Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Selwyn fan!

This past week I listened to the Neil Selwyn presentation (perhaps I am a week behind) and I have to say that I am indeed a Neil Selwyn fan or best rephrased, I am a fan of his critical point of view on technology and the bling use of technology in the classroom.

I came across Neil's work a few months back as I was finding academic articles on the subject of the Net Generation (also known as Millenials, Digital Natives, Generation Google, Generation C, etc. etc. etc.) - I was looking for emperical studies that tested the hypotheses that people like Prensky put forth about this generation, and I did find quite a few. An article is in the works based on all this research, but to make a long story short the empirical evidence does not support one unified monolithic generation where everyone is a computer-wiz which requires instructors to use technology (...or else!) A couple of Selwyn's articles brought a critical element into an otherwise uncritical view of these Net Gen claims.

As a technology person I love exploring the newest gadget, and if finances permitted I'd be an early adopted of whatever new thingymabob came my way. I also love sharing what I've learned from my experiences as an early adopter (or regular adopter for that matter), but I do realize that not everyone comes from the same background. Not everyone has access to the internet all the time, at the same speeds, and even if they do have access to it, they would most likely use it differently than I do. Most of my friends abroad for example don't blog - I'd love it if they did, so I could keep abreast of what cool new adventures they are up to, but the fact is that they don't.

Learners are the same. They may all have mobile phones, but do they all use them the same way? Do they all use them for the same purposes? If they have computers, what is their access situation? Do they share it with others? Are their family, work or social obligations such that they can only get online for an hour or so a day to check facebook and email, and perhaps some local news, and call it a day? Or are they connected every waking minute? Access and use of technology should not be assumed, and people who do have access, and plentiful access, should acknowledge their position of privilege. For instance not many can plop down $300 for and iPhone plus $80 per month for phone/text/internet access (if we are talking about mobile computing anyway)

Also, just because someone has access, doesn't mean that you should use that technology in the learning environment without first thinking and implementing a pedagogically sound teaching strategy. Just like you can't just throw money at a problem, you can just throw technology at an existing pedagogical approach and hope that something sticks. Something might stick, but in the end you may have lost time, frustrated learners, and wasted money.

If you haven't listened to it yet (or if you aren't following CCK11) - here's the link (MP3 File), it's about an hour long, definitely worth the listen!
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