Whether we realize it or not, using technology subtlety changes the processes of learning and how we communicate while learning. Instinctively, we accept that technology empowers us to reach out at any time, share what we are thinking while we are thinking it, and read what others are thinking at any given moment. At first glance, this seems ideal. However, if we look at how the processes of learning and communication are quietly changed with the use of technology, we should wonder if what is lost in that process has any value.
First, technology impacts learning communications by slowing down our response time to others. Regardless of whether it is the instructor or student response time; it is rarely immediate. This is an important factor because in a face to face classroom, many revelations of learning happen in the extemporaneous exchanges that happen in the moment between teacher and student as well as between student and student. These moments of discovery are key to reshaping our understanding and ideas. Technology may prevent these epiphanies from happening at all. Instead, the curiosity that unpins a question may be lost in the time it takes for an emailed response or discussion forum reply. Without that curiosity, often times, the value of the moment is lost. The art of teaching and learning is lost.
Second, technology impacts learning communication by giving student response to assignments more time for pre-planned and constructed thoughts. While having deeper and more thoughtful responses is typically best, but what is forgotten is the mess of constructing ideas, and more importantly, the reconstruction of ideas. As a social constructionist, it matters that students are able to observer the messiest version of peer work so as to empower their own messy work. Sometimes students learn more from the work in progress rather than the final product. This is the equivalent of only knowing your friend through Instagram. If you only see the final, created selfie, then you start to think these people never get sick, have a bad day, or are human at all. It is isolating. Online classes already have so much potential to disconnect students from other students, and always having time to have pre-planned and constructed thoughts is part of the problem.
A third, and more positive, impact of technology on learning communications is the added ability to construct new knowledge with others almost simultaneously. In a classroom, student collaboration still means everyone taking turns to share out and possibly discuss how the new knowledge reshapes what it already known. It takes time, and ultimately only one speaker can speak at a time. However, with technology like Twitter, multiple responses can happen at the same time. Multiple voices can share out literally at the same time. The benefit of this is that everyone feels heard. There is time for individuals to go back read all responses and continue the thread, and at some point, someone can encapsulate final new thoughts on the topic in an attempt to incorporate the most influential ideas. This is a unique opportunity because it is unique to what technology can do for learning.
Technology in and of itself is not bad. Awareness of how it impacts and reshapes learning and learning communications is mandatory if we want our students to continue on experiencing the process of learning.