Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week 2 Reflections Part III

Is there any validity to the arguments of David Noble, Hubert Dreyus, and Mark Bauerline or are they just curmedgeony Luddites?

I can't really lump everyone in the same category so I will break this down:

Bauerline:
I don't thin he is a Luddite because, as he said, he does indeed use technology. I was left with my jaw hanging after listening to the interview. From what he said, I think that his "research" is really one sided. He uses the excuse that (paraphrasing here) by the time he puts together a research proposal and gets all his ducks in a row (grants,staff, etc.) the technology will have changed and thus the value of technology cannot be tested.

I think that this is fundamentally wrong. Sure the platform may change, but the underlying principles of the technology (examples: blogging, microblogging, social networks, LMS) do not change, the technology adapts to better serve that vision for which the technology was invented.

I listened to the subsequent podcast (CLICK HERE) which had three people from Abilene Christian University, and their views on technology and the pros and cons seemed like a more balanced view compared to Bauerline. I also looked at the ratings of his book on Amazon.com, and it seems like most people who've written a review either love the book because it falls within their world view, or hate it because it does not. I also don't think that the author serves his purpose well by naming the book "the dumbest generation (or don't trust anyone under 30)". This may have been a publisher decision, but it seems to me like an Alarmist who shaped the data to fall within his preconceptions.

This podcast interview did not add any intellectual value, and I do think he is wrong from what I heard. The mental image is of an old man, hunched over, waving his cane and yelling at the youngins. I am curious though to read the book to form a better opinion.


David Noble:
I am more sympathetic to Noble's arguments.
I can't agree, or disagree, with the assertion that there is no pedagological evidence that technology helps instruction because I simply have not conducted research in this area, and I have not been in the field of teaching others for a long time (this is only my second semester).

I do agree though that poor implementation of technology solutions, and not thinking through a technology implementation does drain the university of money and resources that should be placed in areas such as lowering tuition and increasing the educational value for students. In addition I agree with him that research is really overstated (the whole publish or perish deal for faculty), to the detriment of instruction and resources of instruction. I've had professors who are quite brilliant in their field, world renouned! Unfortunately they could not teach to save their lives. At the same token, I've had professors who really did not care much about research and publishing, but were the best professors I ever had, and I learned quite a lot from them!

[soapbox moment]
From a personal perspective I've been thinking of getting a doctorate, since I would like to apply my instructional design skills toward business education. Teaching at a university usually has the prerequisite of a doctorate. Some 'older' (or rather old school) faculty tell me that if I want to be taken seriously I need to get a PhD from a f2f school. Online education won't do. Quite honestly the stigma associated with online education, it being perceived as substandard is a misconception that I wish would get cleared up sooner rather than later. There are people that want to further their education, but a PhD at times seems like an old-boys club where you can afford to quit your day job to get it, or you can't, in which case you can't pursue it.

In addition, I don't care for the pressures and the initiation right of publish or perish. Publishing should be something you do because something interests you and you pour your extra time (and some TLC) into it. I would prefer to go into a classroom, full of energy, and teach (or as Canice would say 'facilitate'). I would like to spend my time designing classes, and making the best use of my resources for the improvement of my students, not have to worry if about the status of my job if I don't publish something.
[end of soapbox moment]

In the end, there are two thoughts:
1. The story is called 'digital diploma mills'. I think that this is incorrect. Higher education institutions have gold rushes every now and then, when they see a discipline taking off and they go through a 'me too!' stage. Face to face schools have diploma mills, and I think that eSchools should not be stigmatized as a diploma mill. Some are! However, some are not.

2. I am on a similar wavelength to Noble. I think that we should harness the potential of new technologies, but we should not dive head first, otherwise we might crack our skulls (or in the higher education sense: lost money that could have been better spent elsewhere)

Hubert Dreyus:
I understand where Dreyus is coming from. Fostering a community is how people learn, and how people stay in professional contact after graduation. Those who know me, know that I have been a student since 1998 (only taking one semester off between the end of my undergraduate degree and the beginning of my MBA).

I would not be going to classes, staying late three nights a week, spending weekends doing homework, if I did not enjoy it. Part of what made classes enjoyable for me was not necessarily that I was learning something new, but that I was learning something with other people, and I had access to the professors for face to face consultation. That social interaction was important for me, and it remains important despite the fact that I am doing half my classes online and half in a f2f environment.

I think that community building online has come a long way since 2001 (even though it has only been 7 years). This, coupled with my hobbyist interests in technology discussion boards and groups has enabled me to acknowledge and appreciate an online community just as if it were a f2f community.

I think the overall message that should be taken from Drayeus message is not simply the 'no community on the internet' aspect of the message, but the detriment that the lack of a community can have on the learning process in both an online and a f2f environment. Additionally, I think that it was pointed out quite well that a community in and of itself will not educate you. Bad facilitators can have the community run a muck , turning what is supposed to be an educational environment into a social environment. This points out the gentle balance that instructors must strike to foster constructive criticism and idea building, but at the same time keeping the discussion on topic, and bringing it back to focus when necessary.

There is one thing I disagree with:

"anonymous amateurs . . . post their views from nowhere" without risking a putdown from peers or a judgment from an instructor (79). " I think here he misunderstands what the putdown is. Everyone judges what we say and what we do. In a f2f environment, a smirk, giggle or the rolling eyes are enough to keep the introverted students from contributing in class.

A professor must also be open minded and approachable. I don't mind being judged from my professors, that is why I am taking a class, to learn, and the 'master' in the field judges what I know, if it's sufficient, and tells me what I need to do to improve. The problem comes in when the professor is unfriendly, combative, unhelpful, and has the 'my way or the highway' view. I don't think most students would be afraid to contribute and be tutored (in the Oxford British sense) if they knew that it was an opportunity for them to be fairly judged and coached afterward.
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