consumption vs production

Consumption vs. Production

Consumption vs. Production

Since we opened High Tech High, we have had the mantra with technology that we are about “student production, not just student consumption.” By this we mean that students have many opportunities in life to consume more and more media and technology. Merely having a school where students consume even more content is not what we need. Instead, we think 6th graders should write a picture book about Ancient Egypt for younger children, 10th graders should write a book explaining connections between chemistry principles and major world events, seniors should create a “multimedia exhibition exposing hidden paradigms, underground cultures and unresolved issues,” and juniors should build launchers to study the concept of projectile motion.

When I think about what is happening in the area of blended learning, I wonder about student consumption and production. I mean, I like Khan Academy and MIT open courseware as much as the next person. But if blended learning means kids sitting in chairs consuming content off the internet, I wonder if we have progressed as far as we need to. I wrote about one promising example of students creating something in an online course. I am interested in more examples of this nature.

Written by Ben Daley

Ben Daley

Chief operating officer for High Tech High


  1. Terry Armstrong

    I wonder if you mean the contrast to be as stark as your language suggests or whether I have misunderstood your comments. The limits of online you mention are valid. At the same time, PBL has limitations and shortcomings as well. The idea of Blended Learning, as I have understood it, is to draw the best educational characteristics of various teaching methods together in a complementary way.

  2. Lisa Mitchell

    Sitting students in front of a computer to consume content is no different than putting them in front of a teacher to consume content. Therefore, we need to use technology as a tool for higher order thinking and application. Product based learning and application is basically a good assessment technique. When students are able to take a concept and connect it to other ideas and theories, then they become higher level learners; this should be our goal when integrating technology.

  3. Edgar Russell

    Ben – I love the perspective you offer of “producers and consumers”. I too am somewhat concerned about students in blended learning environments obtaining and mastering discreet bits of information, without necessarily understanding how to apply that information holistically. The flip side of that is that anecdotal evidence points to adaptive assessment and instruction being able to address students’ lower order thinking skills very effectively.

    While I absolutely love the learning and critical thinking that occurs through student interactions with projects, I am also really impressed with the intentional learning that is possible through blended learning. Is room for blending blended learning (every pun intended)? That is, mixing blended learning with project based learning – to address both lower order and higher order thinking skills.

    What do you think?

  4. Ben Daley

    Hi Edgar, when I said that I like Khan and OCW as much as the next person, I didn’t mean that to be flip. I actually really do appreciate those efforts.

    I also completely agree that there is a place for the use of blended learning strategies in a school that is implementing project based learning. Indeed, that is why I am trying to bring blended learning into High Tech High.

    I guess I hear a lot of enthusiasm for students watching videos of lecture on the internet, and I want to problematize that notion. And I think the udacity course is actually an example of blended learning that gets at higher order thinking skills. I know I am thinking really hard about how to solve the udacity homework!

    So the point I was trying to make is that I think that those designing online tools would do well to really think through the pedagogy implicit in what they are creating (i.e. I think I am agreeing with Lisa).

  5. Meg Evans (Innosight Institute)

    This brings up one of the key tenants of disruptive innovation – the products often start out as “not as good.” I think we are already beginning to see leaps in the quality that addresses the “production” piece of the puzzle. Even as that quality in content is still emerging we see teachers in many schools able to do far more of the higher-order “production” than they might have been able to do otherwise, thanks to programs like Khan Academy etc. because it allows teachers to re-assign the time that would be spent lecturing.

    Also, I’m not so sure that lectures through Khan are comparable to a teacher lecturing; the key difference is pacing. I can watch a Khan Academy video until I understand, replaying as need be. I can’t rewind my teacher’s lessons and ask him or her to repeat a concept without slowing down the whole class. This individualization also allows teachers to spend more time wandering the room and challenging students to think through the application of the skill they are mastering at the moment.

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