A clash of classroom cultures

Sorry – but I just don’t buy it.
Jane pointed me to Chitch.at, described as an educational network where teachers can share real course content, make free class pages, and develop interactive online assignments. Here’s a video which explains more about it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrVDTIfZqA&w=425&h=355%5D

ChitChat_webapps.jpgNow the concept of a ‘lightweight’, flexible way to create, post and share course content sounds appealing – but the underlying design points to a pedagogy that I have problems with. Notice the section that begins… “The Web is great – in theory!”, and goes on to argue that while online environments such as blogs and wikis capture our (and our students’) imaginations, they are difficult to ‘teach’ because we can’t easily assign tasks, collect submissions or effectively grade student work etc. In other words (their words) these social web applications don’t “fit” the traditional classroom.

chitchat_assigntasks.jpgAll of this sounds like a great justification for why we might want an online environment like Chitch.at– but hang on… if these applications are (as they claim) so good at developing critical thinking, engaging student interest and creating a sense of wonder etc, shouldn’t this suggest that we ought to be looking to change the nature of the “traditional classroom”??

The focus here is entirely on a pedagogy of setting tasks for students to complete – presumably tasks that essentially invite students to “guess what’s in the teacher’s head” since the implication is that there’s a specific response on which they’re then graded! A clear case of the pedagogy of assessment driving the pedagogy of instruction.

In 1915 John Dewey wrote in his “Constructivist Pedagogy” that effective learning occurs when…

  • Student autonomy and initiative accepted and encouraged
  • Teacher asks open-ended questions and allows wait time for responses
  • Higher level thinking is encouraged
  • Students engage in dialogue with teacher and each other
  • Students engaged in experiences that challenge hypotheses
  • Class uses raw data primary sources, physical and interactive materials
  • Knowledge and ideas emerge only from a situation in which learners have to draw them out of experiences that have meaning and importance to them

In my experience these are exactly the sorts of learning experiences that many of these emerging social web applications enable and encourage. Have we really not learned anything in the past 90-odd years??

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