One more example that the “medium is the message” is this commentary by James Farmer on a class moving from the FirstClass web course management platform to WebCT Vista. Apparently the structure of the group discussion areas is different – namely that WebCT allows learners to go directly to sub-group areas without passing through the main (instructor-controlled) discussion area. There is now less structural control, as the instructor’s comments in the main discussion area are not being seen as often by students:
Net conclusion – students are showing lower participation rates, groups aren’t following tasks, Elizabeth is having to ramp up her involvement dramatically and shift her pedagogy towards a much more directed one and, without any change in course content, type of cohort, activities or assessment the entire course is changed all because of the structure of the environment.
As I commented yesterday, the pedagogical methods used by instructors are important, but so is the selection and use of technology. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every medium (technology) enhances, retrieves, obsolesces and reverses some aspect through use.
Educators have to clearly understand instructional technologies, so that they can use them wisely.
[James has some diagrams on his site, an aspect of this blog that I’m missing, but should soon address with the next version of Drupal]