- By Katherine Grayson
After years of T&L technology experimentation, learning behaviors are now surpassing our every hope.
In the almost nine years that I have been covering technology in higher education, I have watched and encouraged the debate over whether the academy should deliver education in a manner that resonates with young adults (gaming, videos, etc.), or whether part of being a student is learning how to acquire knowledge via the time-honored modes (e.g., lecture, memorization, etc.).
The standing response has been that the academy is moving to accommodate the ways young people prefer to be taught, but that there also is value in traditional modes of learning. Then the question has been: At what point does our eagerness to equip our campuses with all the technological bells and whistles kids love, verge on pandering? That is, what portion of the large sums we are spending on teaching & learning technology products is for the true advancement of learning, and what portion goes toward ensuring we don't lose enrollment to competing institutions?
I, for one, have always believed that the deployment of T&L technologies on campuses satisfies both objectives: to better educate our students, and to help schools retain or seize an edge in an ever-more-competitive education marketplace.
Yet, in these years of experimentation with technology tools on campus (What works, what doesn't? What will students use, what won't they embrace?), a curious thing has happened: Our students have shown us how education can soar through the use of technology. Moreover, they have become captivated by the quest for knowledge. If our dream was to make the pursuit of learning not just tolerable, but enthralling, utterly engrossing, and accessible to all, then we are finally succeeding.
The curious thing is that we are not succeeding because we are giving our students technology toys to play with, but because technology-both academic-use and mainstream-has evolved to such a level that it is finally able to deliver to learners what teachers have struggled to convey (with such limited means) for so many eons: the ability and desire to explore the world that exists around and beyond them. Today, most especially via Web 2.0 technologies, learners truly have the world at their fingertips.
In fact, teachers and parents everywhere may be experiencing the same phenomenon I do, every time I e-mail my daughter some interesting information. In the blink of an eye, she responds with more data; links to blogs, forums, mashups, and videos; and more far-reaching angles than would occur to me to search for. It is no longer enough for today's generations to accept information that is doled out to them, or even to question it (the ageold dream of the dedicated educator): They now have the hunger-the compulsion- to seek out all sides of a given issue, and to query other sources and individuals across the planet, in order to test other vantage points and seek out truth. Technology, at last, has helped to stir this unparalleled thirst for knowledge, and has given learners from all walks of life whole arrays of tools to unearth answers, wherever they may hide. The untold want by life and land ne'er granted / Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find.
-Katherine Grayson, Editor-In-Chief
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Katherine Grayson is is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering technology,
education, and business issues.