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Thursday, February 09, 2006
Ok, I see e-Learning becoming accepted in many areas of life. This week I see my son (who is a high school senior) taking an IU psychology course quiz online. Sure I know this is commonplace, but when you see your own son taking these online quizzes something strikes home that this online movement is not going away but instead is becoming more pervasive. I then walk up and see my 15 year old daughter exploring the web for English class assignment. She is using my new Sony Vaio laptop to do her exploring. And then I chat with my nephew on MSN about his first year in college at Madison and the tough classes he is taking as an engineering major. I try to give him some advice online. This Generation Y will be using more digital technologies than ever before to learn in high school and college and beyond. Nothing surprising here when I say that.

But last week, I went to my first library conference--it was the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. I gave my Perfect e-Storm talk. It was well received and it was a packed room with people standing in the back. In fact, it was one of the more engaging ones I think ever. These library professionals were highly interested in the latest trends in e-learning. Well, why not--the role of the librarian and library support personnel has been significantly altered with advances in search technologies, storage devices, mobile and wireless technologies, broadband connections, and, yes, e-learning. They need to be aware of technologies and pedagogies that online instructors might be using and students might be asking for. It was a fun. They especially laughed at my Bill Gates jokes, so I guess those struck a chord.

After the talk, I met with McGraw-Hill Ryerson people who are working on their 4th in a series of research studies related to technology integration and use in higher education within North America. It is interesting to hear discussions related to such survey research since some focus on technologies and others on pedagogies. I think we need both. Like the famous psychologist, Jean Piaget, I think learning and development is interactional. It is both nature and nurture. I believe that technologies, like genes, provide the nature--the equip one for the possible. Technology allows for certain things to happen in one's environment. But we also need pedagogy or thoughtful instruction. This is the nurture--this nudges us along. We need both the nature (technologies) and the nurture (the pedagogies) for successful online learning. Too often we focus on one and discount the other.

In higher education, it is not unusual for people to argue that technologies are not important, it is the pedagogy stupid. But I think such thinking is misguided. Sure, I would love to put more focus on the instructional effectiveness and pedagogical decision making. However, without chalk, marker boards, pens, paper, projectors, computers, tablets, the internet, etc., we would be back in the Stone Age or worse. I think the reason people attempt to downplay the technologies is that they are so overwhelmed by the many emerging technologies hitting us in the face each week. It is not easy keeping up with all of them--so, if you say, pedagogy is more important, you can feel less stress.

Earlier today, I presented at the a preconference session of the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education in Indianapolis. Like the library conference the week before, it was a first for me. This was a session on evaluating distributed education within a half day institute on distributed education. It is interesting to see online learning become so pervasive that there are online learning experts and researchers in the field of gerontology. Like my talk to library professional a week prior, this one was well received. By the way, PDFs of most of my talks can be found at

So I guess this reflection is just 2 things: First of all, it is a note that e-learning is increasingly important in society--it is important for high school kids and it is a critical area for library professionals as well as those in the field of gerontology. Secondly, it seems my work is spreading in new directions in speaking to those fields outside of education and business where I normally speak. That is what makes my work so much fun and rewarding as I never know who I might be able to meet, influence in some small way, and learn from. E-Learning does have its rewards!
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 11:05 PM  
  • At 8:12 PM, Blogger jie said…

    I totally agree with your "nature" and "nurture" point. If technology is the nature, we may have to be careful about what kind of nature it is. Not all in the nature are good for learning and some may obstruct the learning process.

    By the way, what is your Bill Gate's joke? :)

  • At 7:37 AM, Blogger Ryan Deschamps said…

    I was at this talk. As an "eLearning Services Manager" in a public library, I was more than happy to hear and see that eLearning is being seen as an obvious area of interest for libraries -- it may even be the future when you think of all the literature on "learning communities" and the like.

  • At 8:05 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks Ryan and Jie! Good to hear from you Jie. Ryan--thanks for coming to the talk.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

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