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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Lifelong learning and growth

One of the courses I am doing for my Master of Educational Leadership this semester is ‘Learning Technologies in Practice’.  I have been a keen educational technology practitioner for a number of years now, however, I don’t think we can ever stop learning in this area so I thought it was a good opportunity to continue developing and also share with colleagues as well.  Something I have been really reflecting on of late, and how it fits into the classroom, is Google Apps.  The DEC has released Google Apps to all NSW DEC schools (see previous blog post) and I think its fantastic, however, where do they fit into what DEC schools are currently doing?

I think I will focus my first EDCN865 assignment on a PBL-based unit of work that makes effective use of Google Apps as I really want to help my colleagues better understand how they can make use of these tools in their own classroom.  The ability to be creative and collaborative is what I love the most about Google Apps.  The apps are also one of the best ways to create/facilitate student-centred learning experiences.  This is something I am extremely passionate about and really want to encourage more in classrooms. Teachers are so comfortable with the ‘chalk and talk’ method (or variations of), however, we are not doing our students any favours by spoon-feeding them with notes, lectures and wordy Powerpoint presentations.

Technologies such as Google Apps, afford educators the opportunity to provide differentiated learning experiences that are created and driven by students for the most part.  Ownership and accountability for the work can be given to students too with the ability to track revision history in apps such as Google Docs.  Problem- or project-based learning (PBL) is also the perfect platform to showcase this in.  PBL is inquiry-based and student-centred and Google Apps provide students with the essential tools to independently manage this.  So, this is where my thoughts are heading for my assignment, but also for how I want to encourage and work with my colleagues as school.

I have implementing Google Classroom with two of my Year 8 Visual Art classes who are completing a research task and I have been exploring the potential of this app as a learning management system substitute (albeit limited) because my current school does not utilise Moodle very much.  I have found that students picked up the knowledge and skills of how to access the classroom very quickly and did not need very much, if any, further instructions on how to use the system. They were very good at following my instructions and navigating the app and it has been easy for me to access their assignments, comment and give marks back.

Going Google Apps… finally!

Its been awhile since I last wrote a blog post as so much has been changing I guess and time gets away from oneself.  I have been working on my own business Kristina Hollis Ed Tech Consulting, and enjoying a great variety of jobs and experiences.  I have also started working back within the NSW DEC at a Hunter Valley school.  Whilst I am still settling into a new school and working out the ‘lay of the land’ so to speak, I have been excited to find that the NSW DEC has finally released Google Apps and provided access for all staff and students to this essential suite of tools.  I have been a Moodle advocate and trainer for 5-6 years now and still firmly believe it to be the best LMS out there, however, Google Apps is definitely a suite of tools, when used the right way, that could rival any LMS.

Benefits of Google Apps

My own personal and professional beliefs about the benefits of Google Apps are:

  • SSO (single sign on) for students to a large number of apps in one browser is simplifying navigation and creating a user-friendly learning experience.
  • Collaboration is easier than ever and revision history plus comments make it possible for teachers and other group members to track work and changes more successfully.
  • Cloud storage is the best way for students to store and manage their work, no longer needing to rely on a USB they will probably lose or potentially corrupt.
  • Extensions bring even more potential to the already ‘brimming-with-possibilities’ suite of apps, assisting individual schools and educators to customise their experiences.
  • Google Classroom is a fantastic way to get students to submit work as it will go into automatically created Google Drive folders, making it easy for teachers to find the work later, download in a ZIP folder and mark.
  • The integration of apps for the purpose of productivity and organisation will assist students to become owners of their learning experiences and more accountable for them in the long-run.
  • Making your own website has never been easier than it is in Google Sites.

There are many other benefits but these are my top ones and I’m looking forward to helping colleagues learn these for themselves and discover the potential Google Apps give them in their own teaching and learning.

Check out the Google for Education website for more information.

Edmodo vs Moodle – A common debate

So many times when I’ve worked with staff at schools the question is raised, which is better, Edmodo or Moodle?  First of all, they are two different things entirely when you really know what they are.  Is it stated on the Edmodo website that Edmodo is a K-12 social learning network “dedicated to connecting all learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential” (Edmodo, 2014).   However, Moodle is stated as being “a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators and learners with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalised learning environments“, as well as this, there is a philosophy behind the development of Moodle that states that “the design and development of Moodle is guided by a “social constructionist pedagogy” (Moodle, 2012).  To me, it is pretty obvious that each of these two products serves distinctly different purposes.

There have been numerous teachers in places I have worked who claim Edmodo to be the best digital learning tool for all teaching and learning activities.  I decided to give it a good go with students a year ago and see for myself how it worked as a learning tool.  It worked well in some instances, and I had about 250 students using it for a range of activities and discussions.  I awarded badges to students based on things they were doing and interacted with them as they completed activities and wrote their reflections etc as replies to posts.  However, after a while, the issues became this:  students forgot passwords and would create new accounts instead of contacting me to find out their password or seek help; students couldn’t find the assigned activities in the feed of comments and activities; and, students focused too much on the social and not enough on completing work and learning.  These are things I found fundamentally disadvantageous to quality teaching and learning.

Moodle on the other hand facilitates teaching and learning that is both synchronous and asynchronous; collaborative and independent; and, passive as well as interactive. Courses in Moodle can be designed to facilitate learning that is based on a linear pathway of content and activities or it can be designed to be completely individualised based on student groups, or some other student-based variable.  For example, completing a lesson activity, students may answer questions in different ways that take them in different directions, depending on the lesson setup.  I could honestly go on about the things I believe set Moodle apart from other systems as a learning management system but basically it is because Moodle facilitates learning customisation, creativity, collaboration and personalisation.

Check out some of these other blog posts that discuss the Edmodo vs Moodle issues:

Ultimately, Moodle is a learning management system and Edmodo is not, it is simply a social learning environment that connects people with the potential to learn.