The Internet may have expanded the teachers’ access to information, but the Internet did not expand their method of problem solving.
Our IT-embedded society has really just begun to impact education, which tends to move at a more conservative pace. Conservation is not necessarily a bad thing, considering how current media sources function as much for entertainment or even disinformation as for educational purposes. Moreover, any changes in the classroom that facilitate student access to information have consequences beyond mere access to technology. For example, while some students may prefer PowerPoint to a whiteboard or piece of paper, research in both the U.S. and the U.K. has shown that even though students do find multimedia more entertaining, their test scores actually tend to be lower than students who have learned the same material through more traditional text-based learning. Looking at online coursework in general, while initial studies of online learning showed improvements in test scores over classroom learning, more recent studies done in the U.S. have shown a slight deficit for online learners. However, research presented in the Journal of Interactive Online Learning suggests that although proficient students may not show improvement in standardized test scores, lower level students show improvements precisely because they can learn at their own pace without fear of being exposed as a slow learner. Before we can answer the question of how exam scores will improve with the aid of new media, we must first answer the question of what effect such media have on learning itself.
Furthermore, synchronizing the evaluative process with new media may alter the purpose of evaluation itself, which in turn can have ramifications beyond what is intended. An example is the placing of student evaluations of instructors online. The traditional purpose of student evaluations of teachers was to allow the teacher to monitor the effectiveness of a class from the student’s point of view; if student feedback indicates problems with learning the material, then the class can be redesigned. However, several studies in the U.S. have shown that publicizing such evaluations has had the unintended consequences of lowering the standards of coursework while inflating grade averages since teachers find themselves competing in a public arena for students’ interests. The changing context of the evaluations has accentuated the roles of student as customer and the teacher as vendor, but at the cost of shortchanging the students’ education.
Do educators really want to employ a paradigm that utilizes marketplace technology to achieve marketplace results?
* Professor Anthony F. Davis has been teaching at Ewha’s English Program Office for over six years. He holds a Masters of Teaching in English Education from Oregon State University.