1a) An understanding of the constraints and benefits of different technology
As part of the University of the Village research project team, my role was to guide researchers and participants in the appropriate selection and use of Learning Technology. The team had already identified core technologies that they wished to use; Skype and Wordpress, though I felt that this presented a technological deterministic approach. I feel it is important to consider the technology user, the audience and the activity when selecting learning technology. As such, I wrote a series of posts for the project identifying some of the possibilities that modern web technologies afford for online learning.
In an increasingly commodified educational landscape, it is also important to consider the constraints of institutional technologies, that often have a large total cost of ownership, vs modern and often free web technologies. For example, a University may prioritise Single Sign On (SSO) to enhance student experience, but it may be that student's prefer to make use of exisiting means of authentication such as through Facebook, Twitter, GitHub.
Through the #BYOD4L Community I have explored a range of mobile technologies and how they support the 5Cs of social learning. The community makes use of core technologies; Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Offering a range of ways to engage.
- A blog post on Hardware to support community groups.
- A blog post on Web technologies to support community groups.
- A slack post on the constraints and benefits of using Slack as a communication tool.
- Blog post on the benefits of using Known as a portfolio tool.
- Blog post on the benefits of using gitbook as a portfolio tool
- Open Badges earnt through participating in BYOD4L
In relation to UOTV. Participants associated particular technologies with the course (Tumblr and Skype) and the skills they required to use these. Whilst originally it was envisioned that participants would not require a Tumblr account, the technology was promoted during each session, so participants needed more support in use than expected. This was a technologically deterministic approach assuming 'that the use of technology will in and of itself will improve student learning’ (Kirkwood and Price, 2012, p.3).
It would be more beneficial for future projects to look at the type of learning activity that is being supported, before applying the technology and encouraging participants existing digital practices. For example, some participants used Wordpress for blogging and some used their phones for writing poetry. Feeds could be aggregated from other sources, rather than pushing people towards one platform.
Equally, Skype is a cumbersome product to use for multi user sessions and didn’t exploit the superfast broadband technology on offer in a way that a more modern and intuitive platform such as appear.in might. Participants often forgot usernames and passwords and connections often dropped out, which could have been avoided by using a more modern platform.
Training needs to be put in place for participants if technology use is a key requirement of the course. It is idealistic to expect the technology to be invisible if it is prescribed.
Participants should be consulted around technology use to gauge existing practice and adapt technology to fit their needs. Educational Technology need to be more involved in guiding use of technology for projects as they are specialists in the pedagogical application.
Kirkwood, D. and Price, L., 2012. The Influence Upon Design of Differing Conceptions of Teaching and Learning With Technology, pp.1-20, in Olofsson, A. D. and Lindberg, J. O. (eds) Informed Design of Educational Technologies in Higher Education. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.