Posted by: lindapemik | November 6, 2010

Ever the optimist….

MrDubbs got me thinking this week…in a recent blog post, “What is this change agent Will is talking about?” In his post he described his reaction to an interview with Will Richardson. I found it interesting that he described how he was tempted to take a pessimistic view towards the use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, but was trying to keep an open mind.  Being the eternal optimist when it comes to the potential for Web 2.0 to transform teaching and learning, I paused to think more deeply about why I hold out such hope for promoting the use of technology and the Web in the classrooms of our College.

Upon reflection I have decided that the short answer to why I am optimistic about the potential of technology, particularly web-based technology, is that I have seen evidence that appropriate use of technology in the classroom often leads to a different way of teaching and learning.  Introduction of web-based learning tools also accelerates the achievement of student-centred learning and I am also convinced that adoption of student-centred learning principles results in improved learning outcomes for learners of all ages.

Notice the words “appropriate use”!    using the Web to deliver distance learning is often nothing more than traditional teaching delivered on-line; teacher-directed as opposed to learner-directed.  The Internet is used to deliver talking head type lectures, with mainly  text-based materials, students watching, listening, working individually, and being assessed with traditional assessment tools.  The only advantage to this delivery method is that it makes teaching more accessible.  It works for some people but it certainly doesn’t challenge students to learn differently.

So when does on-line teaching challenge students to learn differently?   When it changes to student-centred teaching.   Student-centered teaching methods shift the focus of activity from the teacher to the learners. These methods include active learning, cooperative learning,  and inductive teaching and learning. Student-centered methods have repeatedly been shown to be superior to the traditional teacher-centered approach to instruction, a conclusion that applies whether the assessed outcome is short-term mastery, long-term retention, or depth of understanding of course material, acquisition of critical thinking or creative problem-solving skills, formation of positive attitudes toward the subject being taught, or level of confidence in knowledge or skills.

On-line teaching , if handled well,  provides  superb opportunities to model a student-centred  approach. It is not enough to simply place print based materials onto a server. Rather electronic delivery offers the hope of increased learner-learner and learner-teacher interaction. It also provides opportunities for learners to access and browse a variety of resources, and then focus on areas of need and interest, so that control for learning is passed on to the learner in a guided way as self-efficacy is increased.  EC&I 831 has demonstrated for me the effectiveness of an open, student-centred classroom.  I have never learned so much so fast and been so engaged in the process. The fact that our classroom is a virtual one and that we have been connecting with classmates and our professor on-line has enriched the learning process not diminished it. I have been challenged to process and gather information in a different way; encouraged to make meaning from my on-line research and connections and as a result I have become a more capable learner.




Briefly describe one of your “student-centered learning” experiences.   Click on the COMMENTS link to get started!



  1. Great personal connections Linda, I especially like the glass is half full analogy. Thanks for reading my blog it is much appreciated and I am glad it made you put some of your thoughts down in your blog. I agree with alot of what you are saying about if used properly technology can be a huge benefit to learning. I look forward to future posts.


  2. Linda, I was so happy to read this post. I have struggled so long to help people realize what you have just said – that the appropriate use of technology in (online) learning can transform learning relationships, transferring the locus power from teacher to student.

    And of course, I am so happy for you that you have taken this challenge so seriously. I do hope that you will be able to bring what you have learned to your program. Again, I’ll be happy to help post-course.

    • Student-centred teaching and learning is definitely all about transforming the locus of power in the classroom and the issue that underlies a lot of the debate about the efficacy of PLE’s in formal learning environments. Just how much decision making power can we share with students when we have to “cover the curriculum in a fixed time” as Shelley asks? or when we have specialized subject content material that we believe students need to understand to become experts in the field, as Lisa describes ( teacher as curator). In many instances we are obligated by law and expectations as instructors to help our students achieve clearly defined learning outcomes within a prescribed time frame. I suggest that we in formal learning institutions respond to these challenges by moving back and forth on a continuuum of shared power, but all the time keeping in mind the emerging need to cultivate a learning environment that encourages learners to take responsibility for their learning and become more self-directed through the development of their own PLE’s..not sure if this makes sense to anyone but me and I am sure my thoughts will become clearer over time..which makes me thankful for your offer of continued support post-eci831!

  3. […] post is inspired by Linda’s post which included a link to an interview with Will […]

  4. Linda, Wow! Powerful post. I started to try your assignment: “Briefly describe…” Ha ha. I became rather long-winded. You can read my response on my own blog (if you have the time!)

  5. I really like the post Lina. But, when I started this whole online experience I mean my online degree, I realized it’s more difficult than face-to-face settings. Student has to mainly do most things to learn. Virtual learning is more student-centered than face-to-face. Teachers act as facilitators and they have minimal presence in the whole process thanks to the environment they build in the class. I remember Dr. Dirk Morrison and the first class I took with him. I used to ask him many questions and panic a lot. But, he took it slowly and kept following me. That encouraged me and here I am about to finish my program…. ONLINE

    • Hi Ola! this kind of virtual learning that we have been experiencing in eci831 definitely is more open and learner-centred than any learning experience I have had so far in my life. I found it hard at first trying to figure out what I needed to do..I felt like I needed more direction, but it wasn’t long until I started to catch on and feel the benefits of the open learning environment. Congratulations to you for nearing the end of your program…you must be very expert at being self-directed now and very self-disciplined.

  6. This is a wonderfully challenging post! You want us to actually justify why we want to teach using technology, not just as a flashy way of delivering our lessons, but as a radically different learning experience for our students.
    If we are not able to do that, to show what is different about how our students learn, then our cup truly is half-empty, and we might as well use traditional methods, out get out altogether. I was at a tech conference last year and heard a great speaker, Tim Tyson (, challenge the audience in the same way. Perhaps, he said, learning in the 21st century style is not just a necessity, it is a teacher’s destiny.
    Great post!


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