Over the past three weeks, I have begun exploring theories of educational technology in conjunction with general learning theories. What I have discovered is that educational theory has its basis in the primary learning theories, but it seeks to explain not only how we can learn using technology, but how technology is changing the very nature of our learning. De Castall, Bryson, and Jenson (2002) indicate that we currently have a theory of educational technology which “takes for granted…the integration of education and technology,” but that we do not have an educational theory of technology which would “investigate technology from the standpoint of educational values and purposes.” An educational theory of technology would rethink “educational epistemology” and look at how technology is changing our learning. Lankshear, Peters, and Knobel (2000) argue something similar and show how the Internet has changed how we learn.
Lanshear, Peters, and Knobel reference Gilster who has described a five-step process for knowledge assembly using the Internet. These five steps include: subscribing to a news service, subscribing to newsgroups and mailing lists, searching the Internet for background information, accessing other Internet sources to “verify or disconfirm” (p. 30) information, and relating the information obtained to traditional non-networked sources such as television, conventional newspapers, library resources, etc. To me, this process of learning is similar to discovery learning. The learner takes a topic in which she is interested and approaches it from as many angles as possible to gather accurate, credible information. This is a process I plan to have my students follow with a project I designed recently. Students will construct knowledge through extensive research, learn to write a proposal, and present their proposal with limited direction from me. I will offer support materials, but students will approach and assimilate the information on their own. However, because I have studied Bruner’s explanation of discovery learning, I realize that before I put students on this path, I will need to ensure that they have the foundational skills necessary to learn on their own.
An additional item I learned from De Castell, Bryson, and Jenson is that in the new media world, information has become a commodity and due to a lack of an educational theory of technology, schools have become glutted with mass-produced instructional delivery systems that do not necessarily take into account learning theories or actual student needs. In the drive to be the best, or to add value to a student’s education, schools purchase these systems without really evaluating their claims. I have seen this in my own school. We recently purchased a reading intervention program because of the hype surrounding it, and we have found that is meets the needs of very few students. It was not created for the complexity of issues our students face in reading comprehension. I have been guilty of this as a teacher, I see a program that sounds like a panacea for all my students learning issues and I investigate. Unfortunately, these packaged, mass-distributed programs only benefit the technology industry.
- Bruner, J. (1979). The act of discovery. In Bruner, J. On knowing: Essays for the left hand (pp. 81-96). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press (Original work published 1962).
- De Castall, S., Bryson, M. & Jenson, J. (7 January 2002). Object lessons: Towards an educational theory of technology. First Monday, 7(1). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/923/845
- Lankshear, C. Peters, M. & Knoel, M. (2000). Information, knowledge and learning: Some issues facing epistemology and education in a digital age. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34(1), 17-39. Retrieved from http://michaelbatie.com/papers/information_and_knowledge.pdf