioned Randy Garrison’s work around teacher presence. To me, that is holding onto valuable methods within new contexts.

So what to keep and what to change? To me, I think it comes down to the preference of learners, not institutions or faculty. Questions to be asked are how learners learn, how they prefer to learn, and how to meet their needs. This then brings us to considering generations. The students we teach at the undergrad and grad levels today will not be the same in 10 years. The Net kids are using technology in new ways. This makes planning curriculum and programs more difficult, but vital to understand students in light of the rapid changes in society.  It may ring of marketing schemes, but I sense focusing first on students to build educational programs and techniques will serve us better in the long run as we struggle to determine how to apply technology.

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