Revelation

The following task was set on the ocTEL course (Explorer activity 1.4. What’s the theory? – http://octel.alt.ac.uk/2014/course-materials/week-1-concepts-and-strategies-for-learning-technology/):

Here are five stories about how technology has enhanced learning. Pick two that interest you. Review the evidence we’ve provided and decide which one you think is more powerful and relevant for you.

I decided to focus on Mazur and Mitra – the clickers and ‘the hole in the wall’.

I thought I was quite familiar with the work of Eric Mazur. If called upon, I would have described his approach as:

  • taking the transmission of information out of the lecture theatre, using pre-lecture reading (an early example of flipping the classroom, but using old technology) 
  • using the class time to explore the material, using clickers

When I viewed the video, I was surprised to hear him speak about the key importance of peer instruction in his approach. So I went back and looked at some of his papers, which I’d first read many years ago, and it was all there, but I had completely forgotten the main message, that peer instruction improves learning.

This realisation was very powerful and shocking for me. I have for years devalued and misrepresented the work of Mazur by focusing on the technology rather than the pedagogy.

So, these are not stories about how technology has enhanced learning, but about how great and innovative teachers have enhanced learning, by thinking about the learning process.

And the key message for me comes from Mazur:

I often meet people who tell me they have implemented this “clicker method” in their classes, viewing my approach as simply a technological innovation. However, it is not the technology but the pedagogy that matters.

“Farewell, Lecture?” Eric Mazur, Science, 323, 50-51 (2009).
Available from – http://mazur.harvard.edu/publications.php?function=display&rowid=635

“It is not the technology but the pedagogy that matters”: even though I say this all the time, I still get it wrong.

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2 thoughts on “Revelation

  1. Thanks for your comment, Joseph.

    I think that you can certainly have peer discussion in class without the technology. And this is the element that Mazur identifies as being important.

    If we use the technology without the peer discussion then it might still be of benefit, but we can’t justify it on the basis of Mazur’s results.

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