Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#worthassigning: Derek Muller's "This Will Revolutionize Education"

Derek Muller, profiled here in Scientific American (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psi-vid/2012/03/15/meet-derek-mueller-winner-of-the-cyberscreen-science-film-festival/), is an Australian scholar with a PhD in Physic Education Research, a road that has taken him to the study of digital learning.

He has a YouTube channel with a mix of physics lessons and the nature of learning. Among those videos, a link to which came from Chris Clark via POD-L,  is one called "This Will Revolutionize Education" (https://ltlatnd.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/this-will-revolutionize-education/). I've linked to Clark's blog post so you can see how Chris frames the video, which looks at why, so far, digital technologies have failed to really revolution education. And he looks pretty closely at the nature of learning along way to describing what technology evangelists often leave out of their imaginings and hype.

Consider this example,  a text excerpt from the roughly 7 minute video, from the 2:55 - 4:40 point that I typed up.
Let's consider the process of learning. Say you want to teach someone how a human heart pumps blood. Which learning aid do you think would be more effective? This animation with narration, or this set of static images with text? Obviously the animation is better. For one thing, it shows exactly what the heart does.

For decades educational research focused on questions like this: does a video promote learning better than a book? Are live lectures more effective than televised lectures? Is animation better than static graphics?

In all well controlled studies, the result is No Significant Difference.

That is, so long as the content is equivalent between the two treatments, the learning outcomes are the same with all different media.

How is this possible? How can something which seems so powerful like animation be no more effective than static graphics? Well, for one thing, animations are fleeting and so you might miss something as they go by. Plus, since the parts are animated for you, you don't have to mentally envision how the parts are moving, and so you don't have to invest as much mental effort, which would make it more memorable. In fact, sometimes static graphic perform better than animations.

If you're teaching a course in digital learning, humanities, multimedia delivery and presentation, course design, online learning and the like, the video should prove useful.

If you're working as program administrator, doing professional development with teachers who are being asked to engage digital learning technologies, Muller builds to the point that technology is evolutionary, and that "the foundation of education is still based on the social interaction between teachers and students." So this is uplifting.

But the video is also the basis for departure. What does evolution mean? If you're in a graduate program readying for a career as a full-time, tenure track college professor, will you be hired as the kind of teacher you see in your seminars, or will you be among those who shift to becoming a learning coach as described by Christine Seifert and Richard Chapman in "The Coaching Transformation."

That is, technology will, over time, -- because its happening now--, change significantly the nature of "the social interaction between teachers and students."

So perhaps the most vital use of this video and the discussions that might come from it are not so much Muller's celebration of the centrality of students and teachers working together, but rather what kind of new expertise teachers will need, and what roles they may no longer be asked to perform going forward.