January 12, 2008

Timothy Burke beats me to the punch on interesting learning objects

In his blogging on a conference this week sponsored by the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (or NITLE), Timothy Burke has raised the right questions to ask about electronic learning objects that are interactive, information-intense, and based on scholarship and the interests of great teachers:

  • How could they be crafted to change teaching? [W]e're also not pedagogically literate about how to use this kind of material and we don't often create them to be used as the center piece of a small liberal arts class. Suppose I had students look at the Palenque learning object. It's great for giving the students a vivid visual and experiential feel for the place. But ok: it's thus just a supplement to something else that's being used to create discussion-based learning for that session. That's part of the problem with some of these objects: they're supplemental, optional, not just because faculty don't work to enhance their teaching but because that's how they cast themselves. At least some of these objects have to have the character of scholarship, e.g., to have an argument, to enter into the conversation about a particular area of knowledge forcefully, to be knowledge rather than a supplement to knowledge.
  • How do we create/grant professional credit for this? [I]f you build this stuff, you're really building it for external use, as a gift to the world, and usually a gift specifically to institutions and users who are asymmetrically related to the faculty and institutions involved in building digital resources. E.g., to K-12 students, to community colleges, to universities in the developing world, to underresourced colleges. And no matter how much some of my colleagues in history and anthropology may talk the talk of social justice and digital divide, when it gets down to being involved in giving a digital gift, they ask: what's the incentive? Why should I, if that means I won't publish my next monograph in a timely fashion? Who will notice or care if I give a gift of this kind?
  • How do we build sustainable institutional support? Wesleyan has started creating a chargeable model for the activities of the Academic Media Studio, but as Burke notes from the presentation (or rather, as the presenters noted), Scholarly collaboration is not free.

I'm sure I'd be able to figure out at least a few possible answers to these problems, but I'm still struggling with the pedagogical questions, I'm not sure how I'd get credit for it in annual evaluations, and I'd need to write grants to support the time I'd need and the technical folks to implement the solutions.

That last sentence is a joke, dear readers. I'm fairly sure my colleagues would be supportive, and I do have a few ideas for support, but Burke has explained the key barriers.

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Posted in Higher education on January 12, 2008 11:18 AM |