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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mobile Technology: An instructor's viewpoint

I was a member of a panel at a recent CDETG conference on Mobile Technology. CDTEG is a group of people interested in integrating technology at the higher ed level. The group, started by a classmate of mine, is comprised of instructional designers, members of ITS, employees of educational technology developers, professors and instructors, and administrators/Educational Technology policy makers in upstate/northeastern New York state. The organization is set up to create a dialog and share information about issues around educational technology at the university level.

This last meeting was on mobile technology, something that I have noticed is a growing trend in my classes. I thought it might be useful for my readers to read about some of the take aways from the conference that I will be including in my teaching this year.

1) One of the first speakers was a project manager for an online syllabus developer, Itellidemia. I had never thought of the mechanics behind mobile technology (partly because I don't use apps on any of my own mobile technology...my phone is just that: a phone, not access to the internet). However, since many of my students use their phones and pads/tablets as their access to the internet, it is important that I understand the technical requirements behind apps.

2) There are two different types of apps: read only and interactive. As the presentation by the project manager at Intellidemia and the ITS programming team from the College of St. Rose explained, Native Apps are those that are designed to work with a specific device. For example, St. Rose developed an interactive registration app where students could check on the status of a class during registration, and be put on a waitlist to be notified via their phone when a seat opened up. This required customization between the different phone types (i.e. droid, blackberry, iphone). The other type of app is a read only which means that the app is webbased in which a phone can access the web for information but cannot interact/change information. Student notifications of events or class cancellations used this technology for mobile technology. An instructor or administrator would need to access the site via a computer or Mac, and once the information was changed, a mobile technology formatted version would be available to students via their mobile device. Technologically, this is a lot easier for ITS departments to program, but it also means less customization and interaction.

3) Students need intrinsic motivation to use apps and mobile devises educationally. In my own experience, (this was part of my presentation), you can offer alternatives that students can access mobilely, but ultimately it is up to the student to decide which tool (if any) they want to use or will engage them. For example, I had a very interesting program I assigned, that students could down load onto the ipod or watch using their laptop. I thought students would prefer this to reading a boring article about the same topic. However, about half of the students did not do the assignment. Some students just preferred to read rather than watch a video on line.

Our discussion at CDETG concluded that not all students like to use technology to learn, nor do they have access to mobile technologies that will interact with the material. So it is important to provide alternatives for students. One affordance that mobile technology allows is different means of access depending on student preference for learning.

4) Often, instructors are unaware of the opportunities/affordances of new technology. Also, because of the wide range of technologies and limited time faculty have, there is resistance to changing or adopting new technology. It is important, therefore, to identify faculty members that might be interested in integrating new technology into their teaching and use them for pilot programs.

Empire State College (I was a member of their adjunct faculty at the advent of online learning) does a good job of getting their faculty to use new technology by choosing volunteers they will train and support during pilot projects, then getting the faculty to recruit colleagues who become interested when they see what can be done with the new technology. They used this format in mobile technology, drawing faculty from education, business, science, and humanity departments. Each faculty member created a pilot program for their own course, which was then assessed by the ITS department. The results were disseminated during the required annual training sessions. Having concrete goals and outcomes for the pilot programs helped convince faculty members that there was a role in education for mobile technology.

5) A major consideration for faculty is that they don't have time to learn all of the possible apps or different types of mobile technology available for their students. The group concluded that a faculty member does not need to know how specific devises work or what apps are available. Rather, they need to know what technology can do and have their students find specific apps or instructions on how their particular devise works.

Among the affordances instructors and instructional designers need to consider are a) how the technology will be used (read only or interactive), b) formatting so that it will be accessible to mobile devises (i.e. format is narrow and/or in small chunks so it will be easy to find read on a smaller mobile device), c) why the technology will be accessed mobily, d) when (in what context such as class, homework, administrative updates, etc...) mobile devises will be used to access course content/activities, e)support available to the student and faculty in developing mobile content (level of ITS support, support from the devise or app).

In my own teaching, I know integrate mobile technology into my classes by sending students out of the classroom to work on activities and keeping in touch with them as I (and other students) stay in the classroom. I also allow student to access resources through their mobile devises on certain activities. Sometimes I will have them begin without their mobile devices, then allow them later in an activity to access the devices.

This summer, I am trying to learn more about mobile devices and technology that interact with it. This is one of the reasons why I am playing around with twitter (yes, I plan to send students out of the class room and use twitter to communicate with them). One tool I am going to try out is a create-your-own app site recommended at the conference.

Related blog: The Instructional Design Guy

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