Educational Technology – Affordances

In my research and reading this week I have been contemplating the affordances of technology, where we have come from and where we are going with technology.  Some of the articles I have read, addressing the affordances of technology, focus too much on the negative impact of technology and not enough on the positive affordances of it.

The Internet is a wealth of information and it is tempting to think we can send students there for information and that they 1. know how to find the correct information; 2. know what to do with it; and, 3. able to interpret it and make meaning from it. However, we know this to be untrue from our own experiences.  As I was reading the Sanders (2006) article, I was concerned at the large amount of negative comments made about technology.  I feel that whilst technology does present issues as well as affordances that benefit the learners, it is often the issues that educators focus on more.  We must focus on the positive affordances and learn to go beyond the superficial layer of activities that most never move out of with technology integration.  There are opportunities for collaboration, creativity, communication, analysis and so much more, provided by technology.

The positive affordances I got from the Sanders (2006) reading were:

  • Technology does provide the potential for learners to become more critical consumers and users of information and technology
  • Communication opportunities are increased
  • Learners can learn through the experiences of others, e.g. those who have travelled and kept a blog, virtual reality excursions and so many more interactive activities
  • Learners can have “technically personal experiences of learning” (Sanders, 2006, p. 4), e.g. through simulations
  • Access to information is anywhere, anytime
  • Ubiquitous access to multimodal forms of information

Hoven (2007) explores further affordances of technology when looking at how a Masters in Education program utilised technology to resolve some problems with timetabling, course content and pedagogy.  Hoven (2007) shares how technology fixed the timetabling issues by being open 24/7 online; communication was enhanced through blogs, wikis, discussion forums and chat; and, scaffolding of content using WebQuests.

I experienced Web 2.0 technologies very early in my career and they were a successful way to communicate and collaborate with my students right from the first time I utilised them in a class.  McLoughlin and Lee (2007) make great points about the affordances of technology when they discuss how content on social networking sites, termed “microcontent” (p. 664) is such small fragments that it can be “combined and recombined by individuals to produce new patterns, images and interpretations” (p. 664) of information.  They note that it is such technologies as web 2.0 tools that facilitate greater choice for learners and enable increased self-direction.  The authors state that it is by their technical specifications that the affordances of web 2.0 technologies are known as it is stated in those simple details.  E.g. Yahoo Instant Messenger makes instant messages possible.

Some other affordances listed include:

  • “Connectivity and social rapport
  • Collaborative information discovery and sharing
  • Content creation, and
  • Knowledge and information aggregation and content modification”  (p. 667).

What educators use technology for is often very different from the affordances of technology.  Do educators know the affordances of technology like they should?  How could this be changed in the future?  I hope that in the future we see technology continue to be a personal tool for learning in the future but in a way that is more natural and less intrusive on time and attention.  This will require all educators and students to have the knowledge and skills to confidently use their technology, devices and software, without requiring additional instructions, is this going to be possible?

References

Hoven, D. (2007). The affordances of technology for student-teachers to shape their Teacher Education experience. In K. Murphy-Judy, M. Peters, M. A. Kassen, & R. Lavine (Eds.), Preparing and Developing Technology-proficient L2 Teachers. CALICO monograph 6, San Marcos, TX: CALICO, 133–164.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. (2007, December). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007 (pp. 664-675).

Sanders, R. (2006). The” Imponderable Bloom”: Reconsidering the Role of Technology in Education. Innovate: Journal of Online Education2(6).

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