Posts Tagged ‘learningthroughlistening’

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

In assessment of learning, Education, faculty responsibilities, information literacy, innovation in teaching, institutional responsibilities, teaching with technology, technology on April 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

All around us, the world is changing. From digital information everywhere to mashups, the landscape is changing.

Yet in higher education, we’ve been extremely slow to change. Holding to tradition can be beneficial, but educational institutions face a changing landscape that other institutions have faced. Medicine has changed with the advent of digital information. One study concluded that more than half the patients of a primary care internal medicine group used the internet for information, including information they did not share with their doctors (2002). The music industry has changed drastically; purchases of CDs has reduced y 50% with the advent of illegal file sharing and access to purchase individual songs. (See: Music’s Lost Decade) Yet in higher education we teach as though nothing has changed.

Lecturing has its benefits, but there are far more options available to teach. However, institutions and regulatory bodies do not make it easy to change. Classes are structured so that students are expected to spend 150 minutes per week “seat time” in their courses. Any changes to that structure require compliance with University regulations–and under faculty governance that means that the changes must be submitted to several faculty committees to be reviewed. At my institution, such changes generally take a year to progress through committees and sometimes longer. Clearly processes need to be changed to permit “pilots” or fast-paced changes.

In addition, the “a” word (assessment) requires that work must be evaluated to determine its effectiveness. Assessment can be complicated, since different factors may determine whether a technique has been effective. One factor is student effort-and that is difficult to measure. In addition, we tend to focus on short term (semester) but there can be long term implications that are not easily measured.

Why can’t we adopt a process that makes it easy for faculty to test new approaches, with a quick turnaround time and ample assistance to assess effectiveness?

Learning (and Teaching) in the 21st Century

In how people learn, innovation in teaching on September 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm

I belong to a reading group on campus that is reading Christopher Hedge’s Empire of Illusion (

Thursday’s discussion focused in part on the differences in learning abilities now and what constitutes literacy. We discussed the public’s attendance at the Lincoln-Douglas debates to demonstrate the public’s literacy in the mid 1860s. That compared unfavorably with the nature and intellectual challenge of current political debates.  One participant in the discussion noted that the Lincoln-Douglas debates are difficult to read and understand now and this participant considers himself well-educated.

That analysis was interesting. My only comment was to wonder what percentage of people actually attended the debates and we didn’t have the answer. However, on reflection, I have another theory about it. What if the reason the debates were well attended was because that was the way most information was communicated? What if so much information was communicated orally that people who were literate were those who learned best by listening and analysis. If you consider Socrates’ oral tradition and his methods of challenging students to complicated verbal exchanges, it would make sense that those who learned best would be those who learn from listening.

To continue with that thought, what if in the 20th century, those who learn best are those who learn through reading? Those who became professors learned much through poring through books, making connections from that reading and flourished in that system. The oral lectures supplemented that learning, but perhaps we learn best from reading.

Now, we are teaching a generation of students who seem to focus best on “sound bytes” and quick flashes of visual information. Video games manage to attract individuals’ attention to “learn” how to master a game. And many individuals are motivated to follow through on video games enough to analyze a complicated game and develop a strategy to accomplish the goal.

So what does that mean for educators? As educators do we need to change how we change? How do we do that?  How do we get learners to maintain their curiosity about how life works? How to we get learners to develop that curiosity into a curiosity about multiple topics? How do we get learners to become as curious about learning as (many) are about videogames, social media sites and celebrities? That is our challenge.