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No Significant Difference - in What?

Another interesting article I read on EDUCAUSE today was The Myth about No Significant Difference (view the HTML or PDF version) by Diana G. Oblinger and Brian L. Hawkins. The authors argue with the supposed no significant difference (for more info about this phenomena check out the official website or Google the term) that the introduction of technology brings to education by posing the question “Difference in what?” and presenting more detailed questions that should be asked when evaluating and planning the introduction of ICT in education.

I agree with the ideas presented in the article. Judging from our own research and even personal experiences I think that technology by itself can’t make learning better or even worse. Technology is just a tool that must be used wisely and our research shows that human support is a more important factor for successful learning than the technology that we use. From my experience as an online tutor I can say that students simply expect the technology to be simple and reliable, because they don’t want to waste time on figuring out how something works, but their judgment on the quality of e-learning is based on how they interact with other students and faculty staff. Our students really appreciated and praised the constant tutor support - the fact that they could always ask for additional explanations or information and the fact that they were getting constant feedback on their work and progress.

Also, I think that the possibilities for interaction and collaboration are what make technology so appealing. Of course it’s great to use a word processors as they make writing so easy and fast (well, most of the times - at least up to the point when they *cough* Microsoft Word *cough* start having their own weird moods :-] ), but what is really making ICT increasingly popular and appealing is the chance to connect to other users. We don’t buy a computer because we want to have a computer, but because we want to do something with it - and in most of the cases “doing something” involves connecting with other people - either by chatting with friends, accessing various opinions, creative expressions, hear news about people around the world, play an online game or do research and learn new things. Whenever my Internet connection is down I really feel that my computer has become less useful, less interesting.

To wrap things up - in my opinion (and experiences) technology doesn’t in fact make a significant difference if it isn’t used for a good purpose and if it tries to replace or remove human interactions. If people use technology for the right tasks and to improve interaction and collaboration with each other, I believe that it can make a difference - in most of the cases a positive one!

Originally published at http://ialja.blogspot.com/2006/12/no-significant-difference-in-what.html