CEP 816

Technology, Teaching, and Learning Across the Curriculum

In this course we will examine new ways of teaching with technology to improve learning.
It is a digital age, and digital, random access media are in significant ways different from the instructional materials of traditional instruction.  The new media are inherently malleable, freed from the bonds of going in a straight line and being organized into separate compartments. Our assumption in this course – an assumption that we will put to the test in some of our discussions and exercises – is that new media make possible new and important kinds of learning and teaching that were hard to achieve with traditional instructional approaches.  We will endeavor to figure out how we might best adapt new technologies for a new kind of teaching practice.  Also, there will be a place in the course for you to think about the kinds of teaching you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of limitations of instructional material, and that you would most like to implement with the assistance of digital technology.

The time is propitious for such an effort.  The open educational resources movement has picked up steam with great rapidity.  We are approaching a point where virtually everything one needs to know as a learner (or teacher) is available on the Web, an increasingly large amount of it for free. Many people in the educational technology field are becoming convinced that this is the direction of the future just ahead, a future that in many ways we are already reaching.  So the question isn’t whether teachers will need to operate in this open environment – they will – but rather how they can make the best use of this opportunity.

But openly available resources used “as is” will not help to move us forward that much.  It could be argued that the really big step will be associated with an assumption of the central desirability of effective adaptation, rearrangement, reuse, and repurposing of openly available resources in instruction.  Some of the course will be devoted to explicating this assumption, but it will also be reflected in the shaping of the course, where we will practice what we preach.
Everything is changing in the educational technology world, and one cannot expect to find fully formed answers to how to teach with technology “out there” – they aren’t there because they are in a constant, sometimes daily process of emerging.  This is both a bad and a good thing.  It is a bad thing for those who want pre-packaged solutions.  But it is a good thing for those who want to assemble their own instructional packages to suit their own instructional philosophies and the needs of their students.  The ingredients of this instructional assembly process are available on the Web; how they are put together has become a matter of individual choice, the power resting with you.   We will share what we find on the Web; and we will share what we find out about “finding” (because we all need to understand better how to search and learn from the Web, under our own control, not the automatic control of Google lists or hyperlinks others develop).  As important as finding things on the Web, though, is using the affordances of that knowledge source to produce searches that open up and deepen understanding, rather than closing in on the finding of an answer.  We will address a lot of attention to that need (as well as covering some things that are by now fairly well established, as presented in the book that will be used in the course, Will Richardson’s “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts.”)

So, in a sense, this course is about you, what you can now do for yourself that you never could have dreamed of doing even a few years ago.

Much of what we will do will be with an eye toward applications of technology for teaching/training to promote better, deeper learning.  We will consider issues that are more theoretical and philosophical only insofar as they entail real implications for practice. We will talk some, perhaps, about software tools to support learning, but our emphasis will not be on software itself, but rather the learning activities that would employ available tools and the ones that will be arriving almost every day.  The way to keep up is to know how to think with technology, not to be able to master this or that particular piece of (soon to be obsolete) software.  One of our goals is to enable you to not feel that changes in technology will be placing you inside a version of the Myth of Sysyphus, where you are constantly needing to spend long hours learning new things. Our approach will not be driven by the power of the technology, but rather by the goals and needs of learning and teaching, with technology’ special affordances at their service.  Developing new mindsets or habits of mind that permit the affordances of new media to achieve important learning goals will be central to the course.