Technology in education: if students aren’t worried, why are teachers?
The third episode of the BBC Radio 4 series, My Teacher is an App, offered a provocative glimpse into the ways that technology is now being used to meet current educational needs. I attended the debate at The Great Hall of King’s College London, where a respected panel and an energetic audience discussed the future of online technology and education.
While students in the audience didn’t think it was a big deal, not all of the educators saw technology and education flowing together so smoothly. There was some anxiety in the room about what would happen to “authentic teaching”, whether online learning could really offer “meaningful activity” and “true engagement”, and if social media could provide “real interaction”. Then, of course, there was concern about what would become of “the human element” in a virtual classroom.
These are all valid concerns, but they represent the dangerous assumption that a “different” learning environment can’t preserve cherished educational priorities. I have seen online courses that are committed to promoting authentic teaching and learning, and worked with “virtual” teachers who regularly offer meaningful engagement, bringing the “human element” to their students around the world.
On the other hand, I have also seen traditional secondary and university classrooms that disregard these same priorities, with “live” teachers and lecturers capable of automating instruction, objectifying and isolating students, and reducing education to the mere transfer of content.
No matter what the conditions may be – online or face-to-face – the quality of the educational experience depends on the integrity of the curriculum, the teacher and the learning community.
That said, it’s normal that teachers and leaders find the integration of online technology in education frightening. First of all, our generation of “digital immigrant” teachers must shift out of our comfort zone and into the world of our “digital-native” students. Second, it requires bricks-and-mortar schools to take a leap of faith into a medium that’s essentially an unknown world. They have to let go of the familiar model that we hold dear – not necessarily because it works so well, but because it’s what we know so well – to embrace an educational medium that many of us don’t use, don’t understand and don’t trust. Third, and most importantly, it requires us to shift the power of learning from the teacher to the student; to become the facilitator for learning rather than the deliverer of knowledge and in so doing, to let students lead their own learning. That is a very disturbing prospect for many educators – and parents – because it’s all about relinquishing control and taking risks.
Read full article: The Guardian