Education is a two way street
by Mr. Sheehy
One interesting aspect of using media and technology in the classroom that is often mentioned by educational technology experts but seems to get lost as the initiatives filter through the system is the constructive aspect. It so often seems that conversations are based entirely around getting the technology into the hands of teachers and teaching them how to use it, in a how-to sense of the term for teaching. So then you have teachers who know how to use Power Point or wikis or blogs, and they utilize them in the classroom. But can we then teach them how to reconsider these tools as two-way communication tools rather than one way?
It takes a bit of different thinking to see Power Point not as a presentation tool but as a learning tool, but it can be done (I like to turn Power Point into a large digital flashcard machine for vocabulary units, and by inserting hyperlinks to other slides, you can create a type of image or word driven quiz or interactive piece).
I looked but can no longer find where I read an interesting observation about Second Life, the virtual world online that is being hailed by many in education as the Great Possibility for constructive and active learning. But the blogger I read made this observation about how it is being used:
What is the one thing worse than sitting through a boring presentation watching a presenter read his Power Point? Sitting in Second Life, in a virtual auditorium, watching a presenter read his power point.
The problem as identified is not in the tool or even the location- even with the most high tech tool available, presenters manage to bore us till our brains melt through our pores – the problem lies in our ability to construct two way opportunities where one way is the norm and the most convenient. That’s the thing I don’t like about the plethora of videos circulating about this new generation and the technology – it makes it sound like it’s a technological issue or purely a cultural/generational relevance issue, but the best teachers have been inviting this two way communication and learning process for decades, even before the Internet was something we all used.
On a recent discussion board chat with my grad school classmates about using multimedia tools, I had wanted to bring up the idea of audio alone as a wonderful multimedia tool – creating podcasts, recording & editing group discussions, recording feedback to students concerning their writing, conducting interviews with experts, creating virtual museum exhibits – but I hesitated, because really, the skilled use of audio depends on the ability of teachers to see two ways. Otherwise, audio will be restricted to one-way travel like the rest of the media, and podcasts will only be recordings of lectures or conveyance of material.