Tools for cultural change?
Brent’s comment on the last post is just one example that the tools I mentioned are emerging, and will be available. I don’t doubt that we can make a more seamless system, that an authoring environment that places content into more flexible formats will emerge. And as with all MS tools, the power of Word and PowerPoint is not that they are easy but that they are ubiquitous. Faculty members grew up with these tools, are used to using them, and know that they can e-mail them to almost anyone anywhere and know that they can be opened and accessed.
In all the discussions I’ve had about creating more unified educational technology environments, it all comes back to the issue of changing the culture and practices of educators. Compared to these challenges, the tools problems look very solvable. But once we’ve developed the new generation of tools, we have to do better than waiting for the new generation of instructors. And how to do that is not clear. Don’t get me wrong; I think it can be done. I’ve seen educators who are relatively unsophisticated in their use of technology adopt and succeed at using new tools, but we’re going to have to better understand the circumstances that lead to these successful transitions, and develop practices out of them that lead to cultural changes.
I have seen opencourseware publishing lead to aha moments for faculty–even a static presentation of teaching materials online is enough to highlight some of the benefits to instructors of having content online. Something as simple as an educator realizing they no longer have to arrange for photocopying and drag stacks of paper with them to the classroom can be very motivating. But the development of new tools is going to have to provide obvious benefits to educators and not just educational technologists if the new tools are to be adopted. And those benefits are going to have to outweigh the inertia generated the MS monopoly and the pain of learning new tools and systems.