Asking New Questions

This morning as I was plowing through the post TLT Symposium haze I came across a track back to a couple of my posts last week over at my friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Brady’s site titled “Technology revolution or evolution.” I started to leave a comment at Chris’ blog, but thought I might work to extend the conversation a bit by offering a little bit more thought to my response. In so many ways I agree completely with what Chris is saying, but wanted to extend it just a bit.

While I don’t see any massive revolution on the horizon in the teaching space, I do see a continual refinement of our understanding of the affordances emerging (or emerged) technologies have on classroom practice. I don’t think web 2.0 is any more related to scholarship than the chalkboard when taken by itself. When I argue that new forms of scholarship are emerging, I am asking people to consider there are new opportunities to ask new types of questions that couldn’t be asked before. Take for example the “Texas Slavery Project” from the University of Richmond. When I got a chance to sit down and listen to the researchers behind it, they insisted that being able to visualize data in this environment caused them to ask questions they hadn’t considered before — that is, the technology was used to create new scholarship opportunities.

We’ve started working with quite a few humanities faculty here at ETS to let them do things with these tools that couldn’t be done before. If we dismiss the notion that these tools are somehow outside the boundaries of scholarship (and I do not believe Chris was saying that) we are not maximizing our new ability to attack new and interesting questions.

So back to the conversation around the Twitter use in the classroom that Scott McDonald and I stumbled upon … we are eager to investigate these same kinds of emergent questions in classrooms — the outcome of the Twitter use in class last year was shocking to me and without that experience I would not be able to question the value of backchannel conversations as enablers of learning. This is just a question that would not exist without the initial disruption. Is a revolution coming? Perhaps, but it will feel more like a glacier moving across the frozen tundra — a few centimeters at a time. But to me, that works because each step makes a big difference for a few students.

3 thoughts on “Asking New Questions

  1. It may be to step back and look at the complex threads of this very conversation; I followed back links to Chris’s blog and then found myself bactracking to his brothers and … this kind of conversation was not happening like this a few years ago.

    But also, on this sunny day where I am headed out on a hike to look for geodes, I cannot help but reach into my dusty geology past and suggest checking your metaphors at the door– we often talk about things moving at a slow “glacial” pace, because yes, at first glaciers move slow. But look into glacial surges - events where glaciers burst into high speed mode.

    At the same time, our image of evolution is of gradualism– where minute changes over long periods of time is how species evolve. However there is plenty of evidence that indicates a process what is called punctuated equilibrium ( that indicate that these long periods of very little change is not where the big steps happen; again it is short burst disruptive ones. Like the mass extinctions, the dinosaur’s fading at the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary being just one of many in the fossil record.

    So I’d say we are experiencing perhaps both evolution and revolution, or that we look more for where the potential is for those short burst events– disruption is usually seen as a negative thing, but it is also, in the natural world, the doorway to significant change.

    “You say you want an revolution….”

    And eventually (or maybe sooner) the Chronicle Elitists will go extinct

  2. I was talking to David Wiley the other day and told him that I actually things were happening very quickly — they only feel slow. I know that sounds odd, but change is something that I thrive on, so I am always looking for opportunities to push and I am guessing why things feel slow. But if you would have told me a few years ago that we’d see major shifts in the way our faculty and students can engage in digital conversations, or that we’d have nearly 400 people show up for our Symposium, or we’d be adopting blogs as a platform to support program assessment I’d say you were crazy. I was hopeful for that stuff to happen, but I expected it to take far longer.

    So perhaps we are in one of those amazing little burst moments? With all that has happened my new goal is to work even harder to make sure we put it all to good use. Thanks for the comment, Alan!

  3. hi cole
    i agree with alan, in that the crotical mass of technonology enhanced social collaboration has just been reached, and i tjink that we are on the edge of a paradigm shift in learning,and in media, with a significant move towards situated and social learning in practice,ie life long learning empowered by supportive and critical allies on a global basis at the coalface of experience. when else in history could i read and respond and learn from your experiemce and apply it in real time to my own practice …… to me that is a revolution in acholarship, the ability to interact with others in the same field – schons knowing and reflection in action becomes colla orative,unpacking the daily ‘conversations with the situation’ (schon 87) and sharing them with ones peers

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.