Guest Blog Post from Kimberly Seeber. Kimberly lives in Bloomington, Indiana, US. She is a licensed elementary teacher and a graduate student in the Instructional Systems Technology residential master’s program at Indiana University. Her interests include technology integration in the K-12 environment and online learning.

In response to the video, The Voice of the Active Learner, instructors considered what it means to be an active student and an active instructor. The discussion focused the following themes: digital natives, digital divide, technology effectiveness, lack of technology support, challenges of learning new technology, novice and expert technology users, surface learning versus deep learning, and the transition from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.”

Wikipedia defines a digital native as “ a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technology and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts.” Experienced instructors disagreed with the premise that digital natives are tech savvy.  Observations have revealed that although digital natives are proficient in texting, surfing the Internet, watching YouTube videos, posting on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, uploading pictures on Instagram, and shopping online, they are not as skilled in productivity software applications such as word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, databases and learning management systems.  Instructors concluded that categorizing students by generation is an ineffective way to distinguish their proficiency with technology.  Moreover, instructors agreed that they must be careful in presuming that all digital natives have had access to technology growing up.  A digital divide still exists for some and therefore must be taken into account when developing expectations for students.

One instructor thoughtfully stated, “A central rule of instructional design is to not put technology before pedagogy—even with digital natives.”  In the 1990s, Clark and Kozma debated over the relationship of technology and learning.  Clark took the stance that Media Will Never Influence Learning, while Kozma countered with The Influence of Media on Learning:  The Debate Continues.  This debate gets at the heart of using technology as a means, not an end.

The lack of technology support is an issue for both instructors and students.  Adequate training and ample time for trying out new technology are needed for all technology users.  In addition, the willingness to try new technology affect how successful a technology user is in an educational environment.

An important point was raised about students using mobile devices to multi-task and access information instantly.  An instructor wisely said, “I think the demands of our modern digital world encourages more of a surface approach to knowledge acquisition and discourages the deeper inspection that leads to a greater understanding that facilitates learning.”  In effect, the ability to cut and paste loads of information impedes reflection.  Consequently, instructional designers must construct activities that stimulate thinking deeply as opposed to copying and pasting facts found in a simple Google search.

A conversation about transitioning from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side” brought forth constructive criticism on a traditional teacher-directed method, the lecture.  One instructor stated, “Lectures, especially video and text materials, are especially helpful to students who have a first language other than English particularly in the more technical fields such as nursing and engineering.  They can review the materials multiple times and perhaps in a less threatening environment than the classroom.”  Another instructor added, “I think lectures still have a place though—learning to listen and reflect.  Nothing beats a great lecturer on or offline.”   Overall, instructors agreed that on the one hand, students need more opportunities to engage in student-centered learning and on the other hand, instructors should consider all delivery methods that support student learning.

Ultimately, the instructors in this conversation enthusiastically shared ideas to help one another achieve the status of an active instructor.  Here’s a top ten list of ideas for YOU to be an active instructor:

Top Ten Ideas for an Active Instructor

1.  Student choice

2.  Peer feedback

3.  Variety of mediums

4.  Collaborative teams

5.  Community building

6.  Real world experiences

7.  Critical thinking projects

8.  Self-made YouTube videos

9.  Technology support materials

10. Connection to current events/research

Above all, keep your chin up and don’t worry,

you won’t be replaced by a podcast.

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