Volume 8, Number 7: April 29, 2002
Last summer I bought a
compound mitre saw so that I could install molding in the living room
and dining room of my 80 year old house--molding that has been absent
ever since I tore out the carpet and refurbished the hardwood floors
a couple of years ago. The saw still sits on the floor of my basement
workshop, and no molding graces the hardwood.
I see the same signs of fear, reluctance to try, and desire to avoid potentially disastrous mistakes in my students and colleagues when it comes to using unfamiliar learning technologies. These emotions are normal, yet our challenge is to move through them and show our students the path as well. I hope that this article might allay some of those fears, as well as provide some ideas about how instructors can make the best use of technology in their own teaching and learning.
Much has been written in recent years about the challenges confronting higher education and those of us who earn our living via the professorate. One familiar theme is the call for improvement in the teaching and learning that occurs in colleges and universities across the country and around the world. Lazerson, Wagener, and Shumanis (2000) conclude, however, that "many in higher education wonder what the fuss is all about . Either students come to college with the skills and motivation to learn or they do not . This belief that the problems of learning are someone else's, not theirs, provides professors with an enormous defense against rethinking their responsibilities toward students" (p.5).
I would like to suggest that technology and the ever-changing demands it places on us to be productive members of society, requires that we rethink our responsibilities towards students and ourselves. My time as a Teaching and Learning Scholar has provided this much needed opportunity for reflection on my role and responsibilities as an educator, as well as the roles and responsibilities of my students as learners. There was a time in the not so distant past, when merely showing up for class and telling students what they needed to know was sufficient to earn the mark of a successful teacher. Likewise, the student who consistently attended class, listened attentively, took good notes, and aced multiple-choice tests was virtually assured of earning an A. In most college settings these conditions no longer apply, yet many teachers and students alike continue to behave as if these former "truths" are still relevant. Somewhere deep inside, we all know that these old rules no longer work, but we are not quite sure how or with what to replace them.
In my work as a Teaching and Learning Scholar with UWM's Center for Instructional and Professional Development, I have spent the past two years investigating how technology impacts learning. I have listened to hundreds of students, as well as numerous colleagues describe their experiences learning with, or in spite of technology. These conversations, as well as extensive reading on the topic, have lead me to the following "truths"--truths that may be self-evident, but never the less need to be stated.
As a business professor, I think it is appropriate that I point out that the benefits of learning technologies greatly outweigh the costs associated with these and other objections. Yet, we must still overcome the fear that rests behind the "buts." Here are some of the ways I have learned to move through the fear and other barriers to using learning technologies effectively.* Some of them may work for you, too:
Together, teachers and students are creating this brave new world in which we live. Technology is here to stay; yet as Philip Toshio Sudo said in the quotation that opened this essay, "our true battle lies not with technology, it lies within. Live it well.
*If you would like to discuss examples of specific activities, exercises, or assignments please contact the author via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
**A learning object is "any digital resource that can be reused to support learning" (White, 2000). Visit the MERLOT website (http://www.merlot.org) for a searchable database of examples.
Lazerson, M., Wagener, U. &
Shumanis, N. (2000, May-June). What Makes a Revolution? Teaching and Learning
in Higher Education, 1980-2000. Change, 1-6.
Sudo, P. T. (1999) Zen Computer: Mindfulness and the Machine. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Wiley, D. A. (2000). Connecting Learning Objects to Instructional Design Theory: A definition, a Metaphor, and a Taxonomy. In D. A. Wiley (Ed.), The Instructional Use of Learning Objects: Online Version. Retrieved March 22, 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://reusability.org/read/chapters/wiley.doc.
Jude A. Rathburn is a Lecturer
in Management and a Teaching and Learning Scholar with the Center for Instructional
and Professional Development (CIPD) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
She earned her Ph.D. in Business Administration, M.B.A. and Master of Counseling
degrees from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Her current research
interests include managerial cognition, the role of organizational learning
in organizational decline/success, the impact of technology on learning,
and the interplay between multiple intelligences and the effective use of
technology. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com.