Questions I’m No Longer Asking

I strive to strike a reasonable balance between reading blogs, books, and peer-reviewed articles. Different topics flair up in popularity (such as web 2.0 and now social media) and then fade. A few concepts have longevity such as “How effective is technology enhanced learning when contrasted with traditional classrooms?” Questions like this are boring. And unanswerable given the tremendous number of variables involved in teaching online and in classrooms.

I’m firmly convinced of the following:

1.Learners should be in control of their own learning. Autonomy is key. Educators can initiate, curate, and guide. But meaningful learning requires learner-driven activity.

2.Learners need to experience confusion and chaos in the learning process. Clarifying this chaos is the heart of learning.

3.Openness of content and interaction increases the prospect of the random connections that drive innovation.

4.Learning requires time, depth of focus, critical thinking, and reflection. Ingesting new information requires time for digestion. Too many people digitally gorge without digestion time.

5.Learning is network formation. Knowledge is distributed.

6.Creation is vital. Learners have to create artifacts to share with others and to aid in re-centering exploration beyond the artifacts the educator has provided.

7.Making sense of complexity requires social and technological systems. We do the former better than the latter.

Obviously there are numerous questions that need to be addressed in terms of social/relational impact of technology, how individuals connect and create information with participative tools, and so on. But many of the previously “hot” questions about technology in education no longer interest me. Some of these include:

  • Is online learning more or less effective than learning in a classroom? Who cares? That question is irrelevant. Society answered the need to use technology through its broad adoption of the web/internet/online medium.
  • Does technology use vary by age? Nonsensical. It would only matter if people couldn’t learn new skills. They can. They do. And most software is easier to use today than it was 10 years ago. Motivation, not age, is key.
  • How do learning styles influence learning online? I had a spike in blood pressure this last week when my 14-year-old son came home from school and informed me he was a visual learner, but couldn’t learn audibly. They still use destructive classification structures like learning styles in schools? Educators too readily fall for an attractive model that can be easily implemented.
  • What role do blogs or microblogging [insert tool in question] play in classroom or online learning? Any role you want. Answers to questions like this don’t exist in advance of exploration.
  • How can educators implement [whatever tool] into their teaching? Simple: do it. With technology, every teacher is a researcher. Find your own answers, don’t appropriate from other contexts.
  • Is connectivism a learning theory? Again, who cares? There is more evidence to support a connectivist view of learning than exists for other theories: neurology, sociology, psychology, and philosophy support the “connectedness” aspects of knowledge and learning. Similarly, innovations, new ideas, and complex problem solving are driven by surfacing (and fostering desired) connections.

Which questions are you no longer asking about the role of technology in learning?
Which questions about technology and learning are still relevant for educators to consider?

George Siemens works with the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada and blogs regularly at This blog posting from November 2 was used with permission.


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