In his follow-up presentation / facilitated conversation after his keynote at BLC08, Ewan McIntosh asserted that no single image or video can represent what the new era of teaching and learning looks like. I agree there are multiple ways of thinking about blended learning and what an ideal learning environment in the 21st century can and should look like. I also agree with Ewan’s point that as educators we need to teach, facilitate, and lead in the ways we believe are best for learners and learning and share that with others. I also think there is value, however, in reflecting on images of teaching and learning, as well as technology, and discussing how those images reflect or fail to reflect what is best and needed for learning inside and outside of classrooms today.

Dr Sara Kejder recently asked students in a graduate humanities class to share and reflect on pictures they selected which addressed “teaching and learning 2.0” ideas as a VoiceThread conversation. I invite you to listen to some of their ideas and then join the discussion on one more more slides.

One of the things which struck me as I listened to the students was how many of them seem to view technology as an isolating and even dehumanizing force. Many of them also seem to have had negative experiences with online courses as well. There is a sentiment in many of the comments that technology serves largely to distance and distract us from one another, rather than bring is closer together in learning communities and communities of practice. That was a contention I remember from John Naisbitt‘s book “High Tech/High Touch: Technology and Our Accelerated Search for Meaning.” Certainly technologies can and do distance and distract, but I think they can also powerfully join and connect.

Rather than share only images which communicate an isolated and impersonal view of technology for this assignment, I would opt to share an image like this one of Brian Crosby‘s students in Reno, Nevada, using Skype to connect with one of their classmates who was homebound due to cancer treatments.

Students in Brian Crosby's classroom

The 3 minute video a professional crew from Skype created about Brian’s class and their use of desktop videoconferencing to include Celeste as a participating member of their class represents, to me, a powerful vision of what teaching and learning 2.0 SHOULD look like and does look like in (currently) a very limited number of classrooms.

To help others imagine and even imagineer the future of learning, we need to provide them with opportunities to experience it today. Few teachers are as powerful or as memorable as personal experiences.

Students in Brian Crosby's classroom using Skype

To learn more about this story, check out Brian’s keynote in the “Overcoming Obstacles” strand of the free 2007 K-12 Online Conference.

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