How can we use our systems savvy to help us understand how to mix together technology tools and organizational practice in a way that supports today’s learners?  My last post laid out some background on the future of eduction.  At the end, I posed this question and contacted experts in educational technology for their comments.  Gloria Hofer, Instructional Technology Resource Specialist at Santa Clara University, offers this guest post as her reply:

Gloria HoferTechnology offers a lot of tools that foster deeper learning of a subject and help to make what students know visible. These types of learning experiences (assignments) do not always provide step by step instructions. They challenge students to synthesize and analyze and make intentional choices about what to include and how to construct their video, audio podcast, presentation, website, etc. 

Often these assignments are outside of their comfort zone. They want to see what it should look like before they embark on it. Creativity takes brainpower, and this feels risky. Throw in multiple access points to information and data, having to collaborate and work as a team, all add to their discomfort. Yet this is an example of student-centric learning that offers a vehicle for depth of research and learning that will last much longer than studying to take a test, and then forgetting most of what was memorized for the test, within months.

Student Centric learning gives students choices in how they want to frame their message, what they want to include and how they want to construct their product (movie, presentation, website...) 

For students, choice feels risky because they don't know what it should look like to get an A. Students don't want to take a risk, and sadly this is the challenge for faculty who want students to step outside of the classroom walls and explore new technologies and information specially in a world where new discoveries and new innovations are communicated via the Internet faster than they can be added to textbooks; where networks of innovators, scientists and researchers are sharing their work; where disciplines are no longer concentrated in one area but may tap across discipline as in biotechnology, or nanotechnology, for example.

The new age of learning involves taking risks, using new technologies, breaking the boundaries, thinking about the possibilities. MIT President Emeritus Charles Vest noted just four years ago:

My view is that in the open-access movement, we are seeing the early emergence of a meta-university — a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced. The Internet and the Web will provide the communication infrastructure, and the open-access movement and its derivatives will provide much of the knowledge and information infrastructure.

Knowledge and knowledge making is transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed, and there is no roadmap. This is new territory, and we need to make sure students learn to navigate in this environment.

I fear my colleagues and I will fall under the spell of the technology silver bullet -- and that can't work. As both systems savvy, and Gloria, tell us, we need to help the students learn to work in this new environment (people dimension of systems savvy). We also need to consider organizational adjustments (e.g., grading methods) related to more abstract assignments. What examples of integrative approaches (changes to student guidance, support for navigation, grading) have you seen?