Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Examining the lecture

Quite often the lecture finds itself under attack from people involved with learning technology. This is mainly because the lecture is often associated with rigidly didactic teaching and a lot of e-learning people have a constructivist pedagogical stance. I can see where this is coming from but I don't think it's necessarily the right way to go. The main problem is that a good lecture is an inspirational, high quality learning event. An event which doesn't stick to the powerpoint stereotype. Implicit in what I've just said is the notion that bad quality lecturing means a purely didactic pedagogy. I draw this out because I realise that this is a value judgment I am taking that some may not agree with. But this is not just a pedagogical stance, there is very little learning design in reading off the content of your subject matter. By designing in group and individual problem solving or discussion activities shows that the educator has thought about their teaching and their learners at least to some degree. So, in a simplistic way, I'm saying that part of the problem with a purely didactic lecture is the fact that it requires no learning design beyond a mastery and expression of the subject matter.

But does less effort necessarily mean less quality? It's not clear cut. My experiences of what makes a good lecture involve a mixture of both the delivery of content and the discussion of content in some form. However, I know student who prefer extremes of each with those that prefer blanket presentations in the majority.

One of the unanswered questions is exactly how much of current HE teaching is presentation only? I suspect it's a lot, but I don't know. Where can I find evidence of this? And even if I can find this out... so what? Others may say why is this bad?

There are more questions than answers when I reflect on this issue. I guess my conclusion would be to be against bad quality lectures (or bad e-learning for that matter) but what defines bad quality is up for discussion.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

One reason why Pedagogy doesn't always drive the technology

I've been reflecting on the relationship of technology in teaching and learning and pedagogy. It's right to have a strong link. It's right for the technology to have a pedagogical purpose, an identifiable reason for it's use which fits in with the pedagogy of the teaching and learning. The reality-check here is that (quite understandably) many educators' pedagogical knowledge is tacit or unconscious. All educators have natural leanings towards different pedagogies even if they don't know the particular many syllabled word. Also, there is often not the time to design the teaching and learning to such an extent so that the pedagogy is explicitly stated and identified.

Saying that the starting point is the pedagogy (in relation to technology) is correct. However, hand on heart do all educators start with the pedagogy? I'm not so sure. I think they start with the content, designing a lesson comes second and sometimes a distant and poor second. So where the pedagogy isn't really thought through, it's difficult to associate technology to something that isn't really there.

The context of the message about pedagogy and technology is often motivated by the desire to ensure that we are technology led. This is right and important. But if you are wondering why this utopian ideal isn't working, then part of the reason isn't evil technologists pushing technologies onto education. It's because knowledge and awareness of pedagogy isn't what it should be. There are a variety of reasons for this which I'm not totally clued up on. I'm just reflection on what I experience.