Debunking Popular Misconceptions about the Internet and Digital Learning
I just read an interesting article claiming that technology companies would like parents and government officials to believe that the internet can save education. It would be nice if the internet alone could save education, but even those of us in technology know that it’s not that simple.
The author goes on to cite the joint Harvard-MIT project to offer free courses on line and content from the Khan Academy and acknowledges new flipped learning models as a way for students to consume digital content prior to attending live courses. The author states, “I couldn’t shake the idea of why online video lessons won’t by themselves make us all smarter: There’s nothing like being there.”
I immediately realized that many well-meaning education opinionates are missing what it takes to design digital learning environments that leverage the internet and that work. Digital learning and the internet are not just about one-way video or delivering courses on-line. Digital learning is about creating individualized, anytime-anywhere learning experiences that are right-sized for students.
This blog will highlight popular misconceptions and describe key shifts that need to take place in schools, colleges, and universities for us to realize the full benefits of implementing technology.
Myth #1: You can add point products and applications without the right core infrastructure.
Robust, digital learning environments that are making a difference in student outcomes include synchronous and a-synchronous video, the ability to travel around the world virtually, and access resources anytime, anywhere from any device. In order to create these environments, educational institutions must have the right core infrastructure, or none of these digital approaches will work.
Moorseville Graded School District (MGSD) in North Carolina has seen their infusion of technology return a dramatic impact to students, teachers, and the district overall. Mark Edwards, Superintendent of Moorseville, said that the school’s network has enabled the shift in their academic environment. “Today,” he says, “teachers give projects that require the development of some sort of multimedia content. So at any given time, there are anywhere from 1200 to 1600 students making movies and podcasts, and accessing streaming video on the network. It’s really key to our culture here; it simply has to work. Having that kind of bandwidth is vitally important; you have to have a networking infrastructure that can support that type of usage.”
Myth #2: Digital Learning is about One-Way Video, and Faculty Members will Become Obsolete:
the US Department of Education released a limited study in 2010 (Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning), finding that students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction. Blended Learning (instruction combining online and face-to-face elements) had a greater effect relative to pure face-to-face instruction and pure online instruction. And, larger student gains were seen when online instruction was collaborative or instructor-directed rather than in those studies where online learners worked independently.
Importantly, the teacher or faculty member will not go away; he or she becomes the lynchpin in helping students to understand content and concepts, carry on a robust dialogue around complex issues and topics, assess performance, and develop higher-order, critical thinking skills. Some pre-suppose that online and digital learning, in general, will obsolete teachers. Quite the contrary, the role of the faculty member becomes elevated to coach, academic guide, and mentor.
The most wondrous aspect of digital learning is that it is based on digital assets, assets that present boundless flexibility and something that we never had before on such a significant scale: the ability to mass- customize and personalize learning. Flipped learning is one example of this ability to personalize learning. Students can go on the web, listen to a Chemistry lecture ten times, prepare more effectively for exams, and explore academic topics beyond their core curriculum. But, flipped learning also allows them to learn at their own pace. They can move forward, or take more time to review and internalize concepts.
With digital learning, students can also customize and personalize their own content in a range of formats. They can create web pages, make videos, and develop personal learning portfolios to follow them throughout their learning journeys. Empowerment, ownership, and a greater sense of purpose skyrocket, enhancing motivation and cultivating greater creativity.
Most importantly, we’re being asked to think differently about how to deliver quality learning experiences to students, providing them with the core skill sets and competencies to succeed in an increasingly complex, diverse, and competitive global economy and workforce. If we close our hearts and minds to the ability of technology to transform how we are delivering those learning experiences, we are doing our students and our society a disservice.