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Changing the medium and the method

Posted on: May 17, 2012

Yesterday Seth Godin lamented how we have digital analogues of things like parking meters. (We do not have those devices here because we have both an electronic cash card system and primitive tear-away parking coupons.)

Godin’s point was how current tools, methods, or systems can often limit future tools, methods, or systems. A digital parking system should not just replace the old version by replicating its functions but actually improve them or change them.

If an old parking system required you to guess how much time you were going to park or allowed you to cheat, then the new one should remove the guesswork by determining exactly how long you parked.

You should not not marry old strategies with new technologies.

But we do that all the time, and education is no exception. We might have experienced how lectures happen with a chalkboard, overhead projector and transparencies, PowerPoint, SlidesShare and virtual world. The tool and medium change but the method does not.

Keeping our antiquated parking coupon system in the presence of an electronic one might waste resources, but it just creates an inconvenience now. If we change the medium of instruction but not the method, we do this to the detriment of our learners now and in future.

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