I asked, 'How many of you put your lecture PowerPoints in the VLE?'. Lots of hands. 'How many of you provide anything more than your lecture notes? Anyone put any additional activities in there?'... no hands. I asked them what that might feel like for their students. Was that an interesting or helpful place to be once you'd downloaded those PowerPoint? Were those PowerPoints really that helpful without anything else? Were they engaging? Have to say, there wasn't a great deal of nodding at this point!
I then got them to imagine a really great learning experience that they'd had while they were at school or university and what made it great. I then asked the group 'did anyone's great experience involve a great teacher?' Hands. 'A really great subject area?' A few more. 'A really great activity or experience?'. Lots of hands and nodding. 'Did anyone's great experience involve how brilliant the room was where the learning happened? How great the chair was they were sitting on? How great the desk was they were using? The pen? Anyone particularly excited by the pen they were using?'. No-one
That's the thing about technology and learning. People are quick to blame the tool, rather than looking first at their own behavior with it. It's PowerPoint that's the problem, rather than how it's used. Or they hate web conferencing because it's "dull." And don't even start with social media--blogs, social networks, Twitter et. al are just a "waste of time."
I understand why learners get sucked into thinking that the tools don't work, especially when they've been the victim of Death by Powerpoint or forced to endure an endless webinar. But for those of us designing the learning, that's just the lazy way out. I can blame PowerPoint or I can look at what Tom Kuhlmann and Cathy Moore do with it and rethink my strategies. I can say that social media is a "waste" or I can see the creative ways these tools are being used and modify my thinking accordingly.
That's not to say that we shouldn't ever complain about technology tools--some of them are clunky and not well-suited to the things that we want to do with them. (Blackboard comes to mind). But blaming a tool for being "boring?" That's just another way of saying "I don't want to be creative." As Sarah points out:
As adults we look at an empty cardboard box and see it as a storage device. Somewhere to put 'stuff'. As children we looked at that same cardboard box and saw a plane. A car. A train. An adventure waiting to happen. What happened to our own creativity? It seems like we get confronted by a 'virtual learning environment' and think that's enough. The learning will happen regardless of the effort we put into it. Wrong! So, so wrong! When eLearning works, it's an amazing, interesting, vibrant, evolving, engaging, rich space. When it's just a shell. A place to download PowerPoints... boy oh boy is it a sad bag.
A sad bag indeed.