Earlier this week the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) posted a blog entry entitled “Technology, Teacher Training and Support in the Pandemic and Beyond,” and in it they ask:
With distance learning and in-class school models now in full swing, many families are switching to online learning platforms. The potential of a second school closure lurks in the wings. Teachers are adjusting to these new realities but what will the post-pandemic era bring?
It is a good question. Unfortunately, in exploring it the CTF miss the mark altogether.
Is online classroom learning the latest 21st century phenomenon? A 2015 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed no appreciable improvements with learning since the onset of technology use in the classroom. Teachers vs Tech, the latest book released by Daisy Christodoulou, focuses on reasons why education technology has failed to deliver the transformation to more use of teacher technology by teachers…. Christodoulou argues there is a place for technology in the classroom, particularly direct instruction, but teacher expertise and professional judgement must be at the forefront of technology implementation. Yet, it seems distance learning and classroom online technology are now part of our reality and here to stay.
Like so many outside of the broader field of educational technology, they often approach this issue from the perspective of do students learn more or less based on the presence or absence of technology. When the reality is that if the presence or use of technology doesn’t change the way in which the instruction is designed, delivered, or supported, then the student outcomes won’t change. A one-hour in person lecture will result in the same amount of learning as a one-hour video that students can watch on their own time in their own home. Direct instruction accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation is no more or less engaging for students than direct instruction accompanied by acetate sheets on an overhead projector.
Within the field of educational technology these kinds of studies are referred to as media comparison studies, and the critique of that type of research is often accompanied by a quote from a 1983 article in the Review of Educational Research by Richard Clark.
The best current evidence is that media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition. Basically, the choice of vehicle might influence the cost or extent of distributing instruction, but only the content of the vehicle can influence achievement. (Clark, 1983, p. 445)
However, the original question is still relevant… “What will the post-pandemic era bring?” One of the things that it should bring is significant changes in teacher education across Canada. As we found in our special report Teacher Education and K-12 Online Learning, only about one third of teacher education programs had any real focus on K-12 distance and online learning as a part of their pre-service programs. While more universities had this focus in their in-service programs, only a minority of universities provided any course content focus on or the ability to undertake any fieldwork in K-12 distance and online learning environment.
Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.