Our recent post on our predictions for EdTech in 2014 generated some thought-provoking comments and responses. One comment in particular got us thinking about some of the assumptions that are widely made when talking about EdTech, language learning and the various opinions and developments that feed into them.
Paul Emmerson raised the point that the ‘e’ in elearning merely refers to the medium through which the content is delivered and that actual learning is an immutable activity that requires the same amount of effort and application regardless of how it is approached. Just because the materials and activities are expressed in binary code or are files saved in the cloud it doesn’t change the responsibility or necessity of the human effort that needs to be leveraged to attain the desired outcome. The ease and speed of accessing the material shouldn’t be misinterpreted as reflecting the ease and speed of actually learning what there is to learn.
Consider ebooks versus their ‘tree-ware’ counterparts; the content is flowable text that is unrestrained by the bulky physicality of pages and dust jackets. It is searchable and there may even be a dictionary application that is available at the prod of an inquisitive finger. But, you still need to read each and every word if you want to fully enjoy the author’s work. There’s no avoiding that.
Undoubtedly, the use of online platforms and mobile apps requires new methodologies to express and best apply the different forms and levels of interaction that are being promoted (how you read on screen differs greatly to how you read ‘on page’, scaffolding and concept checking in the absence of a live teacher become critical, etc.), but we can’t ignore the human brain that is being given the opportunity to engage with a learning opportunity.