In the past couple weeks I was referred to this video regarding online education and I met a couple publisher representatives about a new online eBook. “We must meet students where they are and they are on the internet looking at Facebook,” was told to me by the publisher representative. Those representatives were pushing for me to adopt their new online eBook in my classes for the Fall.
While the eBook is nice, with multiple videos and examples embedded in the text, I felt “my goodness, we sure are spoon feeding students these days.” I told that to the publishers. I also mentioned the equivalent of their eBook is available right now in print form. On reserve at the library I have placed three textbooks and four Schaum’s outline series books with thousands of worked out example problems. What’s the difference between looking at examples on a computer screen or going to the library to look at them? We probably could go on and on about the pros and cons of both. For now, let’s move on to dialectic reasoning about online vs. traditional learning.
- Thesis: Today’s students are fine. Today’s instruction needs adjustment. You must adjust instruction methods to meet the new students of today.
- Anti-thesis: Instruction is fine. Today’s students need to adjust. Students need to get off of Facebook and get in the library with books from a diverse author base.
- Synthesis: Students and instruction both need to adjust.
I must admit, I am in-between the “anti-thesis” and “synthesis” positions. All this talk of “new students of today” reminds me of the “New Economy.” I remember telling my boss after our startup was acquired in 2000 “our P/E ratio is 400, shouldn’t we sell our stock?” His reply? “Your MBA doesn’t apply anymore, this is a New Economy.” We all know what happened after that. The fundamentals returned. The stock market plummeted.
I see the same thing here with education. Replace “New Economy” with “New Students” or “New instructional methods.” Fundamentals will return. Students will have to spend time and study.
Let me throw one more dart at Facebook as I close. Economic growth results from productivity enhancing technological innovation. This is a Schumpetarian view on economic growth. I ask, how has technological innovation such as Facebook enhanced anyone’s productivity? Is there a connection between the productivity reducing technological progress called “social media” and lower economic growth?