Emerging Technologies in Distance Education – how do we choose?

My plan for the next while is to blog my way through the new book “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education“, edited by George Veletsianos and published by Athabasca University Press (including a freely available e-book version)
As a contributor to the book, I had the opportunity to read an early proof but was unable to talk about it in any detail until the completed book was made widely available. Now that it is (and being mentioned on Twitter, etc.) I think the time has come for some great conversations about s the ideas presented.
So… starting with the introduction, which of course outlines the basic premise of the book and also describes the need for a definition of emerging technologies and the need for a greater understanding of how these are used in distance education, Veletsianos describes a theme of choices and opportunities (p. 13)

A repeating dilemma will arise with each new wave of technology: Should this be used for formal education or is it a personal/social tool better left in the realm of information communication?” Anderson (chapter 2), Wellburn and Eib (chapter 3), Martindale and Dowdy (chapter 9), and Kop (chapter 14) implicitly raise the same question. While a strong desire (and perhaps pressure) exists to employ new and emerging technologies in formal distance education (see chapter 1), it is important that we critically evaluate (and experiment with) a set of technologies with respect to the opportunities that they afford.

Veletsianos mentions the Wellburn and Eib (that’s me and BJ) chapter as presenting technology for empowerment and he mentions that we look at “connected and social distance education” and I think that is a good lead-in to our particular approach to the dilemma he mentions. I’d say a technology should be considered for use if it has the potential to empower learning and that in the arena of distance education, “connected and social” are key considerations. A step further would be to say that if *not* having fluency (for lack of a better word) in a technology has the potential to dis-empower (e.g. not being able to search for and evaluate information online takes power away), then the education system has a responsibility to address that technology.

3 Responses to Emerging Technologies in Distance Education – how do we choose?

  1. princekoj says:

    I totally agree with you Eib. If education technology cannot empower it may very well frustrate. I am particularly interested in reaching inner-city young men through education and technology and empowerment is one area I know will be vital in engaging boys to stay in school. Also, sometimes the use of technology is a hindrance if we are not mindful of why we choose to use it.

  2. Claude Almansi says:

    Yet how is one to know that a technology “has the potential to empower learning and that in the arena of distance education”, even considering its connected and social aspects?

    When a friend first showed me Twitter, I thought it was abysmally idiotic and antisocial – it reminded me of the bloke dressing like a bishop who used to yell surrealistic sermons at Arezzo station back in the 1980’s. Still, I created an account and let it be. Its social and sharing value kind of gradually – but pretty fast – dawned on me from there. Human rights activists, writers and readers, teachers and students, were using Twitter for interesting, at times literally vital exchanges.

    So maybe teachers should start signing up anyway for web social tools. and watch out; maybe using a junk e-mail address so as not to get spammed to the gills on their main one. But in order to assess the learning potential of these tools, you have to use them: you can’t rely on hearsay, however authoritative the pundit.

  3. My first thought in response to both comments is along the lines of “watch what others are doing and don’t be afraid to experiment.”

    I know that time is precious, and it can be very difficult to make that leap into “something” that will surely take time away from “something else”. And that’s where the network of colleagues — your PLN/PLE — which is the focus of Chapter 6 (Alec Couros) and Chapter 9 (Martindale and Dowdy) of the new book, can become so very useful.

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