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DoE plan aims to update skills

November 26, 2010

If you were going to see a doctor and the doctor said, ‘I’ve been really busy since I got out of medical school, and so I’m going to treat you with the techniques I learned back then,’ you’d be rightly incensed

Harvard professor Chris Dede is frustrated by what he believes amounts to “educational malpractice.” He helped the federal government draft an educational technology plan that was released for comment in March.

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests three strategies for bringing faculty along with educational technology:

  1. Focus on non-technical faculty – help them discover ways technology can help them teach better
  2. Minimize technical language – avoid jargon when speaking to non-experts, and let workshop titles reflect ways people will apply the technology
  3. Use the disciplines – work with departments to promote technology strategies that help teachers in a specific area

A 2004 essay by Indiana professor David Pace echoes Chris Dede’s comparison of teachers with doctors.

Why is the classroom a place for the uncritical perpetuation of folk traditions, when the operating room is not?

The prevalence of dated practices in college classrooms is not limited to use of technology, but it is an obvious place to start. So many wonderful tools have appeared since computers became personal and the information superhighway opened up. How can they not have an impact?

Not every practice in use before the information age is bad – far from it. However, we need to acknowledge that the old strategies now have effective competitors. Like doctors presented with newly proven treatment options, we must strive to make informed choices if we truly wish to improve our students’ academic lives.

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