Thursday, June 5, 2008

Web 2.0 and Change in Higher Education

I found a new online journal yesterday--The Knowledge Tree--tagged as Australia's premier e-journal of learning innovations.

Edition 15 is dedicated to the infiltration of Web 2.0 tools into teaching. Since the concept of Web 2.0 is only a few years old, the practices discussed are definitely from innovators and early adopters. In the lead article, How Did a Couple of Veteran Classroom Teachers End up in a Space Like This? Extraordinary Intersections Between Learning, Social Software and Teaching, Ganley and Sawhill (2007) explore how the integration of blogging into their teaching transformed their practice. The truth of one statement caught my eye.

"There is ... a new form of tension in today’s classroom: between the students we once were and the students we now find ourselves teaching, a tension between what we have to teach and what our students want to learn, and a tension between their passions and interests and the Academy’s curricular obligations."

I am reminded of the digital divide between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Today's students fundamentally process information differently from their predecessors. My mother retired from teaching high school in 1998 noting the change in students even then. Ten years later, the NET GEN has reached our college and university campuses enmasse. However, higher education, in general, is still stuck in the Industrial Age. Of course, there will be tension.

"[M]any teachers who do not have difficulty releasing old ideas, embracing new ways of thinking, may still be as resolutely attached to old ways of practicing teaching as their more conservative colleagues. That’s a crucial issue. Even those of us who are experimenting with progressive pedagogical practices are afraid to change" (Hooks 1994, qtd in Ganley and Sawhill).

Hall and Hord (2007) reiterated that change occurs gradually as individuals "come to understand and become skilled and competent in the use of the new ways (p.4). They indicated that most changes in education take 3-5 years to implement at the high level, and for each new adopting unit such as a school, district, or state, the countdown begins all over again for another 3-5 years. Mort (1964) chronicled educational innovations from the 30s, 40s, and 50s and concluded that the time lag between perception of a need for change to the introduction and diffusion of an innovation to meet that need was 50 years. Rogers (2003) also found that a "considerable time lag was required for the adoption of educational innovations" (p. 61), usually 25 years. So, how is technology affecting this process?

Hall, G.E., & Hord, S.M. (2007). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes. (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

Mort, P. R. (1964). Studies in educational innovation from the institute of administrative research: An overview. In M. B. Miles (Ed.), Innovation in education (pp. 317-328). New York: Columbia University Teachers College Press.

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: The Free Press.

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