“Changing the way people learn.” But how?

There’s a terrific article out today by Audrey Watters on the Hacked Education blog that reflects further on the ongoing debate about the value, purpose, and best practices for online educational tools. Check it out here:

http://hackeducation.com/2012/07/12/education-technology-as-content-delivery/

As I’ve told this story before, I went to graduate school in education after working for an e-learning company in Austin, Texas. We had this banner across the wall in one room that boasted, “Changing the way people learn!” While this was nice marketing-speak, it bothered me: what the heck does that mean, “changing the way people learn”? What were we changing, exactly, about learning by bringing things online? And what did we know about “the way people learn” to begin with?

My graduate study and work in education since then have taught me a lot, and I find that I’m still in search of the answers to those two critical questions. What do we know about how people learn? Lots, but there’s still a lot to discover. What do we change about learning when we bring it online? Lots, and we should be careful that we’re not just changing things because technology makes things look slick and exciting and allows us to “deliver content” in ways that we couldn’t before.

Effective education has never been solely about content delivery, and the future of education should not be driven solely by new capabilities for getting information out there. To me, that’s far too much like the tail wagging the dog. Instead, we’ve got to find ways–like the flipped classroom and other methods–to better use technology to do the things that we already know engage and enhance student learning.

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