Understanding New Media – Learning
“Education is ultimately concerned with something more than passive responses. It entails the creation on new visions” (183).
Veltman, Kim H. Understanding New Media: Augmented Knowledge & Culture. University of Calgary Press, 2006.
In chapter 8, Veltman explained how the corporate world created “action science,” a management method based on the tutorial approach of the academic world. He opens chapter 9 discussing that education, in turn, adopted some of this method into the idea of distance learning. In this way, more responsibility is placed on the student to become a more active learner. “Education is becoming learning or, as one company puts it: ‘the twenty-first century has no room for students, only learners’” (180). In other words, the opportunity for students to be less-involved or active, sitting passively in the back of a FtF class focused largely just on getting the class grade is not possible in the distance education class. The distance education student must be more active and involved, completing not only the required assignments but also being engaged in discussions online, since the instructor is not always leading the class in one-to-many lecture. Rather, the instructor still holds a leading role, but the students are all forced to show their presence and opinions, helping shape the class. The focus becomes not just getting a grade but on being more engaged in the learning process and in actually learning the material.
In the United States, the buzzwords of the new approach are very revealing. They emphasize ‘learning to learn,’ with ever-less emphasis on teachers. They speak of learning environments, which are often classrooms with technology, rather than teachers (180).
This is not to say that the teachers are nonexistent or that the technology is teaching the students, but rather that the technology becomes a large part of the learning method and the distance education teacher can (or must) present material in a variety of ways but then step back a bit to let students take the steps necessary to educate themselves with the provided material. “Catchy phrases such as ‘From the sage on the stage to the guide on the side’ make light of the conceptual influences from industry and technology underlying this trend” (180).
Veltman writes that educational theory is shifting to, among other approaches, a problem-based learning (PBL) model. He details the history of this model and places the emphasis for its introduction with Howard S. Barrows of McMaster University, who wrote:
A problem can best be thought of as a goal where the correct path to its solution is no known…. In PBL learners are progressively given more ad more responsibility for their own education and become increasingly independent of the teacher for their education. PBL produces independent learners who can continue to learn on their own in life and in their chosen careers. The responsibility of the teacher in PBL is to provide the educational materials and guidance that facilitate learning. (182)
He also states that one of the reasons the new theories of learning are very different than learning in the traditional academic sense is that the theories’ “rhetorical emphasis on learning environments has a technical agenda. Machines replace live encounters with experienced teachers” (181). Again, it is not that teachers are trying to remove themselves from the one-to-one equation or are looking to perform fewer duties (in fact, distance teaching can often take a far greater amount of instructor work for each class). Rather, it is an effect of distance education that the personal and synchronous element is generally removed. Even distance classes that have a synchronous element generally conduct that interaction through textual means like chat sessions in password-protected online areas.
[T]he new media make possible very different approaches to education. The Internet allows new levels of sharing information. This is leading to new kinds of collaborative knowledge and various telematic methods. It is also leading to augmented books, knowledge, and culture. (181).
With file sharing, new communicative tools (including those using text, audio, and video), and collaboration tools such as Google Docs and group calendars, it is clear to see many ways in which the internet enhances both sharing and collaboration. One way that books are being augmented is by having an online component, such as supplemental study guides, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and tutorials, such as Technical Communication in the Twenty-First Century by Dobrin, Keller, and Weisser. The OVC is also obviously such a new method as well, allowing instructors and students to communicate, collaborate, and share ideas through asynchronous video.
Veltman goes on to state that these new media call for “a complete reorganization of knowledge, which will change the nature of knowledge itself” (181). While this may sound a bit extreme and a charge we hear of many new teaching methods, as well as new communication methods, there is some predictable rationale to it. The way we store and deliver information has changed with the internet, which changes the way that we build and retain knowledge.