|May 2, 2002
Volume 32 Number 15
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Teaching and Learning with Technology
I have to stay away from hardware stores, because I
have a tendency to want to buy any new gadget I see. It has been argued
that human progress can be accounted for by the ways in which humans have
used the material and symbolic tools available to them at any moment to
learn and cooperate with one another (Gifford, 12)1.
Our tools (whether hammers, cooking pots, or books) have varied
significantly from one historic moment to another, and shaped the ways
in which we interact with one another. When the cooking pot in a village
is heavy, hard to transport, expensive, and difficult to construct, then
cooking is a group effort. Autumn harvest was changed by the modern diesel
tractor, from a communal activity to one in which a lone farmer rides
high above the ground in an air-conditioned cab. Tools, thus, shape the
way in which we learn, because learning is social, active, and driven
by the use we make of them.
The most powerful tool humans have ever had sits on
our desks: a networked computer. It is transformational in terms of its
potential for learning. Why? Because humans can reach across boundaries
of time and place to work with one another to solve problems actively
and to create new knowledge. The Internet is today what capitalism was
in the late 16th century and remains todaya culture-busting system.
The Internet does not have borders, and it does not assume that knowledge
resides in the mind of the lone individual.
In the last several years, many faculty and staff have
experimented with new academic technologies to determine how we can facilitate
student learning, and have carefully assessed outcomes to determine whether
or not learning or personal productivity is enhanced. We have learned
a lot about what works and what does not and encountered some new problems
along the way. We know that we must prepare our students to work throughout
their lives with the Internet. There is no foreseeable time in the future
when we will be able to devote fewer resources than we do at present to
the use of academic technology. We have learned that
in the classroom is a team effort. Those who use academic technologies,
such as WebCT, to enhance their classes have entered in conversations
with technology specialists, designers, curriculum specialistsa
dense network of peoplewho support their effort. These teams model
the transformational learning that the Internet supports.
planning and design is essential for a successful project. We must understand,
ahead of time, what our hoped-for outcomes are and how we will know if
theyre achieved. All technology projects funded by the campus require
an assessment plan, not just to save money but to save the time and energy
of our staff.
across disciplines is essential. The opportunity to share ideas with colleagues
across disciplines leads to discussions about teaching philosophies and
learning outcomes, and sharpens our goals. Therefore, we try, whenever
possible, to help people build teams which extend beyond their department.
technology is not an effective way to improve the quality of a course.
The simple addition of new technologies, or putting course
materials on the Web, will not, in itself, capture student attention or
solve problems with the learning environment. In fact, the use of unintegrated
technologies into a course may exacerbate learning problems.
curriculum can be created through the thoughtful use of academic technology.
Technology facilitates the engagement of more cognitive processes and
allows the student to actively create knowledge. Opportunities for students
to repeat tasks, shape them, extend them, and discuss them with others
lead to an increase of knowledge.
gains in student learning are possible. If faculty craft well-designed
learning experiences and use well-conceived, well-drafted, discipline-based
software, then the e-classroom can be a superior learning environment (Gifford,
productivity and staff productivity can be increased. These
gains range from the simple to the complex. Some faculty, for example,
have found that certain academic technologies allow them to present more
material in a shorter period of time, giving them more time for discussion
cannot assume our students are well prepared to use new technologies.
Although many of our students are technologically sophisticated, many
are not. We must find a way to ensure our students are systematically
introduced to the world of the Internet. The Internet needs to become
a part of every students learning environment, and they need to
be connected to all of the faculty.
and staff development is essential. It must be organized and systematic.
We are fortunate to have organizations like TLP to help people learn and
integrate new technologies. Faculty development works best when faculty
are using technology, in charge of the learning environment, and when
the experience is interdisciplinary (Buckley)2.
need to be rewarded for the courage to use new technologies in the classroom,
through the RTP process and the other mechanisms we have in the university
to single people out for praise.
use of academic technology in the classroom must be an institutional priority.
Overall, the technology efforts need to be integrated and additive. Faculty
and staff projects requiring the use of academic technology need to be
embraced at all levels to be successful, from the department to the college
to the university as a whole.
academic technology will be used to enhance on-campus classes. It will
not be used, except in limited cases, to reach beyond the borders of the
campus. The virtual class, which requires a substantial commitment of
time, energy, and money, will be the exception, not the rule. What campus
experience demonstrates, and the research literature supports, is the
notion that the hybrid class (one which uses technology heavily, but does
require some face-to-face contact) is the quickest route to improving
institutional effectiveness with academic technologies.
teaching is good teaching. Review of the seven Principles of Good Teaching,
before beginning to use technology in the classroom, will lead to a well-designed
course and an appropriate use of technology.
The good news about the use of academic technology is that we are not starting at the beginning. On our campus and across the country, people have been struggling with the new academic technologies, their promises, and their failures. We need to learn from what has worked, and what has not, so that we can continue to make significant progress toward our goal of being the campus which best uses technology to help students learn.
Scott G. McNall, provost
and vice president
1 Bernard R. Gifford,
The Case for Distributed Learning.
2 Donald P. Buckley.
In Pursuit of the Learning Paradigm.
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