Networked learning

The integration of technology into our educational environments has literally taken place over the course of many of our lifetimes in the most dramatic of ways. When I started school, everything was done on chalkboards and paper. While we had computer lab to learn to type, not every student had a computer in their home until much later in our schooling years and using online environments for homework didn’t really begin until I had reached late high school. I personally found the change challenging. So much so that, in a senior high school class when we had to do a presentation on our favorite form of technology, I chose pencil and paper.

However, I can no longer deny the benefits. Technology has literally transformed learning environments around the world. People can take a class offered in one location while being in another. Students taking language classes can literally talk to people that speak that language natively ( And, people learning about the Holocaust, can take a virtual tour through Auschwitz (

But all of these technologies have been added and changed so quickly. Just this week, one of my professors was asking the best way to answer multiple choice questions in class, lamenting that iclickers seem to be out of date. I was sitting there thinking that they were this new addition to the classroom environment when I was in undergrad just 5 years ago. I then realized that smartphones weren’t commonplace at that time; I hadn’t gotten one until 4 years ago. I quickly googled similar smartphone apps to the iclicker and found a ton!

However, I am pressed with this nagging question every so often. I have a lab mate that is about double my age who started earning his PhD the same year as me. Now if I found the transition to all this technology in the classroom and needing to code all of my data analysis challenging, what is it like for students his age? While I didn’t start my life with this technology, I moved through school with it and had the opportunity to learn. Is all this technology a barrier to older students or even students that come from less developed countries that don’t have these technologies at their fingertips? The addition of this technology in schools, universities, and the workplace is inevitable, but it has happened so fast that it’s making it difficult for those people that didn’t grow up with it to compete. While I have been introduced to a ton of new technology throughout my schooling, it makes me wonder if things will continue to change after I enter the workforce, threatening my career 30 years from now. It certainly feels that we will continue to move in that direction.


6 Replies to “Networked learning”

  1. Great point! It’s not just older students that have to get used to new technology, it’s also professors. I had an older chemistry professor who took the entire first class period one semester to try and figure out the projector. He eventually had to get a TA to help him.

    In an ever-changing world, many professors (especially professors who have been in their position for many years) don’t receive training on new technology. It doesn’t seem like there’s a “teaching tips and tricks” section of each faculty meeting where younger professors share how they’re engaging students in new and creative ways. For many students, if all they get is a “chalk-and-talk” lecture, they’re less likely to find that subject matter engaging and exciting. If professors aren’t keeping up, the interest in their subject matter goes down and that’s a real loss to that field. While it might be hard to “teach an old dog new tricks”, professors have to be willing to incorporate new ways of teaching for a changing student population who are now more technologically engaged than ever.

  2. Great post, Deborah. I have had similar questions in the past as posted by you. Our generation has seen a lot of change in technology applied to education. You are probably right that we will be old enough to understand the new technology 20-30 years from now. But, I am more worried that technology might completely overtake the traditional teaching methods. I personally like both the traditional teaching techniques and high-tech online tools. Hopefully 20 years from now, there will still be a good amalgamation of teaching techniques.

    1. Really great observation Deborah! I also want to pick up on Japsimran’s line, isn’t it somewhat worrying that technology might completely overtake traditional methods? If given the option of attending lectures from home, discussing homework through blogging, would any student ever come to school anymore? I personally feel that networked learning should be supplemental to certain traditional teaching methods, it should not be viewed as an “alternative”. Lastly, Deborah mentioned such technological advances might threaten our careers in future; it is a very realistic concern. The way we are desperate to automate every aspect of our lives, soon most jobs will be redundant and most human labor will be replaceable , by a few lines of code.

  3. Hi Deborah,

    I heard someone once say “you have to either ride the wave or get swept up in it.” (Regretfully, I don’t know who to credit with that beautiful gem, I have forgotten.) So thinking about the concern you mention in your post about being able to “compete,” I wanted to tell you that little saying to hopefully inspire you as it did for me when I first heard it.

    Expecting and accepting (way prematurely) that you’re going to fall behind means that you’re going to be swept up in the wave. (Nobody wants that!)

    On the other hand, to ride the wave means looking at it with a positive perspective that you’re going to keep up, that you will continue to grow as an educator and that you are determined to do whatever it takes to facilitate the best education for your students. (Because it’s what we do!) Yes, future innovations will invariably alter our teaching, learning, pedagogical philosophy and behaviors. I argue that if we care about what we’re doing (as educators), we’re going to keep learning and growing right along with our students.

  4. Hi Deborah,

    I really like your post. As an answer to your question “Is all this technology a barrier to older students or even students that come from less developed countries that don’t have these technologies at their fingertips?”, I can say that technology is not really a barrier to learn because you can find online a lot of tutorials and documentation on how you can use this technology. The most important thing is the will to keep up with these changes in technology.

    1. But what about those people that don’t have internet…? Do you know how many people in the world don’t have access to the internet? 55%. That means 45% of the people in the world are unlikely to keep up with the changing times.

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