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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Research Findings on Web 2.0 teaching strategies: Dissect the frog and you kill the frog.



HigherEdBlogCon 2006Jean-Claude Bradley has done an excellent job with the teaching week at HigherEd Blog Con. If you are interested in research and information concerning blogs, wikis, and podcasts you simply must participate by viewing some of the presentations. (Next week is on libraries.)

Still too early to tell!
As I've observed I am struck by just how much of the research is preliminary, however. (I've been thinking about research a lot lately.)

I think the research that is done points to the need for more large scale statistically valid research.


Where research will always fall short

As I was perusing Jean-Claude's blog, I came across an entry entitled The Value of Anecdotal Information in Education which was in response to a post by Mark Wagner.

Please read the whole thing, it is great! Here are some highlights and how I responded:

Highlights from Jean-Claude:
In chemistry you are trying make a compound and you want a reproducible result for the minimum cost and effort. But you can'’t do that with education because human beings are not molecules...

Reducing the value of an educational approach to an average number (like improved test scores) is very counter-productive because it will encourage teachers to hype the results of their experiments to satisfy the gatekeepers (employers, editors, grant managers) and then lose credibility...

Certainly, the testable basics in any class must be taught well but, beyond that, it becomes increasingly difficult to quantify the richest unique teaching and learning experiences.
When you dissect a frog he ceases being a frog

I think it is akin to the frog dissection example.

If you dissect a frog, you learn a lot about the insides but he's no longer a frog, he's a dead frog.

It is so important to quantify and measure things but in the process you lose a little bit of what you are trying to examine.

The true teaching experience is a living, breathing organism that can be observed but not dissected very well.

What cannot be measured

There are some things that are very difficult to measure:

Research or Anecdote?

Sir Martin Conway said about mountain climbing:
"Each fresh peak teaches something."
William Wordsworth said:
"Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher."
There is much to be learned from individual experience.

Socrates said:
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
Satayana said:
"Those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
There is much to be learned from research.

In Conclusion

Research is important and vital. It must be unbiased and thorough. We must know why we do what we do and be willing to self-implement sometimes painful paradigm shifts. We must never be closed minded and learn to disagree as professionals.

But we must understand that research must be coupled with commonsense classroom basics. We must not let the research steer us away from truly teachable moments.

We must not insanely sanitize and "methodologize" teaching and forget the spark that kindles the flame of excitement in a student must originate from the flint of our own psyche.

I measure my success by the kids that come back and tell me what a difference I have made in their lives.

To leave an imprint on their minds gives me a lasting legacy and adrenaline rush that is like no other
.

Some things can't be measured. Well said...Jean-Claude.
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