ETEC 565A: Learning Technologies Design and Application: Course Reflection and Synthesis

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As this was my fifth course within the Masters in Educational Technology (MET) program I had grown accustomed to specific routine for the flow of courses. Every course would follow a somewhat similar routine of course readings, followed by course postings and assignments that encouraged students to write about different theories and educational technology applications.

The ETEC 565A course somewhat turned that trend on its head. The focus really was on learning best practices for the design of blended or fully online learning environments. The epicenter of which was the elearning toolkit and the Moodle sandbox site. Personally, I felt that this shift in focus enabled me to think more critically about the weekly readings in a more meaningful way. Having a Moodle site to implement these theories and applications made the content more tangible, and thus cemented the learning more then traditional course discussions and assignments.

Reflecting back on my vision for this course in my flight path, I can tell that I was craving to implement and try a number of different applications and software options that I had encountered within the past couple years. I was really eager to get started with the Moodle site. I had previously used Moodle in an International school, but was working under a number of restrictions that limited my ability to field test a number of strategies and learning activities.

The course I took in the fall of 2013 was still fresh in my mind, which I believe is what led me to want to explore learning analytics and tools such as SCORM. Honestly, I was really excited to implement this and I am really glad to say I was able to take some time and discover tools like Camtasia, Articulate Storyline and Studio (God bless trial software).

This experiment was born out of the module on computer-mediated communication, and was probably an area that I look back on as a very formative one. Creating and facilitating meaningful dialogue with purpose is an area that can really influence the direction of a unit of study. Specific phrasing of questions, synchronous, asynchronous, grouping and the role of the instructor are all vitally integral to the success of online dialogue (Anderson, 2008).

The remainder of my flight path focused on an area that was undoubtedly off topic, however, it ended up playing a pivotal role in one of the final assignments. Story telling is the foundation of teaching and I have always used stories in my own classroom experience to help facilitate cognitive and social presence. I am very passionate about exposing more students to the possibilities that are available to them in the technology sector right here in New Brunswick. I was thoroughly surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. However, sharing my story about the Big Data Congress in Saint John through an engaging media form is something I feel was really eye opening.

Although I am currently teaching students that were able to come with me to the congress, I will be able to use this story in subsequent years to foster a dialogue around this concept.

As I have previously state, engaging and learning all the possibilities of designing a Moodle course site was rigorous but extremely rewarding. Having the eLearning toolkit was somewhat effective, however, I felt myself doing my own research more then following the information on the UBC wiki.

Although there were comprehensive descriptions of each of the elements, I believe it is out of date at this point and requires a bit of an upgrade. Although I recognize that the very pace of change with regards to technology in general is ensuring that most software and tutorials become insignificant within six months in some instances; but that doesn’t mean that learning activities from mid 2000 can still be listed under the toolkit offerings.

Just as an example the synchronous communication tools have iChat listed as an example for this form of online discussions. iChat is listed as a tool from OS X 10.5, and the link provided doesn’t even send you to the correct location to learn how you would implement the potential learning tool that is now under a new name. iMessage has changed dramatically since it’s original launch and has since been embedded into the most recent OS X as a standalone application that syncs with your cell phone and other apple devices (Cipriani, 2014).

Since OS X 10.7, which was released in 2012, this tool has dramatically changed, and the inclusion of it in a classroom situation would require every student to have access to an apple product of some type as well as their own apple account. There are a number of different offerings with computer-mediated communication, such as twitter and other social media offerings that were not explored in as much detail as I expected in a course specifically designed for exploring learning technologies.

Additionally, the last week’s module on web authoring tools demonstrated the difficulty with the ever-evolving trend of technology. Learning and exploring the different options available was difficult when I realized that both NVu and Kompozer would no longer work on my Mac as the last functioning update would only be available on PC’s or pre intel based Macintosh computers. This led me to my only option, which was to field test the trial software for Adobe CS6 Dreamweaver. Finding the tutorials for coding and learning how to make a splash page wasn’t necessarily the easiest of tasks and I found that I had to spend more time researching on my own to find the necessary information to create my own page. Since Dreamweaver is just a small part of the Adobe Suite, I would suggest that this be the focus for future classes as Adobe is constantly reinventing itself and is available on all platforms and operating software.

There are a number of educational technology taste makers that I follow on different social sites that explore the trials and tribulations of these social software tools and other applications that I truly feel was an aspect that was missing in the toolkit of resources available. The only tool I found that was accurately represented was in the area of blogging. This social software has been part of the educational technology discourse almost since its inception, and it has proliferated so quickly it is almost impossible to quantify its impact (Alexander, 2006).

Just recently, Steve Wheeler posted a blog regarding the amount of work and dedication it takes to keep up with such a service. His post claimed he was going to quite twitter as it had become too difficult to keep up and maintain his blog. It was an April fools joke that took a slightly somber turn when his ardent following thought he was seriously quitting his weekly musings and reflections to focus on more research and his family (Wheeler, 2014).. The outcry and support was evident in his comment threads where people proclaimed how much they valued his contributions and that the loss of this service was really going to be missed. The theme amongst the posts was that his blog had become something that was truly valued to those in the pursuit of continual growth in the world of elearning and educational technology.

Although Steve Wheeler maintained that his dedication to weekly posts is arduous and that it definitely comes at a cost, there is significant value in continually exploring new trends and offerings. I believe that this course and its impact would be instantly enhanced with a restructuring of the way that the elearning toolkit is maintained and updated.

This course is made up of a number of invested students and instructors that are committed to these ideals and I believe it could be a very meaningful experience if each group of ETEC 565 students could contribute to the toolkit and ensure that it is constantly presenting the most current and up to date tutorials and expose’s on new offerings and trends.

The true strength of this course lies in the dialogue between the students in the course and the weekly discussions. I definitely have my own strongly held opinions and beliefs about the current and future of educational technology tools and devices. Nevertheless, I find a lot of value in having those values and beliefs challenged by fellow classmates.

It was during the social software discussions that I was most interested, as I am always interested in seeing what other educators think of the benefits and drawbacks of such systems. If it wasn’t for these reflections and discussions, I don’t think I would have an appreciation for the concerns and issues that others see with regards to these tools.

I am a huge fan of the book published by Andrew Keen, who proposes the notion that the Internet is a place where we go to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and content that reflects back the opinions that we already hold (Keen, 2012). Failing to consider other viewpoints, or challenging them in any way stagnates creativity and facilitates entrenched positions and beliefs. This only fosters highly polarized views of topics and concerns held by people on opposite sides of issues. I honestly believe I am guilty of this and too often find myself steering towards materials that only further promote or support my opinions.

Being a part of this course has opened my eyes to some of the concerns and issues that my colleagues have around the advancement of learning tools, and some of the social software that is available.

Specifically during the debate on twitter, I found that I was on somewhat of an island, and was almost surprised that I was the only one actively using twitter for my professional learning network, as well as a learning tool.

Having implemented it successfully, in both large scale events, and learning activities from Grades 6-12 I have found it a very valuable communication medium. Nevertheless, listening to some of the challenges that other educators faced in their encounters with it, the dialogue gave me an appreciation for some of the concerns around privacy and lack of control when it comes to integrating hashtags conversations.

Inevitably, this has led me to question some the materials and readings I wish to pursue going forward with educational technology. Currently, I have an almost obsessive nightly habit of checking my flipboard app on my iPad and iPhone. This app aggregates all of my technology as well as educational technology feeds and allows me to sift through and keep up to date with new trends, apps and initiatives being implemented across North America.

I tend to go through phases where I do this more frequently then others; nevertheless, I definitely feel more strongly about continuing to use this app and others similar to it to keep up on current trends. However, I think I need to approach this process more carefully and read these articles more critically. There are a lot of applications and technologies that are constantly being created and refined and I need to be more judicious with which ones I explore in more detail.

From this course though, the area that I think will have the most impact on this field moving forward is definitely in the area of learning analytics. The amount that is being asked of educators in regards to feedback and individualized learning is getting increasingly more demanding.

In December 2013, the NMC Horizon Report classified the field of learning analytic to be two – three years away from wide scale adoption. This is a field that can offer truly remarkable insights and produce actionable advice as well as data that will be useful for instructors that are utilizing learning management systems to house their lessons (NMC Horizon Report, 2013).

There are a number of different key players in this field that will shape the direction of this offering in the future. As someone that wants to be a part of this movement, I have signed up to be a part of Knewton’s new beta learning platform and have requested one on one training from one of their companies designers to get a better understanding of how they view the world of data science in education (Liu, 2014).

In addition to pursuing the world of data science in education, I also want to start to review leadership and management, as well as policy resources that will help me better understand how to implement educational technology offerings.

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to have a very insular view of this domain and need to develop and refine strategies that would enable me to better facilitate my institutions transitions towards teaching in a knowledge based economy.

If I only review the new trends, but not the policy and management of them, I will fall into the trap of being a lone ranger. Tony Bates and Albert Sangra wrote extensively about the integration of elearning strategies, and I feel focusing on policy development and exploring the project management approach, I will be more prepared to assist not just myself, but the others, in my district in trying and integrating new technologies (Bates & Sangra, 2011).

References:

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0621.pdf
Anderson, T. (2008a). Towards a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.), Theory and practice of online learning. Edmonton AB: Athabasca University. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/02_Anderson_2008-Theory_and_Practice_of_Online_Learning.pdf
Bates, A.W. & Sangrà, A. (2011). Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teahing and Learning. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, chapters 3, 4 & 6

Cirpriani, Jason. “Get Started with IMessage for OS X.” CNET. N.p., 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.
David, Liu. “The Knewton Blog.” Building with Knewton 5 RealWorld Examples Comments. N.p., 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.
Keen, A. J. (2012). Digital Vertigo: How today’s online Social Revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us. New York. St. Martin’s Press
Wheeler, Steve. “Learning with ‘e’s: Goodbye.” Learning with ‘e’s: Goodbye. N.p., 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 Apr. 2014.

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