Learners as partners in tool selection

Andre Malan is someone with so much talent and smarts I don’t know how to introduce him. He’s done incredible work as a coder and thinker for our blog and wiki platforms at OLT and beyond (if you read The Bava, you’ve probably heard about it). He’s also developed a well-deserved reputation as someone who can speak with passion and vision about educational technology in the broader sense — witness his very impressive Terry Talk.

Oh, did I mention the dude is still an undergraduate student?

Andre gave a provocative presentation at the recent BC Educational Technology User Group’s Spring Workshop, which he called “Educational Technology, the Users’ Perspective”, riffing off the fact that more than 95% of ed tech users — ie, the students — are not typically represented at conferences.

I’d urge you to read his short overview, and check out the engaging presentation video embedded there.

I recall two particular ‘aha’ moments, both so commonsensical I hesitate to mention them. The first was when Andre suggested that students be brought in as partners in selecting the tools being used to support the course objectives. Nothing fancy, the instructor simply takes the time at the beginning of the course to explain which tools the students are expected to be used, and why. At this time, students are invited to make their own suggestions — maybe they know something that will work better? Maybe their preferences won’t work for whatever reason, but can it hurt to have the discussion? It seems so obvious as a teaching strategy in higher ed, but how often is it done?

The other aha moment is a bit more counter-intuitive, if only because the clip shows someone who admits their limits in terms of knowledge. Andre interviewed other students for his presentation, and for whatever reason this segment struck me as significant… I almost entitled this post “the power of ‘I don’t know'”. On the question of “what educational technology would make life easier for you?“:

I am not exactly sure why I find this response compelling… maybe because I suspect it is common. Maybe because it cuts against the grain of so much ‘net generation’ thinking in our profession. And maybe because if we want to engage students like this in terms of online environments, it seems all the more important to have the kind of discussions referenced above.

I feel like I am doing Andre’s talk a disservice with my half-baked musings — I hope you’ll check out his session for yourself.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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