Has technology overly complicated learning?

Are we complicating the process of learning through the avid use of technology?There appears to be, in some quarters, a perception that the next generation of learners will need everything in an electronic format: that they will not engage if we do not ‘tool up’.I have serious doubts that this is actually true, and I would fervently challenge those who bandy around statements such as “the lecture is dead”.  As a student with a DIY ethic who uses technology all the time, I do not broach this subject with any particular bias in mind.

Whilst it is true that information can be packaged and prerecorded, I think we are sometimes guilty of giving our learners too much credit. Let me explain…To be a really good DIY student, you need to be immensely disciplined, skilled in resourcing materials and have an idea of how to move from A to B. Some argue that in a similar vein traditional education naturally provides skills, lessening the burden on the learner.

Whilst it is true that you cannot guarantee engagement, I do believe that learners are more likely to do more work when pressured by a schedule and an environment like the lecture, which I have first hand experience of. I’ve watched lots of materials online and never done any actual problems/exercises, whereas placed back in the environment of the lecture and tutorial, I have done countless problems/exercises. This has allowed me to scrutinise, reinforce and apply the subject matter.

In a previous post I eulogised about the Khan Academy, so am I not being hypocritical?  Well I would argue no. The reason the Khan Academy works is precisely because it provides a structure for the learner, which is watch, watch again and practise.

Perhaps I should actually make a point here, although I am not entirely sure that I have come to any concrete conclusions myself. I guess the main idea is that we really need to look carefully at what motivates learners; use technology when appropriate but perhaps better understand that learning can be a chore and maybe, just maybe, having to attend a lecture on a subject once a week for 3 months helps keep people motivated and on track.

5 thoughts on “Has technology overly complicated learning?

  1. I would agree with a lot of what you say Sam. Motivation is key; followed by research and learning skills.

    The technology is just today’s tool to aid teaching and learning. In five to ten years the tool set will have changed again.

  2. I fully agree. When I tried to follow Stanford’s massive online AI Class, I gave up in the the third week. The material was excellent, but I didn’t really have anything invested in it, and other things took priority until I was too far behind to catch-up.

    However, I think this is a common problem with traditional courses. If a student misses a week or two from personal issues, then it is a struggle to catch-up. A benefit of technology is that it can offer a time-independent learning experience tailored to individual students – in pace, feedback, repeating content if required etc.

    Motivation is still a key issue though. If you remove/reduce deadlines then it is easy to keep putting it off. A solution in technology could be “gamification”. It’s difficult to argue against the power of games to keep people playing, and there are many parallels between games and education (e.g. rapid feedback is essential in both). Raph Koster has written a lot on this, and recently described games as:

    “Playing a game is the act of solving statistically varied challenge situations presented by an opponent who may or may not be algorithmic within a framework that is a defined systemic model.”

    Bad education is just a boring game.

  3. Self-Motivation is key, the way in which the ‘new’ student approaches learning often appears to be dependent upon what resources are available ( are they interesting/entertaining) and their individual goal. There is still a dependence on interaction between tutor and student that cannot be wholly replaced by technology, but hopefully enhanced. There is a conflict between the rigid timetabled structure of traditional delivery and the ‘hopefully’ more flexible opportunities that technology provides. Blended learning hopefully addresses this but still depends on the self discipline of the student…..perhaps maturity is an essential pre-requisite of using technology (to learn) successfully. Learning is a transitional process, there is no one single way that works for all and depends on where a person is and what skills they currently possess to progress in their chosen studies.

  4. My job is to make sure every student has a notepad, if I dont do that then I will be unemployed, so I will then push these notepads onto anyone who will listen. If no one wants a notepad I will then start a project where I will convince everyone that the notepad is the way forward and if they dont accept the notepad it must be them in the wrong and I will go and start a notepad revolution.

    Good to see that people are now starting to accept that e-learning is useful in certain capacitys and not in others (see need/requirement). Like you say the Khan is a good example of structured learning, the question is what is e-learning/assessment truly not useful for. Learning for learning sake is difficult in any circumstance and as you mentioned people learn better when they have to. The other thing as well is it has to have useful examples in the Real World, how many Health and Safety courses do you see for a food production environment where you have to learn disease names etc, I bet in a years time if you where to go round that factory again how many would/could remember. Frequency is also an issue, though University is always seen as a linear/non linear progression within a certain subject.

    The issue with games is that you have to play by someone elses rules.

  5. Pingback: Lecture Capture and Flipping the Classroom | The University of Derby Learning Technology Blog

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