Please Chime in here on where you would like our discussion to head next for week #2. I'd love to broaden the discussion--or narrow it down--depending on what you would all like to explore next...
What kind of automation are we desiring?
What kind of output?
How much $ will it cost?
Is it for novice, intermediate or expert?
What kind of learning?
Mostly, I have to listen and learn in these conversations, but I would like to offer up a piece of very wise advise I picked up at an EduCAUSE conference a couple of years ago.
A paraphrase (which, of course, runs the risk of my reinterpretation) that goes something like this: when you're thinking of introducing some piece of educational technology into a course design/development, ask yourself what you hope to achieve by doing so, and ask yourself whether or not you could achieve the same thing by some other method.
This was not a luddite talking, but a distinquished prof and expert in e-learning. I've thought on this many, many times. In my school, we complete around 50 curriculum projects/year and my early questions in every project are Why are we doing this? what do we hope to achieve? what's the best way to approach this course?
Just something to think on (or not).
I really do agree. The worst phrase I keep hearing is 'how can we use this technology for learning?' It drives me bananas because it is a thought-process driven by technology rather than learning. Like you I would say what constitutes a good design and what are the theories we might draw upon to inform our decisions. Then I might consider a role for technology but only if it seems to support the design decision.
The other popular idea is its constructivist so I use it or its a social constructivist technology. No explanations, definitions or anything. Just this declaration that is supposed to take care of everything that follows. I think we can do a lot better than that.
Nicholas Negroponte has compared the use of computer labs for an hour or two a week, under the rubric of "Computer Literacy", to having a room with all of the books, paper, and pencils in a school where children can go once or twice a week, but without using them for class work or homework. What sort of literacy do you think that will produce?
As an example of the integration process, there is a mailing list discussion on firstname.lastname@example.org where we have been thinking about the changeover from all pencil and paper arithmetic and algebra to the computer. Instead of drill and practice on manual methods, I have recommended having the students teach the computer how to do each of them--what we call programming. There are many ways to do this, including conventional programming languages, special beginners' languages (such as Logo and Turtle Art) and also spreadsheet programs.
Some children find it much easier to drill arithmetic facts, such as the addition and multiplication tables, on an abacus rather than by pure memory. There are many other possibilities.
I would be very sad if my children were encouraged to live on a computer. They've gone on a school trip today exploring the outdoors. No technology allowed for the day. We also just got back from a holiday abroad and I left all gadgets behind. It really can be wonderful to be free of it all. Sometimes the world is too much with us.
In this regard, I love the work of Charles Crook who talks about the use of computers in the classroom as a vehicle for learning in a way that upholds the joys of being with other people. It should be a way of learning with and about other people.
I often think we've learned how to use technology to communicate at a distance. We need to use it to learn to understand those around us too. Maybe once a week might restore some much-needed perspective. ;-)