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Landis touts tech - but not for tech's sake

Apple exec tells Chesapeake faculty education model is changing

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014


WYE MILLS - Dr. Jon Landis, an Apple national development executive, said he buys every new tech toy as soon as it hits the market. He just doesn't buy into the concept of technology as an end unto itself.

"Technology's importance is derived from the way in which it allows humanity to change its capacity," said Dr. Landis, who told Chesapeake College's faculty Wednesday afternoon that today's technological advances are helping to create "the most transformative time in human history."

Dr. Landis, a former high school chemistry teacher and university professor, compared today's technology-driven changes to a technology-driven revolution that took place more than five centuries ago.

"The creation of the Gutenberg movable-type printing press had a huge impact on human capacity," said Dr. Landis. "Vocabulary improved, I.Q.'s improved, political discussions expanded and scientific discoveries took place. It was massively revolutionary - and we are sitting at a point in history more impactful than the Gutenberg revolution.

"The ship has never moved this fast," Dr. Landis said of the current rate of technological advances. "We are a little more aware of the profound changes going on around us, and we probably need to take a step back to absorb the rate of change."

Dr. Landis also said technology critics are not a new phenomenon, again citing the Gutenberg revolution.

"The old guard was very frustrated with all these new-fangled books," remarked Dr. Landis.

From an education perspective, Dr. Landis said the key is using technology to transform the learning experience.

"We're moving from an information-scarcity model, where so much of the information was available only from the professor's head, to a model where we are awash in information," said Dr. Landis. "Your value as a faculty is no longer in the ability to deliver content. . . . Your value is in the ability to provide context and help students make meaning out of the content. The question isn't do they know the content, but do they know what to do with it?"

He also said the information overload - which includes a wealth of both accurate and inaccurate information - has created a new task for faculty.

"Truth-vetting has become a key skill for faculty," said Dr. Landis, who was invited to the college after several senior administrators heard him present at a statewide meeting.

Dr. Landis emphasized technology as a tool for faculty-driven course improvement.

"Technology doesn't improve instruction - it improves the opportunities for instruction," said Dr. Landis, giving an example of online biology textbooks with three-D imagery that provide more accurate depictions of biological structures, allowing for deeper learning by students.

Dr. Landis also said institutional commitment to a learning management platform - he is a particular fan of Chesapeake's Canvas system - "has become a pedagogical powerhouse," but cautioned against being "dazzled by the bells and whistles" of technology.

"Think of technology as a new contact for interaction," Dr. Landis advised.

Dr. Barbara Viniar, president of Chesapeake College, said Dr. Landis' presentation was enthusiastically received.

"One of our senior faculty members came to me afterward to say he planned to change 'one thing' in his courses immediately to make better use of technology, which is what Jon suggested," said Dr. Viniar. "Then when I attended a nursing department meeting they were all buzzing about what they can do and how they can improve student success using these new tools."


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