Friday, February 6, 2009

5.*: Some pet hates

I am reading around web 2.0 and its potential for formal tertiary education, for the next E-Primer... and I have to get these false dichotomies off my chest. These often come up in Web 2.0 literature as providing legitimacy for its use.

  • Just-in-time (good) vs just-in-case (bad) learning. This dichotomy is infuriating. So-called 'just-in-case' learning can, in fact, be providing a valuable and necessary context for further cognitive development, further context for enabling students to later participate in the broader conversation about the subjects they are studying. This dichotomy suggests a surface, utilitarian concept of knowledge that assumes education exists for immediate ends, not extended means. Education is the means to an end, and not the end in itself. It has more to do with enabling conversation than solving immediate problems. Once this important epistemological difference is understood, any distinction between 'just-in-time' and 'just-in-case' in the context of formal education becomes meaningless.
  • Teacher-centred vs student-centred learning. Bah, humbug. I have blogged elsewhere on the importance of subject-centred learning a la Palmer, where the teacher embodies the subject and gives it its voice rather than becoming the central focus of authority. This removes us from the blinkered 'teacher-centred' approach and the equally idiotic notion of a 'student-centred' one in formal education.
  • Teachers as sages on the stage vs guides on the side. I have blogged on this elsewhere. What sparked this fresh tirade is a quote from Mason & Rennie (2008, p.30):
"In effect, 'teachers' and 'tutors' will need to change their roles from being the sole repository of knowledge, to roles in which their experience is utilised to help facilitate and focus learners to contextualise knowledge within the wider framework of their experience".
This is a rather one-eyed perspective of what teachers and tutors attempt to achieve in formal education, and an unfair basis for advocating the application of web 2.0 applications in education - a classic 'straw-' err, 'person' argument. Any tertiary education course with a recommended bibliography and readings other than those authored by the teacher or tutor will bear this out. In the institution I work for, each course is worth 15 credits (150 learning hours) toward a qualification. Of those 15 credits, pre-determined readings and classes usually account for one-third of the allocated time (and these invariably consist of more than the teacher's or tutor's own writings or presentations), another third to self-directed learning, the final third to assessment tasks designed to encourage reflection and integration, drawing on wider sources. How, then, is the teacher or tutor "the sole repository of knowledge"? The teacher provides the frame for learning, yes - but surely this represents the value-add of formal education? Further, no teacher or tutor is naive enough (or brazen enough) to suggest that students would be dependent on him or her once the course has finished. Where, then, is the grounds for such a criticism?

There is plenty of value in Mason & Rennie's (2008) E-learning and social networking handbook. The authors are sympathetic to the use of web 2.0 in formal education, and provide some very useful guidelines for its use. I am just wary, sensitive, dubious about claims that educators must fundamentally change from being the narrow-minded knowledge tyrants they never, in fact, were. Yes, there are exceptions... but let's remember that they are, in fact, exceptional.

No comments: