Considering Emerging Technologies for Learning

With the range of course management systems/learning management systems (LMS) available on the market (i.e., Blackboard-WebCT, Angel, Sakai, and Moodle), I often question whether any of them offer anything remarkably innovative for teaching & learning?

Certainly the ‘open source’ nature of Sakai and Moodle make them (to me) a bit more interesting or appealing than the commercial products, but the question remains.   Now don’t get me wrong, each of these tools are useful for what they do; and that is to provide tools for the management of a course.  They provide online tools for the instructor to post readings, syllabus, and other materials, send course announcements, provide grades and feedback to students.  These are all necessary and important management features of a course, but the interaction of these tools seems to mimic a one-way, or ‘sage-on-stage’, method of instruction rather than current best practices for learning (i.e., active learning, situated learning, constructivism).

Yes, it’s true that some learning management systems do incorporate discussion forums, wikis, blog tools, etc, but these tools are not often used because their implementation is limited in scope and features.  In addition, they are often cumbersome to use, and are often not as polished as third-third party web 2.0 alternatives.   In the end, it is my contention that most current learning management systems merely focus on management tasks rather than on any real innovative learning tools, and I wonder if their design restricts creative approaches to teaching & learning?  Much like in the sentient city, I think learning management systems can sometimes present themselves as authoritarian and assert too much control over their environments and users.  This leads me to wonder if there are perhaps different way to approach learning management systems?  Or rather technology-mediated learning environments?

This spring I attended an AcademicX keynote by Dr. Chuck Severance entitled: Evolving Teaching and Learning: Beyond the LMS.

Considering his previous connections with the Sakai project, I think that Dr. Severance has provided some very interesting insights and direction in regard to potentially new innovative ways to think about educational technology for teaching and learning.  As you have probably discerned by now, I write this blog post with more questions than answers…

Mark Millard

Mark Millard is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Information Science at Indiana University. His research interests include; educational and social informatics, HCI (ubiquitous and pervasive computing), computer-mediated communication (CMC), ICT literacy, and research methods.