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From Transmission to Construction

by: MUN

Dr. Elizabeth Murphy, Faculty of Education, shares her insights and experience with effective education on Memorial’s blog celebrating excellence in teaching and learning. An accompanying video can be viewed at

I used to think that teaching was about transmitting knowledge, standing in front of the class, reading to students and asking them a few questions. I made this video to satirize my approach to teaching. The Sage on the Stage would be a good title for the type of role I play in the video.

Over the years, and once I started incorporating technology into my teaching, my approach changed. That’s because using technology puts powerful tools in the hands of learners so they can easily take control of their learning. But that doesn’t happen automatically. One thing I learned is that, to be effective in teaching or learning, technology use has to be guided by principles.

For my practice, I rely on a set of research-validated learner-centered principles. Those principles guide my integration and use of technology as well as the types of behaviour in which I and learners engage. One principle I rely on is that teaching and learning is most effective when learners are actively constructing knowledge as opposed to a situation where the teacher is actively transmitting knowledge and the learners are passive recipients.

An example of how students have constructed knowledge in my courses would be a book they created available in wiki format or as a printed book. The book was created collaboratively by students in course Education 6620, Issues and Trend in Educational Computing as a 20 per cent assignment.

Instead of me lecturing to them, students got to choose a topic they were interested in researching. They created their wiki on the topic with my guidance, along with generous support for me from the owner of the Edutech Wiki site, Daniel K. Schneider.

One of the advantages of putting their work out there publicly is that, not only is the process more authentic, but students are actively sharing knowledge with thousands of people around the world. The wiki tracks visits to the wiki as a whole (over 1,000 visits) and to individual student wikis, (from 500 to 1,500 visits). Other features on the site include a collaboration diagram that depicts who worked on which wiki and how many contributions or changes they made.

I can’t imagine going back to the lectern, text-book and lecture style of teaching. In fact, I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate technology and improve the learning experience for students. That means an improved teaching experience for me as well.

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