A journal entry from CUTL 5106
1. What is YOUR definition of educational technology?
At the start of last week’s class, Dianne asked us to each write down one word or phrase that came to mind when thinking about Educational Technology (ET)’. When we looked at all of the class responses together, it was interesting to see that people tended to either think of specific tools – such as “computers” or “myelearning”, or of the feelings or attitudes they had towards Educational Technology – such as “challenging”, or “enhances learning”.
Strangely, the first thing that sprung to mind for me was “interactive whiteboard”. On reflecting on why this rather random piece of technology was what I thought of, I realised that even though I understand that “technology” spans everything from a pencil to the internet, I still think of it as a physical object or piece of equipment - and primarily as something electronic! I suppose an interactive whiteboard is also a piece of equipment that is specifically designed for use in education, whereas many other technologies that we use in teaching have wider applications. This exercise emphasized that I probably had an overly narrow view of what ET can be, probably because I had not really considered it before.
Bates & Poole (2003) describe ET as “all the components of an integrated system necessary for appropriately using media, tools and equipment for educational purposes”, which is broader than I had previously considered, as “media” implies the actual sources of information, not just the means of communicating it, and “tools” could include the skills and resources needed to use the equipment effectively. This makes sense, given that the word “Educational” can only be applied once the technology is actually being used for educational purposes (i.e. integrated equipment, media and tools), not if it merely has the potential to be used.
It was interesting to hear the perspectives of different lecturers, some of whom debated the need to even have a term such as ET. For me, it seems like a fairly useful way to describe the use of available technology to enhance teaching and learning, in contrast with the other elements of teaching that are more intrinsic to the teacher: style, knowledge, philosophy. Although naturally the two interact.
2. Why do you use the technologies you do?
I believe that the use of a variety of technologies can keep the interest of students and also teach them other, transferable, skills alongside the content.
For some courses, I use certain technologies because they are integral to the course. For example, I teach on an online-only course (‘Replacement Model’ as defined in UWI document AB(M)P.12A), and therefore technology is needed for every aspect of the course: Webex and Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) allow connection with students all over the world – not just to share files, but also to have spoken discussions with classmates and teachers, and to be able to ask questions in real time during the lecture-based portions of the class.
Even on my “low blend” VLE courses, I still choose to use technology to provide feedback to students and to post relevant news items to keep students engaged with the materials in between classes, as well as to make all the course information accessible.
3. Why do you choose not to use other technologies? What guides your choices?
I only use technologies that I am completely comfortable and confident with, and that I judge that my students are too. This choice is guided by a concern that I do not want to inadvertently assess my students’ ability to use a complicated piece of technology rather than their acquisition of the skills and knowledge outlined in my learning objectives. At the moment I am new to lecturing, so I feel it is more important to get the basics right first, in terms of content and structure before exploring new ways to use ET. Hopefully by introducing first year students to myelearning and its various capabilities, gradually the ability of students to use this technology in years 2, 3 and at postgraduate level will improve.
Also, certain technologies are better suited to certain content and courses. For example, I teach a large second year core course (Evolutionary Biology) and I cannot assume in this case that, for example, every student has a smart phone or access to their own laptop in the class. However, in a more intimate class, it is easier to gauge whether introducing certain technologies is appropriate depending on the individual students.
One type of technology that I am resistant to incorporating into my teaching is social media, as I feel that this technology is better kept separate from academic studies. Already I have issues with my students not being able to write well or express themselves in scientific prose, so I think to overlap these two worlds would cause more confusion. One exception is the course I teach in Science Communication. Here, students write a blog throughout semester, and are encouraged to share their posts in their social networks, as one of the learning objectives for this course is to learn the skill of communicating science to a wider audience. So once again, the choice comes down to the course and the nature of the content.
4. Examine your personal teaching philosophy you developed in Module 1 and state to what extent your philosophy includes the use of technology.
My Teaching Philosophy does not centre on ET. However, it is explicitly included as VLEs are an important tool in my teaching, not least as an excellent way to encourage student-led learning. In my Teaching Philosophy I express an ambition to improve my use of myelearning as I currently do not take advantage of all of the functions and possibilities. I still have a lot to learn, but I have already become more comfortable with using it for engaging students in discussion fora, and as a means to provide ongoing feedback to students.
My opinion based on my understanding of ET so far is that technology cannot make an ineffective teacher into an effective one, but, when in the hands of a good teacher it can enhance the learning experience hugely by opening up varied opportunities for ways to present material and engage students.
Bates, A. W., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley. 10475 Crosspoint Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46256.
Definitions of Course Delivery Modalities at The UWI. (2014/15) Appendix 1. AB(M)P.12A
This is a place where I can reflect upon both on my teaching experiences as a new lecturer, and on my learning experiences as a student on the Certificate of University Teaching and Learning course.