Home > Pieces > Should we be trying to digitize teaching and learning? Is it even possible?

Should we be trying to digitize teaching and learning? Is it even possible?

I watched this video “Let’s digitize, not memorize”, from a middle school. promoted by TEDxUBC,

Ten years ago I would not have been able to put my critique into words. Now I can: “Most teaching and learning cannot and should not be digitized.”

Here’s what I thought after seeing this video:

Nicely done in terms of production. Here’s a critical comment, though: It’s also an excellent anti-example, reflecting a prevailing and ill-considered emphasis on style over substance. Neither in students’ learning nor in professional / academic communication is “digitize it, don’t memorize it” a pedagogically-proven approach. Sounds great. Catchy, But If we fail to foster development of a range of cognitive skills, including memorization, and focus instead on making so-called old-school curriculum more appealing to young people by providing “academic” “reasons” for using digital tools, then we risk diverting learners’ energies by having them focus on media tools.

In one group I studied, participants reported that the technology “put the brakes on learning” (Reid, 2010). It is possible, but nowhere near easy, to use digital tools well. When teachers present students with well-structured experiences in which the use of digital tools is embedded in a supported and intensive multimodal engagement with the subject matter, teachers and students alike have to engage the subject matter deeply and perhaps even get involved in communities of practice before producing digital products. In other words, memorize it before, when, and after you digitize it. Otherwise the result can be anti-climactic at best, and more often a waste of time masked by a brief excitement.

What do you think? Can digitizing be primary? Here’s an interesting related discussion from the 21st Century Collaborative

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