My flight was canceled, I’m booked on a later flight, I’m not going to get home when I was planning to (by 15 hours). Here’s a blogpost.
I’m returning from a conference about improving STEM education at the college level. At this conference, I attended an interesting session in which they collected data about changes made in a relatively large lecture course (157 students). This data seemed to support that the intervention improved outcomes (don’t ask me the details). The talk focused on the technology used to improve the course. For example, the students worked in small groups during lecture to solve problems that were delivered to them via a web app. Then, there were sessions that students attended (one every two weeks) in which 20 of the students wrestled with course concepts in a TILE classroom. Of course the improvement of the course outcomes was due to technology!
No one questioned it.
Improvements in this course likely have nothing to do with the technology. Instead, notice how the lecture time is being used to engage students in small groups rather than talking at them. Notice the built in time for smaller groups of students to engage in problem-solving activities. Neither of these task requires digital technology. You could hand out pieces of paper with problems rather than an app, you could have students collaborate with a white board instead of a TILE classroom. The learning didn’t improve because the technology improved.
The learning improved because the teaching improved.
This does not mean we should not use technology in our courses, but we have to stop
blaming crediting technology for our successes. We should recognize the way we restructure the learning activities to promote more thinking. Furthermore, giving undue credit to technology provides ready-made excuses for not teaching better (e.g. I don’t have access to that technology). While technology sometimes restructures learning activities for the better, most often the technology attempts to streamline an inherently inefficient process: learning.