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Technology transforms teaching and learning

May 16, 2007 at 4:11 pm
By Marla Holt

Cinema and media studies professor John Schott is the James W. Strong Professor of the Liberal Arts at Carleton. In fall 2006 he created and led an off-campus studies seminar in which students studied and employed new media, such as podcasting and video blogging, in New York City, Amsterdam, London, and Berlin. He believes that today’s digital culture is changing how we communicate: Images, audio, and video now have as much power as written narrative.

“The world of words and the world of images interpenetrate constantly, opening a new terrain for us in knowledge production,” he says. Visualization is an exciting new field across disciplines, Schott says. At the same time, powerful new tools and emerging technology are changing the role of the teacher.

“The Internet has dramatically changed the resources that students have available to them,” Schott says. “They no longer have to come to college to obtain information. It’s available at home and in their dorm. So the role of the teacher has changed quite dramatically.

“There is a distinction that people like to use in information science. The first level is data, then the next level up is information, then knowledge, then wisdom. The task of a teacher is to transform a world of data and information into knowledge and wisdom. Students don’t really understand the patterns of information that produce knowledge.

"A key thing that happens to them when they’re in college is understanding shapes and patterns and relationships among bits of data that they wouldn’t have otherwise understood. It’s precisely because there is so much information out there that we need teachers to bring order to it, to help shape the information.

“One of the things that is central to this is that students have more capacity to learn on their own, and the more they are self-directed, the better the learning is. So teachers can structure different ways of engaging the world. And that’s one of the most exciting things about media—you can use it as a discovery tool.”