In Love and War: Blended Learning Theories for Computer Scientists and Educationists

In Love and War: Blended Learning Theories for Computer Scientists and Educationists

Esyin Chew (University of Glamorgan, UK), David A. Turner (University of Glamorgan, UK) and Norah Jones (University of Glamorgan, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-380-7.ch001
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Abstract

Blended learning involves the combination of two fields of concern: technological and instrumental considerations are, to a greater or lesser extent, combined with pedagogy and educational theory. The result of this is that blended learning suffers from considerable difficulties of definition, and its theoretical foundation is correspondingly weak. For this reason it is desirable to expose the philosophical and theoretical foundations of blended learning to critical scrutiny. Creating a foundation for blended learning will involve an examination of the gap between the paradigms and practices of educational theory and educational technology. The result should be a space within which academics from the diverse disciplines involved may be able to discuss and resolve their problems. This chapter will explore the contrasting disciplinary perceptions and suggest a sketch for blended learning theory.
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Introduction

Blended learning involves the combination of two fields of concern: technological and instrumental considerations are, to a greater or lesser extent, combined with educational theory. There is general consensus that pedagogical considerations should be given priority over technical issues. However, technicians and educationists have different vocabularies, and even where they appear to use the same terms, the context that each gives to the term means that there is ample room for misunderstandings. For example, computer specialists and educationists use the term ‘ontology’ to mean entirely different and mutually exclusive areas of concern, so that even when they seem to be talking about the same topic, the concerns of one may be ignored by the other. Such misunderstandings may extend to areas of ‘learning theories’, where computer specialists may be more instrumental, or tactical, than educationists. Consequently, terms such as ‘efficiency’ or ‘efficacy’, which may seem perfectly natural to the computer specialist, may seem problematic or inappropriate to the educationist.

The result of this is that blended learning suffers from considerable difficulties of definition, and its theoretical foundation is correspondingly weak. For this reason it is desirable to expose the philosophical and theoretical foundations of blended learning to critical scrutiny. Creating a foundation for blended learning will involve an examination of the gap between the paradigms and practices of educational theory and technology. For example the term “technology” for educational technologists is referring to VLE (Virtual learning Environment), web 2.0 or ICT used for education whereas educationists perceive the same term as any technology, including laser pen and whiteboard marker. The result should be a space within which academics from the diverse disciplines involved may be able to discuss and resolve their problems. Therefore, we would like to affirm that the term “technology” or “educational technology” as used in this chapter means ICT used education.

This chapter will explore the contrasting disciplinary perceptions and suggest a sketch for blended learning Theory. This will be accomplished by: (1) Identifying and exploring how educationists (possibly pedagogy classicists) and computer scientists (possibly blended learning romantics) differ in terms of what they think needs to be accounted for, and how, when blended learning is based on scholarly evidence. The paradigms of educationists and computer scientists will be examined through a philosophical examination, in part illustrated by a survey of the opinions of specialists who work in blended learning in a number of settings. (2) Offering an idiom for discussing a set of issues both pressing yet beset by confusion. And (3) Presenting a preliminary sketch for blended learning Theory on the basis of (1) and (2), together with educational practices and theories drawn from the authors’ personal experiences.

In the field of computer science and engineering, efficiency, effectiveness and experimental results are the main focus, whereas, in education, the variety of social contexts and the complexity of educational purposes must be taken into consideration. The authors assert that technology and effectiveness by itself does not necessarily improve the teaching and learning experience. On the other hand, learning theories need to be grounded in such mundane concerns as whether resources are available for use. This requires that attention be paid to issues of access and allocation. Only through mutual understanding can initial principles for the grounding of blended learning Theory be established. Educational theory provides the basis for a coherent and stringent critique of blended learning practices, and by that means provides a framework for grounding its theories.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Higher Education: Universities or tertiary education.

Education in Technology: Education is always the highest priority in blended learning. Learning and teaching, pedagogy and educational theory are the main considerations but winged by educational technology. Seeks by contrast insights into the meaning of technology – its relation to the trans-technical: art and literature, humanities and socio-cultural issues – being with non-technical aspect of the human world (in this case is education) and considers how technology may (or may not) fit in or correspond. The thoughtful revisiting and redesign of learning and teaching may or may not lead to the uses of certain educational technology based on disciplinary needs.

The University of Google: A term invented by Brabazon (2007) referring to the education in the (Post) Information Age. The impact of Google on education, teaching and learning is similarly to instant food and fast data environment, a mere mouse-click away. Students in the University of Google lose the capacity to sift, discard and judge.

Pedagogy Classicists: The opposition to the “blended learning romantics” who disagree with anything that involves technology. Technology is sometimes regarded as no more than a tool, a mere vehicle or information carrier (Luppicini, 2005). Pedagogy classicists, however, stress the negative aspects of that tool. They concentrate on the constraints imposed by the technology and believe in pedagogy and learning theory rather than the “tool” or “vehicle”. In the worst cases, they may not regard blended learning as a scholarly, educational or social science research activity at all.

Blended Learning: The combination of face-to-face learning and teaching mediated by technology. The thoughtful integration of face-to-face classroom and web-based learning opportunity by fundamental redesign and an optimal (re)design approach by rethinking and restructuring teaching and learning.

Technology in Education: Technology is indirectly the main focus in blended learning and which technology and how to blend (for operational purposes) are the main considerations. The philosophy behind is being with the justification of technology or an analysis of the nature of technology itself – its concepts, its methods, its cognitive structures and objectives manifestations. Educational technology is design and used and “decorated” by pedagogical theory. Educators and students may find blended learning “excellent” or “terrible” depending on disciplinary needs and technological competence.

Blended Learning Romantics: Blacker (1995) labelled those who hold that technology will primitively break down traditional barriers to effective and successful educational reform as “computer romantics”. In the context of this research, we borrow Blacker’s terminology to label a group of academics and researchers in higher education as “blended learning romantics” - represents pro-technology academics who naively consider technology as will breakthrough traditional classroom or necessarily trend to the modern learning and teaching.

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