About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Integrating elearning into the classroom: Technology

This next section, I am not going to recommend any specific technology. In fact, as I found out the first semester I taught an educational technology course, often instructors and instructional designers have little or no input into WHAT technologies they can use.

So the first step in developing elearning is to befriend the ITS department. Don't start with, "What technologies are available that I can use in the my teaching?" as most will list the technologies as they understand instructors using it (i.e. blackboard is a classroom technology that we have so you will use that because that is why the organization ordered it).

Instead, describe to your ITS friend what you would like to do WITH the technology. For example, I am looking for technology that will allow my students to access elearning from any computer, post their work, and then be able to discuss it either simultaneously or asynchronously, work at the same time on making corrections to their work (written or multimedia), and maintain a record so that I, as the instructor can give them regular feedback as they work on the project. They may come back with questions of their own. Will they be working from home or school? What level of skill do you have? How much control/support do you think you will need?

In presenting the technology choice as a problem for the ITS worker to work with you on, you are giving them greater choices to choose from that they may have experience with. Often, they will go with what technologies other use based on their limited experience of what goes on in the classroom. You can't assume that they understand what happens in eLEARNING. However, it is also important not to underestimate their expertise. After many years of working with faculty, the best ITS personnel know how appease faculty who have "heard about a great technology" yet have not taken in into consideration the technological requirements, the security issues, and the type of support needed by the users.

Categories of affordances

Another useful tip in speaking with ITS is to understand the affordances that any given technology can provide. Often technology designed for one affordance, can actually have a different affordance or use. ITS may be limited in what technologies they can use due to security concerns, user patterns and traffic, lack of resources, or knowledge of the technologies within ITS.

I have had my students look at their instructional design and identify the "uses" or affordances of technology. For example, a music teacher had one of his students studying at Juliard School of Music in New York City as part of their chorus. He wanted his student's classmates to be able to interact with him about concerts and even listen to the chorus. He decided to use streaming media after he discussed with his technology person what was available. However, when I asked him how he would coordinate schedules with his student in NYC, he realized streaming might be difficult. He went back to the tech directed and asked what technology was available where the student interact with the other students. He suggested using the streaming technology, but having his student uploading the video (this was a few years ago before YouTube) on their system and then streaming the video on demand when the Music Teacher needed it.

I find elearning has basically 4 affordances: communication, sharing and storing information, filtering and connecting ideas (meaning making), and creating knowledge. In fact, even the simplest technology can be used for each of these categories. It is important as an instructional designer to establish the protocols that will allow students to use the technology for those affordances. For example, email could be used for communication through groups or individual messages. By attaching files and having prearranged subject headings, email could also be used to share information and keep a record. Some email programs, such as gmail, allow a series of correspondence to be grouped together, the accumulation being used for meaning making and connecting the same ideas through the conversation (the use of the forward and reply functions). Finally, documents that are edited by a group, thus "creating knowledge" could be done through emails. It would be important that the documents are given version numbers in addition to being grouped together.

In the example above, the instructor would need to scaffold student learning through the development of protocols either in the instructional design or by the students themselves. New technology would not be necessary, rather new uses for existing technologies would need to be developed.

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