New tools for a old world – Kim Holland

‘Who are I?’ Yes, the plural for I’m not one person but many. I wear many hats and I’m sure you do as well. One individual, yes, but many roles I play. Let me explore me, at least a small part of me; the part of me being an academic involved with Distance Studies. First, I must come clean; I coordinate Distance Studies at Western so part of my role is to promote online course development and instruction. So you can see, I have a vested interest. There I’ve come clean. Still reading. Good.

I teach online and have developed courses online as well, and I help other to see the light of the potential of this medium. I really do mean the light, because if you allow yourself the opportunity to explore these technologies for instruction, you too will see the future and explore it with growing crowd of faculty. Now you know where I stand. Are you anywhere close by? (At least, in a mindset framework. I teach geography hence the geographic tone to my words). Perhaps, you believe that to be educated involves an instructor, and a class of live students seated in front of you. Perhaps, you belief that the best way to teach involves you talking, and the students taking careful notes of your thoughts, prognostications, or ruminations. If this is your belief, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but for most students learning that way it ineffective, if not downright nearly impossible. Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and done that. You see I have been teaching since 1982.

Why do I think differently now? Evidence. Year after year, I would grade students’ works and be depressed by the small change I have made to my students’ intellectual development. It was not just they forgot content (the stuff that I had spent so much time telling them about) they also appeared to change so little in their thought processes as well. Faculty are not intractable Luddites. I know many have simply been disillusioned by earlier technologies touted as innovations that would change the students’ education experience. You would be exhibiting a healthy skepticism when resisting the call to leap on the latest educational bandwagon before assessing how these new technologies will help students.

I’m interested in what will work for my students. I have made changes as to how I teach my face-to-face, and my on-line classes as well. I have looked at, thought about how to include them, and asked why do I want to use them. I think I’ve reflected on these tools. For at the end of the day, that is what they are -tools, very powerful educational tools. Consider, think and evaluate them for your students.