Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blended Learning

I've been slacking on my blog but hope to dive into this a lot over the next little while and get into the blogs of all the rest of the distance ed students.

I've been thinking about what we discussed tonight and here are a couple of take home messages I pulled from the discussion:

Don't take technology and just do what you would do in a F2F setting with it. One of the things we should think more carefully about as designers and teachers is taking technology and distance ed tools and using them to figure out how its strengths and differences can transform pedagogy for the better.

Another way of putting this is--use blended learning to change pedagogy rather than enhancing what's already there. Use technology to do things we cannot do otherwise. Transform the class not just make it more productive.

I like this idea but do struggle with it a little bit. In the little experience I have this seems very difficult. I haven't seen any kind of "products" including technology, or other materials for that matter, that have changed pedagogy. What I have seen is that it can help reinforce a change in one's learning/teaching philosophy, methodology, and style or take away from that change but not actually make it. There has to be something more to make a shift like that. With that said I think there are isolated instances where the technology seemed to change the dynamic of a course which appeared as a change in pedagogy. My personal feeling on this is that the teacher using that technology has already begun to transform their pedagogy and the technology is reinforcing that change.

In addition, I will shamelessly generalize and say that the tendency of most teachers, myself included, is to use technology to improve what is already there. Because of that tendency I think we are much better off trying to figure out and look for ways to use technology to do things we cannot do otherwise despite the argument that it may not transform our pedagogy.


Charles Graham said...

So I don't think the issue is one of improving what is already there or not . . . it is a matter of how much things change.

For example, some instructors adopt a new technology - like lets say Bb - because now it allows them to distribute all of their materials easily, have a ready email contact list, and keep grades that students can see so they are not being asked all the time what their grades are.

These uses of technology are more productivity oriented - they don't really change how you are thinking about the teaching and learning enterprise. I have provided a couple of examples of podcasting as a response to John's blog post if you want to look there.

Other examples that were used in the Graham paper you may have read included the use of instructional simulations Virtual ChemLab and Virtual Audiometer. Both of these tools changed the nature of the quality and quantity of practice that students could engage in around the specific content they were learning.

Peter Rich said...

OK, I'll play Devil's advocate on this one and ask, if a technology enables teachers to be more productive, is that a bad thing? Or does it leave time for the teacher to now focus on changing pedagogy? Must one or the other necessarily come first? I've lived in a culture where I had to wash my own clothes by hand, and it takes a lot of time that I could have dedicated to other basics. So, is the use of technology like a Maslowian approach and we have to meet our deficiency needs first?

Charles Graham said...

Teacher productivity is definitely NOT a bad thing! It is just a different purpose from improving the teaching.

The argument often goes like this. If we make a teacher more efficient then that will free up time for him/her to be more creative in his/her pedagogy.

This is definitely a possibility - it is just a matter of priority in my mind. If our primary priority is productivity - I'm not sure that it always leads to better pedagogy. If our priority is better teaching & learning then we can try to find ways to make our innovative teaching methods more efficient.

So I guess I'm saying that the driver should be the pedagogy - then the efficiency will follow - because nobody wants to or can afford to be too inefficient in their teaching. But if the driver is efficiency - it may never lead to more innovative teaching practices because new innovative teaching practices are rarely highly efficient at first.

Shawn said...

There are many out there who believe that technology is changing so fast that you have to take a plug and play approach in education. The Doblin (basically a think tank geared innovating for $$)"thought leader" A.K.A. CEO believes that you've got 18 months with a technology. I don't know if I would go that far but it seems like that rate of change could kill productivity since change tends to do that and it seems that it would also make it hard to have technology be a pedagogical evolutionary force. Any thoughts?

Charles Graham said...

yes this is definitely a challenge. This is probably true of any rapidly evolving innovation.

I guess one way to think about it is that these innovations aren't all distinct new innovations but rather an innovation that goes through a series of evolutions.

Someone who is keeping up is able to adapt and evolve with the changes while someone who doesn't eventually finds himself in a more untenable position. Those on the most cutting edge probably have to be more willing to back off a technology when it doesn't match their pedagogical needs. Someone who is more in the middle can observe and adopt specific technologies (or classes of technologies like Web 2.0) that have been more proven.

I recently read on one of my undergraduate student blogs about a teacher they are working with that is still cutting and pasting names onto a roll sheet and another that consistently has her students skip their computer lab time. In these cases, not keeping pace has also had the negative effect on pedagogical evolution.

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