Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The Trouble with Time-Limited Discussion of eLearning

| 5 Comments

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 59 seconds

Reading Time: 2 minutes

i went to an event today where there was a panel discussion about the potential of eLearning for Egypt. The panelists gave me optimism but it was also frustrating. I am not writing this post with snarky intentions… I totally understand that given 10 minutes to say all you know about eLearning is nowhere near enough to dig deep and into the nuances. But still. Discussions such as these can bring out really problematic issues.

But let me start with the positives (also known as claims I agree with philosophically), and interleave my critiques):

  1. Several on the panel highlighted that abundance of info in the internet means we should not focus eLearning efforts on content. Yay. However, a couple of others on the panel did initiatives that were very content-centric. Moreover, none of the panelists highlighted e ptoential imperialism of content that is mostly Anglophonic and Western.
  2. Several on the panel highlighted the need for teachers to become facilitators and that learners of all ages could be independent learners, particularly since younger generations learned technology intuitively. However, no one mentioned the need to develop digital skills and critical literacies – to find the right material and to evaluate its credibility
  3. Someone mentioned gaming as a way kids learned to socialoze virtually. No one mentioned social media
  4. Even though some panelists talked about eLearning and blended learning as if it were one monolithic thing, others were critical of this generalization and called for insertion of context (this was not done with enough depth, but time was limited)

Now the bigger criticisms (and these were of the audience as well as the panelists):

  1. Equating MOOCs with online learning. As if there wer no other model of online learning before
  2. Assuming eLearning is not social
  3. Generally utopian view of eLearning – if only we could do it well, it would solve many of our educational problems.
  4. Assuming access = outcomes. That giving students tablets and improving internet infrastructure are key. The details of how this access would improve learning is not discussed. No mention of inequalities. Beyond poverty, gender is a huge issue in Egypt in terms of access to tech.

Again, it’s entirely possible this whole conversation just needed a full day instead of 90 minutes. Brevity in panels lends itself to sweeping statements and unsubstantiated claims. I hope to connect with many of those who were on the panel to discuss further.

5 Comments

  1. This is very interesting, Maha. Thanks. I know the deterministic view is common in the Gulf – where they have the resources to buy everyone an iPad but lack the willingness to give teachers the agency, or the training, that they need to use these devices. I imagine that the same would be true in Egypt, if there were resources to give away free gadgets.

    Language imperialism is concept developed and largely promoted in the West. From a Middle Eastern view, the use of English is probably a little more complicated. In any event, a focus on processes / relations rather than on content will lower the hurdle of language proficiency required to get a foot in the door, since users will need mostly passive knowledge of English or other languages in order to begin working in their native language. Once this starts, they will naturally develop independent resources of their own to reduce dependence on English language resources.

  2. Hi Maha, it would be nice to think that time could somehow be converted into reflective thought but I suspect we’d all be better off starting with something well thought out first and then use time left over to consider it.

    Maybe the problem resides not so much in the time constraints but in the assumption we can handle very big problems at all? We pick things at too large a scale to process in any meaningful way and force ourselves into unresolved leaps from topic to topic and end with a scattering of who knows what? Too bad we spend so much time on answers before we have good questions.

  3. I am not english, do not forget spanish and other languages. Content is not a english thing. On Internet I sometimes do search in German and find there more exiting content than in the english compartment of the internet.

  4. Here in North America the first level of choosing “representatives” to speak on a subject like the future of education would be those already in place as educators. In a sad way these people have no desire to study or implement change. They are settled into place with no desire to disturb things. It’s the fringe people and the not-quite-settled who generally are advocates and knowledgeable on future trends. But they have little voice and certainly aren’t picked to speak for established institutions.

    I’m wondering if a voice from the outside, as one source of ideas for change, is not active in Egypt? Or is it the complications of adding the influence of colonialism that is also creating barriers? Overcoming one mindset that clings to the past is difficult enough. Overcoming a form of false history that is firmly in place makes it even harder.

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