In yesterday’s post, we looked at the complexities around the term technology-enhanced learning and some of the critiques of how it is used. Today, we will explore the common assumptions around the use of technology in teaching and learning – and do some myth-busting.
Take a look at this piece from Inside Higher Ed: “Online Learning Shouldn’t Be ‘Less Than'” by Sean Michael Morris. What are some of the key points that Morris makes in regards to perceptions of online learning? Have you had similar experiences?
Myths: Overly Positive?
Myth #1 Digital natives are naturally good with technology!
The concept of the digital native (someone who is naturally good at technology as they were born in an age where it is ubiquitous) has been widely debunked (Helsper and Eynon, 2010; Jones and Czerniewicz, 2010). University students and teachers all come from a wide range of backgrounds, and we cannot assume any particular level of technology knowledge. A related perception that technology is complicated and time consuming to learn and use is not necessarily correct. Again, it is a question of choosing technology that is fit for purpose, and ensuring that there is adequate understanding and support for the people using it.
Myth #2 Technology in education is revolutionary as it disrupts old forms of teaching and learning
Some of us do wish, but not necessarily. Institutional culture can domesticate new technologies, with new apps and new software and devices put to the service of existing structures and systems. Simply adding a new technology does not inherently change teaching approaches – in fact, in many cases technologies are used to replicate existing didactic methods of delivery (Selwyn, 2007).
Along with this overall assumption, it is also often thought that free and open technologies will democratize education and make it available to groups that previously missed out, especially in less developed countries. The potential is certainly there and we have seen benefits in such countries already. However the digital divide persists and it often still benefits mainly better off groups. It is up to all of us to make sure we make education accessible to all regardless of life circumstances (Stone and O’Shea, 2018).
Myth #3 Teaching online is much cheaper
Again, not necessarily. The myth is that distance education courses are cheaper to deliver than traditional face-to-face or distance learning, due to the ability to digitise expensive text books, and deliver to mass student audiences with a minimum number of teaching staff. However, it has been found that e-learning requires as much, or more, teacher presence as face-to-face teaching, so cutting teaching staff on this basis will not work and will lead to high student drop out rates (Bawa, 2016). So on the contrary, e-learning is expensive. Digital text books usually still cost money, although there is an increasing amount of material available as Open Educational Resources. Other additional costs include the computer technology infrastructure, maintenance, support, training, and personnel for teaching as well as student and teacher support.
It is also often assumed that traditional face to face course materials can simply be transferred to an online environment. While such resources can certainly be drawn upon, the online environment requires different design thinking to compensate for the absence of physical, face to face communication cues.
….or Doom and Gloom?
Myth #4 Technology dumbs down learning
This perception is that deep and meaningful learning can only take place through face-to-face interaction with an expert teacher. There is some truth that personal contact with a passionate and knowledgeable teacher can greatly enhance a student’s learning. However not everyone is able to attend face to face classes regularly, hence we have online environments for more flexibility and access for all groups. It is still possible for a skilled teacher to have personal presence and quality interactions with their students, using a range of digital tools: it all depends on the design of the online environment. Passive learning that does not enable creative thinking, problem solving and collaboration might fit the “zombie” stereotype. But effective technology practices should encourage collaboration and sharing. Just like face-to-face delivery, technology-enhanced learning can be terrible or excellent depending on the design and delivery of the material (Bawa, 2016; Garrison & Cleveland, 2010).
Myth #5 Teachers will become obsolete
No amount of technology is going to be able to replace the personal feedback, interaction and expertise of teachers. Technology can assist teachers with some more automated tasks they must do such as tracking students, marking and collating results. It also makes learning accessible to many groups who are not normally included, and it increases communication options. However research has shown that teachers are vital for the human interaction students need, and without that teacher presence, there will be a high drop out rate of students. (Guri-Rosenblit, 2005, cited in Njenga & Fourie, 2010).
Related is the idea that technology “dehumanises” everyone. Again, the skill in designing a course environment and a set of activities that are engaging and effective comes to the fore. Leaving students to make their own way through mountains of information and assessments with little or no interaction with their peers or teachers is certainly dehumanising. But this would be the case whether or not computer technology was involved. Large lecture classes with little interaction, crowded tutorials skimming too quickly through large amounts of information, combined with unapproachable teachers, can have the same effect.
- Can you think of examples of “urban myths” regarding technology and learning that you have heard or suspected to be true. How do they compare to this list? Did any of this information lead you to reconsider your views?
- Using technology in teaching can have some serious implications. In an age where it is only just becoming apparent how much of our data in online activities is used without our informed consent, it is timely to consider this article about the ethics of the use of data analytics in education: How Ed Tech is Exploiting Students by Chris Gilliard. What are your thoughts? Do you agree that students are being exploited in the collection and use of their data?
- Neil Selwyn argues for a certain skepticism and even negativity about the use of technology in education in his editorial In praise of pessimism: the need for negativity in educational technology. Share your thoughts – do we need to develop a healthy skepticism, rather than a blanket positivity or negativity on all things technology in teaching and learning?
Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education Certificate
Go here to learn more on getting recognised for your participation in coffee courses.
The Horizon Report 2017 is an excellent resource to easily update your knowledge of the latest thinking regarding technology enhanced learning.
Report: The impact of digital technology on learning: A summary for the Education Endowment Foundation – Higgens, Xiao and Katspataki (2012) has an overview of the impact of technology on education.
Bawa, P. (2016). Retention in Online Courses:Exploring Issues and Solutions—A Literature Review. SAGE Open, 6(1), 2158244015621777. doi: 10.1177/2158244015621777
Blin, F., & Munro, M. (2008). Why hasn’t technology disrupted academics’ teaching practices? Understanding resistance to change through the lens of activity theory. Computers & Education, 50(2), 475-490. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2007.09.017
Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning: Interaction Is Not Enough. American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133-148. doi: 10.1207/s15389286ajde1903_2
Helsper, E. J. and Eynon, R. (2010), Digital natives: Where is the evidence?. British Educational Research Journal, 36: 503-520. doi:10.1080/01411920902989227
Jones, C. and Czerniewicz, L. (2010), Describing or debunking? The net generation and digital natives. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26: 317-320. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00379.x
Njenga, J. K., & Fourie, L. C. H. (2010). The myths about e‐learning in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(2), 199-212. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00910.x
Selwyn, N. (2007). The use of computer technology in university teaching and learning: a critical perspective. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23(2), 83-94. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2006.00204.x
Stone, C., & O’Shea, S. (2018). Older, online and first: Recommendations for retention and success. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 0. doi:https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3913