Tony Karrer recently did a post suggesting that educators should just do it and try using web 2.0 technologies in education. He’s right of course, this stuff isn’t rocket science, the tools are being used by millions of people everyday, so why do so many educators resist even thinking about them? This came back to me during the recent OU curriculum and technology conference. There were some good examples of part-time tutors who had ‘just done it’, but also a lot of resistance. This resistance isn’t usually voiced as direct opposition, but is rather couched in ‘reasons to be cautious’. Here are the main reasons to be cautious that I’ve come across, and for each why I think they’re misfounded and what the (unkind) translation might be:
- Quality – any 2.0 approach has a degree of ‘letting go’ associated with it. As academics, and particularly OU academics who have fought hard to overcome the distance education legitimacy deficit, any relinquising of quality control is hard to do.
It’s misfounded because – quality is important, but you need to focus on certain areas. It is worth creating some good quality content, and lots of good quality activities, but there is a trade-off between controlling all the content and allowing learners access to a wide range of material, and also very current material. It also assumes that the content out there (be it user generated or otherwise) is of lesser quality. This is not necessarily so. If the course is well designed it can accommodate a range of content and be much richer for it.
Translation – I am experienced at producing content, and this is my default mode of operation, so don’t want anything to do with an approach that undermines that.
- Student experience – related to above, we haven’t had the time to test all these technologies so can’t be entirely sure of how they will hold up for large numbers of students.
It’s misfounded because – thousands of non-experts are using these technologies every day. They are designed to be easy to use and robust.
Translation – education is different from everything else and must always have its own version of any tool.
- Staff development – if we are to use any of this stuff we need a big programme of staff development first.
It’s misfounded because – errm, thousands of non-experts are using these technologies every day! The best way to learn about them is not to go on a two day workshop but to use them.
Translation – I don’t need to do anything because I haven’t had the official training yet.
- Pedagogical research – there isn’t enough research on these approaches and technologies yet to know how to use them effectively.
It’s misfounded because – we won’t have any research unless we use them, and besides we’re the educators so if we can’t think of good ways of using them who can?
Translation – I don’t need to do anything because there isn’t enough research yet.
There are some other more valid reasons, which include ‘I’m trying to but the institution is making it difficult!’, but the above represent the four most common ones I’ve come across. I’m not entirely sure how to overcome them. One can do it by example, but I’ve done that with e-learning in general (when I created a course with 15,000 students in 1999) only to be met by ‘ah, yes, but it wouldn’t work in my subject area.’ Just got to keep plugging away I guess.