Virtual School Meanderings

July 23, 2010

Video: Learner-Centered E-Teaching – A Discussion

In an attempt to “create and publish a post that includes one embedded piece of media… [and] try to engage your audience by including a discussion question after you have embedded the media,” as was the task for the Day 4 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog, I wanted to discuss one of the videos posted by Elizabeth Murphy related to her work on K-12 online teaching.

The video was created as a part of the Killick Centre for E-Learning Research (note: you can view all of their videos here), and it is described as:

Can you teach music over the Internet? How? Can you teach with Youtube? Nirvana? Piczo? Audacity? Billboard? Newsfeeds? Can you teach in a way that is engaging for the learner?

What does it mean to be a learner-centered teacher of music in a technology-mediated context? I created this video to answer this question. The video is a knowledge mobilization outcome that is part of of a collaborative inquiry in which Andrew Mercer(the teacher profiled in the video) and Andrea Rose, School of Music, Memorial University are participating.

In listening to the music teacher, Andrew Mercer, talk about how he uses technology to engage his students in the online environment I was impressed by the range of tools being used beyond the virtual classroom and the course management system – from Piczo to RSS feeds to podcasting to YouTubeHowever, what I didn’t hear was much beyond the typical notion that teachers need to be where the students are already.  I find this idea that we need to meet the students where they live an interesting one, because it assumes that somehow the environment they inhabit is one that is better for learning or that it is better for teachers to teach in their world than for the teacher to expect them to learn in “our world” (and I put “our world” in quotes because somehow the world of the teacher has become an old, antiquated and even useless space).  My good friend Darren has made several videos focused solely upon this premise – that teachers need to inhabit (or at least teach from) the world’s their students inhabit (see Top Education Videos of 2009-2010 for some recent examples).

I often discuss with my colleagues – both teachers who are proficient with technology and with other educational technology faculty – why technology has had so little impact upon education.  Some would argue that it is because many school’s haven’t had access to technology, although I think the work of Larry Cuban has called that notion into question.  Others have argued that it is because teacher’s haven’t been trained to integrate technology effectively into the classroom, but that would essentially means that all of the technology integrations courses in all of the teacher education programs across Canada and the United States were ineffective (which I’d suggest was highly unlikely).  More have argued that it is the older teachers that don’t use technology and influence novice teachers into following the same patterns, but the recent research from Walden University seems to blow that myth out of the water.

So there are two questions here in my opinion…  Should teachers make the effort to teach using the technology today’s students are using?  If so, how are we going to get them to do that? Some will say that the nature of today’s student demands that we do.  I’d remind those folks that the vast majority of research points to the fact that generational differences are largely overstated – and the ones related to technology and how students think or learn are total fabrications.

I know that there has been a persistent argument within the K-12 online learning field about the need for online learning because of the students’ pervasive access to and use of technology.  If you’ve ever heard one of the opening address that Susan Patrick has given at any of the last three or four Virtual School Symposiums, than you’ve heard that line of reasoning.  Personally, I believe in what the research tells me.  The research indicates that students don’t learn differently today than they have in previous generations.  The research is also fairly consistent in telling me that computer-assisted instruction (from technology integration to online learning) has minimal effects on student achievement.  The research has shown that teacher effects can have a significant impact, which means that a good teacher – with or without technology – can have a meaningful affect on their students.

Some time ago, I attended a conference on teaching and learning held at the University of Windsor.  One of the staff at their Centre for Teaching and Learning gave me a button that read: “Pedagogy before technology.”  And that is something I fear we have lost in this quest to teach where the students live.

At about the four minute mark, Andrew says, “I’m not interested in incorporating technology into my teaching practice unless there is a valid, pedagogical use for it.”  For me, this is the question we should be asking – not “Should teachers make the effort to teach using the technology today’s students are using?  If so, how are we going to get them to do that?”  What is the pedagogical value of using that shining object?

But that’s just me.  What do you think?  As you watch this video, what are your first impressions? After you’ve had a chance to sit back and mull it over, what about the video touched you the most?  Why?

Note: To see more of Elizabeth Murphy‘s videos, visit


  1. WOW! Never fathomed teaching music virtually….This is awesome. I am an online learning myself and found this really interesting. This is true about using technology in the classroom and learning. It should be about what enhances the learning not just using the tool.

    Comment by Robin — July 23, 2010 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  2. Robin, thanks for the comment. Always good to get new readers joining in the discussion, or at least new commenters – as you may be a long time reader (what’s the old radio line… “First time caller, long-time listener.).

    Comment by mkbnl — July 23, 2010 @ 10:15 pm | Reply

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