Is higher education’s focus on learning technologies helping students to connect with each other and the subject area content so as to learn easier and better, or is it separating them from each other and from the higher order learning that occurs through interpersonal communication? The picture below of a group of Dutch school children circa 1930, walled off from each other behind the “learning technology” of the day, made me stop and think.
This picture, from a Nov 7, 2004 article in Vitae by Kirsten Wilcox, was used to underscore her argument that “the classroom as a space for human interaction has become a luxury in higher education,” and that it is precisely this human interaction that students today need, connected as they already are technologically by email, Facebook, Twitter, and all the others.
“Ten years ago,” Wilcox argues, “using course blogs, wikis, or online discussion forums to teach was an exciting innovation, which students embraced.” Today, she says, things are different: “Not only have these platforms lost the aura of immediacy and creativity that they once had, but students have little desire to add an intellectual online persona to the profiles that they cultivate across multiple media.”
As a long-time proponent of technology-enhanced teaching, my viewpoint has always been, “Students like technology, so they will learn more willingly and more deeply if the course offers them a chance to use those tools.” Clearly, it’s not that cut and dried. What do you think? Should we be trying to provide our students with the “luxury” of modern, technology-driven best practices in learning or the “luxury” of personal, face-to-face, in-class presence? And if the answer is “both,” (as it almost always is) how do you make that happen?