Education Technology Research

Many studies claim that instruction using technology (ie: online courses) has similar learning outcomes as traditional instruction. I believe these findings are more of an indictment of traditional instruction than evidence for a need to step up technology inclusion. 

While online courses work to engage students in discussion via blogging or message boards, they cannot replace the kind of thought necessary to discuss ideas face-to-face.  When classroom (actual, not virtual) discussions get going, the back and forth between teacher and students as well as student to student leads to many insights and the playing with ideas simply cannot be accurately mimicked in an online discussion.  Additionally, students partaking in an online environment are not using the same kinds of cognitive strategies as students in a real classroom.  While students might be able to more carefully craft their response in an online discussion, the sense of urgency and the need to think on their feet is not there like it is in a classroom.  Furthermore, important social skill such as knowing how to respectfully disagree with someone to their face are not able to be learned via virtual learning.  I have heard of studies where the parts of the brain stimulated during online interaction and face-to-face interaction are very different. 

While I am not opposed to online education, I do think we need to realize that if the advantages of a real classroom are not fought for, we may all be out of the job someday (or our job will become facilitating online discussions).  We need to consider what can be taught face-to-face that cannot be learned, or is even negatively impacted by online courses and move our instruction toward those goals.  Simply presenting a powerpoint without student imput or having students only read out of a text and answer the end-of-chapter questions can very easily be replicated if not improved upon in an online classroom.  There are many superficial benefits to online education (cost, speed, convenience, etc), yet the drawbacks are not as easy to spot (little formative assessment, lack of social skill instruction, lack of a teacher who can challenge/help students on individual basis, lack of meaningful and timely feedback).  If school continues to be just a series of hoops to jump through, I welcome the online classroom (I could have jumped through the hoops a lot faster and with less boredom).  Yet, by considering the many goals we have for students besides just learning content, we cannot afford to lose the traditional school setting, but we must work to align our teaching toward achieving these “other” goals, or we will have little validation when people question why our students shouldn’t just get online.

Thanks to all of you who have been visiting, and for those of you posting comments.  I do not claim to be “the” or even really “an” authority.  I am just trying to raise some points to get us all thinking.  Those of you who are not “educators” I would greatly welcome your comments.  Outside perspective can always raise new and important questions!  As a preview, I recently came across a George Carlin(sp?) clip that I will post in the next few days.  What he says is not only crude, it is true.

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4 Responses to Education Technology Research

  1. Sarah Borzo says:

    I did a project on online learning and researched k-12 online schools, like Laurel Springs (www.laurelsprings.com). It is scary to think that kindergartners can already get their entire education online, especially when you consider how much non-content learning should be happening in kindergarten – and throughout the grade levels.
    I agree with you, online classes make jumping through hoops easy; when I choose to take an online class it is only because I’m looking for the easiest way to get the credit. It is impossible for the teacher of an online class to hold students accountable to the same levels of engagement and involvement that an effective classroom teacher can, and as a a student, I know that and involve myself accordingly.
    That being said, I’m interested to hear how you effectively integrate “online collaborative projects” with your students. I recognize the educational value of being engaged with a meaningful learning experience and then having the opportunity to discuss and analyze that experience face-to-face with a teacher and classmates, but I’m curious about the specifics.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      I will be posting an extended version of my online collaborative project (which Sarah alludes to from Facebook) later today (probably). However, because of recent developments in my schools filter, I am running into significant roadblocks – which I will also discuss in my future post. Tentative title: “What the crap?”

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  2. Matt says:

    One of these days Jerrid I will disagree with you, then we can have a lively discussion. But unfortunately I agree.

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  3. Megan Roelfs says:

    All I have to say is this; when I was looking up information about ECE degrees at least 10 different links popped up for online colleges where you could get your ECE or El Ed degree. *shudders*.

    Like

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