The last couple of weeks have been ridiculously busy: both professionally and personally and I have hardly had a moment to come up for air.  Lots of life being juggled and lots of balls falling...

Still I have been missing writing my blog dreadfully and in a micro -guilt ridden- slot at the Gym today, between classes, a rant brewed and brewed... so, just quickly, gonna let off some steam about thoughts and thinking about the use of tech in the classroom here...

especially, so that the very next time, I see this sort of nonsense being tweeted or ReTweeted I'll have a handy blog link to send in response...

If you never asked, in fact it never occured to you to question what the pedagogical and economical implications of this is/was

let alone the vast environmental impact,

then what, exactly, do you think is being said/clarified/proved/implied/assumed by saying...

I fear the push towards online is economically and not pedagogically driven. #edchatTue Aug 10 16:45:31 via Seesmic

Now, Bill, I'm really sure you're a super nice guy - in fact your Twitter page reads that you're a geek too.

You and me: well we're in different fields of education so it's probably a bit or perhaps even way unfair of me to rant on my blog incorporating your #edchat tweet... (and I did read through the entire page of your relevant tweets to find context and will openly admit you, indeed, asked some hard-hitting questions) but thing is, in my own field... we're bogged down by these sort of random, un-thought-through statements and by golly, they do so annoy me to the nth of the nth degree...

Educators: think!

What leads a questioner to the place in which he decides to make such a bold statement? What is he hoping to prove?  Does he have an objective, based on his own needs or a personal agenda  - why is there even a question in asking about where the pedagogy in technology lies?

What do tools, what have tools ever, had to do with pedagogy? Is a pen a better tool to process and write an essay? Why?  Why not?  What is going on around us in the world today?  Why is there, currently, a push towards online learning?  

Who uses computers?  Why does anyone use computers at all?   

What qualifies quality of instruction?  Is location really any kind of factor?  Why? How have today's classroom architectures led us to where we are today - what can be taken from that and what can be improved upon?   

What is education?   Is it only the movement of knowledge from one being to another being? How do we learn?  Is learning meant to be just, merely, the rote memorization of statistics soaked up or is it meant to create more questions or solutions? 

Are we meant to assume, when reading statements of this ilk, that online courses are all created by  a bunch of people sitting in a room who couldn't give a toss about things like hitting educational targets, that they're  a bunch of suits whose primary purpose is to make or save money?  And if so, how do we educators move them beyond the bottom line? 

What opportunities do we have to direct the learning approaches for the systems created?

What are the benefits, problems, consequences of training students online?  

What is lost? 
What is gained?
Can we establish a clear balance?

Will online courses ever become better and more pedagogically sound and critical? Will they be  better structured than those provided F2F because they remain not in the hands of one instructor but in collaborative teams involving the learners themselves? Or is the concept of crowd wisdom, a daydream only? 

Will online courses be cheaper or will they wind up being more expensive? 
Why or why not?
Are online courses really more convenient to learners? 
Why or why not?

How much autonomy is required to learn in an online environment - as opposed to in a classroom setting?  
How do educators keep learners motivated enough to stick to their course?  Are motivational factors the same online as live?  Why?
How do we train teachers to work online?  What skills, aside from digital literacy, will they need?

What will be the consequence of having a large body of teachers who are simply not able to teach in an online environment?

Will their employment opportunities reduce?

Will the socio-demographic change:  what are the employment opportunities of students who have been trained online versus those who have not, what skills will either have that the other won't have?

Where are we heading...

Where is our tomorrow?


We are educators, it is our duty to question.

But...  do you mind, can we please do more than fear monger about the scary-monster-tech-beast, really, now because that tactic's best left to politicians, isn't it - let's answer those pressing questions, let's ask many more - can you think of some I've missed?

image credits:
Stuttgart Der Denker by hmobius
Pen and Paper by Road Dog on

Best, Karenne

8 Responses to “Think!”

  • Gary says:
    August 12, 2010

    I love the idea of thinking things through. I work at an international school and our push is for online learning, at least in the near future, to be geared more towards students who cannot attend classes for whatever reason. We struggled for 2 months trying to put together an online learning plan during the Swine Flu epidemic. We didn't get very far because of lack of training opportunities and lots of disagreements.

    There are a lot of questions that need to be asked, as well as actually deciding what our goal should be for online education. I don't see admin trying to use online learning to save money - it will probably cost a lot more in the short term.

  • Evan says:
    August 13, 2010

    Hi Karenne

    I was one of those who retweeted this tweet because I happen to think it makes an important point. More and more people choose an online option because they can't afford the time / expense of a face-to-face course.

    Isn't that economically driven? :-)

    August 13, 2010

    Thanks Gary - yes Goals are incredibly important and I do hope you're wrong about them not costing more but probably you're right as in the beginning there will have to some level of investment, especially if the creators think through what they're doing!

    Hi ya, Evan! You make a very valid point, that :-)

  • Ian James says:
    August 15, 2010

    Hi Karenne,

    I realise it can get rantingly hot during the summer months (I recommend a good wide-brimmed sunhat), but don’t you think you’ve been a bit too hard on poor Bill here?

    In my humble opinion, I don’t think his aforementioned #edchat tweet (“I fear the push towards online learning is economically and not pedagogically driven”) was a particularly incendiary statement ... and was certainly undeserving of the rather harsh language you uncharacteristically employ in your post (e.g. dismissing it as “nonsense”). Surely, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some providers of online learning are moved to a certain extent by the desire to make a bob or two.

    If however you take his comment to mean that online learning is EXCLUSIVELY driven by economic motives, then I would go along with you - in your disagreement that is, not in your annoyance ... I still don't think it's something to get too worked up about.

    Things, as we all know, tend not to be black or white. So, while I would agree that online learning is not solely driven by economic interest, nor would I say that it is 100% driven by gushingly passionate teachers equipped with boundless energy and a rucksack full of the “correct” pedagogy. A more realistic escenario is that both these factors, as well as MANY others, are present in the equation.

    But to change tack, I suspect that part of the reason why Bill’s comment has caused you so much steam is the fact that it was tweeted rather than blogged! It seems to me that Bill had a perfectly valid and reasonable point to make, but was prevented from expounding on it by Twitter’s enforced brevity. Because let’s face it, Twitter is a pretty naff platform if what you want to do is a have an unhurried rigorous debate about something. It just doesn't allow enough time or space for reflective reasoning. Maybe it’s just me, but I often find Twitter hashtag debates difficult to follow. I either feel I’m being bombarded with a series of chaotically ordered slogans and aphorisms which are impossible to keep up with, or it feels like reading a series of really interesting newspaper headlines and then being frustrated because there is no accompanying article which goes into further detail.

    So, instead of going on to splatter-gun Bill with a flood of other questions which - although important - have little to do with his original proposition, maybe it would be a better idea to invite Bill to write a blog post on the question. I for one would be interested in reading the “article” which lies behind the “tweeted headline”.

    My last point is on the semantic side of things. You say that Bill should do more than “fear monger about the scary-monster-tech-beast”. Once again I beg to differ. I reckon Bill’s use of “I fear that”, far from mongering fear, is actually an indication that he isn’t 100% sure. I understand his “I fear that” to be more synonymous with “I suspect that” or “I am concerned about the possibility that”. For me, it just doesn’t sound like an attempt to whip up anti-tech hysteria by some demagogue with a hidden “personal agenda”.

    Anyway, that’s what I “Think!” .. Off to have a siesta!

    Un abrazo,

    Ian (@ij64)

    August 15, 2010

    Crackingly good rant Ian, enjoyed that muchly... yeah, you're right, unfortunately I'd already been annoyed about the

    "where's the pedagogy in technology" question prior and Bill's tweet came just in the right moment and I went off to classes, gym yada yada and then ranted...

    But I did let him know that he was the victim of a girl's hot summer afternoon and he, being a good sport, has promised a response - looking forward to it!

    -see status here

  • Bill Genereux says:
    August 16, 2010

    @Ian you crack me up... and you have have much more eloquently expressed my sentiments than I could myself.

    I have no hidden agenda. I don't even really have strong feelings on this issue. @Karenne, you obviously care deeply about online learning.

    Having completed numerous mediocre (or even downright bad) online courses, been involved with grandiose distance learning programs that never quite panned out, and dabbled a bit in online teaching as well, I've never quite reached your level of passion about it.

    For what it's worth, I wrote more about it here.

  • Clare says:
    August 24, 2010

    In my experience with online learning, you can do a lot more with your budgets than with traditional classroom learning.

    I helped develop some of my company's first elearning courses in Italy (from 2001 onwards). In that time, the company I worked with made major savings and our team became pretty nimble at each stage of the process.

    Not only that, we could involve more students while still keeping costs down for the client. Rather than sending teachers all over god knows where, we could get students to come to us, basically.

    It took a huge effort at the beginning (I feel your pain, Gary) and a huge amount of hand-holding at the beginning. But we were lucky in that our company had the tech expertise to create an elearning platform; and we also had a couple of influential persuaders in our clients.

    In the end, it was a win-win for us, and for the client. We rolled out courses at most levels from A1 onwards, and could easily (and economically) expand into new contracts with new clients.

  • Bill Genereux says:
    August 28, 2010

    Thanks Clare. You seem to be in agreement with me as well.


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