Today I’m writing about Chapter 2, “Theories for Learning with Emerging Technologies” from 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).
The chapter was written by Terry Anderson, a distance education icon at Athabasca and editor of “The Theory and Practice of Online Learning” from the Issues in Distance Education Series (the same series as “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education”).
Clearly Terry Anderson’s scholarship in this area is impeccable and the chapter is an important summary of his ideas, including his look at three Net-centric theories (The Pedagogy of Nearness, Heutagogy, and Connectivism). He also discusses the value and “practicality” of theory and relates earlier theories such as Constructivism and Complexity Theory to the issues of new technologies, and talks about theory with respect to the goal of helping with the educational decisions. When should we use a particular technology? How do we guide these interventions and deal with unanticipated consequences? What about cost-effectiveness?
Perhaps a favourite quote of mine from his chapter is “These theories are useful today because emerging technologies are often applied to the same challenges and problems that inspired educators working with older technologies” (p. 26). I personally welcome his balanced approach of appreciating that there is much to be built upon as we explore the technologies that are new and potentially disruptive and I find much to think about when reading his view that “The Net, with its new affordances, seems to speed up and accentuate many of the ideas found in pre-Net learning theories” (p. 36)
Addressing the idea of accentuated pace (are we basically doing the same things here, but in a faster environment?) might well relieve some of the concerns of those who express fears about “our brains are being rewired” (well, isn’t that part of learning?) or “the internet is making us stupid”. I truly have hope that we’ll embrace disruption, come to an understanding about when new roles and approaches make sense, and find a workable path. I think part of what is required to do so means paying attention to ongoing research based on established theoretical foundations.