teaching and technology
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We live in exciting times. Even just 10 years ago, the technology to teach the kind of online course that I would dream about was simply unavailable. But not anymore. Today the technical tools needed to teach a course can scale the heights of one’s imagination. They are not only ...
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2016
If your school is in the process of transitioning to online learning, Integrating Pedagogy and Technology may be the only book you need – it certainly should be one of the first you read. Bernauer and Tomei’s work is brimming with very useful information for schools in transition. The authors have devised what they call an “Integrated Readiness Matrix” (IRM) to assist institutions both in discerning how ready their faculty may be for this change and in moving them toward greater technological and pedagogical proficiency. “The goal of the IRM and this textbook is simple: move higher education faculty incrementally from lower left quadrants to more advanced upper right quadrants” (80).
Considering how best to integrate technology into instruction “requires all faculty to be conversant with the theories of learning, the taxonomies and domains of learning, a new methodology for preparing and developing college faculty for a career of classroom teaching” (vii). The book includes a chapter on educational psychology, exploring the unique features of five pedagogies: behaviorism, cognitivism, humanism, constructivism, and connectivism. It builds to address taxonomies of learning, pedagogical skills and competencies, and technological skills and competencies. The lists of competencies and learning objectives for faculty development in chapters eight and nine are worth going over with faculty even by themselves.
The authors, from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, model educational theory, using advance organizers at the beginning of each chapter, for example. Chapters may end with review sections, indices of concepts addressed in particularly complex chapters, suggested readings, and so forth. The preface introduces preconditions for using the Integrated Readiness Matrix, which is considered “sufficiently valid and reliable to serve as a basis for faculty self-assessment and professional faculty development,” to determine where each faculty member’s pedagogical and technological skills need bolstering (vii).
Another strength of this book is its applicability to various kinds of learners and institutional contexts. This material is valuable whether you are teaching undergraduates, graduate students, or other adult learners. Your field does not matter; this is not one of those texts where everything must be translated in order to be useful to theological or religious-studies faculty. Reflective teachers and institutional administrators concerned about how to develop faculty competencies will both find appropriate and important resources here.
Many institutions of higher learning are already in the process of transitioning to more online offerings. But this often happens in a haphazard, unorganized way, leaving certain faculty to carry the technological burden for the entire institution. Alternately, online expectations are introduced or imposed, but faculty are not empowered and trained to make the best use of technological tools, or pedagogical considerations do not enter the discussion. This book can be used to assist entire departments in training faculty, generating conversation about the pedagogical sophistication necessary to use technology well, and balancing technological and pedagogical considerations while transitioning to online learning.
Date Reviewed: December 1, 2015
I decided to read Bill Ferster’s Teaching Machines: Learning from the Intersection of Education and Technology the summer that I offered my first online class. Ferster’s book, while by no means a “how to,” gave me much to consider as I entered this brave new world of online education. Ferster’s book is a history of the various ways that technology has been employed in teaching. The dream that Ferster points out has always been “Fordist” in nature, a mass production dream which attempts to replace the classroom teacher with some sort of machine substitute that can deliver educational objectives with the same outcomes as a human with greater efficiency and less cost. The path, Ferster shows, has been littered with failure, not only because the goal is problematic but also because the endeavor is mired in capitalism and governmental economies. Educational technologies have been too expensive for schools and failures at making a profit.
However for those (like myself) engaged in using some form of educational technology, what is most striking about Ferster’s history is how the same problems have repeatedly vexed those applying technology to education. First and foremost is the problem of scale. How does one go significantly beyond some thirty students? Humans seem to learn by making mistakes. Figuring out where a mistake occurs and how to correct it is a complicated process that is not easily amenable to technological intervention; there are simply too many variables. Second, educational technology seems most appropriate for a rather narrow range of educational subjects: remedial math, spelling, and grammar are particularly benefited. But higher-level learning tasks like understanding a poem, writing a research paper, or engaging in art criticism (to name but a few) are outside the purview of what technology can really accomplish. Third, there has been no real change in education that technology has created; new platforms should create new ways of educating and not merely replicate the old ways in a different media. But thus far most technological solutions simply automate delivery of content in one form or another. The fact that much educational technology has no theoretical backing is related to this; there has been no clear advance in educational theory that technology can realize and often no educational theory at all has been considered in various programs and technologies. What is striking is that Ferster shows this is not just a problem with today’s online education or cloud computing; rather from the earliest attempts to apply mechanical technology to education the same issues have arisen.
What Ferster’s readable history shows, at some fundamental level, is a need to rethink the real capabilities of educational technology. Ferster is somewhat sanguine about the ability of big data and artificial intelligence to address some of the more technical roadblocks that have stymied educational technology. That said, the larger problem, which the book seems to only skirt, is that the utopian dreams of replacing the teacher with a technological facsimile significantly misunderstands the role the instructor plays in the learning process. There is at some level a connection between the instructor and the student that promotes learning, accountability, and responsibility -- which cannot be replicated by technology now and may never be. Ferster’s contribution here is to make us think about these issues in a long historical view that highlights the real problems and promises of educational technology.