Re: Pea & Rogers
One of the points that periodically surfaces in debates surrounding social networking tools and similar types of disruptive technology is that people have been engaged in the practice of social networking since time immemorial. So what's the big deal? Why all the attention? We would offer two: Design and Affordability. The tools have been designed in a way that make them accessible to ordinary people. And second, most of them are very affordable to a large percentage of consumers, and many are even free. These two, comparatively recent changes have enabled social networking to occur in many different, sometimes unpredictable ways. Even more important is how they have made the forms, paths, and manifestations visible to all that live within that web-based community. This visibility is what gives Roy Pea's work special significance as he prompts us to think about the underlying design of these networks. By foregrounding the design element of these networks, educators can begin to think about them as tools with specific affordances that can support learning goals. Yet doing so, requires a change in thinking, a change in how a teacher sees the classroom, the role of the students, and the role of him or her as the teacher. Acknowledging the role of social, disruptive technologies necessarily requires acknowledging that the impact of its application in the classroom. So how does this change happen? Rogers points to different enabling conditions or characteristics that facilitate its emergence: Relative Advantage, Compatibility, Complexity, Trialability, and Observability (p. 15-16). By seeing change as a series of characteristics such as these, teachers and designers develop a vocabulary for talking about the change in ways that help avoid overly simplistic binaries such as "for" or "against", or "early adopter" or "laggard." As we all remember from our Psych 101 texts, resorting to derisive labels tends only to induce defensive postures. If we turn back though to Roy Pea, we can point to the potential for these technologies to augment a learner's intelligence in a variety of different ways including computing, guided participation, inscriptional systems, and situated cognition (p. 58). Guided participation seems particularly appropriate because of its recognition of the fundamentally social nature of learning (e.g., Vygotsky's Zone of Proxmial Development) and the potential for these technologies to facilitate collaborative learning.
Another challenge in adopting this change quite understandably centers on the wide divergence of opinion of how it should be implemented. But it's not just about the output that is delivered by way of the implementation, it's also important to get at how the different individuals involved define and conceptualize that change. Bringing this out helps those involved see the heterophilous nature of these definitions and conceptualizations (Rogers p. 19) and how the attributes identified with these differences tend to extend across a pretty wide spectrum. Moreover, many of these differences are rooted in long-held views about the way in which teaching should be done and how students should demonstrate evidence of learning. Rather than getting mired in ideological battles based on rigid adherence to a right-wrong polarity, stakeholders should approach them with a designer's perspective and see them as a series of tradeoffs. Two important sets of tradeoffs that Pea calls our attention to are (1) access versus understanding and (2) static definitions versus evolving concepts. In a hypothetical education context, the first tradeoff might emerge in a debate that positions access to technology (e.g., iPads) and deep conceptual understanding as polar opposites. On the one hand, there are those who advocate the urgent need for technology and on the other are those who see it as a distraction to deep, purposeful learning. All too often, this is played out as an either-or scenario in which firmly held ideological views obstruct any possibility for seeing nuance. The second tradefoff emphasizes how thinking can become reified to the point where its relevance and purpose is no longer examined, but just accepted as virtually immutable. So, for example, learning is defined as how the teacher experienced when he was a child and the child sees learning the Periodic Table as completely irrelevant to her world of texting and Facebook. Needless to say, both of these underscore the importance of applying two fundamental maxims: context and purpose. What are the specific details of this learning context? What are the details related to socioeconomics, demographics, attitudes, technical infrastructure? What is it that we want these technologies to do? What demonstrable needs are they being designed to address? Overall, what Pea and Rogers do is help give us a vocabulary for describing these challenges in more nuanced ways.