In 2004 the University of Northern Colorado bestowed a Ph.D. in Educational Technology on me. I specialized in distance education, interactive media, and instructional design.
Distance education is a personal mission. In my 20s I got out of the Coast Guard and tried to get a diploma. In rural Maine, that was a difficult proposition unless you live very near to a campus. I was able to start a degree in computer science in the mid 70s but had to drop out as the demands of family, work, and transportation made that untenable. It was over a decade before I was able to start again. Today the distance education landscape has changed dramatically. The internet provides the channel for thousands of colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools to deliver educational experiences almost anywhere. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that these experiences are bound by Sturgeon’s Law which might be the best scientific evidence we have for placing Education on the side of Art in the Art-or-Science debate. The issue is that few teachers have sufficient expertise to use online tools with the same facility (or effectiveness) that they have with classroom based tools. More, there is little incentive for them to gain the skills. That’s my mission. To help teachers teach better–particularly online.
Toward that end, I’m very interested in the processes of learning. If we, as teachers, do not understand what happens when people learn, then our teaching becomes an exercise in whistling in the dark. Many people believe that we understand how learning works but the reality is we only have some models that suggest what might be happening in that black-box known as the mind. From the earliest days of Behaviorism and Operant Conditioning to the current models of Constructivism, Constructionism, and Connectivism, educators have been trying to get a grip on what happens in the mind when people learn.
A key piece – for me – is exploring how adults gain knowledge. We don’t stop learning when we leave school. Most people keep learning. As civilization adjusts to the new modalities brought about by the globalization of business, art, and science, we’re at one of the crossroads of the planet’s history. Much as the world changed during the last great epochs — Stone, Bronze, Iron, Agriculture, Industry — we’re on the cusp of a rapidly changing collection of technologies which I believe future generations will point out as the beginning of the next great epoch.
I teach part time at Morehead State University in Morehead, KY, as adjunct instructor for the Educational Technology program in the Department of Foundational and Graduate Studies in Education. I specialize in distance education and educational media. One of the lessons I try to teach is that distance ed is not — as so many believe — any where/any time, but rather everywhere, all the time. The truth is that learning can’t wait for education’s schedule. How we adjust to that in the middle of this century will largely define how well — or if — we survive to the end of it.