Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age

This summer I’ve had the luxury of reading widely. It is something I highly recommend, but something I often have trouble finding the time to do.

The topic that has most grabbed my attention this summer is the revolution in teaching and learning which is on the verge of happening–maybe. I was reading a very thoughtful essay by Mitchel Resnick yesterday titled, “Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age.” Resnick writes:

[W]hile digital technology could make a learning revolution possible, it does not guarantee it. Early results are not encouraging. In most places where digital technology is used in education, it is used simply to reinforce outmoded approaches to learning. To take full advantage of new technology, we need to fundamentally rethink our approaches to learning and education, and our ideas of how new technology can support them.

In other words, we are asking students to write the same old papers using a PC as a typewriter, albeit a more sophisticated one, rather than thinking more deeply about what new types of assignments drawing on higher level cognitive skills can be facilitated with digital technologies that simply couldn’t be done without.

Resnick does, in my view, a very good job of diagnosing the problem, but the solution is less clear. I am convinced that the traditional mode of undergraduate teaching and learning, what economists call “chalk & talk,” is not the best way of teaching every topic in my courses. What I don’t know is what mode is best for each topic. I was trained as a content expert (okay, I’m using the term loosely)not as a technologist or an educator. I don’t even know all the possibilities. My universe of pedagogical tools consists of:

� Lectures,
� Class Discussions,
� Primary and Secondary Texts, in print and digital versions,
� Written Assignments,
� In-class Exercises and Experiments,
� Images and Graphics,
� Audio Recordings/Podcasts,
� Video Recordings,
� Simulations,
� Animations.

What I plan on doing for the rest of the summer, is going through the topics in my intro course and thinking about what’s the best tool for student learning here. Any suggestions?

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4 Responses to Revolutionizing Learning in the Digital Age

  1. Anonymous says:

    Gardner: WRT 2) You’re talking about modeling your metacognition. I agree that that’s an important part of teaching, but I’m not sure that brainstorming about one’s metacognition is the first step I take. For me, I tend to find an idea either from some new software I hear about or from someone’s presentation or even from (gasp) a book, and that creates a spark of how I could use it in my teaching. I only think carefully about the why and how it works later. Am I contradicting you?

  2. Gardner says:

    I’m getting a major radar-ping from the microcontent/microformat thing I’m starting to read more about. For me it started with TiddlyWiki. I mentioned this to Brian Lamb and he blogged on it. I followed one of his in-flux links and found a very cool microformat.org site. There are some brilliant people thinking interesting thoughts here. More anon.

  3. Gardner says:

    Two more comments. 1) Resnick’s point is a lot like what Dennis Trinkle said in response to Christina’s question at FacAcad 2003. 2) I’m convinced that while learning about learning and teaching is crucial and can even be intellectually rewarding, the first step is to look inside at what brings you cognitive joy, and explore (brainstorm, get silly about) ways to channel that process in your mind in front of other people, either in person or virtually or in that virtual teacher presence we call “assignments.”

  4. Nope. I do both. In the words of Roethke, “This shaking keeps me steady.”

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