Saturday, February 12, 2005

Some thoughts on the week

The task of Group 5 this week is to comment on the quote and image on the weekly assignment page. Seeing as how I am group 5, here are some thoughts that I had...

"Already we Viewers, when not viewing, have begun to whisper to one another
that the more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate
."
(J.B. Priestley)

The quote strikes me as being valid on many different levels. First of all, there is the first part: “we Viewers, when not viewing”. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the technology while we are actually using it. Our excitement at all there is to see and do and learn can blind us to any need for practical considerations. The technology can become an end unto itself rather than a means to an end. In our case, as teachers, our end should have something to do with student learning. But it isn't difficult to see that we could end up making assignments as complicated and quite possibly pointless as the one in the cartoon. Now, that doesn't mean that there could never be a reason to make an assignment like the one in the cartoon. But that's the point: there should be a valid reason for doing it other than the fact that it is possible, that the technology exists. So we need to step back from it for a moment and reflect.

We would do well to reflect on the next part: “the more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate”. The technology can get in the way of communication. If I want my students to repeat a phrase or a dialog, surely they don't need to take pictures and insert audio into a blog; they need to listen and repeat. The technology can make it more exciting and more interesting, but it can also distract from the real task. If I am more concerned with what my blog looks like or what technology my students are using than I am with the actual communication transpiring, then there is a problem.

Late last week, L-der Bob raised the issue when he wrote, “Sometimes, I wonder if we adopt tools not because of their effectiveness or efficiency, but because we want to be in the early adopter group. Is this tool as great as we think or are we just impressed with the newness or uniqueness of the tool?“ We should ask ourselves questions like that when we are considering new technology.

It was interesting that Pete picked this week to change the name of his blog to “Slings and Arrows”. He wrote, “I am a little concerned that there has really been very little critical discussion of blogs and blogging in EFL, and it seems odd that what little discussion has taken place, has taken place elsewhere. It seems to be generally accepted that blogging is a good thing... “ That critical discussion should be held – if not here and now, then somewhere and soon. It may just be that we talk to ourselves, that we read and think about it. But we should all address the issue of the value of blogging, of all forms of technology we use, and of everything else we do in our classes.

That being said, there was a discussion on Will Richardson's blog about pedagogy and technology recently, and he makes the interesting statement: “As both Aaron and Barbara ask, however, which comes first, the tools or the pedagogy? The easy answer is that the pedagogy should drive the decisions about tools. But these days, the tools offer ways to really transform the pedagogy in ways we haven't even begun to think about yet. That's what Barbara is immersed in. And that's what we'll need more of to realize whatever potential there is.” Maybe that is the real challenge before us. Maybe we are just caught in the necessarily messy transition stage now. What seems like technology overkill may just be a phase while the visionaries among us help us see the possibilities that exist to transform our teaching and our classes.

1 Comments:

Blogger Marco Polo said...

Lots of good thoughts here. I like the Priestly quote. Yes, just because anyone can publish whatever they want on the web doesn't mean that everyone has something to say. L-der-Bob makes a good point, but while we should not adopt tools just to be the first, there is also a necessary trialling of new things, otherwise how can we tell if they are worth using or not? Aaron and Barbara's question (quoted above) is a wise one, but I agree with the point Will Richardson makes: technology can change the way pedagogy happens, perhaps even the nature of pedagogy itself, so it's not a black-and-white, which is first question. Finally, I find it time-consuming and a little frustrating to leave comments on all these different blogs. I'm looking for a way to somehow link the comments and the blogs together in one place, a kind of "bloglines" for comments. I would like to let Aaron and Barbara and Will Richardson know, for example, that I've left a comment on Nancy's blog that relates to postings on their sites, without going to each blog and leaving the same comment on each one. Can anyone help me here?

4:53 AM  

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