It seems to have always been a flavor-of-the-month notion with technology uses for education, and it’s fun to reflect on these changes. First on the Ed Tech scene (starting sometime in the 1970s) was the Behaviorist-style Tutorial. It guaranteed learning at 100% criterion for all learners, and it allowed students to learn at their own pace. But Tutorials soon fell out of popularity as many people began to consider them as boring.
The next prized Ed Tech to arise in the 1990s was Distance Learning, which was definitely going to revolutionize learning for the masses. It would be possible to present the best instructors with the very best curriculum (however you determine what that is) for all learners via the computer. Unfortunately, it was found that when distance learning was used on a large scale, the drop-out rate was very high, and it wasn’t very popular with all students.
Next on the progressive road of Ed Techs was the notion of the “Flipped Classroom”. Students could view brilliantly created videos, such as the Kahn Academy videos, at night — at their own pace — and then do their “homework” activities during the day. However, it turned out that there seems to be not a whole lot of improvement with this model over the traditional classroom courses, expect for some improvement by low achievers, but self-paced learning has always helped low achievers (see Tutorials above).
This brings up the point worth mentioning. Instead of going from one Educational Technology to the next, why not use all of them for different purposes, and for purposes to which they were originally intended. In the case of Tutorials, these could be provided as a choice to low achievers who, for whatever reason, are having difficulty in the classroom. After all, they guarantee 100% achievement. It has been found that after students take a number of these tutorials, they don’t even need them anymore, since they gain confidence in their abilities.
Distance Learning courses can be provided to older motivated students in order to expand the curriculum. A large number of these courses could be provided (in high school or college) and small groups of similarly interested students can watch them together and do group work together — in Chinese or Computer Programming, for example. After all, the original purpose for Distance Learning was a way for professional adults to obtain advanced degrees when they didn’t live near a university. So Distance Learning can allow students to expand their learning beyond what courses are immediately available to them.
In the case of instructional videos, like the Kahn Academy Videos, they can be provided to any student needing additional instruction and tutoring. Kahn himself started the videos because his young cousin needed additional tutoring in math. The videos can be aligned to the coursework and students can go through them at night for additional help.
If we use Educational Technology for the purposes to which these products were originally intended, they can help meet all of the advanced learning needs of the 21st century for both adolescents and adults.