Professor Brett Shelton Sits Down With Us

Professor Brett Shelton sits down us today. Brett is an associate professor at Utah State University and has recently worked on the book The Educational Design and Use of Simulation Computer Games. He is here with us today to share his views on education and technology.

1. What inspired you to write The Educational Design…?

Around 2004 I recognized that our instructional technology graduate students really wanted more on the gaming-side of their instructional simulations curriculum. They wanted exposure to game and design theory, and wanted to explore how that theory aligned or did not align with the learning theory we were teaching to them. In researching the class preparation materials, I did not find a textbook that would meet the needs of my students. Most texts at that time were either all theory-based and not very practical, or heavy on the development side with highly technical instruction. We needed something that bridged this gap. For the class I picked a variety of readings from each area; but it also got me thinking. Our field needed a text that suited the theory, design and development needs of instructional technologists. I solicited chapters from leading researchers of my field, and did my
best to create something that would be meaningful for students at various levels, and with a variety of experience.
Further, keeping it “open” was important to me, so that those who could not afford the entire volume could still get access to it through the web. Authors of each chapter have retained their distribution rights, which was also important, given the current trends for high accessibility. I also admit that it was a great excuse to start a conversation between participants of the chapters, to bring together a community of researchers, and swap ideas. Since that time, quite a few volumes have come out that have tried to do similar things.

2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?

Most students who are enrolled in a technology-related program have positive experiences with technology, either through entertainment (playing games) or through previous studies. The biggest difference between these students and those we teach in non-technical programs (such as, primary education undergraduate students) is their attitude
toward experimentation. Those who like technology tend to approach new technologies with less apprehension, and more openness, to how those technologies might be helpful or enjoyable for them. This is not the case for all students, certainly, but many pre-service teachers enrolled in my classes have a little techno-phobia. Part of my hope for those classes are to get all students to approach new technologies without negative preconceptions.

3. How can technology and the internet change education?

In many cases, technology and the internet already is changing education. We spend much more time now having students and teachers learn how to find and retrieve the information they need, and less time memorizing facts and procedures. I see this as a trend that will continue, given that the efforts of archiving and indexing information
have been a leading focus for educators. Now, we need to make sure we can efficiently find and use the information we need just-in-time.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology for education?

It’s a tough question because there are many challenges for technology integration, especially in traditional brick-and-mortar environments. Many of the challenges involve continuing education for in-service teachers and administrators. There are opportunity costs for changing the way technology is entered into the classroom, even with appropriate buy-in at the different academic levels. In-service teachers struggle with adopting new technologies because they often to not align well with state and national standards. Pre-service teachers do not receive the exposure that would be necessary for effective integration. Of course, we are trying to address these problems and many others, but traditionally, education has been slow to change for a variety of reasons. Technology integration is endemic of the same set of problems.

5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online education in the future?

It is certainly possible, but it goes without saying that it won’t be the “same” education. Part of what most consider to be a well-rounded education is not only access to academic resources, but also the interaction between teacher, student, and resource. Technologies can support this interaction, but it’s different than traditional modes of interaction. Some students may prefer the way the interactions have traditionally been mediated, but others do not. A good example is MIT’s support of open courseware, where they provide all classroom resources for every class and make them available online. They justify doing this, in part, because they believe the value of an MIT
education is not (only) in the materials, but also in the interactions of MIT students and faculty. What will need to be considered is what an “education” means in different contexts. What will be important is the knowledge and skills a student develops through whatever form or format they choose to receive it. The waters will be muddied, and what
it means to earn a “degree” will also mean different things to different people.

Thanks for sitting down with us Brett. Again, you can find the book on Amazon here. For more information on democratizing education see Udemy’s main website here.