TED and Me

Technology, Education, Design and Me.

Synthesis reflection

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And another course comes to an end. So what did I learn?

At the beginning of this course we were asked to write a flight plan; what, exactly, did I expect to learn during my journey through ETEC565? I wrote that I wanted “to learn more about the pedagogical value of ‘digital-age’ technologies and how I can make them ‘invisible’ in the curriculum.” Commenting on wikis and blogs, I was thinking about how I could use them in a course but not have them lead the pedagogy. I was also curious about assessment in a Web 2.0 world (something that I greatly lacked).

But as a re-read my flight path, I see that I misunderstood the direction that this course would take me. These misunderstandings are not negative, quite the opposite. I believe that I continued on the planned “flight path”, but I took some rather interesting detours, particularly my learning about communication tools and digital storytelling.

ELearning Tool Kit

Throughout the course we were asked to dip our hands into the ELearning Tool Kit; test the waters. We had other activities to complete throughout the course, as well. While I didn’t get to all the activities, the ones I did complete were worthwhile and enlightening. The two most interesting activities: digital storytelling and wikis. The most humbling: learning about Terms of Service for social media applications.

I am now hooked on digital storytelling. For learning languages purposes, I can see a whole lot of benefits in using a digital story apprach. And, as I mentioned in another post, I have come to an understanding of how the Bates and Poole’s SECTIONS model should be kept in mind when designing activities or courses that implement digital storytelling. But, as I mentioned about ToS, I am now more hesitant in the Web 2.0 applications that I chose.

I’m also in big favour of using wikis in a course (testing one out in a course I designed for September right now). While the ELearning Tool Kit activity that I completed was to experiment with wikis in Moodle (which I greatly disliked), I discovered how the SECTIONS model would be useful as a guidance for designing a course with wikis.

There is no doubt that as I design courses for September this year that my perspective, skills, knowledge, understanding and confidence in implementing certain technologies has increased because of ETEC565 (and other MET courses). In addition to SECTIONS, other things we were asked to look at, such as the Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate Education by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson have greatly assisted me with understanding how choosing a technology can affect learning outcomes.


How would I describe my learning experience in this course and my ePortfolio using SECTIONS? This is how:

Students: what is known about the students – or potential students – and the appropriateness of the technology for this particular group or range of students?

ETEC565 was written for students in the UBC MET programme who have completed, I believe, a minimum of 6 courses. That said, it should be assumed that students taking the course have some competence in using Web 2.0 applications. The LMS systems that I both used to learn through (WebCT) and used to design my mock course (Moodle) were appropriate choices because this is what I set out to learn in the course – technologies to be used in a course! They are also easily accessible with an internet connection. I even tried access the WebCT platform a few time through my iPhone, which worked out splendidly! It was also nice to have a choice at the beginning: did I want to design my mock course in WebCT or Moodle? Here, the allowance of choice of applications considered my needs and wants for learning.

WordPress, which is the software that this ePortfolio is on, is  also accessible and provides me, the student, an opportunity to understand how my own students would feel if I were to use this software for blogging. I am able to create my own content, reflect on my learning, and provide a participatory culture with fellow students to enhance my learning experiences. It is same with the MediaWiki software that we used for the ToolKit Activities, which is also the same software that I will be using for the course I’m designing.

A lot of this falls into the categoroes of Jenkins’ four activities youth should develop skills in, especially in today’s media changing word (2009):

  • Affiliations: Memberships, formal and informal in online communities centered around various forms of media, such as Friendter, Facebook, metagaming, etc.
  • Expressions: Producing new creative forms such as digital sampling, skinning and modding, fan videos, fan fiction, ones, or mash-ups.
  • Collaborative problem-solving: Working together in teams – formal and informal – to complete tasks and develop new knowledge, such as through Wikipedia, alternative reality gaming, or spoiling.
  • Circulations: Shaping the flow of media, such as podcasting or blogging.

Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for both teachers and students to use? How reliable and well tested is the technology?

As I mentioned: the applications that I used throughout the course and discuss in this ePortfolio are easily accessible; they are also easy to use. For example, goanimate.com is, perhaps, one of the most easy to use online animation applications that I’ve seen. WordPress is quite reliable, and well tested. As is WebCt and Moodle. The only application that I struggled with was Moodle. But the struggle was often short lived because of Moodles’ excellent help guides. However, I am not sure if I am convinved that I would used Moodle again becasue of its clumsy interfce.

Costs: what is the cost structure of each technology? What is the unit cost per learner?

I spent not a dime (other than tuition) while creating my ePortfolio. Of course, the cost of WordPress, and housing my own wiki on a server could change if I didn’t have a student account. Another thing that I have learned here is how to take advantage of the “free” internet, including content found under licenses agreements like Creative Commons.

Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are needed? What instructional approaches will best meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting this teaching and learning?

As I created this ePortfolio, I was introduced to a plethora of technologies. It was designing the Moodle course that became the best way for me to learn how the best technologies for supporting teaching and learning are chosen and implemented. For example, going into depth about how to choose communication tools in Moodle allowed me to see certain limitations, especially the ones encountered in the basic Moodle set up, and to see how some tools do assist with enhancing communication and interactions in the learning environment, ways that are not possible in face-to-face settings. SECTIONS, of course, helped greatly.

Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?

One: this ePortfolio encourages interaction with its commenting system. The other tools that I discuss here have all been chosen based on my consideration of whether they allow for the kind of interaction that I desire for within my learning environment, whether it’s to discuss a problem, collaborate, or create a product, whether it allows for synchronous or asynchronous communication, and whether it provides appropriate feedback during online assessments.

Organizational issues: what are the organizational requirements and the barriers to be removed before this technology can be used successfully? What changes in organization need to be made?

Tags. I am learning the importance of tagging information. Tagging and categorizing. As for the Moodle course, I have discovered how it is important that a technology can allow you to organize materials and activities that reflect the learning outcomes of a course. If they can’t, should I be using them?

Novelty: how new is this technology?

New is not always that important. And I don’t have much to say about this other that it is unwise to use a technology simply because it is new.

Speed: how quickly can courses be mounted with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?”

This may be more important that I originally thought. Having to go into Moodle or WordPress to change something made me think. Errors often pop up when least expected; it’s nice to be able to correct them quickly.

The next step

Now that I understand the importance of having certain principles when deciding to use a technology and I have a bank of Web 2.0 resources, I would like to explore some applications a little closer. In particular, I have developed an interest in participatory culture and applications that allow students to create (i.e. animations), share, mix, remix, and communicate in such an environment. As an ESL instructor at a university, I often struggle with motivating students to practise English outside of the classroom. A lot of what I learned through this course can assist me with designing a course that may solve this problem, if only partially. I am also considering asking for a grant to design an application based on goanimate.com, but with other features that suite my course pedagogical needs.

As each year goes by, I am seeing students with more digital skills than prior students, but they are not always critical of what they are using; I think it’s important to make them more digitally literate. I also think it important for me to study further the consequences of digital technologies on learning. While this course has taught me a lot, I have a feeling we’ve only scratched the surface.

And, of course, I would like to graduate from the MET programme and advance in my career. 🙂

Bates, A. W., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A. W., & Ehrmann, S. C. (1996). Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. Retrieved June 5, 2009, from http://www.aahea.org/bulletins/articles/sevenprinciples.htm.

Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Written by seanmcminn

May 5th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Posted in

One Response to 'Synthesis reflection'

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  1. Hi Sean,

    Once again, a pleasure to learn with you. Great idea regarding the use of animation for motivating learners. From my experience, if you don’t ask you don’t get. Good luck with your grant and remember to ask for a little more than you need.

    Good luck and take care!



    29 Jul 09 at 8:26 am

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