This started as a comment to this post from injenuity, but started to spiral out of control.

Thanks for this. It’s helped me clarify muddle my own thoughts on this issue.  I certainly have seen enough educational technology used badly to agree that it, including web 2.0 tools, isn’t for everyone.  So far, so good.

I can’t shake the sense, however, that the decentralized, learner-influenced environment of Web 2.0 is what we ought to be doing. Isn’t the real point of education to teach our students to learn and think for themselves?  Downes has a post somewhere here about telling the teacher you no longer need them.  But… how do you get students there? On Saturday, I had a student comment about a test they just took in my class that it was much harder to recall the information (fill in the blank)  than just recognize it (multiple choice).  I had the sense that recall wasn’t something they’d been asked to do very often.

My experience is that students are often so used to being told exactly what to do and doing exactly what they’re told that when one opens it up, the assignment falls flat.

You mention finding out how a teacher teaches before pitching technology to them.  The problem is, if they’re lecturing all day every day and then giving multiple choice tests which emphasize factual recall as  the lion’s share of their assessment strategy, I don’t think they’re teaching in a way which serves students well.  I’d go further and argue that this approach is so ubiquitous that students come to expect it and that the choices of those lecturing instructors (in aggregate) make it much harder on those who wish to try any other approach.  Remember that the predominance of the lecture in “modern” education owes much to the fact that in the medieval university, there was usually one copy of the book, and the professor had it.

I think we might be moving away from this faster but for two things, both which have to do more with assessing learning than enabling it.

1) Lecture creates an economy of scale (see William Farish) which supports the lecture model.

2) In an environment where accountability is key, those paying the bills want to see a quantification of progress (test scores, etc.) whch encourages the multiple guess test, which is easier to grade than more open ended responses (see point 1)

Can we really do better as long as educating people is considered an industrial process?