Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rationale for Hard Work in Graduate Courses in Educational Technology

A while back, I prepared this rationale for the way I designed my graduate courses in educational technology.

Hi. Thank you for the breakdown (of tasks that you provided) -- and thank you for trusting me with your feedback about workload. I do realize and do appreciate that the workload is higher in my graduate course than other graduate courses. However, I have to tell you that I believe that your assessment of my graduate course, "this is the heaviest workload in any of the grad courses I have taken thus far" also says a great deal about the expectations of other instructors, and (perhaps even) their beliefs about what graduate students are capable of accomplishing.

The work that I invite students to do in my graduate courses reflects design, development, production and evaluation work conducted by educational technologists; so I am confident that it is authentic to the discipline and reflects industry standards (to the extent possible in a 13 week semester). Blogs:  Reflection on learning is a metacognitive strategy that is well supported by research on how people learn well in community - so, I am confident that the blogging work is also authentic to graduate level knowledge building.  

I realize that the work is a challenge and I do hope that it is motivating enough, as students have chosen the problems that they work on during the semester, to sustain interest and energy to do the work well. Over the years that I have offered this pair of courses, the feedback has been positive and has indicated "heavy work load, but worth it for learning in the discipline". I do hope that our group this year will also feel that the effort and investment has been worthwhile.

-- Although I may take some heat for some of the frank opinions expressed in this post, I do believe that teachers need to design challenging, authentic and meaningful work for learners that leverage technology appropriately - learners in elementary school, learners in high school, learners in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Seymour Papert describes it as "hard fun" - work that engages learners in powerful ideas.

In Sharon Friesen's and my recent Education Canada article, Hands On vs. Hands Up: Technology-Enabled Knowledge Building in High School, we elaborate on the need for engaged teaching and the design of great tasks. 

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