Guest Post by Steve Allen Mashburn, ED.S.
Coordinator of Online Education
Students appreciate the convenience of online courses but when they are pressed to discuss the instructional aspects, few give virtual schooling a glowing review. Unfortunately, the growth of virtual education has been due to operational factors (reduce cost, scheduling conflicts, quick and dirty remediation, etc.) , rather than an inherent benefit of better instruction.
As I have seen online education develop (both locally and nationally), I have adjusted my thinking about the advantage of a Learning Management System (LMS).
I clearly see that there is a reason textbook publishers are turning to learning objects delivered through a Learning Management System – after all, the LMS was designed to digitized traditional face-to-face teaching and learning on the college level. The reason is that it is in the vested interest of the textbook publishers and other content providers to support this so-call transformation into 21st century learning. They hope the adaption of print materials into digital learning objects will be a windfall in terms of their investment. A lengthier “long-tail” to an intellectual property cannot be found; after all, when will an animated object showing the parts of speech go out of date? It has a longer shelf life than “Proud Mary.”
If you feel traditional education is effective, then all is well. You can march into the future confident that a technology band-aid closes the ever increasing gap between today’s student and their formal education.
However, I think (and I am supported by every major educational study of the last 50 years), that the infrastructure of school needs major surgery. Why, then, are we turning to the very people who made learning dull and boring for students for so many years?
Textbook publishers and their content and curriculum advisors know naught about engaging students. Film directors, musicians, comic book writers and electronic game developers do. These are the people that need to be developing our instructional delivery for the 21st century. We need creativity, not pedagogy, to reach the at-risk student (and in today’s climate, I think every student is at risk).
Online education, as it exist at this point in time, is nothing more than students completing a set of electronic worksheets. Despite this, students seem to be accepting, even pleased, with their online experience. But what happens when the novelty wears off. What happens when technology becomes just another appliance – like the stove or washer?
But the digital worksheet approach is not the only way. There is no technical reason why online education, through the use of a virtual world, cannot be based upon the principles of social constructivism (such as project-based learning with authentic connections, proximal development, spiral curriculum, scaffolding, and language acquisition).
The tools for creating a New Opportunity for Better Learning Environments (NOBLE) are here.
Virtual worlds now have the ability to quickly gamify content with quests, NPC (non-playing characters – or bots), role-plays, simulations, reenactments and 3-D modeling .
Check out – http://www.avatarclassroom.com/