Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaching Strategies in Virtual Education

I know, I know that I said that the last post would be it until the beginning of 2014 but I could not help myself on this one!
Lately, I have been in a debate of sorts with another colleague who has a similar level of experience in teaching but not as many years of teaching in the virtual education setting as I have who believes that the Socratic method (ie: "the lecture") should be the only method that should be used in virtual education. If you remember from the previous post, I had stated that we have a responsibility to meet students where they are at and to use our imaginations in writing online courses that will inspire students to love learning, to inspire them to dream of what could be possible and help them to develop self confidence in building a future that we all can live with.
His point of view stems from the multitude of politically motivated education initiatives that he claims have very little scientific support as to their value to promote student learning. He contends that the Socratic method is the only method that has a proven track record in student learning.
To be fair to his point of view it is true that there have been many politically motivated education initiatives in many countries that have been failures and educators and their students have suffered the foolishness of Educrats.. He points to the results of international tests in Math and Science in a cross comparison of many countries that show a lack in student achievement when particular education initiatives have been in force.
In my view, I think that he is naive in his point of view because he ignores the world that students live in, both the online and the physical world. Our students are at home in the online world because they are digital natives from birth but also that they have mastered many of the skills needed to manoeuvre in this environment and have seen first hand what technology and the Internet can provide them. As a result, their expectations in online education are higher when it comes to how they should be taught. They expect that the teacher will be well versed in all the skills and technology of the online world and will apply them in making their educational experience an enriching and relevant one. Although it is true that some students respond to the Socratic method, there are many who sought alternatives to the brick and mortar classroom to escape from this single minded form of pedagogy.
We live in an infinite universe that is brimming with infinite diversity. Why should we expect anything less than to reflect this fact in the way we educate students. I do believe that it is the educator's responsibility to critically evaluate every educational initiative that ministeries of education pass by edict to the education institutions and then ask themselves whether or not that this works in an online environment to the benefit of the majority of students.
I would want a student who takes a course from me to experience a feeling of "wow" and be stimulated to think about how what he/she is learning could impact the present and future.
My colleague suggested that I read a book that he just read as it proves his point, so I intend to do that with a critical eye.
More in 2014......

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