Monday, October 6, 2014

Challenging Digital Natives to Become Better E-Learners---De-Programming Instructors--Part II

The last post posed the question:

"Are digital natives automatically good e-learners?"

My response to this question was that this doesn't necessarily turn out to be true in real practice. I would suggest to you the following additional observations about digital natives and e-learning:

  • The assumption that digital natives are proficient with all things involving computers, mobile or otherwise, is false. I base this statement on my experiences both in the brick and mortar classroom and the decade that I have been involved in e-learning. What I have found is that students are proficient in narrow areas of computing such as social media & gaming and to a growing degree, computer coding but in other areas of computing such as computer architecture and networks they are naive. Let me describe to you a personal example from my experience:
"When I was a site administrator for a brick and mortar school, one of the tasks given to me and another instructor was to set up the school's first web site, complete with a picture of the principal and a message to the community. Everything was coming together well until one weekend, a couple of students hacked the school website from home and replaced the picture of the principal with a picture of "Chucky, the Killer Doll" from a movie website. In big letters under the picture, the students left the message "Catch us if you can!". We have to give these students credit for finding a weakness in the school firewall which was in fact the responsibility of the school division's IT department. However, they still didn't understand how networks work and that the service provider could be called to obtain access information to the hosted website. As a result, my partner and myself walked into the class of the two students and walked up to their desks the following Monday and said:"We received your message!".
The students looked amazed and asked how we knew it was them. We told them that the principal and the police are waiting to continue your education dealing with computers."

  • Communication on the Internet, as students have learned it, presents challenges to students when it comes to e-learning courses where more is required than the typical dialogue found on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In order to meet this challenge, teachers need to change the nature of questioning so that it is irresistibly engaging to the students.


What about instructors? One thing that should be made clear is that not every teacher who is proficient in the "brick n' mortar" classroom would necessarily be a good e-learning instructor. There are certain qualities of personality that are necessary for a instructor to be successful in an e-learning environment that actually have an impact on that person's use of pedagogy within an online environment. The following are some suggestions and questions that instructors should think about when it comes to the online education environment:
  1. Are you flexible in your thinking? Can you adapt quickly and effectively to a changing environment? Instructors are human beings like everybody else and as such have strengths and weaknesses. Some instructors have the attitude that they will resist changing their repertoire because something new takes them out of their comfort zone. Surprisingly enough there are still many instructors who are highly resistant to exploring the use of technology in their classroom. Some instructors claim to be skeptics when it comes to technology. Healthy skepticism is a good thing. It is when it gives you a rationale to dismiss every use of technology in education that it becomes very unhealthy for not only the instructor but also the students who he or she instructs.
  2. Are you prepared to take on  new roles that will change the roles that you have had and have been trained in for many years? Are you prepared to step off the stage as the fountain of knowledge and take on new roles as an agent of change, a mentor, a designer..? In the developing culture of innovation, the roles of students and teachers change so that together they become agents of change in society. The combination of evolving technology and transformative pedagogy will bring about a re-visioning of e-learning on a global scale. The key to this will be how we manage change information.
More on the transformation  of instructors and their craft in the next post.....

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