Lectures May Be Dead But Do We Still Need Teachers?

Lectures May Be Dead But Do We Still Need Teachers?


Technology has DISRUPTED education, to use a popular phrase from the valley. Most traditional institutions are clinging to their linen cardstock degree certificates fearful that a shift to online learning will render them worthless. The paradigm shift underway due to the marriage between technology and education has many innovative thinkers questioning the need for schools at all. Some are arguing that perhaps computers can do a better job of teaching than actual teachers. I tend to agree with a quote from the famous science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke: “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.”

Below I outline three perspectives on the future of education and how the role of ‘teacher’ is either shifting or disappearing all together. (more…)

eLearing: How instructors can help provide students with a safe and positive online learning experience

eLearing: How instructors can help provide students with a safe and positive online learning experience


In his 2009 Ted talk, Alain de Botton, discusses our propensity for career anxiety and blames exceedingly high cultural expectations and the perception of equality as the cause. He encourages everyone to define their OWN definition of success and not believe the false credo that ‘we CAN do it all’. This anxiety that many of us feel surrounding our achievements can play a role in our decisions about education.

When examining how to create a safe online learning environment, it is valuable to consider WHY students are choosing online programs. According to a study by Europe’s leading provider of IT skills, SkillsTrain, the top reasons why students prefer to study at home include:


1) They want to improve job and career prospects.

2) They cannot afford to give up work.

3) They want to earn more.

4) They have family commitments.

5) They need the education to qualify for promotion. (more…)

Online Learning Strategist, Kate Pinner, 'Educators are curators of content'

Online Learning Strategist, Kate Pinner, 'Educators are curators of content'


“The attainment of knowledge is readily available by almost anyone with an internet connection. Educators are curators of content, providing access and opportunities for discovery of content, rather than the people who just structure and deliver it.”

– Kate Pinner, Learning and Content Strategist

Kate Pinner, Learning and Content StrategistLearning and Content Strategist, Kate Pinner, stumbled across my website while looking for guidance on social media strategy. Little did she know that after our chat, I would be ASKING her to share her thoughts on online education. I was THRILLED to connect with someone who had over 15 years of experience designing blended learning programs and developing learning strategies for diverse global audiences.

As an instructor who teachers both online and offline courses, I have a keen interest in how to best use technology to help engage students and provide value to my students. Kate’s experience provides valuable insights into how to best reach adult learners and the future of education. (more…)

Harvard Tries Teaching the Language of Business with Technology

Harvard Tries Teaching the Language of Business with Technology

In his recent article on Forbes.com, branding guru, Marty Neumeier lays out how Harvard is attempting to handle the threat of online disruption. He plainly asks “what’s keeping new distance-learning companies such as Coursera and edX from repositioning Harvard as an overpriced dinosaur (Neumeier, M., 2014)?” This is a question that needs to be asked by EVERY overpriced college program in the country.

Neumeier highlights two opposing strategies to solve this problem and then defines a third option that would help to promote true innovation and not be limited by the past. Harvard appears to be moving forward with a program called HBX, an online course to prepare students to speak ‘the language of business’. The guiding principles formulated by the dean include the following items:

  • HBX should be economically self-sustaining
  • It should not substitute for the MBA program
  • It should replicate the school’s discussion-based learning model (more…)
Learning and Technology: It’s time to change course

Learning and Technology: It’s time to change course

Technology is changing how we learn and we need to change how we teach. There have been several studies that have confirmed predictions that students who have grown up with digital media will learn differently and demand a more engaging form of education (Rudestam, K.E., & Schoenholtz-Read, J., 2010).

One study concludes that Generation Y students are visual learners and that only a very small percentage of the general population prefers to learn by reading (Weiler. A., 2005). A study by Oblinger and Oblinger, quoted in the ‘Handbook of Online Learning’, defines the learning characteristics of those born since 1982 as:

  • > Multitasking rather than single task focused
  • > Preference to learn from pictures, sound and video rather than text
  • > Preference for interactive and networked activities


Hypertext Minds

The handbook describes the minds of millennials as “hypertext minds, craving interactivity, easily reading visual images, possessing good visual-spacial skills, and having the ability to parallel process (Rudestam, K.E., & Schoenholtz-Read, J., 2010, Chap.4).” The author of Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world, Don Tapscott, outlines ‘eight norms’ based upon his research that he says unify the net generation. They include (Tapscott, D., 2008):

  1. Freedom – They want choice in ALL areas of their lives.
  2. Customization – Can’t accept mass-produced products and regularly customize their purchases and their jobs.
  3. Scrutiny – Instinctively scrutinize any information they encounter, exposing hoaxes and false pretenses.
  4. Integrity – They expect companies to display honesty.
  5. Collaboration – Grew up collaborating, it is natural for them.
  6. Entertainment – Expect to take regular breaks from work to relax and don’t see clear lines between work and play.
  7. Speed – Expect everything to happen quickly.
  8. Innovation – They expect change and want the best and latest toys.

Change is Needed

There are several who argue that a shift in pedagogy is required to keep up with changing minds. Tapscott contends that traditional education with its mass-produced information no longer works. He cites high drop-out rates as an indicator that education’s methods are outdated and that education must evolve to help students thrive in an information-based economy (Tapscott, D., 2008).

The Handbook of Online Learning authors agree and cite a report from Futurelab, Rudd, Sutch and Facer (2006) that highlights the importance of networks and describes them as the fundamental underpinnings of social organization. The ability to understand how to join, build, regulate, communicate and navigate these networks therefore, becomes increasingly important skills (Rudestam, K.E., & Schoenholtz-Read, J., 2010). We are required to ask “whether our current education system, premised not upon networks but upon individualized acquisition of content and skills, is likely to support the development of the competencies needed to flourish in such environments (Rudd, T., Sutch, D., & Facer, K., 2006, p.4).”

Another advocate of changing traditional pedagogy from ‘I teach, you learn’ or ‘sage on the stage’ to a more interactive approach is John Seely Brown. His lecture on Learning in the Digital Age stresses the social view of learning. He describes this as moving away from the credo ‘We think, therefore we are.’ to ‘We participate therefore we ARE’. The chart he developed below, characterizes the shifting role of professors, learning activities and student behaviors that is demanded in a Web 3.0 world.

eLearning and online learning 3.0 from John Seely Brown


He claims that professors have moved from being a ‘source of knowledge’ to an ‘orchestrator of collaborative knowledge creation.’ Student behaviors have shifted from being ‘largely passive’ to more of a ‘co-creation of resources’ including a strong sense of ownership.

Help or Hindrance?

Some have questioned whether technology can help facilitate the changes required to teach in a new way.  And others have suggested that the answer is to limit or ban students from using social networks and technological devices in the classroom. The short answer to whether or not technology is a help or hindrance to learning is ‘it’s complicated’.

Handbook authors Rudestam and Schoenholtz-Read argue that this is the wrong question and contend that students are already conditioned to use digital media and so educators need to adjust. Dana Boyd would agree as she has this to say in her research publication, ‘Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life’ (Boyd, D., 2007, p.21):

“As a society, we need to figure out how to educate teens to navigate social structures that are quite unfamiliar to us because they will be faced with these publics as adults, even if we try to limit their access now. Social network sites have complicated our lives because they have made this rapid shift in public life very visible. Perhaps instead of trying to stop them or regulate usage, we should learn from what teens are experiencing. They are learning to navigate networked publics; it is in our better interest to figure out how to help them.”

My goal as a teacher and media psychologist is to help navigate the rough waters ahead. I’m an advocate for change and choose to have an extremely optimistic view of the role of technology in our lives and more specifically how we learn.  Obstacles lay ahead but I hope to be part of finding innovative solutions, our future depends on it.


Boyd, D. (2007). Why youth (heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. MacArthur foundation series on digital learning–Youth, identity, and digital media volume, 119-142. http://sjudmc.net/lyons/civicmedia1/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/boyd-Why-teens-heart-social-media.pdf

Brown, J. S. (2009). Lecture on Learning in the Digital Age. YouTube: http://youtu.be/jNwCGWXK6YU.

Oblinger, D., Oblinger, J. L., & Lippincott, J. K. (2005). Educating the net generation.   Boulder, Colo.: EDUCAUSE, c2005.1 v. (various pagings): illustrations.

Rudd, T., Sutch, D., & Facer, K. (2006) Opening education: Towards new learning networks. Futurelab. (http://www2.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/opening_education/Learning_Networks_report.pdf)

Rudestam, K. E., & Schoenholtz-Read, J. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of online learning. Sage.

Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world HC. McGraw-Hill.

Weiler, A. (2005). Information-seeking behavior in Generation Y students: Motivation, critical thinking, and learning theory. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 31(1), 46-53.


Engagement and Learning Styles: SuperHero strategies to engage both online and off

Engagement and Learning Styles: SuperHero strategies to engage both online and off

Today’s teachers are finding it increasingly challenging to engage students. Considering the unique learning styles of our students and catering teaching techniques to support these styles can improve student performance (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002) and increase student engagement.

Research indicates that learning styles are the result of many influences including biological, sociological and cultural characteristics. Within each culture, class bracket and classroom ‘there are as many within-group differences as between-group differences. Indeed, each family includes parents and offspring with styles that differ’ (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002, p.88). Studies have found the closer the match between a student’s and teacher’s styles, the higher the grade point average (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002). It’s important to remember that no learning style is BETTER or WORSE than another and each style has similar intelligence ranges. “Most learners can master the same content but HOW the master it is determined by their individual styles” (Dunn, R., Beaudry, J.S. & Klavas, A., 2002, p.89). (more…)