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Let's Talk About Learning, Not Technology
September 3, 2014 - 9:00pm

"Educational technology use remains somewhat of a pig in a poke whose value is largely determined more by the perspective of supporters than any real data on learning outcomes. Edtech remains a sideshow for most faculty more interested in building a career than chasing fads.”

The_Lord_Your_God, commenting on Learning, Technology, and Faculty Time.

The_Lord_Your_God is right.  

Edtech will, and should, remain a “sideshow for most faculty” as long as the discussion is about technology.  

Amen.

Talking about learning, however, is a different matter altogether.  

Our discussions should start and end with learning.  Faculty have a strong interest in student learning.  Every educator that I know is interested in what their students are learning, how they learn best, and what they can do to facilitate improved student learning.

The big communications failure of the edtech profession is that we have somehow failed to convey that are, first and foremost, learning professionals.  We are trained in how people learn.  We read the cognitive science literature, and our methods are grounded in theories of learning.

Technology, for the instructional designer, is but a tool.  

Faculty who work with instructional designers quickly realize that discussions of technology come later, if at all.  

Many times an instructional designer will collaborate with an instructor to help articulate learning goals, to assist in the creation of active learning assignments and class exercises, and to develop final class projects.

Technology only comes in if specific technologies may be helpful in meeting the faculty’s teaching goals.  

When technology is discussed, its use is always framed as a choice.  Pros and cons of any use of technology are discussed.  The goal is always improved student learning.

The_Lord_Your_God is also completely correct that we need to do a better job in the area of assessment.  We need to develop a better understanding about what sort of teaching methods yield the best results for increasing student learning.   

These sorts of assessment initiatives should always be about student learning (never instructor performance), and should be initiated at the behest of individual instructors interested in improving their methods.  Partnering with instructional designers, and other non-faculty educators (such as professional in institutional research), will enable faculty to better assess the efficacy of their teaching practices for student learning.  

The goal is to move towards an evidence-based approach in choosing course design and teaching methods.

What are the roadblocks on your campus to moving towards a learning-centric (and learner-centered) model? 

Has your experience working with instructional designers been as I describe, one in which issues of learning always come before discussions of technology?

Can you think of any objections to a learning-centered, as opposed to a technology-focused, approach to course design and teaching?

 

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